Analyze, report, repeat: Here’s what you should be tracking

When your boss asks you how the online marketing efforts are doing, what do you say? “We’ve increased impressions by 30 percent and traffic is up 15 percent.” Do you know what that means for business growth? Does your boss?

Digital marketing is great for equipping businesses and marketers with the data to define their success and find unending opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, this also makes it incredibly difficult for marketing leaders to determine what truly matters to grow their company.

And yes, I say grow the company, because marketing is more than buying ads in trade journals or getting tchotchkes for a trade show. Marketing isn’t an expense; it’s an investment in growing revenue, and we need to know if it’s pulling its weight.

Get started with defining metrics

So where does one start on the quest for finding the holy grail of marketing success? At the end. Success is based on the bottom line—driving new revenue—and for industrial B2B marketers, that also means filling the sales team’s pipeline of leads with top notch opportunities. Therefore, when we report on marketing efforts, it should all relate back to these KPIs: sales qualified leads (SQLs), customers, and revenue generated.

From there, we can work our way backwards. If you consider the marketing and sales funnel as your path to marketing data nirvana, the steps backward include total leads generated, total website traffic visits, and even total impressions of the website. Each of these represent the KPIs of the buyer’s journey, and because they’re all relational, they can be calculated into rates that provide a standardized metric to compare with industry standards.

What do each of these KPIs actually look like in analytics softwares?

Leads generated: In terms of leads generated, this KPI can be defined by metrics like Form Completions or New Contacts in HubSpot or Goal Completions in Google Analytics. The main difference here is that while New Contacts is a straightforward representation of new leads, Form Completions includes repeat engagements from prospects and Goal Completions is useful for companies who don’t invest in a marketing automation tool.

Website traffic visits: Traffic can be described by Users, Sessions, or Visits, depending on the tool and are typically differentiated by softwares’ backend tracking. The one delineation worth mentioning is that users is representative of individuals while sessions separates individuals’ return visits.

Website impressions: Impressions are typically differentiated by source. They may originate from organic or paid search or even social. Getting a summarized metric of all of these is ideal but typically more labor intensive.

Before getting weighed down with the overwhelming thought of tracking all of these metrics, understand that they are all representative of the same thing. Whether users, sessions, or visits is your KPI for measuring site traffic, the goal is to understand how it changes over time and how that change impacts the ultimate KPIs mentioned before—SQLs, customers and revenue.

Digging deeper into the reports

KPIs may be the bulk of the marketing report or summary passed up the chain of command, but if you’re running marketing operations on the day-to-day, you likely have more pressing questions to address with data analytics. Exploring data past KPIs can quickly put a seasoned marketer in the weeds, so it’s key to have specific questions for the data at the outset.

Some of those questions might be:

  • What marketing channel is contributing the most to new leads?
  • What blog post is earning the most impressions and traffic to the site?
  • Is the traffic to specific product or service pages different from what I expected?
  • How engaged are site visitors with the website in general and on specific pages?

Once the key questions are listed, note what metrics might provide the answers. For the first question above, tools like HubSpot’s Sources report or Google Analytics’ Attribution report will break down total leads by each channel.

This quick preemptive mental check will help you get in and out of reporting softwares more quickly and get back to the bigger priorities of marketing operations. And if you’re not sure where to start with questions, check the marketing report you just created. Answering which KPIs changed and why will not only grow your understanding of the data and get some question-brainstorming started, but it’ll help you answer those very same questions when the higher-ups ask.

Check website performance with regularity

Understanding what data to look at is all well and good, but a standard frequency is necessary to identify trends as they arise. The bare minimum for checking website analytics and evaluating performance should be quarterly, but a smaller interval is important for any active digital marketing efforts.

For campaigns or event-based marketing efforts, check on the performance of those efforts within 30 days of its start. Ongoing efforts should be re-evaluated approximately every month as well. The basis for this time frame is to establish a baseline and identify opportunities for improvements. However, if paid traffic is included in your marketing strategy, it’s best to review your AdWords, Facebook Ads, or other paid channels weekly. With more direct budgetary influence, these campaigns are vital to keep on track.

Digital marketing is a great opportunity for industrial companies because there’s a variety of insights to be unearthed from website data analytics. Not only can you get full transparency to the success of marketing efforts, you can identify trends among prospects to improve marketing efforts moving forward. And the next time a boss asks you how the online marketing efforts are going, you can respond, “Great, our increase in impressions and traffic resulted in 5 more SQLs, a new customer and $100,000 in added revenue.”

Kathleen Lavallee is a digital marketing strategist at Gorilla 76, a marketing agency for the industrial sector. She coordinates strategic plans for clients that aim to drive new traffic and more leads and works to educate executives and sales professionals on the untapped potential of digital marketing.