We’ve all heard the adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” That’s a nice idea and all until you get to the next question: what the heck should you be measuring in the first place?
It can be all too easy to run from zero to swimming in data and suffering from analysis paralysis. So where do you begin?
There are a few standard areas where teams should assess performance and capture an objective view of their marketing and customer acquisition landscape. Along the same lines, there are also standard metrics within each of these groups that merit being captured. And no, this isn’t just for the sake of doing a metrics-tracking exercise. You’ll never know if your marketing performance and overall marketing ecosystem are healthy if you don’t collect them, which means you’ll never know where the greatest opportunities for improvement exist to knock it out of the park.
THE MARKETING METRICS YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT
We promise we won’t create an exhaustive list. That would completely go against our objective. Instead, we’ve outlined the fundamental metrics any team should be tracking if they are even thinking about the activities or channels below.
Your website is (usually) your first real interaction prospects have with your company. It’s where first impressions are made. By looking at how website visitors behave on your site, you can begin to see if you’re starting to attract more and more of them, and if you’re actually making a good first impression.
Unique Visitors: This metric tells you exactly how many total unique individuals have come to your site over any period of time. By looking at historical trends, you’ll be able to see if that number is going up or down, a measure of how well you’re doing at attracting new people to your business.
Unique Visitors By Marketing Channel: It’s not enough to know if traffic is growing. You also want to know what marketing activities are driving that traffic. By looking at your traffic on a channel-by-channel basis, you’ll get a high-level understanding of how effective your channel-specific activities are at bringing people to you.
Bounce Rates (Total & By Page): A bounce rate tells you how many people landed on any single website page and then left without visiting any other pages. It’s a great way to gauge if your website content is not resonating with visitors. It’s ideal to record this overall, but then also across key website pages. If you’re seeing that particular pages have high bounce rates, it’s a great signal that it’s time to make some page updates.
Landing Page Visits (Total and By Organic Traffic): A landing page is the first page that someone lands on when they reach your website. Frequently the website homepage is the main landing page, but landing pages can also be interior pages on your site as well as blog posts. It’s best to look at total visits to each landing page but also the visits to landing pages that came via organic traffic. That is, people who found the page organically while searching on Google or Bing. Seeing which pages are bringing people in, especially from organic traffic, gives you a sense for what people care about, what they’re actively searching for, and what additional content and information you need to put on your site to resonate better and attract more people like them.
Conversion Rates: Of course your website is intended to get people to buy, or request more information, which means you’ll want to track over time how many people who visit your site actually do that very behavior.
How to Measure Them: You really can’t go wrong with Google Analytics. It’s free (unless we’re talking about their enterprise-level Google Analytics 360 platform), easy to implement, and provides historical and near real-time data on the metrics above and much more.
Email is one of the best ways to stay in touch with customers and prospects. It’s unbelievably cost-effective and you know you’re reaching people who have selected to hear from you. That said, part of leveraging email marketing is making sure you’re reaching the right people with the right information. Looking at email metrics lets you assess how good (or not) your emails are, what you should do more of, and what you should do less of. The key metrics to track in this category are:
Deliverability Rate: This metric shows how many of your emails actually reached the inbox of the desired recipient without bouncing or being marked as SPAM. High deliverability rates ensure that your emails will not get flagged by email service providers. Also, when you’re working with a list of emails that’s relatively new, or that hasn’t been emailed to in quite some time, you’ll be able to see how “clean” it is by its deliverability rate.
Open Rates: This captures the percentage of email subscribers who actually opened your email at least once. Open rates reflect how well the email topic resonates with the recipient as well as how impactful the subject line actually is. If people don’t open your emails they won’t read your email content so this is a key metric to optimize around from the get-go.
Click Thru Rates: Click thru rate, or CTR, is calculated by comparing the number of subscribers that clicked at least once in your email by the total number of subscribers. This is a true measure of content impactfulness since people will only click if they want to read or learn more.
Unsubscribe Rates: This metric is the number of people who choose to opt out of your email messaging compared to the total number receiving your emails. While CTR measures content resonance the unsubscribe rates is a way to gauge misalignment. The higher your unsubscribe rates the more you know your email content is not providing your audience with the information they want.
