The best metrics are the ones that matter to your business. But these may not be the standard set you see written about everywhere online.
The marketing metrics you choose determine the direction of your campaigns. Or put in other words. Good metrics must be in place before good marketing can happen.
In this article you’ll learn:
How to choose metrics that drive successful campaigns
The importance of metrics that touch the bottom line
The 17 marketing metrics to start with
Choosing metrics to drive successful campaigns
For a campaign to prove its viability, it needs data. It needs the right data. Data that is specific to its business’s purpose and goals. That data will depend on the business, the necessity of strategic data collection, and use remains constant.
And, if you’re going to learn from the data you capture once a campaign launches, the right metrics and KPIs need to be established in advance.
Metric: A metric is essentially any signal that can be tracked. It’s an objective system of measurement, which means that you might have an entire dashboard of metrics that you’ve set up to be tracked. But dashboards only serve as directionless numbers without goals and KPI.
KPI: KPIs (key performance indicators) are the metrics that you’ve decided to use in tracking how efficiently your business is meeting its objectives. It’s a little tricky to get down the difference, but just remember that while all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are KPIs. KPIs are the metrics your business chooses to focus on in driving forward your goals.
Goal: A goal is a metric-driven objective, defined by a clear timetable and tactics, you are trying to reach. The best goals are SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound). Goals set a bar for the future of certain KPIs that you then strive to achieve. Goals should move your marketing department and business forward.
For example, you may decide that next quarter your business should work to earn more site conversions via organic traffic. Your KPI will be organic traffic, which is a marketing metric, but its level of importance and direct application to your objective makes it a KPI. There are a number of associated metrics that contribute to achieving this goal — metrics like, organic traffic, keyword rankings, and landing page conversion rates. Finally, using historical data you decide to set a goal next quarter to earn 100 conversions via organic traffic (a number just missed last quarter).
Choosing the right metrics to become your KPIs can seriously affect the success of your campaign. In choosing the best metrics, remember that it’s best to connect your campaign to metrics as close to the bottom line as possible.
Hugging the bottom line
One way of thinking about marketing metrics is to categorize them as either macro or micro metrics.
Macro metrics are closely associated with business goals and therefore are typically tied to the bottom line, like revenue, or conversions. Micro metrics are the contributing signals like traffic and clicks that fall under those macro metrics.
Macro and micro metrics are always connected. Revenue only happens through conversions, and conversions only come when people make it to your site, and, of course, people only make it to your site when they click an ad or see your site through organic search rankings. You really have one without the other.
While both sets of metrics are important, only one set shows clearly how a business moves forward in driving sales.
So, when structuring the tracking of metrics for your own marketing campaigns, it’s best to begin with the metrics that sit most closely on the bottom line, and connect micro metrics to those macro metrics. Think of it as a tier:
In order for this model to work, you must be able to know beforehand or prove how much each micro metric accounts for the success of the macro metric.
For example: if 1,000 visits usually equals one conversion, and your goal is 100 conversions, you’ll need approximately 100,000 visits to reach your goal. With this information, you’ve proved that traffic is connected to conversions in a very specific and measurable way.
Additionally, you can look at metrics based on their true value, aka their effect on the bottom line.
You can also think of metrics as connected to their stage of conversion, which has to do with where a customer is located in the marketing funnel when they interact with a metric. The closer they are to conversion, the farther along they are in the conversion funnel.
However you decide to model your metrics, be sure your choice is intentional. Focus on the metrics that will be most important in helping your business meet its individual goals.
17 Marketing metrics leaders need to acknowledge
The metrics that you choose for your own KPIs will determine what your business will achieve. Keep in mind that there’s no comprehensive list of metrics that you “must be tracking” that will work for every business.
The following is a list of metrics for you to consider as you develop your own individualized marketing strategy.
Revenue is something every marketing leader should have in their sight. Of course, tracking this is sometimes easier said than done. Good marketing leader will make every effort to get good data that associates revenue with your various efforts. If done correctly, all other metrics will fall under this single metric.
Conversions are the closest metric to revenue that you can track. What conversions look like varies based on the business — for an ecommerce site that could be a checkout, for a B2B site it could be a lead or closed deal.
Most importantly, however, marketers need to ensure that the conversions they track have monetary attachments. For ecommerce businesses that can be quite easy, however B2B companies that work through leads with a sales team will need to be intentional about gathering data and insight from marketing and sales to assign values to things like leads, MQLs, and SQLs.
