Very few things get improved that don’t get measured. Metrics are important. How do you know if you’re making progress or if you’re falling behind without metrics? Some people like raw numbers and some people like charts and graphs.
Make sure you are measuring the “right” things though. It is very easy to track and report on metrics that aren’t truly helping you achieve your goal (whatever that goal is).
Let’s take two examples that come up a lot.
The first one is something most people can relate to – web metrics. Marketing people like reporting how much traffic they are driving to the site. Time is spent on search engine optimization to make sure the site is found in searches and people click on the search result. Time is spent analyzing external advertising options like banner advertising and paid-search advertising. Landing pages are made to track what medium and specific source sent the traffic. Number of pages clicked per visit are tracked. Time spent per page are often tracked (are they actually reading the page). And a good web person should be able to make sure these numbers all head in the right direction – up.
It’s easy to get excited about increased web site traffic and increased interaction. But are you in business to generate traffic to your site? Maybe you are. Perhaps your entire business model is advertising, but even then the goal isn’t always increased traffic – it might be increased ad clicks. In most cases the goal is to increase sales or sales leads. You want someone to make a purchase online or initial a contact as a warm lead so you can reach out to them and close the sale. If you have heavy, and increasing, traffic to your site but no one is buying or making contact – who cares?
On a web site there are a lot of reasons people may visit the site but not take further action. Maybe your price is too high (or low – yes, seriously.) Maybe the product isn’t what they expected when they clicked to the site. Maybe the site is confusing; or they couldn’t find the info they needed; or your call to action wasn’t obvious; or any one of a hundred other reasons. If you are going to track web metrics, make sure to tie them into useful information so you can continue to tweak the environment to improve the results.
Another example, less common but one I am exposed to when working with some business owners, is how many stores they’ve gotten their product into. You can be very good at sales and potentially get your product into a lot of stores – and add new stores every month. But is the goal to just be in stores or to generate sales? Because if those stores don’t sell the product, guess what – they’re going to return it. So then not only have you lost the revenue but you need to deal with a return, handling the product turnaround and also a credit/refund to the store. If you are going to track the number of stores, also track the return ratios, the re-order qualities (increasing? decreasing?), etc.
It’s okay to track these things I’ve mentioned – they can be important. But on their own they can wind up becoming nothing more than vanity metrics – increasing numbers that make you feel good but that aren’t really showing progress in the business. So, track them, but track things that matter too – then align the data to make sure you understand all the moving parts, how they fit together, and what you can tweak to improve the overall picture as things move forward.
Now, go measure something important. :)