Beware of Vanity Metrics. Focus on Benchmarks That Affect the Bottom Line.

August 6, 2020
marketing professional woman viewing metrics on computer
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In the digital age, much is made of metrics like social media shares, newsletter open rates and website traffic. But while these “vanity metrics” might sound impressive, they rarely correlate to sales and revenue. That’s not to say these numbers should be completely discounted. Instead, they should be viewed as indicators of non-transactional marketing goals, like brand awareness or positioning. 

The most critical metrics are actually those that take into account the big picture of the business and affect the bottom line, as Healthgrades’ Director of Product Marketing Virginia Howland told Built In Colorado recently.

“Year-over-year growth, and the sales and revenue goals to achieve that are most important,” Howland said. “Our key marketing metrics are those that support the top-level business goals.”
 
Despite COVID-19 forcing a shift in marketing tactics from in-person events to virtual town halls, the metrics by which the Colorado-based directory of healthcare providers measures success remain the same, helping inform Healthgrades’ sales pipeline and account engagement strategy.

 

Virginia Howland
Director, Product Marketing

How did you determine which metrics would be most impactful for guiding your marketing strategy? What other stakeholders were involved? 

Our marketing strategy starts with a full picture of the business. Year-over-year growth, and the sales and revenue goals to achieve that are most important. Our key marketing metrics are those that support the top-level business goals. It’s crucial that they are communicated to key stakeholders, including marketing, sales and executive leadership.
 
Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. In any industry, metrics must evolve over time. In the beginning, marketing departments might start off just tracking leads, then understanding how those leads converted to sales opportunities, into a more account-based understanding of engagement. As the data becomes more robust, it will help our team make more informed decisions about marketing spend, and increasingly strengthen support for overall business goals. 
 
It is also very important that marketing and sales leadership are completely aligned. It takes time and trust, but when they focus on the same metrics and work in sync to meet the same business goals, then both entities can achieve those goals more effectively.

 
What are the most important marketing metrics your team tracks, and why are these numbers so important to what you do? 

Healthgrades’ B2B marketing team uses metrics for pipeline creation as well as account engagement. These metrics help quantify marketing’s influence on key audiences, such as the number of opportunities created, changes in pipeline and sales velocity. However, we also track other indicators to stay on track and identify potential shortfalls in time to make meaningful, real-time adjustments. 

Healthgrades' Key Marketing Metrics

  • Total number of unique accounts and individual contacts engaged, measured by inquiries such as number of forms filled and webinar registrations over a period of time
  • Percentage of accounts engaged in the “total market” as well as by segments like account size, hospital type, or geography
  • Conversion from engagement to the next steps of our sales and marketing funnel, and the time it takes to move between each stage
  • Average number of interactions and engaged people required to achieve the conversion goals

What’s an example of how the metrics you track have informed your marketing strategy in either big or small ways. What impact did this have on the business? 

Since the onset of COVID-19, face-to-face engagement has decreased significantly, with live events, trade shows and meetings postponed or cancelled. Because these events give our teams a unique setting to engage with clients, we replaced them with virtual engagement activities in our marketing mix. We launched a town hall series to support our hospital and health system partners, featuring key speakers and clients discussing their current challenges. Every session has been successful in driving engagement, providing a forum for peer-to-peer sharing, and sometimes introducing solutions we offer that help solve our customers’ most pressing business problems. These town hall sessions were originally meant to fill a gap in client engagement, but they have also become a very effective demand generation tool. Using our key learnings from this series, we’ve adapted our webinar schedule to continue building on those results for the rest of the year.

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