brand, culture, dark matter

Metrics that matter


googlemap1Have you ever been zooming in on a Google map, and eventually you zoom so far in that Google apologizes and tells you that it doesn’t have an image showing stuff that close? What do you do? You zoom back out so that you can see again.

When it comes to running campaigns, I tend to take metrics with a few grains of salt. How many times have you seen someone report metrics on how their campaign did, and they show that it drove zillions of leads and that converted to zillions of $$ in sales and was a huge success… but then you look around and can’t find anyone who saw the campaign, or heard of it. And the sales guys couldn’t ever even tell it happened.

Lets face it: sometimes campaign metrics don’t tell the whole truth. It’s not the metrics’ fault– sometimes you have just zoomed in so close that you can’t see the image anymore.

We’ve all done it. Presented metrics on how a campaign did where we attributed sales and leads to a campaign even though we know the truth was probably much more complex. In Red Hat’s business, we sell enterprise software. And I can tell you that most people don’t buy multi-thousand-dollar subscriptions to enterprise software based on downloading one whitepaper or watching one video.

The reality is that it’s probably a series of interactions, some that are trackable, some that are not trackable, that caused your customer to buy your product.

Don’t get me wrong– I think we should track everything we can. The more data we can get about what is working and not working, the better. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that our metrics are telling us the whole story.

Sometimes I take a couple of minutes to zoom out to look at the forest, rather than individual trees, and take a look at some metrics that matter.

My job at Red Hat is the care and feeding of the Red Hat brand and culture. What are some meaningful metrics that would show how we are doing?

surveydataThe chart above shows a piece of data from a recent Red Hat brand tracking survey. The question we ask is “What companies, in your opinion, will influence the direction of the technology industry over the next ten years?” This is the first question in a blind survey, meaning, they don’t know it is a Red Hat survey. And at this point in the survey, they have not seen any technology brands named yet, and we didn’t give them a list to choose from, so people wrote in whatever companies came to mind.

Red Hat came in 14th.

Now you may say to yourself, “Wow, that’s not that great.” But then look at the market cap and estimated number of employees (as of December 2008) for each of the top 20 companies. Red Hat’s footprint as a defining company is WAY bigger than any other company it’s size. You could also add a column showing when each of the companies above Red Hat in the list was founded– most of them have been around a lot longer than we have. In this context, being number 14 is pretty astounding.

markmurphyquoteSome more data:

The quote to the left is from an analyst at Piper Jaffray from November of 2008. While upgrading Red Hat’s stock, he notes multiple reasons why, including “superior brand recognition,” unique vision and culture,” and “ability to hire superior employee talent.”

So this analyst is saying that Red Hat’s stock price could go higher, in part because of the company’s brand and culture. That the company is worth more money. That’s the kind of data that matters– the kind that affects shareholder value.

So we might not be able to tell exactly which thing we did that caused these two “metrics” to be positive. Was it one thing? Definitely not. But when we zoom out and look at the work we’ve done on the brand and culture of Red Hat from further away, it looks like we are doing pretty well. And that’s what matters to me.

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.

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