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There’s a disconnect between what we say as B2B executives and marketing leaders and how we lead and act on the metrics we ask for and celebrate. We love to use inspirational quotes, like the ones above, as we talk about topics like agile, digital marketing or being customer-led. Yet, do those words of wisdom connect to actions? Are we asking how we can be doing better? Are we looking at our content and being honest about what’s not working and then seeking to understand why before we abandon it altogether? Do we spend more time touting media impressions than digging into where our digital journeys are broken or could be improved?

Our teams are talking and they’re watching. They are talking about how they’re often asked to deliver “bright and shiny” activities that produce “vanity metrics” that are the infamous hockey sticks (up and to the right) or that can be manipulated. Everyone knows that the sexy and the sizzle feed into overall awareness and positivity, but they also want to really dig into what’s not working and learn if the campaigns and activities are connecting with the right audiences—without fear. In fact, a recent TrackMaven study shows that nearly 51% of marketers are still focused on metrics that aren’t tied to leads or Sales.

And, agencies? Agencies are notorious for touting reach, eyeballs and inflated social metrics without offering up or asking for permission to dig deeper.

This odd dynamic exists for a variety of reasons: quarterly earnings and sales cycles, old-school agency thinking, the inability of many organizations and agencies to think about marketing investment like a portfolio with near-term and long-term investments, and the reality that we didn’t always have the tools we have today. Mostly, I think it’s that executives are fearful of what the “not so good” might unleash.

It’s time. It’s time to follow through on what we say we believe and embrace metrics that suck—or that just don’t seem quite right. Here are three actions to take today to change the way we look at metrics.

  1. Change the narrative.

Increase the frequency that your team looks at metrics and engagement scores. Don’t wait for quarterly reviews. Refuse to have any report or discussion that hides metrics that aren’t performing well or that shows they aren’t reaching the right audiences. Boldly start reporting up the good (and not so good) as it’s important to coach leadership to become accustomed to you being a marketing leader that shows data-driven insights that are real and authentic. Change the narrative and the way you, your team and your agency speak about ROI and metrics so people start to get excited about how you can always improve and use your money more efficiently.

  1. Look for, and demand, to understand cause and effect.

Deploy the “power of 3” and ask “Why?” three times as your team looks to understand why you aren’t getting the right Business Decision Maker (BDM) to engage with your content. It could be as simple as your UX being wrong. Executives can ask more of their teams and agencies by not just requesting vague “performance” analysis but asking for their organizations to link how the content and campaigns being developed help solve for “x” business problem. Or, maybe your media is too focused on a persona versus those who are actively searching for you.

Ask for/demand recommendations on how to measure better or how to continuously improve. Every metric or indicator that seems off should be followed by an active discussion and/or reasoned thought about how to improve. Constantly monitor and test. What is great about being in marketing today is that we can test and measure and tinker. Expectations should be clear internally and with clients that all content—unless explicitly stated otherwise—is created to be constantly improved based upon analytics. It’s a great time to be a marketer because we can merge creative, technology and optimization. We should not fear giving up control to listen and improve the way we connect with our customers and target audiences.

  1. Know when to fold ’em.

Be honest with your team, agency and leadership when something really isn’t working. Your IT Decision Making (ITDM) audience may not want to hear about you and your offering. They may not be ready to give you their name. Make the call when it’s “just time.” Too many marketing efforts continue well past their natural shelf life. Be like CSI: [insert city] and always forensically look at what can be learned from a failed or “end-of-life” campaign and activity. Chances are you learned something rich about your target audiences. Maybe you learned that events are good for Sales but hard to measure ROI. Or, that there’s a big disconnect between what Marketing is generating and how Sales is moving forward with them (great time to look at sales enablement!).

The world is moving fast and is saturated with analytics, insights and tools. It’s time to think about the culture change that must mature along with it. Vanity metrics are nice, but they are becoming too expensive and removed from the real results of loyalty and revenue.