We love the metrics and analytics behind marketing. We’ve never been afraid of measuring the impact of our work, and in fact our tagline “Measurably Better Marketing” not only is a strong value for our clients, but also a reminder and challenge to each of us to focus on doing great work that shows improvement every month, every quarter, every year.
Yet what really indicates improvement? What metrics really matter, as opposed to just “vanity” metrics like web traffic and Facebook likes? Those may make us feel good and give the illusion of progress, but in the end, they don’t really drive all-important revenue and growth.
Ignore the Vanity Metrics
It’s easy even for us to focus on deeper and deeper levels of marketing analytics. Today, there’s no shortage of analytics to consider, which lead to more analytics, which lead to more. Sometimes, we see clients’ eyes glaze over with all these numbers. If we’re looking for true IMPACT, we have to focus.
We’ve built a hierarchy of marketing metrics to provide that focus – some we publish only for ourselves, and some we share with clients at a higher executive level. If we separate what we call the “uber” metrics, the ones that really are critical to understand, from the metrics that explain why those ubers are increasing or declining, we begin to see a pattern behind which numbers are truly relevant.
Lower the Cost of Marketing
Let’s start at the top. Our end goal is not to make the website attractive or drive more visits. Rather, our intent must be to make a financial impact on the business, to lower the cost of marketing. If we do that well, we’ll not only drive revenue and growth, but we’ll drive profitability as well. So focus on the two big numbers first:
- Days to close
In the B2B world, if you’re delivering more quotes at a lower cost, you’re making a tangible impact. And if you’re moving qualified leads through the sales funnel more rapidly and spending less to do so, you’re driving profits. Imagine that – a marketing story even a CFO can love.
Those are the top two metrics. But as marketers we need to understand what drives those numbers, what made them improve or erode in performance. Did we generate fewer quotes? Did our workflows fail to move people through the funnel as efficiently as last quarter? Are the offers getting stale? Is our content off-message?
Measurably Better, Not Just Measurable
We’re moving into the “what works/what doesn’t” diagnosis phase now. Impact marketing requires a deep understanding not just of what the numbers tell us, but why they’re behaving as they are, and what we need to do differently to provide “measurably better” results. Any marketer can provide measurable results today; we need to be able to deliver measurably better.
So now we want to move to the next level, the Priority 1 Metrics that explain what’s beneath the two “uber” metrics. We look at these numbers each month to gain insight on what to address:
- Website conversion rate – how many leads come in from the website, as a percentage of visits. The B2B standard is 2%, so if you’re below that, you need to improve the site to be more engaging, offer better content, make sure your messaging is relevant, make sure the website is easy to use, etc.
- Pipeline Status – how many SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) and MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) did you receive this month/quarter/year, and how did that improve/decline?
- Where are your SQLs coming from, by source? Are you getting quote requests from organic, direct, referral traffic? How is that increasing or declining?
- Cost/lead – how much are you spending to generate a lead? Driving down the cost of marketing requires that you understand these costs and drive efficiency into your marketing programs by weeding out the poor performers.
- Cost/click – if you’re doing online advertising or paid search, you’ll want to measure and improve your cost/click metrics.
- Top blogs – B2B companies are finding blogs are driving a lot of incoming traffic and lead flow. Which blogs are performing best, and how can you create more like those?
- Top workflows – improving days to close requires that you understand how you’re moving leads through the sales funnel, and what works best to do that? Among the automation workflows you’re using via HubSpot or other marketing automation tools, is there a contact frequency and timing that seems to work best? What content seems to move a lead to a quote request fastest? Does a white paper-webcast-quote request scenario work better than case history-data sheet-infographic sequence?
- Top emails – if you compare email open and click rates by message or email type, which works best for driving to a quote request? Is it product messaging or tutorial?
Moving Beyond the Top Ten
At this point, reviewing those numbers every month gives us the basics on what’s taking place with your program. But some areas are always going to need more attention if they’re “broken,” so we’ll move to another level that we typically don’t always share with clients. This Priority 2 level of metrics are very important for our specialists to understand and falls into the category of “data not insight” that’s actionable with clients. We’ll look for areas to improve by examining these metrics:
- Web traffic and source ratios – you not only want your traffic to grow, but you also want your traffic sources evenly dispersed, with about 1/3 each coming from direct, organic and referral traffic. If you’re doing paid search or advertising, those ratios will need to be adjusted.
- SEO Rankings – every site has about a dozen or so “Tier 1” keywords, the words that drive the best quality traffic. What are those terms for you, and where do you rank? Typically, you’ll find organic traffic drives the most quote requests and generates the highest quality traffic, so you’ll want to understand how much organic traffic you’re generating, and the percentage of “branded” traffic (searches that include the company’s name or product names) to the website. You don’t want branded traffic to be above 50%.
- Paid search stats -- cost/click, cost/lead and click through percentage
- Social media engagement – likes/follows, clicks and shares
Completing the Picture
Finally, there are some metrics we’ll gather annually rather than monthly or quarterly:
- Average age of database – with baby boomers retiring, it’s important that the average age of your database is in the 30s, not 50s. You need to know what your number is and take steps to push it lower.
- Brand awareness/Brand preference – conducting annual, blind research to measure how your unaided market awareness and preference compares to competitors is a foundational metric we all should know. While some companies include Net Promoter Scores in understanding preference metrics, it’s important for the C-suite to understand what their awareness/preference scores are. That doesn’t mean you’re able to draw a line from awareness to sales, as some of the above numbers can, but it’s hard to grow revenue with low awareness/preference.
The Ultimate Metric
Marketing budget-to-revenue – increasingly we’re able to close the loop in marketing costs, identifying what leads converted to a sale and what the ROI is on marketing spend. Whether we use HubSpot, Salesforce, Interlynx or LeadMethod, there are a variety of software tools that are uncovering this important metric. Being able to identify that for every dollar we spend on marketing, we’re able to generate $10 in actual SALES is a powerful – and the ultimate – marketing metric that matters!