Measuring the Most Important Number for a Small Business

Have you noticed how many blog posts, business books and other resources have started focusing on metrics lately?

Everything from unique web page visitors, to the ROI of a Facebook post can be (and should be) measured. At least that is what the received wisdom seems to tell us. So alongside actually running your business, trying to generate new business, servicing existing business needs, and using and understanding social media and new technology, you are also supposed to measure all of these things.

If you didn’t think you had enough time before, you are likely to be seeking out the nearest cloning machine because now you have to find time to work in collecting and evaluating extensive metrics. Where is the time supposed to come from for all of this? You’ll make time if it is important to you and it should be important to you — so the guru’s will say.

But is it really that important? Oh sure it’s nice to see some numbers — how many people visited your website in a given time period. Or how many people read your blog (if you have time to write one). Or how many new followers you have on Twitter.

These are all “interesting” numbers, but for the most part, they are irrelevant. For most small businesses, the number that matters the most is the one on the bank statement at the end of each month. That number is often left out of the advice being given or at least left until last.

Instead of making it last in the list, I propose that you make it first in the list. Start with the revenue number and then look at what contributes to that most in your business.

If you are an online retailer, for example, then web conversion rates are definitely something that you want to measure. But if you are a local coffee shop, how many of your customers are actually coming to your website to buy your coffee? None of them. So unique visits to your website is a number that you can glance at from time to time. But, ultimately, you want to focus on how many people come through the door.

As you work your way back through the contributing factors, the things that you need to measure and collect data on will become more apparent. The further you get from the revenue number, the less important those numbers become.

Perhaps using this model you will find time to measure what is important and let go of all the “likes,” “followers,” “views” and other “cool” metrics.

Image credit: vierdrie

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Simon Salt
Simon is CEO of IncSlingers, and is an author, blogger, writer and entrepreneur. His book on Social Location Marketing was published by QUE, a division of Pearson publications in February 2011. Simon has been published online by Mashable, Read Write Web and others.

2 comments

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  1. Excellent points, Simon! It is SO easy to get sucked into the analytics of running a business, and get sidetracked from the important bits – actually running your business. I tend to be over analytical and can really get bogged down in the researching, which uses up valuable time that should be spent in actually building/growing a profitable business.

    Put the numbers down. Just walk away. Spend your time doing rather then learning/looking.

  2. I agree, Simon, that revenue is a key metric. But as a business grows, return-on-investment (ROI) also becomes important. If a pay-per-click campaign costs $1.00 per click, and one in twenty clicks leads to a conversion (you capture their email address), then the price of that email address is $20. Thru inbound marketing, that could likely be lowered to something in the low single digits.
    Check out my article on ROI at http://sigmawebmarketing.com/blog/bid/116155/Inbound-Marketing-ROI-Lions-and-Tigers-and-Bears-Oh-My

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