JCL Blog

Is your KPI an RBI or an OBP?

Some marketing departments are just glad to be able to say that they measure something.  The winners are measuring the right things. Everyone has their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and some of the measurements are based more on tradition than on relevant facts.

Over the last 10 years baseball has been turned up side down as traditional measures like Runs Batted In (RBI) have been supplanted by On Base Percentage (OBP).  The teams that figured out how to make their measurements more accurate won -- and the same thing is happening in technology marketing right now.  

Why is the OBP better than the RBI?

  •  The OBP takes walks into consideration (after all, no matter how a batter got on base, he is on base)
  • The OBP works no matter where you are in the line up (someone else has to be on base for you to get an RBI).

 Why doesn't the RBI go away?

  •  Because everyone wants to compare to last year
  • Because the competition is doing it
  • Players are working to improve their RBI number

How many of your measures are quaint and traditional like the RBI?

Here are some of the traps we see people falling into on measurements: 

  1. Better Than Last Year:  We have all done it.  If the numbers are better than last year it must be better right?  Well if you are talking about revenue -- yes.  If you are talking about an intermediate measurement like partner count, attendees at an event, or even satisfaction surveys -- better than last year may not mean the activity is worth doing.  We must take a step back and question the value of the activity before we congratulate ourselves for going in that direction even faster.
  2. More Than the Competition: I am as competitive as the next guy and it is easy to think things are worth doing if the competition is doing them.  Just doing what the other guys do is not necessarily the highest value activity for your marketing effort.  So before you jump into the contest make sure the activity maps to your overall plan.
  3. Assuming Ownership of the Best Looking Number:  It sure is tempting to take the best looking number you can find and make it the result of whatever campaigns have been running -- particularly when the executive review is looming and the other numbers don't look so good.  Unintended outcomes are great, we would not have Post It notes without them. but if you cannot convince yourself of the correlation and be confident that the outcome could be repeated, don't take credit for the number.

Just like in the majors, we should work to reduce everything to contributions to revenue.  This will reduce the tendency to fall into these traps.