When LinkedIn’s user base was still in the single digit millions, the company had just one metric in focus: profile views. And when Twitter was looking to grow its user base to 100 million monthly active users, it similarly had a narrow measurement: the number of users who used Twitter at least seven times in a month.

These are super-specific metrics, and, according to Josh Elman, who helped grow LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to what they are today, the metrics answer the same question: How many people are really using a product?

One Metric That Matters

It’s an approach that works for every marketer out there. It’s called the One Metric That Matters, and there’s a simple reason to bring it to your marketing team: it forces you to be honest with yourself about what you need to improve performance.

If the metric you choose to focus on is, say, number of new qualified leads, then you’ll need to evaluate whether a new branding campaign is worth the expense, or whether you should reallocate that money to improve your conversion rates.

One Answer That Matters

You can do that by asking one question: “Will this help us meet our goal?”

If the answer is no, table the idea. It might be worth using at some point, but it’s not material to the goal you’re trying to achieve now. So, scrap it.

If the answer is yes, get to work. When you do, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing four things:

  1. Set up measurements
  2. Implement plan
  3. Review plan’s impact on chosen metric
  4. Optimize plan

Though the One Metric That Matters approach is sometimes criticized as being short-sighted, its advantage lies in the fact that your marketing efforts will no longer be the equivalent of chasing squirrels, or being distracted by shiny objects.

The challenge to this approach, though, is actually finding the metric that matters to your business.

4 Objectives You Must Meet

According to Qualaroo CEO Sean Ellis, the metric you should choose is dependent on your business and its objectives, and should meet four criteria: it should be easy to understand, relevant to your goal, timely, and instantly useful.

In the end, you’ll be answering the question that matters most to your company. From there, you’ll have the freedom to try as many things as possible to move the number that will propel your business in the right direction. And that’s far better than chasing a squirrel.