Improved Marketing ROI Shouldn’t Be Your Metric, This Should

My team often engages in client projects designed to improve marketing outcomes. Many times, clients describe their primary objective as an increased return on marketing dollars or return on investment (ROI). However, this is often the wrong object and their real goal should be improved marketing effectiveness.

My team often engages in client projects designed to improve marketing outcomes. Many times, clients describe their primary objective as an increased return on marketing dollars or return on investment (ROI). However, this is often the wrong object and their real goal should be improved marketing effectiveness.

“That sounds like semantics,” you say? Yes, this is an argument over semantics, and in this case, semantics matter.

When stating the primary objective as improved marketing ROI, the aperture is usually focused on an optimization exercise, which pits financial resources on one side of the equation and levers — such as channel spend, targeting algorithms and A/B testing — on the other side.

A couple of decades ago, marketing analytics recognized that specific activities were easier to link, with outcomes based on data that was readily available. Over time, this became the marketing ROI playbook and was popularized by consultants, academics and practitioners. This led to improved targeting, ad buys and ad content. These improvements are very important, and I would argue that they are still a must-do for most marketing departments today. However, resources are optimally allocated across channels, winning ads identified and targeting algorithms improved, marketing is still not as effective as it can be. Now is when the hard part of building a more effective marketing function actually begins.

For a moment, let’s imagine a typical marketing ROI project from the customer’s perspective. Imagine you are actively shopping for a refrigerator. A retailer uses data to appropriately target you at the right time, across multiple channels, with the right banner ad and a purchase naturally follows, right? Of course not.

  • What about helping you understand the variety of features, prices and brands available?
  • What about helping you understand the value of selecting them over other retailers?
  • What about the brand affinity and trust this process is developing in the consumer’s mind?

Because this purchase journey can play out over weeks or months, these marketing activities are more difficult (but not impossible) to measure and are often left out of the standard ROI project. However, these activities are as impactful as the finely tuned targeting algorithm that brought you to the retailer’s website in the first place.

Back to why semantics over ROI and marketing effectiveness matter. Today, the term “marketing ROI” is calcified within a relatively narrow set of analytical exercises. I have found that using marketing effectiveness as the alternative objective gives license to a broader conversation about how to improve marketing and customer interaction. It also lessens the imperative to link all activities directly to sales. Campaigns designed to inform, develop relationships or assist in eventual purchase decisions are then able to be measured against more appropriate intermediate metrics, such as online activity, repeat visits, downloads, sign-ups, etc.

What makes this work more challenging is that it requires marketers to develop a purposeful and measurable purchase journey. In addition, it requires a clear analytics plan, which drives and captures specific customer behavior, identifies an immediate need and provides a solution so the customer can move further down the purchase journey.

Finally, it requires developing an understanding of how these intermediate interactions and metrics eventually build up to a holistic view of marketing effectiveness. Until marketers can develop an analytical framework which provides a comprehensive perspective of all marketing activity, marketing ROI is merely a game of finding more customers, at the right time and place who will overlook a poorly measured (and, by extension, poorly managed) purchase journey.

Marketing ROI Is in Your Past

That rumor we’ve been hearing for years is simply not true: “Marketing ROI is in your past.” And it never will be, as human nature does not and will not change. And neither will all the chaos in marketing channels from hundreds of marketers trying to get consumers’ attention simultaneously, 24/7.

That rumor we’ve been hearing for years is simply not true: “Marketing ROI is in your past.” And it never will be, as human nature does not and will not change. And neither will all the chaos in marketing channels from hundreds of marketers trying to get consumers’ attention simultaneously, 24/7.

What is true is that every 60 seconds more than:

  • 156 million emails are sent
  • 29 million messages are processed on What’s App
  • 350,000 tweets are sent
  • 243,000 photos are uploaded on FB; 70,000 hours of video contents is watched
  • 400 hours of video are uploaded on Youtube
  • 3.8 million searches take place on Google

And a lot more.

What’s not true is the decade-long rumor that print is dead. And it’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

In fact, print is one of the most powerful channels for engaging consumers with brand messages that lead to more fulfilling brand experiences, according to the Data and Marketing Association’s 2016 response rate report and other sources:

  • Direct mail outperforms digital for response nearly 2X!
  • Print achieves 30% more recall than digital.

Most of us thought print died when email took over with nearly 4 billion people worldwide using email.

But we humans are a tactile species. We thrive on being able to touch things, and physically engage with the stimuli around us vs. observe from the other side of a screen. We like to hug those we love vs. send a digital wave. We like to touch the silky coat of our pets vs. just post cute photos on our screen savers. We like to touch paper books and turn the pages, and feel the weight of the story yet to unfold in our hands.

