Marketers today rely on a plethora of tools, programs, and software systems that offer a wide variety of metrics. After all, a large part of marketing is being able to measure and report on the ROI (Return on Investment) of an initiative to the bottom line.
The internet has numerous ways to capture and analyze traffic, and for marketers, wading through these metrics to determine which ones are most relevant to them can be overwhelming. Some metrics that seemed important in the past have outlived their usefulness and should not be used as core KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your objectives.
Here are 4 marketing metrics it’s time to stop obsessing over.
Keywords are often the first thing people think of when it comes to SEO. In the early days of Internet marketing, clients would give an SEO company a list of keywords, and it was the company’s job to make sure the client showed up for those terms. This led to some unscrupulous tactics and gave SEOs a less than stellar reputation for gaming the system.
But even today, many marketers and business owners are focusing too much on keywords and trying to “fit” as many as possible into the content of their posts, websites, and other pieces. The obsession with keywords has caused spammy, keyword-stuffed content, and keyword rankings have decreased in value as the search engines (like Google) have caught up.
Location, personalization, search history, and other factors all influence search results now. Rankings fluctuate all the time and are in a near constant state of change, which is why the outdated practice of focusing on where a keyword or keyword phrase ranks as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) should not be the main focus of your marketing strategy.
2. Facebook Likes & Follower Count
Just like the search engines adapted and changed based on what was happening with keywords, Facebook also changed the way content was delivered to its organic users. Facebook’s organic reach for brands now sits around, oh, I dunno, zero? Marketers who report on fan count as a means of showing their worth to their clients are not focusing on the right metrics. Engagement metrics with a brand is a better strategy and a better indicator of value.
3. Ad Impressions
One major advantage that online advertising has over other forms of advertising – like billboards and flyers – is that it allows us to see how many times our ads are viewed. But while it sounds helpful to know how many people are seeing your ads, this metric doesn’t say much about behavior beyond the ad.
Digital marketers who sell their services on putting an ad in front of as many people as possible are at best, behind the times, and at worst, deceiving uninformed clients. Ad impressions are best used in conjunction with other metrics – such as clicks, calls, and conversions – to gain deeper insight into the customer’s decision behavior.
4. Reputation Scores
As the Internet landscape has evolved for businesses, so too has the digital marketing space. Many such companies use a “free scan” to pare down a company’s online reputation to a single number, which they can then “fix” with their services. These scores often do not take into account search engine best practices, and many of these services are geared more towards brick and mortar businesses, not service area businesses.
Taking something as complex as a company’s online reputation and whittling it down to a single number or grade should not be the cornerstone of your marketing strategy. It’s more important to know the different facets that factor into the score, rather than aiming to get the number above an arbitrary threshold.
The Big Picture
Here’s the thing: any metric used in isolation without any additional context will not provide much insight into how, and if, you are reaching your business objectives. The above metrics are just pieces in what comprises an online strategy. To truly know how well an online strategy is performing and get an accurate measure of KPIs, marketers need to take a look at several metrics in combination. Learning which metrics are relevant to your business or your client’s business and focusing on improving them will help you see the big picture and separate you from the competition.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “If all you have is a hammer, then every problem you encounter ends up looking like a nail.” It’s a funny thought, but there’s a lot of truth to it. We rarely think about a challenge we face with anything other than the usual solutions in our toolbox. The more familiar the solution, the more it seems to appeal to us.
We could even take this analogy further and apply it to business marketing. If a business owner has always relied on ValPak, then ValPak may be the only thing he’s willing to invest in — even if it no longer packs the same value it once did. (See what I did there?)
To another, the answer may still be Yellow pages advertising, because the answer for him has always been Yellow Pages. And when it doesn’t work as well as it used to, the answer is to double down, doing even more of the same thing, hoping for a different result.
I bet you would expect a digital marketer like me to follow those statements with something like, “You should really be using online marketing instead, because that’s the sharpest tool in the toolbox,” right? Wrong.
Surprised? Let me explain.
The most important tool in your marketing toolbox is feedback. Information. Data. It’s your measuring tape. Without it, you’ll never have a clear idea of what marketing mix your business truly needs to grow. It may be that in your part of the world, direct mail circulars really are the most cost-effective means of reaching your target market. No one would be as surprised as I if that indeed turned out to be the case… but stranger things have happened, and you’ll never know for sure unless you measure.
Are You Using the “Spray & Pray” Method?
As a consultant, I am amazed every time I talk to a small business owner who doesn’t know where his core business is coming from. There is usually a vague sort of sense of what may be working, but when I ask for the numbers, there aren’t any to be had.
No actual measurements were made, no tracking implemented, no periodic evaluations of the marketing budget. Just year after year of high-dollar spending — literally throwing money into the air and hoping the wind doesn’t come sweep it all away before any of it has a chance to take root and do any good.
I call it the “Spend and Pray” model of marketing, and any business owner who employs it is succeeding despite himself, if he is succeeding at all.
The truth is: the only way you will ever know if a marketing tactic is bringing you back more than you are putting in is to measure results. This does require patience and diligence, but you’ll be rewarded with the kind of competitive intel that others only dream about.
How Do You Measure Your Marketing?
You can get as high-tech or as old-school as you like on this part, but start with the six little words that you should say every time you talk to a customer for the first time. These words come right after the word “Hello,” and they are: “How did you hear about us?”
Of course, it’s not enough to simply ask the question. You must record the answers. Keep a pad of paper next to every phone and computer in your place of business. Make it a part of your religion to ask and record, and soon you will have a much more accurate understanding of how people are finding out about you. It’s a start.
For the record, I’m under no illusions about online marketing. It’s not a holy grail (queue the angelic choir), and it’s by no means the only strategy you should be trying. But the reason I love online marketing so much is because it is so easy to get meaningful feedback very quickly.
With web site tracking tools, I can know within minutes or hours if a new tactic on a website is going to perform well. And if not, I can make adjustments the same afternoon. By the following afternoon, I can measure again. Try that with magazine advertising. I thought so.
Still, there are ways to track the effectiveness of your offline ads and marketing, too. Much of the time the measurements will be made via those six magic words, either over the phone, or a web site contact form: “How did you hear about us?”
What Should You Measure?
When gathering up all of this glorious data, the temptation is to simply count up the number of times a particular marketing source is mentioned, and then jump to the conclusion that this is the one thing that is working out the best for you. But you’d be doing yourself a real disservice if you chose to stop there.
With a little extra work, you can track the actual customer through your system, from first call to paid invoice. This is where the real enlightenment begins.
In my experience, when a business owner pulls this information together for the first time, they are shocked to learn two things…
First, the best source of new business is rarely what the business owner has always assumed. And second, there is usually a big surprise when it is revealed which marketing source brings in the best kind of business (the kind of customers who spend more, and remain loyal).
By measuring not only how many customers are coming from a particular source, but also the quality of customers you are getting from each source, you are now equipped to make some business-altering decisions. You are finally able to stop wasting money on the ineffective kind of marketing, and to start applying your resources to only those activities that are showing you the kind of return on your marketing investment you deserve.
If you approach every marketing opportunity with a measuring tape, you’ll never be disappointed in your results. In fact, every new marketing tactic you try will yield exactly what you need it to: information. Knowledge about what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
Never again will you be even remotely tempted to allow that pushy salesperson to talk you into a big premium package, not unless you already know it’s working for you. And that’s what Measuring Tape Marketing is really about: empowering YOU to make business decisions with confidence.