The Most Important Marketing Metrics for Small Businesses

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In our interview series, we asked marketers and entrepreneurs we admire about their marketing practices. One question I asked most people was about metrics: what metrics do they measure or think are most important for small businesses should measure?

Website Metrics

If your website is also your product (content sites like Ask A Manager and YourStory, product startups like AppSurfer, e-commerce sites), website metrics are of paramount importance.

The AppSurfer team tracks website metrics regularly, especially engagement-related metrics: pages per visit, bounce rate, etc.

We met Jubin Mehta of YourStory recently, and he told us that YourStory focuses on the number of unique visitors — not total visits or page views, but the number of readers.

Alison Green of Ask A Manager says:

I look at overall traffic patterns, with the occasional glance to see where traffic is coming from. I like to know how many people are visiting, roughly what’s driving them to the site.

Social Media Engagement

Apart from managing the lifestyle site, the Tossed Salad, Sahil Khan has worked on social media for several popular restaurants. He says:

Most brands are generally happy with the number of followers, the number of fans that they have. But I think the engagement level is the most basic thing that…

At least for smaller brands it’s more about building relationships rather than tracking all these metrics.

Conversion: Leads and Sales

The most popular answer to this question is “conversions and sales”.

Ann Handley of the marketing content platform, Marketing Profs, said: 

It’s more important to figure out what marketing metric matters to you: It might be sales, but it might be something else, too: Customer engagement or sharing metrics, or the length of time between a lead generation and sale. In other words, it depends. But at a high level, look at your lead generation, sales, and sharing metrics. Those are ones that will give you a pretty solid sense of how well your marketing is driving business.

Expert marketer Lisa Barone says much the same thing:

You’re spending time and money trying to build your business, both on the Web and off – so you want to make sure you’re profiting from your actions. That doesn’t mean everything needs to lead back to a direct sale, but you should have goal-tracking in place to help you keep track of conversion-oriented behavior. If someone signs up for your newsletter, subscribes to your RSS feed, places an item in their shopping cart – these are things you want to be looking it. It doesn’t matter if you have 20,000 followers on Twitter. It matters that people are converting on your site, whatever a “conversion” means to you.

Anita Campbell of popular site Small Business Trends agrees that number of sales and prospects in the pipeline are the most important:

Whatever you sell, know that you have a steady stream of business coming down the pike. Number of prospects, length of time for the sales cycle, and other specifics about the pipeline depend on the business.  If you’ve been in business for a while, you should have a good idea of what to expect in an average month or quarter, so you want to extrapolate from there.

PR expert Gini Dietrich tells you how to do it:

I would create landing pages where people go to get more information about you, your company, and your content (Hubspot is a great software to help you do this as you’re starting out). That way you can track who is on the page, what they’re doing, and whether or not they’re converting to a customer.

It’s tempting to look at traffic and pageviews and bounce rates, but those are all ego-driven metrics. Pay attention to the metrics that show you how customers become so.

Ruud Hein of Search Engine People agrees:

What’s your conversion rate? How can you improve it? Don’t guess: A/B test it.

But he also says the one metric to keep your eye on is…

Cash

Of course, the bottom line is most important — or even the top line, revenue.

Bhaskar Sarma, freelance marketer, says:

As a small business owner, the one metric that I track is cash. How much I have earned in the past week, past month or past 6 months. You should keep an eye on that too…everything else is a means to the end.

Sally McGraw of the popular style blog Already Pretty, is of the same opinion:

I just keep an eye on my traffic and blog subscribers, and other than that I’m making enough money to pay my bills.

Everything!

Rand Fishkin is the most data-driven of them all (no surprise): “It can’t just be one metric. At the very least, small businesses need to have some idea of:

  • Which channels produce customers (and which ones influence those who lead you to customers – sometimes the process is indirect)?
  • What’s your cost structure to provide product/services?
  • What’s your average customer lifetime value, and how can you increase that?”

What do you think: what metrics are most important to your business?

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