B2B Wins #16: Measuring Marketing Stuff
It's not the measurements, it's the framework.
I saw a poll on LinkedIn that asked what the primary metric should be for B2B marketers. It was the normal list the easy-to-measure activities. Leads. Traffic. MQLs. Pick your favorite, it was probably there.
I don't think this was a serious question. I think this was one of those click-bait questions designed to gather the names of people who click on things.
But it did get me thinking about marketing metrics. This is an age-old discussion among marketers, stakeholders, and others on the leadership team about what really matters in marketing.
The Big Categories
One might think that the big marketing measurement categories revolve around the key activities of marketing. I would simplify it even more. In my mind, the two big categories of metrics are Brand metrics and Business metrics.
Marketers struggle with this. Most of the stuff that’s easy to measure are the things that really assess brand strength. And the real business sort of metrics we often associate with sales. Therefore, marketing should stick with brand metrics.
This feels intuitive to marketers because “the Brand is the business". To that, I would say, "Bullshit."
Yes, the brand is the entirety of everything everyone feels about your business. The effectiveness of attracting people to our digital properties depends on brand recognition. But we have to keep in mind that the brand is not the goal. Not even for marketing. The brand is a means to an end. Brand metrics don’t pay the bills.
Business metrics are the things that can be directly tied to the company’s ability to pay the bills. These are generally activities that directly affect the company’s ability to generate revenue.
What’s most important in all this is not the metrics. It’s more important that you have a management framework that keeps your business focused on the right things. If you have the right framework in place, you’ll always have the right metrics.
Let's start with Brand Metrics
Companies with strong brands have an easier time of attracting folks to their digital properties than those with weak brands. So, marketers rightly focus on building strong brands.
Brand-oriented metrics should measure the ability of the company to attract the attention of the right people. The good news is there are tons of measures about the ability of your brand to attract interest.
The brand metrics that are often focused on are things like website traffic, social engagement, top-of-funnel conversion rates, and similar measures.
Are these the right metrics? Yes, as long as they support your strategy. See more about frameworks below.
Beware the metrics that don’t really matter. By that, I mean the metrics that are not actionable. For example, Net Promoter Score has become very popular over the past few years. While it does provide some interesting information—mostly during the process of gathering the information—NPS doesn’t usually provide very actionable insight into what the company should do next. It’s a snapshot, not an operational metric.
Business Metrics Matter More.
Business measurements are tied to the revenue cycle. For marketers, these are often the metrics that exist at the bottom of the funnel.
I have seen organizations have endless discussions about the difference between a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and a sales-qualified lead (SQL) as if understanding the difference between the two would create value for the enterprise.
My guidance to all marketers is not to get too wrapped up in the turf wars regarding where marketing ends and sales (and other functions) begin. What are the things that you do that are tied to the revenue cycle?
The various conversion rates at the bottom of the funnel are critical during long sales cycles. Understanding what’s happening in the sales cycle and visitors iterate between what we traditionally think of as marketing and sales activities will help us help the business.
Extra credit: If you want to curry favor with your CFO, then measuring the ROI of your investments each year is bound to help you at budget time. Could it lead to some idiotic conversations as the CFO questions whether your calculation method is leading to “real” results? Sure. But at least you’ll be having the conversation about value. It could lead to something good. Who wouldn’t love a better relationship with the CFO?
Framework is everything
If you don’t know where you’re going every road will get you there - Henry Kissinger.
When I find organizations that are struggling to get results, it’s not because they have poor processes or metrics. It’s because they have poor priorities. Not being able to decide what’s important and what’s not makes them incapable of deciding which metrics are going to get them there. You need a roadmap.
Now covering all the details of creating a roadmap for your business is the subject of many books. I’m not going to cover that in detail in a blog post. What I can share are some of the characteristics of such a system that are critical to running your business and choosing the right metrics.
A shared understanding of the goals—Is everyone in the organization on the same page regarding where we’re going?
A shared understanding of the things we’re doing to get there—What are the immediate and near-term activities that are going to get us there?
The process to align the actions of everyone towards those immediate and near-term activities—Is there a regular process, say quarterly, that allows us to rapidly create alignment across the organization?
Regular cadence—weekly is ideal—where progress can be tracked against the goal, issues can be identified and resolved, and actions can be taken for the coming week.
Rinse and Repeat—at the end of the near-term horizon, we assess our progress, revise, and plan for the next period.
This is a very generic framework. It’s loosely based on the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS). This isn’t a commercial for EOS. There are literally dozens of such systems. Choose one. Knowing where you’re going will make the selection of the “right” metrics possible. And they’ll be your metrics not some internet poll’s opinion of the right metrics.
The best metrics
So, what are the best metrics for B2B marketing?
You already know the answer: It depends.
It depends on your context-Where are you starting from? Are you an early-stage start-up that doesn’t have a viable brand and makes little distinction between sales and marketing? Are you a well-established brand with robust capabilities and differentiated marketing and sales?
It depends on your goals—What does your framework tell you?
It depends on your priorities—What items bubbled to the top?
It depends on how things play out—Nothing goes according to plan. You’re going to have issues. You’re going to work them.
Ignore the polls. Ignore the peer pressure to measure the latest cool trend. Focus on the framework. If you have the right framework you will have the right measures. The measures will reflect your context, experience, goals, and unique situation. Get the framework right and everything else follows.
One quick note: In the continued refinement of my publishing schedule, the podcast will be sent out on Tuesday evening.