Analytics and Bootstrappers: Are they useful?

Most start-up owners love analytics. They will install tracking libraries, A/B test everything, look at conversion rates etc.

But I have always found this focus on metrics, especially at the beginning, a slight waste of time.

Let me explain why. For most startups, the problem is finding key customer pains to target, finding if people will pay for your solution, how you can get more customers in etc etc.

All this focus on analytics seems to be a bit distracting. It doesn’t tell you much, and it drags you away from talking to customers.

For me, I have learnt more from talking to one customer than looking at months of data. But it seems I’m alone in this, as every other forum advice tells you to learn about conversion rate optimisation, start A/B testing etc etc.

Of course, once you are profitable and pulling in lots of cash, analytics might be useful, but are they useful for early stage bootstrappers?


It’s not binary. It can be useful. For a web based business, analytics will tell you how people discover your site. Maybe some people start discussing your tool on a forum in a market you hadn’t considered. Maybe some people are using keywords common to another market you haven’t considered. Maybe lots of visitors are using iOS, and you could create a mobile app that would suit them…

This assumes you have some content and you at least describe what you are doing, of course. Maybe you meant even earlier than that, but if that’s the case then I’d still suggest you should get something out there to get conversations going.

Obviously you’re also interested in people that aren’t discovering your site, but working with the above can still help.

Hi @shantnu, I agree, talking to customer is much more important than looking at numbers. Even more important is to talk with 10 customers who purchased and 10 customers who did not purchase. If they don’t want to talk - you can look into numbers, also try to track users by IP address

it must not drag, we must talk, it is better. have a screen sharing session with voice - it is the best way to get feedback in my experience

it is exactly what you optimize when you talk to customers - you make the product better

In the beginning, you’ll have very small numbers of visitors. So it’s critical get the most out of each one.

So, yes, TALK to them. Offer free demos, etc.

Analytics makes more sense as you get to numbers 10x what you could talk to (so 50 interested visitors a month). When you have enough visitors to get something like statistical validity happens to also be the volume at which you can’t talk to everyone.

  1. Set up text chat on your site
  2. Collect email address (come up with some useful thing you can email them IN YOUR DOMAIN of xpertise.
  3. Ask to talk to them (set a hard deadline : 15 minutes max). (Ever been asked to “help someone move” out of their apartment? you’re more likely to say YES if they say “your shift is only 1 hour” vs. an open ended “you may be there for 8 hours if no one else shows up”.

@shantnu: I think you have a decent point; you don’t want to start refining your aim at a target until you know you’re aiming at a good target.

I’d agree that in the beginning, the more qualitative you can get, the better.

Interviews with real people are probably some of the best, but survey tools (like HotJar) or session recording tools (like HotJar or Inspectlet) can help you learn a lot about your customers and any repetitive difficulty they have with getting value out of your site.

I saw this great video by Derek Sivers, and it perfectly shows my thoughts on the matter:

It’s from his book Anything You Want, the audio version. I highly recommend it.

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