It’s easy to get distracted by all the digital and social metrics available at the touch of a few keys. But just because a metric is easy to track doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for your company. Also, just because other companies are tracking certain metrics doesn’t mean those metrics are relevant to your business. This makes it difficult to determine which ones to focus on.
What’s a metric?
It’s any standard of measurement that can be quantified and tracked, and represents a marketing concept like brand awareness, campaign performance, lead generation, engagement, or other goals related to marketing. Metrics are often analyzed across dimensions like geographic areas to show relative performance, or across time to show a change over a specific period. They’re also compared to industry standards so companies can see how they stack up against the competition.
Most businesses look at measures like new or returning customers, sales per customer, average sale per customer, or average sale. These metrics can indicate success, but they’re more relevant at the business level rather than at the marketing level. That’s because marketing only partially impacts sales; sales are also affected by product selection, pricing, sales staff, customer service, merchandising, and much more.
So which metrics matter to marketing? The short answer: the ones that are tied to your goals, based on the company’s business goals and marketing plan.
Example: tracking leads as a metric
Assume that one of marketing’s goals is to generate leads, specifically marketing qualified leads (MQL) from the company website.
To track those leads, the website includes a number of free downloads like quizzes (e.g., how to choose the right wood floor), checklists (e.g., questions to ask when buying wood flooring), cleaning and maintenance tips (e.g., what you need to know before buying).
When someone downloads a piece of content, they must complete a form with their name, email, and address. The form might even include a question like, “How soon do you plan to buy?” This lead is now an MQL because they have expressed an interest in a company’s products or services. These prospects are then monitored to see if they request a quote, visit the store, or make a purchase. The company can now track metrics like website visitor to MQL ratio, MQL to quote ratio, and MQL to sales ratio.
As an intermediate step, MQLs may be handed off to the sales team and become sales qualified leads (SQLs). SQLs are those leads that the sales team considers worthy of personal contact because there is some indication the lead is ready to buy. The MQL to SQL ratio can be tracked as an indication of how well the marketing and sales teams work together. If communication between sales and marketing is good, this ratio will be high. If not, the number will be lower and indicate an area for improvement.
How to choose the right ones
The right metrics are those that provide an accurate picture of how you’re progressing toward your marketing goals. With so many metrics now available through Google analytics, digital and social media, and third-party platforms, there are plenty of options. Just be sure that the ones you choose:
- align with the core of the business;
- can be predicted;
- indicate the possible action to be taken;
- have the potential to be achieved;
- can be tracked over time; and
- are comparable to peers or industry standards.
The most important of these attributes are likely the first and the last – aligned with the core of the business and comparable to others. If it’s not important to the business, why measure it? And if it can be compared to others, it provides an opportunity to
learn about how to improve your business or compete more successfully.
Digital and social media metrics
Today, the top three channels that buyers are using to learn about and compare products and services are email, social media, and websites. That’s also where they’ll form their first impression of your company and decide whether they’ll further engage with it.
What’s important to you? For a new business, the goal might be brand awareness or how people hear about the brand. This can be measured by:
- Twitter followers of the company
- Facebook posts by others about the company
- Facebook fans of the company
- Brand mentions on social media
- Referring links (links a visitor clicked to get to your site)
- New links to the company’s social media accounts
- Branded searches (searches including the name of your brand or a variation of it)
Facebook’s Page Insights tool provides a wealth of information about page likes over time, number and source of visits, and demographics about those who view your page. To see Twitter analytics, simply click on the image left of the red “Tweet” oval and select “Tweets” to see performance by month and “Audience” to learn about followers’ demographics. Use the Twitter search bar to find mentions of your company or brand. To monitor mentions of your company on social media, check out free tools like IceRocket.com, SocialMention.com, or Addictomatic.com. Or, for a more robust, paid tool, try Mention.com.
Another indicator of marketing effectiveness is website engagement, or the quality and quantity of interactions visitors have with your website, which is measured by:
- Users – an individual person browsing your website
- Sessions – a session is a visit to a website; a user can have multiple sessions, and view multiple pages during a session
- Page views – when a page has been viewed by a user on your website
- Pages per session – the average number of page views in each session
- Average session duration – average time spent on a website by users
- Bounce rate – percentage of visitors who leave your website before further exploring it
These metrics are available through Google Analytics. Work with your website developer or visit: support.google.com/analytics/ to do it yourself. If that’s too technical, search for YouTube videos, take a Lynda.com course, or Google “How to use Google Analytics.”
Email marketing effectiveness
Sometimes, you’ll want to measure the effectiveness of a specific tactic, such as an email campaign. To evaluate an email campaign, look at:
- Email delivery rates – the percentage of emails that were actually delivered to recipients’ inboxes, calculated by subtracting bounces from the gross number of emails sent, then dividing that number by gross emails sent
- Unsubscribe rates – the number of recipients who cancel a service or to eliminate oneself from a digital email list
- Open rates – percentage of successfully delivered campaigns opened by recipients
- Click-through rates – the percentage of people who click on a link in an email
- Conversion rates – defined based on your goals; may be filling out a lead form or checking out on an e-commerce site
Any email marketing service or marketing automation platform will provide you with this information. See the article titled “Content Marketing…It’s All About the Customer” on page 44 for a list of service providers.
Turning numbers into insights
The real value is analyzing metrics to determine what they mean, then using those insights to improve your business. For example, if product page visits are low, it’s possible that visitors are not getting past the home page. Consider re-evaluating the home page’s content, design, or navigation. Or if conversion rates are low, the sales team may need additional resources or training.
But to fully leverage the value of metrics, start with a business plan and strategy that clarifies what’s most important to the company. Based on the business plan, develop a marketing plan that outlines the year’s goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics along with metrics whenever possible. Give management the data they need regarding key performance indicators (KPIs) and track the metrics that will help you make better decisions and improve your marketing efforts.
Katrina Olson is a freelance writer and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.