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Matthew Edgar is web consultant at Elementive. Since 2001, Matthew has helped hundreds of businesses and nonprofits grow through a process of analyzing and improving their website and online presence. He is the author of Elements of a Successful Website published in 2017. Matthew regularly speaks at conferences and teaches workshops about analytics and technical marketing subjects. You can connect on Twitter @MatthewEdgarCO or on his blog at MatthewEdgar.net.
City where you’re from: Centennial, Colorado
Hey Matthew, welcome to Future Sharks. What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Matthew Edgar: My company, Elementive, is focused on helping small businesses and nonprofits understand how to use and benefit from their data and analytics. My business partner and I formed Elementive in 2014 after seeing so many smaller organizations struggle with integrating analytics and data into their day-to-day processes. It can seem challenging, especially for smaller organizations with limited time and money. But what my business partner and I realized is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The more you can start using analytics, the more informed your decisions can be and that leads to better results.
How is your company different? What’s your dream with your company?
Matthew Edgar: Our services are focused on analytics and a lot of our work is for smaller organizations and non-profits. These are companies who generally don’t think that they need analytics or data–that is for big companies! Or, so the thinking goes. My favorite moments are when we help clients understand something new about their business or when we help them see a problem in a new way. That is the exciting part of relying on analytics–it is a different way of thinking about a problem and can show you new opportunities you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Our vision with Elementive is to continue to help people at those smaller organizations find simple and easy ways to use data and analytics.
How do you uniquely market your company?
Matthew Edgar: We focus heavily on educating and providing resources online and offline showing different ways of utilizing analytics to improve your marketing or better understand your customers. There is less of a focus on “selling” or “promoting” ourselves. Like with the Go-Giver mindset, a lot of our marketing is based on how much value we can give and how well we can serve.
What is your most successful service?
Matthew Edgar: The most successful service, and the one that drives the most value for clients, is our ongoing support and consultation. With this service, we work with clients every month to help them measure how their website and online marketing are performing. Based on those metrics, we help the client decide where to invest their time and budget over the coming month. What they should tweak? What new tactics make sense to add? What tactics should they stop? It is the slow and steady process of continually measuring and improving that leads to the biggest long-term growth.
What was your biggest failure and biggest success? What did you learn from them?
Matthew Edgar: Prior to forming Elementive, I started a software company. While it did okay, it never really took off with customers. This clarified for me a problem I’d seen happen with clients as well: even though the product and the marketing were great, and even though we did everything technically right, things didn’t work out as planned. This serves as a good reminder that while you can (and should) improve your marketing and product, there are so many other factors involved as well, including timing, competitors, and larger global trends. As we work with clients now at Elementive, we’ve placed greater focus on competitive metrics as well to start taking account of some of these other factors.
Elementive is the most successful thing I’ve ever been involved in. I credit my business partner with a lot of that success–while I’d run my own businesses for seven years prior to forming Elementive with her, teaming up allowed us to determine where to focus, where we can make the biggest difference for clients, who we should serve, and exactly the kind of services clients needed. This has also served as a great reminder that collaboration is key.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Matthew Edgar: The best advice I can give is to remember that you and your business are unique. There is no secret formula and anybody claiming to have one is probably trying to sell you something. Instead, what I’ve learned—personally, from clients, and from partner businesses—is that every single business is unique. What works for you won’t work for anybody else (and vice versa).
So, don’t try to just copy what somebody else did or follow somebody’s “winning” formula. Instead, make your own decisions and find your own path forward. You should definitely listen to and consider what others have to say. That might include the experts with the secret formula, trusted advisors, customer feedback, or even studying your competitors. This also includes considering what your analytics and data have to tell about what’s working–data and analytics are great at showing you what your customers are thinking and showing you what is happening in the market.
Don’t let that input though take you off your own course though. Use it as a guide for questions to ask and possibilities to consider as you find what is right for your business and the people you serve.
Teach us something about web analytics
Matthew Edgar: The biggest question clients ask as they start looking at their analytics is how their numbers compare to an average. What should the numbers be? What’s a good amount of time for people to spend on my site? What’s a good conversion rate? How much of my traffic should come from one marketing channel? But the answer is that there is no answer. Averages and industry benchmarks are pretty useless when it comes to knowing how your website should perform. I’ve seen companies succeed with low and high conversion rates. I’ve seen companies have great performing websites where people spent very little time on the site.
Before you look at your analytics tools, you need to determine what the right numbers are for your website and for your company. Then compare the actual numbers against what would be right for you. For instance, do you need a high conversion rate? Maybe, if you are selling a cheaper product. But if are you selling a luxury good, a lower conversion rate might be just fine–even preferable, since it means only the best quality converters are getting through. Do you need people to spend a lot of time on your site? Maybe, if you have a lot of content for people to read through (like Future Sharks does!). But, alternatively, people might be coming to your website to check a quick stat and a lower time on site is better.
In terms of resources to learn about web analytics, certainly Elementive’s website contains resources to learn about analytics. Beyond our website, though, I’d highly recommend Moz’s blog, Avinash Kaushik’s blog, and Justin Cutroni’s blog. All three contain highly-actionable information about using data and analytics as part of your business.
What’s something new you’ve learned in the past month?
Matthew Edgar: Lately, I’ve been growing increasingly interested in voice interactions and what this means for the future of the web. This is an area that is continuing to grow and expand. Some projections say voice interactions will grow 30% by 2020, while others provide even bigger projections. Voice interactions completely change everything about the way users interact with information. For instance, right now interactions are predominantly visual with reading text or viewing graphics. But some voice technologies, like Alexa, largely remove the visual component. It will be interesting to see how voice features expand in the future and how voice technology can overcome some of the interesting challenges it presents.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Matthew Edgar: Focus on serving your customers. At the end of every day, you should be able to say, with 100% conviction, that you did everything possible to make your customers lives better–now, in the short term and but also in the long term. It is incredibly easy to get distracted and focus on other things, like new technologies or new ways to improve an internal process. But, as those distractions arise, continually ask yourself if your customers need that from you. Are your customers better served by you building out that new technology or just solving their current problem? Are your customers struggling because of that internal process or are the problems with that internal process only bothering you? The more you challenge yourself to stay focused on customers, the better your chances of having happy, satisfied customers, which means a healthier business long term.