They say you need about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. We prefer to give you that experience in 10 minutes via our expert interviews.
Today we’re talking with Sean Work, a man who takes his last name seriously. As part of KISSmetrics, Sean focuses on E-commerce and SaaS (Software as a service) so that businesses in those fields can get the best data and, more importantly, understand what it means. Sean took a moment out of his busy schedule to discuss metrics, what they are, how to track them, and most importantly, how to apply them.
What are “metrics”, precisely, and how do they affect businesses?
Metrics are dynamic values related to (in our case) business performance. Of course, mathematically, metrics can be applied to any situation where you have values that change with time. Metrics can simply be thought of health meters for your business. They don’t directly affect your business – they are a measurement of how your business is faring.
What kind of metrics are out there?
Typical metrics may be monthly recurring revenue, churn rate of subscribers, or new user sign-ups per day.
What can you learn from tracking them?
Once you start focusing on key metrics that really describe the health of your business, you can drill down to see what affects their (the metrics) behavior. What makes people sign up? What is making people leave? What you learn is how to improve your business. In a nutshell, metrics put your focus where it needs to be on a daily basis.
Where do metrics fit in with other methods of tracking your company’s online footprint, such as surveys?
Surveys in particular are great way to uncover unknown details that are the key reasons why people either dislike or like something about your business. For example, one of the best questions you can ask your customers is: “Why did you choose to do business with us?” The answers you will receive are gold. Not only do they uncover the real value proposition of your business (which you probably have completely different ideas on), they also use unique language that resonates with them. Use their language in your advertising and marketing copy and see what happens!
How do metrics tie into social media campaigns and online advertising campaigns?
This is more of where customer analytics tools like KISSmetrics come in. If your key metrics are new user sign-ups or something as simple as daily sales – you want to see what marketing campaigns have the most positive effect on your key metrics. Customer analytics tools allow you to see which campaigns are pushing the needle the right way and which ones are duds.
Do all businesses need to track the same metrics, or are there some that should have more weight than others?
So we focus mainly on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Each business will have important metrics specially geared for their particular business. The important thing is to determine what metrics are the most important for your near term and long term business objectives. They won’t be the same for everyone.
What are some mistakes you often see in collecting metrics?
Collecting too many metrics and getting “over-analysis paralysis”. What you really want to do is focus on a few metrics that are the real indicators of your business’s performance.
How should a business apply the metrics they collect?
Just looking at metrics every day won’t do anything. You have to act on them. If your churn (people unsubscribing) is getting out of hand, you need to find you what you can do to lessen churn. This is usually means you’ll have to have chats with enough old customers to find out why they left. Then fix and go on to the next metric that needs improvement!
Where do you see metrics heading towards in the future?
Metrics are just mathematical representations of how your business is fairing. As long as people are conducting business – metrics will always exist whether business owners choose to recognize them or not. In terms of the future – the business that will succeed and last the longest will mostly likely be the most “metrics minded”.
Thanks for the awesome insight Sean. For more pearls of wisdom on E-commerce and measuring metrics, follow Sean on Twitter @seanvwork.