Vanity Metrics That Kill your Marketing Strategy and What to Measure Instead

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Metrics and KPIs have always been a guiding light in any marketing strategy, but to put it bluntly, most marketers are measuring the wrong ones.

They’re often called vanity metrics — you know, those ones that are pretty and interesting (and, more often than not, make you look good), but that lack any useful application for propelling long term business outcomes. Unfortunately, while these numbers are pretty, focusing on them absolutely kills the opportunity for actual success.

Obviously, the metrics that matter should be the ones leading you to a tangible business outcome. You shouldn’t just be focusing on the number of people who downloaded an eBook or signed up for a webinar. Instead, take it deeper and ask, ‘how many of these people are actually a part of my brand’s total addressable market?’ This number will be smaller than the total number of downloads or registrations – so naturally not as pretty on the runway (or chart) – but it’s from this number that you will move deals more quickly and engage with key accounts far more strategically.

Going beyond vanity metrics requires a change in mindset from how you’ve traditionally done your marketing, and mindset shifts don’t happen overnight. But you can get a jumpstart by understanding what metrics are simply for vanity and what metrics will actually lead to business outcomes.

Vanity metric: Leads

How it hurts your business: A previous Forrester report uncovered that fewer than one percent of all leads actually turn into customers. Essentially, this means that upwards of 99 percent of what marketers are doing isn’t working, and even worse, isn’t turning into revenue. While a high number of leads might look good on a chart, it doesn’t guarantee bottom-line sales growth. Plus, leads tend to be a massive tangled group of various people at various levels in an organization – there’s an inherent risk that you’re not bringing in leads who are actual decision-makers with purchasing power.

What you should measure: Instead of solely looking at how many leads are being brought in, keep a closer pulse on the lead-to-customer ratio. To determine if your tactics are really working, it’s important to know how many leads your sales team was actually able to close a deal with.

Vanity metric: Lead Conversion

How it hurts your business: Let me say this again – fewer than one percent of B2B leads end up converting into customers. You may be securing lead conversions, such as newsletter sign-ups or button clicks in an email, but these often end up getting stuck in the pipeline. Why? A) Because you likely aren’t reaching the right decision-makers and B) because you aren’t moving opportunities along your pipeline quickly or effectively enough.

What you should measure: Pipeline velocity is the real MVP here. Your leads may be converting into qualified opportunities, but that’s only half the battle when it comes to closing a deal and boosting that lead-to-customer ratio we discussed above. How quickly and effectively you can get a qualified opportunity from one end of the funnel to the other will always be more important than how many leads are converting. This is because velocity helps determine what opportunities and accounts will stick.

Vanity metric: Website Traffic

How it hurts your business: Let’s say you’re using syndicated content to get form fills on your website. While you may be securing multiple form-fills, which looks good on paper, your data will tell you the real story. The ones filling out these forms are often in lower-level leadership or management positions and likely not the ones with purchasing or decision-making power. This happened with Pramata, a company using AI to eliminate revenue leakage. While they were bringing in tons of form fills, they uncovered that 70% of those were from non-target accounts that wouldn’t convert.

What you should measure: Good marketing is about adding value across the entire customer lifecycle, and if we’ve learned anything about the customer mindset over the last decade, engagement is how this value is created. Meaningful engagements through things like personalization and individualized customer experiences is what converts traffic into users (or customers in this case).

For the longest time, we as marketers weren’t asking ourselves the right questions when it came to metrics that show successful business outcomes. We weren’t digging deeper into the funnel to pull out better metrics that would actually move the needle from a retention and ROI perspective.

As we move into this new year, and a new decade, it’s time to stop prioritizing false metrics of success. Stop focusing on what looks pretty and sparkly in a chart and start embracing what will actually propel your business forward into the future.

Sangram Vajre
Sangram Vajre is a co-founder of Terminus and the author of two books on marketing. His latest book, ABM is B2B is an Amazon best-seller. He founded the FlipMyFunnel Community in 2014 to provide a place for B2B marketing and sales innovators to foster the account-based mindset and to learn from each other. Prior to Terminus, Sangram ran marketing at Pardot (acquired by ExactTarget and then ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5B). Sangram is an international keynote speaker, big hugger, author, and host of the top 50 business podcast called FlipMyFunnel with over 100,000 subscribers.

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