Why is measuring marketing KPI's so hard?

Measuring marketing KPIs is not always as transparent as we’d like to think it is. It’s all too easy for the true meaning of the metric to get completely lost, and this is not just damaging marketing’s reputation, it’s damaging businesses too. We need to make sure we understand how these metrics are being measured before we start optimising our marketing practices against them.

But here’s the problem. In today’s complex marketing environment, it is not uncommon to find marketers introducing a bias to their metrics because of the way they’ve posed their questions, or reporting KPIs where the figure doesn’t represent what they think it does. To address this issue, marketing teams should start with defining, agreeing on, and documenting what the main metrics are and how they should be calculated. This information should also be readily available to the people compiling the reports and those reading them. This will not solve every issue but it is certainly a start.

And while some measures seem self-explanatory, most are open to interpretation. Just ask yourself how many definitions of “click-through” you’ve come across in your career. Plenty I’m sure, and we’re not even looking at complex attribution methodology or mathematical significance here.

The price of a leading question

Ultimately, there are countless different ways to ask the same question and as a result, the data ends up failing to be truly representative. If you’re a fan of legal TV dramas, you might have heard it referred to as “leading the witness”.

To add to the confusion, the person who needs the metrics is not usually the person technically asking the questions of the data, so the context and exact meaning can easily be lost or misinterpreted.

You might not think this is a big deal but when performance, budget spend and ultimately the perceived state of the sales funnel are all driven by these KPIs, you realise that their accuracy and true meaning are paramount, that the impact of not being on top of what the metrics really show you could be extremely damaging.


Stuart Russell
Client Services Director