marketing metrics

You’re as data-driven as the next marketer, right? You wouldn’t miss an opportunity to tweak the funnel, to optimize a process, or push a bold multi-variant test. You bring data, not opinions, to the table. And you carry within you the righteous conviction that the best digital marketers always know their numbers.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes good marketing metrics make marketers do bad things.

I’ve long maintained that digital marketing blends the compassion of artistic creativity with the precision of the scientific method. Art and science are reconciled in digital marketers. At times, our work is a fusion that brings the best out of us. At other times, however, we fail to maintain this balance and veer too much to one side.

I’ve seen the results of this up close, and it’s not pretty. Being data-driven is only effective if it allows you to make the right decision in your marketing efforts.

Know this: The right decision is always about improving relationships with your customers.

I was reminded of this in a big way when we launched a Facebook Ads campaign and started optimizing our landing pages. In the quest for cost-effective leads, I sought to build the world’s highest-converting landing pages. Along the way, I forgot the customer and her perspective.

Hopefully you can learn from my experience. Here’s my story.

Following the data trail

In May of 2016 we were running a discretionary program to prove out the viability of Facebook as an avenue of growth. We spent $10K and generated leads well within our targets. We were all high-fives and celebrating with sushi (a customary celebration verging on superstition).

So, naturally, in August of 2016 we made a bold pitch to the business: give us a $100K budget for Facebook Ads, and we’ll generate leads at a cost-effective rate. The business accepted. Gulp. We had a big challenge ahead of us.

Despite the pregame jitters, we rattled off some quick wins. Actually, things were going extraordinarily well.

Emboldened by our success, we started doing what all digital marketers are born to do: optimizing the heck out of things. With our ad creative performing admirably, we turned our attention to our landing pages.

In fact, our top performing landing page from this campaign was featured in Unbounce’s Q4 2016 roundup of top landing pages. Not too shabby.

However, like Icarus, our folly was hubris.

We tweaked and tested dozens of conversion elements on the page—from our testimonials and video assets to our product overviews and pricing charts. Throughout the process, we continually chose whatever variant gave us the best conversion rate.

Blinded by the marketing metrics

We went from 12% on-page conversion rate to 14% by removing the product overview section. Sweet.

What about if we removed the pricing charts? Wow! We went from 14% to 16%. These numbers were getting impressive.

Soon, though, we’d stripped this page down to the barebones: a screenshot and a form. It was a lead capture page in the worst sense of the phrase.

The page had a conversion rate north of 20%. That number looked good, but it didn’t feel good.

And our customers abhorred it.

The beauty of Facebook Ads is that it’s a social experience. When you purchase ads on Facebook, you’re putting yourself out there. Your audience can comment, share, and react to your advertisements.

And when they saw the landing page we were serving up, comment and react they did. We had a steady stream of angry emojis and choice words in the comment sections of our ads. A small sampling:

marketing metrics

Fear of missing out caused us to miss out

We knew we made a mistake. We could see the breadcrumb trail that led us to this point. Our quest to “leave no lead behind” did us more harm than good, no matter what the marketing metrics told us.

We had stopped using Facebook Ads to cultivate relationships; we were actually generating animosity towards our brand. We had ditched compassion in return for a few more leads, who ended up entering our funnel like a swarm of angry wasps.

Thankfully, we got stung early and often as our customers let us know how displeased they were with us. I’m grateful for this. When one customer offers feedback, you know 10 more are thinking it. When all of them offer it, you change your practices in a hurry.

How did we fix this mistake?

For starters, we beefed up our landing pages with necessary content: videos, options to view pricing, and product examples. Instead of optimizing things off the page, we started to focus on how to make our landing page experiences as pleasant as possible.

Sure, our landing page conversion rates went down. But it was well worth it in the end.

Remarkably, after we changed our landing pages, our audience started to actively share our advertisements with their network. Through compassionate design we were able to build enough trust with our audience that they were willing to share our message. How cool is that?

Blending creativity and data is the secret sauce of the best digital marketers. Things can quickly turn bitter when we stop seeing our audience as they see themselves, and instead see them as a collection of numbers and metrics.