Inbound Marketing is a method of engaging your target audience through useful content. This includes but is not limited to blogs, ebooks, events, emails, social media and videos.
Once it has attracted your target audience, regular communications should be shared to deepen engagement and develop the relationship between the business and your audience.
Why do we need to measure it?
With Inbound Marketing often being a long-term process where customers go through several stages before being ready to buy (attract, engage and delight), it is essential to measure an assortment of metrics so you can assess, is this investment really paying off?
By having set checkpoints for measuring your inbound Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on a monthly and quarterly basis, you can use learnings to guide optimisations of your current and upcoming activity for improved performance.
Measuring your inbound marketing is also so important because done right it can:
Bring high quality traffic to your website
Content is developed with a focus on predetermined buyer personas so it reaches people who are more likely to be interested in your products/services.
Increase trust in your brand
Inbound helps you to become a source of industry authority through the provision of valuable content.
Improve content sustainability
After publishing, content remains accessible to your audience, building search presence and authority for the foreseeable future.
Content successfully moves individuals down the funnel, between the attract, engage and delight stages of the customer lifecycle, turning prospects into leads and beyond.
Although inbound does require significant time investment, with only a website, blog and social media needed for lift-off, it can be a cheap option for engaging your target audience.
So now we know why Inbound is so valuable to your marketing efforts, let’s take an in-depth look at how it should be measured…
- Lifecycle Stages
The first metrics you need to understand and measure are your customer lifecycle stages.
Lifecycle stages are a series of positions that a prospect moves through on the journey to becoming a customer (and even beyond).
Although lifecycle stages often have different definitions business-to-business, there are several widely-used stages you will definitely want to be tracking:
Subscribers represent people that have signed up to regular communications from your business. These individuals often subscribe to content such as a blog or newsletter and are rarely ready to buy.
A lead is a contact that is showing interest in your product/service. These individuals have shared contact information with you, for example, a name, email address, job title, etc, and are showing very early signs of sales-readiness.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs):
An MQL constitutes an individual that has shown an interest in your business after engaging with your marketing efforts.
This contact always needs to be qualified, which consists of marketing examining whether an individual will likely be winnable as a customer by the sales department.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs):
An SQL, on the other hand, is an individual that has been accepted as sales-ready by the sales team. An easy way to remember this one is to memorise an additional meaning for SQL, an SAL (sales-accepted lead).
These contacts have a far greater chance of turning into a customer than an MQL!
These are contacts that have been qualified as in need of your product/service. This stage is reached when a deal has been associated with the individual (although it will not yet have been won/lost).
Customers / Closed Won deals:
Customers / Closed Won deals represent the contacts that were previously opportunities, but then proceeded to purchase your products/services and turn into a customer.
Lost Sales / Closed Lost deals:
These deals are the qualified and quantified opportunities that did not purchase and you were therefore unable to win as customers.
These individuals represent your business, spreading the brand’s message with the goal of attracting others. They are often customers first and influencers are examples of those classified under the ‘evangelist’ lifecycle stage.
But how do you evaluate your lifecycle stage performance?
You should measure:
- The number of prospects at each stage – Broadly measures audience interest and engagement.
- The funnel conversion rate between stages (e.g. MQL to SQL) – Evaluates how successful you are proving in moving prospects down through the funnel towards becoming customers.
🚨Top Tip: To ensure prospects don’t fall through the cracks between business departments you NEED to vigilantly update lifecycle stages. Don’t lose potential customers over a lack of due-diligence!
- Campaign Performance Metrics
Now to the most important factors for measuring your inbound marketing! Your campaign performance metrics….
During and after campaign implementation, dedicated performance metrics are most important for measuring results. They act as the primary indicator when determining if a campaign has been successful, which is especially useful when communicating performance to multiple stakeholders.
🚨Top Tip: Create specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals and optimise these during and after your campaign to ensure you are clear on what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ performance looks like.
With most inbound marketing campaigns consisting of a variation of content that is measured very differently, e.g. blogs, videos and emails, to generate effective and easy-to-understand reports on campaign performance, there are two main metrics you should focus on:
Cost Per Acquisition (CPA):
Cost per acquisition, otherwise known as cost per conversion, represents the amount each conversion costs per user during your inbound campaign. An acquisition could be a click, form submission, sale, etc, depending on the specific type(s) of inbound content you are producing and the end goal.
So how do you calculate cost per acquisition?
Total cost of conversions / Total number of conversions
Return on Investment (ROI):
Here it is! Return on investment is THE most important metric you want to be watching out for when measuring campaign performance. It gives an accurate indication of total profit attributable to your marketing and is essential in determining whether your inbound investment has been worth it.
