Free Guide: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Download the Playbook
Fill out the form to get your playbook
Thank you! You have been subscribed.
The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Free Guide:

The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
Read the Playbook
The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
Free Inbound Marketing Playbook
View The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Free Guide:

Take your inbound strategy to the next level

  • Master the 7 principles of highly effective inbound marketing
  • Dramatically improve your inbound sales
  • Get more buy-in at your company

Vanity Metrics: Why Your Team Is Celebrating the Wrong Numbers

By Ramona Sukhraj

Ramona Sukhraj also recommends this free guide: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022.

Vanity Metrics: Why Your Team Is Celebrating the Wrong Numbers

Twitter has over 217 million, Spotify, 400 million; Instagram, one billion

"New users" is to the SaaS world what the “Red Wedding” was to Game of Thrones fans — a hot topic, a game-changer; but depending on your business goals, industry, and even audience, it may not be a fair representation of your organization’s actual growth or success.

For many SaaS organizations, it is, in fact, a vanity metric.

Free Guide: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

What are vanity metrics anyway?

Simply put, vanity metrics are numbers that look and sound impressive, but don’t really correlate back to your goals or bottomline.

For example, the number of “likes” on your Facebook update, or the number of views on your pricing page.

Sure, seeing numbers like these hit an all-time high is exciting, but if it doesn’t translate to conversions or revenue, why does it matter?

If you have 100,000 people visiting your consultation page every day, but none are filling out the form, are those views really worth celebrating?

This is the question that Brian Balfour poses in his article, “Avoiding The Wheel Of Meaningless Growth.”

Why are vanity metrics so dangerous?

Vanity metrics, like the name suggests, are superficial. While they’re flashy and look great on paper, they are rarely an indication of the deeper health of your company.

Balfour argues that in many of today’s organizations, especially those in the SaaS industry, teams are too heavily focused on vanity metrics and are, in turn, losing sight of what actually reflects their growth and profitability.

To better illustrate this point, take a look at this chart from his article:


First, vanity metrics are celebrated outside of the organization (say by the press or industry influencers.)

Then this external recognition is celebrated within the organization, and subsequently,  the team is encouraged to repeat the success to prompt further external celebration.

It’s basic psychology.

By rewarding the achievement of a vanity metric with both external and internal praise, organizations condition their team to repeat that action. It creates a cycle of team members striving to achieve numbers that don’t actually work toward their goals and neglecting those that do.

At HubSpot, the growth team used to monitor a number of different metrics both big and small, but ultimately, they all lead back to what Balfour calls their “north star:” Weekly Active Users (WAU).

But what makes this their most important and true growth metric?

How to define your true growth metrics

The HubSpot team pinpointed WAU as its most important metric based off of four key criteria:

  • Reflects retention
  • Represents meaningful engagement
  • Relevant
  • Honest.

Retention and engagement

For a SaaS company like HubSpot, retention and engagement are extremely important.

Having new registrants or downloads on your app or free trial are meaningless if they aren’t using it, or worse, if they delete it. (You should see App Graveyard in my iCloud. Ugh.)

People who are not active aren’t actually users and people who don’t use your app aren’t going to pay for it or stick around in the long run, ultimately taking its toll on your revenue.

For HubSpot, WAU reflected both of these points, but depending on your offering, this metric may not be relevant.


In terms of relevance, your metric has to make sense for how your offering is actually used and positioned.

For instance, let’s say your product is a pedometer app, intended to track your user’s daily movement. Since you ideally want your user to open the app everyday, tracking and working to get more monthly active users does not help you progress towards this actual goal.

Say you have 15,000 MAU, but only 1,000 daily. Yes, you can publicize, celebrate, and reward having 16,000 users, but at the end of the day 15,000 of those are not invested enough to use it everyday (or most likely, pay for it.)

HubSpot was designed to be integral part of a professional’s work day routine so looking at the work week through WAU is a relevant and helpful measurement to have tracked.


