5 Marketing Metrics CEOs Should Challenge by Asking, 'So What?'
Gone are the days of worshiping vanity marketing metrics (thankfully). But even as marketers now collectively agree that results must be connected to business outcomes in order to be valuable, some of those vanity metrics are still showing up in reports and boardrooms. Even if they sound good, it’s your job as CEO to push back and ask the right — and sometimes hard — question: “So what?”
I don’t mean this in a flippant or sarcastic way; actually quite the opposite. You should ask it sincerely, in an effort to dig deeper into why your marketing team feels these particular metrics are important. They may be solid numbers, compared to industry averages or even internal benchmarks, but your team needs to be able to justify why — and how — they contribute to the bigger picture of your organization’s goals.
Here are five marketing metrics to listen for, and why you should follow up with a good-natured “so what?”
1. More Leads
All the B2B business leaders we speak with who are sold on the vision of account-based marketing (ABM) understand it’s in their best interest to think in terms of accounts rather than leads. And yet, many marketers still get hung up on leads. The number of leads you have says nothing about whether they’re from your target accounts, showing engagement and/or going to be a good customer once (if!) converted.
So, your team says, “We’ve been getting 50 new leads every month, which is almost double what we were doing last quarter.” Your response: “Great. So what?” At this point, your marketing team should be able to explain that 100 percent of these future customers are from your best-fit accounts, or something along those lines that indicates their true value. If not, instruct your team to abandon the concept of leads, and adjust the way they’re talking about (and reporting on) future customers.
2. Increased Website Traffic
Monitoring Google analytics and the ebbs and flows of your Web traffic was formerly a holy grail of marketing metrics. If more people are visiting your site, you’ll surely get more customers and sales ... right? Actually, no. The number of people stopping by to check out your site doesn’t tell you anything about their quality, or engagement level, with your brand.
When you have a marketing representative talk to you about increased site traffic, ask, “So what?” Hopefully, they’ll be able to tell you whether those new visitors are coming from the right accounts, or the percentage of those visitors that have engaged with your content or calls to action (CTAs). If they can’t connect the dots between website traffic and positive business outcomes, there shouldn’t be any room for this metric in their thoughts — or in your meetings.
3. Number of Recent Resource Downloads
If there’s one truth about marketers, it’s that they tend to get really, really excited about whitepapers, e-books, and other resources. Usually when they create one, it’s chock full of compelling statistics, educational material and a passionate point of view. Then when they can use it to capture the names and email addresses of future customers, it’s like a home run in their minds.
These resources can certainly be a great marketing tool, but when your team tells you about the number of downloads your latest one has gotten … take a moment to pause. Acknowledge their efforts, but then ask (you guessed it): “So what?” If the whitepaper or e-book was downloaded by the right people in your best-fit accounts, that’s excellent! But if it was downloaded by someone interested in the topic, but not what your company sells, then those numbers really don’t matter.
4. More Social Media Followers
We all love to feel a little bit famous, and there’s no better way than by watching those "follower” numbers climb online. So maybe your marketing team comes to your quarterly meeting and excitedly shares a deck showing how your fans, followers and friends have skyrocketed across all your social channels. They might mention the number of page likes you’ve gotten, the number of comments on articles or the number of shares/retweets. But once you’re done feeling like a rockstar (I’m joking — kind of), think about where these numbers actually get you.
Are they driving any business goals? If your marketing team is using LinkedIn as part of your strategy to land some of your best-fit accounts, then maybe the increased following and improved engagement on the platform is truly important. But if it’s not, then social media followers are irrelevant or, even worse, a distraction to what’s more important.
5. Your Conversion Rate
This one might surprise you, because your conversion rate can be valuable to monitor. But the main problem I’ve seen with this metric is that many marketers compare their conversion rate to the industry average, which isn’t always apples-to-apples and doesn’t really help you much.
Instead, you should have an internal benchmark for your conversion rate that you measure against. This will tell you a lot more, and help you get closer to achieving your goals. So if your team tells you your conversion rate compared to the rest of the industry, this deserves another, “So what?”
The goal in all of this is to steer your team into a mindset of meaningful metrics that actually help identify (and land) your best-fit accounts, convert them to customers and retain them for years to come. These five metrics — and all the others that don’t help you do that? You can leave them in the dust.
Arthur Conan Doyle is credited with saying, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” I would take his words a step further, and add that an even bigger mistake is to theorize based on the wrong data. Focus on the right, meaningful metrics, as well as helping your team to understand what those are, and you’re sure to see the rewards in customer acquisition, loyalty and revenue.
Sangram Vajre is the Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist of Terminus, a leader in account-based marketing that has raised over $20 million in funding. Prior to co-founding Terminus, Sangram ran marketing at Pardot through the acquisition of ExactTarget, which was then acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion dollars. He wrote the very first book on account-based marketing (ABM), published by Wiley. Sangram is an international speaker and host of the top 50 business podcast called #FlipMyFunnel, and has been recognized as one of the top 21 B2B Influencers in the world by DMN Network and 40 under 40 by DMNews. He is on a mission to build the largest and most engaged community of B2B professionals in the world.