Soft Metrics That Have A Significant Effect On Your Bottom LineBy Owen Andrew on September 19, 2014
Reading Time: 10 minutes
Everyone wants to increase sales and grow their business – that’s practically a given in the marketing world.
Increasing sales numbers and related key performance indicators (KPIs) is typically the main task for most marketers. And it is almost definitely the one that your boss cares about the most, regardless of whether said boss is the head of the marketing department, the CMO, or the business owner. And if you yourself are the owner, then you definitely focus on the sales numbers and corresponding profits!
Multi-Factor Analytics And Your Marketing Strategy
However, there are soft metrics that affect sales as well – and your marketing strategy needs to include those as well. And even if some of these KPIs are technically measured or tracked in the numerical sense, they are not the “hard” numbers that are typically associated with determining marketing successes and fails.
Marketing analytics and associated strategic decisions are multi-layered, and the various data elements you track, compile, report upon, and ultimately learn from need to reflect this fact.
Naturally, the raw numbers are particularly important to anyone who works in the SEO or SEM realm (or are responsible for reporting on those numbers to upper management and/or the C-Suite). But they are not the sole metric that anyone should rely on to judge the success or failure of a campaign, marketing technique, or any other marketing efforts. Simple data is just the outline of the story – the rest of the plot is filled with in the soft metrics described below.
After all, Facebook Likes, ReTweets, Favorites, upvotes, re-blogs, re-pins and other forms of social media appreciation are hardly solid leads. Moreover, many other factors contribute to actual leads; everything from contributing guest posts to popular blogs and news sites to providing excellent customer service on social media can result in an eventual sale.
The Key Soft Metrics
Having the good word about your company spread on social media can be one of the most valuable elements of your overall marketing efforts – and it may not cost you a dime in advertising.
However, building a strongly positive image in your audience’s hearts and minds does require time and a sincere effort on the part of the marketing team. Choosing the right type(s) of software to track the changes in sentiment over time is equally important. These online sentiment measurement tools can often be tied to real world events that were either orchestrated by your company or brand, or more general happenings that affected your target audience.
In general, knowing how your users really feel about your business is a vital step towards overall success – the social web is just as valuable as any focus group or marketing survey.
Share Of Voice
Your brand’s share of voice online – as compared to your main competitors – could be one of the most important soft metrics in your reporting plan.
Not only does an increase in the share of voice indicate that a given campaign or tactic is successful, it signifies growing brand awareness that will improve all aspects of your online presence. This includes but is not limited to your site’s rankings in the search engine results, social media reach and influence, and overall brand recognition. There are plenty of ways to track your brand’s share of voice, ranging from keyword-based tracking tools to hashtag usage to overall reach.
Time On Site/Pages Viewed
The more time a given user spends on your company website researching and viewing different pages, the most likely they are to convert in the future. Almost no one spends significant amount of time reading and learning about a business they have no plans of connecting with!
If someone enjoys your content enough to share with their personal social network, there’s a good chance they will eventually make a purchase with your brand. While it is important not to get too hung up on Likes, Favorites, and similar activities, the overall number, range, and reach of your social shares is a good indicator for overall awareness.
In marketing as well as life in general, you get what you give. The more information and helpful, interesting, entertaining, or otherwise compelling content you supply for your users, the more likely they are to interact with your brand online via subscribing to newsletters, commenting on and sharing articles, and posting on your social media accounts.
Tracking overall user engagement is a key way to determine the success of your content marketing tactics – it is essentially the digital marketing version of old tree falling silently (or not) in a forest adage. If you create content but no one engages with it, does it make an impact?
Customers who regularly interact with your brand online tend to be more likely to become long-term customers – or at the very least, they are giving you the opportunity to make them long-term customers by engaging with your content.
Subscribers/Followers – As Compared To Conversions
For the majority of businesses, most potential clients don’t convert (in the sense of making a purchase) on their first visit. They come back at a later date and do more research, and then convert.
