KPIs & User Journey Metrics for Marketers: Part 1

In marketing, we can measure so much that in many ways, we aren’t measuring anything. We are drowning in data. And the worse part, it may even be the wrong data.

There are ways to ensure that the data that we analyze is actually useful to the brand. Of course, this all starts with a content strategy. Which, of course, starts with a persona. Which, of course, starts with data and insights about your target user. Of course.

Starting with a data-informed persona, you can determine what actions are important to that user. Remember, if you are marketing your brand to a human, you need to figure out what that human needs from you and your content to complete their own personal user journey. Remember, inside every “persona” is a “person.”

The person inside the persona needs something. This is a personal journey and that person is the hero of his own personal story. As that hero is faced with a conflict, he will seek out a solution…and in certain cases, your brand is the solution to that problem.

As a marketing team, you probably have key messages that you want to convey. That’s a great starting point for your strategy. If you planned your messaging properly, those messages will probably resonate with your target user. That’s a good thing. Except…

Except that your message may not be the only thing that matters to your user. Your message is probably part of a larger, more complex problem that your user (the hero of his own story) wants/needs to solve. If you’ve set your analytics to report when you’ve delivered your message, you may not know if it’s actually helped your user solve his problem. In essence, you’ve set yourself up for success to report key performance indicators (KPIs), but you may not be analyzing the KPIs that will tell you if the user is motivated to buy your product or service. This is called “checkbox marketing.”

Checkbox Marketing + Traditional Media

Checkbox marketing is the kind of old-school, analog marketing that celebrates the success of basic KPIs, but fails to determine if those KPIs were the ones that matter. Let me give an example.

At one time, it was believe that a certain number of exposures to brand message would lead to users taking action. Let’s say that it was seven exposures, so we have an index number. That meant that your job as a marketer was to get your brand message in front of the same person at least seven times. In classic, analog media, that meant multi-channel advertising.

Advertisers could purchase impressions based on the profile of the viewer or reader or listener. So, if you wanted to target a certain key demographic, say males 18-25, you could place ads that would help you reach them fellas. To reach your magical seven impressions, you bought enough ads to help you check the box that you did your job. This was the way media and advertising worked for over a hundred years.

Since the media was structured as a one-way communications medium, it actually worked. People huddled around the television to consume content and they were exposed to commercial messages. People read newspapers to get information and they were exposed to commercial messages. People listened to broadcast radio and they were exposed to commercial messages. If you wanted to reach people, you just had to find a newspaper, magazine, television show, or radio show that matched your demographic goals, buy the ad, and let it run.

Okay, there was a lot more to it than that, but for the purposes of content marketing and media strategy, this was a cornerstone of marketing strategy. As a marketer, you worked with your partners in paid advertising to develop events, sponsorships, stunts, live demos, and a myriad of other engagements that were designed to support brand message and reach the magical number of seven impressions.

It might sound like I’m being deeply critical of checkbox marketing, but that’s not really true. At the time, marketers did the best the could with the tools they had. Before the Internet, we had media blasted “at” us. Now we pull media “to” us. Big difference.

Modern Measurement + the New Gatekeepers (Us)

It’s still possible to reach certain personas through traditional exposure and many brands benefit from repeat message exposure. Television is not dead, but it’s no longer the only broad-based platform for media and the gatekeepers are no longer insulated from two-way communications. Traditional media gatekeepers were church-and-state-separated from their advertisers (ostensibly) as well as their viewers/readers/listeners. Modern television is now part of the social-media revolution and is (in many cases) deeply involved in two-way engagements with viewers/readers/listeners and even advertisers.

I’m certainly covering a lot of history and modern media topics here, but I really want to get down to KPIs. Specifically the fact that traditional exposure-only metrics will only tell you if you delivered your message. It probably will not tell you if your message (which, yes, you did deliver) is actually what moved your target user to change his behavior.

Think about it. If you consider YouTube, users are presented with a message that includes an opportunity to “skip” the video after a short countdown. Someone paid to put a message in front of you. Sure, you were exposed to it, but your focus was on the gratifying moment that counted down when you could click skip. Exposure? Check. Marketing effectiveness? Questionable.

Measuring Marketing + Behavior Change

Marketing, in the case of acquisition, is about behavior change. Specifically, you want their behavior to discover, consider, and then become and active user of your product. In a broad, oversimplified way, you want your target user to go from not using your brand to using your brand. In many commercial products that means a purchase.

There are a lot of other marketing goals and KPIs associated with customer retention and evangelism, but for the purposes of this section, let’s just focus on the acquisition portion. In a retention model, we’re going to go from using a product to using more of that product, which requires many different KPIs. Specifically, it requires KPIs that indicate behavior change, which is challenging to measure, but with the right content strategy is possible.

Looking back, marketers and advertisers did what they could with the analytics that they had. These were simple tools like subscriber bases, regional population data, and other resources that could help them reach their simple KPI goals.

If you had a great product, this kind of exposure would help you sell more product. Of course, it could also highlight the flaws in your product and drive it to a swift death. To quote Jerry Della Famina, “Nothing kills a bad product better faster than great advertising.”

In my next post, I’ll offer an analytics approach that will be more aligned with modern content marketing. It’s important to consider the overall content strategy of your content and how it will be measured, so I’ll give some tips and tricks for using personas to build your analytics plan.


End of Part 1

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2 thoughts on “KPIs & User Journey Metrics for Marketers: Part 1

  1. So important to measure what is right today, or moreover, what is impactful. As you suggest Buddy, we have access to more data than ever before so the honus clearly falls on marketers to utilize it effectively. It seems that we’re getting there, and articles such as this help to advance the story.

    That said, I think there are a lot of marketers today using a modern day, digital version of ‘checkbox marketing’. Banners-check, paid search-check, social presence-check. Sifting through the data that is collected from tthese channels is where marketers, content strategists, etc. can separate themselves.

    Great stuff, looking forward to part 2.

  2. Thanks, Tony. Yeah, the reality is that you can check the box and be done pretty quickly. But it’s a lot more challenging to really get in there and try to make a difference to your audience. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, pal!

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