Vanity vs. Tactical Marketing Metrics: What’s the Difference?

Vanity vs. Tactical Marketing Metrics: What’s the Difference?

Vanity metrics are all too often confused with metrics that are in fact relevant—but they’re only relevant to a certain group of technical marketers.

The ‘vanity metrics’ category includes things likes social media likes or followers. A lot of people have Twitter followers simply because they tweet outrageous things, for example, but that doesn’t mean they’re influencing those followers or that they have any real clout. These metrics don’t mean much when it comes to measuring your efforts, and they don’t offer any real insights into your overall performance. If you can’t use the metrics to make better plans for future campaigns, then they fall into that ‘vanity’ category.

Tactical metrics, on the other hand, provide you with actionable data that can help influence your decisions around future campaigns. Followers’ comments about your exceptional service or product, for instance, speak to a successful strategy and offer valuable insights into what you’re doing well. When happy customers share information about a product on their social channels, those aren’t just followers—those are endorsers. It’s like the difference between telling a friend that you love something and telling him to check that thing out.

I hear metrics such as open and click-through rates referred to as ‘vanity metrics’ when in fact they’re not vain at all. Open rates are a sign that the people receiving your emails both want to receive information from you and that the topic seemed interesting to them. For example, if I get an email from an airline telling me about a sale on flights from a city that’s nowhere near me, I’m going to ignore it. It’s generic, it doesn’t take my persona and specifics into consideration, and they’re showing me that they just don’t care what I need. But if I get an email from a local business telling me that something I regularly buy from them is on sale, I’m going to open that right away—they’re thinking of me, my buying patterns, my needs, and my convenience.

Overall, open rates are trending data. It’s less about the absolute numbers and more about the proportion of leads that are opening the emails. Because open rates can be both false negative and false positive, they’re never completely accurate. Click-through rates are accurate, but are again trending. Is the percentage of leads clicking in my emails increasing? If so, then I’m sending more relevant information. If those rates are decreasing, I better check what I’m sending and make sure it’s important to my audience.

Vanity metrics are exactly what they sound like—numbers that may be high, but that only show winners in some vague, ill-defined popularity contest. Tactical metrics are important trending data that tell marketers about the health of their database, the needs and interests of their audience, and the expansion of brand awareness. These numbers are important to businesses that are trying to help their prospects and customers do better, learn more, and reach their goals.

These tactical numbers play into a larger measurement context, and will help you make sure you’re on the right path as work to drive more pipeline and revenue for the business. To learn more about how you can measure and report on these marketing metrics, check out the B2B Marketer’s Guide to Tactical Reporting Guide from our Actionable Insights Pocket Guide series.

SiriusDecisions Tech Exchange 2016 — What We Learned

SiriusDecisions Tech Exchange 2016 — What We Learned

Last week’s SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange in Austin, TX provided attendees with a lot of sessions on the plusses and pitfalls of implementing too many or too few technologies, the importance of training for teams, and the necessity of processes to make sure you get the most out of your marketing stack.

In Jay Famico’s keynote, he notably said, “Importance is relative; priorities are not.” The key here is to ensure that you know what your priorities are, and then to plan activities to support those priorities in order of importance. He presented the SiriusDecisions structure of first defining your company’s objectives, then creating the functional objectives to meet those objectives, and bringing those down to the team level to support them. He cautioned not to add too many priorities, either. After 5 or 6, he said, the relative value of each decreases. But with 5 to 6, you can hone in.

Technology is a strategy, not a tactic

For marketing technology stacks, this means focusing on the target areas where you want to ensure success, measuring to align resources to priorities, and interlocking to make sure teams are coupled with projects.

Importantly, Jay noted that it’s important to acknowledge what technology enables you to achieve — and to make sure that any new technology is in line with the sales and marketing priorities. He emphasized data, which gives you the ability to compare quantities and qualities, and delivers visibility into the operations and activity of your organization.

Finally, he made the comment that I truly believe in: reporting has to come from your systems of record, not from documents, spreadsheets, or email. It’s what’s in the system that matters. That means ensuring that everything from lead data in your MAP to opportunity data in your CRM has to be logged. As he said, “What’s in the system matters.”

