The Greatest Danger in Marketing: Metrics

Confused Street Sign by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious, on FlickrWithout marketing metrics, marketers cannot manage investments or show the value of marketing. However, without careful selection of metrics, diligent analysis and a clear overarching vision, those same metrics can become the biggest barrier to successful long-term marketing programs.

Short term metrics are easily gamed, and it often happens unintentionally. Here are a few common metrics for B2B marketers and ways some businesses influence the metric without driving long-term results.

  • Is social sharing a success measurement for your content? If so, as Mark Schaefer’s post shows, a few more posts about Klout will make you successful on paper.
  • Is traffic a key goal? High volume, low cost traffic sources will immediately help your metrics, but they may not improve your business.
  • Is cost per lead a key metric? Reducing online display and traditional advertising investments based on performance will quickly lower cost per lead, but long-term it will hurt search results and leads from organic traffic.
  • Is revenue key? Increasing your use of time sensitive promotions will definitely give you a short-term lift but it also creates a reliance on margin-eroding promotions.

Even good metrics can be misleading. If you don’t do all three items below, your marketing metrics will eventually mislead your marketing.

1. Pick the Right Marketing Metrics

With the wrong metrics, your investment in analysis and optimization is wasted. This should be obvious to everyone, yet we continue to hear about click rates on banner ads, a metric that is easily accessible but wrong for nearly everyone.

The wrong metrics lead to the wrong marketing investments.

2. Do the Analysis

Simply optimizing a campaign based on your success metrics may quickly improve measured results, but you will be left with a subset of your original plan.

Insight into why elements of your marketing performed well or missed the mark is critical. More than driving tactical decisions, insights improve all the marketing decisions that follow.

3. Follow Your Vision

If you are in enterprise B2B marketing, your metrics will never reflect the entirety of your vision and purpose and be granular and timely enough to use for ongoing management. Metrics may inform your vision, but purely following your metrics will lead you away from it.

Or as Twain would likely have summarized it: Lies, Damn Lies and Marketing Metrics. [Tweet]

Your Turn

How have you seen metrics mislead marketing or what other critical steps would you add? Share your views and examples in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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  • Perhaps the worst marketing metric is Facebook Page Likes. Marketers spend thousands on growing their audience and engagement, then when you ask what they’re doing next, they reply, “uh….”

    • Cory, thanks for flagging Likes, great addition. I would appreciate it if you would Like my page on Facebook at http://facebo…. oh, wait, I don’t even have a page! 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it!

  • Great post Eric. Love the bit about picking the right metrics. Can’t tell you how many hours we’ve seen wasted reporting, analyzing, and discussing metrics that were never right from the beginning.

    • Thanks Adam! Yes, and it is frustrating when you consider the lost potential in the time and energy that was misplaced!

      Thanks for taking the time to read, comment and share!

  • I’ve been in B2B marketing now since 2005 (broader marketing much longer) and have spent a lot of time on digital marketing measurement at Microsoft, IBM and in my current role. You can view my full Digital Marketing Measurement framework here on SlideShare I have to strongly disagree with Klout being an effective tools for social influence measurement, it is a gimmick. It simply does not measure true ‘influence’ and I think there is a significant problem with most people’s definition of ‘influence’.

    • Martin, I’m not supporting Klout here. Mark’s results showed that posts about Klout had more shares than other topics he wrote about.

      Klout is an interesting topic, and one I will write more about. Influence is the wrong word, but there are some interesting implications for marketers of platforms like Klout, well beyond the way most are using it today, that we will see develop. But that is a topic for another post!

  • Matthewlsteffen

    Great blog! I’m Matt from and it’s good to get inspiration from fellow bloggers such as yourself. Stop by sometime! Thanks!

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  • Eric Goldman

    A great article – thanks for posting. We’re consultants in the space of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation. We call the solution we offer an Inbound Marketing Automation system and they are all designed with the idea of Continuous Process Improvements, or CPI, in mind. As such they follow the mantra of, “Think, Plan, Do, Measure and Repeat”.

    And yes, totally agree, choosing the correct metrics to measure one’s performance is essential. Too often we have to work through a client’s faulty perception of what those shold be, because they have the equivalent of a “Klout” hot button. And yes again, too often that metric is traffic of some kind. Traffic on its own is not a great indicator of success – sure one always wants more of it, but one also only wants more of the RIGHT kind.

    Inbound Marketing, and especially Marketing Automation, makes it possible to do more with   less people time. In fact automation speeds up cycles and thus its possible to set off on a path where you’re doing more of the wrong things more quickly, more frequently, and with more “precision”. Thus its imperative to set the right goals and, especially, the correct metrics, to ensure that one’s performance is actually getting better, not worse.

    To this end, we encourage our clients to calculate their Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)  continuously. Inbound Marketing Automation systems incorporate a two-way connection to CRM systems such as Salesforce. They connect marketing campaigns to sales opportunity values, thus allowing an easy calculation of ROMI.And what better metric is there with which to measure ones performance?

    Our website contains a great deal of free resources on these issues and on the subjects of Inbound Marketing and Marketing automation in general. Visit its Resource Section to learn more, or use our ROMI calculator to decide what you really need to measure.

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