Don't get data paralysis - what to measure for marketing

Evelyn Wolf by Evelyn Wolf   03 Jan


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“DATA, good God y’all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing...Say it again!” I love Edwin Starr’s song War and do believe it applies to data that we battle with. Just with one small amendment: “DATA, good God y’all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing unless you act on it...Say it again!” Sorry, for putting this tune in your head for the rest of the day, but trust me, it will be worth it!

So much big data

The big data trend has come and while some say it’s gone by now, I would actually argue that it’s still there. We can measure just about anything with the right tools and many of us do. Particularly in marketing. From website data like the profiles of the people visiting, time spent on site and what pages they viewed to usage of your product, number of support queries, lead conversion, customer numbers, profit margins. You get my drift, it’s a lot. 

Don’t get me wrong, data is beautiful and it should inform every inbound marketing decision we make. However, it’s simple to get lost in the volume of items we can measure, spend hours each week compiling spreadsheets, graphs and reports when in the end that time could have been spent strategising and implementing. So why not focus on getting the numbers that will actually help you make decisions accurately and quickly?

What you should measure

Your basis for inbound marketing should start with your number of visits to your website, then your number of leads, followed by customers. Include the conversion rates between each. Ensure you are tracking over time (e.g. weekly or monthly) and against a set goal (otherwise what are you working for?). This very basic form of measuring for inbound marketing shows you clearly where your marketing conversion funnel is dropping off and you can then take action. Have a look at the examples in this blog post about which element in the inbound marketing methodology should be your starting point. You’ll see without reporting, you won’t be able to make a call. 

We would highly recommend expanding the reporting and adding sales values as well such as total sales value, average sale value, cost per acquisition etc. And you can find a full explanation for each piece of data tracked right here.

Of course, reporting can be broken down further. For example, you can examine which source (e.g. organic, social, email etc) converts best or even which channel (e.g. Twitter vs Facebook, Adwords vs LinkedIn ads). This is very helpful to figure out where you should be spending your time. If you see that you get a high conversion rate from Twitter rather than from Facebook, it’s a clear indication that your persona is more active on Twitter and you should spend your efforts here.

We have seen reports that go as far as breaking the data down by persona. Seeing which persona converts best on which channels. This is really great data, extremely time consuming to pull but valuable if you are trying to figure out which persona should be your primary focus.

Absolutely nothing, unless you act on it

You can see, you can measure in many great ways. Before you run off splitting your reporting by source, channel, persona, day of conversion or another metric, take a step back and consider whether you will actually act on it.

Numbers for the sake of it are useless. You need the time and expertise to interpret and act on the data (never mind the time and tools to collect it). The question “So what?” becomes incredibly useful at this point:

An increase in website visits - so what? Was it expected? Are you running a campaign? Did you change your keywords? Can you replicate the success?

A decrease in leads - so what? Did traffic drop as well? Did you change your landing pages or forms? Are you not in line with the expectations you are setting in the ad that leads to the landing page?

Each metric you gather individually should tell a chapter of the story that your marketing metrics give you as a whole. These should always come down to the basics:

  • Are you attracting enough of the right visitors?
  • Are you effectively converting your traffic into leads?
  • Are you nurturing your leads into paying customers?

Our advice, if you can measure your marketing funnel simply, you will see the gaps and can then deep dive into problem areas.

Deep dive when you need to not constantly

Deep dive means taking time to really examine an issue, research and delve into the causes and effects. It’s not something you can constantly do. So why do it with your marketing data? 

The moment you discover something in your basic valuable report (remember: visits / leads / customers and potentially sales figures) that is out of the ordinary, go deep dive. Out of the ordinary can mean your numbers are stagnant, you see a lift or a drop. 

It’s time to open all your wonderful tools and examine the cause behind an effect. For example, if you are seeing your visitor numbers remain stagnant or drop, hit Google Analytics. Check which source is causing the drop. If it’s SEO for example, dive into your bounce rate, your keyword tracking, your time spent on page, your personas and try to figure out whether it’s a change you made or whether perhaps there was an algorithm upgrade you missed. Hit up Google Search Console to really dive into how your page is indexing.

Here’s another example, your leads are spiking. That’s what? Deep dive now. Check which landing page is driving the conversion in your CRM or CMS. Start comparing it to the other pages and figure out how traffic is driven to the highly converting page. After checking out the source, dive into the channel especially if social media is the driver. Go back to your CRM and actually look the quality of leads (sorry to burst your bubble...they might all be freeloaders wanting your content who will never convert to customer).

If you are running a campaign for a particular persona, deep dive here into the persona and any and all tools that will help you identify whether you are hitting your target.

Imagine running these detailed reports constantly? You wouldn’t have time to ask “So what?”, you wouldn’t have time to act, you would be paralysed by the volume of data unable to improve your inbound marketing efforts. I’m exhausted already!

Keep it simple

When it comes to marketing metrics, keeping it simple is key. Gather the data that will help you to improve your inbound marketing and yeah, close more customers.

When you are about to add a new metric into your reporting (or someone else asks you to), don’t just blindly add it in. Question whether it will give you a piece of data that you will be able to act upon. If it is, great. Then check whether this is deep dive data or data that you will actually need consistently to make decisions. If it’s the latter, add it to your regular reporting. If not, push back. Most tools you will use will allow you to go back in time. You can retrieve data again. There is no need to copy it into a different format unless you are going to use it.

So will you sing it with me one more time? DATA, good God y’all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing unless you act on it.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Evelyn Wolf

Written by Evelyn Wolf

Inbound strategy specialist and content creator. She will turn your web presence into a magnet and always has wind in her sails.