Vanity Metrics May be Killing Your Credibility in the Boardroom

4 minutes
Jun 30, 2022
Digital MarketingPlanning & Forecasting

You get the email invite in your inbox: It’s time to report on your team’s quarterly performance to the board, C-suite, and other key stakeholders in the business. This is...

You get the email invite in your inbox: It’s time to report on your team’s quarterly performance to the board, C-suite, and other key stakeholders in the business.

This is when you look at your analytics and scan for positive trends to show leadership that the numbers are up, indicating improved performance. But, unless the metrics you present relate to what they care about — revenue — your energy may be wasted.

Marketing impact is difficult to measure, and all too often CMOs focus on metrics that don’t accurately reflect how various initiatives impact customer and revenue growth. These are known as vanity metrics.

What are Vanity Metrics in Marketing?

Vanity metrics are those that don’t directly and clearly affect customer acquisition and retention or revenue; rather, they measure certain day-to-day marketing efforts.

Some of the more common vanity metrics used by today’s marketing teams include the following:

  • Website visits: how many people visited any page on your site within a certain time period.
  • Number of new leads: how many MQLs have been generated. (Which skeptics sometimes joke stands for “Maybe Qualified Lead.”)
  • Social media audience: how many people follow your company page on various social channels, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Social media impressions: how many times a certain post or ad was displayed on social channels.
  • Newsletter subscribers: how many people have explicitly signed up to receive your marketing emails.

Why Vanity Metrics aren’t Enough — and What to Measure Instead

Sure, as a marketing leader it’s helpful to have visibility into your audience landscape as well as where your team is focusing its energy. But ultimately, these metrics don’t sufficiently reflect how marketing efforts are driving profits. And thus, they are meaningless to many of your organization’s most important stakeholders, and can cause them to undervalue your efforts.

To really wow in the boardroom, you’ve got to report on the metrics that prove marketing’s financial return. Try some of these instead.

Website Engagement

A website visit is not equivalent to a potential customer. Someone may have landed on your site by an accident click, to do light research, or even to look for job opportunities. Additionally, you may notice an influx of traffic while running an advertising campaign, which will then drop once the campaign ends.

Dig deeper and look at visitor frequency, what drives the most engaged traffic, what pages get the most traffic, and how much time visitors spend on those pages. Then, look at what actions were taken after visiting those pages — and the resulting conversion rates.

Number of In-Market Accounts

Just because you have a high number of leads, doesn’t mean you are likely to close more deals. You’ve got to ensure the accounts you’re focused on are actually advancing through their buyer journey. This requires deeper analytics that takes buyer intent signals into account, including actions taken on third-party websites.

If you can show the percentage of targeted accounts that have begun researching your brand — on your site or third-party sites — you can start to demonstrate the revenue impact at the top of the funnel. Then, by tracking the progression of in-market accounts through their entire buying journey, you can clearly demonstrate how different marketing efforts contribute to signed deals.

Social Media Conversions

Your company’s leadership doesn’t care about how many social media followers your page has. Likewise, a “like” or click on a post doesn’t reveal much. But if a click leads a buying group member to a landing page on your site, which then leads them to request a demo or browse your products, you will gain insight into their interests, can deliver more personalized messaging, and can show how enhanced conversion rates are boosting pipeline value.

Newsletter Conversions

Ideally, your newsletter should offer resources that persuade and/or incentivize subscribers to visit your site, learn more about your products, contact a salesperson, and convert to a customer. And it’s on marketing to ensure the newsletter is set up to achieve this. That’s not to say you should try to sell in every email — you’ll notice subscribers dropping off by doing so — but when you do, be explicit and make it easy with embedded links that land prospects to the page they’re looking for. This will lead to increased newsletter conversions and higher acquisition rates.

Step it Up With Better Data

The board won’t always know which vanity metrics are junk data. But at a minimum, they’ll sense that the metrics are fuzzy and don’t clearly correlate to company success. And unfortunately, that means that in their view, you and your team don’t clearly correlate to company success either.

But you can only report on the data you have access to. To really show the fruits of marketing’s labor, you need technology that enables you to engage those most likely to buy from you and provides a full picture of account engagement.

6sense helps marketing and sales teams align along clear metrics that are reflected in pipeline results. That makes your success as a CMO clear to your board, securing more resources and a brighter future for you and your team.