10 Metrics Every Growing Business Must Keep An Eye On by Martin Zwilling
“Nice article by Martin Zwilling on 10 Metrics Every Business Must Keep an Eye On…” – GC
Entrepreneurs have no trouble focusing on how to build a product, and the good ones know how to find and nurture those first critical customers. Many, however, don’t know how to take their small business to the next level. What I’m talking about here is a level of discipline and skill necessary to collect and analyze the relevant business data, known as metrics.
Here is my selection of ten key metrics that every six-sigma joint like GE tracks without thinking, but too many small businesses only monitor haphazardly, if at all:
1. Sales revenue. Sales is simply defined as income from customer purchases of goods and services, minus the cost associated with things like returned or undeliverable merchandise. Of course, everyone is happy when the numbers keep going up, but the data needs to be mined constantly for deeper meanings and trends.
Sales data needs to be correlated to advertising campaigns, price changes, seasonal forces, competitive actions, and other cost of sales. More sophisticated metrics in this domain, like the Asset Turnover Ratio, Return on Sales, and Return on Assets, can tell you how your company’s performance stacks up against others in the same industry, or same geography. In the long run, these tell you whether you will live or die, compared to competitors.
2. Customer loyalty and retention. Customer loyalty is all about attracting the right customer, getting them to buy, buy often, buy in higher quantities and bring you even more customers. You build customer loyalty by treating people how they want to be treated.
There are three common methods for measuring customer loyalty and retention: 1) customer surveys, 2) direct feedback at point of purchase, and 3) purchase analysis. All of these require a systematic and regular process, rather than ad hoc implementation. According to Fred Reichheld and other experts, a 5% improvement in customer retention will yield between a 20 to 100% increase in profits across a wide range of industries.
3. Cost of customer acquisition. This metric is a measure of the total cost associated with acquiring a new customer, including all aspects of marketing and sales. Customer acquisition cost is calculated by dividing total acquisition expenses by total new customers over a given period.
This tells you whether your marketing and advertising investments are paying for themselves. Over time, you cost of acquisition should go down as growth and your brand image goes up. Again, be sure to check industry norms for your type of business to see if you are competitive.
4. Operating productivity. Obviously measuring staff productivity is important, and the reasons why are obvious. If you do not know how your staff is doing, then how can you truly know the inner workings of your own company? Staff discontent can put your company in serious jeopardy, while on the other hand, high staff productivity can be your best company asset.
Productivity ratios can be applied to almost any aspect of your business. For example, sales productivity is simply actual revenue divided by the number of sales people. Compare your productivity to industry norms by consulting industry statistics, or check yourself for continuous improvement by accumulating your statistics over time. The process works the same for manufacturing productivity, marketing productivity, or support productivity.
5. Size of gross margin. The gross margin is calculated as a company’s total sales revenue minus its cost of goods sold, divided by the total sales revenue, expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more the company retains on each dollar of sales to service its other costs and enjoy as profits.
Tracking margins is important for growing companies, since increased volumes should improve efficiency and lower the cost per unit (increase the margin). Improving productivity requires effort and innovation, and many companies charge ahead, not realizing that margins are going the wrong way. What you don’t measure probably won’t happen.
Read all 10 Key Metrics at Forbes.com