As your business grows and your marketing campaigns reach new heights, the sheer volume of data available at your fingertips can become overwhelming. Not only are you trying to juggle multiple inbound campaigns to measure results, but you also have to set and achieve goals while managing your sales team and measuring their performance.

Even if you’re not directly responsible for writing the reports, you might still be dealing with the same overload of data. From a marketing perspective alone, the amount of data you have to comb through just for social and blogging efforts is fairly extensive:

  • Demographic shifts
  • Post reaction trends
  • Audience reach
  • Customer and follower engagement
  • Impressions
  • Cost per action
  • Page views vs. unique views
  • Time on page
  • Goal completions
  • Link click tracking
  • UTM codes
  • Social shares

Overload happens when you approach the data from the front end. It can feel like entering the cockpit of a NASA space shuttle.

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It’s overwhelming. Without specific goals to keep you focused on one task at a time, you’re not only faced with a mountain of data, but you’re also presented with a time management dilemma: which rabbit hole should you go down first? Data and analytics are so heavily layered that you might find yourself trying to track and deal with unmanageable metrics that drag your attention away from things that are actually within your control right now.

Metrics separate the art and science of marketing, but they’re only useful if you prioritize efficiency over breadth of analysis and track the right things.

Defining Unmanageable Metrics

One of the most common issues I see with less-experienced marketers is they believe every piece of data has a purpose, or else it wouldn’t be tracked and displayed within your insights and analytics tools.

This is true to a point, as long as you understand that the value of data can vary. If you assume that all data was created equal, then you’ll be trying to control elements and metrics that you simply have no control over.

An unmanageable metric is one in which you cannot directly affect the results. A few examples of unmanageable metrics include:

  • New customer acquisition
  • Customer churn and retention
  • Market share
  • Profitability
  • Website traffic

Unmanageable metrics generally involve business results that can’t be directly managed. I can try to influence these metrics through a series of actions and activity, but I can’t directly and immediately change my profitability or market share.

With that said, these types of metrics should still be monitored. There’s value in reporting the data, but rather than trying to micromanage the results, you should use them as a means for measuring the success of your campaigns.

Don’t let data overload hinder your marketing and sales efforts. To avoid getting stuck on unmanageable metrics beyond your immediate control, start with your end goals and work your way backwards from there.

This is the most effective approach to building campaigns, as opposed to spotting a metric that seems “off” and launching new campaigns to try and lift those random numbers.

1. Define the Final Goal

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In order to thoroughly understand which data is most relevant to your business, you need something to apply the data to. What goals do you ultimately want to achieve? This is where you define what kind of results you want to see from your campaigns, or what actions you ultimately want your audience to take.

You’ll likely set multiple goals, and defining those goals now is necessary to lay the groundwork and determine what types of campaigns are best-suited for your goals.

For example, some goals might include:

  • Getting customers to buy a specific product
  • Increasing subscriptions to your newsletter
  • Developing more engagement on a blog (more comments)
  • Increasing the social shares of your content

Goals like these should be your primary focus because they’re easily quantifiable with key performance indicators. Your specific target can be “Sell X blue widgets online” or “Achieve 1,000 new opt-ins.” When your final goals are clearly defined and calculable, you can start building that roadmap to work backwards.

2. Examine Your Funnel and the Customer’s Journey

Now that you’ve defined your end goal, use your current data to define the journey your customer takes to reach that goal. If you’re aiming to sell a certain number of products, then look at your current sales and customer data.

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Where did the conversions come from for a specific product in the past? What kind of path did they take to reach a conversion? A breakdown of your data might look something like this:

  • 20% of sales from Facebook ads
  • 60% of sales from three specific blog posts
  • 5% of sales from direct URL entry
  • 6% of sales from organic social
  • 4% of sales from email marketing
  • 2% of sales from forum/community group posts
  • 3% of sales from organic search

The conversion metrics provide clear insight into the most effective tactics that are producing results. You can also see opportunities for improvement. If the goal is to sell X more of that product, you could focus on one or more areas like split testing Facebook ads to improve conversion, setting up targeted email campaigns (including cart abandonment outreach), and even doubling down on content marketing, depending on how effective it is according to the data.

Consider the poorly performing areas as well. In the above example, 2% from community forums is a low figure, but it’s not something you can really influence unless it’s your own activity in the community that brought in those sales.

If I saw 3% from general organic search, I would note it as something to target for long-term optimization campaigns, but I wouldn’t necessarily jump on it right away. I try to prioritize campaign deployment and strategy refinement around what is easiest to do right now and what will have the most significant impact and financial returns first.

Sometimes it’s best to temporarily ignore lower-performing sources and focus on what you can do right now.

3. What Was the First Step Toward Conversion?

After you’ve identified the sources of conversion (and where you’re losing conversions), it’s important to look at your funnel. Examine customers’ behavioral patterns from start to finish to find out just what it was that made them convert. What caught their interest and held them? This is going to vary from channel to channel.

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From the above example, you might discover that the 4% of sales from email marketing were influenced first by the subject, then the body of the email, then the calls-to-action at the end.

It’s much simpler for social ads; the value proposition and call-to-action were the first steps to conversion.

Since blog content was the highest source of conversions, it’s important to determine what was valuable about the specific post and the call-to-action that drove sales for one or more of your products?

You need to examine each conversion channel to find correlations and understand what elements of your strategy propelled the customer to buy from you. What was the first step that turned them onto the product?

This will help you understand why your audience chose to engage, and what type of content has been most effective for raking in sales.

4. Critical Metrics to Monitor and Manage

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By this point, you’ve worked your way back to the beginning to understand the journey your customer took to reach your goal, whatever that goal may be. From now on, this process should help you clearly define the metrics that are most important for you to monitor during a campaign.

Using my example above, if I choose to focus on refining my social ads, expanding my blogging efforts, and laser-sharpening my email marketing outreach, then the following metrics would be the most important considerations for defining my campaign goals and monitoring success:

  • Measure reactions, comments, and click throughs on social ads (and continue monitoring during split tests, including customer acquisition costs)
  • Traffic to posts versus engagement or time on page (determines which blog topics are most interesting to customers)
  • Social shares of blog content (indicates customer sentiment on the value of the content)
  • Email open rates compared to click through rates (measures the impact of subject and content to conversion, and analyzes how well it aligns with customer intent)

I may not have direct control over metrics like profitability, new customer acquisition, or customer retention. In the example I’ve used here, if my refined campaigns resulted in an extended customer life cycle through email nurturing, and if improved advertisements on social brought in more conversions, then I could at least influence these otherwise unmanageable metrics.

Conclusion

Working backwards makes it easier to focus on the metrics that specifically relate to your campaigns. The unmanageable metrics should be left as markers at the end to measure your overall success, rather than incorporating them into your strategy in an attempt to control an uncontrollable outcome. It’s a way to put on blinders so your focus remains only on what is manageable and providing actionable insights in the moment.

This is the most effective method for overcoming analysis paralysis with your own analytics, and it can help you narrow your attention to the metrics that directly impact your bottom line. Otherwise, you risk veering off the path every time you browse through your analytics and find a metric that looks “off.”

Do you use this method to establish relevant metrics for tracking performance? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below:

Image Sources: NASA, Kissmetrics, HubSpot, Pixabay, Flickr