Today’s technology makes it easy to use metrics to inform your marketing decisions. But it may not always feel that way when you’re staring at a spreadsheet full of numbers and trying to figure out what they mean for your business.

What are the metrics that matter most for your business’ marketing strategy? Here are three keys to understanding the story your numbers are telling.

1. Establish KPIs based on your business goals

Not all metrics are created equal in a given marketing plan. The KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the primary metrics that are most meaningful to your business goals and how you will judge your marketing campaigns. These have to be established first.

For example, impressions might be the most important metric if your goal is to build brand awareness. However, if you are looking to grow sales, you would want to focus on conversions. For large campaigns, you may want to choose KPIs at every stage of the consumer journey. KPIs should be established at the planning phase of any marketing campaign – if you have a business goal in mind, you have to establish how you are going to measure it or else you won’t know if you’re achieving it.

2. Communicating the data

Spreadsheets full of numbers and data are great, but not everyone can look at them and determine the important information.

Some people’s eyes start to glaze over when they see so many numbers that none of them end up meaning anything. You don’t want this person to be your CEO, who sets your marketing budget and may only care about how marketing affects the bottom line. Data validates your importance – and your budget – to the C-Suite if you take the important insights from the data and communicate them in a clear fashion.

You have to do more than regurgitate the numbers – you have to be able to discover new opportunities after answering the why questions such as “Why did this perform well?” or “Why didn’t it?” For example, why does an increase in outbound clicks from a specific landing page mean we should optimize new landing pages in the same way?

You also need to be able to contextualize the data.  If all you see is that click through rates (CTR) have gone up 500%, you might think you’re in a great spot.  However, if you’re still below the industry standard (a fact that may not come up in the raw data), the story becomes quite different.

3. Optimization

After you make the data more palatable by drawing out insights, make recommendations to inform your ongoing marketing decisions. This is where your metrics lead to actionable decisions.

The metrics and the recommendations taken from them are used to optimize your existing marketing campaigns and to make recommendations about future campaigns. A great example is a paid Facebook campaign we ran for an oral surgeon promoting dental implants and wisdom teeth procedures.

The campaign had a CTR of 3.13% – well above the industry average of .9%. But a deeper look into the data revealed that the CTR was also 45% higher among women 65 and older. That allowed us to shift budget dollars to target that demo for the next campaign.

In conclusion, metrics are important, but you must be able to translate them.
Data is extremely valuable and can inform all your marketing decisions, but it is meaningless and may actually be confusing if you can’t translate those numbers into meaningful insights.

Establish KPIs based on your business goals, communicate the data concisely and draw recommendations to optimize your campaigns and overall marketing strategy. That’s when you’ll be taking full advantage of the seemingly infinite data you can access with today’s technology.

Co-authored by Paige Moulton