“I have too much data!” —Said no one ever…right? I’m sure this was many of us marketers before the digital revolution, but now we have what seems like infinite data sources at our fingertips. Have you ever gone heads down on a mission to get “the data,” build the reports and churn out some intricate dashboards only to forget what exactly you’re looking to extract from it all? All too often I’ve found myself staring at a multicolored dashboard with my head spinning: “Am I the only one in this meeting who doesn’t know what the data is showing me? Why I’m supposed to care about this line heading up and to the right?” I can digest numbers all day, but if it doesn’t guide me into action, it is useless.
Below are a few tips I’ve learned to ensure I’m tracking meaningful metrics throughout the customer lifecycle and I can confidently say which marketing programs are driving real business for my organization’s bottom line.
Have a North Star Metric
As marketers, we often default to defining marketing’s top-of-funnel success with a metric that we could track with simple web tracking and marketing automation rules. But today, technologies give us visibility into marketing’s impact throughout the entire customer journey. Make sure to have your one north star metric. It should be one that is cross-functionally understood and valued—something that goes beyond the top-of-funnel vanity metric, where you can confidently say your efforts were successful to the business’ goals.
Consider what that true north star metric is for your business: If your deal cycle is short in length, perhaps marketing impacted business or new annual recurring revenue (ARR) is your success metric. On the other hand, if your deal cycles are on the longer side, then revenue may be a metric that is too hard to make agile marketing decisions on for your programs.
Marketing sourced meetings or Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) is a middle funnel metric that still aligns you with sales success.
Leading Measures of Success
Be sure to monitor early indicators of future success. Don’t confuse leading measures of success with your north star metrics. If leading measures are confused with North Star metrics, then misalignment occurs. As modern revenue marketers say, “tracking towards the wrong metric is worse than no metric at all.” Long gone are the days when marketers can throw Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) over the fence and give themselves a pat on the back while sales misses their revenue target again. Marketers need to find a way to align their success with sales to create one cohesive revenue battalion.
But leading KPIs are good for predicting future success. If you end the quarter tracking only middle or late-stage metrics, you could come up short and asking yourself “why didn’t we see this earlier?”
Marketing Leads (commonly known as marketing captured leads) and Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are great leading metrics to predict how you’re going to land at the end of the month or quarter. Metrics like these are fantastic for optimizing top-of-funnel paid programs for lower cost per acquisitions (CPAs), but keep in mind that you should be tracking paid program success throughout the funnel at different intervals to ensure your programs are driving high-quality leads.
Lastly, don’t forget about the critical dropoff points in your buyer’s journey. These conversion rates, if focused on, could mean the difference in millions of dollars in lost revenue. A couple of conversion rates to consider are:
- Landing page conversion rates: How much is my cost per acquisition (CPA) and how much of my paid media spend is dropping off?
- MQL→ SQL conversion rate: How many qualified leads are falling through the cracks with my frontline sales reps? Often times there are quick wins here around enablement that don’t require a significant monetary investment.
- Sales close rates: Typically a metric that sales leaders measure, monitoring deal velocity and close rates as a marketing metric helps you back into your top of funnel goals easier.
At the end of the day, always keep in mind that data is just data until you can turn it into action. Jeff Boss published an article that put this all into perspective: “In the military, it doesn’t matter in which direction you choose to move when under a mortar attack, just so long as you move.” Though a misstep in digital marketing won’t make or break a military-like undercover operation, it could mean missing your quarter for a second time in a row. Identify a handful of metrics that, if optimized for, will absolutely move the needle for your business. Then, be quick to take action on it and don’t be afraid to iterate– because iteration and staying agile in failure is a sure way to marketing (and sales) success.