How to set KPIs for marketing

How to set KPIs for marketing

What are the right KPIs for marketing, and how do you set them? Marketing is worthless if you don’t measure – but how do you set the right KPIs for your marketing campaigns?

It’s a question that can strike terror into even the most seasoned marketers, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you first think. It’s best if you take a step-by-step approach to KPI setting, and we’re here to help!

What are KPIs in digital marketing?

For marketing, KPIs, or key performance indicators, are metrics designed to help you achieve a goal or set of goals. They are specific numbers that you work towards – allowing you to measure progress and success. They are used across marketing campaigns for websites, social media channels, advertising and more.

1.     Write a marketing strategy

KPIs should always be based on a strategy, rather than an arbitrary set of metrics and numbers. Without a strategy, you’ll quickly lose focus and your KPIs will be meaningless.

Examine your business and your goals, and set a strategy based upon what you want to achieve and what the best way to do that is. This all depends on your product or service, customers, competitors, resources and not forgetting, your budget.

2.     Pick the metrics that matter most

Your strategy will outline key goals, such as increasing organic search traffic or improving conversion rates from a landing page, and you need to pick metrics that match these goals.

Be careful not to have too many metrics too, keep it laser-focused on a handful of KPIs for each channel so they are achievable and so they mean something.

Metrics that people often set include:

  • Goal conversion rates (sales, form submissions, whitepaper downloads)

  • Website sessions

  • Number of sessions from a certain source (social, organic, referral)

  • Website sessions to specific pages (blog pages, landing pages)

  • Advertising conversion rate (for social media advertising or search ads)

  • Engagement with content (video views, gated content downloads, comments)

  • Social media followers, engagement rates, impressions

This is just a snapshot of the type of KPIs people set – yours will be unique to your business, marketing campaign or specific product.

3.     Look at historical data

“What’s a good amount of website traffic to have?”

This is a question we get asked a lot! How long is a piece of string?

There’s no industry standard or specific benchmark. It all depends on who you are. Businesses are all different. And what’s important is the quality rather than the quantity. A tech start-up doesn’t need to compete with the traffic levels of the Apple website, for example.

The best way to set KPIs is to look back at your data. From here you can make improvements – for example improving traffic by 10, 15 or 20 per cent. Your strategy will inform the best percentage to increase this by, and which areas are likely to increase.

When looking at historical data take into account:

  • Website traffic

  • Social media analytics

  • Advertising performance

  • Current conversion rates

  • Current sales

4.     Match it with your activity

Any metrics you set should be matched with the activity that your strategy will suggest. So, are you planning on blogging more often because this helps increase organic search traffic? In this case, your KPIs should be focused on website sessions, blog post views and referrals from Google search. You may also want to include the number of keywords you rank for.

Think too about what your marketing campaigns will be focused on. If you know that you’ll be publishing a series of whitepapers across the course of the year, make sure to set content marketing KPIs for downloads and conversion rates.

When looking at social media KPIs, followers aren’t always a good measure of whether your activity is working. Think instead in terms of engagement and clicks, this tells you if people are really interested in the content you publish. Measuring these will allow you to see what works best and what to do more of.

5.     Be realistic

Give yourself a break!

Don’t set lofty KPIs in the hope that you’ll impress your boss, you’ll only set yourself up to fail.

Be realistic about what your team can achieve based on the resources you have, historical data and customer behaviour. There’s no point in promising you’ll double traffic on your website when you’re only planning on increasing advertising spend by 10%.

Also, ask yourself - what actually works? Don’t use a platform or technique for the sake of it. Be ruthless! If your research shows that you don’t receive a lot of engagement from Twitter, don’t set ambitious social media KPIs for improving your reach there. Unless you’re planning to run a large-scale advertising campaign. Focus on what will work.

Ready? Set? GO!

Setting KPIs for marketing campaigns needn’t be scary or ambiguous. Use the data available to you to make well-thought-out decisions and always, always employ a strategy. Match your KPIs to your activity and think about what you can really achieve.

If you follow these steps, you’ll have a set of well-thought-out KPIs that you’ll feel motivated to achieve. And remember, keep measuring them regularly! That way you’ll know if you’re on track to achieve them.

For more smart strategy tips read my post on customer-focused marketing. If you need help tracking down that historical data we also have a handy blog on the best digital marketing tools.