The only marketing metric that really matters

I’ve said in the past that marketing is the art of creating demand for your ideas, but in terms of something measurable and impactful, what does this mean? What does marketing make? Yes, it creates things like ads, Twitter accounts, email, etc. – but those are the tools to execute the mission of marketing. What does marketing actually do that’s measurable and meaningful?

Throw out all your other metrics. Followers on twitter, hits to your web site, mentions in the media. Toss them all.

The only metric that matters is this: qualified leads.

On the continuum of business, marketing (which includes marketing, advertising, and PR) takes media and audience as its raw materials and makes qualified leads.

Sales takes those raw materials, those leads, and makes them into customers.

Product design and customer service take those raw materials, those customers, and turns them into evangelists.

Everyone and everything that’s doing marketing makes qualified leads. We may not call them as such – we might call them volunteers for the non-profit, new members to the congregation, new players in the Warcraft guild – but they are.

I’m being a little facetious when I say toss out everything else – but not by much. Things like site traffic, media mentions, etc. are good diagnostic measures to tell you what’s happening with individual tools and processes, but at the end of the day, the only metric that shows you the results of your actions is the number of qualified leads that you pass on to sales to convert. For small businesses especially, marketing, sales, and service may be the same person, the same sole proprietor, but the count of qualified leads is an important number, not to be missed or glossed over.

Finally, metrics that are really trendy and popular, like ROI, are built on qualified leads. You can’t compute Return on Investment if you have no idea what the Return is, and you can’t get a Return on your Investment until you have some leads for Sales to turn into business. Worry later about ROI and worry more now about how many leads Sales has to work with.


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  • http://www.davidsfinch.com David Finch

    Chris, well said!! At the end of the day, business is about sales.

  • http://www.davidsfinch.com David Finch

    Chris, well said!! At the end of the day, business is about sales.

  • http://chelpixie.com chelpixie

    We like to think that the followers we have on Twitter and the media we create that gets views gives us something to point at when asked about our marketing efforts. While there have been some great changes as a result, social media has really been a distraction for some for the past few years from what really matters.

    At the end of the day, if you can't spend it or eat it, then it doesn't matter much. ;)

  • http://chelpixie.com/ Chel Wolverton

    We like to think that the followers we have on Twitter and the media we create that gets views gives us something to point at when asked about our marketing efforts. While there have been some great changes as a result, social media has really been a distraction for some for the past few years from what really matters.

    At the end of the day, if you can't spend it or eat it, then it doesn't matter much. ;)

  • http://www.oil-etf.info/ Sam

    This reminds me of a trader who once told me that the only statistic he looks at is price when trading stocks. He said everything else is built into the price, so don't bother wasting time looking at anything else. I guess you're saying something similar when it comes to qualified leads.

  • http://www.oil-etf.info/ Sam

    This reminds me of a trader who once told me that the only statistic he looks at is price when trading stocks. He said everything else is built into the price, so don't bother wasting time looking at anything else. I guess you're saying something similar when it comes to qualified leads.

  • http://www.davidsfinch.com David Finch

    Chris, well said!! At the end of the day, business is about sales.

  • http://chelpixie.com/ Chel Wolverton

    We like to think that the followers we have on Twitter and the media we create that gets views gives us something to point at when asked about our marketing efforts. While there have been some great changes as a result, social media has really been a distraction for some for the past few years from what really matters.

    At the end of the day, if you can't spend it or eat it, then it doesn't matter much. ;)

  • http://www.oil-etf.info/ Sam

    This reminds me of a trader who once told me that the only statistic he looks at is price when trading stocks. He said everything else is built into the price, so don't bother wasting time looking at anything else. I guess you're saying something similar when it comes to qualified leads.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    It's not the ONLY metric that matters, at least not for developing a strategy, but it's definitely the one that tells you exactly what kind of job you're doing.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    It's not the ONLY metric that matters, at least not for developing a strategy, but it's definitely the one that tells you exactly what kind of job you're doing.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Careful with this too – closed sales is a poor metric for marketing folks if Sales doesn't have their A-game on. You can deliver 100% quality leads and with a poor sales team still have no money at the end of the day.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Careful with this too – closed sales is a poor metric for marketing folks if Sales doesn't have their A-game on. You can deliver 100% quality leads and with a poor sales team still have no money at the end of the day.

  • http://helenab.net/ Helena B

    Chris, thanks for bringing this up. In marketing professional services (my bailiwick), you can generate lots of buzz with marketing and media hits, but ultimately, it's what the client does with the increased ambient awareness (i.e., use it to nurture or establish new relationships) that will determine whether or not it results in new business.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    It's not the ONLY metric that matters, at least not for developing a strategy, but it's definitely the one that tells you exactly what kind of job you're doing.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Careful with this too – closed sales is a poor metric for marketing folks if Sales doesn't have their A-game on. You can deliver 100% quality leads and with a poor sales team still have no money at the end of the day.

