Marketing Analytics That Confuse the C-Suite (and Marketers too)

Jamie Cartwright
Posted by Jamie Cartwright on February 3, 2016


Marketing analytics is a beast of a subfield. To most on the creative side, it's an area to avoid completely, and to those in business development, it's the nuts-and-bolts of new business attraction, and all they want to know is: "What does it really mean?"

From website metrics to social analysis to PPC optimization and visual heatmaps, marketing analytics can quickly start to feel overwhelming to the average marketing manager. And if the marketing manager is confused, then that's even worse news for their higher-ups: the VPs and C-level directors of a company.

In this blog post, I'd like to highlight 4 inbound marketing metrics that are particularly important to get right when creating reports and summarizing performance results. Confusion or lack of accuracy in terminology can be a marketer's downfall when trying to communciate how marketing efforts have resulted in desired outcomes, so keep an eye out for these four commonly misunderstood metrics.

Website Visits, Visitors, and Sessions

There's no one, standard way for marketing analytics software providers to measure user interactions with your website—i.e. website traffic. Some platforms aim to measure individual users (by IP address); others account for all individual visits—with algorithms that weed out timeouts and return loading; and still others look at all sessions; every single time the website was accessed.

The most pervasive of web analytics platforms, Google Analytics, emphasizes a multiview approach, that provides sessions, unique users, and other visit metrics side-by-side. While this is great for analysts and marketing nerds, it doesn't work well for eyes looking at the big picture.

Our advice is to choose one way of assessing website traffic and stick with it. Train your team on what your analytics mean and what they don't mean. Don't call individual traffic hits "visitors" if actually they're "visits." Make sure to use the same language and make sure your reports clarify what each term means. If questions come up, your marketing team needs to know the nuance of what they're reporting.

Conversions, Leads, and Contacts

In the eyes of online marketers today, the name of the game is "lead generation." Everybody wants leads, and to get to your desired count each quarter, you want as many "conversions" as possible. But once you start analyzing how your lead generation efforts are working, terms can get easily mixed up.

It hasn't helped that marketing automation and PPC platforms use a range of terminology to describe how lead generation works. "Conversions," "leads," and "contacts" tend to be 3 terms that get crossed repeatedly.

Here's a clearer approach to defining each:

Contact: Any email address that you receive via an online form or that you enter in CRM.

Lead: A contact with more identifying information. A lead's definition varies by country, but generally, it's any person that's provided you with identification and contact information and has the slightest propensity to become a buyer.

Conversion: Conversion is most often used to describe the "initial conversion"—i.e. a contact's movement from being a visitor to providing you with an email address. However, conversion can also refer to changes throughout the marketing funnel—e.g. a conversion from lead to marketing qualified lead.

Social Sharing Ticker Count

Many, many websites use social sharing tickers that tap into each network to count interactions and sharing. However, since that ticker number doesn't usually come with units, there's widespread confusion about what the count means.

Generally, a social sharing ticker for LinkedIn or Facebook is counting both the number of times a URL has been shared on the platform and also how often the link has been liked. In other words, it's not a clean count; it's a mix of interactions. Since this is a publicly visible metric, it's good to have a clear knowledge of what it really means. People ask about it more than you might think.

Conversion Rates

As alluded to above, conversions can be a confusing metric to report—especially since most marketers can account for multiple conversions during a lead's lifecycle. What's more incomprehensible than conversions? You guessed it: conversion rates.

Internally, we've made it a habit of talking about conversion rates with contextual information attached. When talking about an initial conversion, the rate is referred to as the "Visitor-to-Contact Conversion Rate." Similarly, the closing rate is not just "closing rate;" it's the "Proposal-to-Closed Won Conversion Rate." This is because to another company, a closing rate might measure all open deals that become closed won.

When reporting to big picture thinkers, you want your metrics to be a clear as possible, and sometimes this might mean abandoning shorthand terminology.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Marketing Automation

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