Your data tells a story that has the potential to transform your business – but first you have to figure out what it’s telling you. And that’s in part why the beginning of the year is a great time to ensure you have the right tools in place to listen and learn. We asked our analytics team for their best tips to set your business up for analytics success in 2018 – their seven-step checklist follows:

1. Learn from 2017.

Per Janelle Olmer, director of analytics at Acronym, brands should look at trends and see how users interacted with their sites in order to inform their 2018 strategies.

“It’s almost like ‘use your analytics’,” added Chief Analytics Officer David Sprinkle.

In addition, the beginning of the year is a good time to take the previous year’s data and look at trend reports of all KPIs to make sure nothing looks fishy – and that the causes of any spikes are well documented.

“Document it…while it’s fresh,” Olmer said, adding to make sure to include any mistakes or intentional adjustments, like a big spend during a particular time period that resulted in a lot of traffic so you remember what prompted the spike and aren’t scratching your head a year later.

2. Review Traffic Channels.

January is also a good time to review traffic source attribution, to ensure channels are tagged correctly and to get key reports and traffic sources fixed if necessary.

3. Budget for Analytics – and Maintenance.

You should also make sure you have secured a budget for overall maintenance as part of your annual budget.

Once you’ve established your 2018 roadmap, you can then identify when projects are supposed to happen to ensure they are on both your budget and calendar.

4. Research New Tools.

Olmer also suggested researching what new tools have come out to make analytics easier – and to leave room in the budget for these, too. This can also help you plan for whatever upgrades you need to make in order to adopt new tools.

5. Evaluate How You Integrate Data.

Noting it might be somewhat aspirational, Sprinkle said you should nevertheless evaluate how to better integrate data between different systems.

“It’s getting easier and different tools are talking to each other better than they used to, so it kind of does come under ‘Check out the technology stack’ – it’s one of the things that could be an example of, for instance, making sure you can connect your CRM to your analytics data,” Sprinkle said. “Are your email and your display platforms talking with analytics? Or is your personalization engine talking with your audience management solution?”

6. Evaluate Opportunities to Automate Reporting.

If you’re spending a lot of your time measuring basic stats like how many visitors come to your site, you can probably benefit from some automation.

“Think over how you spend your time and how much has been using analytics as a thermometer versus a thermostat and how much is reporting what happened versus analysis of how [consumers are]…interacting with the website and how to help your marketing efforts,” Olmer said. “And if you’re spending all your time doing all the thermometer reporting – like how many visitors [your site had]…, you should evaluate if there are opportunities to automate reporting. You should be spending more time on planning and doing deep analytics and not so much on monthly/weekly reporting that tells you what happened.”

7. Spread the Word…

“If there is one more person in the organization who is not benefiting from analytics and you can pull them in to spread the word, [you should] find someone who you can share a report or some analysis with,” added Stephanie Hart, vice president of client services.