In the data keynote “The Pulse: Technology and the B-to-B Revenue-Generating Engine,” Tony Jaros and Jacques Begin provided results from SiriusDecisions’ recent survey:

  1. B2B organizations spend 1.5%-16% of their revenue on marketing — with less for larger organizations and more for smaller organizations that are in high-growth modes.
  2. Of this marketing budget, 3.5%-6% is spent on technology, with small organizations again spending a larger proportion of their budgets on getting these basic systems in place and functional.
  3. Finally, this represents from as little as 0.05% to 1% of total company revenue spent on marketing technology.

Notably, 6 in 10 respondents said their budgets for technology grew by 5%-10% or even more in the past year.

Marketing Operations Results

One of the most interesting pieces of data for me was that many organizations are using web analytics as most of their measurement and reporting. This means that the majority of companies are very activity-based when they look at performance. As the SiriusDecisions team pointed out, this provides no insight into revenue, only into web and activity analytics. Essential items in the measurement cookbook to be sure, but by no means a rounded out meal.

Demand Creation

When looking at demand creation, they pointed out that the key systems are still sales force automation, marketing automation platforms, and web analytics. They noted an increasing interest in multi-touch attribution, which of course I agree with. Tony Janos particularly called out the dangers of using only first-touch or last-touch models, which provide limited information about the marketing activities that are driving leads once they are in your funnel and how they mature to opportunity stages.

No one is using my technology…

One of the highlight sessions I attended on the second day of the conference was “B-to-B Tech: Why Employees Don’t Use It, and What You Can Do About It,” with Kerry Cunningham and Amanda Jensen.

The key problems they focused on that organizations don’t always consider when rolling out technologies are:

  1. Employees that are disengaged from the start — those who are uninterested in or unwilling to adopt the new tools and platforms.
  2. Social impact of new technologies — people who are invested in the existing technologies and are resistant to replacements as it may threaten their role or sense of value in the company. As Kerry said, “You have definitely moved their cheese!”
  3. Workplace tech adoption is often led by innovators and early adopters — this leaves normal folks behind and unprepared or uninspired to use the new technologies simply because they’re not early adopters or experts.
  4. There is no roll out plan for the organization — you adopt the technology, but didn’t have a pre-adoption plan to educate the team as to why you’re using it, how to use it, and what the end goals are by using it.

These were great takeaways for any organization to consider when adopting new technology into their marketing stack (or anywhere else in the organization, for that matter).

Hopefully this small window into this year’s event will make you interested in attending next year’s event — again in Austin, TX — November 1-3, 2017. Hopefully we’ll see you there!

Dear VP Marketing, This Is Why Your Board Wants Dashboards

Dear VP Marketing, This Is Why Your Board Wants Dashboards

Dear VP Marketing,

Your board isn’t asking you for regular reports on marketing influence and expenditures because they don’t trust you. They’re asking for the same reason they ask Engineering how much money, time, and effort it will take to develop a new feature. They want to know the results of the investment and be able to make forecasts.

If you were previously reporting on anecdotal information about how tradeshows performed or where marketing was influencing prospects, you’re going to need to change — and change quickly.

Your earlier reporting was looking in the rearview mirror, telling what happened. Now, you need look forward.

Leads over quarter dashboardYou have to tell a story about future performance based on past results. To do this, you’ll need reliable, up-to-date data to paint the picture about leads created this quarter and your forecast for the quarters ahead.

Your board is glad to know they have someone leading the team who will expand the brand, differentiate the products, and create new leads. But they also want to know what they can expect. If they give you a larger budget today, what will that do for the business tomorrow?

VP Marketing, you’re steering the boat. You need to know what’s ahead. The board doesn’t expect you to be infallible, but they do expect you to make forecasts about future pipeline based on your activities, yesterday and today.

You can start with the past and the present. But once you’ve built up that data, you’ll see patterns, and those will let you create a forecast.

For example, if you know this:

  • Avg. Lead to Opportunity velocity: 56 days
  • Avg. Opportunity to Close velocity: 34 days
  • Average conversion rates:
    • New to MQL: 25%
    • MQL to SQL: 45%
    • SQL to Opportunity: 84%
    • Opportunity to Close: 52%
  • Average deal size: $75K
  • Target: Q3 2017: $3MM

You should be able to derive this:

  • Average Lead to Close: 90 days
  • Number of New Leads: 315
  • Number of MQLs: 205
  • Number of SQLs: 92
  • Number of Opportunities: 77
  • Number of deals: 40

I need 820 new leads by the end of Q4 2016 for the same results 3 quarters from now.