While knowing the amount of conversions your site brings in is important, knowing the rate at which your site converts traffic to conversions is critical. Paying attention to historical and trending conversion rates will help you know where to focus your attention.
For example, if you see that one month shows a conversion rate that is only 50% of the month prior, you might dig further and see that was the month you launched a new ad campaign. This would tell you that this ad campaign likely wasn’t fruitful.
Be sure to compare your conversion rate and net conversion metrics, because there can be times when net conversions increase while conversion rate falls. If this is the case, it could uncover great insights into the health of specific campaigns, which is why good marketing leaders look at both metrics to determine future pivots.
The close rate is the rate at which leads are closed into actual business and revenue. This metric can be useful in judging both sales and marketing team performance. Lower close rates could mean that the sales team needs additional training, or that the marketing department isn’t providing quality leads. Tracking the close rate will help keep both sales and marketing professionals accountable.
Return on ad spend (ROAS)
This metric is exclusively for businesses that are running paid ads across the web. Most major advertising platforms (i.e. Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn) have snippets of code called pixels that you can put directly on your site that allows the ad platform and advertisers track the ad’s performance — including conversions that take place on your site.
When ad spend is coupled with conversion data (that has an assigned marketing value) you’ll be able to see the rate of return on your ad spend.
Cost per lead (CPL)
CPL is the total cost to acquire a lead. This is typically used as a long term benchmark, even though this number may change. For example, a business may find that it cost an average of $42 to acquire a lead over the past year. Assuming budgets have stayed the same, this business can assume that any figure under $42/per lead is a good investment.
As with any metric, however, further analysis is always required. Not all leads are created equal, and there may be opportunities to acquire leads for much less than the yearly average that would be a waste of company time and money. Be sure to be wise in your use of metrics, and look at the viability of the entire situation before making your decisions.
Customer lifetime value (CLV)
As its name implies, CLV is the expected return during the life of an average customer. Marketing leaders at SaaS organizations will benefit the most from this metric. It’s powerful because it can encompass smaller metrics like customer retention rate, customer add-ons, and average length of customer retention.
This metric is powerful when filtered across a qualifier. For example comparing average CLV of clients that were attracted from organic search might be higher than those brought in with Facebook ads. Indicating that SEO is a worthwhile business focus in the upcoming year.
Total traffic (and conversions)
Virtually all businesses utilize some kind of website for their marketing efforts. Knowing how many people visit the site in a given time period is essential to knowing the impact of your online marketing efforts. There are many metrics that could be even more specific than total traffic, such as page visits, sessions, and unique visitors. And, while total traffic might not be incredibly insightful by itself, it’s critical in keeping other traffic-related metrics in context.
Conversions from total traffic span a wide array. You’ll need to create a good dashboard that measures the performance of current initiatives taking place on the site — everything from newsletter sign ups, to demo requests, to purchases.
Organic traffic (and conversions)
There are many traffic sources you can measure, such as ad channels, referrals, social, direct, and organic. Many businesses will benefit from measuring many of these channels. However, organic will make sense for virtually all businesses.
Organic search accounts for over 50% of all web traffic, and unlike other channels, SEO has the potential to attract customers at every stage of the funnel. This could include top funnel conversions like email capture or lead capture, or bottom funnel like demo requests or purchases.
You might have been able to get away with having search lower on your list even ten years ago, but today that’s not the case. With such great potential and reach, every business should be adopting an SEO strategy.
Blog traffic (and conversions)
Blogging has proven its worth in the business world, as the most recent numbers say that businesses that blog regularly earn 67% more leads. It has pulled ahead as one of the best ways to participate in both SEO and content marketing. Content will draw users to your sights, and provide you with unique opportunities to meet their needs. Not to mention the tremendous work that a blog can have on your SEO strategy.
In addition to net blog traffic, consider tracking blog-specific conversions. Conversions on a blog are generally micro conversions such as newsletter subscriptions, lead magnet downloads, or landing page visits. However, these contacts often move farther along the funnel as they are delighted with your brand and content, and can often turn into leads.
Subscribers are the most top funnel contacts. They are the ones who know about your business and have opted in to hear more from you. Often this looks like signing up to be notified of new blog posts or receive a newsletter.
These contacts may or may not move farther down the funnel. But that’s okay — growing your subscribers means growing your audience which allows you to amplify your content and reach even more new contacts. Remember the saying, “everyone wants to buy, but no one wants to be sold.” These are your subscribers. Take time to create a content and nurture structure that allows subscribers to become leads at the right time.
