Often I have been asked to run workshops by my clients, where they want to become ‘data driven’. For them, this means measuring and reporting on KPIs which is a very valuable exercise; all organisations should be identifying their key performance indicators.

Ahead of the workshop, I ask all the stakeholders to come with some pre-work where I ask for a list of all the KPIs they want to measure and report on. More often than not, and I wish this wasn’t the case, they come back with a bucket list or KPIs which, if you were to build a report, would run into pages. You would have to ask yourself, what exactly can you do off the back of these reports?

A simple question that should take an hour with a handful of clients, can take up the whole morning, if not the whole day, and that is:

“How do your KPIs impact your business objectives?

Assuming most clients I work with want to be more profitable, then trying to connect the bucket list of KPIs they have listed to this one business objective can prove problematic.

So, why is that?

Much of it boils down to most teams working from the bottom up. Often they are not made aware of how their role and responsibilities impact the entire business. Let’s take the marketing team – ultimately, their function is to drive new customers and retain existing ones. Then you take the digital marketing team within that team, who are flooded with data from various sources.

So, what do they want to know? Well, everything – right?

Yep, impressions, views, followers, likes, retweets, shares, sentiment, clicks, click-through rates, visits, conversions, conversion rates, goals, engagement, etc.

All good to have, but are they all equal and do they all stack up to deliver on the business objective? Let’s take an example; you are a retailer, selling apparel both online and in-store, and you want to be more profitable. Two things you need to balance to do this – increase sales and reduce costs. More sales and less cost mean higher profitability. 

So, now you are the digital marketing team, you need to measure all these metrics which, for you, are KPIs but for the rest of the business may not be so much Key, but nonetheless performance indicators. 

Let’s take one of these metrics which seems to get digital marketers excited, followers – whether that be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or some other network. How does this ladder up, to help the business make more profit? 

‘more followers = more views of our posts = more clicks to our website = more visitors to our website = more customers buying our products = more sales = more profit’

II could discuss the cost side, in terms of ensuring your digital marketing activity is ROI positive, but you get the idea, However, KPIs should be those performance indicators you think are ‘Key’. If followers do not tally up to more profitability, they are not a KPI but just a vanity metric. That goes for any metric; if you cannot demonstrate that influencing this metric has an impact on the business objective/s, then they are not a Key Performance Indicator.

So many times, I have been asked to review reports and dashboards which have been smothered in vanity metrics, things which I am sure are great to measure and know, and provide comfort to someone somewhere but do not help the business in achieving its objectives.

Now some of you, or indeed many of you, may argue that these vanity metrics do relate to business objectives, where the business objective is that the brand wants to be more ‘famous’, or more recognisable, or seem to be connected to their customers. If those are your business objectives – and you can sustain a business by being more liked, recognised or connected – then do measure vanity metrics as KPIs. But often you find bills are not paid by being famous.

If you find yourself thinking, “what are my KPIs?”, start with a measurement framework. This should help you identify your core business objectives. Then build out a KPI matrix that will help you map your business objectives to your individual team objectives, whether that be marketing, sales, product, merchandising, or distribution. Then identify the KPIs that you need to measure to know that influencing this KPI means we meet or exceed our business objectives. 

Going back to my client, we parked their bucket list of KPIs, helped them identify their business objectives and then created a KPI matrix that helped each part of the business know what they should be measuring and reporting on. Yes, we kept some vanity metrics (or as we called them secondary metrics) in the mix. After all, if you are going to be looking at reports, there has to be something in it that you care about. 

At Be Data Solutions, our consultants have been doing this for decades, so drop us a line at and let’s have a chat on how you can become data-driven by measuring and reporting on the right KPIs.

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