Inquiry tracking & analytics: why you need it and how to get started

Early on, running our photography business seemed like flying by the seat of our pants. When we made changes to pricing or packages, investing in advertising, or updated the website, it often felt like we just tossed that out into the aether and could only vaguely tell what happened as a result. To try to fix this, we resolved to start tracking inquiries diligently in a spreadsheet (this was 2013). After a few months, we felt like some of the obscure details of our business were finally coming into focus! By tracking our data, we are able to answer questions like:

  • “Do I have less weddings booked right now than I did last year at this time?”
  • “How many more inquiries am I getting after (I made some change to my website)?”
  • “Is spending money on advertising with (insert publication) really helping me?”
  • “I feel like I’ve gotten way more inquiries for dates I was already booked this year. Is that true?”

All of this was revealed to us just by using a spreadsheet that we had put together. It was a revelation; I was hooked.

That spreadsheet was the beginning of Nove, our contact form and inquiry analytics app. Nove is all about capturing client data from inquiry through the rest of the client lifecycle, and feeding that into photography-specific business analytics. Using Nove has made a huge difference in our confidence when making business decisions, so I want to make a case for the importance of good lead tracking, talk about some challenges, and give you two free ways to get started.

How to get started

Start small, and start now! We’re getting into a slower part of the year, so it’s worth taking some time to think about. The power of these kinds of analytics increases dramatically as you build a larger history of the clients you work with, so you should not wait. To recycle a phrase from Warren Miller, “If you don’t start this year, you’ll be one year older when you do!”

The DIY spreadsheet shows you exactly what info you need to enter, and it’s pretty basic stuff:

Client name, the type of inquiry, a few dates, etc. Everything is explained in the sheet in notes and comments.

This is a marathon, not a sprint (sorry for the cliché)

We all have a million things competing for our attention and time. If you enter the first few lines of data and don’t see the promised sparkling array of metrics, the harsh reality is that you might just stop doing it. Awesome benefits await just around the corner, but it is hard to connect “future awesomeness” with work you have to do right now. Fortunately, there’s hope: first, the bulk of the work is filling out the basic information for each client in the spreadsheet; from there all you have to do it add in a value here or there. And if you want to skip filling out the basic client info, you can use Nove. I hated the manual data entry, which is a big party of why I built the app in the first place.

Let computers do the work for you

The spreadsheet linked above uses a litany of formulas to automate calculations like days from inquiry to conversion, conversion percentage, etc. It can’t automate basic data entry though, and it only reveals trends over time if you manually change the date ranges. This is where the app really shines: when you build and use a Nove contact form on your site, you get all the initial data entry done for you, and an email sent to your inbox whenever someone inquires. Data for inquiries is automatically run through analytics algorithms, and can be broken every which way in the analytics area.

Using the contact form is totally free. You can also import and export all of your inquiry and contact data via CSV as well, for free at any time.

Now what?

When you make a change to your business, you want to be able to measure the impact of that change. By adding some simple lead tracking to your workflow, you can start to build a data set that lets you measure changes and answer those nagging questions. If you aren’t keeping track of your client lifecycle data and using it in some kind of analytics suite, you should start!