What Are the Leading & Lagging SMB Marketing Metrics That Actually Matter?

Every small to medium-sized business owner wants the ability to check the health of their company. Perhaps you walk the floor to “take the temperature” of employee engagement. Or, you pick up the phone and call a handful of customers to gauge customer satisfaction.

These informal indicators are helpful measures of how your company is performing. But, you also need to gather hard evidence about the effectiveness of your marketing program to generate leads, engage prospects, and convert customers.

The challenge for your business is that not every metric is the same — and there are hundreds of SMB marketing metrics to choose from. The best course of action is to identify the most critical leading and lagging indicators to evaluate performance.

How Do Leading and Lagging Indicators Apply to Marketing?

The concept of leading and lagging indicators has many applications in business, accounting, and management. In the marketing realm, the concept is a critical starting point to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing program.

From our experience, we know that it takes approximately six months to see meaningful results from your program. Now, it could be more or less than six months depending on the effectiveness of previous marketing programs, your budget, and whether content is delivered within a content marketing strategy. However, six months is a general guideline.

Because of this typical timeline, you need to focus on leading indicators throughout the marketing program to gauge your progress and confirm that your program is moving in the right direction. Measuring your performance at each “mile marker” will set you up for success.

Then, once you reach the first stopping point in the program, you should look at the lagging indicators to determine whether you were successful. Looking at both indicators together will provide you with a complete picture of your program to continue building on the first six months of marketing.

So, which SMB marketing metrics should you prioritize in order to start your evaluation from the strongest position?

Focus on These Leading Indicators

At this stage of your marketing efforts, you need to monitor progress. Are you progressing toward your stated goals at the beginning of the marketing program? Here are some typical goals that you might set in advance:

  • Grow our social media following by x percent
  • Increase the number of targeted keywords on Page 1 of Google search results
  • Increase website traffic to key pages by x percent
  • Increase the number of podcast downloads with each new episode

When you set the goals in advance, then you know how to track progress as your marketing program begins to take root. That’s where the leading indicators come into play to evaluate progress. Consider these SMB marketing metrics that serve as quality leading indicators:

  • Social Media Audience: How many LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram followers have you added?
  • Keyword Positioning: Are you moving closer to Page 1 for your target keywords?
  • Website Traffic: Are you seeing an overall increase in traffic, as well as individual growth from the sources of Organic Search, Referrals, and Social Media?
  • Reputation Management: Are you building up positive customer reviews on Google and Yelp?
  • Forms Completed: Are you engaging decision-makers through an increase in the number of forms being completed on your website, such as signing up for your eNewsletter?

These leading indicators will tell you whether your audience is engaged and ready to take action. Then, as your marketing program builds and you continue to compel your audience to take action, you can evaluate the lagging indicators to see the results.

Focus on These Lagging Indicators

Now it’s time to evaluate your performance. When you have access to high-quality data, you can have fun tugging and pulling at the numbers to find different ways to look at the effectiveness of your marketing program.

For this exercise, we’ll focus on the most important lagging indicators that apply across the board.

  • Leads Generated: It’s not enough for a prospect to complete a form. You need to evaluate whether the person who submitted the form turned into a lead.
  • Phone Calls: How many phone calls with the sales team were generated by your marketing program?
  • New Clients: How many new clients and sales can be attributed to your marketing program?
  • Revenue Generated: Calculate the ROI of your marketing program by looking at the amount of revenue that was generated from your marketing investment.

When looking at your ROI, you can go even deeper to find the original sources of leads that converted into sales. Did new customers come through our blog, our social media, or another source?

Monitoring the full customer acquisition cost and tying revenue back to the original source will guide you on where to invest resources moving forward as your marketing program continues to build. That’s why monitoring leading and lagging SMB marketing metrics is vital to grow your business.

Marketing Refresh Can Help You Identify the Right SMB Marketing Metrics

Marketing Refresh understands the importance of seeing results from investing in marketing. You want to see a positive ROI, understand the full cost of acquiring each new customer, and be able to identify how leads were generated.

We take the data very seriously, as we provide a monthly report to each client that breaks down the leading and lagging indicators of their marketing program. During our review of the data, we collaborate with each client to strategize the next steps to improve the effectiveness of the program.

When you are ready to discuss how we can help you find the right SMB marketing metrics to support your business, contact our team to get started. We look forward to helping you identify the best metrics to track your performance.

Terri Hoffman

written by...

Terri Hoffman

Online marketing strategist and owner of Marketing Refresh. Mom to 3 daughters, wife to Ralph. And a MAJOR Green Bay Packers fan!

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