How To Create Useful Inbound Metrics

Jonathan Stanis
Posted by Jonathan Stanis on June 5, 2017

How to create useful inbound metrics for B2B companies

I had the pleasure of attending UX Immersion: Interactions last month in Portland, Oregon. The content, along with the views and food, was fantastic. Maybe I should move there someday…

One of the full day workshops was titled Measure What Matters: Crafting UX Success Metrics. The workshop, run by the wonderful Kate Rutter, focused on finding and defining the most important metrics around your user experience.

While the conference was specifically focused on the user experience (UX), the strategies and insights can be useful throughout organizations, including sales and marketing. Indeed, with the amount of marketing that is digital these days, the user experience is critical to how successful that marketing is.

So what is a good metric, and how do you define it to create meaningful insights into your inbound marketing and sales efforts?

A Good Inbound Metric is…

Metrics run on a scale, from just plain unhelpful to the one metric that matters the most for that specific part of your sales and marketing funnel.

In Kate's words, "a good metric measures the usage of your product by a person. The usage should be specific to features that deliver value to your user. A great metric makes you look at all the other metrics and say that none of those other numbers matter if we don’t get this right first."

Here is a scale of metrics, from unhelpful to key, that can help you determine what metrics you should consider.

Unhelpful Metrics

Some metrics just don’t mean a lot in the long run. How many website visitors do you have? In itself, this number does not mean that much. You could have a million page views a month, but if you are a manufacturing company selling fire trucks and all of those visitors are school children looking for pictures for their report on fire trucks, then you're not reaching your target audience.

Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics are those that make you feel good but also don’t mean anything significant. These tend to follow the up-and-to-the-right trend that marketers love. "Look at our stats going up!" For instance, how many social media followers does your company have? 10? 1,000? 1,000,000? I get notifications all the time of new twitter followers, but I know that most of them are probably trying to market to me or are bot accounts. Simple cumulative numbers are the worst source of this. Of course you have more page views over time. That’s because they keep building on top of the old views.

Vanity Metrics

Good Metrics

We start to get to good metics when we  look at metrics that are normalized over time. Instead of looking at just a raw number, we are looking at a percentage.

You also need to define the time period that we are looking at. A month? A week?

For instance, what percentage of our website visitors were new this week, or what percent of our website visitors came from organic search this week? When we look at these numbers, we can see information that is actually useful depending on what we want to measure.

Databox Wall Referal Traffic Percentage

SIDEBAR: I have come to not really like months as a unit of measure, because all units of measure should be the same length, and months are not. Imagine if you tried to measure the length of a football field in yards, except that sometimes yards are 36 inches and sometimes yards are 33 inches. You would have football fields that could vary by as much as 10%! How fair is that game?

If you do like monthly metrics, perhaps consider using a rolling 4-week reporting timeline. Then you have a fixed number of days that can be directly compared.

Better Metrics

To get into the better range of metrics, you need to start looking at specific actions that you want your website visitors to take. This includes such things as the number of people that have subscribed to your blog, downloaded an ebook or visited a specific page.

If you want to know how your downloadable content is performing, a metric should look something like “The percent of new website visitors that downloaded one piece of content per week.”

If you want to know how well you are promoting your blog on social media, your metric could be “The percent of website visitors from social media that subscribed to our blog per week.”

Then, when you start targeting specific actions and collecting the data to measure it, you can begin to make changes that directly affect those numbers.

Key Metrics

Separating better metrics from the key metrics is defining what the most important actions your target personas can perform on your website that identify them as good leads. These metrics would be things that define your best Sales Qualified Leads [SQLs].

Basically, if you could only measure one thing, this would be the one thing that you would measure.

To put it another way, what metric is so important that no other metric matters if you don’t meet this metrics goal?

For most B2B websites, this is likely a "request a quote" or "request a consultation" page. Therefore, the best metric could be “The percentage of website visitors that fill out our request a quote form per week.”

However, you many be in a longer sales cycle, only acquiring a few large customers a year. In that case, you could identify a more leading indicator of someone that is likely to buy your product. “The percentage of blog subscribers that view one email per week" could work in this instance.

Mapping Metrics to the Marketing and Sales Funnel

Once you get the hang of defining the best metrics, you can start mapping these metrics to your marketing and sales funnel. You can also expand the metrics beyond just your website to earlier indicators such as number of times a target keyword is searched on Google. There are also follow up metrics, such as how well your sales team is following up with leads.

Lets say that you have a white paper to attract new leads. Here is how you could create metrics that map to that funnel.

  1. Number of Google Searches for created terms leading to white paper per week.
  2. Percent of new visitors that downloaded the white paper per week.
  3. Percent of visitors that viewed the white paper that fill out the contact form per week.
  4. Percent of new contacts that the sales team connected with per week.

By clearly defining metrics that matter for each stage of your funnel, you can see how the various parts of your marketing and sales efforts are performing.

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Topics: Marketing Automation, Website Design

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