And they want to know the percentage of opportunities marketing sourced, as well as the number marketing influenced, so they know how all the marketing activity is influencing the quantity, quality, and velocity of pipeline.

For example, you can report on top opportunity analysis, as in this dashboard:


Or you might be tracking the results of a specific campaign, to see when you get diminishing results:



So, VP Marketing, while forecasting might not have been in your wheelhouse a few years ago, it definitely is now. With BrightFunnel’s new dashboards, you can give your team and board the visibility they need to see the value of your efforts and the impact you’ll have in the future. Start reporting today in concise dashboards, and show how marketing operates.

Your board will thank you for it.

Immediacy and Insight: What BrightFunnel Gets Out of Using BrightFunnel

Immediacy and Insight: What BrightFunnel Gets Out of Using BrightFunnel

Once in awhile, a marketer tells me that reporting is “nice to have,” but not required. Or she’ll say that her MAP and CRM reports and spreadsheets are enough.

Frankly, I’m baffled by this. How can you plan without using your past results to help you assess your channels and campaigns?

Let’s take opportunities as an example. CRMs are built to report on the state of leads, contacts, and opportunities at any given moment. They don’t include a lot of history, despite the tracking settings you can turn on, and they certainly don’t let you easily view the paths to opportunity that the leads and contacts on accounts took. Frequently, they don’t even show which individuals are associated with an account, unless you have a strict sales process and a rigorous sales team (and wouldn’t you rather they spent their time pursuing opportunities than doing data entry, anyway?). The upshot is that you can see the touches for a specific opportunity, if the right contacts are attached, but you can’t see what’s working overall. Which channels are most likely to influence opportunities at which stages of the funnel? Which specific content is performing best across opportunities? Where are you getting the most bang for your buck?

MAPs show campaign results in aggregate, and some of them even let you look at a single opportunity to see where the touches were. But again, they don’t always show leads that aren’t attached to the opportunity and they don’t show what happens across opportunities — they only let you drill down one-by-one. If you’re scaling, no one is going to have time to drill into each opportunity and then do analysis on effective channels and content. By the time you get the  results of that intensive analysis — if you even get it at all — the situation may have changed drastically.

For demand gen, there are a lot of questions you’ll ask on a regular basis:

  • Content creation takes time — What will you focus on in the future if you only have anecdotal evidence of what’s worked in the past or have to analyze opportunities individually?
  • You have to sign up for a lot of events long before they start — How do you know which ones to renew if you don’t know the results from the last ones?
  • Syndication programs and advertising have a faster turn-around — How will you determine which ones to continue if you don’t know which ones are driving MQLs and opportunities?

I’ve been at BrightFunnel less than 3 months. In that time, I’ve started new programs for inbound and outbound, worked with Sales on ABM, and worked with the team to create new content. I’ve also created my BrightFunnel dashboard.

Now that I have programs in place, I want to compare them to the company’s earlier programs. Are we gaining traction? New MQLs? New opportunities? Does it even matter that Marketing is working on new initiatives, or would the company be just as well off without us?

There’s only one way for me to know, and that’s through reports that provide me with real-time, aggregated data, showing me results across channels, campaigns, and time.

To start, my dashboard includes tiles displaying new MQLs created and from which sources (we’re creating more, quarter-on-quarter). I also have information about which first touch channels and campaigns are most effective in bringing us new leads and new MQLs. And I’m tracking which channels and campaigns are influencing existing leads — because I’d better know quickly if my new nurture programs are effective or not.

If I didn’t have my reports, I might make the assumption that I was doing the right things, but I wouldn’t actually know. I wouldn’t be able to instantly see which channels are affecting my top, mid, and late funnel. I wouldn’t know how many MQLs in our target accounts my syndication programs are bringing in unless I created endless separate reports. Now I see that in a single dashboard tile as soon as I log into BrightFunnel, as well as how I’m doing compared to last quarter.

