Which Marketing Metrics Really Matter?

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Marketing metrics that matter differ for every business and organization. Finding them puts you on the right track to creating marketing campaigns that move the needle.

What should we be tracking? We get this question all the time, and always answer it the same way: for most businesses and organizations, there are only a few metrics that really matter. When we say this, most people grab a pen and listen attentively. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all list. They are based on your individual business or organizational goals, and only you know what those are.

Tracking metrics that matter is more efficient and effective than tracking everything all the time without a plan. In this post, we’ll help you discover what those metrics are.

Finding the Marketing Metrics That Matter

Start by identifying your business or organizational goals, then connect those goals to marketing hypotheses that can be proven or disproven over a period of time.

You’re probably already making informal marketing hypotheses and acting on them. They sound something like this:

If we [do this marketing task], it’s likely we’ll see [this effect].

In a perfect world, business goals and customer needs are clearly aligned. However, if you’re like most time-strapped marketers, your hypotheses might come from hunches you have about what content will resonate with a specific customer persona. To learn if a hunch is true or not, you need to work backwards from important business goals and create your hypotheses from there.

How do you do this? Let’s find out.

Business goals and hypothesis graphic for determining marketing metrics
Business goals inform hypotheses, which, in turn, should grow the business.

How to Create Marketing Hypotheses from Business Goals

First, create a list of your organization’s most important goals. Do you need to grow your audience? Build community? Increase donations? Find the right buyers for your product or service?

If you’re an established business or nonprofit, you know these already. If you’re a new business, perhaps not. Regardless, it is useful to revisit your list every now and again. Perhaps it’s time to pivot from some or create new ones.

To do this, pull your team together to capture what you think is important. If necessary, review company mission statements and business plans or theories of change for impact business models.

As with any creative collaboration process, start with blue sky thinking and hone your choices down to a handful of options. Use a prioritization grid to understand the impact and effort of each. Vote on these if you need to. The point is to create consensus on the most important metrics to your organization.

Next, starting with the first goal, establish a baseline. Ask these questions:

  • Where are you at now?
  • What data do you have to support current performance?
  • What data do you need to show improvement moving forward?

Converting Goals to Metrics

Next, define some realistic metrics to improve performance against your goals. What does success look like three weeks or three months from now? Be specific. For example:

We want to increase newsletter subscriptions by 10% in three months.

Now, tie those objectives to a campaign you can use to test performance against your goals. What do you think will help you reach that goal? Brainstorm several ideas.

Remember, hypotheses should be easily testable. The key is to find the least amount of effort it will take to validate or refute them. This is not the time for elaborate plans, but rather simple ideas that move you closer to your goals. In other words, the key is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Marketing Metrics Examples

For example, let’s explore how this might look in a couple different industries.

Public Library

Organizational goal: This year, the library needs to increase participation in its teen programs by 20%.

Marketing hypothesis: If we promote our teen events on our Facebook page with advertising targeted at teens and parents of teens, we’ll see an increase in program participation.

Natural Foods Store

Business goal: Increase subscriptions to our organic produce boxes in the Chicago area to 900 subscriptions from our current 755.

Marketing hypothesis: If we optimize a landing page designed to convert users into customers for several target keywords via monthly online ad campaigns, we’ll see an increase in organic produce box subscriptions.

Of course, you need to figure out marketing messages, visual elements, and other campaign components you think will resonate with people you want to reach, each of which, by the way, is testable. Again, keep it lean. You don’t want to get bogged down with analysis paralysis when it comes time to measure each campaign’s results.

Measuring the Results

Once you have a campaign ready to roll, be sure you know exactly what you want to measure, how often, and the length of your campaign. Using our examples:

Public Library

Organizational metric: Increase participation in teen programs by 20%
Marketing metric: Reach of Facebook advertising in each demographic (teens and parents)
Baseline: 1,200 youth participants
Timeframe: February 1st through May 31

Natural Foods Store

Business metric: Increase produce box subscriptions to 900
Marketing metric: Percentage of traffic to landing page based on organic search and landing page conversions
Baseline: 755 subscriptions
Timeframe: March 1st through May 31st

However, what happens if you know a campaign will fail before it ends? What if it is April 15th and you have only sold a handful of produce box subscriptions or increased youth program participation by a small percentage? Be sure to choose the frequency by which you will take measurements. Pivoting a failing campaign by testing new messaging, visuals, or other content can help you salvage results.

Marketing metrics and business metrics overlay graphic
When your marketing metrics match business metrics, campaigns are in sync.

Connecting Marketing Metrics and Business Metrics

The connection between your marketing metrics and business metrics won’t always be cut and dried, but you can use your best judgement to determine whether or not those efforts are in sync with business metrics.

Similarly, it’s important to note that you can connect a business goal to more than one marketing hypothesis. There is more than one way to organize a marketing campaign around a business or organizational objective. For example, the natural foods store might also create advertising campaigns on different channels to promote organic produce box subscriptions. Each campaign should have its own set of metrics.

A Template for Discovering your Marketing Metrics

Based on the steps above, use the template below to create a reasonable marketing hypothesis to achieve each goal. (When we say reasonable, we mean keeping in mind budget, staff, and time constraints.)

In the end, what you’ll have will look something like:

Business Goal #1

1st marketing hypothesis to support Business Goal #1

  • Business metrics needed to measure
  • Marketing metrics needed to measure
  • Timeframe and baseline metrics to measure against

2nd marketing hypothesis to support Business Goal #1

  • Business metrics needed to measure
  • Marketing metrics needed to measure
  • Timeframe and baseline metrics to measure against

Business Goal #2

1st marketing hypothesis to support Business Goal #2

  • Business metrics needed to measure
  • Marketing metrics needed to measure
  • Timeframe and baseline metrics to measure against

… and so on. Using this system, we suddenly find ourselves looking at just a handful marketing metrics that we propose will move the needle. These are the metrics that, for this time period, we should be tracking.

Finding the Right Metrics

Finally, just remember that it’s more important to choose the right metrics as opposed to all the metrics. Your list could have seven marketing metrics, or three. It could be just one metric.

The idea is that you’re limiting what you’re tracking to what you, the marketer, believe will have the greatest effect. This will help you stay focused on metrics that demonstrate value and keep you moving toward business goals.

Mightybytes is a Chicago-based digital agency and Certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or get in touch via our contact form.