We know that proving return on investment (ROI) is a tough challenge for content marketers in 2015, and it may be because we need to change our outlook on key performance indicators (KPIs).
There are some tried and true data points that should never be ignored, such as Click-Thru-Rates on advertising, and SEO Ranking.
But we foresee a greater focus being placed on certain KPIs in 2016, while some once-important numbers will be less emphasized.
Follower Count is No Longer an Accurate KPI – Look at Engagement Instead
A major KPI that content and social media marketers have looked at in the past is the number of followers you or your brand may have. This could be the number of followers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, the number of Likes on a Facebook page, or the number of subscribers to a blog or newsletter.
Why shouldn’t we pay as much attention to these numbers anymore? Because not every follow that we get is an indicator for a potential purchase or even a website visit. Of course, creating brand awareness is one of the biggest top-level goals marketers have, and followers equal awareness.
But in 2016, instead of simply focusing on the size of our following, we should be looking at which of those followers is quality, and how many are interacting with us.
To be honest, followers stopped meaning as much when people started buying fake followers. They kind of ruined it for everyone. There’s also a ton of fake or spam accounts on social media, whether you buy them to follow you or not. Check out the lists of your current followers, especially on Twitter and Instagram. Chances are at least some of them are not legitimate people or companies.
The question is not necessarily how many followers do you have, but how many of your followers regularly engage with your content? That is the more interesting (and more important) number.
You may have 1,000 subscribers to your e-mail newsletter, but the real question to ask is how many are actually opening it?
Sure, it’s great to have 1,000 likes on your Facebook page, but that number doesn’t mean much if only a few people are clicking, liking, or commenting on the content you’ve shared. How many likes do you have versus the average engagement for posts you share?
For engagement-over-number-of-followers KPIs, set a goal for a percentage, like 10% engagement (i.e., if you have 100 followers, your goal is to have 10 of them actively engagement with your brand).
Forget the ‘Like’ - Look at More In-Depth Actions
And speaking of engagement, pay less attention to ‘likes’ or ‘favorites.’ Content that you and your company produce should motivate users to action - to navigate to your webpage, to share, retweet, repost, or to comment. A simple ‘like’ or ‘favorite’ is the laziest of the social media engagements, and again, is not an indicator for anything real being accomplished for your brand.
Instead of focusing on how many ‘likes’ or ‘favorites’ you receive on a post, pay attention to the overall engagements. Twitter will tell you how many clicks you receive on a link in a post--Facebook will too. Unfortunately just because someone likes you and your content, that doesn’t necessarily mean they actually read an article or navigated to your website. Pay closer attention to the number of clicks or Retweets, Reposts, and Shares.
Retweets, Reposts and Shares can also help increase your ‘reach’ which is the audience that your audience members have. This can increase the overall number of users who actually see your content, so pay close attention to who is sharing your content. If they are a social media influencer and have a large following, this increases your brand visibility.
Monitoring Growth: Compare Yourself to Yourself
None of your numbers are doing you any good unless they are showing growth (assuming that growth is your goal, of course).
Everything is about perspective, so make sure you are only comparing your data to your own - not to your competitors, not to your business partners, and certainly not to other companies that really have nothing to do with you.
50 e-book downloads doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is if your previous gated content was only downloaded 10 times. 500% growth is nothing to sniff at - set goals for continued growth that are realistic, and set them for all areas of your business.
Growth means increasing customers, or increasing the business you have with existing customers, which in turn equates to greater profits.
Growth can also mean more engagements on social media, more leads, more contacts to follow up with, or more interest from advertising partners or investors. These numbers can be read in a lot of different ways.
The number of customers you have now over the number you had at this time last year is obviously an indicator of growth, but you should also look at the increase in projects, products sold per customer or per order, or any increase in engagement, like we talked about above.
If your company is a service provider, you can look at an increase in contract renewal, or increase in length of contracts, as an indicator of growth.
To realize your goals for KPIs for growth, think about where you are in the growth stages to help with goal-setting:
- Are you just starting out and need to ramp up business from the ground up?
- Are you somewhat established and want to continue to grow?
- Have you flourished and are now looking to optimize your business practices to maximize profitability?
Each phase will have different KPIs for growth, so again--be realistic. Perhaps start with a 5% increase in customers, or 10% increase in sales to existing customers over a specified number of months. Only you can know what is achievable for your business.
Website Visitors Don't Mean Much Without Conversions
Conversion rates are a crucial aspect of marketing and sales. Much like follower count being a somewhat useless number, website traffic doesn’t necessarily tell us anything. This, of course, depends on what your conversion goals are - which can simply be eyeballs on your page - but if you want leads and you want those leads to close, website traffic is only important for one thing: calculating conversion rates.
Whose website is more successful at generating customers: a company with 100,000 visitors per month and 100 new leads, or a company with 1,000 visitors per month and 20 new leads? The former has a conversion rate of 0.1%, while the latter has a conversion rate of 2%. That’s a big difference.
If your website has a high volume of traffic, you should be ecstatic. But if your conversion rate is low, you have a problem. Adjust your goals, increase the opportunity for website visitors to convert, and monitor the point in customers’ visit to your website where they may be dropping off and leaving your pages.
Set a KPI for a certain percentage of conversions from website traffic. This will give you a better understanding of your website, its structure, and whether or not the content you are creating and distributing is doing its job.
BONUS: CPA is the new ROI
Cost Per Acquisition KPIs are a great way to calculate and monitor your spending and overall return on investment. CPA is essentially how much money you have to spend on marketing to get a new customer. Ideally, this number is comparatively somewhat low - without sacrificing the quality of your marketing activities.
Be realistic about what a customer is worth to you. The most basic way to calculate this is to take your overall marketing expenses and divide by the number of new customers within that time period. This doesn’t always give you the full picture though. You should also think about a customer’s lifetime value, volume of sales with individual customers, and referrals.
Use as many metrics as you can to calculate CPA. Take a look at your marketing channels and traffic acquisition, for example. If your marketing campaign spending is disproportionate, you will be able to see this immediately. Evaluate your current CPA and set goals of how much you want to spend in the future - it could be less, or it could be more.
With all the insights into customer data we have available to us now, there’s no excuse to not have KPIs that truly tell us the performance of our marketing efforts and overall business.
But don’t get caught up in numbers that aren’t telling you what you really need to know. Set goals and keep them –when you do, 2016 is sure to become the year of more intelligent and effective marketing practices for you and your brand.