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8 Common KPI Mistakes Businesses Make (And How to Avoid Them)

8 min read
Apr 5, 2022

 

 

 

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are crucial to your overall business success. They help keep you on track, make decisions, and achieve your overall business goals. So, it can be really disheartening when you take the time to create and track your KPIs but aren’t seeing the results. Even worse is when you aren’t sure what’s going wrong.

8 Common KPI Mistakes Businesses Make _And How to Avoid Them_-01

Source: Clutch 


Sometimes the problem can be traced back to your KPIs themselves. It’s a lot harder to get KPI measuring and tracking right, especially if you haven’t done it before. It’s easy to get bogged down in targets and metrics that aren't important, making it difficult to determine what truly matters for your team or business.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of the common KPI mistakes we’ve seen and how you can avoid them.

 

1. Not making KPIs that are specific or measurable

Like any other goals or targets, you want to ensure that your KPIs are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Where a lot of teams and businesses fall short is making their KPIs too vague. KPIs are only useful when they show what your specific indicators of success are in a way that can actually be measured.

“Grow the business” is an example of a KPI that is vague and can’t really be measured. The specifics are missing: what measurement indicates growth; over what time period will this be achieved; who is responsible for this growth? There is simply no real way to measure it.

How to avoid this mistake

Ensure you set KPIs that you can actually measure. This can be quantitative, like a number or figure, or qualitative, like an improvement in customer satisfaction.

For example, if your overall target is to grow your business revenue, a better KPI would be to “increase the revenue from outbound sales by 25% this financial year”. This is specific in that it’s looking at revenue that can be attributed to outbound sales, and it has a figure to work towards. So, if by the end of the financial year, your revenue from outbound sales has grown by 27% you’ll know your business is performing well.

2. Measuring too much

With our current technology, it has never been easier to track and measure data. However, just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you should. KPIs only work when they are actually relevant to your business. When you measure too much, you face the very real risk of your data becoming convoluted, and that defeats the whole purpose of tracking KPIs to begin with.

KPIs are meant to provide you with a sense of focus. Tracking too many data points dilutes that focus and can work against you when you’re trying to make decisions, especially fast, data-driven ones. How do you choose which KPIs to focus on? That all comes down to your business strategy. Your strategy is - or should be - your single source of truth. Any and all KPIs you track, should be linked directly back to pushing that strategy forward.

8 Common KPI Mistakes Businesses Make _And How to Avoid Them_-02Source: Google


How to avoid this mistake

Always set your overall business objectives and targets before choosing your KPIs. It will save you time in the long run and ensure you are tracking data that matters to your company.


Example

Business strategy: To increase users through the use of free trials

Related KPIs: Lead to trial conversion rate, trial to customer conversion rate, trial churn rate.

40 most important KPI for marketers

 

3. No ownership of KPIs

One of the main factors when we look at businesses that are not actually actioning their KPIs is the lack of ownership over those KPIs. Ownership breeds accountability, without it, it’s easy for teams to dismiss key indicators as not their remit. If no one is responsible for an area or a KPI, the risk of it being measured and/or implemented incorrectly is shockingly high.

It’s imperative to make a single person responsible for their relevant KPIs. That doesn’t mean they will be the only person driving that indicator forward, KPIs will almost always be a team effort. But assigning a lead or owner centralises that responsibility, making communication and decision making that much easier. Clear ownership from the beginning fosters a sense of accountability, providing stronger foundations for your overall strategy and plans.

How to avoid this mistake

Try grouping your KPIs into the relevant departments or teams, and then linking those to a job function or team member.

For example, if your KPI is to increase customer retention rates for the quarter, then your customer success manager would be a logical choice to own that KPI. They can use the information at hand to gauge how well the team is doing and make changes or corrections where needed.

This doesn’t mean they are solely responsible for that indicator, it simply means it is their job to track its progress and flag any potential issues.

4. Working in a silo

Just because KPIs are owned by one person, doesn’t mean they should be set without input from the wider team. In fact, relying solely on one person to identify and set your KPIs can lead to missed opportunities or the wrong KPIs being tracked overall.


8 Common KPI Mistakes Businesses Make _And How to Avoid Them_-03

Even if you do consult your own team, you can create KPIs that are siloed because they don’t take in the realities of alternate parts of the business and this can lead to disaster. Let’s say your sales team creates KPIs for their targets in a silo, but these KPIs rely on a certain level of marketing activity.

