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Making Sense of Inbound Marketing KPIs: Key Metrics to Watch

Steve Surdez

Let’s face it. If you’re just getting started with your Inbound Marketing program, or you’ve just migrated to an Inbound Marketing platform like HubSpot, you’re beginning to realize an inherent challenge of this approach.

What’s this challenge? Well, with a more sophisticated marketing approach and a platform that tracks EVERYTHING, it can be hard to determine what metrics actually matter.

Welcome to "What Even Matters Anymore: Marketing Metrics Edition" gif via GIPHY

This is akin to trying to find out the real truth behind a news story these days. With so many media outlets putting their spin on things, and so many options for media consumers, getting to a modicum of the truth can be time consuming and difficult.

So, how can your business sift through the metrics clutter to find what’s most useful to guiding and improving your company’s marketing and sales performance? Let’s take a big picture look at key metrics for Inbound Marketing results tracking for those just getting their Inbound Marketing sea legs.

Results Tracking Should Match Your Experience Level

Companies that have been operating in the Inbound Marketing space for years should have a more sophisticated, deeper metrics tracking system, with KPIs (key performance indicators) that track multiple layers of performance and audience behaviors (we’ll discuss some of these Inbound Marketing KPIs in another more expansive blog post on the topic).


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For now, as a company relatively new to Inbound, you’ve got to take it slow. If you try to track everything and analyze every bit of data available, analysis paralysis will become your marketing program’s albatross.

Inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on one target area at a time to understand how it factors into the bigger picture.

Inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on one target area at a time to understand how it factors into the bigger picture.

So, keep it simple: identify what’s essential to track and analyze and stick to it until you’re ready to do a deeper dive.

As the former CMO of Freshbooks and Expedia Stuart McDonald has stated, “Tracking marketing is a cultural thing. Either tracking matters or it doesn’t. You’re in one camp or the other. Either you’re analytical and data-driven, or you go by what you think works. People who go by gut are wrong.” (Source)

Here’s a breakdown of key Inbound Marketing KPIs to start with by category.

Website

Your website is "home base" when it comes to your inbound marketing effort.

Your website is "home base" when it comes to your inbound marketing effort.

For almost every business, their website (and associated landing pages) is the hub for Inbound activities, lead generation and conversion. Social media, email campaigns, events, YouTube Videos and most other content drive a potential lead to the website and associated landing pages. For beginners, here’s what to take a look at to see what’s working and where to start digging for more engagement and attention.

  • Traffic. No matter how you do it - with HubSpot, Google Analytics, Moz or one of many other analytic tools - keep a close eye on the number of visits your website receives. This sounds SO obvious; however, when you and your team are in the trenches, keeping your collective finger on the pulse of visitor ebbs and flows can be difficult. Put a system in place to pull reports on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis so you can adjust to market conditions quickly and capitalize on high traffic periods to increase lead generation and sales.
  • Sources. Now that you have a systematic approach to keeping tabs on web traffic, you need to do the same for where this traffic is coming from and what patterns are emerging.
    • Is more of your traffic from organic search or direct traffic? Was there a bump in inbound links to your site? If so, why and from where did they emanate?
    • Did you organic traffic take a nosedive over a few months? Why is that?
  • Page Views. What pages are getting the most traffic? How much time are visitors spending on these high traffic pages? How deep are individuals getting into your site map? Knowing which pages are being viewed the most provides a window into customer needs and behaviors and is also an opportunity to better target your marketing efforts and calls-to-action. If these high view pages don’t ask the visitor to act via a compelling CTA, that high traffic, in many cases, is a missed opportunity.
  • Visitors to Leads Conversion. Again, high traffic numbers are great for a time, particularly for building brand awareness and getting a lot of eyes on your content. At some point, however, you need to convert visitors into leads and customers. Examine your visitor to lead conversion rates, as well as your lead to customer ratios to uncover what’s effective and what’s not. This will be very important for understanding what offers are impactful at what stage in the buyer’s journey. In all cases, examining and analyzing conversion data can help you improve your website’s performance.

Knowing you had 3,000 visits in November is important, but without the context of where these visits are coming from, that data isn’t something you can act upon.

Leads

Every good marketing person or department wants to generate quality leads that convert into sales. The number of leads generated in a given month is important to know but if they’re not converting then there’s an issue that needs to be explored. Tracking the number of leads and knowing what’s happening to them as they move along the sales funnel is imperative to improving performance.

Remember: the golden rule when it comes to inbound marketing leads is quality over quantity

Remember: The golden rule for leads is quality over quantity.

A non-metric factor to be aware is marketing and sales alignment. If these individuals or departments are not speaking the same language regarding MQLs (marketing qualified leads), SQLs (sales qualified leads), or, worse, the definition of a “lead” is totally unclear, it will be nearly impossible to trust the data you have.

Another key metric to examine is cost-per-lead. This is a bit more of a traditional marketing term, often used when determining the effectiveness of an event, print ad or direct mail campaign. That said, knowing how much it cost to attract a potential lead, convert them into a lead and close them is very, very important. The more cost effective your lead generation and conversion, the greater the return-on-investment for your marketing program.

Social

Like leads, it’s quality over quantity when it comes to social media. gif via GIPHY

You and your team can post 10 times a day across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever. But it’s not how often you post that matters, though if you have the capacity to post a lot that’s a great start. Here’s what metrics to pay the most attention to, particularly when you’re just starting out:

  • Reach. Reach and audience size matters but it matters more within the context of other metrics like engagement and traffic generation. Put simply, generating followers on Twitter or Follows on Facebook, as two examples, is an indication of your brand’s social media reach. As your reach increases, you certainly know inbound efforts are working to some degree. But this is only the first step.
  • Engagement. Obviously, engagement and reach are interrelated in that reach creates the potential for engagement and engagement can increase your reach and audience. This is another crucial inbound metric to watch. So, your company’s social media audience is growing, but what are they doing to interact with your brand or advocate for your brand? You want to pay close attention to how your social media audience is commenting and sharing your posts. If they’re not active and engaged, they’re not spreading the word and your reach will stagnate or even decrease over time.
  • Social Traffic. Reach and engagement are great, but so is driving social media audiences to landing pages and web pages with content offers. Keep an eye on click-throughs and conversions generated by social posts. You want potential customers' attention, you want to engage them and provide them a reason to convert. All three of these areas are key metrics for your social media programming.

It’s important to remember the tremendous value of third party brand advocacy that social media can provide. As marketing leader Julie Supan has said, “There’s more objectivity in one customer sharing their passion and love for a product with another than there is in ads or promotion. It allows the company to spend less to achieve lasting growth.” (Source)

There are a host of other Inbound Marketing KPIs to track but start here. Once you’ve mastered the tracking and analysis process for these metrics, you can dive deeper and mine more complex data from your reports.

Until then, keep your inbound marketing metrics tracking simple. You’ll know when you're ready for a deeper dive.


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