There are metrics, and then there are metrics. Katelyn's already talked about the dangers of pursuing vanity metrics – those that look pretty in a quarterly report yet tell you very little about the effectiveness of your marketing efforts – but what about the essential marketing metrics you really ought to be measuring?
Why the right metrics make a difference
Simply knowing your page views and click-throughs is not enough; isolated data points might go down well in status meetings, but they can't really tell you if you're getting a good ROI from your marketing spend.
You need metrics that tell a story and show you a more detailed picture of your marketing efforts.
Using web and marketing analytics tools, like Google Analytics, HubSpot Analytics, KISSmetrics and Clicky, you can track and dig down into the metrics that will help you to understand the customer journey and identify what sort of content and which channels are contributing to the bottom line.
But what, exactly, should you be measuring?
The five essential marketing metrics
Looking at how much revenue each channel is actually generating gives you a more objective way of identifying your most effective channels. (Don't forget, revenue differs from profit. Profit is your net revenue after expenses.)
Tracking revenue means you can begin to justify your continued investment in successful channels and allows you to reroute funds from less successful ones to experiment with other tactics.
2. Cost per lead
Rather than using this as a general figure, filter it down to establish the cost per lead for each channel and identify which are the most cost effective.
You shouldn't, however, cut back a channel simply because it costs more per lead; you might find that customers from that channel spend more or more often than customers from another, less costly channel.
It's also important to remember that a lead might convert through a particular channel, but they've likely touched many other channels before that point of conversion.
3. Website traffic to lead ratio
Page views and unique visitor numbers might look good in a report but, while they're important to help you measure authoritativeness and thought leadership, they can't tell you much.
Look to see where visitors are actually coming from – direct, referral or organic – what they're doing when they arrive and how many are converting into leads and customers.
If you want to break it down further, define your marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) to establish the quality and readiness of the leads you're generating.
4. Landing page conversion rates
This helps you establish whether your content and landing pages are resonating with your personas.
You can then tinker with them, changing each bit at a time to see what clicks – is it the wrong offer? Could the wording and layout be improved? Should the 'download' button be more obvious? You can then breakdown your leads based on which offer/s they've completed.
5. Customer lifetime value and churn rate
Knowing how many customers you have is all well and good, but how much and how often are they buying? And for how long do they remain a customer?
To calculate the lifetime value of a customer, follow HubSpot's step-by-step instructions in this blog post.
If you’re losing customers or they’re only making one-off purchases, you need to work on your post-purchase nurturing. Content marketing means more than just buttering up leads.
Converting analytics into action
Of course, stats mean nothing if you don't do something with them.
Measuring these metrics should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Getting to the people and journeys behind the numbers delivers insights that help you to patch up the leaky funnel and direct investment into the most successful methods more intelligently.
[This content was updated in January 2020]