The other day I was showing my digital marketing dashboard to a colleague who was blown away by what we were tracking ( #proud #glow) but then asked “Why do you do this when nobody except your team ever sees it?” The strangest part of the question was the fact that I had to pause and think for a minute. I mentally flipped through all the channels and came up with the following 6 reasons why a marketer might track their key performance indicators (KPIs) for their digital marketing programs. I confess that at various stages of my career, I have had all of the motives at one point or another.
Reason #1 – Because you have to
If you work for a KPI-obsessed company, you know exactly what I mean when I say you’ll be tracking marketing stats because you have to – because every department head in the company is obligated to set and report against KPIs. This is not a bad reason, it just seems a bit short-sighted. If you’re investing time to track your KPIs because you must, why not move up and embrace some of the other possibilities, namely that you can use this tracking for some of the other reasons in addition to making your boss happy or making yourself look good during the quarterly business reviews.
Reason #2 – Because you are curious
Curiosity is almost always a good thing and I admit to doing a lot of analysis to satisfy that particular itch – the itch to know. To know how many people are viewing and commenting on my videos, from which social media channel and what kinds of comments they are leaving – such a goodness of data. Trying to satisfy my need to know has been a big driver for tracking and analyzing but it always leads to reasons 3, then 4, 5, 6 and while curiosity didn’t kill me, it sure led me to spend more time than I first intended, luckily with great returns on that investment.
Reason #3 – To compare yourself to others
Who says I am competitive? OK, maybe I am but I often find that numbers by themselves aren’t as useful as numbers relative to something else. That something can be comparisons to the past like period over period changes, or comparisons to other similar programs run by other similar companies or better yet comparisons to my competitors. Because we live in a world where absolutes are hard to come by, knowing that you are as good or preferably better than your peers in terms of results, is often the inspiration we need to continue to be motivated to get even better or at the very least to continue what we’re doing and KNOW that it is good.
Reason #4 – To anticipate problems before they occur
Now we’re into the really interesting reasons for tracking and metrics. It’s not so much the absolute numbers but more the relative numbers that matter. I look at trends, when the numbers start to change period over period, it’s a warning sign to me, a sign that something is up, or something has changed. As we all have limited time, this tells us what to investigate earlier rather than later. If we can “see” something starting to change and we can find out why and quickly, we can hopefully prevent things from getting much worse.
Reason #5 – To measure success of your initiatives
A more positive version of Reason #4 is to measure success. This is so critical as EVERYTHING in marketing costs you – either in time or money or both. To spend resources without knowing its impact on the business is reckless, and in this day and age, rarely tolerated. Now I know that while it’s not always easy to tie marketing activities directly to the business bottom line, you can ALWAYS find ways to get closer to that bottom line, to track the steps that lead you to that bottom line. And not only that, it sure feels good to pull out your stats when you’re challenged!
Reason #6 – To test and optimize your program investments
To me, this is the Holy Grail of measurement and analysis, if you can truly understand who engages with your and why, you are 17 steps closer to changing something to make the engagement even stronger with the people who really matter. Better yet, to be able to try different things and to actually see which ones produce better results means you can get all the benefits of all the reasons in this blog post + a better bottom line for your business. I only wish I had more time and better tools – I’d invest even more in this oh so important activity.
What about you? What’s your reason for tracking your results – and WHAT metrics do you track? Please share.