How to Make Sense of KPIs and Find Your Story in Data

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KPIs Tell Your Story

Digital marketing can find and use a “key performance indicator” (KPI) to measure each step in the sales journey, including detours, diversions and pit stops. But using every conceivable measure to get a better sense of the customer is no better than pouring every conceivable topping over ice cream. It makes a big mess and will make you sick if you try to eat it. 

Online, there are endless articles with endless lists. Do you need 37 KPIs? How about 43? Not enough? Too many?  Perhaps the eight “must have” measurements are fine?

So which ones do you pick? Just as one size does not fit all, one particular set of KPIs will not give you the best picture of how well your marketing effort is going online. 

Know yourself before you look for KPI

A company that is eager to use metrics must know its business. If not, KPI just becomes a bunch of letters and the data becomes smoke and nonsense. 

“I started out in marketing long enough ago when there wasn't so much data available,” mused ex-consultant Jen Calise, CMO and co-founder of Fishbat, a NY-based agency. The clients were C-level executives who were very bottom-line oriented, a trait that is missing from many digital marketing backgrounds. “Forget about access to data for now.” Calise said. What is the business goal?

KPIs can show traffic, likes, and engagement. “All that stuff looks successful on paper, but it has zero value for what the company is trying to accomplish,” she said. "Forget about data and go back to the business fundamentals.”

Some “inherit KPIs from a predecessor or pick them up at a conference,” noted Jeff Allen, senior director of product marketing at Adobe Analytics. “Moneyball taught us that metrics don't matter until you understand what is contributing to that understanding.”

“Metrics lead to that…we tend to measure all kinds of different things that are not necessarily the right thing to measure,” Allen said. 

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