Marketing momentum metrics and startup productivity
Life as a startup marketer is anything but simple. Each day brings with it new challenges and opportunities. The wisest among us guide their performance and decision-making with carefully defined metrics and KPIs. It’s the way of the startup marketer.
The path of the data-driven leads us to adopt the scientific method for all our marketing efforts. Form a hypothesis, design and launch an experiment, and analyze the results. Improvements come in increments—sometimes larger, sometimes smaller—and our success often depends on our ability to read results correctly.
At the center of all this is the constant need to grow the business. That’s our mantra, isn’t it? That in seeking a zen-like state of marketing, our chants and meditation lead us to new and innovative ways to do more, and to do better.
It’s a lot of pressure. Particularly because a lot of startups get kick-started with a small marketing team, preferring to invest in R&D. It makes sense, but does little to alleviate pressure. I know; I was a solo marketer at a startup for many years until we started to find success.
For all these metrics and KPIs, the one metric that is often lost on marketers is momentum. We set lofty performance objectives and move heaven-and-earth to hit them. Yet, sometimes, that’s not enough.
So, what is a momentum metric?
A momentum metric is a measure that indicates your team’s ability to complete projects, launch campaigns and, in crude terms, get stuff done. Let me challenge you to think of your work differently because sometimes results are slow to come.
Yes, we all want to be growth hackers. But growing a business is more meat-and-potatoes than secret sauce and lateral thinking. I’m a meat-and-potatoes marketer; I seek consistent results and growth over time more than quick wins and big wins.
Singles and double win the game.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face in your career as a startup marketer is communicating the value of your strategies, particularly if the promised results are slow to build. I’ve preached the message “stay the course” a few times in my career as we built towards that crescendo of results.
Take SEO for instance. 90% of clicks on the web take place on Google search, and every marketer this side of modernity knows that monetizing those clicks is a path to victory for your startup. You’ve got intent and volume on your side, a winning combination.
I’ve been at Klipfolio for 6 years, and have been architecting our SEO strategy since the beginning. To say that success was overnight is an understatement. In terms of search presence and mindshare, we’re just starting to get real traction.
6 years! How do you pitch that to an anxious CEO or CMO reporting to a board that expects positive business improvements on a quarterly basis? The punchline goes like this: with great difficulty.
Momentum, however, is the act of doing the right things everyday. Trust is built on momentum, the art of getting stuff done.
I may not have surged to top rank overnight, but I did, in a week for example, write three articles and won an authoritative backlink that should, in time, bolster our rankings.
It probably feels like it goes without saying that you should be productive, and that your productivity should be measurable. But as I’ve gone from managing myself to managing a team of 7 marketers, this has become more difficult and much more important.
Let’s just assume you’re already measuring all the most important business metrics and KPIs. All good on that front, right?
Then let’s talk momentum. This is the method to your madness, the approximate throughput of your team. Measuring throughput isn’t always easy. First of all, that team of marketers comes from different backgrounds and disciplines, and they have vastly different mandates.
Number of tasks completed
A web design project can take months to complete, while an email campaign can be executed in hours. It’s like comparing apples to spaceships. One’s a snack, the other’s a multi-billion dollar mission.
That’s why it’s important to measure momentum for each area you manage in just the right way.
I use Trello extensively for project management and each member of my team has his or her own unique Trello board. In each board is a Completed list that let’s me see how much work has been accomplished.
Instead of comparing individuals within the team to each other, I benchmark and track throughput over time. If the web design team completes one task this month, but it’s a sizeable task, then it’s commendable, no? I think so.
Now this affords opportunity for my team to build and sustain their own momentum. Let’s not just tackle big projects; let’s set out to complete those maintenance tasks that keep the marketing machine running like a well-oiled machine.
I also track tasks completed on a common team board that gives the entire team visibility into our performance. Collectively, we can benchmark our performance based on tasks completed. It’s not perfect, but it does allow everyone to see how they contributed to the team’s and the business’s momentum.
Number of URLs submitted
My inner SEO demands momentum. What better way to see momentum than by tracking how many URLs are submitted to Google Search Console on a monthly basis?
I submit new posts and resubmit updated posts as soon as they are completed. I know it can take weeks for a powerful piece to achieve top rank, but this gives an early indicator of the results (hopefully) coming down the pipe.
Of all the momentum metrics I track, this metric is what I consider the standard bearer for marketing performance. It requires multiple individuals to be successful: content team for authorship, design team for graphics, and web team for SEO and maintenance.
Number of tests deployed
Multi-variant testing (aka, split testing, A/B testing) is a tenet of conversion rate optimization (CRO). I also think it’s a perfect example of a momentum metric.
Each test we deploy means a hypothesis being challenged and, more importantly, new learning. Does video convert better on the homepage than a static image? The answer matters.
I think that tests have the ancillary benefit of bolstering confidence. I’ve seen a lot of teams get stuck in analysis paralysis when it comes to launching a new asset.
It can be nerve wracking, particularly for a young team, to put themselves out there with a bold, new concept.
Yet progress is the hallmark of a world-class marketing team. I see deploying a split test as the equivalent to getting the blood flowing. Just standing up sometimes and shaking out your legs or going for a walk is enough to get those creative juices moving.
A marketing team needs creativity and confidence in equal parts. Testing gives the team the ability to be bold in a risk-free environment.
What’s your momentum metric?
These examples are just that. I’ve defined our team’s momentum metrics based on the way we operate. Just like your metrics and KPIs should be carefully defined for your organization, analyzed and optimized, so too should momentum metrics.
For a young startup marketing team, momentum may also be the first real metric you can measure. It’s not a metric I’d report to the board or executive body, but it is one I use to ensure the marketing trains are running on time and that the team is being productive.
What’s your momentum metric? What works for your team?
I’d love to know!
Originally published June 29, 2017, updated Jun, 12 2019