Basics

KPIs vs. Metrics: What’s the Difference & How Do You Measure Both?

What’s the difference between KPIs and metrics? How can you leverage both to track, measure, and ultimately improve your company’s performance?

Elise Dopson Elise Dopson on May 4, 2020 (last modified on April 29, 2020) • 8 minute read

What’s the difference between KPIs and metrics?

When it comes to tracking and measuring business performance, it may seem easy to overcomplicate things. And, verbiage might be one of those areas where it seems inconsequential.

But there are key differences between KPIs and metrics, not just by definition, but in the role each one plays for measuring and ultimately improving your company’s performance.

So, what’s the difference between the two? And how do you measure both?

*Editor’s note: You don’t need to feel overwhelmed with the amount of data you’ve got access to. Start by understanding the most important people in your business: your customers. This HubSpot CRM dashboard tells you everything you need to know about them:

What’s the difference between a KPI and a metric?

KPIs are tied to specific goals; metrics are data points

“In my opinion, a KPI is a business outcome or a goal that a specific team or department is trying to achieve,” Michael Bibla of Atomic Reach explains.

“Metrics are different data points in our funnels or analytics platforms that when accumulated, make up a KPI.”

“For example, if you measuring # of signups for a webinar, the # of clicks on an ad or an email promoting the webinar and the conversion rate of the webinar landing page itself are metrics that add up to the KPI of signups. That is the core difference that many marketers mix up.”

The example above shows that a single KPI can have multiple metrics. Our research shows that 75% of experts agree:

Karlee Tate puts that into practice: “At Superior Honda, our KPIs include lead generations from actions such as form submissions on our website. These leads help us visualize how our marketing is helping to achieve our sales goals. Some metrics we look at our social media engagement or the number of clicks we receive from digital ads.”

Jeremy Cross of Virtual Team Building adds: “For us, KPIs tend to be goal-oriented, for example having a KPI of how many leads we generate in a month.”

“Metrics are the numbers that inform these goals, but not directly goals themselves. For example, metrics we track are page views, SEO position, bounce rate, and similar.”

KPIs have a timeframe

“KPIs are specific short term business metrics that I set for myself and my team,” Kevin Miller of The Word Counter says.

“These are things that I want to accomplish typically in the next 30, 60, or 90 days. That differs from metrics because I think of those as basic growth marketing terms like conversion rate, revenue per page, traffic by source, bounce rate, pages per visit, and things of that nature.”

Tony Mastri of MARION Integrated Marketing agrees: “KPIs measure an important objective over a set period of time, whereas metrics aren’t necessarily tied to an important objective or certain time frame.”

KPIs boil down to revenue

“While the original definition of a Key Performance Indicator is overly broad, my rule for a “True KPI” is that always relates back to how your company makes money – sales/revenue, leads, cost, and the ratios that combine them all (ROI, CPA/CPL, etc.),” Amplitude Digital‘s Jeff Ferguson explains.

“Everything else is a “diagnostic metric” that helps you answer why your KPIs are going in the right or wrong direction.”

Not every metric is a KPI, but every KPI is a metric

“Think of metrics like characters in a story,” G2‘s Daniella Alscher explains. “Each character is part of that story and is there for a reason. But some of those characters only appear on a page, others show up in every chapter, and then there are those characters – the main characters – that a story can’t be told without.”

“Those main characters are the KPIs of your business’ story. Other characters are the metrics, which are there to assist the storytelling and support your main characters.”

“In other words, there are a ton of different metrics to choose from, but some are more important than others when it comes to your business goals. Those are your KPIs.”

How many KPIs should my business track?

We already know that one single KPI can have many metrics tied to it. So, how many KPIs do you actually need to keep track of?

According to Digi Elephant‘s Subhash Rao, “great strategic plans have 5-7 clear Key Performance Indicators that keep the pulse on how you’re performing against your plan.”

Most of our experts agree with Rao. Almost three-quarters track less than 10 KPIs for their business:

5 Tips for Measuring Both KPIs and Metrics

You’ve got a list of KPIs you’re wanting to track, and the metrics that will help you do it. Here’s how our experts manage that process:

1. Create KPIs for each channel

“[Human Marketing] looks at metrics and KPIs. We define KPIs as the main goal of what we are trying to achieve,” says Nicole Suther.

