Friday, July 19, 2024

The Secret Value of Customer Performance Indicators

How many marketing KPIs do you have? Don’t worry, there’s not a test and, as far as I can tell, no particularly correct answer. The “right” KPIs for marketing seem to be largely determined by the companies selling us the dashboards that are supposed to help us measure them.  That’s a conversation for another day, and you can relax; I’m not going to ask you anything mathy.

I am going to suggest a different set of indicators marketers need to understand, and that would be the ones keeping your customers up at night. I think Customer Performance Indicators (CPIs) are a much more helpful tool in getting you where you want to go.

Sure, you can measure your revenue, conversions, retention and all that, but those are Inside Voice numbers. What’s more interesting are the places your customers are trying to make a measurable improvement.

Now you may already sell your customers a fancy dashboard and some pretty reports that show what happened last month or last quarter. You may even have predictive analytics to sell them, but those are your numbers, not theirnumbers.

If your customer needs to get deliveries done within two days of the order, your dashboard is not going to help them. What will help them is showing them how you help them get their orders out in two days, or, even better, one day. They don’t need a report to tell them that’s a good thing.

For B2B marketers, I think there’s a bit of magic to be found in understanding where our customers are trying to make a measurable improvement and then going and solving that. These are the processes and tasks that sit beneath higher order KPIs like revenue and cashflow, and include stuff like logistics, processes, critical dependencies, clean data integration and not hiring criminals.

These are not the things that generally end up on the pretty dashboard the CEO gets to look at, but they are the stuff of daily life in most organizations, and when they don’t work, the pretty dashboard is full of sad, sad numbers.

The extent to which we’re able to both solve and be seen to be solving the nasty issues in the centre of the business is where we find both retention and growth for our business. You may recall these are your KPIs, but that is not your customer’s issue; they just need to figure out why their power consumption is growing despite installing LEDs. They need to fix the issue of staff turnover in Sudbury, and they need to have fewer accidents with their lift trucks.

I’m inclined to look for these opportunities in two places: first at the centre of an organizational change. Whether it’s a merger/acquisition or just a giant re-org, these sorts of things tend to drive operational issues to the surface, along with a willingness to measure and solve.

The second place to go nosing about for CPIs is the third fiscal quarter. This is when budgets are still objects of hope and meaningful change, and a quick chat with the people building the budgets may reveal where they are looking to invest in things like automation, process review, vendor replacement and some headcount. Getting into that dynamic, framing up the CPIs and, naturally, helping to measure them, can keep those projects from getting the axe in the budgeting cycle and may earn you some new friends in the C-suite, if not the P-Cube.

In some cases, your customers may not even know their CPIs, which to my way of thinking is a great opportunity in itself. Take a look at how your customers or groups of customers are tackling a particular issue with hacks, workarounds, manual processes or some combination of duct tape, peanut butter and hope.

Find these and you find something broken. Fix these and you live to fight another day. Quantify the value of fixing it for your customer and your own KPIs are a lot less scary.


Originally published May 23, 2017 on


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Elizabeth Williams
Elizabeth Williams
Elizabeth Williams is the President of Candler Chase Inc., a consulting firm specializing in employee communications and branding. She is a survivor of more than 20 years in the telecom, financial services and technology sectors, and can often be found blogging about brands and speaking at conferences. She keeps meaning to write a book.