How to Measure Them: Even the simplest software platform that does email marketing—e.g. Mailchimp, Constant Contact—will offer visibility into these metrics. Once you start executing more complex email marketing activities like segmenting your lists or A/B testing your emails, and wanting to track the efficacy of those efforts, you’ll need a more robust platform like Hubspot or Marketo. Thankfully, those platforms come with the reporting needed to track these more nuanced activities.
AD PLATFORM METRICS
When you’re ready to consider spending money on digital advertising, there are a variety of different places to do so. But, it can be all too easy to spend money and not know what happened and if it was worth it. That’s why keeping an eye on the metrics below will let you know if you’re using your marketing spend wisely:
Click Thru Rate: Just like with email marketing, CTR in digital advertising measures how well your ads are resonating with the people seeing them. Low CTRs usually mean your ad content isn’t very strong and/or you’re not serving it to the right audience. Capturing CTR and improving it is one of the initial ways to begin drawing prospects to your site.
Cost Per Impression: Generally measured by the thousands, cost per impression, usually shortened to CPM, measures how much you pay per every thousand people who see your ad. If you’re pushing to drive awareness to your business, CPM offers a way to assess how expensive or inexpensive it is to reach the eyes of your target audience.
Cost Per Click: More colloquially called CPC, cost per click measures how much you pay each and every time someone clicks on your ad. If you’re focusing on customer acquisition, this is a very important metric. Once you know how many website visitors you typically convert into customers or leads, you can back into the cost of acquisition by taking your CPC and dividing it by your conversion rate.
Quality Score: This applies to Google Ads only, but it’s so important we included it. Quality Score is Google’s assessment in one single number of your keyword and ad relevance to their search audience. It’s used to determine your CPC as well as the likelihood of your ads being served during the ad auction process. Low quality scores mean you have room to optimize your spend and campaign set up.
Conversions: While advertising can have the purpose of building awareness for a brand, in a digital space t’s often aligned with trying to drive direct sales or inbound interest. As a result, you’ll want to track how many conversions, if any, your ads are driving.
Cost Per Conversion: This captures how much you have to spend to acquire a single customer, and is easily determined by taking the amount you spent over a period of time and comparing it to the number of customers acquired during that period. By reviewing cost per conversion you’ll know how much cash-on-hand you’ll realistically need to acquire customers and validate if a particular marketing tactic is even viable.
How to Measure Them: Most standard ad platforms (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Outbrain, Taboola, etc.) will let you measure these key metrics within the platforms themselves. However, things get a little trickier if you’re in a business with long sales cycles, which is many B2B businesses. Most platforms’ conversion tracking expires after 30 days, meaning you won’t be able to track conversions or cost per conversion if your sales cycle exceeds that. If this sounds like your business, you have two options. The easiest is to stick with tracking cost per lead since that conversion tends to happen within 30 days. The other option requires some custom web development and coding work that lets you track individuals within a database via the ads that brought them in.
CUSTOMER JOURNEY METRICS
A customer journey is the process from start to finish an individual takes to ultimately become a customer. During the journey, prospects behave in certain ways and often engage with information that leads to their conversion. This results in several metrics that should be tracked:
Life Stage Conversion Rates: Many organizations have customer journey life stages. That is, objectively-defined stages that lead to a customer conversion, usually based on a prospect performing a measurable activity. In B2C settings, a key life stage is often providing an email address. In B2B settings, it can be offering contact information in exchange for valuable content. You’ll want to track the conversion rates between each life stage to see how you’re performing at each stage and isolate your lowest-hanging opportunities.
Engagement Rates: Related to life stage conversion rates is engagement rates with critical content or information that often lead to customer conversions, things like pricing pages and product spec sheets in B2B or things like product merchandising pages in B2C. Again, seeing how many users are (or aren’t) engaging with critical information lets you identify places in your customer journey experience that need further work.
Workflow / Journey Conversion Rate: A major activity in robust marketing ecosystems it the process of nurturing contacts and leads to move them into different life stages. This is often down with email workflows or journeys. Because these are built with a particular conversion in mind (e.g. customer conversion, move from life stage A to B), you’ll want track the conversion rate. This will give you a benchmark from which to start optimizing emails, phone calls, text messages and other touch points used to get people to the next stage in the journey.
Lead Score: Lead scoring is a process used to assign a numeric value (i.e. lead score) to a lead and is is based on how valuable that lead is perceived to be to the organization. This is an especially important metric in B2B settings where there are sales teams involved. High lead scores may trigger a proactive call from Sales to jumpstart the conversation. Or, a higher lead score may mean a prospect gets put in a priority queue when requesting more information.
