digital marketing web metricI had the pleasure recently of hosting a round table discussion at the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) Insights Conference on data and analytics. The good folks who chose to sit at my table and engage on the topic, all agreed on one thing: data sucks!

Data is this thing that all marketing people get told they need. But when it comes time to present data and marketing reports within a business, people’s eyes glaze over. Many people avoid the meeting altogether. Or worse, they attend and ask why traffic isn’t higher or Twitter followers haven’t increased.

Case in point:

How many times have you sat at a table as a marketer and explained to senior management about what is happening in your marketing program? And of those times, how often have people looked at the results you present and said they want more? More of anything you present: More leads, more followers, more conversions. Numbers only seem to matter when they are big. But is this truly telling the story we need to be telling?

It’s time for a data heart to heart.

I have a big crush on Avinash Kaushik. I have never met the man in person, only heard him speak and it is a professional marketing crush, but a crush all the same. Avinash has a brilliant way of helping marketers understand how to interpret the numbers – not just report them.

In our CMA roundtable discussion, we discussed the difference between a digital marketing web metric and a KPI (key performance indicator). It’s important to help business owners and senior management understand the difference.

  • A digital marketing web metric is a number and just that (5,000 Twitter followers, 20% open rate on email, etc.)
  • A KPI is a key performance metric that helps you understand how you are doing against your objective

Here’s why it matters according to Avinash:

The difference between a metric and a KPI is that only one of them, if it changes, will have an impact on your business.

Here are examples:

  1. Bounce rate: this is just a digital marketing web metric because even if you reduce the bounce rate to 0%, you may find that people immediately leave your website after they click on a second page. It takes a whole collection of page views and visits to deliver business success. Bounce rate is a metric to help you do better but not a KPI.
  2. Number of: this could be anything such as number of followers on LinkedIn, number of visits, number of people on an email list. Sure volume is impressive but it’s only impressive if it leads to a next step or action. It’s only impressive if you understand who makes up the numbers and what their interest is in your business. Nothing annoys me more than an agency that thinks cranking followers on Twitter is going to help with actual business results.

Why are KPIs so tricky?

A KPI has a specific place in the marketing spectrum. My experience with KPIs versus metrics and why they are so tricky to nail down is because a KPI is tied to a business goal and often, people are confused about their business goals.

A KPI, as tied to a business goal may include:

  • Conversion rate on the website
  • Unique page views (which content matters to a prospect)
  • Time lag and page length (that helps you understand if your content is working)
  • Task completion rate

This is data that matters but who can truly get excited about unique page views when we just got 30 new Twitter followers this week?

The reason we need to have a heart to heart with our data and with company leadership, is that we need to focus on the right things. It’s easy to get distracted by vanity metrics but if metrics don’t move the needle on the business, then we are focusing on the wrong thing.

5 Effective data strategies for any business according to the CMA Roundtable Participants

  1. Leverage advance segmentation – look at your data to understand what is happening in unique visits versus paid visits and organic visits. This tells an interesting story about who visits your site, how they got there and where your best leads may be coming from.
  2. Use time to your advantage – Within analytics you can manipulate date ranges. This helps you compare months, week to week and year to year. You might see some interesting things with respect to seasons and traffic.
  3. Industry benchmarks – sometimes harder to pull, but understanding where you should be versus your industry can be a telling sign about your digital strategy. A good piece of data to pull are mobile stats. What are your mobile numbers and what should they be based on in your industry?
  4. Competitive Intelligence – Your referral traffic may be up 40% but if your competitors are up 500%, they may know something you don’t.
  5. Company targets – these are so important and rarely understood. Cost per acquisition, how you determine it and whether it’s up or down is paramount to deciding if your spend should go up or down in digital marketing.