5 Vanity Metrics Your Marketing Team Should Be Wary Of

For decades vanity metrics have been the guiding light for measuring marketing success – largely because the capabilities didn’t exist to measure closed-loop KPIs. But these vanity metrics are problematic, as they don’t demonstrate a real impact on pipeline lift or customer engagement. As a result, marketing has become thought of as a cost-center with very little measurable output. But that perspective is changing as revenue leaders expect to see more impact from marketing, leaving these marketing leaders struggling to move beyond vanity metrics.

What’s the problem with vanity metrics? 

While these metrics can be a valid part of a strong demand marketing strategy, they don’t tell the whole story. The issue arises when they’re measured in a vacuum, on their own, and aren’t connected to revenue-driven outcomes like marketing influenced opportunities and marketing sourced opportunities. When connected to those outcomes, these metrics can become meaningful, but standing alone, they become dangerous.

At their core, traditional marketing vanity metrics reinforce the idea of quantity over quality. They focus on how many people you can reach and assume that, because you’ve reached so many people, some will convert to opportunities. These metrics disregard whether or not you’re reaching the right people at the right time in their buying process and they give you no actionable data to inform strategy adjustments. 

Continuing to measure your success this way keeps you trapped in a cycle of random acts of marketing. When a vanity metric number is too low, the reaction is to execute another marketing campaign. And because you aren’t measuring the specific impact of engagement channels and content, you can’t be sure that the marketing campaign you’re going to execute will be successful or not. While they may increase website visitors, pageviews, or subscribers, this cycle of marketing campaigns actually does more harm than good, damaging your customer journey as you become an annoying interruption instead of a helpful, trusted guide down the purchase path.

Moving away from vanity metrics is one of the most important steps in making the critical shift to a strategic demand marketing state, and it should be a top priority for all marketing leaders. Here are five vanity metrics your marketing team needs to be wary of. 

Clicks and Opens

The proliferation of marketing automation tools has given rise to the importance of measuring email clicks and opens. While these tools are powerful, they’re almost always underutilized, blasting outbound emails in a series of campaigns as opposed to orchestrating engagement via a digital customer journey. 

The problem with clicks and opens is that – at their core – both metrics are flawed. There is massive room for error in these metrics. Take into consideration spam filters, bot clicks, and even something as simple as someone accidentally opening an email, and suddenly those “leading indicators” become inflated and unreliable. 

Instead of measuring clicks and opens, start thinking of email as one part of a healthy engagement channel mix. A Conversation Track Architecture informed by extensive buyer research will help you build an email program that moves beyond blasts and instead offers personalized content at key stages in the buyer’s journey. You should then be able to track the elasticity (conversion rate of leads that interact with this channel) velocity (how quickly those who interact with this channel move through the funnel) and the number of overall contributions email has made to your pipeline, segmented by lead qualification stage. 

Start this process by reading: Is Your Martech Stack Orchestrating Engagement, Or Just Blasting Outbound Emails?

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness can be an important indicator for prominent B2C companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but it doesn’t translate well into the B2B marketing world.

The biggest problem with brand awareness is that it assumes just because someone is talking about your brand that they’re likely to buy from it. Correlation is not causation. So, while you may see that your number of mentions or reach is going up, if you have no way to track the impact of those activities, who knows if it was money well spent or not? In other words: who cares who knows about your brand if no one is buying from you? 

Instead of worrying about how many people are talking about your brand, get familiar with who’s actually buying from you and fine-tune your demand marketing program so that you can orchestrate their customer journey and provide valuable content that leads to conversion. Start by asking these eight deeper questions to understand your buyer.

Subscribers and Followers

The number of subscribers or followers you have is a problematic metric to base success on largely for the same reason as clicks and opens. This metric prioritizes quantity over quality. While it’s great to know that your thought leadership has an expansive reach, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that any of these people are going to buy from you. 

Instead of focusing on increasing the number of subscribers or followers you have, understand your buyer’s content consumption preferences and meet them where they are with quality content. You can then implement multi-interaction tracking programs to measure conversion rates on individual pieces of content and individual engagement channels, allowing you to tweak your strategic demand marketing program in real time. When you know you’re reaching the right audience with the right content, you can stop worrying about quantity and start reaping the benefits of a higher quality audience. 

Pageviews

Pageviews are an important metric to keep an eye on as they provide a view into the buyer’s journey – but they shouldn’t be a key performance indicator for overall marketing success. 

It’s great that you’re getting more people to your website, but it’s more useful to know what happens once they land on the page. Are these people bouncing or are they engaging with the content you’ve provided? Measuring conversion rates (defining a conversion as: a person has given you valuable information, usually via a form) on each individual page will not only help you understand which content pieces are performing, but it will help you create a better orchestrated web experience. 

This is an especially important metric to watch out for when assessing the performance of paid channels. While you may have paid to direct traffic to a particular page, if no one is converting you’re losing money. If that’s happening to you, you’re probably directing traffic to a piece of content that’s either wrong for that persona, or wrong for that stage in the buying process. Make sure you read Four Steps to Take Before Launching New Content to assess if your content strategy is on the right track.

Likes and Shares

Likes and shares are a metric that can incite a lot of excitement in a tactically-driven marketing team. Seeing dozens, hundreds, or thousands of likes and shares hits on our brain’s reward-center and releases that intoxicating rush of dopamine. But dopamine doesn’t drive sales. 

Likes and shares are good indicators to keep an eye on because they can help you see what pieces of content are resonating with your audience. But liking a post is not the same as offering your personal information in order to read its contents. 

This is where content performance becomes a much more important measure of success. Understanding which content pieces are more likely to generate Engaged or Qualified Leads helps you prioritize what to share, promote, and continue writing. We offer a more complete guide on how to measure content performance here.

And if, after reading this, you’re not sure what else matters when sharing on social media read How B2B Companies Can Help Marketing Teams Hit Growth Goals.

The five vanity metrics listed above all have one thing in common: they all lack the end-to-end visibility necessary to know which marketing efforts are impacting the bottom line. While each above metric will give you some idea of the number of people you’re reaching, none of them tell you about the quality of those people. As marketing continues to become focused on generating quality leads that convert into closed-won opportunities, there’s no time to waste when it comes to measuring the right KPIs. 

For further reading I strongly suggest:

Revenue vs. Vanity: The Metrics That Matter for Driving Growth

Demand Marketing KPIs and Metrics You Should Monitor

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