When Vanity Metrics Don’t Measure Up

Marketer is the award-winning, bimonthly member journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, reporting on current business development and marketing practices, issues, and trends within the A/E/C field. Elke Giba shared her thoughts as a “My Turn” contributor in the April 2013 issue.

A few years ago, our internal marketing team marched into a mahogany-lined boardroom to report the results of our recent marketing efforts to several C-level executives. The numbers were dazzling, depicted in complementary colored graphs and charts, documenting all the activities over which we had labored in previous weeks. But just a few minutes into the presentation, watching the blank faces of the executive team, we realized with a gut-dropping panic that we had missed the point. We had measured results that had little consequence to their sales-oriented objectives, which should have been the focus of our presentation in the first place. My fears were confirmed when the CEO asked, “So what?”

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” —Albert Einstein

It was an important lesson to learn, because vanity metrics can be so seductive. As marketers, we can be downright obsessive about our numbers of Facebook fans, retweets, or engagements—and completely lose sight of the end goal. We are here to help convert interactions into sales. Period. Unless your marketing strategies can be associated with measurable sales results, it will be difficult to justify future marketing initiatives, or implement new marketing strategies into the business development process. Ensure your seat at the table by focusing on the metrics that matter.

Marketers must dig deeper to find ways to communicate the true value of marketing strategies to executives. The number of Twitter followers or Web page views will never surpass revenue as a C-suite measure of success.

Start with the “So What?”

Make sure your marketing objectives are aligned with the leadership’s expectations. Consider what metrics the CEO and other firm leaders might be watching, and then create strategies to make those metrics change for the better. If you aren’t sure what the CEO is watching, ask him to share his focus with you, and then work toward reaching a shared objective. Focus on how to increase revenue or shorten the sales cycle for your sales team. Develop key performance indicators when you create and implement a marketing strategy, and be ready to report how your activities impact those results.

The Big Picture

Take care to analyze all the data you have collected in context according to the audience, message, and medium. It’s tempting to focus on raw numbers on their own, especially when the numbers are great. But don’t miss what the data is really showing you. Step back and identify what is working and why in the proper context. You’ll be able to share this perspective with the executive team if you see it for yourself.

Benchmark and Test Often

Find ways to measure your marketing strategies against one another to isolate the most effective ones, before you report the results to the executive team. There may be times when you can’t even begin to estimate the results of an idea or message before a campaign is implemented. Create a benchmark by measuring the response against previous campaigns, or segment the markets and test them against each other. Watch for opportunities to tweak words or market segments, and keep what works. Test ideas against each other to find the strongest ones, and keep testing to make them stronger.

Survey Internal and External Clients

When it comes to shortening the sales cycle, ask your business developers and executive team what they need from you to make it easier to win appointments and find new opportunities. And don’t stop with just one answer, because often the first response may simply identify a symptom of the larger issue that really needs to be addressed. Help them focus on the reasons behind the request with a follow-up question like, “Why are you asking for that?” Request feedback when your firm loses a project. The answers you get in return may help identify areas to improve the next presentation, or help your firm narrow the focus to projects that are a better fit. Be sure to share the responses with the executive team so they can take action on those areas outside of your influence.

The Last Word

Vanity metrics dilute your message and steal the focus of your attention from the marketing strategies that can make a difference for your business. Use the “So what?” test to avoid distractions, and watch the numbers that tell the real story. Shift your thinking from simply measuring activity to capturing the valuable results of your stellar marketing efforts.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. This is so true! Some people are more concerned with followers and “likes” than with paychecks. And paychecks are the ultimate goal of any company’s marketing efforts.

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