Which Metrics Should Be Eliminated from B2B Marketing and Sales?

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I’ve written and spoken a lot about vanity metrics, which are basically the numbers we used to emphasize before we knew how to measure truly meaningful metrics. I was curious how the rest of the B2B world felt about the subject, so I took to my LinkedIn community to ask fellow marketing and sales leaders which vanity metrics they’d like to eliminate entirely.

Their answers were awesome—and a bit surprising. Here are the main themes from our discussion.

The Application Matters

Heidi Bullock, chief marketing officer at Engagio, said that timing is everything: “I don’t think there are bad metrics—just bad applications of them. Too often people use early-stage metrics at the wrong time with the wrong audience. A marketer needs to look at early-stage metrics to course-correct, but a sales leader does not care about the same indicators. [The] key is understanding timing and the audience.”

Samantha Stone, founder and chief marketing officer of the Marketing Advisory Network, largely agreed: “I don’t believe we need to eliminate any metrics, as they provide leading indicators for marketers to plan campaigns, but we should stop holding marketing accountable for things like MQLs, views, shares. Instead, we need to measure contribution to pipeline, lead to meeting conversion rates, win rates, and length of the buying process.”

And Shauna Ward, content marketing manager at Matcha, added this thought: “No metrics should be completely eliminated—just contextualized. So-called vanity metrics like traffic, followers, sales activities, and leads all serve a purpose. It’s only when you start focusing on those metrics at the expense of down-funnel metrics that you have an issue.”

The Lens You View It Through Matters, Too

There was some lively discussion around metrics like page views and whether they could be considered vanity metrics or not. Bhavishya Garg, partner and head of design and growth at CoinDCX, said that page visits or impressions “make marketers forget the real reason for marketing: ROI.” I agree that a focus on these metrics alone can throw you off your pursuit of ROI, but I maintain that it’s a good thing when the right accounts are visiting the right pages on your website, and worth noting. Not all page visits are equal, but some are more important than others.

Daniel Threlfall, director of content marketing at MobileMonkey, also noted page views’ continued relevance: “Without page visits, it leaves SEOs and content marketers with few or flimsy KPIs. I'm content to leave it as a KPI, but always track back to revenue as the North Star metric.” That makes sense in my mind—yes, measure page views and use this metric in a smart way, but ultimately make revenue the real metric.

Samuel E. Schwalb, sales executive at Method Savvy, said he’d like to eliminate the concept of MQLs and SQLs because “having these sets a tone of a combative, ineffective relationship between marketing and sales.” That’s a fresh perspective and touches on the fact that the way in which we view our metrics can have an impact on our internal culture and goals. Let’s stay united and make sure marketing and sales are always part of one team.

Meanwhile, Sierra Summers, demand generation and marketing operations consultant at Main Shark, said she’d like to eliminate “cost per lead.” I asked her what she’d use in its place, and she replied, “Cost per engagement. Anyone can generate a lead, but it takes multiple touches to get that person across the line.” So true. I’m a big believer in measuring engagement rather than “leads.” It’ll always tell you a whole lot more of what you need to know.

Simplify and Get Centered

Some interesting discussion centered on metrics getting too complicated and causing marketers to lose focus on their primary jobs as well. Kyle York, vice president of product strategy at Oracle, put it like this: “Let’s just get back to basics—‘leads > qualified opps > closed won.’ I’m all for an analytical KPI focus to the GTM machine, but when you need to educate a whole company on each layer of the funnel, you end up spending your time internally and not focusing on what matters—providing value to customers and closing deals! Goodbye MQL to SQL!” 

While I’m not a believer in talking about future customers as “leads” (I eliminated that terminology a long time ago), I do agree with the crux of Kyle’s point. We should be zeroing in on the metrics at the heart of what we’re trying to achieve, not making our roles more complicated.

And finally, Scott Handy, head of content and PR at UpCounsel Inc., brought up a really good point: “It’s important to differentiate between ‘report’ and ‘measure.’ The typical vanity metrics of visits, page views, impressions, downloads, etc., are critical for marketers to measure, but not very telling in a report to senior management.” You may measure a lot more than you actually will want—or need—to report to your executive team.

My stance is that there are definitely vanity metrics that don’t tell you anything of value and can be eliminated. But there also can be a wealth of information in your numbers, if you know where to look, when to look, and how to contextualize it all. The goal with measurement is to provide insight about how you’re doing in achieving your goals, so you can continue to improve. If the metrics you’re using are doing that, kudos to you. If not, start saying an intentional goodbye to them.

Author Robert Tew is credited with saying, “Walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy,” and I’d say this applies to vanity metrics as well. If the measurements you’re relying on aren’t serving you in your business goals, or helping to grow your revenue, they deserve to be left in the past. And the sooner you move on from them, the sooner you can start focusing on the metrics that really do matter, and that will actually get you somewhere.

Sangram Vajre is the cofounder and chief evangelist of Terminus, a leader in account-based marketing that has raised over $20 million in funding. Prior to cofounding Terminus, Vajre ran marketing at Pardot through the acquisition of ExactTarget, which was then acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion. He wrote the very first book on account-based marketing (ABM), published by Wiley. Vajre is an international speaker and host of the top 50 business podcast called #FlipMyFunnel and has been recognized as one of the top 21 B2B Influencers in the world by DMN Network and 40 under 40 by DMNews. He is on a mission to build the largest and most engaged community of B2B professionals in the world.

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