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The board that oversees your business's operations may be composed of the nicest, most proactive, most inspirational people on the planet. They likely are genuinely excited about the work you're doing and your plans for the future. Every presentation you give them, no matter the status of your key performance indicators (KPIs), holds the potential to be a positive experience.

Nevertheless, those presentations still may make you feel a bit nervous: Will the data you present accurately reflect the current state of affairs?

KPIs comprise a big part of board decisions, so you need the numbers to tell the story of your success. Fortunately, the data doesn't lie. Presenting straightforward, accurate KPIs often is the most effective strategy—you can make a strong case to the board but avoid getting into the weeds.

Here are some essential KPIs to share with your board, along with some tips on how to present the data.

1. Sales-Qualified Leads

Sales velocity begins with the number and quality of leads that marketing sources. A lack of good leads impacts everything thereafter, and boards must feel confident that the organization can attract customers that drive the bottom line.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) constitute the earliest indicator of revenue that can be tracked and, subsequently, presented.

SQLs also matter because boards want to see whether your expectations match reality. Are the impressive lead numbers translating into long-term customers? Do the volume and quality of SQLs justify staffing not only in marketing but throughout the organization?

Today's lead might not become a customer for weeks or even months, so SQL reports help inform the board's goals and decisions.

2. Closed Won Revenue

The amount of new revenue closed may seem a no-brainer of a KPI to present to the board. And it is. But its value and potential extend beyond a simple monthly metric.

For starters, closed won revenue shows the efficacy of marketing and all the steps between. An impressive number of SQLs doesn't mean anything if not enough are becoming customers, so new revenue—even if it's meeting KPI goals—reveals much about the sales funnel.

Furthermore, closed won revenue also informs the board of how well sales forecasts were met. If projections come close to reality, your forecasts will be more trusted by other key stakeholders.

Seeing your success, the board may be inclined to ask, "What do you need to take those revenue numbers even higher?"

3. Customer Lifetime Value

Repeat customers dependably increase net revenue retention, often even during lean economic times and market and industry changes. Treat your customers well, and they'll return the favor with continued patronage.

Moreover, if your company provides a good or service that lends itself to repeat business, ensuring that repeat business, increasing the frequency of sales, and finding opportunities to upsell generate revenue without adding to customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Customer lifetime value (CLV) appeals to boards because it not only reflects recurring and upsold revenue but also reveals what kind of customers are likely to deliver the most value over the weeks, months, and years.

Consider this example: You may have to pay to have a booth at a tradeshow, but if the leads and customers acquired there tend to spend more initially and in the long run, the investment is worth it. You can't determine that connection—or get the board to approve the expense—without accurate CLV numbers.

4. Customer Acquisition Cost

The tradeshow example also highlights the importance of customer acquisition costs. Boards care about CAC because it measures everything the business is doing—and spending—to bring in leads, to turn those leads into customers, and to inspire those customers to continue buying.

A common denominator among the four KPIs highlighted here is how much they influence each other—and CAC is no exception. Boards like cost efficiency, and CAC aims to secure the most quality customers for the least amount of money. This goal then can be tied into SQLs, closed revenue, and CLV.

Transparency, Flexibility, and Results

When presenting your KPIs to the board, you must be as genuine as your data. The numbers will speak for themselves; and though you may explain why you met or didn't meet goals, trying to misrepresent the data will get you nowhere. Full transparency provides the basis for honest discussions with the board about strategy, funding, staffing, growth, and the future.

That said, the board's takeaways from the KPIs might be different from your own. After all, it's the board members' role to try to poke holes in your data. Nothing derails a presentation faster than not hearing the response you were expecting and then having nothing to offer as an alternative.

Therefore, always bring a backup plan, or plans, to KPI conversations.

Also, a one-time KPI result may not be enough to convince a board to increase funding, but several months of favorable data qualifies as a trend that's difficult to ignore. Consistent reporting identifies those trends—or lets you know when to pivot.

Finally, most boards want to work with, not against, the executive leadership team. Your success is their success—and vice versa. Meeting or exceeding KPIs lays the foundation for that success.

More Resources on KPIs and Data Reporting

The Top 5 KPIs Marketers Need to Measure (And How to Measure and Improve Them)

How to Improve Performance Measurement in Four Steps

Three Marketing Metrics to Stop Tracking—And What to Measure Instead

How to Raise Your KPIQ: Key Performance Indicators and Your Marketing IQ

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Telling a Story With Data: Four Essential KPIs to Share With Boards

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image of Stephen Lackey

Stephen Lackey is the vice-president of marketing at SmartBug Media. He is an INBOUND speaker and HubSpot advocate with a track record of leading teams, growing revenue, and maximizing efficiencies in marketing and sales.

LinkedIn: Stephen Lackey