“Each channel has it’s own KPI. Whereas metrics are what influence the KPIs. We look at goal metrics and adjust our strategies in order to improve these metrics and meet our KPIs.”

Suther continues: “A good example is that we have ROI KPIs for some channels, such as SMS. However, we look at engagement metrics and revenue metrics in order to make adjustments to our strategies in order to hit our key metrics and hit our overall KPIs.”

2. Determine which metrics you need to calculate a KPI

“You cannot have KPIs if you do not know where you want to go,” Ardent Growth‘s Skyler Reeves explains. “For example, a KPI could be something like: Increase the conversion rate of CTAs on the blog by 30% this quarter.”

“We measure metrics based on what questions we have and what data (and tools) we have available. When forming strategy we may check in on a few metrics that were not part of our current KPIs. As such, measuring metrics tend to be a bit more ad hoc.”

“We measure our KPIs methodically, however. Frequency depends on the organization level. An individual or team may measure their KPIs daily. Our departments measure them weekly and at the executive level we evaluate them monthly. We primarily use spreadsheets to manipulate and analyze our data still,” Reeves continues.

Mia Liang adds: “At LightStep, one of our big KPIs is to get users to our SandBox so they can demo the product. Metrics that help us understand how to reach that KPI might include page views, bounce rate, or time on page to see what could cause users to drop off on the journey to a KPI conversion.”

3. Use a dashboard to keep track of your metrics

“All our metrics are driven by third-party data that said they do have some errors from time to time. Which is why we provide various data points and measure averages just in case if one software differs from the other one,” says Milosz Krasinski.

SH1FT‘s Aristide Basque adds: “We measure KPI’s by setting objectives and comparing them to it every month. Metrics allow us to see growth in other areas and help us understand why we did or didn’t reach our goals.”

*Editor’s note: You don’t have to sign into every tool and monitor your metrics by hand. We’ve got hundreds of professionally-designed templates that pull data from the software you’re already using–like this Facebook Ads Campaign Performance dashboard, for example:

4. Add context to evaluate if you meet KPIs

“KPIs are data-based, but human analysis should be involved in finessing the data to fit the real-world context,” Home Grounds‘ Alex Azoury explains.

“Sometimes, KPIs might be missed, but a real-world situation such as coronavirus shouldn’t be able to derail a salesperson’s bonus just because they came up short. This is the human element of evaluating KPIs against various metrics tracked through automation.”

5. Use ratios to measure KPIs

“In order to measure KPIs you have to take ratios into account,” says Anjana Wickramaratne of Active Digi Solutions.

“A ratio divides one sum or total by another sum or total. It’s different than the average because the denominator isn’t a count of the population; it’s usually another measure of the same population:”

  1. Total sales revenue received divided by total sales revenue invoiced
  2. Total sales revenue divided by total hours spent on sales calls that generated that revenue”

Wickramaratne continues: “When you measure metrics, you have to take all the relevant information going into the metric and workaround on that data. For example, productivity, This metric looks at the overall capabilities of a company—how well it uses its resources. Productivity shows the relationship between inputs and outputs”

“How much are you getting out after all that you put into a project? The ideal productivity outcome is creating more for less.”

Obaid Khan explains how they do this at Planet Content: “Metrics help you track a single business process while KPIs tell you how effectively you’re achieving your business goals or objectives.”

“You directly measure metrics like clicks, but for KPIs, you compare that number with an objective or goal and see how much of it you’ve achieved. That percentage is how you measure your KPIs.”

Final thoughts

“Metrics tell you data. KPIs help you grow your business to hit goals based on this data,” says Famoid‘s Makensie Thompson.

“Both of these factors are needed to continually improve your ROI so you have goals and numbers to work with. No matter if you are looking to increase sales, traffic, or social reach, it’s all the same.”

About the author
Elise Dopson
Elise Dopson Elise Dopson is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing companies. With a focus on data-driven ideas that truly provide value, she helps brands to get noticed online--and drive targeted website visitors that transform into raving fans.
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