What’s Your Marketing Success Metric?

Are you working to achieve wins for the business, or for your team? Columnist Benny Blum notes that these two things are not always aligned.

What is your key performance indicator for success?

Presumably, success is some combination of revenue, conversion rate, traffic, engagement, and/or leads. There’s probably a logical relationship between what you do and your success metric, but does your success mean your colleagues’ failure? Is your success aligned with the overall business’ success?

For a company to succeed, all departments need to be working together: marketing generates leads and awareness, sales generates booked revenue, while operations delivers the service or product. This symbiotic relationship works because each team is dependent on the others to keep the flywheel spinning.

But does the same symbiotic relationship exist within the marketing team?

Within a marketing team that is operating at scale, you will have brand, direct response / performance, site content, and partner channel marketers. The standard metrics for success for each of these teams are:

  • Brand: Increase visits and awareness. Most clearly measured via direct, organic and paid brand search traffic.
  • Direct Response / Performance: Increase sales at a set ROI. Most clearly measured via quality of visitors through paid and organic traffic acquisition, email, etc.
  • Content: Improve engagement and conversion rate. Most clearly measured by site conversion rate and average time on site.
  • Channel: Drive sales via partner retail channels. Most clearly measured via total sales less direct sales.

On the surface, all of these success metrics makes sense. Brand awareness leads to more direct and brand related referral traffic. Well-executed performance campaigns lead to efficient sales. Good content leads to more on-site engagement and drives conversions. And good channel partnerships lead to efficient and reliable scalability.

But we don’t live in a vacuum, and one marketing channel influences the other. Consider the following example where the brand team makes a major push to drive awareness, resulting in a massive increase in site traffic.

visits v cvr

The red line showcases a huge spike in visits throughout the promotional period. Consequently, conversion rate drops, as not all visitors are as qualified as the baseline.

From a performance perspective, more traffic leads to increased sales, despite a lower conversion rate:

visits v trans

So was the campaign a success or a failure? At face value, the brand marketing team might be lauded as driving a successful campaign while the site content team is chided due to a drop in conversion rate. While the brand team should be congratulated for driving more visits and sales, why is the content team held accountable for the conversion rate?

In reality, the time series analysis is like comparing apples and oranges. The true measure of campaign success should be investment relative to attributed revenue. If the associated sales drove more net revenue than the cost of the promotion, then it’s a win.

Switching from the macro view to a micro, marketing-only view, we’d expect incentives and intra-team alignment to match up with the company’s best interests. Unfortunately, as showcased in this example, that’s not always the case. When individual success metrics are overly simplified, the roles of marketing team members aren’t as symbiotic as they should be.

As you begin the New Year and work with your manager to set goals for success, take a moment to reflect on what you can control versus what you are accountable for. If your success metrics are outside of your control then start the conversation before your colleagues success leads to your failure.





Benny Blum

Benny Blum is the Vice President of Performance Marketing & Analytics at sellpoints, the leading online sales orchestration platform, and is based in Emeryville, CA.

Image: RawPixel.com