What happens, then, when that same marketing team sets KPIs that won’t provide the number of leads your sales team needs to achieve their own targets? The sales team will fail, and it will likely cause friction amongst the teams.

How to avoid this mistake

It sounds simple - ensure you work with not just your own team, but all key stakeholders across your business when setting your KPIs and overall goals. It’s important to do this at every stage of the planning process, not just after KPIs are already set, because the more aligned a business is, the better it will be able to implement strategy across the organisation.

And don’t forget to include senior leadership in your discussions. There’s nothing worse than working across the business to set an aligned KPI strategy only to find out it doesn’t fit with the senior leadership vision.


5. Tracking KPIs manually

One of the benefits of measuring KPIs is it’s an efficient way to track progress. However, with the sheer number of data points and information available, even tracking only the most important KPIs can be a very laborious process if done manually. Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and project management software are all great tools, but updating them constantly is a very manual process.

Manual tracking can also mean losing track of things like day-to-day progress, patterns over time, and other information only automation can provide.

How to avoid this mistake

Quite simply, invest in the right tools. The most successful teams automate their KPI tracking and measurement. There are plenty of tools that can help you do that, from KPI reports to dashboards. The key to any tool is to ensure it’s flexible, easy to update and shows your progress in real-time (or as close to it as possible).

If budget is an issue, think of it this way, how much time is your team spending tracking KPIs manually? Time is money, and automating your KPI tracking will ensure you’re working smart and efficiently.

6. Comparing yourselves to others

Industry benchmarks are crucial to helping track progress and inspiring your own targets and goals. However, you have to keep in mind that what works for one business may not work for yours.

Relying solely on industry norms doesn’t take into account your own business strengths and weaknesses, and can lead to tracking KPIs that are unrealistic. Unrealistic targets are a great way to kill morale and push resources to the wrong areas.

Just because you’re a SaaS platform doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the same success in the next 12 months as Moz or HubSpot. While it’s great to use companies like this as goals, it’s not effective to make direct comparisons.

How to avoid this mistake

When you’re setting your KPIs, use industry metrics and competitor analysis only as a starting point. Where possible, dig into your own data to see what sort of patterns you can glean, and use those as starting points. You don’t have to stick with the same goals or numbers forever - in fact, we advise against that - but using your own data will set you up for success with realistic targets.


7. Not reviewing your KPIs regularly

Ok, you’ve done all the work, talked with your team, picked your KPIs, set up a dashboard, and regularly measure how you’re doing. Mission accomplished, right? You might be surprised, but no, there is still more to do. Mainly, you want to check-in and review your KPIs on a regular basis to ensure they are still relevant to your overall business.

If Covid has taught the business world anything, it’s that things change extremely quickly. Think about it, is your business working towards the same goals in 2022 that it was in 2019? Probably not. So why would you want to track the same KPIs?

How to avoid this mistake

To make your KPIs as effective as possible, set up regular intervals at which to review them - this may be quarterly, annually, etc. It’s probably best to update them any time you have a strategy shift or any time any new targets or OKRs are set.

8. Not acting on KPI results

KPIs are only a useful tool if they drive action. Yes, KPIs are meant to be an indicator of how you are doing as a team, department, or business, but those indicators should be the basis for action and change.

Optimised KPIs should provide a clear picture of your performance and enable your team to make decisions that push forward your strategic objectives. If you’re not doing this, you're just wasting your time and effort. Your KPIs should be used to improve everything from your sales funnel to marketing activity to your overall business strategy.

How to avoid this mistake

There are a few ways to do this. First off, if you’re using something like a KPI dashboard, ensure you’re checking it at regular intervals and looking for patterns over time. This is why it’s a good idea to have a KPI owner who is responsible for checking in on progress. It also helps to set a threshold for performance that, if breached, triggers some sort of action.

This can be a review, a meeting, or some other way of investigating the trigger. Once the cause is identified, you’ll want to put in place an action plan to correct the path.

In other words, you should be checking in on your KPIs regularly and creating concrete, action-oriented plans for when something isn’t going well.

Conclusion

KPIs are crucial to keeping businesses on track, but the only way to achieve your goals is to ensure you’re using KPIs correctly. They aren’t just set-it and forget-it metrics to throw into the year-end report, but rather a map that will guide you to success.

Like with any map though, you have to be able to read it and adjust course to keep yourself on the right path.

 

Track and visualise your KPIs in real-time with Hurree. Try Hurree today and discover how to truly harness the power of analytics and transform your company reporting using cross-platform dashboards. If you have any questions then feel free to get in touch

 

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