Marketing ROI and what you should measure

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Best Practices

These days, the Web gives everyone — B2B companies, consumer brands, consultants, nonprofits, schools, etc. — a tremendous opportunity to reach people and engage them in new and different ways.

Now we can earn attention by creating and publishing online for free something interesting and valuable: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an e-book, a Facebook page.

But how should we measure the success of this new kind of marketing? The answer is that we need new metrics.

1980s-style measurement is ineffective

I'm critical of applying old forms of offline measurement to online marketing.

In my opinion, the negative aspects of using squeeze pages in front of content like white papers (you will get way fewer downloads and virtually no inbound links) far outweighs the benefit (getting some email addresses). Early this year I debated these issues with Mike Volpe, VP marketing at HubSpot.

I'm vocal about what not to do (slap on registration forms). But what should you measure?

There are many ways to track progress such as how people participate in your social networking sites, how many people are reading and downloading your work, and how many are making inquiries about or buying your products and services.

Here are some things you can measure:

1. How many people are eager to participate in your online efforts? (You can measure how many people "like" you on Facebook, subscribe to your blog, follow you on Twitter, sign up for your email newsletter, or register for a Webinar.

2. How many people are downloading your stuff? (You can measure how many people are downloading your ebooks, presentation slides, videos, podcasts, and other content.)

3. How often are bloggers writing about you and your ideas?

4. (And what are those bloggers saying?)

5. Where are you appearing in search results for important phrases?

6. How many people are engaging with you and choosing to speak to you about your offerings? (You can measure how many people are responding to contact forms and making requests for information.)

7. How are sales looking? Is the company reaching its goals? (Ultimately, the most important form of measurement within management teams is revenue and profit.)

For much more on measurement, check out Jim Sterne's book Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. This book is part of my own New Rules of Social Media book series.