I have the benefit of having a cutting-edge marketing reporting platform at my fingertips. But what do companies without one do? It’s already November. Do you want to guess what you should do for next year’s planning? Or do you want to know what works, and do more of that while leaving underperforming programs behind in 2016?

I was contacted the other day by a vendor who was eager to have us sign up to sponsor their event early next year. While on that call, I was able to look up the campaign in about 3 clicks, see what we spent on the event last year, see the pipeline and revenue results from the event this year, compare to other events, and make an assessment of whether or not we want to return next year.

That’s the immediacy and insight I’m looking for.

Why SFDC Add-On Tools are a Poor Solution for Marketing Reporting

Why SFDC Add-On Tools are a Poor Solution for Marketing Reporting

One of the great features of is that it has dashboards that a lot of Marketing automation platforms lack. One of the drawbacks is that dashboards aren’t really made for Marketing reporting. First, there’s the problem of getting leads and contacts into the same report. Then there’s the problem that was built, like the name says, for Sales. It’s not exactly focused on the needs of the marketer.

The solutions that try to get around this are the numerous add-on products that use Salesforce to track marketing activity, and use custom objects, campaigns, and other round-about ways to cobble together something for Marketing.

The truth is, neither of these options is particularly effective, but there are some important weaknesses among the add-on tools.

1. CRM Ownership

Add-on products frequently require changes to in order to be functional. Most often, Marketing doesn’t actually own The result is that marketers have to request fields, objects, and other changes from whomever manages Sales Operations, wait for those to be built – never a high priority – and then see if they’re actually able to report what they want. As a friend of mine in operations, whose company uses one of these solutions, said, “Kill me now. They tried to solve one of our issues by creating yet another custom object and another custom report type!” It’s not a solution if the answer to every question is another custom object, which will only annoy (at best…) your Sales Ops team and slow down your SFDC instance. Too many custom objects will make your Salesforce harder to navigate, and disrupt agility across the board by making it more difficult to remediate data and move quickly as a team and a company.

2. Sales Processes

A lot of those same point solutions require changes to the sales process in order to do the tracking to create reports. For a lot of organizations, that’s a non-starter. Sales has its own methods, and changing those is hard in some organizations and impossible in others. The CEO of a consulting agency recently told me about a client they had: “The product they looked at needed the sales process to change. At a large multi-national, that just wasn’t ever going to be possible. They couldn’t even consider that solution for their reporting.”

3. Data Bloat

These add-on products store the data in That’s a lot of data, considering all the multi-touches, number of leads, and the way stores custom objects and campaign data. And storing data costs money. One organization recently told my colleague that fully half of all the data they paid for in Salesforce was simply to have marketing reporting through an add-on. Over time, that gets even more costly as more information is added.

4. Partial Visibility

While using one of these products, you only get a few of your touches in your You can’t add in data sources such as offline and web activity in an effective way and, in some cases, have to throttle back the sources you have. Because you’re storing so much data, you have to be selective about how many touches you store — first and last before conversion? Three? Five? What about after the opportunity is created? If you’re being selective, and you have a maximum, you’re not seeing the true path of the lead and you’re making business decisions based on a fraction of the true data, which is being collected, but — because of the throttling to save data space — not received.

Ever since I first implemented marketing automation, I’ve needed easy-to-get reports that didn’t require excess labor or reconfiguration, that were in a format I could share with my executives, from CEO to VP Finance to VP Marketing, and that were real-time. Reports and metrics we could use to make good decisions — quickly — about the marketing investments and campaigns that would create the most pipeline in the shortest amount of time. That’s not so much to ask for, is it? A dashboard that uses marketing data that Marketing controls, has on-demand reports, includes all the information from web, marketing automation, and sales, and doesn’t require changes to the CRM or the sales process?

Turns out it’s not a lot to ask if you ask the right people. Which is why I’ve now got my own BrightFunnel dashboards to report on Marketing’s effectiveness.

“My Database is a Mess!”: How to Clean Up for Attribution, Revenue Waterfall, and ABM

“My Database is a Mess!”: How to Clean Up for Attribution, Revenue Waterfall, and ABM

More times than I can count, I’ve heard frustrated marketing professionals say that they can’t do what they want because their database isn’t clean enough. What they want to do ranges from implementing marketing automation and segmenting audiences to getting great nurture programs in place and pulling the data they need to make good business decisions for their marketing departments.

