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Aligning KPIs to Goals and Objectives

Often as a marketer, the end-all objective to most campaigns is to create value for your client’s top line by increasing things like orders and revenue. Historically, this choice was made because there was a lack of additional viable KPIs to choose from. So we would answer questions like, "Did we see more revenue after we shipped out a bunch of catalogs? Were we selling three times as much in market B after we setup billboards into and out of the city center?" However, we didn’t truly have a wide way of determining just how good they were doing at supporting those main goals. Sure there were ways to "track" the performance of these tactics, but they were far from perfect. How often does the customer remember their special 25-character alpha-numeric brochure code? Did he or she dial that special phone number or was it simply easy enough to dial the corporate 1-800 number and place the order?

Today — despite being in the days of pixels, cookies, DSPs, DMPs, Web Analytic Packages, media platforms and a whole host of third-party data providers and tools — many are still stuck in thinking in those black and white views. Obviously, at the end of the day, for a company to stay in business, they need to fundamentally support these key marketing objectives of orders and revenues. No one in their right mind will ever say otherwise, even for nonprofits that need to drive more contributions and larger amounts to keep going. With the explosion of metrics that range from basic market sizing and demand all the way to intimate details of how individual cookies are interacting with your website, we have the opportunity to start leveraging more metrics as primary KPIs to measure campaign success.  

To make things even more complicated, it isn’t just about selecting different metrics, but understanding what they represent, given the context of what we are trying to accomplish. The same metric may be the right KPI for campaign 1, but be completely irrelevant for campaign 2, despite them having similar overall objectives. For example, clicks may make sense as the end goal for an awareness campaign – we got someone to interact with our ad and now they are on the website and we assume they did something. Great! Huge win, right? But what happens if the bounce rate is at 90% or they spend less than 10 seconds on the page? Do we still feel the same way? If there are multiple video play opportunities, downloadable content, and various tools / calculators for our potential customer to interact with, and they don’t use any of it, do we still think this campaign was a success? On the other hand, what if we are simply driving awareness to our site so that we can follow up with them later via remarketing? In this instance, clicks may be fine to call out how many visits we’ve gotten to the website that we can build a retargeting campaign around. We can certainly make the case that there are better metrics than clicks for this example (like cookie pool size and unique visitors), but you can see how two basic awareness campaigns would fork into two different sets of KPIs.

For additional food for thought, see the below table that lists a few of the more common marketing objectives, a list of questions, and the metrics that can be used to help answer those questions.

Aligning KPIs to Goals – Example Alignments

Client Campaign Objective

Clarification Question

Metric Options for Optimization


Do we want to have a long-term conversation with these people?

Clicks, Unique Visitors, # of Cookies


Do we want to increase potential customer engagement with the brand?

Bounce Rate, Interactions (Calculators, Video Views, Downloads)


Do we want to increase current customer engagement with the brand?

Logins, Orders (Returning Customer Specific), Bill Pays, App Downloads, Time on Site

Channel Shift

Do we want to decrease call center costs?

Page Views (Customer Support specific), Bill Pays, Click-to-Call


What effect does our marketing have on driving offline sales?   

Click-to-Call, Store Locator, Leads


Do we want to decrease the purchase cycle and / or increase overall value?

Time Between Purchases (Returning Customer Specific), avg. Order Value


Do we want to acquire brand new customers?

Unique Visitors, First Click Conversion

We can now start to see how poor KPI selection impacts campaign management, bidding and budgeting, and marketing message. It is a snowball effect that gets bigger and bigger as it goes downhill and ends up crashing through your door. Irrelevant keywords with poor messages are prioritized over keywords that are actually driving individuals to get to know your brand. Budget is prioritized in this direction as well, and the only thing we have to show for it is clicks, a metric that can be easily manipulated by bidding into first position, doing total page takeovers, or using dynamic overlay display ads.    

In summary, there are certainly a lot more metrics out there than ever before, and interpretation of those metrics can be drastically different depending on what audience segment you are looking at, which filter you have on or even which campaign it is being run out of. The key is to take a step back, ask the right questions, think through what the goal / objective is, and choose the metrics that make the most sense to determine success or failure. It may still all go back to how much revenue was brought in or how many orders were placed, but we can make more informed decisions and feel confident in doing so by making sure we align the right KPIs for the job at hand. 

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