You are currently viewing More sales, fewer likes – let’s stop boasting about vanity metrics as digital marketers.

More sales, fewer likes – let’s stop boasting about vanity metrics as digital marketers.

Throughout my career as a marketing professional, I have always been faced with the challenge of proving my worth to the company executives. Purely because in some companies if not most, marketing is seen as just a cost centre and its efforts are hardly seen to contribute to revenue.

At some point, one executive once said: “All that these marketing guys do is the pretty and fluffy stuff” and come to think of it, he might have been right and we as marketers are to blame for that.

I am confident that, I am not the only one who has experienced similar challenges – research has shown that marketing teams across the world feel the pressure to show that they are contributing to the bottom line of their company and that their work can be measured in terms of revenue and profitability rather than just costs.

To be honest, we can’t keep reporting on likes, followers, page views, impressions, shares, comments, views, open rate, time on site etc and expect to be taken serious – COME ON.

The problem is that some of us are not even aware that they are reporting on vanity metrics instead of actionable metrics. The problem with vanity metrics is that they are easily manipulated, they don’t bear a direct correlation with numbers that speak to business success and they don’t really tell us about our company’s growth, health and success.

To better understand how useless vanity metrics can be, here is a perfect analogy by Jennifer Brett that illustrates why vanity metrics don’t mean anything to the executive:

“Imagine you’re the manager of a Premier League football team reporting to your impatient Chairman about how his expensively acquired players are performing on the pitch. If you go into your meeting and proudly describe how much possession your team has had, how many touches in the opponents’ half of the pitch, how many passes you’ve completed – but nothing else – then you won’t be long for your role. These metrics might be interesting to a manager and useful in terms of working out how to organise your team. However, they have no meaning at all unless they are put in the context of how many goals you and the opposition scored. That’s the result that matters – and those other metrics start to look very different depending on what that result is”.

Vanity metrics entice us away from the measurements that really matter; the deeper you think about it, it doesn’t actually matter how many people visit your website because you don’t make money off visitors,  likes, followers, users – you make money off customers.

Some might disagree with me on the point mentioned above – by noting that customers must first visit a website, follow a company or like a Facebook page before they become an actual “customers” which is true. However, the point I am trying to make is that; as marketers, we need to change our mindset and start reporting on metrics that matter to the executives.

Those followers, visitors and likes might somehow contribute to sales. Well, my issue with that is the “might” part because you can’t report to your CEO and tell him that out of 10 000 followers on your company Twitter account only a certain number of them “might” become customers – the CEO wants to know how many are customers not how many came to the company website – that should be left for you as a marketer to make you feel awesome but it’s bad for action.

Therefore, for each vanity metric, there’s a corresponding actionable metric that really tells you something important about what’s happening in your company. Here’s how some of the more common ones stack up:

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Source: Crazy Egg

To succeed in the digital age, as marketers we need a change of mindset and adopt a deeper metrics mindset which works harder to generate numbers that have a more meaningful relationship to business success. Actionable metrics are the ones capable of attributing actual revenue to marketing rather than indicating engagement that might lead to new business.

Actionable metrics need to be at the top of our priority list of KPIs; even though they take more effort but they’re worth it and will help prove our worth.

In my next article, I will unpack the actionable metrics in more detail, and we can have a discussion about them, share knowledge and experiences that will help fellow marketers still stuck reporting on metrics that don’t carry any weight.