How do you know when your efforts are paying off? Do you have to wait until the final numbers come through or can you check something along the way? Do you have a “dashboard” of information you can look at on your journey?
We’re always pushing to improve our numbers. Every tournament, every camp, every team. We want to get more people involved and then give them a better experience than they had before. But with a seasonal operation, we cannot risk putting all our eggs in one promotional basket. We cannot hope for the best.
Instead, we prefer to get feedback along the way to help us know we are going in the right direction. One form of feedback we use is KPI, key performance indicators. With a quick glance at our KPI, we get a good sense of where we are going. We can see if there are problems or if there are things we should amplify.
What is a KPI and why use them?
Our KPI are things that we care about. They are numbers that tell us how things are going. Below, we will show you exactly which numbers we care about and why.
These indicators are the ones that have been the most telling over the years. Through experience, we have gotten a good feel for which ones matter the most. Today, we check our metrics about once a week depending on the time of year. In 10 minutes a week, we get a good feel of where we are.
When we began in 2002 with our first camp, we didn’t have any form of feedback other than registration forms. We were almost completely blind until the end. Email and internet were not as popular so we had to get very creative with how we tracked registrations. But with some strategy, we dialed in our process and built out some good KPI after a few years. The information that follows will help do the same for you!
A word of caution
I encourage everyone to dive into their numbers and find the best KPI for them. These are important but can take a lot of fumbling around to get the right mix. But, BE CAREFUL! Avoid the trap of over-analysis. This was a big problem for a numbers guy like me. I would start looking at one metric, get curious about another, follow that one to another, and so on. Then, two hours later, would realize that I had gone to a completely unrelated topic with zero benefits. Have a goal. Be curious. Dig in but stay focused!
Examples of KPI that we use
The main examples of KPI we use come from email and web traffic. There is also a small bit of social media.
Our email list is our biggest source of revenue and so it is the most important. It is also the best way for us to communicate with our families and keep them up to date on what we are doing. We protect the list and try to ensure that it only has high-quality emails on it.
Email KPI #1 – Growth
This looks at how much our list grows over a certain amount of time. It is a direct result of two main things: interest we generate in our business and the number of participants in our events. The more interest people have in what we do translates into sign-ups for our newsletter. And we add people to our list when they register for an event.
Email KPI #2 – Delivery
With the switch to Mailchimp, we are able to see which emails are valid and which are fake or non-deliverable. It also gives us an indication if our emails are being considered spam. The higher the delivery rate, the higher the quality of the list.
Email KPI #3 – Opens
The open rate correlates to the subject line and the FROM: line. People will not open an email if the subject does not catch their eye or seem interesting to them. They will also not open it if the subject appears spammy. Additionally, the FROM: line needs to be trustworthy. If they recognize our name they will likely open the email. With a little more digging we can find patterns of subject/FROM combos that get the best results. We A/B test these to learn more.
Email KPI #4 – Click through rate
If we are trying to drive people to our website, the click-through rate (CTR) is very important. It is the rate that people are reading the email AND clicking on a particular link. Several things can affect the CTR. They include how interested the reader is on that topic, the quality of writing, the location of the link in the email and clarity & strength of the call to action.
After email, our website traffic is of major importance. This is where people must register for everything we do. It is also where we provide inbound marketing information for those that are not already on our list but want to know more.
Note: the following stats come from our Google Analytics account
Website KPI #1 – Audience Overview Comparison
The easiest metric is comparing traffic over time. This could be weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
It shows us how much our audience has grown, how much more (or less) they visit and how long they are staying.
Website KPI #2 – Channels Sources
This is where traffic is coming from. From here we dive into specific channels and look at the landing pages. Now we know the most popular sources and where those sources are leading viewers.
Then we look at the bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration. This is valuable information because it can show us our most valuable sources. It can also show us if there are problems with popular pages
For example, our most popular blog post of all time has been generating traffic since 2010. But it has a high bounce rate, low pages per session and the average session time is low. Since this page does not drive revenue on its own, we need to tweak it so people will want to stick around and see the other stuff we have to offer. We may even want to push a little harder on getting a newsletter sign up.
Website KPI #3 – Most Sticky Pages
We first find our top pages. Then we filter them by bounce rate or average time on page. These are the pages that are holding people’s attention. These pages are another opportunity to present viewers with a chance to opt into an email list.
Website KPI #4 – Popular Landing Pages with Problems
We use this metric for maintenance purposes. By looking at the top landing pages you can see where traffic is landing first. But it is important to verify viewers are seeing what you want them to see.
For example, after we did a major website overhaul, we used this metric. We found our top 20-25 pages and then viewed them to make sure we knew what people were seeing. Through this process we found several broken pages that were not a part of the overhaul. They led to 404 Error Pages which is not good. But the visibility of this problem allowed us to redirect those pages to the correct spot. We cannot control how people find our site. But we can control what they see.
Website KPI #5 – Conversion Rate / Goals
This is a pretty cool metric Google Analytics provides. We use it to track email sign ups and registrations. The metric allows you to trace the conversion back through the path the user took to get there. It also allows us to track the rate that we are achieving our goals. A low conversion rate can indicate that we need to improve the offer. Or it may show that we need to tweak the landing page. More than anything, it shows us opportunities to improve our conversion funnel.
For us, social media is more of a branding tool. We have seen some small gains through our social media channels. But, these channels have served us better by improving our communication. They also help us stay on top of people’s minds.
One of the traps some fall in to is believing that Likes or Follows are anything more than a vanity metric. A large following can provide some social proof. But, for our companies, these metrics offer little impact. The changes in algorithms have made these numbers pretty insignificant.
Instead, we use metrics like Shares, Retweets, and Comments to gage our social media impact. These are the signals that the social media platforms use to determine if they will show our content.
Guidance Based on Your Effort
The KPI that we use are great at providing guidance for our efforts. They help us gain visibility at how we are doing and help keep us on track.
By finding the KPI that matter most to you, your efforts will reward you. You will better understand how your content is serving its purpose. And you will be able to more efficiently use your time.