There are many areas of metrics small business owners can use to measure their business. At OnDeck, to say we’re metrics obsessed is an understatement. This applies to how we approach our business in general as well as in each department from marketing, sales, website development, and how we take care of our customers. Before every decision we make big and small, we evaluate our past performance. My colleagues and I are always asking questions to evaluate our performance and our impact. We ask questions like: Did I accomplish the goals I set out to, in every increment (monthly, quarterly, etc.)? Did I set the right goals? How can I do this differently to get a better result? We do this to make sure we’re giving our customers exactly what they need to make the right decision about financing for their business.
I also know small business owners and their businesses don’t have the time, bandwidth or budget to evaluate every decision in depth, all of the time. Here are some key metrics for small business owners to focus on for success.
Your Financial Metrics:
Finances are the core of every business. Without your financials in order, your business can not run at the top of its game. Like everything in life, the more you know about a topic, the more you can do with it. When it comes to your financials, you want to be able to make incremental changes for the better and catch mistakes before they become a problem. I joke with my husband, who owns a small business, that he prefers to hang out with his business bank account more than with me. (Not actually true, but it’s a close second.) A small business owner should be keenly aware of all the numbers, whether or not you feel like the numbers are your strong suit.
You should be consistently looking at your income, expenses, cash flow, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. These areas are the base of your business finances, and you should know them intimately. Make it a point to talk with your accountant or bookkeeper to stay informed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more you know, the better off your business will be.
Your Business Plan:
You develop a business plan at the onset of most businesses. You set benchmarks, you make financial projections, and you state a clear, concise idea of what your business will do. If you are evaluating your business goals every few months, you’ll notice if your business is doing what it needs to do. But what happens when you look back, and your initial plan for your business no longer fits the need of the market, the space is too crowded, or you’re not hitting your marks? It doesn’t always mean that you need to shutter your doors, sometimes all you need to do is look at your business from another perspective and pivot. Pivoting is not a negative action, and there is no point in the calendar year that can tell you when to do it, but many businesses evaluate their goals at the end of a quarter, mid-year, or year-end. This keeps you and your business on track and gives you the opportunity to make changes before it’s too late.
Our guest writer in July, Lisa Hendrickson CEO of Spark City, a small business consultancy, developed her “5 Rs System” to keep business owners moving toward what they really want to achieve. Review. Recalibrate. Rip. Recommit. Revive. Follow this system, and you’ll get your business goals back on the right track as soon as possible.
Your Social Media Marketing:
You might be thinking of rolling your eyes. Every single article you’ve read about small business growth, marketing, or any other aspect somehow pulls in social media into the conversation; I know, I do it all the time. You want to read an article that tells you which platform to be on and how often to post and that is not going to happen. The reason is that every business is different, even if you have a similar target market and a similar product as a competitor, what works for one company doesn’t always work for another. So there won’t be a general article on social media telling you exactly what to do, but here are some top areas to keep an eye on to optimize your impact on social media:
- Find the optimal channels for your business. Keep an eye on the platforms you choose to work with and go from there. Remember it’s better to build up slowly than jumping the gun on platforms that waste your time and money.
- Set up your social media to work for you. Each platform is different, so work with the intricacies of the platforms you’re on, and be responsive to your audience. Listening is a huge part of social media. Stop focusing on what you’re going to post this week or next and see what your followers are saying about you and about your competitors. Use that information to inform your posts.
- Automate what you can. You’re busy, don’t let your social media channels suffer from your busy schedule. Spend a little bit of time at the beginning of the week setting it up, like you would any other task and go from there.
- Use your email lists to target the right customers.
- Lead generation. Use a combination of content and your social platforms to generate leads for your business. This requires a bit of work, but don’t forget how powerful social media can be for your business growth.
Your Online Presence:
As a business owner, you know that you need to be online to reach as many potential customers as possible. But how do you know if you’re doing it right? All it takes is a bit of planning and some forethought. Plan to evaluate your website, social media, online marketing and SEO at regular intervals as you do with the other area of your business. There are a lot of aspects of your online presence to evaluate, from checking to see if your website works on mobile devices, to seeing if your business comes up on the Google searches you want to show up for. Take any learnings and apply them to strengthen your business online.
There will always be new areas of your business to check and test, but if you make evaluation a part of your routine business maintenance, you’ll be able to see any issues are creeping up and prevent them from becoming bigger problems.
Do you have any stories of how you’ve used metrics to grow your business? Let us know in the comments below!