There are hundreds of possible inbound marketing metrics to choose from, and almost all of them provide some measure of value. These include SEO rankings, inbound links, number of articles published, content downloads, reach (e.g. Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn followers, blog subscribers), comments, retweets, Likes, shares, clicks, traffic, leads… and many more.
The problem is that most of these relate only loosely to the metrics that concern the CFO, CEO, and your board of directors. Of course, it’s okay to track some of these metrics within your department if they help you make better marketing decisions, but be careful about measuring activity instead of results. When it’s hard to measure business outcomes, marketers use metrics that stand in for those numbers: activity not results, quantity not quality, efficiency not effectiveness.
Five business metrics to measure inbound marketing ROI and success
Here are five top metrics that we use to measure and demonstrate inbound marketing ROI:
Month-over-month growth in organic website traffic, leads, and opportunities. Organic traffic is people who are finding your website by means other than paid promotion or direct brand awareness (e.g., by typing in your URL or searching your brand names). Track how much of that traffic converts into leads, and tag the lead source properly so you can see whether those leads turn into pipeline and revenue. Track the trends so you can see how quickly you are going up – a capability provided by marketing automation with inbound marketing analytics.
Social engagement, not just reach. Reach is defined as the total size of the audience you can reach, including your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn followers, blog subscribers, and email list. But the world is noisy, and just because someone follows you doesn’t mean they are engaging with your brand.
In a B2B business, it makes sense to track message clicks, replies, retweets, favorites and likes. These metrics are great indicators of how engaged your followers are with the messages you’re posting. In addition to the total number of engaged contacts (a lead in your database that engages with one or more messages), look for groups of leads that have engaged with a specific message or set of messages. Perhaps you find that a group of leads are looking for information about a free trial based on a Tweet they clicked. You will now have the ability to pass those high quality leads over to your sales team!
Most important for measuring inbound marketing ROI: identify how many visits, contacts, and customers your social media channels have generated for your business. Break this data down by social media channel.
Lead generation by content, channel, and initiative. Beyond core organic traffic and leads, track lead generation by content asset and source. What sources are driving the most traffic? What kinds of content drive the most leads? The most revenue? It can also be insightful to track how these vary by product line or business unit. Measuring this may require the ability to create landing pages and tracking codes for each asset, a capability found in most marketing automation solutions.
Percent of leads with an inbound original source. With inbound marketing and content marketing, you’ll find that people first discover and engage with your brand via inbound channels, but they may not convert on that first engagement, or even on the second or third. When they do convert, they are likely to get to your site by typing in your brand name or URL. That’s why it’s so important to know the original source of your leads – not the source of the visit that caused them to convert. (Once again, marketing automation tools can help you determine this.) It’s similar to display advertising, where it’s critical to measure not just click-through conversion rates, but also “view-through” conversion rates.
Forecasted conversion through the funnel. Your fellow C-suite executives don’t really care about the number of raw prospects or even leads that marketing generates; they care about pipeline and revenue. And they care even more about next month’s revenue than they do about what happened in the past. After a few months of monitoring the trends of your inbound lead generation, you can start making forecasts about how much contribution inbound will make to future pipeline. This isn’t easy, but it’s probably the single biggest thing you can do to build credibility as a marketing executive.
Now you know which metrics your management team can understand and appreciate. With solid data backing up your claims, you can be sure that the execs will be willing to evaluate budget requests for marketing campaigns as they can see – in black and white – the impact on the bottom line. While there is no doubt that inbound marketing leads to greater brand awareness and increased traffic, these benefits will follow if you’re committed to tracking meaningful KPIs that help predict revenue, too!