Fail Small, Win Big With Analytics

You’ve probably heard all of the clichés, “you can’t succeed unless you try!”.  Nothing is more true in business. Sure, we’d love to launch a new company or product and have it be a roaring success. But in reality, sometimes it fails, and if we’re smart, we’ll learn from it, dust ourselves off, regroup and kick some serious competitive butt.

Last year I launched a little side business, an “experiment”. It was a website that I thought would do very well. I launched the website and threw some money at it, thinking my clever marketing strategies were enough. Well, I was wrong. It didn’t catch on and I decided to shelf the website until I start over again and do it right. It was a good thing I didn’t quite my day job or invest our life savings into it.


I kept scratching my head, wondering what went wrong. Why were visitors not engaging or coming back? Was there a problem with the site usability? That’s when I became interested in analytics, the study of user behaviour with the objective of optimizing user’s experience to lift conversions and engagement.


Without a clear understanding of how people were using my site, or reacting to my marketing, I didn’t have the data needed to make decisions that could turn things around. I wished I had strong website analytics to help me in the process.

Since then, I have armed myself with analytics intelligence, getting certified through Google Analytics and UBC’s Digital Analytics certificate program, but here’s what I’d like to share with any fellow entrepreneurs out there thinking of launching an online business:

  1. Use Web Analytics: set your site KPIs and goals and define what a successful site visit looks like before you start advertising. Then, measure these metrics and optimize as needed.
  2. Testing: BEFORE you spend a dime of money on advertising, test your website with people from your target audience, ask them what they like and don’t like. A site that isn’t easy to use will not bring people back, so marketing spend is a waste if the product is not functioning well. Make sure people love it first.
  3.  Lead Capture: once you do start advertising, make sure you have a mechanism in place to capture e-mail addresses from the new site visitors. You will likely never see them again, they could forget all about your awesome website, so don’t miss out on that chance to add them to your  e-mail list. Pop-up windows with a special offer are a great way to entice first-time visitors to sign-up for your e-mails.
  4. More Testing: testing out different forms of advertising, headlines, call to actions etc. are great ways to “fail small” so that you can win big. For example, rather than sending out an e-mail to your full list, try sending 2 different subject  line options to 2 small groups and see which gets more attention. Then you can send the stronger subject line to the rest of your list, knowing that it will perform better.
  5. Don’t Get Discouraged: if you have a product that you know people love, don’t give up. These people didn’t.

As with all tests, plan ahead so that you are not testing too many things at once. You need to know what is working and what is not working, so don’t test different offers, call to actions, product placements, pricing or headlines at the same time. Slow and steady, small, then big, wins the race!

Sharole Lawrence

Senior Marketing Consultant, Glow Marketing

Sharole Lawrence is a Calgary-based marketing consultant specializing in online digital marketing and analytics.