How to Measure Them: You have several options here. For behaviors that take place on a websites or mobile apps, like life stage conversions or engagement rates, you can use Google Analytics. However, product analytics platforms like Mixpanel automate this process, removing the time and human error associated with manual efforts. Most enterprise-level marketing automation software (e.g. HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, SharpSpring) will have built-in ways to create and measure workflows as well as Lead Scores. Mid-level marketing automation software (e.g. AutoPilot) may let you do some of this too. However, they are far less flexible so you’ll have to decide if you can work around their limitations.
BIG PICTURE BUSINESS METRICS
When we say “big picture business metrics” we’re talking about the metrics that help determine the health and long-term viability of a business. These are macro-level metrics that people outside of your organization will know and use to benchmark you against the performance of other businesses.
CAC (Total & By Channel): Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is derived by taking the total amount of money spent to acquire your customers and comparing it to the total customers acquired. Essentially, it’s how much money you need to spend to acquire a single customer. You’ll want to look at this metric at both the overall business level and also by the channel that initially drove the prospect to see if some marketing activities are better or worse at bringing in customers.
LTV (Total & By Channel): Customer lifetime value (LTV) measures the amount of profit your business will gain from any single customer. When compared to CAC, it’s a powerful way to assess if you’re able to be profitable in the long term or if acquiring your customers is just too expensive relative to who you’re actually bringing in. Like CAC, it can be beneficial to read LTV at the total business level and also by marketing channel. Some marketing channels can drive better customers. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know which ones so you can invest more.
Payback Period (Total & By Channel): Your payback period measures how long it takes to recoup the money spent to acquire a customer. This is a critical measure when understanding cash flow health. Businesses with short payback periods can quickly re-invest money into driving new customers. Meanwhile, businesses with long payback periods will need stronger cash reserves to tide them over while recouping their marketing outlays.
Sales Cycle (Total & By Channel): More common in B2B businesses or high-ticket B2C businesses, the sales cycle refers to how long it takes to convert a customer. When tracking a sales cycle, there are often key points or life stages in the cycle triggered by prospect activity. Measuring the sales cycle and discrete life stages lets you optimize the activities at each point to reduce the total sales cycle period.
How to Measure Them: Now things get a little tougher. It’s fairly rare that any one platform can capture any one of these metrics. This is because these metrics are derived from numbers you’ll find across different platforms. Costs might come from Google Ads while total customers acquired may be tracked in your marketing automation platform and profitability is tracked in a sales CRM. That’s why capturing these metrics is often done by-hand at first. Over time, as businesses become more robust, they usually build automated internal dashboards that leverage platform APIs to pull this data and bring broader transparency to marketing performance.
WHERE TO PRIORITIZE YOUR EFFORTS
We get it. This can be overwhelming, especially if you’re only in the early stages of your marketing activities. Where do you start? We recommend a choose-your-own adventure approach. Take a look at the scenarios below. Find the one that most matches your marketing maturity to see what to prioritize first.
You’re a young organization just getting started with marketing and customer acquisition.
With such an under-developed marketing ecosystem, you’re only just learning who your customer is and what it’ll take to attract them. As a result, you’ll want to focus heavily on the metrics that zero-in on measuring awareness and the ability to acquire customers at a high level. This means keeping strong tabs on website, email, and ad platform performance.
You have some marketing under your belt and you’re ready to kick things up a notch.
At this stage in your marketing evolution, you’ve spent time and money on awareness and acquisition efforts, meaning its time to have a strong command of your digital marketing metrics (e.g. website, email, ads). On top of that, if you’re ready to spend additional resources on marketing, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of them. This means building out your customer journey tracking so that you can see where you need to focus your efforts to drive additional acquisition. At this point, you need to be thinking about capturing your Big Picture metrics…but realistically it may be too early to have all of the data you need to make those calculations.
You’re in a mature steady state with several marketing activities and want to layer in more.
Congratulations! No, seriously. If you’ve hit this point in your business journey you’ve likely landing on several customer acquisition efforts that are working well. But here’s the kicker. If you’ve hit this stage you should also have the most robust measurement protocols in place across all of your marketing channels and your entire acquisition ecosystem. You’re likely spending a good deal of time and money on your efforts which means you need the greatest intelligence to know what’s working, what’s not, and where to focus your time.