When we engage our senses beyond just sight, and actually touch things, we concentrate more and end up feeling more emotionally fulfilled.  The response rate and sales volume generated by printed sales-oriented communications such as direct mail and catalog, is powerful and does not show any signs of letting up. In fact, 90 million consumers in the U.S. make purchases from print catalogs and spend on average $850 annually, and printed direct mail commands a higher response than email, as mentioned earlier.

According to a  2018 Radicati Group study, there will be more than 3.8 billion email users before the start of 2019, over 100 million more than the previous year. In other words, over half of the entire planet uses email.

With all the technology constantly being developed by leaders in the print industry such as Xerox, it continues to engage more of our senses and create deeper levels of emotional engagement. Just recently, Xerox released its new Iridesse production press allowing printers to more beautifully and easily use metallic prints to further engage our visual senses and the emotions that result from exposure to shiny new objects.  Xerox has also simplified the process of highly personalized catalogs, allowing retailers to print consumers’ names, and past transaction information on covers and pages of catalogs, engaging our sense of value and appreciation, another “sense” proven to increase sales as more than 50% of customers will shop elsewhere if a brand does not recognize them personally.

Because of Xerox technology for personalization, and the ability to print striking, engaging, rich colors in communications that are highly relevant to consumers, print is not just competing with email. It’s now winning the game. We respond more and we actually engage a lot longer. We open envelopes with compelling graphics and relevant messages over clearly written subject lines and we respond twice as much. And we don’t opt out of print as easily as we do emails with that very convenient “unsubscribe” button, giving marketers another chance to communicate something that really matters to us.

Marketers in both B2B and B2C need to slow down when it comes to assigning market budgets to the latest technology apps and channels and rethink the past: print. Spending money on printed communications distributed via mail, trade show events, and in-store does and will pay off, and will drive consumers to your digital channels where you can engage via online chat, email and other ways. Trying to initiate engagement via email today is just getting harder, especially with GDPR becoming reality in the EU and other countries.

No matter how sophisticated digital technology becomes, and it will continue to find ways to engage us in fun ways such as augmented reality tools. Print will never die because human nature will never change. We will always want to touch things, to cozy up by a fire with a good story in a nicely printed book or catalog, and to “unplug” from the electrical world that in just 60 seconds bombards us with more messages and distractions than our human minds can fathom.

8 Website Elements for Strong Marketing ROI

There are many elements that go into creating a great business website. Any list of the most important is bound to leave a few worthy contenders off, but I’ll take my chances with this list of what I think are the elements worth paying attention to first.

Many elements go into creating a great business website. Any list of the most important of these is bound to leave a few worthy contenders off, but I’ll take my chances with this list of website elements I think are worth paying attention to first. (And I’d love to hear what you think should be on the list but isn’t, and what you’d remove to make room.)

1. Informative Content

Prospects aren’t browsing your website because they have nothing better to do or because they’re in a procrastinating mood — that’s what Facebook is for. They are on your website, or looking for a website like yours, because they have a problem to solve.

So, one element I’m not likely to remove — or even move down the list — is informative content. No matter what else your website has going for it, you’re not going to attract an audience or keep their attention if you don’t have content that helps them solve the problems they are facing. It’s just that simple.

2. A Prospect-centric Perspective

One way you can make your website content more attractive to your prospects is to present it from their perspective. That means writing from their perspective, rather than yours, discussing the problem from their perspective, and even organizing your site from their perspective.

(If “About Us” is the first thing on your website’s main menu, you’ve got some rethinking to do.)

3. SEO Awareness

The right tone and perspective will help keep prospects interested, but you’ve got to get them to the site first. Building a site that is SEO-aware is critical. Whether or not a full-blown SEO campaign is a good fit for your services, target audience and competitive market is another question worth in-depth analysis.

Either way, you want to make your site as easy to find as it can be.

4. Frequent Updates

Once you’re comfortable with the SEO requirements for the content most attractive to your audience, keep the content taps open. Update the site on a frequent and regular basis. Not only is this helpful for SEO, it’s also the fuel for powering many other aspects of your marketing — email marketing, social media, even more traditional marketing channels like direct mail.

You have to have something of value to share. Your website should be the central gathering point for this content.

Don’t overlook evergreen content, though. Its value is, of course, in its timelessness. But you can add more value by updating it, adding similar content from a slightly different perspective or tailoring it more specifically to a particular audience segment.

5. Calls to Action

Getting prospects to your site doesn’t magically turn them into customers, even if your content has them quietly nodding their heads in agreement. You have to provide a way for them to take the next step.

From newsletter signups to worksheet downloads to appointment booking tools, your site must have calls to action that encourage, yes, action! Get them to take the next step; invest a little bit more in the relationship until picking up the phone or setting an appointment seems like a natural next step, rather than an intrusion from a salesperson.