How to Choose Marketing Goals and KPIs

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Curiosity Killed the Cat, Creativity Killed the Campaign

Marketing’s element of creativity makes choosing measurable goals and KPIs tricky.

Nobody would assign a quantifiable measure to the effectiveness of Banksy or Monet. So why should we do the same to killer sales copy and abstract advertising campaigns?

Because their goal is to make money, of course.

And, as a marketing manager, it isn’t your job to love all of your campaigns equally as though they are faithful children but rather, to assess which ones are most effective for the company.

The secret to choosing the correct marketing goals and KPIs hangs in the balance between having a business mindset and being aware of marketing’s strange successes.

Some campaigns classed as a total failure on paper can often become the most memorable for a brand and give them the most exposure.

You also can’t train marketers to become regular producers of viral content.

There’s no classical conditioning for marketing success. The creation of compelling, unforgettable content is a little more complex and less routine than the secretion of saliva in Pavlov’s dogs.

However, you’re still going to have to file those marketing reports each month and be able to prove which methods are shaping up to be a success, and which aren’t.

As such, marketing goals and KPIs are important — even if you’re a hopeless creative at heart.

KPIs Should Be Focused on Facts, Figures and Conversion

To add insult to injury, it’s often unhelpful — at least in terms of business — to simply reward marketers on the merit of their creativity.

KPIs need to be based on hard facts — usually related to conversions.

Conversion is getting your customers to tip over the edge and to take action. It’s the last step in an effective sales funnel. A conversion might be the process of a customer submitting an enquiry, making a purchase, signing up to your mailing list or anything else that indicates your prospects are becoming your pals.

Some number-focused metrics will indicate you’re doing well in a certain area. However, they shouldn’t become the focus of KPIs.

Marketing goals should always be controllable and in this instance, we can take some inspiration from Ivan Pavlov for showing us the value of scientific experiments.

An example of a poor KPI is social follower growth that doesn’t directly lead to conversion.

To some degree, we can’t control our follower count despite our best efforts to produce and publish meaningful content. Social shifts, platform algorithms and visibility issues can all come into play.

As a result, you shouldn’t choose social follower count as a metric of measurement for your social media marketing team — although it does act as a great indicator of social media success.

Rather, you could track the click-through rate to your website or the engagement rate of your posts.

These metrics are within your control and they make the most impact on conversion.

Maybe if Unilad had thought about this concept more often, they wouldn’t have been bought out by their biggest competitor LADbible.

To avoid picking the equivalent of social follower growth across all of your marketing KPIs, you’ll need to work with a goal-first mindset.

Marketers often make the mistake of thinking about the content rather than the content’s purpose when creating goals, thinking in terms of:

Blog Content > No. of Visitors > Bounce Rate > Conversion

We get it. As a marketer, you’re always creating content first with the idea it will attract lots of visitors, hold a respectable bounce rate and result in some form of conversion.

When setting goals, however, we need to work in reverse:

Conversion > Bounce Rate > No. of Visitors > Blog Content

Marketers who use the first process might conclude that the number of visitors to a page is a good metric to measure blog posts’ performance, making this a KPI.

However, the number of conversions or the bounce rate percentage is more important, as they indicate whether the content is serving its purpose.

This doesn’t mean we’re aiming for low visitation when creating content. But it does mean your CEO or line manager won’t be that impressed if only 1% of your large audience bothers to convert or continues browsing your website as a result.

Try to think of each sub-teams’ KPI in relation to its position in the overall sales funnel.

A social media team works further from the point of conversion than say, the blog team, which creates content to be hosted on-site. As such, it’s reasonable for site visits to be a KPI for social media members. Blog writers, however, will need to focus on something closer to home — like the bounce rate or conversions — to prove they are pulling as much weight in the process.

In line with this, here are some conversion-centric KPIs to think about (but remember to put them into context first):

  • Traffic Sources
  • Cost Per Lead
  • Brand Recall
  • Lead Volume
  • Number of Returning Visitors
  • Conversion Rate
  • Click-Through Rate
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Goal Completions
  • Session Duration
  • Bounce Rate
  • Number of Visitors/Views
  • Device Ratio
  • Email Click Rate
  • Market Share
  • Social Engagement
  • Traffic to Lead Ratio
  • ROI

Be Firm but Fair — Make Marketing KPIs Achievable

With our team, we like to employ a percentage system, so achieving a KPI isn’t an all or nothing feat.

Team members have more than one KPI relevant to their job role, acting as a percentage of their possible bonus amount.

Multiple KPIs leave room for marketers to miss some KPIs without them totally lucking out.

It’s also important to remember that working in marketing is often uncertain with algorithm updates, new technology and other technical teams accounting for much of our success and failure.

What we’re saying is — make marketing KPIs fair for staff members to achieve and senior managers to value.

Other marketing agencies like to think of this as a traffic light system where they accept figures in a -5% and a -10% range, using a green, amber and red system to show how close a marketer is to hitting the desired goal.

You should also use your common sense to account for seasonal changes and go a little easy if a Google update slams a particular industry just months before a KPI session.

We suppose this is the difference between being an accountant and an economist.

Accountants are notoriously anal about numbers. Economists often look for trends and patterns to contextualise number crunching. When choosing marketing goals and KPIs put your economist hat on; it will give you a greater ability to forecast. As a bonus, it will make you more popular with your team.

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