You’re So Vain… Measuring What Actually Matters

Thanks to Google Analytics, AdWords, CRM, social media, email marketing systems and other digital tools, today’s legal marketers can measure virtually any aspect of their programs and activities.

But the troublesome truth is that many of the metrics these tools produce are neither useful nor relevant.  They are Vanity Metrics. They provide the illusion of precision and an analytical approach – but in reality they don’t make a real difference to your marketing programs.

Here are a a few warning signs that you may be using vanity metrics:

  • They make you feel good (or bad!) about the volume of work you’re doing, but are meaningless to your clients and/or key internal stakeholders
  • They don’t help you advance towards the goals of the business
  • They allow you to report on volume and activity, but not progress and ROI
  • You can’t tie them to the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish
  • They give you no context to help you make decisions

If your current marketing metrics have these characteristics, it’s time to reimagine them.  Your goal should be to transform Vanity Metrics into Outcome-Based Metrics that will contribute value to your decision making.

Here are a few examples of what we mean:

Vanity Metric Outcome-Based Metric Outcome the metric supports
# of Facebook likes Engagement rate of individual Facebook posts, correlated to the subject matter of each post. Improve Facebook content that is not resonating with your viewers.
# of event attendees # of follow-up business development conversations generated from the event. Build a business case for de-emphasizing legacy events that are not creating opportunities.
# of web page visits Conversion rate on web page – percentage of visitors who clicked on a Call to Action. Restructure the web page to generate more of the actions you want (form completions, white paper downloads, etc.)
# of proposal wins Win percentage for pitches subject to a go/no-go decision, vs those that were not. Focus proposal support on opportunities with a higher probability of success.
# of opportunities Action report showing the last and next action to be taken on each opportunity and the person responsible. Identify stalled opportunities and those that are moving quickly toward a close.

To get started, we recommend subjecting each metric to a simple “so what” test.

First, write down a description of your metric does.  The ask the question “so what?” and write down the answer. Repeat this up to three times.

As you formulate your “so what” answers, think about the following:

  • What is the business issue that this metric addresses?
  • Do we have a benchmark for the metric to tell us what “good” performance is?
  • What stakeholders really care about this information?
  • What decisions will be made based on the metric? Who will make them?

This “so what” test helps us to be very clear about the reasons why we are choosing to invest time and effort in measurement.  If a particular metric fails the test, it’s very likely to be a Vanity Metric.  Consider eliminating it and replacing it with a metric that is focused on outcomes and actions.

According to Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup, Vanity Metrics are dangerous because they obscure the truth and provide misleading information that can result in poor decisions.  Ban them from your toolkit today!

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