Face it: There’s a lot of data out there, and it’s not always useful. We’re generating more data than ever, and it’s understandably become a challenge to know what to sort through and what to throw out.

As difficult a challenge as it is to pay attention to marketing metrics, it’s also essential for growth. Just realize that what another company is measuring might not be what you need to measure. Find what’s important to reaching your own marketing goals, and devise your own system for measuring results.

First, What Do You Want to Achieve?

When it comes to goals, you can have two kinds:

  • Goals for a particular marketing campaign
  • Overarching company goals

For both, you need to see how your marketing efforts are moving the needle. This helps you improve future campaigns, get to know what your audience really wants, and cast out channels or messages that are ineffective.

It’s important to continually update your goals, since they will likely change. Be specific in what you want (here’s where those SMART goals come in handy) so you can actually measure to see how close you come to your objectives.

Decide Which Metrics Matter

With your goals in mind, determine which channels you’ll need to pay attention to in order to assess results. If your goal is to increase email subscribers by 50%, obviously you want to measure subscriber numbers, but you also want to watch any channels where you promoted your signup list, like social media or your landing page. You’re looking to see which channels sent you the most new signups so you know where to push a similar promotion in the future.

Some typical marketing metrics that are of value include:

  • Email: signups, open rate, click-throughs
  • Website: new visits, monthly traffic, bounce rate, time on site
  • Social media: followers, shares, likes

Get a Baseline Measurement

Before you launch a campaign, look at where the numbers are now. This helps you determine later how much you moved the needle. It’s helpful to record data regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly) so you can see results over the long-term.

Don’t Overlook Less-Tangible Indicators

Number-crunching aside, there are other ways to assess the success of a campaign. If, for example, you hold a contest on Twitter, in addition to looking at the number of followers you attracted or how many people clicked to your contest’s landing page, you can also see how many people used the contest’s hashtag, how much daily activity you got around the contest, and how many entries you received.

On the other side, pay attention to negative feedback. Maybe you just revamped your website and many customers are complaining that it’s not as functional as the previous design. Your traffic numbers might look good, but if you’re irritating the very people you want to attract, those numbers will quickly dwindle. Do something to fix the situation before that happens.

Use the Data Wisely

Many marketers make the mistake of simply looking at analytics and then doing nothing with them. But this is marketing gold! The data you decided was important is a map to guiding more leads to convert to sales – if you only pay attention.

If a marketing channel isn’t netting the results you want it to, pull back in favor of a more successful channel. If a particular blog post got a ton of reads and shares, write something else in the same vein. If an influential tweeter shared your content, reciprocate in kind and build that relationship.

The purpose of marketing data is to help us do a better job connecting with our audience. Yes, there’s a lot to pay attention to, but you can ignore most of it and focus on what matters for your company.