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Seven essential tools to help crunch your start-up’s data

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 | By Jonathan Lui

For most entrepreneurs, having a plan of attack for launching a start-up is pretty straightforward.

 

In your mind you build a vision of what your product should be and then go through a process of ticking boxes to get your idea to market as soon as possible.

 

Market research: tick. Business plan: tick. Developing a minimum viable product: tick. It’s go-time for launch! But now what?

 

After the energy and excitement of your launch has passed it becomes a lot trickier to decide on where to focus your time and your bootstrapped budget.

 

Some may have amazing launches and experience Facebook-like growth, while others may struggle to get even a few clicks.

 

In both cases, however, success could be determined by the next decisions you make, so you should always strive to know exactly what you are doing well and where you’re failing miserably.

 

After all, if your sales are going through the roof but you don’t know why, then how will you keep it going?

 

As practically everything online these days can be tracked, I am a big believer in data-driven decisions. To be able to make the right decisions, you need to have the right tools at your disposal to capture and analyse everything that’s happening on your apps.

 

Good decisions based on solid facts will help you optimise your business and can logically determine how you run things from a product, resource, and mental effort standpoint.

 

Here are a few key points that might help you in your start-up. I refer to this as the “IIRUS approach” (just in case the modern world needed yet another acronym):

 

Identify

 

Find all the important metrics – you’ve probably already listed these in your business plan so make sure you capture what you need to stay on top of them.

 

Implement

 

Put in place analysis and tracking tools as early as possible – time is an important factor as even though you may not make use of the data today, in six months’ time you might look back and wish you had all that historical data.

 

Report regularly

 

Just performing the exercise of taking time out to step back and measure your business metrics will help to support your gut instincts with real, solid data (or tell you that you were completely wrong).

 

Use it!

 

Pretty self-explanatory, but any amount of reporting will be useless if you don’t actually use the results to guide your decisions.

 

Seek advice often

 

Not knowing what decision to make is pretty common in start-ups but it’s the nature of the game.

 

Try to find mentors who can give you real-world advice and take your business to the next level.

 

An example

 

A good example of using data to drive business decisions occurred when we analysed the performance of our web app.

 

While our site loaded quickly enough, one of our most visited pages was showing some atrocious performance metrics; due to the amount of content on the page it was taking 8-9 seconds on average to load!

 

As improving website responsiveness is intangible, it’s not often high on a brand’s priority list. But with so many sites available today, every millisecond users spend waiting for a page to load could potentially frustrate users, or worse, cause users to abandon the site.

 

So, we decided to drop everything we were working on and focus solely on improving the performance of this page.

 

While we’re a small team with competing priorities, we chose to focus on improving our product to drive long-term growth.

 

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Choosing the right tools

 

While the above is all very data-driven, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to business that comes from inspirational moments – ideas motivated by emotional sparks and not just rock hard data. However, this is where you will need to strike a post-launch balance between chasing a dream idea and leveraging off your existing hard work.

 

At the end of the day, if you’re a start-up founder it’s ultimately your responsibility to draw your own conclusions from the data and see how it stacks against your long-term vision.

 

You’ll probably make some good decisions and some crap ones, but at least if you’re on top of your data, you’ll know why!

 

To give you an idea of how we make decisions at Airtasker, here are a bunch of tools which we use to acquire and analyse our data.

 

Google Analytics

 

A free, comprehensive and powerful tool to analyse all the traffic on your website/mobile apps (there’s a wide range of features, so consider getting help on how to optimise each one).

 

Visual Website Optimiser

 

A must-have A/B testing tool that is easy to use and quick to provide information on the impact of website copy and design.

 

Crazy Egg/ClickTale

 

Cursor movement recording and heat-mapping – both will give you insights on how users are navigating with their keyboard or mouse through specific pages and where they are dropping out.

 

Qlikview

 

A powerful database reporting tool with all the bells and whistles needed to analyse your data. It will require some initial setup and broader development skills but, once implemented, there is a huge range of functions you can call on to segment, link and statistically chart data.

 

NewRelic

 

‘Performance is a feature’ and page load times will significantly impact your conversion. This tool will let you know exactly how your applications are performing and allow you to visualise where the time is being spent as users are browsing your app.

 

CampaignMonitor/Mailchimp/Sengrid

 

A selection of email management tools that will provide a range of statistics on every communication you send out including open and click-through rates, bounce and spam reports. The latter (although useful data) can be particularly hurtful!

 

Uservoice

 

One of several third party customer service apps out there (like Zendesk, Kayako, etc), however, each app will provide you not just with customer service management tools but valuable reporting on what the burning questions are from your customers. There should only be so many times a user asks you the same question before you do something about it!

 

Know any other cool analytical tools? If so, feel free to add them in the comments below. Good luck!

 

Jonathan Lui is founder and COO of Airtasker, an Australian start-up that allows users to outsource everyday errands and chores. He is also a co-founder of Tank Stream Labs, an entrepreneur co-working space in the heart of Sydney's CBD.

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