As marketers, we live and die by the numbers. Volume of traffic, bounce rates, conversion rates, average order value, downloads, sales, lifetime value… whatever it is that you’re “selling”, there will be numbers that can be used to measure and benchmark your success.
Use the right numbers, and they can be empowering. Focus on the wrong numbers, and they can be distracting, or even worse, debilitating.
A recent study by TrackMaven illustrates just how few marketers are looking at the numbers that really matter to their businesses, with just 51% using leads and sales metrics as their key performance indicator.
This statistic doesn’t particularly surprise me. First of all, it’s much easier to track engagement and consumption metrics, as well as audience growth. These will often be the starting point for marketers before they challenge themselves to think beyond these metrics and look at what your activity means for the business.
In this article, I want to tell you a true story about a mistake we made at our company that taught us to remember to focus on the numbers that really matter.
‘Once You Pop, You Can Stop’
Overlays, pop-ups, modals, interstitials … call them what you want. When used well, they can be an incredibly effective marketing tactic and can actually add to the user experience. Use them badly, and they can be incredibly annoying and damaging to your brand.
We don’t advertise third parties, but we have been known to use overlays to push our own content. And this is where my lesson comes from.
For a while, we used a large overlay on our home screen pushing our latest eBook. This was shown as soon as the user came to the page. Initially, we were really pleased with the results, as this ad drove many new downloads.
It was only when we reviewed our wider KPIs that we realised the mistake we’d made. The key goal of the website—demo requests—was down.
A demo request is worth about £1,000, so any drop in the number we get through is always taken seriously. We quickly looked for potential problems. Were forms broken? A problem with PPC ads? SEO issues?
The answer was much simpler. Our bounce rates had gone through the roof.
Put simply, people were getting to our homepage, seeing the overlay offering an eBook, and then either bouncing straight off the page, or closing the overlay and then converting at a lower rate. We’d made a bad first impression.
We quickly removed the overlay that hit visitors as soon as they landed on the page and, instead, used a more subtle bottom-bar design that only appeared once people had been on the site for at least two minutes.
After removing the overlay and switching to more subtle promotion, we still had downloads of our eBook—not quite as many as before, but comparable—but, more importantly, our demo requests number was back at its normal level, as was our bounce rate.
We wanted our eBook to be a success and were willing to try anything to get more downloads, but we’d lost sight of what was more important—the bottom line.
There is value in acquiring new email addresses from downloads, and we can track them through to demo requests eventually, but it’s not our key performance indicator.
My CFO is not going to be impressed by a record-breaking number of eBook downloads if I present him with £100,000 fall in booked revenue that quarter.
It’s useful to refer to a variety of metrics when assessing the effectiveness of your marketing, as they can provide a broader picture of customer behaviour. However, as my own experience shows, it’s important to retain focus on the key metrics which drive revenue and business growth.