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So much work goes into a digital marketing initiative. It involves every team – research and data; analysis and strategy; media planning, creative and execution. So, when all is said and done, how do you know if it’s successful?

The success yardstick

A positive return on investment (ROI) is the ultimate goal of every digital marketing effort. However, not every campaign will lead directly to bottom-line revenue.

Some campaigns improve brand awareness, others increase credibility by bringing visitors to your blog, while some will build a pipeline of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) via downloadable content. While all of these efforts don’t track directly to sales the moment they are live, they surely will help your bottom line … over time.

So this begs the key question. “What does success look like for digital marketing?”

Brief backstory

Digital marketing has been growing exponentially over the past decade, capturing a larger share of marketing budgets. The latest study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) projects total U.S. ad spending will be down 8% in 2020, but digital will be up 6% over 2019. Paid search and social advertising are both expected to be up over 25%. Why? It simply tracks with consumer behavior – more people are online, regardless of age or other typical demographics.

Then there is the COVID thing. If someone was not online before, it’s certainly most likely that they are now.  COVID has changed the marketing and sales dynamic where digital has become a driving force, now guiding the entire buyer’s journey.

So more importantly, today we need to ask, “What does success look like for digital marketing?

Where to start?

Success will be determined by how well you perform against your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). But before you go there, it’s critical to decide on your objectives: what outcomes do you want to achieve, and what should you measure in order to optimize your efforts?

In a very broad sense, goals can be categorized into the following areas:

  • Awareness
  • Leads – MQLs
  • Financial – sales and ROI

To determine your KPIs, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How does the KPI relate to your goal?
  2. What exactly are you measuring?
  3. Will the metric determine success?
  4. Will the metric drive change, action or strategy?

So let’s look at our KPI options.

person working on Google Analytics

 So many metrics, so little time

There is certainly no shortage of metrics to measure, and may I caution against paralysis of analysis. But in today’s “new world,” performance must be measured beyond the top of the sales funnel. Gone are the days of beating our chests because we got a bunch of MQLs. (Oh, life was so much easier then…)

For instance, do you know, on average, the revenue you will realize from a typical new customer, over the life of that relationship? How much are you willing to spend to add that customer to your recurring bottom-line revenue? Unless you determine this formula, it will be tough to measure ROI, and it seems that, for most marketers, it is the only metric that matters.

So consider this plethora of metrics, organized as they relate to the sales funnel. Choose wisely, measure accurately and if you don’t like the results, change the strategy, not the metric.


  • Web traffic/sessions
  • Page views/session duration/bounce rate
  • Most visited pages
  • Impressions/reach

Leads (MQLs)

  • Lead volume
  • Volume by channel – calls/form fills/chat
  • Lead source
  • Social engagement


  • % SQL to MQL
  • Lead stage conversion
  • Cost of the lead acquisition
  • Email engagement – opens/clicks


  • Number closed – raw/trend
  • Sales increase – raw/trend
  • Sales by lead source
  • % close (MQL/SQL)
  • Marketing budget ROI

Post sale*

  • Email engagement – open/clicks
  • Product/service reviews
  • Social media engagement
  • Satisfaction survey results

*And you thought you were done at close … don’t forget this important post-sale stage. This group can repurchase and become your strongest advocates if they stay in love with your brand. It’s our job to “keep them in love.”

The best “modern” marketers are focused on creating an immersive digital experience that surrounds a prospect with relevant information, delivered at every stage of the customer’s journey. 

The Wrap Up

The key to success is this:  develop a plan built on realistic objectives and measure your results.

And what if you are not happy with your results? What if success is not looking so … successful? Can it be better? Always. But to be clear, there is no “secret sauce.” The strategy to improve digital results? Well, that is more than just a blog post.

Best wishes!

What does a digital marketing team look like?

What does a digital marketing team look like?