Do you know which marketing channels made you the most money yesterday (or last week, or last month)?
I remember feeling completely disoriented and overwhelmed the first time I opened Google Analytics, hoping to answer these questions for my own team. Graphs, panels and numbers all pop out, demanding your attention.
“How do I know ANY of these are the right numbers for me to track in order to grow my website, attract new leads and sell to future customers?”
If your business is like most, you don’t need another tutorial just about another analytics tool.
Real power lies in a clear, concrete tracking plan to determine your marketing return-on-investment (ROI). It answers the most valuable questions any marketing team can ask: “Which channels made me the most money — and how can I get more out of them?”
I’m going to lay out five best practices for implementing a solid ROI tracking plan for your business:
- Identify one clear objective
- Solidify the numbers that really matter
- Map out your buyer's journey
- Set up time-tested analytics tools
- Create one source of truth
Identify and Set One Clear Objective:
Setting multiple goals is a surefire strategy to befuddle your team. When it comes to goal-setting, an overwhelming mountain of systems are competing for your team's attention.
Google started measuring in their first year. SpaceX and Microsoft use a framework called Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) coined by authors Jim Collins and Jerry Poras in their bestselling book, “Built to Last.”
And rolls on!
The framework you choose isn’t critical, but it’s strongly recommended your team rallies around one primary number to track above others.
Why? It’s confusing and frustrating to spend precious time, money and effort achieving low-priority goals that don’t produce results that truly grow your business.
If you’re not careful, your team can waste time chasing “vanity metrics” like page views instead of impactful numbers such as new customers.
Here’s the bottom line: Focus your online tracking around one unmistakably clear goal! Faulty communication and misalignment will kill your goals before they ever get off the ground.
More information isn’t necessarily better. In fact, most of your data will distract you. It’s your job to identify the signal in the noise. Great ROI tracking starts by setting one clear objective and gathering accurate data you can trust from the right sources.
So, pick one big goal that will move the needle for your business:
- Is it leads?
- Email opt-ins?
Pick your number and stick to it above all others.
Your team and future customers don’t stand a chance if you’re not 100% sure what key result you’re hoping to gain from your online marketing!
If you feel yourself starting to drift, simply start with the end in mind. What specific action do you want your future customers to take before they leave your website?
Three incredibly common website goals include:
- Generating qualified leads (Example: Filling out a form to schedule a free consultation.)
- Generating sales (Example: Purchasing a product from an e-commerce website.)
- Providing customer support (Example: Serving up the right help desk article to solve a frustrated customer’s question.)
Since we’re primarily focused on marketing for this post, we’ll assume you’re going with qualified leads. Many of these principles transfer over to different objectives, though!
Next, you’ll want to list key numbers to track across your marketing efforts to measure your success.
How well is your current activity fulfilling the primary objective your team just set? You won’t know until you take a long, hard look at the numbers that matter most.
To make things simple, just focus on these three key metrics every week and month for your digital marketing when you’re starting out.
- Unique website visitors. Not page views! We care most about how many people we can reach, educate and qualify if they’re a great fit to work with.
- New qualified leads. A site visitor can qualify themselves by filling out a form — or preferably, several forms. You can also qualify leads by their business attributes (How much revenue? How many employees?), buyer persona (Does this match our CEO persona or our marketing manager?) or engagement with your marketing (Do they like our Facebook posts, open our emails and keep coming back to the site?).
- New customers. Track purchases or new customers in your site’s analytics if possible. Otherwise, use a CRM to track each lead’s status as you conduct sales meetings, send emails and touch base with phone calls.
Pairing these three goals side-by-side enables you to clearly see where your digital marketing needs improvement.
- Not enough unique visitors? Revisit your strategy to attract new traffic.
- Too few qualified leads? Take a closer look at your website’s forms, call-to-actions and landing pages.
- Struggling to close leads into customers? Sit down with your sales team to ensure you’re communicating the status of new leads and passing along the right information.
As you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to visualize your future customer’s journey in purchasing your product — form the first time they hear your company’s name to the moment they fork over their cold, hard cash.
It’s called the buyer’s journey and it quickly brings your most important metrics into focus. For many businesses, the buyer’s journey will shape the metrics you choose: website visitors, contacts, leads and customers.
A buyer goes through three stages:
- Awareness: they are aware they have a problem that needs solving.
- Consideration: they are researching how to solve their problem and who can help them.
- Decision: they choose how to solve their problem and who they want help from.
The image below represents the inbound methodology. The goal here is to map out a prospective buyer's journey through the entire process, keeing in mind the awareness, consideration, and decision stages:
Mapping out the key actions across the inbound methodology for each stage of your customer’s buying journey makes your life 10x easier.
