Marketing is a cost centre. This is the mentality of most small business owners who lack the visibility of their marketing performance, so they believe marketing costs money instead of driving revenue.

To know the true influence marketing has on business performance one must have the visibility of marketing performance to analyse, test and re-invest in marketing plays that will maximise return on investment.

Many business owners are not measuring the performance of their marketing, not because they do not want to but because they simply do not know how. Some marketers will tell you that you can’t really measure your marketing [yes, I have heard this advice given to a small business owner before]. I’m telling you that you absolutely, 100% can! You just need to establish the foundations first, then you can start measuring your marketing performance.

setting up the tools

Before you can start analysing your marketing performance, you need the relevant tools and platforms setup, so you can see what is and is not working. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the number of platforms available to a small business when it comes to marketing [and business] analytics. Ultimately the platforms a business chooses will differ depending on industry, specific goals and budget.

however, there are 3 fundamental tools a small business should have in place from day one:

1. google analytics

As you have invested a considerable amount of your marketing budget into building a great website, you would want to see how it is performing, right? Ask your digital agency to setup a Google Analytics account with the relevant tracking code installed on your website. This will give you full visibility over how your website is performing each month. Take some time to understand the particulars of your Google Analytics dashboard and the story your data is telling you.

2. CRM

A CRM should be in place before you commence any marketing activity, so you can track high performing lead sources and manage your prospects and sales pipeline.

Surprisingly a lot of businesses do not have a CRM to keep up to date contact details, track every interaction people have with the business, track leads and convert those to sales opportunities.

A CRM should be setup so that it integrates with your website and email marketing platform at the bare minimum.

3. email list + platform

Email is still one of the most effective tactics in marketing and an email list is one of your most valuable marketing assets. Within a healthy email list will be opportunities for audience segmentation, which in turn will enable you to send the right email message to the right person.

Some people have this list as an excel spreadsheet with email addresses and first and last names. This is a good start and should be uploaded into an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp.

Once you have built an email list in an email marketing platform, you can start sending emails to your database, and if you have setup your CRM and Google Analytics account to talk to your website [and vice versa], you will be able to measure the performance of your email marketing campaigns. And I’m not just talking about vanity metrics such as email opens and click through rates, you can go a lot deeper than that with your email marketing analytics to determine true influence email has on overall marketing performance.

defining your goals

You will not be able to accurately measure any marketing unless you have a documented plan of what success looks like.

Every business should approach marketing as strategy first, tactics later. A marketing plan should have marketing goals documented, so when you’re looking through the analytics on your platforms, you know what to look for and define what is “success”.

For example, say one of your marketing goals is to increase customer advocacy by a specific number. Your email marketing analytics is telling you that in the last 4 email campaigns you had an average 3 paying customers unsubscribe, your CRM sales pipeline is showing a decline in referrals and perhaps your Google analytics is showing a decline in returning visitors and direct search traffic. This could indicate customer advocacy is not at its best, so you need to change your approach and analyse the results yet again.

selecting the right metrics

The marketing metrics you choose will differ depending on what you are trying to achieve. A lot of people focus their attention on vanity metrics like visits, opens, clicks, likes and views, and many will struggle to find the right metrics that will show marketing’s contribution to the bottom line.

The metrics a small business should be using are more focussed than a larger company due to less money, time and resource. So, a laser focus is imperative when it comes to looking at marketing metrics. Some of my favourite metrics for a small business are:

marketing influenced customer %

Look at all of the new customers you have converted over a specific time period [3 months is a good length] and look at what percentage of them had interacted with your marketing activity. Your CRM and email marketing platform will give you this insight if setup correctly.

time on page

The time a person has spent on your website will give you a good reading on engagement. More specifically, if you are producing content for your blog, time on page will tell you if people are consuming your content. The longer they spend consuming that content, focus more time and energy on producing similar content for your audience in the future.

comments over shares

A majority of people will share a post on social media without even consuming the content. I find comments are the best indicator of quality engagements, as someone who takes the time to comment will more than likely take the time to read your content, and you would have left a lasting impression [hopefully a good one] on this person, possibly then leading to a marketing qualified lead.

direct search queries

A great measure of brand awareness is how much traffic is coming through to your website from direct search queries. These are search terms that include your business name, which means people are actively seeking you out on Google. Keep checking in on your Google Analytics to see how many visitors are coming to your website through direct search queries.

There are many more metrics available for small businesses to measure their marketing, but only a few you should focus on at any given time to remove the probability of becoming overwhelmed with all the data.


Measuring marketing and the targets a small business will put in place will differ depending on what industry they are in and specific marketing goals. Marketing performance can most definitely be measured and SHOULD be measured, no matter the size or type of business.

Marketing can become a profit centre should the right tools, goals, and metrics be put in place so a business can identify where to focus their marketing efforts and budget moving forward, but most importantly how marketing has contributed to driving revenue.


Originally authored by Tyson Cobb.