Last, but not least, an effective SaaS metric should be honest.

Not honest like it doesn’t lie to you when you ask if it ate the last slice of pizza and there’s clearly crumbs and sauce in the corner of its mouth, but honest in that it frames a realistic portrait of your current state.

Inflated numbers or bloated percentages will not only misrepresent your success to your audience, but they will also give your team a false sense of security regarding its current state and the work that has to be done.

As Balfour discusses, 452% growth can still be something a small number depending where you began, or 10,000 new pageviews could just be a drop in the bucket if you average 10 million in a normal week. Putting a positive spin on the numbers, may dull the impact initially, but in the long run, it will the progress you make towards your goals.

Key Takeaway

Overall, your company needs to frame its numbers in metrics that most effectively illustrate what your goals are, while also making it easy to determine when progress has been made or needs to be made.

While many SaaS experts find it best to track your Monthly Recurring Revenue, Churn, and Conversion Rates, your metrics may differ.

Once your true growth metrics are identified using the criteria above, your team will know where it focus its efforts and stay on track, and most importantly, they’ll know when it’s actually time to celebrate.

The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Free Guide:

The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Take your inbound strategy to the next level

  • Master the 7 principles of highly effective inbound marketing
  • Dramatically improve your inbound sales
  • Get more buy-in at your company


Marketing Strategy
Published on January 3, 2018

Recent Articles

Why Trust Is the True Currency for All Business
September 5, 2022 • 7 min read
The Big 5: Best Business Blog Topics to Drive Traffic, Leads, and Sales
August 29, 2022 • 10 min read
What is a Content Strategy? (Definition + Templates)
August 25, 2022 • 12 min read
10 Marketing Objective Examples To Guide and Focus Your Strategy
August 18, 2022 • 6 min read
What Marketers Need To Know About Switching to GA4 [Google Analytics 4]
July 30, 2022 • 5 min read
Inbound Marketing Benefits Explained (Updated for 2022)
July 28, 2022 • 6 min read
How To Inspire Your Marketing Team To Try New Ideas
July 25, 2022 • 5 min read
Do I Need To Invest in Marketing When My Business is Thriving? (+ Video)
July 21, 2022 • 7 min read
How Much Does It Cost To Become a World-class They Ask, You Answer Case Study?
July 16, 2022 • 12 min read
4 Ways To Recession-proof Your Website In 2022
June 9, 2022 • 5 min read
Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation: What’s the Difference?
June 6, 2022 • 5 min read
What Small Business Leaders Need To Know to Thrive During a Recession
May 23, 2022 • 7 min read
Blog Editorial Calendar for 2022: Templates, Examples, and Tips
May 21, 2022 • 6 min read
Green Energy Inbound Marketing Strategy: The DIY Approach to Getting More Customers
May 7, 2022 • 9 min read
HubSpot Pricing: Your Guide to Everything HubSpot Costs for 2022
April 29, 2022 • 13 min read
33 Most Important IMPACT+ Resources To Train Your Marketing Team in 2022
April 26, 2022 • 13 min read
SaaS Inbound Marketing: How to Get Started With Your Strategy (+ Examples)
April 16, 2022 • 9 min read
5 Revenue Metrics You Should Be Measuring
March 29, 2022 • 6 min read
What Short-Term Wins Can We Expect With They Ask, You Answer?
March 15, 2022 • 6 min read
19 Business Blog Topics Your Audience Wants You To Write About
March 14, 2022 • 12 min read
10 Marketing KPIs You Should Be Tracking
March 3, 2022 • 9 min read
Why Does They Ask, You Answer Actually Get Results?
February 24, 2022 • 5 min read
Inbound Marketing for Financial Services Providers and Financial Advisors (+ examples)
February 19, 2022 • 10 min read
Sales vs Marketing in 2022: What’s The Difference?
February 7, 2022 • 7 min read
How To Set Marketing Goals Based on Business Goals
February 1, 2022 • 6 min read