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Vanity Metrics: A Cautionary Tale

09.18.2017 / Posted in Measurement

Do your numbers sound good—and don’t mean anything? How can you help ensure your marketing aligns with your business goals—and is measured accordingly?

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get seduced by vanity metrics—measurements, calculations, numbers, graphs, and charts—that look impressive, but aren’t relevant to your core business goals and the marketing goals you’ve set to align with them, whether brand awareness, or lead generation, or reengaging customers who’ve faded away.

You can avoid falling prey to vanity metrics if you know their most common forms.

Vanity Metrics: Social Media Activity

Did your tweet receive 1,000 retweets? Did your latest Facebook Live streaming video have 500 viewers?

Don’t get us wrong: These are great stats to see. Yet you need to make a clear connection between your social activity—and all marketing activity—and your business objectives. In the case of social media, focus less on the number of followers you have and instead on the alignment of your social activity and its results with your goals for social media—and how they translate up to your overarching business objectives. Are you seeking brand awareness? Improved customer experiences? How does what you see on social media measure against these goals?

For example, let’s say brand awareness is one of your marketing objectives, because you’re entering a new market and need to increase the number of people in your new target audience who have heard of your company to better enable uptake of your other marketing tactics and your sales efforts. In this case, you can measure reach, social share of voice between your brand and consumers’ other options, engagement (the number of interactions with your social accounts), and so forth.

Yet—and here’s the challenge—these metrics may mean very little if your marketing goal is, say, lead generation or conversions.

Vanity Metrics: Advertising

In the realm of advertising, “impressions” refers to the number of people that a publication or media outlet exposed to your advertisement. While these numbers can be a “wow” factor at first glance, remember what they represent: Exposure.

Now, if exposure is critical to your marketing goals—as outlined above in the social media awareness example—tracking impressions has value. Yet if you’re seeking conversions—click-throughs to landing pages, for example, followed by landing-page engagement that drops leads into the marketing funnel or turns into a closed sale—then impressions may have less value to you as a metric.

In these cases, you should monitor click-throughs and add earnings per click and revenue per thousand clicks to your analysis.

Vanity Metrics: Competitor Comparisons

When evaluating your competitors, it’s natural to want to follow the path they’re taking. It’s especially easy when a lot of marketing tools tell you how you’re tracking against companies in your same industry.

Halt. Your company is different than others in your industry. Heck, your company is different even from its direct competitors. (If it isn’t, then you need to pause and reevaluate on a much larger scale than just assessing your marketing measurement.)

What story do you need to hear from your marketing metrics? What are your specific marketing goals and how do they tie to your specific business goals?

Gleaning information about what your competitors do for marketing and hypothesizing on why they’ve chosen a given strategic marketing approach has value. Yet your competitors’ approaches will be different than yours—which means that your marketing goals, marketing tactics, and marketing measurements should be different than theirs. Ensure your metrics tell the story your company needs to hear.

Why the Right Marketing Metrics Matter

When metrics tell your marketing story in a way that helps you assess what’s working to achieve your goals as a company, you can make smart decisions that save time and money. You can adjust your marketing activity based on performance against targets to ensure that your team and your company spends its time and its precious marketing budget in the most important places.

A research-based, measurable marketing strategy and plan that adjusts based on performance can be one of your company’s biggest assets. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that it can be transformative.

Need guidance? Contact FrogDog today!

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