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Are your marketing metrics completely meaningless?

My second tip at the B2B Marketing Conference 2010 for 'Getting finance to love marketing' was to ask yourself if the marketing metrics that you present are missing the point.
There are so many different data assets available to the marketer, it's no wonder that many have fallen into the trap of thinking that facts speak for themselves. They don't, and never have. The context of the stats you present is essential if you're going to get your non-marketing peers to understand the value you and your team bring to the organisation.

Those in sales can simply point to the sale value of a particular deal so the financiers can instantly understand how they are earning their money. For the marketer the cause and effect of what you do and the bottom line is a more nuanced affair. The fact is that salesperson may not have closed the deal if were not for the excellent email campaign that generated the initial interest, or the compelling case studies and support material that he used along the way - and that's what you need to find a way of demonstrating.

Let's take an example of an email campaign. Think about just three common email marketing metrics, the CTR (click-through rate), Open Rate and (on-site) Bounce Rate from that source. So, noting my earlier rallying cry to avoid marketing jargon with non-marketing peers, I'm now going to implore you to never, ever, present these sorts of metrics as facts in themselves. Always put them in context of the buying decision.

There are three steps to doing this:

  1. Define what the action the stats relate to in terms of a journey towards a sale. Where do you think that person is in the buying decision given the action they've just taken? Opening an email might indicate awareness, clicking through might indicate interest, and a low bounce rate (i.e. looking around your website) might indicate some form of evaluation.
  2. Once you've defined this you can visually map your stats against the sales process, showing how the marketing activity in question directly supports the sales outcomes - just a little further up stream.
  3. Turn this into a snapshot report that is always represented in exactly the same format showing how leads are progressing through the sales process - always present marketing data in this format.

This approach is excellent for getting people to quickly see the contribution that marketing is making. It is also extremely useful for flagging any blockages. If your activity is generating leads that are not converting, then either you're targeting the wrong people, the nurturing activity isn't quite right, or the sales people aren't following up. You can only see this if you run your stats into the overall context.

Naturally, as a marketer, you may need more granular detail to help you to refine your activity. Knowing which creative worked best, which links in the email were clicked most, which time of day got better responses, etc, etc. But your non-marketing colleagues do not need this information. So, don't overload them with it. If you say less, it is far more likely you'll be heard and appreciated.