Let’s use McMahon Marketing’s website as a quick example, buyer stage in parenthesis:
- Stranger: A marketing manager finds one of our blog posts through Google, a Facebook post or word-of-mouth that relates to a problem she experiences. She clicks through to the website. (Awareness)
- Visitor: She reads a couple of blog posts that help solve her marketing challenges. Then, she clicks on a call-to-action for a checklist offer to
- Lead: She fills out the form on the landing page with her email in order to download the free checklist. She views her inbox over the next three weeks to open and click through a series of follow-up emails which promote new, helpful blogs and more advanced resources to help weigh the pros and cons of different marketing strategies. Finally, she fills out the landing page form to request a free consultation. (Consideration)
- Customer: After a coaching session to review her marketing results, she explores more case studies and resources like “7 Questions You Must Ask an Agency.” She decides working with an inbound marketing agency makes sense for her business — so she requests and signs a contract. Her digital signature automatically updates her contact and deal records in our CRM to “customer” with the appropriate revenue. (Consideration + Decision)
Now, we have a 1,000-foot view of our buyer’s journey through the Inbound methodology. See how our website systematically leads visitors in taking the next step?
It’s much easier to come up with a specific, testable idea for converting visitors-to-leads or leads-to-customers if you've mapped out where you currently stand.
Now, your turn. Try mapping out your buyer's journey. You may reach a step in your buyer’s journey and realize there’s nothing there! Don’t panic — just write it down and keep going until you get to the end of the journey. Once you've done this you’ve either identified the gap(s) or identified that you've got a solid process!
Now you know what events you’ll need to measure throughout your buyer’s journey. So, how do you keep track?
It’s best to start simple at first.
- No website should skip Google Analytics for measuring visitors and tracking basic goals. Get it installed in every page’s header and when your leads complete key events like completing a form, if possible.
- To easily measure new leads and customers, use . It’ll automatically record form submissions across your site and save each contact to the sales CRM where your team can update their status to “customer” down the road.
If you need some heavy-duty analytics for a mobile app or massive website, it’s worth investigating some more advanced analytics tools:
- , or — These analytics platforms basically solve the same problem: You need more data on how each user interacts with your site in order to boost conversions and increase customer retention.
- or — These tools provide a more qualitative peek into your users’ experiences by using heat maps, recording individual sessions on your site while providing insights into how different user segments interact on key site pages.
- or — More tools add more complexity for your team to manage. These tools help you manage all your analytics and tracking codes in one place, rather than jumping between half a dozen different sites.
Peter Drucker wasn’t kidding when he wrote, “What gets measured gets managed.” If you expect a certain result, you must begin by inspecting and communicating that result.
I’ve never seen this spring up organically on a marketing team, though. You’ll need a coordinated push to get started.
Your solution to cut through confusion and align the team? Create one source of truth to measure your progress toward the one goal and handful of metrics that truly matter.
What do I mean by “source of truth?” Simply put, all the reporting that matters should live in one place and stay brief as possible.
If your reporting can’t be boiled down to a single powerpoint slide, it’s too much! You have a couple easy options to communicate your reports to the team reliably:
- A simple spreadsheet or document
- A reporting tool or dashboard
Visibility is key with your goal-setting too. You need to put this in a place where you can reference it easily and communicate progress to others in your organization.
Choose simplicity over complexity. A simple Google sheet is all most individuals will need at first. You can always add new systems as your business grows, but adding extra “features” you don’t need right away can actually slow you down.
Of course, teams and marketing measurement masters can enjoy the benefits of dashboards, automated reports and more complex solutions.
One much-loved choice for dashboards is Databox. This tool provides a full-screen dashboard of your chosen data sources such as new leads in your CRM or Google Adwords campaign performance.
You can display real-time graphs on a spare monitor or TV in your office, but it’ll send you daily and weekly notifications through emails and push notifications if you like.
Regular email reporting often provides the safest channel to keep teams in the loop, though.
If you’ve installed the free HubSpot marketing tools, you can set up email notifications every time a key form is completed and weekly/monthly dashboard summaries of your marketing efforts.
Need more insights for your social media accounts? I started using SumAll Premium to send beautiful, automated overviews of everything from Facebook engagement to Google Analytics every week and month.
It’s an easy way to keep our team in the loop on our social media growth without extra effort.
Ready to Accelerate Your Growth Goals?
It’s not a coincidence: world-class marketing and sales teams set measurable goals to clarify their purpose and direction. It aligns their team members into a formidable force.
Suddenly, you’ll stop grasping in the dark at every “growth hack” and new platform that drifts your way because you have a battle-tested system for measuring your team’s true effectiveness.
Facing the hard facts of your business may not come naturally - but it doesn't matter. You'll be permanently hooked when you realize the compounding effects of a team rallied around goal-based performance.
Get started today and watch your team’s steps toward growth fall together like magic. It's just the beginning!
If you're really just getting started, get the checklist below to make sure you cover all your bases!