Leads are contacts in your database that have indicated some signal that they are willing to learn more than surface level information about your company, and they’ve given you information to make that happen. Examples of this might come from a PDF lead magnet or a free trial signup.
Measuring leads is critical to success for any B2B organization as they are a good blanket indictor of general demand interest.
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
MQLs are leads that the marketing team has determined are more qualified than a standard lead based on their action. MQL structure might vary depending on the company, but generally they are defined as the contacts that have shown enough interest to qualify them as ready to talk to sales. Marketing determines readiness based on either lead scoring, or the contacts themselves requesting to talk with sales via a form on the marketing page.
Sales qualified leads
An MQL becomes an SQL after the sales team has determined this lead’s qualifications. Many organizations have their own iterations on this, but SQLs are generally MQLs that are confirmed promising enough to be pursued by the sales team. Sales then takes the ropes in nurturing them and aiding them in their journey to becoming a customer.
Beyond SQL there are additional stages, like opportunities, and deals, however these are usually overseen by the head of sales. Accountable marketing leaders will take responsibility for their efforts by communicating with sales to ensure the MQLs that turn into SQLs continue to move down the funnel and eventually turn into closed business.
Email open rate
Email has one of the most positive ROIs of any channel. It’s believed to be as high as $42 for every $1 spent. It’s also one of the most used channels today, despite years of naysayers predicting its demise.
There are quite a few email marketing metrics, but the most fundamental one is open rate. Many marketers find this metric essential as it measures in real-time the effectiveness of their subject lines. However, this metric also tracks much deeper issues such as your company’s reputation. If you have a history of providing good content within your emails, you’ll have a higher open rate.
Email click through rate
Email click through rates (and net clicks) measure the effectiveness of the content inside of your email. Having a contact open and read your email is great, but having them follow through on what you asked them to do is even more important. Emails lose much of their usefulness unless contacts take action, so measuring click through rate is worthwhile.
Social is actually a set of micro metrics (likes, shares, comments, social traffic, impressions, etc.) from which you can choose what makes sense to track for your company. Some businesses will choose not to intentionally track any of these metrics and put social media on the back burner. For some, social metrics will be a large part of their overall marketing strategy.
Which social channels businesses focus on will also largely depend on the company. A highly visual brand may be more concerned with Instagram engagements, while an enterprise consultancy might want to look more into LinkedIn engagements.
It’s difficult to form a blanket statement about whether or not social media will be right for your business, rather it becomes something you must ask yourself — will social metrics aid your business in achieving their goals? If yes, be sure to choose social metrics, and the social channels, that actually make sense for your business.
But what about user-focused metric?
The inbound marketing methodology has captured the essence of digital marketing in today’s world with the three-part flywheel: attract > engage > delight.
Much of what has been discussed up to this point would fall under the attract section of the flywheel. But there has not been much discussed yet about metrics that engage and delight your audience. Today we operate in the experience economy. Or put differently, customer’s positive experience with a brand will lead to long-term engagement between that customer and the brand.
In truth, these metrics can be harder to quantify than others. But good marketing leaders will make these metrics a priority to ensure long term success.
When thinking about user-focused metrics, it’s helpful to think about problems you’re solving for your users, and then identifying signals underneath those problems. Those signals sometimes are metrics, like average time on page. Other times these signals lead to metrics like how performing customer surveys will introduce you to new engagement metrics.
Where are my users getting stuck?
- Customer surveys
- Common stop points (obtained by analyzing CRM contact data)
- Which pages contribute to conversions
- Which pages are typically the last page in a session
What do my users think of the content we produce?
- Average time on page
- Average pages per session
- Entrance to exit ratios
- Email open and click through rates
What do my users love and want more of?
- Heat mapping
- Session recordings
- Multi-variant testing
- Various engagement metrics on social and video channels
The list of questions and indicating signals could go on, and you as the marketing leader are the only one who can make that call. As you can see, the qualitative nature of many of these metrics are more time intensive than a simple dashboard can produce.
Metrics that matter
With these metrics in your back pocket, you’re ready to design a marketing strategy backed by insight, choose marketing KPIs that make sense, and start making smart marketing decisions.
Just a reminder that you don’t need to focus on all of these metrics right now. Choose the ones that make the most sense for your business right now, and begin there. Focus on just a few from among the list, and you’ll be on your way.