What’s more, if those visits subscribe to your email list, add your blog to their RSS readers, follow your brand on various social media platforms, or otherwise actively choose to receive updates from your company, they are that much more likely to become actual customers. In addition, a large follower list signifies your company’s thought leadership in your niche – which can only lead to good things!
Last Impression/Exit Pages
First impressions are definitely important, but sometimes it is the final look that makes all the difference. The last page a user visits before converting might be the most important. That could be a landing page, a social media channel, or a specific page on the website that drives a lot of search traffic.
Understanding the user’s “last impression” can be a valuable learning tool in several ways. Not only does it show which pages or platforms lead to conversions, it also may show where users bounce or drop off. If a particular page is a common exit page (and it is not a standard one like a thank-you page), you may want to look at the overall user experience there to determine why so many visitors leave.
Comments And Links
If a user takes the time to comment on an article or blog post, or reply on social media, they usually feel pretty strongly about the topic. Pay attention to both the number of comments, the sentiment, and where users are choosing to reply. Be sure to track where your posts are linked or otherwise appear on “earned” platforms as well.
Looking at where customers engage with your content is almost as important as how they connect and what content they choose to interact with. Using heat mapping software on your site can be quite telling. For instance, users are most likely to connect with content around the “fold” area on a site (this is referred to as the serial position or recency effect), and people tend to read web content in the shape of a capital “F”.
Popular Times Of Day
When do users access your site or pay attention to your content? For B2B marketers, that’s often during the workday, but for B2C brands, ideal times could be quite different. Know when your clientele is most likely to connect with your content (and where) and schedule key posts, promotions, and events accordingly.
How do your potential clients take advantage of any personalization options available on your site? Can they choose their language and location? If you run an ecommerce site, are there options for them to sign in and save a shopping cart, make a wish list, calculate shipping, and other convenient customizations?
Your customers are actively telling you about their themselves via personalization – so as a marketer, you need to track that data and listen!
Payment Methods Of Choice
How and where do your customers purchase your products or services? Not only should you make it easy for them to pay however is the most convenient for them, but you should also track which payment options your customers use the most often – and for which products.
For instance, tech-savvy types are probably more likely to want a bitcoin payment processor as an option. On the other hand, most shoppers probably just want to enter their credit card info. The way your customers decide to spend their money can tell you a lot about your demographics, albeit in an indirect fashion.
Conversions Via Channel- Specific Landing Pages
Determining the best type of landing pages (sign-up forms? downloads? relevant articles?) works for which of your marketing channels is also highly important. The landing page is perhaps the most important stop on the road to conversion, but also the most significant barrier.
For instance, a user could be searching for the exact type of product or service your business offers and arrive at your site after clicking on an organic listing or ad targeted towards one of your keywords. But if your landing page doesn’t reflect exactly what they are looking for or it doesn’t make the next step(s) clear, they are much more likely to click away.
Or they could discover your brand via third party’s social media post, but then click through and arrive at a landing page that has little to no context regarding how they discovered your company. Need some real life examples? PageWiz got you covered.
Numbers Still Matter
Of course, all of the above is important and can make a difference in the bottom line. But that said, measuring your marketing strategies for effectiveness does require paying attention to the numbers. However, if that’s your sole or main focus, then you and your team may be missing the forest for the trees.
A quality integrated or omni-channel marketing strategy should encompass both hard numbers such as website traffic, conversions, and sales, as well as soft metrics like sentiment, share of voice, and brand awareness. And defining these KPIs and developing a sophisticated cross-channel tracking systems before you launch a campaign or marketing program is essential.
The knowledge of where your marketing program started, what your efforts accomplished, and key learnings for future campaigns via both hard and soft metrics are what leads to developing a complete marketing strategy that’s successful in the long term.
How do you measure your online campaigns ROI?
Owen Andrew is a tech journalist from Los Angeles. He enjoys writing on all-things tech, particularly social media for business, cloud computing and iPhones. He hopes you enjoy this article.