  • http://helenab.net/ Helena B

    Chris, thanks for bringing this up. In marketing professional services (my bailiwick), you can generate lots of buzz with marketing and media hits, but ultimately, it's what the client does with the increased ambient awareness (i.e., use it to nurture or establish new relationships) that will determine whether or not it results in new business.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Chris –

    I wrote a long reply to this basically saying that I agree, with a long “but…” section. I re-read it 4x and realized you are correct. It is, has been, and always will be all about leads/sales.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Chris –

    I wrote a long reply to this basically saying that I agree, with a long “but…” section. I re-read it 4x and realized you are correct. It is, has been, and always will be all about leads/sales.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • David Lance

    I don't see it this way. You can't create demand. I think of marketing and sales in terms of a visit to a physician's office. Guy goes in with a problem. The physician shifts into scientist mode and systematically identifies the exact nature of the problem. The physician then suggest a service or product that will resolve the problem. That physician has performed an enormous service, will definitely achieve a sale, but in no way did she “create” demand in order to usher in the sale.

  • David Lance

    I don't see it this way. You can't create demand. I think of marketing and sales in terms of a visit to a physician's office. Guy goes in with a problem. The physician shifts into scientist mode and systematically identifies the exact nature of the problem. The physician then suggest a service or product that will resolve the problem. That physician has performed an enormous service, will definitely achieve a sale, but in no way did she “create” demand in order to usher in the sale.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Chris –

    I wrote a long reply to this basically saying that I agree, with a long “but…” section. I re-read it 4x and realized you are correct. It is, has been, and always will be all about leads/sales.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • David Lance

    I don't see it this way. You can't create demand. I think of marketing and sales in terms of a visit to a physician's office. Guy goes in with a problem. The physician shifts into scientist mode and systematically identifies the exact nature of the problem. The physician then suggest a service or product that will resolve the problem. That physician has performed an enormous service, will definitely achieve a sale, but in no way did she “create” demand in order to usher in the sale.

  • http://www.vmrcommunications.com Hugh Macken

    David – You can't create demand for a product that addresses a “pain” unless the potential buyers perceive that they have the “pain”/need that the product or service addresses. So I agree with you in that sense. However, you certainly can create a “perceived” need. It's the domain of marketing to create markets in which a perceived need is being addressed. It's sales' job to close deals with buyers in those markets who are looking for a product or service that addresses perceived needs. To use the example of physicians, which is a good one, they do have to create a demand for a particular drug or treatment in the mind of the patient. In fact an important part of a physician's job is actually “selling” (a) the actual nature/origin of the pain / need and (2) the treatment plan they have determined is necessary to treat that pain. I do not say this in any way to demean the health profession (my wife is a physician and I have enormous respect for those who are) but practically speaking, docs need to convince patients that they know what they are talking about (and help the patient perceive the need they have identified) and that their treatment plan is worth “buying into.” Communication skills are every bit as important as scientific knowledge for doctors who need the patient to sign on the dotted line before proceeding with treatment.

  • http://www.vmrcommunications.com Hugh Macken

    David – You can't create demand for a product that addresses a “pain” unless the potential buyers perceive that they have the “pain”/need that the product or service addresses. So I agree with you in that sense. However, you certainly can create a “perceived” need. It's the domain of marketing to create markets in which a perceived need is being addressed. It's sales' job to close deals with buyers in those markets who are looking for a product or service that addresses perceived needs. To use the example of physicians, which is a good one, they do have to create a demand for a particular drug or treatment in the mind of the patient. In fact an important part of a physician's job is actually “selling” (a) the actual nature/origin of the pain / need and (2) the treatment plan they have determined is necessary to treat that pain. I do not say this in any way to demean the health profession (my wife is a physician and I have enormous respect for those who are) but practically speaking, docs need to convince patients that they know what they are talking about (and help the patient perceive the need they have identified) and that their treatment plan is worth “buying into.” Communication skills are every bit as important as scientific knowledge for doctors who need the patient to sign on the dotted line before proceeding with treatment.

  • http://www.vmrcommunications.com Hugh Macken

    David – You can't create demand for a product that addresses a “pain” unless the potential buyers perceive that they have the “pain”/need that the product or service addresses. So I agree with you in that sense. However, you certainly can create a “perceived” need. It's the domain of marketing to create markets in which a perceived need is being addressed. It's sales' job to close deals with buyers in those markets who are looking for a product or service that addresses perceived needs. To use the example of physicians, which is a good one, they do have to create a demand for a particular drug or treatment in the mind of the patient. In fact an important part of a physician's job is actually “selling” (a) the actual nature/origin of the pain / need and (2) the treatment plan they have determined is necessary to treat that pain. I do not say this in any way to demean the health profession (my wife is a physician and I have enormous respect for those who are) but practically speaking, docs need to convince patients that they know what they are talking about (and help the patient perceive the need they have identified) and that their treatment plan is worth “buying into.” Communication skills are every bit as important as scientific knowledge for doctors who need the patient to sign on the dotted line before proceeding with treatment.

