In our data- and dashboard-driven age, it’s all too easy to get lost in a sea of digital marketing analytics, charts, graphs and trendlines. Without an established and disciplined marketing strategy, KPIs can often be obscured by numbers that may appear more daunting, even scarier, to stakeholders and leadership than they actually are.
No statistic or metric exists in a vacuum: analysis is an interpretive act, seeking understanding through contextualization and always informing process, procedure and expectations. Part of that contextualization is understanding your customer journey – how does someone go from being a visitor to a customer to a brand champion? How does this process inform ROI? Does it?
With that in mind, any figure on a dashboard or report without appropriate context and interpretation can be a vanity metric. When framed accurately and clearly, though, metrics are a powerful tool informing and revising the marketing journey, helping your contacts become customers and stakeholders satisfied.
A vanity metric is exactly what it seems like: a figure that can either positively or negatively disproportionately affect perspective on performance. More simply stated, it’s a number that makes performance look better or worse than it is.
If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to talk about baseball to underscore the point here. A pitcher might have an earned run average (ERA) that looks really great, or he might pile up a lot of strikeouts. Sure, striking out batters is a good thing, and on average, allowing fewer runs to score isn’t a bad thing, but there are so many factors that go into scoring or strikeouts. Further, these counting stats and basic metrics were established a long time ago, without the benefit of modern computing or tracking capabilities we have today.
To better contextualize these things, baseball aficionados developed advanced metrics to better contextualize a pitcher’s actual performance: WHIP, ERA+, FIP, xERA, SIERA...so many acronyms, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
What does any of that have to do with marketing? You can count impressions, or visitors, or even look at a bounce rate or open rate. None of these, in a vacuum, are capable of presenting a broader, much less full picture. You can have the strongest pageviews you’ve ever had on a page, but generate very little demand or capture only a few leads from it. The attention might be nice, but it doesn’t necessarily get your marketing and sales flywheel going.
KPIs that are informed by a robust, thoughtful customer journey map and tactical plan best provide the insights you need to gauge marketing and sales health. With that in mind, let’s look at five digital marketing metrics that best get to the heart of your efforts’ efficiency and efficacy.
Looking at high-level traffic numbers can be highly misleading. Pageviews will skew notions of success: your landing page might have a high pageview count while lacking conversions or time on page. The oft-misunderstood bounce rate tends to spook a lot of marketing stakeholders and executives, when there are times a page – typically, blog content – should be expected to have a 90% bounce rate, while a pillar page is closer to 80. Traffic at that top level is a textbook example of vanity metrics.
Sessions, on the other hand, give us clearer insight in a number of ways:
Time on site: Especially within an inbound marketing paradigm, we’re looking for quality traffic, not just quantity of traffic. A longer session time can indicate resonance with buyer personas, ideal customer profiles and act as a general barometer of marketing and website alignment.
Visitor pathing: Knowing what your visitors are doing with their time on your site – either through an attribution system like Google Analytics or a platform like HubSpot – can provide insight into your website marketing strategy. If a segment of your visitors’ site visits include stops on pages you didn’t intend or aren’t part of a strategy to move people into your customer flywheel, reviewing these paths can help inform website content updates, navigation, SEO and so forth.
Lead qualification: If your B2B website is integrated with a marketing platform (and it really should be!), website visitor activity can be translated into lead scoring and qualification after a visitor becomes a contact. Your actual first touch contact with a lead can be informed and intentional, because your marketing emails and sales touchpoint should reflect the care a person standing in your physical space would receive!
Website UX monitoring: Similar to pathing discussed above, sessions at a high level can indicate potential unintended obstacles, broken pages or elements, or strategic misalignment.
You’ll note that we’re already beyond reporting and analytics: Sessions are a great way to not just measure website performance toward marketing and sales goals, but comprehensively evaluate your digital marketing strategy. Talk about a value-add!
Everybody is familiar with ROI, but we believe Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is where there is stronger potential for insight at a deeper level.
First, ROAS is reliant on running campaigns; in B2B, it’s especially important that they are properly targeted and segmented. Raw conversions as a digital marketing analytic lends itself to being a vanity metric: someone can submit a form or un-gate content or even subscribe to emails or your blog and have no interest in doing business, now or ever. On the other end of the spectrum, ROI is too general, looking at bottom line numbers without reviewing the line items that get us there.
