“What you measure is what you get.”
This adage is aptly applied to many business metrics, none more so than marketing metrics. Marketing effectiveness has been measured in many ways and the tools and data available are continually changing. So how do you know what to measure and what benchmarks to use to determine success? And more importantly, how do you interpret your data to garner actionable insights?
Let’s start with the basics on acquiring a new customer
One way to start thinking about what to measure is by following the stages of a conversion funnel.
- Create awareness (know) = impressions
- Generate interest (like) = followers, subscribers, engagement
- Influence purchasing decision (trust) = conversions
Note: This funnel does not take in account for full lifecycle marketing which includes retaining and upselling customers. We’ll tackle that it in a follow up post.
Always be aware if the stat is a “total” or a “unique” count
While the terms are literal, differentiating between the two types of stats is important. To maintain consistency in your reporting, you should note which type you are using for each metric since insights can be very different for each.
Not all impressions can be measured but most can at least be estimated
Digital impressions, e.g., how many people see your ad are easily reported. Average impressions of an out of home ad can also be measured by average traffic at or by the ad. Other things like impressions from promotional products, word-of-mouth mentions, etc. are more difficult to capture. However, these tactics can still play an important role in your success tracking. They may explain unexplainable upticks in awareness.
One other factor to consider is the value of an impression. Not all impressions are created equal but all can be valuable. Mass marketing can work because it follows the law of probability – the more people you market to, the more likely you’ll find a customer. However, 1,000 of those impressions may not be “worth” or weighted as much as one targeted impression. So in that case, more is not always better. The same goes for content.
Engagement grows in tandem with the value of your content
Once your audience knows about your business or organization, you need them to start liking you and your products or services – in other words engaging with your content. So how do you know what lever – target audience, content, or medium – is driving results?
Engagement comes in many forms – whether it is email opens and click-thrus or Twitter shares and comments. It is sort of your digital marketing response rate. Digital tactics are easily measured and can be fairly straightforward to test. If you’re testing your content, then a change one lever at a time, so you know what is giving you different results. More complicated testing is possible but becomes much more difficult to execute and measure.
Back to what to measure… If you’re already tracking engagement metrics, you may be wondering how you’re doing. There are several ways to determine success of an organic or paid campaign.
One is to look externally by comparing against any industry benchmarks that are available. For instance, MailChimp provides benchmarks for email open and click rates. A word of caution – these are generally directional since the exact characteristics of businesses (e.g., size and maturity) can differ dramatically. Another way to determine success is looking internally – have these metrics improved over time? Sometimes trends are just as important as hard numbers.
Why your conversions don’t match your engagement
Theoretically your conversion performance should match your engagement trends. However, there are some potential reasons why this doesn’t happen. Therefore, you should look at full funnel metrics to determine winning tactics especially if you’re comparing A/B tests.
For instance, you run an A/B test on a social media ad with different headlines for your healthy cooking company. Version A outperforms Version B in likes, shares, and click-thrus. Therefore, your hypothesis is that A is the better performing headline, so it should generate the most conversions. However, Version B has lower engagement but generates (statistically significant) more conversions. 🤔
Confused? Headline A was “Free cupcakes!” Headline B was “Sign up for our newsletter for a special gift.” So it is pretty clear that A was a much more enticing headline – who doesn’t want a free cupcake? Therefore engagement was higher; however, once someone clicks thru they realize they have to provide their email address which they were not willing to exchange for a free cupcake. So while A was more exciting, B established the exact offer so it was an extra filter to get people more likely to convert on your website.
Ultimately, make sure your creative content is also on strategy and clear, so you get your target audience to engage as they’re the ones most likely to convert.
Measure everything so you get everything
While conversions are likely always your ultimate goal, you should not disregard the metrics that lead to closing the sale. If you don’t track them, you won’t get the insights you need to optimize your marketing. And more importantly, you won’t have the awareness and engagement to make the sale. So, my recommended adage to follow is to “measure everything so you get everything”!