It might seem counter-intuitive to suggest small business owners should use paper planners to track things. Between website analytics, Google Analytics and all the social media platforms too, statistics are not something small business owners need to search hard to find. But that’s also part of the problem - there are so many places, and so much collected, that it can be overwhelming, hard to interpret and easy to get lost in amongst it.
Although you’ll still need those online sources to get the information you need, actually using a paper planner can be a great way of breaking down the statistics to tell you just what you need to know, help you see progress and make a plan. In your planner you get to pick exactly what you want to track, based on your business goals, so you can focus on that specifically and see your progress towards it without all the noise and distraction of coloured maps and hundreds of clicks.
Here are my top 4 things you can track for your small business in a planner. They all fit in to different business goals, and while they won’t all be suitable for everyone hopefully they’ll show you just how versatile and useful planner tracking can be.
1 - Average Order Value (AOV) and Conversion Rate.
As a product based business having these figures can really help ground you, especially when times are tough like currently and overall sales figures might not be what they were a few years ago. Tracking these separately to just weekly/monthly sales figures can help give you an insight into how your website might be working, how you might want to structure any future offers and they can also direct you to other stats you might want to look at more closely. Sales figures on their own don’t give you such an insight into customer behaviour like these might, and as and when you tweak or change up factors of your customer journey it’s areas like these which are more likely to give you useful feedback.
2 - Record your best sellers.
How much you break this down is up to you, but this may help you spot seasonal trends you might not otherwise consider as well as how soon they might peak or ebb. Interrogating this data might also give you an idea of what style or product design is most popular and help you plan ahead. A variation on this is to track your most viewed products too, seeing what might be tempting viewers but not quite converting and that could also help you work out how you might adjust the customer journey/product description etc.
3 - Plan, track and reflect with a Launch Tracker.
Not every business does regular launches, or big launches, but if you do, setting particular goals, and then tracking relevant stats in line with them, is a good way to delve into your launch process which you can then reflect on and learn from further down the line. Having a Master dashboard in your planner to help structure your launch can be fantastic for bringing focus, and you can make it as big and involved - or not - as you want. For instance you can use it to plan out timelines, pre-/during-/post-launch checklists, sales goals, conversion stats and marketing activities.
4 - Business Journalling.
Tracking is often stats based, but it doesn't have to be at all and even if you’re not a regular journal-er don’t discount the benefits of having space to write and consider your intentions, hopes, goals, plans and struggles in your business. Having a consistent set of questions you ask yourself at set intervals, and seeing those responses over time, can not only help you reflect more widely on where you’ve been but you may also spot trends, habits and seasonality you might not otherwise have been aware of. Let’s face it, running a business is so very involved that taking a step back is tricky (and easily avoided) so your planner can really help. And it doesn’t have to be a really involved journaling process to see a benefit - it can literally be a couple of questions with a few sentences in response but you might be surprised how much you can learn
And a final bonus tip - Use your own timescales
It’s so very easy to think of tracking as something that should be done month to month. And whilst that might be a useful and natural point to pause, equally it might be totally arbitrary or actively unhelpful to how you and your business work. So use something different. Work by project, by term, by quarter or however best fits what you need.
One of the biggest joys of a paper planner is its versatility and lack of rules. Use your planner to block out the stats overwhelm from online and you’ll find yourself more focused, grounded and ultimately more knowledgeable. Which will, in turn, help you build confidence in you and your business so you can grow it into what you want it to be.