The other advantage to ROAS, as noted by HubSpot, is that it can be a sliding scale adjusted for intent. A campaign may be as much about brand elevation as it is about driving sales-qualified leads. It’s not necessarily about decreasing the ROAS figure, it’s about the savvy use of campaign funds to a specific end.
If you’re concerned about how and why marketing funds are invested, ROAS is your jam.
Engagement is admittedly tricky: A thoughtless mistake in a public forum can create traffic and engagement for all the wrong reasons. (Think Curb Your Enthusiasm.) And not every social media account should take the Wendy’s approach tp social, although a commercial kitchen equipment supplier could have an inspired take on the ‘Roast me’ gimmick.
When considering the influence of social media, many often think of reach, or the number of people who could potentially see your social media post or ad. The problem is that reach, as the cliche goes, exceeds grasp. Sure, there are millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, but there’s a reason advertisers and marketers have generally moved away from enormous Super Bowl-grade one-off campaigns in favor of building stories through advertising, marketing and social media: they recognize the value of relationship building, which is paramount here in B2B.
When we engage on social media, we’re seeking brand elevation, but we’re also looking to get decision makers to see themselves as part of a shared story. Yes, you want the impressions, but what matters is driving engagement the right way for the right reasons. When you share something that gets traction with your customers and brand evangelists, it’s both your value proposition and a form of social proof to others, pun intended. And those like-minded customers can attract others from within your area of business, generating a better-qualified audience and potential leads, particularly through a platform like LinkedIn.
Email marketing is especially prone to vanity metrics: open rates, unsubscribes, spam scores and the like. The undisputed king of email marketing metrics, though, is clickthrough rate (CTR).
Unlike websites that can have numerous conversion points or intents, or social media’s fickle impression counts and clickthroughs from low-quality visitors, email has one goal: to further a conversation. A company that sends lots of email and has a high delivery or read rate but low CTR has a messaging or alignment problem that needs attention. There is no more clear or obvious benchmark for digital marketing effectiveness.
On a platform like HubSpot, CTR is a prominent metric easily accessible at the message dashboard level or through reporting dashboards. It’s also easy to gauge new ideas with tone or presentation with A/B testing, personalization tokens and smart content.
In short: if you’ve solved clickthrough rate with your business’ audience, you’ve figured out how to best speak with your contacts, leads and customers. You’re already on the inside track!
This is one of our favorite metrics at Kuno: knowing the length of time between when someone goes from being a contact to closing the deal and becoming a customer.
Having this knowledge of the buyer's journey on hand establishes a baseline for all marketing activities, digital or otherwise. Seeing that number reach a sweet spot through partnering with inbound marketing experts, leveraging marketing automation and a comprehensive platform that aligns all your digital marketing strategies into a single source of truth? That’s what gets us out of bed every day, and has for over 20 years.
We get it: in the B2B space, deals typically don’t close in a day or even a week. (In many cases, they probably shouldn’t!) But when marketing and selling to businesses, especially through an inbound approach, cultivating that trusting relationship takes time. A CtC that runs too low may indicate personas or ideal customer profiles that aren’t effectively developed and run the risk of elevated churn after the first year or initial engagement. A CtC that’s too long could reflect a lack of execution on the marketing or sales side, ineffective messaging or a number of other possibilities. Context is king!
The main point is that a clear-eyed understanding of your buyer’s journey lends itself well to establishing a plan that optimizes each step and the overall process into one that makes sense, maximizes value propositions and engenders mutual trust.
It warrants repeating: even these five analytics in digital marketing taken devoid of context can mislead and skew your sense of achievement or performance. When overlaid on a tailored, intentional sales and marketing strategy, these five represent obvious, powerful checkpoints for the overall health of your buyer’s journey.
When you partner with Kuno Creative, we’ll review your buyer’s journey from end-to-end, as well as your key digital marketing analytics. Then we'll get to work, finding ways to optimize that path that best suit your business goals. We’ve been doing just that for manufacturers, healthcare, IT, higher education and other mid- to enterprise-grade organizations for years. From brand development to website design to marketing platform configuration to dynamic content marketing, search engine optimization and beyond, our team can help yours see into the inner workings of your business more clearly and move you forward to meet your objectives.