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Lies, Damn Lies and Marketing Metrics

Posted by Eric Wittlake on January 12th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Without metrics, marketers cannot manage investments or show the value of marketing. However, without careful selection of metrics, diligent analysis and a clear overarching vision, measurement can become the biggest barrier to successful long-term marketing programs.

Short term metrics are easily gamed, and it can happen unintentionally. Here are a few common metrics and ways some B2B businesses influence the metric without driving long-term results.

  • Is social sharing a success measurement for your content? If so, as Mark Schaefer's post shows, a few more posts about Klout will make you successful on paper.
  • Is traffic a key goal? High volume, low cost traffic sources will immediately your metrics, but they may not improve your business.
  • Is cost per lead a key metric? Reducing online display and traditional advertising investments based on performance will quickly lower cost per lead, but long-term it will hurt search results and leads from organic traffic.
  • Is revenue key? Increasing your use of time sensitive promotions will definitely give you a short-term lift but it also creates a reliance on margin-eroding promotions.

Even good metrics can be misleading. If you don't do all three items below, your marketing metrics will eventually mislead your marketing.

1. Pick the Right Marketing Metrics
With the wrong metrics, your investment in analysis and optimization is wasted. This should be obvious to everyone, yet we continue to hear about click rates on banner ads, a metric that is easily accessible but wrong for nearly everyone.

The wrong metrics lead to the wrong marketing investments.

2. Do the Analysis
Simply optimizing a campaign based on your success metrics may quickly improve measured results, but you will be left with a subset of your original plan.
Insight into why elements of your marketing performed well or missed the mark is critical. More than driving tactical decisions, insights improve all the marketing decisions that follow.

3. Follow Your Vision
If you are in enterprise B2B marketing, your metrics will never reflect the entirety of your vision and purpose and be granular and timely enough to use for ongoing management. Metrics may inform your vision, but purely following your metrics will lead you away from it.

Or as Twain would likely have summarized it: Lies, Damn Lies and Marketing Metrics.

Your Turn
How have you seen metrics mislead marketing or what other critical steps would you add? Share your views and examples in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

3 Responses to “Lies, Damn Lies and Marketing Metrics”

  1. Kristina, thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, getting to 'quality' measures is definitely key, and your comment is an example of switching from quantity (visits) to quality of those visits.

    That said, even metrics like time on site and pageviews per visit can be manipulated. Related posts plug-ins on a blog can increase pageviews by 5% to 10%, simply by improving navigation and featuring additional content. Is it a win? Yes. But it isn't because your site content is better, its just better navigation. Similarly, content length can change time on site, without really improving engagement.

    My advice is to use the metrics, but take a step back as well. Are these the right visitors? The right content? The way we want someone spending time on our site? Questions like these help us check against our vision, not just our measurement.

    Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!

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