In business, we all want to see results for our efforts. In order to measure those results, we use metrics - a quantifiable measure of progress or accomplishment. When it comes to B2B marketing, there are a few vanity metrics that can lead us astray if we're not careful.
There are so many vanity metrics out there, it's hard to know which ones you should pay attention to and which ones can be ignored.
In this article, I'm going to share with you the vanity metrics that may be relevant in B2B marketing and how you can avoid them.
Five Types of Vanity Metrics
So what actually is a vanity metric? First, vanity metrics are generally those KPIs that measure an individual or organization's level of "success." There are five types of vanity metrics: self-imposed, external, scientific, positive, and negative.
1. Self-Imposed Vanity Metrics
These metrics relate to a person's goals or an organization's goals. For example, Daniel is a sales person who wants to increase his sales every month by 10 percent. He sets up a chart to track his progress and creates a vanity metric called "Sales per month" that is calculated by taking the number of sales he has in this month and dividing it by the number of months in the year. Setting up this metric is Daniel's way to measure his success. If he hits his goal, he will view that as a good thing. If he misses it, it will be a bad thing. If he keeps hitting his goal, it will be seen as a good thing more than a bad thing.
Self-Imposed vanity metrics are not going to be useful in measuring the true performance of your company or role in the company.
Sales per month, for example, is very difficult to use as a real performance metric. You may have a customer who pays you on time every month, but they are not your typical customer and you don't expect them to stay with you every month. Using your sales metric to gauge sales performance is like having a car that goes 200 km/hour and only uses 30 litres of gas. In some cases, this kind of vanity metric gets out of hand, also in Marketing. We have seen Marketing managers who set goals to increase their number of page views on their website by 100,000 within a year. I don't know why they even care what their page views are, let alone if it's important enough to track.
2. External Vanity Metrics
External metrics are what other people say about you. You can't control them or set them up like you do for self-imposed vanity metrics. The first one that comes to mind was the "Klout" score. In essence, Klout was a company that analyzed social media activity and then assigned you a number between 1 and 100 based on how influential they believe you were. I think external metrics can never be very useful to your company. If you had been using Klout scores as a metric, then you know probably know where Klout is today ("unheard of").
3. Scientific Vanity Metrics
Scientific metrics are useful for measuring where your money is going and for tracking sales. If you have a profit goal, then you may want to track how much money comes in compared to the amount of money that goes out to create income. The main thing to remember is that every business has a fixed cost. If you want to grow, you need to make more sales or/and make your current sales more profitable.
4. Positive Vanity Metrics
We call these metrics "vanity" because it's hard to know what value they are when first starting out. I remember when the first company I worked for had a great quarter and my boss was asking me what my favorite vanity metric was. I said "metrics are vanity" and it wasn't very appreciated in the office I was working in. People forgot what I was trying to say.
A typical positive vanity metric is when people are leaving positive feedback on Amazon or your Website.
This could also be a negative vanity metric, because you have no idea if they actually backed up their comments with money. A positive vanity metric could also be when people are talking about your brand on Social Media and you can count how many likes or retweets you get.
You may think that if your customers are getting excited about your product, then it must be a good product. It could be a great product, but you don't know that until you take the time to talk to your customers and evaluate the situation. Maybe there is an issue with one of your products that you need to fix or a problem with this particular customer.
5. Negative Vanity Metrics
These metrics are some of the most dangerous things that can happen to a business since they don't show any results until it's too late. A negative vanity metric is a person's online review, their online reputation, or one of your competitors on Social Media. You don't see any immediate results because it's all about people talking about your business and sharing their thoughts about your company. You could only see the benefits of them talking about you one to two years later.
For instance, a negative review on Google could harm your business in the short term but it could cause more damage when someone leaves a bad review on your Website or Bing.
The only way to stop a bad review from spreading is to own the search results. You can't change what people think of you, but you can control how they find out about you.
A negative vanity metric could also be when a person talks about your company and then tells their friends and family not to do business with you. If someone is not happy with your product, it might make sense for them to warn their friends and family about doing business with you. One of the main reasons they won't do business with you is because they don't trust you. You should have built enough trust with them that they don't feel the need to warn their friends and family.
The Bottom Line is your Pitfall Cure
I remember when we used to be the agency to do all sorts of things for our clients and we thought that was a good thing. We would be the last ones to say no to reviewing followers. We liked it when we our new clients were receiving lots of positive feedback and engagements. The only problem is that you don't know if people are not doing business with you because they don't like you or because they just don't have time to do business with you.The main thing to remember is that vanity metrics are nice and can be helpful to your company.
The problem is that vanity metrics can internally become more relevant than actual performance KPIs.
Conclusion on Vanity Metrics for B2B
Vanity metrics can be deceiving and should not be the only factor when measuring success in a business. However, there are some specific vanity metrics that are relevant in B2B companies which we have outlined for you. By avoiding these measures of success, you will be able to focus on more important factors that will actually move your company forward.
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