The marketing landscape is becoming more and more complex. A CMO today has to consider a wide spectrum of options for getting the word out. The more traditional channels like online ads, email and content marketing are constantly evolving and new domains like VR are just around the corner.
Even though the marketing landscape is complex I'd like to make the argument that when it comes to measuring marketing performance it's actually quite straight forward. In this post I'm going to teach you how you can use data to easily determine if your marketing team is achieving its' goals.
“Where there is data smoke, there is business fire.” — Thomas Redman
Before we can investigate the performance of the marketing team we need to understand its' primary goal.
The primary goal of a marketing team is to help the company increase sales. It achieves this goal by providing more opportunities for sales to be made. This is either in the form of connecting individuals to sales reps (lead gen marketing), or exposing more individuals directly to the products and services of the business (freemium model).
In both of these cases it comes down to exposing the brand to an ever growing number of individuals. In other words, we can measure the performance of the marketing team by measuring brand awareness.
I can hear your thoughts already, "but Justin, what about conversion rate? Surely brand awareness isn't the only thing that matters." You'd be correct in saying that conversion rate is important but I'd argue that the marketing team have a small role to play when it comes to overall conversion rate from visitor or lead, to customer.
You can A/B test a site to death and write the best content in the world, but if you don't have product-market fit there's little the marketing team can do. I'd argue that the founders, product, R&D and sales have a much bigger impact on conversion than the marketing team. The exception would be the messaging used to communicate about the company and its' positioning in the market, but this should be worked out by the founders before a marketing team is formed.
To simplify things we're going to assume that the company has product-market fit and a decent conversion funnel.
So now that we've defined the primary goal of the marketing team we can write up some KPIs.
The three KPIs I'd focus on include:
If you're like the typical online company you'll be using Google Analytics. Google Analytics or GA for short is a the most popular web analytics tool in the world.
In the screenshot below you can easily see that the traffic to this site has grown since the start of the year.
The Audience Overview Report is the best report in GA to determine if the number of individuals visiting your site has grown in the last X period of time. Make sure you are allowing for enough time to pass since there are seasonal effects and changes to the Google search engine algorithm that can result in higher than normal variance.
Using GA's audience report is a simplistic but effective way of determining if your marketing team are successful in growing traffic to your site.
If you have the option of creating a more advanced content analytics dashboard, I'd recommend a deeper dive into the performance of specific channels, especially organic search and paid channels.
If you notice that your GA traffic is not growing it's a clear indication that the marketing team have failed to scale their online marketing channels. If the traffic has grown and the only channels which have grown are paid channels you also have a problem. It's rare for a company to sustain growth over the long term from paid channels only.
Google Search Console is a site which provides you with detailed information on your site's performance on Google search.
The performance reporting tool is interactive and as you can see in the screenshot below you can filter down to search queries which contain your brand name. This allows you to see if the number of impressions, clicks and position on Google has increased in the last X period.
If the marketing team are doing a great job of increasing brand awareness then the number of individuals searching for the brand on Google will increase. You can use the Google Search Console tool to check if your brand awareness on Google has increased from as far back as 16 months.
The reason this KPI is either lead gen or self-service sales is because different company's have different models. In an organization which has a sales team, the marketing team can only do so much to assist in the sale. In a company with a self-service model (where the user enters a credit card and makes a purchase without interacting with a sales rep) the connection between the sale and the marketing team is much closer.
To measure leads simply group the new leads generated by a date period which makes sense. The standard way is by month. If you generate a graph similar to the one shown below you'll be able to quickly see if the marketing team have managed to increase the number of leads available for sales over the last X period.
A question you might be asking is why isn't measuring traffic enough? The reason you'd want to look at lead gen separately to traffic is because there might be offline sources that drive leads. Since our primary goal is increasing sales, the number of leads generated is a much better at determining if sales will increase because it's closer to the point of conversion in the sales funnel. Traffic is a driver of leads and leads are a driver of sales. The closer our analytics are to the end of the funnel, the more accurate we can be in determining the final outcome.
The best way to determine if marketing are improving their performance when it comes to self-service sales is by running a cohort analysis.
In the screenshot below you'll see an example of such an analysis. We can see that the percentage of users which purchased a subscription has increased from 2% to over 7% in the last 6 months. This indicates to us that the quality of user has increased significantly over this period.
You may be wondering, "but Justin, what if the product has changed a lot during this time and more users are finding value from the service than before?". This is a valid point and I'd agree that it's a joint effort between a few departments which will determine if the conversion rate between free and paid users increases.
The reason I still think this is a good way to measure the performance of the marketing team is because massive overhauls of the product are rare and this view normalizes for user growth. Marketing will be quick to point out that the number of users has grown but in the end we care about sales. Yes, user growth is a driver of sales in a self-service business but often you'll see a spike in users and a drop in the purchase rate. This doesn't help the organization.
*If you plan to create such a view then make sure you set a time constraint between signup and purchase. If you don't do this older cohorts will have an unfair advantage of more time for users to convert. You want to set a time period where 80% of sales occur and then ignore sales which happen outside of this window. This makes each cohort equal. If the time from free to paid is very long then this view won't be very helpful for you since you'll have a long delay in determining your numbers and this will make the view unactionable.
There are a few clear cut ways you can use data to measure the performance of your marketing department. The main KPIs I'd focus on are traffic growth, brand exposure on Google, and lead or sales growth over the last X period of time.
I know this post might ruffle some feathers so if you disagree with me please write a comment below with your thoughts. I'd love to start a discussion and open to having my mind changed.