And it’s the same story for attribution metrics and revenue funnel monitoring.

There’s a fear that if the CRM or MAP isn’t completely perfect, nothing will work and the reports will be empty or erroneous. While there are some things that do need to be in reasonable order, it’s not as bad as all that. There are quick fixes and longer term projects, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be done before you get started.

Here’s a look at what you will need to get started with BrightFunnel (and this goes for your Marketing Automation and CRM as well), what’s nice to have, and what you can leave for later while you get your baselines measured and proceed from there.


  • REQUIRED: Campaigns and success for campaigns
    attribution, BrightFunnel requires that you use Campaigns and have campaign members in your CRM. You’ll also need to have success metrics. If you haven’t been doing this, it’s not that hard to go back and get things squared away, or to start now so that in 3-6 months you have lots of data to work with. Marketo, for example, lets you connect a Marketo program directly to a campaign, after which all statuses for the program’s channel will be updated as you change them in Marketo. You can also just keep your campaigns updated without worrying about your MAP success metrics, but the best practice would be to maintain both.
  • REQUIRED: Accounts and opportunities
    If you’re going to measure attribution that leads to pipeline and revenue, you need to have opportunities with assigned accounts. If you’re not measuring your pipeline and revenue compared to goals, you don’t have anything to attribute your campaigns to anyway. Luckily, accounts are required when you’re creating a new opportunity in
  • HIGH PRIORITY: De-duplication of your database
    If you’ve got a lot of duplicates in your database, you have more problems than just worrying about attribution. Marketing Operations professionals talk about this all the time. Find the sources of your duplicates and get those fixed first so that no more come in. This may be a rule in your CRM requiring you to look for a lead before creating one so that you don’t create a duplicate manually, or it could be an automated tool that checks for you. Once you’ve stopped creating duplicates, spend some time looking at the ones you do have and develop a clean up strategy, merging duplicates and triplicates where possible and minimizing the issues. While you might have to use an automated tool to do this, if you have tens or hundreds of thousands of duplicates it will be well worth the effort for your marketing automation initiatives as well as your reporting.
  • NOT REQUIRED (but always nice to have if you’ve got it): Opportunities with Contact Roles
    BrightFunnel does not require you to have contacts/leads attached to the opportunities (and a huge sigh of relief is heard from marketers who are frustrated with Sales only attaching one — or zero — contacts to their opportunities where 10-20 were involved in the opportunity!). We can automatically get these associated for you, so you don’t have to worry as much about Sales’ process while the team is working on closing the deals.
  • NOT REQUIRED: Converting Leads to Contacts
    There are companies that only use leads, some that only use contacts, and still others that use both. An advantage of BrightFunnel is that you don’t have to ensure that Sales converts every lead to a contact. As long as they follow certain rules, such as being attached to the company, BrightFunnel can recognize them as part of the account and include them as an opportunity role.

There isn’t a whole lot more that you need beyond the requirements for Attribution in order to have a working Revenue Waterfall:

Revenue Waterfall

  • REQUIRED: Opportunity History Tracking turned on
    In order to measure the length of time that opportunities stay in stages, you do need to track their history. Luckily, this is easy to turn on in CRMs and is often turned on by default (as in While it won’t give you the history up to this point if you had it turned off, once it’s turned on everything will be tracked appropriately going forward.
  • REQUIRED: Lead Status History Tracking turned on OR Lead Status date stamps for different stages (such as MQL, SQL, etc.)
    • Lead Status History Tracking
      This is the preferred method, and much easier to fix. In CRMs, this is a simple “turn tracking on” the same way opportunity history is tracked, but unlike opportunity tracking it’s not turned on by default. Again, while this won’t magically bring back past data, turning it on now means having this accessible for your future metrics and reporting.
    • Special fields for Lead Status date stamps
      If you haven’t been tracking lead status history in your CRM, but you have had fields for MQL date, SQL date, etc., then you’re still in pretty good shape. These date fields can be used as a proxy for the history tracking so you can measure when leads went to different stages for your waterfall. The drawback of this method is that overwriting of a field if a lead returns to recycling and becomes an MQL again, for example, loses the prior history, as the previous date of MQL is lost.

