In our last article, we uncovered the question that underpins every aspect of effective agency marketing: ‘Does it feel like us?’ This includes how you track your marketing performance –and where you take your business.
As an agency owner or marketer, you will have spent time Googling the ‘right’ KPIs for your agency. The correct one for your size of business. The one your competitors are likely to use. The one that makes sense for your type of sales strategy.
But here’s the thing. By focusing on which KPIs work for other agencies, you’re less likely to find the one that works for you.
That’s because the best KPIs are those aligned to your vision for your business. That’s the verdict from our interviews with the heads of several of the UK’s fastest growing agencies, as part of our Good Agency Marketing study.
This article explores the KPIs used by 3 of the agencies we spoke to – highlighting why agency marketers should worry less about the KPIs other use, and more about where they want their business to go.
For Portsmouth-based Really B2B, performance is everything. Billing themselves as the ‘real results’ agency, numbers are at the heart of what they offer their clients and therefore how they track the success of their own marketing.
“Everything we do is focussed around the numbers and being able to prove ROI for our clients, so I couldn’t ever go to my board and not know what our marketing ROI is,” says marketing director Gemma.
Cost per lead is therefore her team’s core KPI: “We’re constantly monitoring that. There are always going to be things that drop in and drop out of our marketing dashboard, but we’ve got a target that I'm held to from a board level to ensure we’re keeping an eye on that. As much as we’re an internal function, we’re accelerating the business. So we need to be smart with our tracking, as well.”
Tracking the agency’s cost per lead isn’t easy, however. “Essentially, we keep track of everything that’s within the [marketing] budget on a channel-by-channel basis. Rather than an overall cost per lead, we’ll look at each channel and what we’re spending on it externally. We don’t focus too much on our internal resource as part of this, because we’re fortunate enough to have it there for us. It’s more about what’s going out of the business: data we’re buying, software we’re using. Then we’ll work out how much a booked appointment, a SAP appointment or a proposed appointment is worth. This is our return on investment on the sale.”
Tracking marketing performance via sales makes sense for Really B2B, with their history in telemarketing. For London/Bristol-based Rooster Punk, marketing success is more closely aligned with brand power – the value and service they offer to clients – and therefore shapes their KPIs.
Founder James Trezona explains: “We’ve organised Rooster Punk around three things: fun, fame and fortune. This provides a structure for our goals, sitting above the values we’ve set for the business. For fun, for example, we’ve said we want to be in the top 50 places to work in the country. Fame has to be measured in terms of our number of awards. That’s not just creative awards. We want every department to be winning awards – including in terms of being a great place to work. For fortune, we have a very clear growth goal and a target we want to hit.”
These high-level goals are supported by OKR (Objectives and Key Results) metrics for individuals “Each member of our executive team has got five-ish specific goals building up to those three business goals under fun, fame, fortune. Then, our team members ‘flight maps’ are linked back to the overarching goals of the company and driven from below by the values, beliefs and behaviours we’ve set out for the business.”
Their focus on fame, fun and fortune means Rooster Punk’s KPIs are often qualitative, where Really B2B’s are quantitative. To measure fun, for example, the agency monitors staff satisfaction using Officevibe, and contact clients every quarter to take the temperature of their working relationship.
This is no accident, being consistent with the core message James and the Rooster Punk team deliver to clients: that businesses grow by building brand value, which in turn depends on having a story, point of view or meaning.
“Marketing’s goal isn’t just about leads. Something I’ve lectured many clients on and fundamentally believe myself is if all marketing’s job is to create sales, it’s just sales; it’s not marketing. You’re missing the point. Marketing has a bigger goal than that, so that our ROI could be lower than 1:1 in terms of MQL and SQL conversion. I’m fine with that.
“Building our own brand – which is marketing’s job – has a broad goal attached to it which isn’t just about focussing on a Google Dashboard and what we’ve got in terms of ad conversions. Yes, that’s cool, but I know those are unlikely to convert. They’re not high-value, and I don’t want my people spending loads of time on that stuff. Actually, the more important stuff for us in the long-term; the bigger brand-building stuff.”
“We’ve got to practice what we preach. We tell clients “You’re a fucking idiot if you’re measuring brand and the success of your marketers just in terms of SQLs. You’ve fallen into the sales people’s traps; you’ve become their lackey; you’ve lost the fun and interesting bit about fun and fame. So, let’s not fall into that trap ourselves.”
Really B2B and Rooster Punk choose the KPIs most consistent with their message they offer clients. London agency Raw chose theirs to help reshape their agency from the ground up.
Realising that their original service offering – B2B video production – had hit a ceiling, Ryan Wilkins and Charlotte Harris’ marketing team sought to attract more strategic briefs from higher-value clients. This meant tracking a very different set of KPIs. Instead of asking if their marketing ‘feels like them’ today, Raw now ask whether it feels like ‘who they want to be’ tomorrow.
“The biggest KPI for us is client average spend and retention, rather than how many clients we can win,” says founder Ryan. “This makes financial sense, but also means we can produce better work if we know our client better and work with them on a long-term basis.”
“These figures are constantly rising, which is good. Two years ago, we were just doing one-off video projects, whereas now the average spend is much higher,” says Ryan. “We’re working on projects now that we would never have done previously – fully integrated campaigns that will involve, yes, some video content, but might involve some other media content too. We’ll work with them on strategy and roll-out and maybe a playbook as well.”
To win these higher quality leads, the agency spent 12 months experimenting using different marketing channels. This prompted a decision to drop Adwords and instead invest elsewhere, necessitating a new set of KPIs.
“Events are something we’ve focused on a lot in the last 18 months,” says marketing director Charlotte. “We’ve doubled the number of people that come to our events every quarter and got amazing speakers and feedback. One of the biggest KPIs is being able to look at the list of attendees and compare that to the type of people that attended eighteen months ago. They’re completely different. Then, we were speaking to people who were, you know, interested in videos or video producers, but now we’re getting heads of content, heads of marketing, people that make decisions about content strategy.”
“We also track average spend – looking at the quality of clients that are coming in every month and the average quotes for their work. Alarm bells ring when you’re getting too many come in that are around the £5-6,000 mark, because this suggests we need to work harder to win something else.”
“Awards are also important, as a tool that we can use to reposition ourselves in the sector. Before, we were winning awards for video production and standard creative, whereas today we’re focused on effective content marketing and results-delivery and stuff like that.”
Shifting their marketing tactics helped Raw ‘level up’ their agency. But moving from tracking quantity to tracking quality is something all our interviewees spoke about.
“Our key drive is what we call RPA or Return Per Appointment,” says Gemma at Really B2B. ”Rather than looking at the number of appointments we’ve booked, we check per channel and per sales rep; how many in each vertical, what the total close rate is and then what the percentage is. It’s easy to believe that emails are our best performing channel because they’ve generated the most appointments and the most sales, but actually, in the background, we might have booked double or triple the prospects into our pool which is costing us time and money. A lot of these will be bad quality and will drop off. Looking at our return per appointment instead shows us exactly from what’s been wasted and what’s been closed – and therefore what our conversion rate is.”
Tracking quality over quantity within your KPIs is a no-brainer. Securing higher quality leads means agencies can do more of the business they want to do.
But what constitutes ‘quality’ is different to every agency, because their vision of the future is different. KPIs that work for one agency therefore won’t work for another.
So, which metrics should you choose for your agency?
Whichever will help you get where you want to be. And don’t let Google tell you otherwise.
Image via Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/photos/HUJDz6CJEaM