I'll just go ahead and say it: Small-business owners are paying too much money for data they don't need about their demographics.
You see, there are lots of analytics companies that would like you to believe that they can tell you everything you'll ever need to know about the people who visit your website. They use data from social network profiles and other places to gather that information. Then they provide information to you about your visitors' ages, their gender, where they live, what kind of cars they drive and so on. It's pretty incredible data for a business owner (and a tad scary for everyone else).
Even a free statistic program like Google Analytics will give you enough trivial data to sift through for hours. (Believe me, I've done it.) It includes things like what country your site traffic is coming from, what time of day people visit your site, how often they visit, what pages they visit, and on and on.
But for the average small business? You probably don't need this data. Why? It's all cold, emotionless data.
And that's the problem: Nearly all this data is pretty much useless to your business. It takes companies with huge customer databases and teams of people analyzing the data around the clock to actually gain any insight from this level of minutiae.
What You Need To Know
What you really need to know about your site visitors and customers isn't something that stat programs can provide. But knowing the answers to these core questions about your "people" is absolutely critical to the success of your business:
- What are their fears?
- What are their interests?
- What are their pain points?
- What problem are they hoping you'll be able to solve?
When our site hit the mainstream press more than a year ago, it seemed like reporters only wanted to know about the demographics of our website—how old our members were, their gender and lots of other useless data. We didn't know this information (we still don't), and we don't really care. Well, that's not entirely true: Our site is about manly things, so we've got a hunch that our visitors are mostly men.
What is important is that while our site grew and took shape, we were in constant contact with our members. We replied to the feedback, listened to what they liked and didn't, and changed the site based on this "advanced data." We kept tabs on the types of links they were posting, what kind of conversations sprang up, and the ways they shared content.
After almost two years spent observing their activities, we have a pretty good idea who's using our site. We know why our people truly use Gentlemint, we know what their pain points are, and we know what their interests are. Market research done, and all for free!
All we needed to do was interact with our community. Sure, we still use Google Analytics for quick snapshots of what's going on with the website, but other than that, the data about our people is gathered by us.
Gathering real, cutting-edge and exact demographic data about your customers or site visitors is a lot less scientific than you might think. Start by having conversations with some of your core members or customers. Take notes on how they use the site in ways you hadn't thought of. Read and respond to their comments. Watch what they buy. Start keeping tabs of trends. Eventually a profile of your typical customer will start to take shape.
Oh, and if you need to know what your customers need to buy to solve their problems? Ask them!
This is the kind of information that Google Analytics or any other stat program can't tell you. Stat programs don't tell you preferences or customer's pain points, nor do they have conversations with your customers. That's on you.
The data is right in front of you, and it's all emotional data, not cold useless facts. It takes some elbow grease to gather it, but it's well worth it.
Knowing what kind of car your site visitor drives probably has some sort of value, but knowing what problem they're trying to pay money to solve? That information is priceless.
Read more articles on customer engagement.