It’s no secret that the digital age is upon us, and people are consuming web content more rapidly than ever before. But how can marketing teams ensure their firms’ websites effectively generate leads and provide useful information for clients? For many accounting firms that typically first reach prospective clients through their website the answer lies in an often untapped resource: their digital marketing analytics.

However, setting up a data-driven marketing strategy can often feel like a daunting task, especially for those who are used to operating in “project mode.” Treating analytics as another project that you build, implement and promptly move on from is a sure way to spend too much time and effort only to land exactly where you started — with a wealth of data, but no idea how to actually use it. By focusing less on product solutions and more on developing user skills, you ultimately lay the foundation for an actionable analytics strategy that grows and evolves with your team.

Start with one project

One mistake that marketers tend to make with analytics is trying to tackle a program for the entire website or digital ecosystem at once. Instead, focus on either a campaign or content that feels intimately familiar. Tracking and improving a specific item can have a real impact without overwhelming marketers, requiring a complicated process or increasing headcount. Most importantly, starting small allows time to learn which analytics are relevant (and which are noise), so they can be scaled throughout digital marketing.

Think of it as an incremental process. Begin by identifying an upcoming digital project and commit to analyzing any resulting data. Choosing one project to own. Control is key to building out a solid analytics foundation that will be manageable but also instrumental in helping your firm achieve its business goals.

Collect data to measure progress toward goals

Determining what data to use is often the most challenging step. Marketers often jump into their analytics tools and find a trove of metrics already collected by default. It’s our instinct to assume they are all valuable, but that may not be the case. Instead, make a list of the questions that need to be answered in order to understand the performance of the item at hand.

For example, let’s say you are launching a small email campaign promoting a white paper on tax reform. To determine which analytics to prioritize, your list might include the following:

• Are users downloading the white paper?

• Are they reaching out to firm contacts after reading?

• After downloading, are they visiting the firm’s various practice pages?

Each of these has a corresponding metric you can focus on, from conversion rate to page views.

Next, identify if these responses can be measured. This is where sifting through pre-existing metrics comes into play. If no metric directly measures the behavior, think about what action is being performed and how it could be tracked. To measure whether people contact the firm after receiving an email, you can set up a free tool such as Google Tag Manager to track a specific button or link clicks. Additionally, user segments within Google Analytics allow you to focus only on users coming from the campaign.

Adjust tactics based on measured results

After setting up metrics to track, review each and ask two questions:

• What numbers do I expect from this metric? (This can be a gut instinct.)

• How could I improve this metric if it is lower than expected?

If no ideas come to mind for question two, remove that data point. It’s important to focus on metrics that are immediately actionable. This helps with internal buy-in and momentum to continue to build the program.

Eventually, as familiarity increases with the different metrics, key performance indicators for digital marketing can be introduced. KPIs should tell the story of how digital marketing is performing, i.e., how it’s contributing to marketing’s efforts to achieve the firm’s strategic goals. To help choose which metric should be a KPI, use the following criteria:

• Clear and understandable – Non-marketers should be able to understand what the KPI measures.

• Actionable – KPIs should show the impact of marketing’s strategies; if the data point is not something marketing has control over, choose another.

• Aligns with a firm goal – Do not just choose a KPI that makes the marketing team look good.

For example, an accounting firm’s marketing team may subscribe to the inbound marketing strategy, which draws in an active audience by providing engaging content. To measure its impact in generating leads, the team uses total subscribers as a KPI.

• Clear and understandable? Check.

• Actionable? Yes; marketing teams should have many tools to influence this number.

• Aligns with a firm goal? In this case, subscribers would become marketing leads and show how digital marketing contributes to generating business.

Enhance your firm’s digital performance

Today, marketers don’t need to wait for an established analytics team. Advanced technology and measurement tools, such as Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and HubSpot, provide easy access to starting a data program without investing much time in training. A marketing team can strive to close the gap between how users experience a firm’s website and how the firm would like them to experience it. Data analytics can also help prove that marketing has a positive impact on firm performance.

Because websites serve as digital handshakes between accounting firms and their potential new clients, marketers should waste no time in putting digital marketing analytics in place. The time to implement is now — and if you start small, doing so can be easier than you might think.

Ben Magnuson

Ben Magnuson

Ben Magnuson is a data strategist at the digital agency One North, where he helps clients build data programs and technology to support business strategies.