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Clicks that clank

Be wary of marketing metrics that measure activity, not results

There are hundreds of possible inbound marketing metrics to choose from, and almost all of them measure something of some kind of value. These include SEO rankings, inbound links, articles published, content downloads, reach (e.g. Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn followers, blog subscribers), comments, retweets, Likes, shares, clicks, traffic, leads…and so many more.

But be careful about measuring activity, not results, warns Jon Miller, co-founder of Marketo (marketo.com), a provider of marketing automation and sales effectiveness apps.

“When it’s hard to measure business outcomes, marketers use metrics that stand in for those numbers: activity not results, quantity not quality, efficiency not effectiveness. Vanity metrics such as the total number of followers may sound good and impress people, but they don’t measure business outcomes or indicate how to improve marketing performance and profitability,” Miller blogged recently. This means resources and energy get allocated to potentially unproductive activities that don’t impact revenue.

It’s essential to push your team to use credibility-building financial metrics that show how marketing helps the company to generate more profits and faster growth than your competitors. Here are Miller’s top five metrics for measuring and demonstrating inbound marketing success:

•  Social engagement, not just reach. Reach is the total size of the audience you can reach, including your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn followers, blog subscribers and e-mail list. But the world is noisy, and just because someone follows you doesn’t mean they are engaging with your brand. Social engagement becomes even more important as prospective buyers use and learn on social sites more than e-mail. Fortunately, Facebook reports on engaged users and a metric they call “People Talking About This” to show the total number of posts to your page wall, likes, comments, or shares on your posts. This is important, since the more people talk about your page, the more your updates will show up on the main news feed for your fans.

•  Lead generation by content, channel, and initiative. What sources are driving the most traffic? What kinds of content drive the most leads? The most revenue? It can also be insightful to track how these vary by product line or business unit. Measuring this requires the ability to create landing pages and tracking codes for each asset, a capability provided by most marketing automation solutions.

•  Percent of leads with an inbound original source. With inbound marketing and content marketing, you’ll find that people first discover and engage with your brand via inbound channels, but they may not convert on that first visit, or even the second or third or more. When they do actually convert, they are likely get to your site using a different method such as direct URL entry. That’s why it’s so important to know the “original source” of your leads — not the source of the visit that caused them to convert, but the source that caused them to first become aware of you. This is similar to display advertising, where it’s critical to measure not just “click through” conversion rates, but also “view through” conversion rates.

For more on the right metrics  that help the CMO earn a seat at the revenue table (and how you can get started with marketing forecasting), download Miller’s book “The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and ROI” at Marketo.com. A link is available in the Additional Web Resources box at SalesandMarketing.com.