In my daily routine, I’ve plotted out 4 kinds of numbers that I look at daily to see how things are going and give me an instant read on what I need to be focusing on.
1. Conversions: I look at the end results first. I look to see whether anything of value is being generated or not. Examples in your world might include sales, donors, or contributors.
2. Key performance indicators: These are the numbers that are directly connected to my end results. If sales are the end result, qualified leads are a key performance indicator because they’re directly connected, one step away. Examples in your world might be filled shopping carts in eCommerce, qualified leads in your sales pipeline, or pledged donors.
3. The database: I look at the database next. How much increased reach has become possible? This includes things like email subscribers, social media audience, etc. If I had to reach out and make an ask, how much heat could this generated?
4. Leading indicators: The last thing I look at are leading indicators, things like website traffic. These are numbers that hint at what could happen but are so disconnected from the end result that they’re not reliable. Website traffic is actually a great example – you could pump in thousands of visitors to your site, but if they’re the wrong target audience, then it won’t make an impact at all. There are lots of leading indicators that have some level of correlation, like the number of phone calls your sales team makes, the number of shoppers that walk in the door of your store, the number of registered voters of your political party in your region, etc.
What do I look for? Mainly, I look for changes in trends, inflection points. An individual day’s data isn’t really worth much unless you’re measuring the specific results of a short-term campaign. Here are four examples of what I look for:
The first example is an upward trend. This means that things are generally okay if up is good. The same is true of the second example. If down is good, things are okay. If down is bad, then at some point I need to pull the trigger and cease whatever activity is causing that slow decline to oblivion.
The third and fourth examples are key. In each, we see an inflection point (indicated by the red arrow) that shows how a trend changed. The key with inflection points is to detect them as early as possible and make decisions as soon as the data is reliable. The catch is that if you wait too long, the consequences may get progressively more difficult to alter.
The key to doing this is to have a trend line and understand your business cycle. For example, every week, my web traffic trend line looks like this:
Am I worried by those dips? No. My audience is largely a business crowd and so Saturdays are the lowest traffic day. The week declines until Saturday where it bottoms out. Then on Sundays, I ship my newsletter. That has the net effect of getting the week started and seeding traffic for a few days. In the case of my website, because there’s so much noise daily in the week, I have to scale back to a weekly view of the month in order to see general trends up or down.
When you look at your marketing metrics, what do you look for?
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