Finding the ROI in Media Spending

Marketers today are constantly tasked with discovering prospects and gaining new customers. To assist with this increasingly difficult task, CMOs have turbocharged their marketing and sales teams and are building out their "marketing clouds." However, while they spend millions of dollars on marketing automation, CRM, branded Web sites, social pages, and media, marketers are still missing a vital component in the quest to modernize their approach: They are failing to connect the prospects and data generated through their media investment with their marketing and sales systems and processes.

The prospect- and customer-generation effort is still very fragmented and, worse, it's seldom measured or optimized. Marketers struggle with lead velocity, mixed prospect data quality, and an inability to attribute source or measure ROI. This is a hard blow to marketing executives as they realize how much they're actually spending—more than $40 billion on digital advertising alone in 2013, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

So the question remains: How can marketers better integrate prospect and customer generation with marketing operations, processes, and systems? To address this challenge and obtain a better return on media and technology investment, marketers should focus on the following areas:

Automation. Integrate third-party media investment and data with marketing and sales systems and processes to eliminate manual, resource-intensive tasks. Presently, manual processes are required to engage with media providers (publishers, affiliates, and other list sources) and get data into internal systems. This means hours of data scrubbing and lots of spreadsheets passed between media providers and marketing teams. A much smarter and more efficient approach is to automate these processes by integrating the prospect and lead data garnered from media campaigns and partners directly with a marketing automation system (for nurturing prospects through the buyer's journey) and/or CRM database (for timely sales follow-up).

Governing and validation. Prospect information must be governed and validated to assure that data is accurate and actionable, thereby increasing lead velocity and decreasing media costs. It's essential that the media/data paid for is validated, cleansed, and formatted for marketing systems (i.e., Eloqua, Marketo, Salesforce.com, Pardot, etc.). Moreover, auto-formatting and normalizing the data for a specific marketing automation system allows marketers to more quickly get down to the business of nurturing and developing customers. In doing all of this, marketers are blocking irrelevant and inaccurate leads—checking every email for valid server response, originating IP addresses and lead counts, and preventing duplicate lead posting.

Closing the loop. To measure results, garner insights, and optimize campaigns and marketing programs, it's vital to connect the various systems that pump customer and prospect data into the organization. Today, it's possible to gather data from every campaign run. However, the ability to act on this data still proves a challenge. Whether a marketer is deploying banners, email, content syndication, telemarketing, search, or a combination of these, it's important to analyze data all in one place on performance by media channel, media source, creative, content, offers, and campaigns. This unified view helps uncover insights that can be applied to optimize campaigns by focusing on higher performing tactics, working more with media partners who are delivering results, and applying the data that has been obtained for improved campaign performance.

Ultimately, there is immense pressure on marketing teams to deliver qualified prospects to sales and provide ROI to the organization. Marketing technology can help, but it must be automated, integrated, and measured. And everything must be connected, otherwise marketers will only have a partial view of their results, and thus only partially informed insights.

While it's easier said than done, now is the time for a change. IDC's Kathleen Schaub forecasts that by 2020, "marketing organizations will be radically reshaped. The core fabric of marketing execution is being ripped up and rewoven by data and marketing technology." With marketing's customer and revenue mandate, there is no better time than right now to reassess and connect the dots to deliver more business and customer value.

Scott Vaughan is CMO of Integrate, where he leads the company's go-to-market strategy and focuses on identifying and developing a rapidly growing customer base and market relationships. Previously, he was CMO and vice president of marketing services at UBM Tech, and has also held positions at InformationWeek, Centricity Software, and Fibermux.

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