“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
— Albert Einstein (supposedly)
Regardless of who actually first said it, this quote is a great reminder to continually evaluate what you’re doing and the results those efforts are getting you. You want to make sure that, as a B2B marketer, you’re spending time on what matters most. The immediate and broad availability of digital marketing data is one of the most powerful advantages of inbound marketing over traditional outbound tactics, and can help you get far superior results.
As part of our series on annual marketing planning, we’ve recently written about how to analyze the gap between your current and desired business performance and use that information to fuel your annual marketing plans and overall marketing strategy. We’ve also talked about the power of creating quarterly marketing roadmaps to provide flexibility and focus for your broader annual plans. A marketing plan is the underlying "path forward," and quarterly roadmaps outline the tools you'll use to get to your goals.
So...which do you turn to in order to measure performance against those goals? What "large" areas do you need to monitor, and what more granular measures should you take into account?
High-Level Inbound KPIs Tied to Business Goals
Before you can set key performance indicators (KPIs), you need to have identified SMART goals for your company — what you want to achieve in terms of business growth for the year. Otherwise how do you know what metrics will be indicators of progress? We get into more detail on the process of setting goals and high-level marketing KPIs in this article which can guide your decisions when it comes to setting your annual strategy in motion. Suffice it to say, you need to have a foundation of quantifiable goals to make all the data you collect during the year be of greatest value.
Once you’ve identified your yearly business growth goals, determine how many customers you need acquire to achieve those goals. With that information you can work backwards and determine how many sales qualified leads, marketing qualified leads, and website sessions you need to generate from inbound marketing to stay on track.
Then set up a dashboard using a tool like Databox that integrates with your marketing automation and website CMS platform to get real-time insight into this data. We track these overarching KPIs all year long on a “Quarterly High-Level Overview” dashboard that gives us a quick glance at how our inbound program is performing against our goals. We can view this dashboard by month or quarter to identify trends and progress.
Quarterly KPIs Based on Roadmap Focus Areas
Each quarter, as we work on our inbound marketing roadmap for the upcoming 90 days, we use the overarching KPIs to identify areas we need to focus on. These could be:
- Areas that need improvement in order to achieve the goals
- Areas we’re going to double down on because the data shows something is working really well
- Time-based components of the annual plan
An example of a time-based component may be a major trade show that falls into a particular quarter. Building an inbound campaign around that event would warrant its own focus area for the quarter in order to get the most ROI from the trade show, and metrics associated with that campaign may be visits to a specific landing page, booth appointments booked, or demos requested after the show from your nurturing efforts.
Here’s an example of how you could determine quarterly KPIs based on your roadmap focus areas. Let’s say you are getting good website traffic, but only 0.5% of visitors are filling out a conversion form to become a known contact. One of your focus areas for the quarter should be conversion rate optimization for your site. For this, you'd want to track metrics like:
- Call to action (CTA) views and submissions
- Landing page views, submissions, and conversion rates
- New contacts from landing pages
Use tools like Google Analytics or Lucky Orange to see where users are falling off your site. Heatmap tools can visually show you how far down on a page someone gets before they click away.
Do they engage with your blog posts but stop reading after a couple paragraphs? Do they actually read most of the page only to click on an external link and leave your site entirely? You may find that you need to add CTAs so they appear higher up on the page versus the traditional footer area at the end. Kind of like this:
You’ll also want to track micro conversion metrics for specific pages you’ve optimized to know what impact your changes have made. For example, is there a specific field on a landing page form that consistently spells the end of the road for some visitors, stopping them from completing the process? (Heatmap tools like Lucky Orange can tell you this.) Consider removing that field and simplifying your conversion forms to encourage completion. Or experiment with a chat bot instead of a form.
Repeat this process for each focus area in your roadmap. Here are some additional focus areas and KPIs to consider:
- If you’re getting enough new contacts, but not enough Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), look at your form strategy to determine if you're asking the right questions to qualify leads. Analyze where your MQLs come from and then strategize tactics to double down in those areas. For instance, referral traffic from industry publications tends to be more qualified for complex B2B industries.
- If you’re getting enough MQLs but not enough Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), take a good look at your lead nurturing workflows and optimize your email campaigns. Then track the performance of those emails and workflows to see if they improve.
- If you’re getting enough SQLs but they’re not converting to Opportunities (not having live conversations with sales), look at the flow of information on your site and how you’re attempting to connect with prospects to make sure it eliminates any friction for users. You may want to also look at what bottom-of-the-funnel offers can be developed or optimized to be more compelling. Then track the performance of those offers.
Breaking down the inbound marketing KPIs you track for the whole year into quarterly results will help you know whether you’re on track to hit your annual goals. Use that intel to identify focus areas for your quarterly roadmaps where you can most efficiently move the needle and then track KPIs for each focus area that trickle up to impact your annual marketing KPIs and business growth goals.
Using data to determine how well your marketing team is doing and the role your department plays in reaching the company’s overall performance goals is critical. It’s not always easy convincing your boss or other influencers that your marketing efforts are why your company landed more sales or gained more market share. To help, we developed a guide that walks you through six critical marketing metrics your boss really wants to see to prove your marketing ROI. Check it below.
This article was originally published in January 2019 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.