A little while ago, DIY Marketers talked with a business expert about how to prioritize and focus your marketing goals in the confusing world of online marketing that we live in today. (For details, feel free to check out “Overwhelmed by Marketing? Get Back on Target with Louis Gudema”)

That answers one part of the “How do I market online successfully?” question, but it also opens up another question:

How do I measure the success of my online business?

For that, DIY Marketers turned to Thomas Power, tech board member of several technology companies and Chief Digital Officer of Electric Dog, a digital coaching for executives. Thomas Power is a whiz at helping business leaders of all sizes use technology to measure and optimize their business.

His tips provided in the Twitter chat on using dashboards effectively to measure your online business can help you provide some insight into how you can track and measure your efforts.

Let’s dig in.

Dashboard Information Literacy: Understanding Your Numbers is Key to Understanding Your Business (Short Version)

First, let’s cover a  quick 1-minute summary in regards to measuring your business inspired by that chat:

  1. Get comfortable with reading data and numbers.
  2. Understand the dashboard or platform that you’re using for your data.
  3. Limit your data to a few key options.
  4. Start off with a few simple decisions.
  5. Know the success is always relative to your goals.

Now, for the more in-depth explanation.

Dashboard Information Literacy: Understanding Your Numbers is Key to Understanding Your Business ( Longer Version)

1. Get comfortable with reading data and numbers

In the chat with Ivana, Thomas Power talked about the simple insight he gained about data literacy with a business he is working with called 9 Spokes. He found that users of 9 Spokes had no trouble understanding a pie chart, but had more difficulty with a bar graph simply because they were not exposed to that kind of graph.

In a world that has so many ways of presenting data, the simple mistake of not being able to understand a chart or graph could lead to you to make a bad business decision. Thomas urged business leaders to get comfortable with charts and graphs of all types as well as numbers. If you’re not comfortable with charts and graphs, take the time to learn

Some online courses that might help

Data Literacy and Visualization (Available through iTunes University app)

Introduction to Data Analytics for Business (Coursera)

Dashboards 101 – Using Metrics to Improve Performance (uDemy)

Some books that might also help:

Data Literacy: A User′s Guide by David Herzog

Statistics DeMYSTiFieD, 2nd Edition by by Stan Gibilisco

Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic 

The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios by Steve Wexler

2. Understand the dashboard or platform that you’re using for your data

Screenshot of digital analytics

The goal of a dashboard is to present a quick digital snapshot of the key areas of your business, so you can make better decisions. To read the charts and graphs that come with that dashboard, you not only need data literacy, you also need to understand the dashboard itself. In other words, if you are using a site like Google Analytics to measure your website traffic, you need to know how to read charts and graphs, you also need to know to use Google Analytics.

Thomas Power gave an example of this during the Twitter chat. He mentioned that he was introduced to Zoom as a result of getting involved with the Twitter chat. He knew nothing about it, but decided to learn about it before he entered the chat so he could use the software effectively. (It actually came in handy because Thomas had to move during the Twitter chat and maintain the conversation while outside!)

3. Limit your data to a few key areas

As Thomas Power pointed out, businesses (even one-person businesses) have a lot of data to keep up with:

  • Financial data (profit/loss, sales, accounts receivable, etc.)
  • Marketing data (number of leads, social media data, email marketing numbers)
  • Supplier information
  • Customer information
  • …and much more

This is a lot of information to keep up with!

For businesses, a smarter option is to focus on the key areas defined by their business goals (something Louis Gudema mentions in his Twitter chat) rather than trying to keep up with every little scrap of data that is involved with your business. Dashboards are a great way for business to get a quick snapshot ot the key areas they find important to running their business.

A dashboard, however, will only gather the information you request based on the criteria you set. It’s important for YOU, the business owner, to identify what criteria you’re monitoring for your business so you can set your dashboard appropriately.

4. Start off with a few simple decisions.

While having access to a lot of information is power, having too much information is overwhelming. That’s why Thomas advises business leaders to only focus on the key factors in their business. Don’t overload your dashboard with information. Instead, focus on the key measures behind your business success (like your business goals).

5. Know the success is always relative to your goals.

No matter what, realize that a dashboard is a tool like any other business tool, designed to help you maximize your success. That success, however, is defined and determined by you. Don’t compare that success to any other business. Whether you are a billion-dollar business or a small business that just got its first $30 sale, your success is up to you. Tools like dashboards can help you understand how you are progressing toward your success, but only you can determine if the day-to-day activities of your business are leading you toward the successful life you want.