9 Entrepreneurs tell us where they find (and how they use) data to grow their business

Vinay’s Note: Data is often talked about as one of the most valuable tools in any business. However the challenge to most businesses lies in being able to identify the right sources of data and translating it into profitable insights. In other words creating the right recipe to drive sales. In this post John Neil shows us how 9 successful entrepreneurs have approached finding their business growth data.

Where can you find unexpected (or underutilized) data sources? How could you act on that data to grow your business?

Perhaps we should learn from the founders who are out there succeeding.

I reached out to 9 internet entrepreneurs that we think are running great businesses, to get their response to a simple question: “Where should entrepreneurs look for business growth data?”

I'm reading a roundup on on WPCurve about where founders find business growth data by @jnconkle Click To Tweet

In this post, we hear from men and women who:

  • are highly sought-after coaches, consultants and advisors,
  • write bestselling books, speak at and throw conferences
  • sell millions of dollars worth of physical products,
  • run financial platforms,
  • develop widely used software products,
  • grow scalable startups.

You’re going to love this article because of the mix perspectives, the inclusion of both broad strategic thinking and specific tactical insight, and the pretty pictures. Enjoy.

Sarah Jones, founder of Introverted Alpha.


I recommend you find out what search term led your buyers to find your site, using surveys and forms, early on in your lead-nurturing system.

So far, our most valuable leads come from organic search.

On our consultation application and on our Dating Skills Assessment, we included a question which asks: “How did you hear about us? (If you Googled, what did you search for?)”

10% of all our subscribers either fill out the consultation application or the assessment, which tells us exactly where our most engaged leads are coming from and specifically what they Googled for. If they end up buying, we double down on the corresponding keywords (which they told us) since it won us a new customer.

If you pay attention to search terms, they will tell you not only the exact search phrases buyers are using to find you, but also where you’re ranking well enough to attract leads in the first place.

Search term analytics are @IntrovertdAlpha's preferred data source. Click To Tweet

Twitter: @IntrovertdAlpha.

Jimmy Hayes, founder of Minaal.


There’s no better place to start than your users – if you don’t have a direct line to your users, build one NOW. More than just asking them what they think, you need to go deep on it. Think about your goals for the feedback process, *how* you ask the questions, how your methodology affects the type of responses you get – break it down from start to finish. Oh, and if all else fails, stalk your users through airports like we do!

Where does Jimmy of @minaal find data? Directly from users. Click To Tweet

Twitter: @minaal.

Matthew Paulson, founder of MarketBeat


I find that some of the best business data comes from information that my competitors are leaking without realizing it.

You can learn a lot about a competitive online business through websites like SimilarWeb.com, which reveal traffic volume and customer acquisition sources. You can also get all of their marketing messaging and content just by signing up for their email list. Consider buying their product to get their full customer experience as well.

The best business data comes from competitors' leaks according to @MatthewDP. Click To Tweet

Twitter: @MatthewDP.

Rob Walling, founder of Drip.


We look in 3 places:

  1. Aggregate data – tools like Google Analytics or Clicky.
  1. “Person-based” data – tools like KISSmetrics or Mixpanel.
  1. By asking – this data is also person-based, but you only get it if you reach out and ask. Whether via screenshare demos, a post-cancellation question or the surveys we send periodically to customers, we’ve arrived at some of our best data just by asking.
You only get qualitative feedback if you ask for it, says @robwalling. Click To Tweet

Twitter: @robwalling.

Dan Norris, founder of WPCurve.


I think most entrepreneurs probably obsess too much over data, particularly for new businesses. It’s one thing to be a funded startup with all the resources and money to invest in accurate data collection. But for everyone else, more often then not, you’ll fall into a trap of ignoring the 1 metric that matters and over-optimizing everything else, to your detriment.

Most entrepreneurs probably obsess too much over data, says @thedannorris. Click To Tweet

For a new business, with limited funds, it’s normally a good idea to pick 1 metric to focus on. Something to do with product quality and utility is probably good. When I start a business, I don’t focus too much attention on selling people into it, I just focus on the core service/product, try to make it truly valuable to people, then get those customers to sell it for me. So for me, I’d be looking at things like how many people are actively using the product, how active people are, how much they like it, that type of thing and trying to improve those data points.

Twitter: @thedannorris.

Related post: Welcome aboard – 6 founders share tips for hiring

Taylor Pearson, author of bestseller The End of Jobs, blogger.


Look for the data in your own head.

Don't forget to look in your own head for critical data, says @TaylorPearsonMe. Click To Tweet

My biggest wins tend to come not from marginal optimizations of legible data (like increasing traffic by 20%), but from re-evaluating major elements of my business asking questions like:

    • Am I avoiding confronting The Resistance or “ugh” fields?
    • Am I using working more to avoid hard, uncomfortable decisions?
    • If I were a consultant being hired to grow my own business and had no emotional attachment, sunk cost fallacy, etc. what would I do in the next 90 days?
    • If I bought my own business as an asset, what would I do in the next 90 days to maximize profitability?

Twitter: @taylorpearsonme

Sophia Bera, founder of Gen Y Planning.


Maybe not what you were expecting, but personally I find lots of critical data by getting out of my routine and going to events.

Networking with other entrepreneurs is one of the best things you can do to grow your business and become more profitable.

Get out and network with other entrepreneurs, says @sophiabera. Click To Tweet

I recently went to an event with hundreds of other entrepreneurs in Bangkok put on by the Dynamite Circle and I am simply overwhelmed by the amount of actionable advice I received from attending a small mastermind which was part of the event.

Twitter: @sophiabera.

John T. Meyer founder of Lemonly.


Your customers are your resource for insightful, honest and actionable feedback. It sounds simple and easy, and to be honest with you, it is. Still, too many entrepreneurs forget to ask their customers.

Don't forget to ask customers for feedback, says @johntmeyer. Click To Tweet

Twitter: @johntmeyer

James Key Lim founder of Krew and early Zappos employee.


Hope you weren’t expecting James Bond tactics; I find critical data by looking at retention numbers.

Be sure to understand retention, says @JamesKeyLim. Click To Tweet

You learn a ton by understanding your retention. If you see unusual changes, be sure to learn the cause. Undoubtedly, you can fix it and cause your existing customers to become happier, which may lead to referrals.

Twitter: @jameskeylim.

2 themes.

Considering all the insights our influencers shared here, 2 themes recur.

First is the importance of relying on tangible metrics.

Sarah told us that we should give special weight to search data that has led to purchases. Dan told us that in the early days, we should avoid tracking and measuring a million things, and just focus on 1 thing that matters. Jimmy told us that we ideally need to know everything about our users, and the best place to start would be talking to them directly and to really dig for answers when we do.

Another theme is the importance of thinking beyond metrics.

Sophia told us her preferred way to get critical data is by going to events and meeting like-minded folks. Taylor encouraged us to be honest with ourselves and optimize for big wins.  Matt urged us to look at our competitors’ products, sales and marketing, as well as info they may not realize they’re leaking.

Data comes from 2 sources - tangible metrics, and thinking beyond metrics. @jnconkle's roundup: Click To Tweet

If you enjoyed this article, please tweet a thank you to those mentioned in the article, and consider sharing the post to your followers.  Share on Twitter with just 1 click by following this link.


John is a startup entrepreneur building an events sponsorship company while guest contributing to WPcurve and Helloify. He relies on content marketing for his own business and helps others do the same. John tweets, and he also podcasts .

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