Looking Past Vanity Metrics to Actionable Analytics

Jessica Gershman

Director of Data and Analytics, Forum One

Stakeholders are often on the hunt for the biggest numbers. We call these big, beautiful, but often distracting numbers “vanity metrics,” and it’s important to know the appropriate time and place to use them.

You’ve probably heard this before, but bigger isn’t always better, and this same principle is especially true when approaching your organization’s analytics reporting. When it comes to presenting your analytics insights to executive leadership — whether through a monthly report or as an agenda item in a quarterly review — your job is to help leadership to focus on only the most important metrics that show your organization’s impact. 

Beware of the Big Shiny Numbers

These high-level numbers can help set the tone for future efforts or get you started when digging into the real actionable numbers. However, if you’re looking to understand the success of a specific initiative or optimize your existing tactics, you’ll need to ensure you’re measuring impact as it relates to your organizational goals.

Such metrics can be a great way to showcase high total website visits at the end of the month, but if that metric isn’t helping you measure the success of the month’s priorities or objectives, then it can end up distracting your stakeholders from the story you are telling and the recommendations you might make moving forward.

What to Watch Out For

An example of a major pitfall that teams encounter when they get too distracted with vanity metrics is getting too focused on one big number, such as site visits. Getting, shall we say obsessed, with this number may lead to inaccurate or incomplete comparisons. If every organization within a given industry started battling to see who can hit the biggest numbers by the end of the month, then you end up comparing apples to oranges. How one organization calculates website visits may differ from another; so in the end, your big, flashy performance numbers might not really be any higher or lower than those of your competition.

What Metrics to Focus on

If you’ve become the designated analytics guru on your team, and are checking in on your dashboards diligently, you already know there’s a lot of data out there. One of the key skills when analyzing any kind of data is to learn how to cut through the noise. 

The metrics that you’ll need to focus on once you’ve moved past these vanity metrics are what we refer to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These metrics should unambiguously illustrate your team or organization’s performance. KPIs can help teams across the organization to work towards a consistent set of objectives as well as clearly demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) for specific objectives.

Above all, make sure that the data you are referencing is connected to the goals you have already set out to achieve. Although in some cases they may appear small, they are truly the shiny, golden ones that will help you to make smart decisions in the long run.

Need help focusing on the metrics that matter?

We’d love to chat about how we can help map your KPIs to your organizational goals. Get in touch today!

Written By

Jessica Gershman

Director of Data and Analytics, Forum One