The Measurability of Marketing ROI
By Shari L.S. Worthington
The Economist Intelligence Unit has released a new survey of CMO's, "Future Tense: The Global CMO." Most of the conclusions will be no surprise to readers here: balance global brand awareness with local market relevance, adopt new media and integrate, develop new skills and partnerships, champion innovation. But I found one key finding of the survey particularly intriguing:
"One can rarely determine what triggered a purchase decision or whether that sale would have been made independently from the marketing campaign."
Sadly, this is true. But it's a hard fact of life for most B2B marketers to swallow.
Even with the advent of direct response and digital marketing, and the subsequent ability to track individual transactions, we still never really know what pushed prospects over the edge and closed the deal in the typical B2B sale. Was it the latest ad, or maybe the press release in Magazine X, or the natural search ranking for the phrase "abc", or possibly it was the ad. Wait, maybe it was the third sales call from salesman B. The truth is, there are many ways we influence prospects. Any or all can make or break the sale.
We recently had a conversation with a client about their ad budget. They've relied for years on advertising in trade magazines. But bingo cards are long gone and they hadn't been tracking activity with unique URLs for each ad. So there was no evidence that the print advertising was working. They wanted to rectify that and ensure that the new year's ad program tracked everything, right down to the final sale. Unfortunately, their customers aren't actually completing the sale online, so it is impossible to track to that level of detail.
"Why can't we ask the customer what triggered the sale," they inquired? Of course, they can ask, but we guarantee the customer's memory will be imperfect and they'll say vague things like, "I saw your info on a search engine," rather than details like, "I saw your Google pay per click ad for the phrase ‘laser imaging'."
Even if you have a fairly complete record in your CRM database of interactions with a prospect, the reality is that you still won't know about all the relevant times they've seen bits and pieces of your marketing program. What about the referral from a colleague that led them to your trade show booth? Will they remember to tell you? Will you remember to ask? Which counts more, the referral or the great demo they saw in the booth? What about the tidbit you posted on a blog that got the referrer's attention in the first place?
B2B marketing and selling are complex. The bottom line is ... what are your key measurements of marketing effectiveness and are you affecting the behaviors that lead to those measures? This requires a core goal and intermediate measures.
In the case of the above client, we determined that the bottom line measure that most correlates with sales and growth is the number of forms completed prior to specific downloads on the company web site (a few selected technical papers, the company catalog, requests for quote). Intermediate measures are also watched to make sure the program is moving along the right path:
- Open rates and click-throughs for e-newsletters
- Click-throughs and conversions for pay per click ads
- Top 1/top 10 rankings for natural search
- Click-throughs and downloads for print ads, etc.
As stated by Martyn Etherington, VP Worldwide Marketing at Tektronix, in the CMO survey, "In order for marketing to break free of that relevancy crisis, it has to absolutely track and be accountable for the one and only metric that counts to a business - and that's growth."
Measurability is a key component of all of Telesian's marketing programs. Find out more about The Communications Value Chain®.