  • David Lance

    Hugh – You can't create demand, period. And if you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand ladden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, they write plays about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    It just seems backward to me.

  • David Lance

    Hugh – You can't create demand, period. And if you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand ladden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, they write plays about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    It just seems backward to me.

  • David Lance

    The premium cable television station “HBO” is in the habit of developing excellent entertainment. Their last great hit was called “The Soprano's.” A writer and producer during that show's fifth and sixth seasons named Matthew Weiner had an unpublished script that he used to demonstrate re-write techniques at USC. That script was for a new concept show called “Mad Men.”

    Mad Men is about a mid-size, Madison avenue advertising agency in the early 1960's. The lead character “Donald Draper” seems quite gifted in this technique of creating perceived demand. It seems to be his forte. Time and again he creates campaigns, and then convinces the client that it is what they want – and then forcefully ushers them to a signed contract. But you have to look closely and listen closely to the excellent writing. Mr. Draper does not create demand. To the contrary, he is an excellent student of human needs and wants – and rather than create demand, he identifies it before the buyer even knows they have it. And that, Hugh, is the core of marketing and sales and closing deals.

  • David Lance

    The premium cable television station “HBO” is in the habit of developing excellent entertainment. Their last great hit was called “The Soprano's.” A writer and producer during that show's fifth and sixth seasons named Matthew Weiner had an unpublished script that he used to demonstrate re-write techniques at USC. That script was for a new concept show called “Mad Men.”

    Mad Men is about a mid-size, Madison avenue advertising agency in the early 1960's. The lead character “Donald Draper” seems quite gifted in this technique of creating perceived demand. It seems to be his forte. Time and again he creates campaigns, and then convinces the client that it is what they want – and then forcefully ushers them to a signed contract. But you have to look closely and listen closely to the excellent writing. Mr. Draper does not create demand. To the contrary, he is an excellent student of human needs and wants – and rather than create demand, he identifies it before the buyer even knows they have it. And that, Hugh, is the core of marketing and sales and closing deals.

  • David Lance

    If you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand laden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, Roger Rueff wrote an excellent play about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    That is backward, short-term thinking at best.

  • David Lance

    If you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand laden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, Roger Rueff wrote an excellent play about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    That is backward, short-term thinking at best.

  • David Lance

    Hugh – You can't create demand, period. And if you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand ladden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, they write plays about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    It just seems backward to me.

  • David Lance

    The premium cable television station “HBO” is in the habit of developing excellent entertainment. Their last great hit was called “The Soprano's.” A writer and producer during that show's fifth and sixth seasons named Matthew Weiner had an unpublished script that he used to demonstrate re-write techniques at USC. That script was for a new concept show called “Mad Men.”

    Mad Men is about a mid-size, Madison avenue advertising agency in the early 1960's. The lead character “Donald Draper” seems quite gifted in this technique of creating perceived demand. It seems to be his forte. Time and again he creates campaigns, and then convinces the client that it is what they want – and then forcefully ushers them to a signed contract. But you have to look closely and listen closely to the excellent writing. Mr. Draper does not create demand. To the contrary, he is an excellent student of human needs and wants – and rather than create demand, he identifies it before the buyer even knows they have it. And that, Hugh, is the core of marketing and sales and closing deals.

  • David Lance

    If you try to convince someone that they want something because you want them to want it, and it is your agenda to achieve an outcome wherein they believe they want it, you run the risk of being insincere. People need widgets. For every widget produced, there is a guy sitting alone in a barn wishing someone would invent one. Seems to me that the role you call marketing and sales is really just finding the lonely farmer and showing him you have what he needs. Especially when he gets up the gumption to go online and try to find YOU.

    A while ago I visited inlaws, and on packout left the charger for my Panasonic digital camera. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down, much less purchase a replacement? Try. The camera is a Panasonic DMC-FZ5. I was that lonely farmer looking for someone to take my money so I could take possession of a new charger. Look at how hard the marketing and sales players in most American businesses have made it for me the eager (and demand laden) consumer to do business with them.

    Real demand presents itself in the mind of the buyer at 3 a.m. on some lonely, clear-headed night. Real demand is largely ignored in the marketplace. Heck, Roger Rueff wrote an excellent play about how no marketing rep ought to go to a sales conference in Wichita and merely talk to a potential buyer to get to know what he needs. Sales talk in Wichita is about manipulating the conversation to create demand and close the deal.

    That is backward, short-term thinking at best.

  • ahmedelbortoukaly

    It also happens to be a hard metric to achieve!

  • http://www.bortokali.com/ bortokali

    It also happens to be a hard metric to achieve!

  • http://www.bortokali.com/ bortokali

    It also happens to be a hard metric to achieve!

  • http://www.bortokali.com/ bortokali

    It also happens to be a hard metric to achieve!

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