Has measurement become too complicated for its own good?

One of the key attributes of digital marketing has always been measurement and as digital marketers we are blessed that we can use tangible metrics that bring transparency and accountability to our activities. But as the industry becomes more advanced and grows up, I am increasingly making the realisation that measurement can actually become too complicated and as marketers it is easy lose sight of the overall objectives of what we do, generating revenue and profit.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this, only recently I heard Opta’s Simon Banoub arguing that it is too easy to get hung up on pinpointing ROI and that he preferred to just get on with his job. In a similar vein, Erik Qualman’s belief that “the ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years” was also a refreshing viewpoint on the real value of digital marketing.

Before I go any further I am not arguing that we as an industry should do away with in depth reporting altogether. We are an agency that is judged on the results we achieve and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The argument is that as we spend an increasing amount of time tracking and producing a huge variety of numbers, do these numbers really tell us what we need to know?

On an operational level cost per lead, keyword rankings, website traffic or cost per click will provide insight into how a campaign could be refined. Without the context and understanding behind them however, it is easy for these numbers to become commercially meaningless.

Generally speaking, there are very few businesses that would base their marketing goals around such metrics, let alone use them as a true marker for the success of their business. Instead companies set goals around revenues and profit; these are the important business metrics and represent a distinction between how marketing campaigns can be measured and how they should be judged.

Sadly it is the difficulties within the B2B sector in tracking deep enough and far enough down the pipeline that leads many to take the easy route, presenting metrics like cost per lead that give little insight into true value. Marketers today have a responsibility not to shy away from the difficult metrics and to clearly define which metrics offer an indicator of campaign success and which are best used in the refinement and improvement of campaigns.

Ultimately I am of the opinion that as long as the overall ROI of your marketing is healthy then your other metrics are fine. Yes, these metrics should be utilised in refining and optimising campaigns but they should never be the sole basis upon which a campaign’s success is judged.