Be honest: have you ever cherry-picked marketing metrics for a report? I think most of us have at some point. I’m not talking about fudging numbers. I’m talking about only selecting sweet numbers while ignoring data that may leave a sour taste. Basically, what one might expect when they ask a marketer for a report.
Sometimes it’s hard not to cherry-pick. We become invested in our decisions and want to see them work. Maybe if we can just accentuate the positive for now, and optimize behind the scenes for a while…
But here’s the issue for content leaders who can’t kick this approach to results reporting: they’re mostly hurting themselves. As “founder of modern management” Peter Drucker liked to say, “Checking a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information.”
Cherry-picking metrics doesn’t do anything for us in the way of self-realization or improvement. Usually, unclear expectations are what allow marketers to cherry-pick in the first place. We can fix murky expectations by aligning on goals and KPIs at the outset of each decision. As in, these exact marketing metrics should play a starring role in any report regarding this decision. As for what those should be, here are four marketing metrics that have established a firm footing among results-driven content marketing managers.
1. Click-through Rate
That’s right, click-through rate. That fuzzy vanity metric we’ve been advised to avoid. To be fair, this advice comes into play when marketers make decisions based on click-through alone, which can be disastrous. The metric works best as a complementary KPI – it blossoms in the company of a bottom-funnel, performance-based friend.
Here are three intriguing nuggets about click-through rate, courtesy of Andy Crestodina:
- It’s the one metric used across all channels.
- It’s the one number that unites all marketers.
- Without it, we’ll fail at anything we do.
Crestodina reminds us that people don’t click on or share content, they click and share headlines. By paying closer attention to our click-through rates, we can better optimize our headlines and hooks for purpose and channel. For instance, if we were to use the same headline across search, social and email, click-through rate would tell us where the message is working and where we need to do a better job of contextualizing the headline if we’re to expect results.
Yes, it’s true that a higher click-through rate doesn’t by itself indicate success, but it’s often a massive precursor to success in the marketing world. With traffic, we have the data we need to improve. Without it, we’re guessing. That’s why click-through rate still matters.
2. Lead Volume
Lead definitions vary widely from B2C to B2B, and even within B2C and B2B. But they’re all the same in that they’re like water to a company. When leads slow to a trickle, it’s not long before sales revenue shrivels. To prevent that from happening, and to prevent ourselves from resorting to desperate, short-sighted lead gen efforts that hurt the brand in the long run, we need to not just measure lead volume, but also find a way to keep lead data front and center.
Assuming you’ve worked with your team to standardize lead definitions, an essential first step that helps assure lead quality, the next step is to amplify lead volume data so that it’s easily accessible to everyone who needs it.
Here’s an example of a lead volume report via DivvyHQ’s analytics tool. You’ll notice the chart compares current performance against goals, and also provides historical perspective:
3. Sales Pipeline Velocity
Do your lead definitions need an update? Does your sales team need better marketing support? Does the sales team need a specific type of training? These answers may lie in your sales pipeline velocity.
“This is my favorite go-to KPI because it looks at four critical performance attributes that each have an impact on overall sales,” says Brian Hansford. “Velocity is calculated using the number of active qualified opportunities, average deal size, average sales cycle time, and average win percentage. Each area can help identify points that need optimization to improve overall sales … Well-developed and executed campaigns can have a very strong influence on velocity which is why I like this for long-term campaign performance.”
If marketing leaders truly want to understand their impact on revenue and opportunities for improvement, sales pipeline velocity should be a measurement staple. Here’s a more thorough breakdown of the sales pipeline velocity formula.
Image credit: Altify
While sales pipeline velocity is more commonly used in B2B settings, B2C marketers can use a similar calculation to improve results. For example, a B2C marketer could look at their attribution to see how long it takes from first-touch to paying customer, on average, for specific channels, nurture paths, campaigns, etc. Then, by comparing sales velocity against average sale size, win percentage and even lifetime value, B2C marketers have a much better idea of which initiatives to prioritize, optimize or pulverize.
Most of us measure cost-per lead. That’s better than no cost correlation at all, but like click-through rate, cost-per-lead can lead to short-sighted decisions.
For example, suppose you’re running two campaigns. With cost-per-lead as your compass, you’d always be inclined to funnel more dollars to the campaign with the lower cost-per-lead. And maybe even pull the plug on the campaign with the higher cost-per-lead.
But suppose that, by incorporating data from your CRM, you see that the campaign with the higher cost-per-lead actually resulted in more customers and a higher average closed deal value. In this scenario, the attempt to save money on leads sacrifices revenue.
Don’t confuse cost-per-lead with customer acquisition cost (CAC), which is merely total spend of all marketing and sales divided by customers generated. Instead, this metric is about understanding how specific activities and tactics influence customer acquisition, and at what cost for each.
The calculation is the same as cost per lead – simply replace “leads generated” with “customers generated” and you have it. The added bonus being, when you gain the ability to track campaigns through to customer acquisition, you also gain the ability to report on other important details like the aforementioned average deal size, average sales cycle time and average win percentage used to calculate sales pipeline velocity.
We don’t need to know where we’re generating the cheapest leads. We need to know where we’re generating the strongest financial return. Cost-per-customer does just that.
Define & Dash
Lastly, whichever metrics and KPIs you choose, reinforce them. A good way to do that is by creating a simple, at-a-glance dashboard in a tool your team uses every day.
You can plug in your unique data sources and fire up your dashboard instantly, or customize your dashboard to highlight your most meaningful metrics. Many of our customers start with our standard configurations and customize over time.
For more advice on driving content marketing results from the leader’s seat, subscribe to the DivvyHQ blog below.