What Are the “Right” Metrics to Measure Marketing Effectiveness?

Over time, I’ve come to realize two things about my love for marketing:

  • I’m addicted to response. There’s nothing I like better than developing strategies and tactics, implementing them and seeing how well they worked. The higher the numbers, the greater the rush. The lower the numbers, the greater my need to boost them.
  • I’m comfortable with—even driven by—the ambiguity of marketing. There are no truly “right” answers to a lot of the questions that marketers ask, and I’m okay with that.

One of the questions that there isn’t a “right” answer to is a question that is posed frequently these days. “What are the ‘right’ metrics to measure marketing effectiveness?”

The answer, as with many marketing questions, is: “It depends.”

And, that is the type of ambiguity that I really enjoy. There are no “pat” answers. However, there are opportunities to ask good questions to get at the unique needs of an individual, or business, who is trying to find the best answers to achieve their goals and objectives.

Generally, those answers begin—as Stephen Covey would have told us: “with the end in mind.”

Knowing what you need to know in most marketing circumstances starts with clarifying what your desired outcomes are. In this case, if you’re interested in the “right” metrics, you need to start with what you’re hoping to achieve. Let’s assume the answer is “sales.”

One of our major areas of focus is online marketing and social media. I speak and write frequently about issues related to the use of appropriate metrics. Too often the focus is on process vs. outcome measures—for instance, “likes” or links to a website vs. requests for information, leads or sales. Those might be interesting and might provide some “leading indicators” or downstream impacts, but, chances are, the metrics that are most meaningful to a business will be those that have an impact on sales or ROI.

In some cases, when a business or product is new, metrics may be related to simply raising awareness. In this case, measuring an increase in audience size and in audience engagement may be valid metrics. In other cases, though, organizations are primarily interested in generating bottom-line business results.

What to measure is the first consideration. Gathering these metrics comes next. But, ultimately, you will need to evaluate the data you gather. These days, especially for those marketing online, data is readily available. But, just looking at the data is not enough. Data must be critically analyzed to gain insights into the meaning behind the numbers.

For instance, one client we were working with was seeing an increase in organic search, suggesting that their SEO activities were working. However, a closer look at the actual search terms revealed that most of the searches were simply variations on the business name or the owner’s name. This told us that these visitors already knew about the organization but were using search to access the website instead of entering the URL (a common practice).

In another case, a hospital started a Twitter feed for its new emergency department to communicate wait times. This seemed like a unique idea at the time, but a close look at the followers for that account revealed the majority of followers were outside the hospital’s service area, or were vendors or spammers, so this audience did not represent real value to the organization.

It’s impossible or, at a minimum, not well-advised to rely on a list of key metrics that are generated without careful consideration of the business’ audience and objectives. There should be a clear “line of sight” between the organization’s mission, vision, values and strategic goals/objectives to the metrics that are being monitored. And, of course, those metrics must have real meaning that is tied to important outcomes.

What are the right metrics for you or your organization? It depends. But your path to finding the answer will start with asking the right questions!

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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