If you’re doing — or thinking of doing — Account Based Marketing (ABM), there are a few additional items. Any one of the three below will work on its own, but having all of them gives you even more robust information:


  • REQUIRED: Sales Activity
    For ABM, it’s essential to track all sales activity. One of the principle aspects of ABM is high touch with sales reps involved. Without their activity, you’ll never know what really mattered (and be able to optimize for the future).
  • REQUIRED: Web Activity
    This one’s really easy! It just requires BrightFunnel’s javascript on your website.
  • REQUIRED: Marketing Activity
    We hope that you’re tracking this one already, but since ABM is a concerted effort between Sales and Marketing, both sides of the coin need to be fully tracked.

Hopefully that wasn’t too painful! It will definitely take some effort on your part, but it’s not an insurmountable amount of work. In fact, the data visualization that BrightFunnel provides can often help teams pinpoint where their data is lacking, prioritize any resolutions, and even fix the problems entirely – either through the features of our platform or by working with our Customer Success team.

While you might be gnashing your teeth about all the clean up you should do, in the meantime it’s not too much effort to start tracking and measuring. This will only work to improve your marketing results, drive pipeline, and secure your budget. And once you’ve done that, maybe you can afford a few more tools or personnel for the remaining clean up.

My Meta-Job: Marketing to Marketers About Metrics

My Meta-Job: Marketing to Marketers About Metrics

In 2008, I joined CollabNet and became one of Marketo’s first 100 customers. Over the next few years, I worked with my CEO and VP of Finance to determine the key performance indicators we wanted and how to get them. Once we had marketing automation, there was a drive to make marketing’s initiatives measurable, be able to quickly and effectively assess the health of our lead database, and — ultimately — forecast with sales based on marketing’s efforts. We spent a lot of time figuring out what we needed to measure — and even longer trying to get our systems to provide us with the data.

My next career step was to begin work at an agency where, for five years, I worked with companies from start up to SMB to global enterprise. Even in their early stages of adoption, companies realized that with marketing automation, everything changed. Measurements became required instead of nice to have, and data-driven assessment of marketing activities became the standard. But at the same time, getting there was hard.

This was eight years ago. Unfortunately, it’s still hard for most companies to effectively measure their marketing efforts today.

Marketers spend hours — sometimes days —getting reports in order to try and measure how they’re doing and where to make changes. They still want to determine where to put investments and where to cut, while still driving just as many opportunities at higher values. Many of them still don’t know what to measure, or once that’s decided, how to get that data. Once they have the data, they struggle to make good decisions from it.

Marketers still need better ways to measure which programs work, see which channels drive leads and drive business, and understand their funnel to the point of being able to forecast what will happen when they make changes to their marketing mix.

This is why I’m so thrilled to join the BrightFunnel team. I’m enthusiastic because:

  1. I get to use the product. Leading the marketing team, I’m going to need to use BrightFunnel myself. I’m going to get the metrics I need to make good, data-driven decisions to be the best marketer I can be for BrightFunnel.
  2. I get to help drive the product. I’m going to be a key customer, who’s able to be partner with the product team and let them know what I’m looking for.
  3. I’m going to market to my peers. As a marketer, I know what I need. Those are the same things our customers will need, so I’ll be messaging to people like myself, including friends and colleagues. That’s a huge opportunity to do good work.
  4. I’m going to see what our prospects and customers need. Working with our sales and customer success teams, I’ll have the ability to educate them about what people like me need, helping to make them more effective in helping marketers reach their measurement goals.
  5. I can expand the story. At CollabNet, I collaborated with our CEO and our VP of Finance. It’s not just marketing that needs metrics, nor is it sales and marketing. Finance executives would love to know how changing marketing budgets will affect gross income. CEOs and executive boards want forecasts not just from sales, but from marketing.

I really care about helping marketers become more effective and better at their jobs. After preaching the importance of measurable marketing for almost a decade and seeing so many companies struggle to figure out which metrics they need and how to get them, I get to help a company drive and expand upon a product that has the potential to solve these challenges for B2B companies.

Let’s go!