How Do You Use Numbers to Tell You What Works?

The last post I wrote received some thoughtful comments that were far more valuable than the actual post itself, IMO.

John Trader in particular made some really great points, including the thought below which is at the heart of many measurement problems:

“We are so focused on our silos that we tend to forget why we are doing what we do – increase sales and convert leads.”

Instead of focusing only on your own efforts and work, you have to focus on the big picture. At the end of the day, all of our jobs are to drive business outcomes like sales. No matter what tactics or channels you are using, you have to define what is working by what is eventually driving sales or other outcomes.

I asked John to share a few examples of how he figured out what was working, and he gave far more than I could have hoped for. He explained that LinkedIn has been working, but blog posts haven’t. How did he know?

When sharing content on LinkedIn, he would use a custom URL for easy tracking in Google Analytics. He would then track how many clicks from the URLs led to conversions or sales on their website. Comparing to other websites, he found that LinkedIn was the third highest source of sales.

Using similar custom URLs, he noticed that blog posts were driving traffic to the website but sales were not driven. Guest posts about controversial topics drove the most sales and traffic, though, leading John to add more guest authors to the roster.

While sometimes it may not be so easy to find what is clearly working and what may not be as effective, one of the things John did was set himself up for measurement. He used custom links and URLs so that he could clearly see where clicks were coming from. And not just from different sources, but he was able to see which blog posts about what topics were the most effective.

The more you set yourself up for specific measurements, like tracking individual blog posts, the easier it will be to evaluate what pieces of your campaign are resonating and which are falling flat.

Many of us don’t have the luxury of tracking online sales, so connecting our own work to business outcomes may be trickier. But the more dots you can connect, the more likely it will be to connect all the way to sales or at least show correlations.

How do you set yourself up to measure? How have you discovered what is working and what isn’t?