How do you calculate ROI?
(Sales Growth – Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost
🚨Top Tip: Remember your conversions used to calculate CPA and sales growth used to calculate ROI should only include actions that have been generated directly as a result of your inbound marketing efforts
- Content Metrics
With content being the backbone of any inbound marketing campaign, it is vital every asset is measurable through a series of metrics.
Let’s dive in and explore everything you need to be measuring to get an accurate picture on content performance:
First up is Bounce Rate. This metric represents the percentage of visitors that immediately leave your website after viewing a blog post and that decide not to view another page.
Bounce rate can range from 0% – 100% and the higher this rate is, the poorer a piece of content is performing in engaging your target audience.
With search engines using bounce rate as a key metric in measuring content quality, high bounce rate is a real turn-off when trying to improve your search performance!
This metric constitutes the number of times a piece of content is visited.
As visits incorporate multiple sessions by the same user, it acts as both an approximate indicator of your content’s popularity and is useful in understanding which users are showing deeper interest by engaging multiple times.
🚨Top Tip: A high no. of content visits isn’t always a positive indicator; it could just be click-bait. You should always check engagement stats for the full picture on how a piece of content is residing with your audience.
Time on Page:
Time on page is exactly what it sounds like; the amount of time a user spends visiting a page.
Similar to bounce rate, this metric is very important in measuring how engaging your content is; the longer the average page visit is, the more interesting and valuable it is proving to be with your audience!
Click Through Rate (CTR):
Click through rate constitutes the percentage of visitors that clicked on the call-to-action button (CTA) included in your content.
More often than not this call-to-action will lead to another page on your website and therefore shows user intent in continuing to learn more from your business.
CTR acts as a strong indicator of how successful your content is proving in convincing the target audience to learn more about your products/services.
Keep an eye on this one and definitely consider optimising/swapping out your content if the CTR is below par!
Conversion rate represents the number of people that carry out an action. For a piece of inbound content this often means submitting a form.
In general, the higher the conversion rate, the better content is performing in reaching its goal of turning visitors into contacts.
Page views per session
Page views per session constitutes the number of pages a visitor views during one website session.
This is important to track as it shows how successful your content is in engaging the target audience and convincing them to keep learning about/from your brand through further exploration of your website.
How do you calculate page views per session?
Total number of website page visits / Total number of sessions
🚨Top Tip: When measuring content always research before tracking performance, so you know exactly what to look for when determining success rate. Although the above covers the primary metrics, there are additional indicators depending on your content-type you don’t want to miss out on!
- Email Metrics
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t email reserved as a method solely used for outbound marketing?
Not exactly! Email should also be an important channel for nurturing and converting your inbound leads, through the development of some seriously engaging content.
To evaluate the success of your email communications, here are the top 5 metrics you should be measuring….
Click Through Rate:
Click through rate is the percentage of people that click on a link/button/image, compared to the percentage that open your email. This metric is important in indicating if the email content and specifically the call-to-actions are working in engaging your audience.
Reply rate represents the number of people that have replied to your email through a percentage.
As email recipients will often reply to communicate either dis-interest in your content or a desire to engage further with your company, it acts as THE primary indicator regarding interest in an email.
Conversion rate constitutes the percentage of recipients that become customers as a result of your email. This usually involves an individual following the email’s call-to-action.
In general, measuring conversion rate holds greater importance the further down the funnel the goal of your email is.
For example, conversion rate should be the primary performance metric if your email’s call-to-action is to book a discovery call / request a demonstration.
Email unsubscribe rate constitutes the percentage of people that opt-out of receiving further communications after receiving your email.
If you notice this getting high, it’s definitely worth investigating; you don’t want to be doing something that’s causing widespread disinterest!
Bounce rate constitutes individuals that were sent an email but failed to receive it. There are lots of reasons an email can bounce, including:
- The recipient’s mailbox is full
- The email message is too large
- Your email address has been blacklisted by the recipients server
- Your email address has been blocked by the recipient
- DNS failure of the recipients server
There we are, all the metrics you need to accurately measure inbound marketing performance!
Now, with access to this data, it is important you don’t just ignore the insights. There’s no point collecting this information if you aren’t going to use it to learn and optimise!
So what’s next?
Although these metrics will help you measure both top-level and granular inbound content performance, to holistically evaluate you should now develop customised, metrics-driven reports that will unearth this data.
Only then can you really assess whether your inbound activity is achieving its goals!