The power of analytics in business can't be overestimated. Modern analytics platforms give you access to data that business owners just a decade ago would have killed to get their hands on. With a few clicks to customize a report, you can quickly learn which of your tactics are generating revenue for your business, and which ones are wasting your time and money-in practically every area of your business, including marketing, sales, employee productivity, and customer engagement.
Today's analytics tools are especially powerful because most of them rely on data visualizations to provide you with the information you need; visuals are more intuitive to understand, and are easier to showcase to employees, supervisors, and clients.
But with such a wealth of diverse analytics tools available, there's no way to make use of them all. So which are the best for small businesses to use?
The Best Analytics Tools
These are some of the best analytics tools on the market today:
Google Analytics. Completely free and available from one of the biggest tech companies on the planet, Google Analytics tells you everything you'd want to know about the people visiting your website, including where they're coming from, how long they stay, and what they do once they're on your site. It's the perfect tool to accompany SEO campaigns, conversion optimization initiatives, or really any online marketing campaign.
EmailAnalytics. Referred to as "Google Analytics for Gmail," EmailAnalytics is an aptly-named email analytics platform designed to help you better understand how you and your team conduct email - as long as you use Gmail or G Suite. With interactive, customizable reports, you'll be able to see how much time you spend writing and reading emails, how many emails you send per day, and how your email threads develop (including who starts and finishes them). It's ideal for improving employee productivity-most people underestimate the time they spend on email until the numbers are staring them in the face.
Optimizely. If you're more interested in learning specifically about how your customers are converting on your site (including filling out forms or making purchases), Optimizely is one of the best analytics platforms that can help. Optimizely gives you all the tools you need to create two similar, yet distinct versions of your landing pages, headlines, or emails so you can AB test your approaches. Experiment by experiment, your conversion rates should grow.
CrazyEgg. The big draw for CrazyEgg is seeing not just who's on your site and when, but how they're interacting with your site. You'll be able to see how users click and scroll through your website, and use heatmaps to see which features of your site are most and least impressive. Google Analytics may be able to tell you that there's a problem with the design and user experience of your website, but CrazyEgg can help you pinpoint what that problem is.
UserTesting. If your business develops software, or produces some other tech product that requires frequent user testing, it should be no surprise to learn that UserTesting was designed for you. Through UserTesting, you'll be able to show off your latest website, app, or product to a handful of users within your target demographics, who will take audio and video of their experiences using your product. You can use this feedback to get an idea of how your app is performing, and what changes you'll need to make in future iterations.
ClearStory.ClearStory puts big data analysis in the hands of the small business owner. Its platform combines internal company information with data that's publicly available about companies and individuals. You can also use the platform to gather and report on data specific to individual departments, including marketing, sales, operations, and customer analytics. You can use ClearStory platforms for as much or as little as your business requires.
InsightSquared. InsightSquared works by integrating with platforms you may be already using, such as SalesForce, Zendesk, QuickBooks, and Google Analytics. The platform extrapolates data and helps you form actionable conclusions, giving you advanced reports like pipeline forecasting, profitability analysis, and activity monitoring. It's ideal for uncovering the strengths and weaknesses of your business-especially if you already have a wealth of data and no clue how to effectively use it. InsightSquared also offers products for marketing, financial, and staffing analytics.
Taking Advantage of Free Trials
Some of these platforms are entirely free, but most of them require a license or a subscription to use. Your analytics platform choices are big decisions, so don't rush into anything; instead, take advantage of as many free trials as you can. Most systems will give you at least a week of free use before requiring you to pay, so you can see if each platform adds enough value to your operations to justify the cost.
I encourage you to give each of these platforms a try so you can see how your business might improve in every dimension, and make the best investments for the future of your company.
Larry Alton is a multi-talented professional with a diverse background in writing, sales, marketing, and account management. He has a wealth of knowledge in digital marketing and a passion for e-commerce, SEO, social media, conversion rate optimization, and creative digital design. In addition to his expertise in digital marketing, Larry also actively invests in real estate and is passionate about this field. His writing has been featured in prominent publications such as Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, and TechCrunch, as well as Business.com and TheNextWeb.com. With a proven track record in both the digital marketing and writing industries, Larry is a valuable asset to any organization.