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January 2022

The problem with marketing KPIs

We are awash with marketing KPIs. We’ve got them coming out of our ears. We can’t move for the flipping things. They’re absolutely everywhere.

Every activity, every channel, every tactic has their own special set of three letter acronyms (or TLAs if you want to get meta) that tell you how things are going and give you that indication of performance that is key.

And you know what? I bloody love it.

Bring me your dashboards. Show me your reports. Lend me your analysis.  Which marketer worth their salt doesn’t love to nerd out over some really rich data or get all hot and bothered about some sexy, sexy metrics?

These are all great. They’re all wonderful. They’re all valid in their own special way.

But there’s also a problem.

Houston, we have a slight issue

And it’s a pretty big problem we will have all faced (or will face) as marketers.

No one else seems to give a shit.


The performance indicators that are key to us don’t seem to be to anyone else, do they? By and large it’s only marketers who care about marketing KPIs. CPCs, Bounce Rates, CPLs, Traffic Sources, CPAs, etcetera. Would a sales director or a CFO know about, let alone care about any of these? Probably not…

But when we’re let out to talk to the rest of the business it’s more often than not done so in full-on marketer mode chucking KPIs around like they’re confetti at a wedding.

We either stat-Vomit (“Oh yeah, 40.2% increase in traffic, 3000+ impressions, a million % better at everything ”) or we speak so much garbled Marketinglish (“Our attribution modelling has really helped us drive down CPAs whilst getting a real understanding of our buyers journey”) that you’re left having to measure a brand new KPI:

  • WLPM – Weird Looks Per Minute. A count of how many times someone who’s not a marketer gives you a weird look as if to say; “are you alright, mate?” per minute when you’re trying to explain what your latest marketing activity delivered for the business.

And then we wonder why the rest of our business doesn’t “get” marketing or seem to take us seriously. We continually leave them asking that age old question… “So what?”


The dreaded “So what?”

So, what can we do to answer the “So What?” question and shrink our WLPM down to zero?

By focusing on the one of the marketing KPIs that is the KPI the whole business will care about. The big daddy, and key-est of all the key performance indicators: Revenue.


Everything marketing and marketers do should influence that one big KPI in some way or another. We have a commercial responsibility to our businesses that cannot and should not be ignored.

Now, I appreciate the touch may be lighter and the distance to recognised revenue may be longer for some, but if that’s the case what we do as marketers still needs to demonstrate how it will have a positive influence on reeling in more sweet cashola down the line.

Running brand awareness campaigns? Sure, they’re not going to generate revenue straight away but if you can demonstrate and prove engagement with your target audience consistently over time and maybe even learn something about how they act in the process that will all mean you’re positively influencing potential buyers.

Creating content? Again, it won’t directly generate you any dosh but how many people did it cause to make enquiries? How many read your content that read your other content before? It all helps to grow that pool of potential buyers down the line.


A word of warning

But a word of warning here, don’t over egg the pudding and go too far the other way. It may seem like a good thing to do to appease your revenue literate colleagues, but you can end up over-compensating and shooting yourself in the foot from a completely different angle.

Here’s a real-world example:

Back in one of my client-side roles I was working under a marketing director who was obsessed with revenue. OBSESSED. Everything we did had to have a revenue figure attached to it (and a big one at that) we could report back to sales.

So, I was running an outbound campaign. A contact opened an email, hit a landing page and requested a call. (Of course they did, I run great campaigns *wink emoji*).

Lovely stuff, right? A nice fresh MQL for our sales guys to follow up on and qualify further. So, I go to log it in our CRM and am told that it needs to go in with a value of £100,000,000. That is not a typo. £100m.



Why? Because the contact has requested a call about a cloud computing solution which apparently had an average deal size of £100m. Sorry, what?! Even if that goes into the pipeline with a 1% weighting I’m giving my sales colleague a MASSIVELY skewed number to try and close.

The sales guy I pass it to (rightfully) sends my WLPM rate into the thousands, immediately changes the value to £20k and then cracks on qualifying the deal, scratching his head and wondering what marketing are playing at (again).


3 tidy marketing KPI takeaways for you

So, what are the key takeaways for you from this session perched upon my marketing KPIs based soapbox?

Here’s three:

  1. Love and cherish your KPIs dearly. They’ll tell you how you’re doing, how channels are performing and where opportunities lie. You’ve got to understand the what, how and why or your marketing do you can drive the best results possible. If it’s working do more of it. If it’s not try something else.

  2. But when you’re taking these results out to the business make sure they don’t lead to a dreaded “So What?”. Stop speaking marketinglish, start speaking “business” and make what you’re doing relevant to the people you want to care.

  3. But make sure you strike the right balance. Remember you have a commercial responsibility to your business and revenue is what people care about. But made up, fanciful, unachievable revenue that will NEVER be recognised isn’t. Be careful not to overcompensate.

Need to stop speaking marketinglish and get your WLPM down to zero?