What would 500 more visitors to your website do for your business?
I hope you answered "it depends".
It depends on what period of time those 500 show up. In one hour? In one month? In one year?
It depends if they fit your ideal clients or if they just came because you posted a funny picture.
It depends if you have a system in place to do something with them before they bounce your site and leave.
The deeper you go into any analytics, the more questions it raises.
One response is to become the ostrich. Hide your head in the sand and hope that you are still getting "enough" to get by.
But this won’t work that well, especially if your competitors are watching their analytics.
At the other extreme is to track and measure everything. How many visitors are using IE8 on Windows 7 with at least 1600 pixel screens who live in Oregon.
Yeah, that won’t work either.
(Unless your freelancing specialty is web analytics, conversion optimization, or similar. And even then, I don’t think it matters that much for your site. Your clients’? Maybe. Yours? No.)
You’ll need to find a happy middle between too little data and too much.
What’s more important is that you start tracking soon. Because with analytics, playing the long-game is the best way to win. The better you can connect marketing actions with marketing results, the better you can improve (your marketing, your business, your hairstyle… wait, not the last one).
Personally I love data, especially marketing data. Collecting analytics for me is like collecting cars or stamps for other people (or Pokemon. My brother used to love those things…)
But even I admit that a lot of the data I collect isn’t useful. It’s interesting to see, but it doesn’t inspire action.
That’s the key: analytics should inspire action.
Don’t analyze junk data just because – especially when it’s not connected to what you need to do to create value for your clients.
Over the years I’ve found there are a few key metrics that I need to track.
1. Number of visitors to my websites
Since the majority of my clients start by visiting my website, this is a good number to start tracking my sales process. It’s also a useful barometer for my marketing. If a marketing campaign doesn’t change the number of visitors, it’s probably a failed campaign.
And let’s face it, tracking website visitors is simple now – you can do this in 5 minutes.
2. Number of leads
I define a lead as someone who contacts me about my services. They are considering buying from me.
Most of the time leads come to me through email. They used my contact form, emailed me directly, or were referred to me by another client (if you want to learn how important a contact form is, I’ve written an article about it).
Tracking leads can take a bit more work but even a simple spreadsheet will do. I use a CRM tool but it’s overkill for most of what I do.
3. Number of sales calls
After emailing with a lead to qualify them (i.e. how closely do they fit my ideal client), I have a sales call with them.
Of course, I don’t call it a sales call. No one wants to have those.
But most leads will want a consultation or a discussion about their unique circumstances and how you could help them.
My goal with a sales call is to decide if I want to work with them on this project or not. If yes, I make an offer to them typically in the form of a verbal proposal.
Note that this doesn’t have to be a phone call either. You can use Skype, video chat, or even text chat. It’s just important to make it different enough than email to stand out.
4. Number of proposals
If you only send out proposals to potential clients who are a good fit for you, tracking how many you do is important. This connects how well targeted your marketing is towards your ideal clients.
Getting a lot of visitors and leads but only sending a small number of proposals? Your marketing is incongruent with your ideal client definition.
Getting very few leads but each one is getting a proposal? Your marketing is matching your ideal client definition. Or your definition is too broad and "everyone" is a fit.
5. Number of won contracts
Finally, the last big metric to track is the number of contracts you’ve won. This will give you a good idea of how healthily your sales process is.
Even better, if you link all five of these metrics together you can see the big picture of how your business works. If it takes you 1,000 visitors to win a contract then you can budget your marketing time and money accordingly. Paying $500 to get 1,000 visitors makes sense if you get a $1,000 contract out of every 500 visitors.
Now it’s time to get your analytics in place.