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Key Performance Indicators: 4 Key Takeaways Every Marketer Needs to Know

By Rachel Reid

I had the opportunity to participate in Defining and Using KPIs for Measurability and Success, a webinar hosted by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) and sponsored by RHA Marketing. Elizabeth Engel, CEO & Chief Strategist of Spark Consulting, and Trevor Mitchell, Vice President of American Mensa discussed the importance of Key Performance Indicators in driving success for companies.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help employees evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies and processes being used to achieve their company’s mission. Managers can use KPIs to assess whether their team is on or off target relative to their strategic goals.

Here are the four most important takeaways I got from this webinar:

  • Developing a high quality set of KPIs requires a significant amount effort. KPIs should be defined based on your company’s mission. How do you start? Look at what qualities you have as an organization internally – examine your current strategies and analyze how they line up with the company’s goals. Examples of KPI categories/questions to evaluate are: financial (Did we meet our monetary goals this quarter?), customer satisfaction (Are we helping people reach their desired outcomes?), strategic (Where are we now? Where do we need to be? How do we get there?), and mission-driven (What foundation is driving our success?). Devote the time and energy to create a set of KPIs that is meaningful to your company.
  • Find the right KPIs that work for you. Developing the right KPIs for your organization is essential. Just because one strategy works for another company, it doesn’t mean that it will work for yours as well. If you search for “key performance indicators” on Google, you will find hundreds and hundreds of lists of examples. Take the time to define KPIs that will align with your company’s mission.
  • Be careful of data overload. When defining KPIs, it may be easy to make a long list with your team. We’re talking 30, 40, 50 or more. Having too many KPIs will result in a lack of focus and efficiency. You must focus on what is going to give information at the right level to the right people. A good number of KPIs to start with should not exceed 10.
  • High numbers are not always indicators of success. Sure, it feels good when your company has high numbers of memberships, downloads, followers, retweets and likes – these “warm and fuzzy” numbers are called vanity metrics. How does a high number of social media followers relate to the goals and success of a company? It doesn’t. The KPI should not relate to vanity metrics unless it’s driving revenue growth for your company. It’s not a popularity contest – high numbers do not mean anything if they do not help your mission and people are not engaged in your organization.

For example, many people have pages and pages of unused apps on their phones. If a mobile app has a high number of downloads but not a lot of actual usage from people, then the high number of downloads means nothing. A better way to measure performance would be to compare a company’s app usage vs. website traffic while analyzing what features and preferences people desire. Measure what matters, not always what is easily counted.

Rachel Reid is a Marketing Assistant at Silver Marketing, Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland. She can be reached at or (301) 951-3505.

Note: The webinar was recorded and is available online.