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Many people believe that marketing, branding, and communications are all about creating buzz or increasing visibility and awareness of an organization's product or service offerings--an intangible "investment" that cannot be measured or justified.

In these days of shrinking profits and corporate belt-tightening, if a person or a team's contribution cannot be measured or justified in relation to profits, it is considered a nonessential expense. In other words, marketing professionals are prime targets for cost-cutting measures at organizations of various sizes across many industries.

Therefore, the $64K question is, How should marketing professionals justify their value in contributing to an organization's financial success?

Set Goals and Manage Expectations
Senior-level marketing professionals should know how to set reasonable goals and expectations for themselves, as well as for each member of their group. They should also take responsibility for up-selling these goals to gain buy-in from the senior management team. Goals set should include accountability for deliverables that are both quantitative and qualitative. Examples include number of leads generated, number of articles placed in targeted publications, number of trade shows executed, number of speaking engagements secured, projects completed like reorganization of business development collateral, Web-site update, and white papers authored.

Develop and Execute Results-Oriented Campaigns
Before spending any of the scarce financial resources allocated to marketing, take time to analyze some key data:

  • What campaigns, channel mix, initiatives, value propositions, key messages generated the greatest number of leads or media placements within the past two years?
  • What was the conversion rate for each of these campaigns?
  • What campaigns netted the most revenue for the lowest investment?
  • Who is your target audience and has that changed due to economic conditions, pricing considerations, or new product and service offerings?
  • Who are your most valuable customers? How and where do they purchase your product or service?
  • What is the average length of your sales cycle?
  • What are your competitors' offerings and are you tasked with increasing market share, stakeholder satisfaction, revenues, or all of the above?
  • What are your organization's short- and long-term strategic goals?
  • What in-house versus outsourced resources do you have available? Does this include IT--related involvement and support in meeting your goals?
  • What is your overall marketing budget?

    These are just some of the questions experienced marketing professionals need to consider in the development of an integrated, multichannel marketing and communications strategy. Other considerations include whether one is focused on B2C, B2B, both, not-for-profit, or marketing exclusively through channels. In addition, each industry has its own standard benchmarks and best practices for marketing and communications planning. For example, knowing what other marketers in your industry invest in programs as a percentage of gross profits or cost-of-sales serves as a guideline for your own planning. Ideally, one would have all the necessary information like previous campaign results, conversion rates, industry benchmarks, sales projections, and anticipated campaign costs to determine an optimal mix of programs and resources required to meet expectations and revenue goals.

    Once an optimal mix of programs and campaigns has been developed, excellence in plan execution, as well as a process for capturing and measuring the results of marketing and communications investments, becomes equally important in justifying one's contributions to an organization.

    Measure and Quantify Results
    Today's customers are more complex, demanding and savvy than at any other time in our history, suggesting that fully integrated marketing and communications programs are necessary to reach these customers at several touch points. The marketing communications mix may include: publications, direct mail, online, newsletters, trade events, analyst reports, seminars/webinars, advertising, promotions, channel programs, etc., depending on the type of offering and industry.

    In the recent past tracking the success rate of various campaigns was a time-consuming effort within a resource-constrained environment. However, many vendors now provide tools to aid marketing professionals in tracking and measuring results from marketing or communications programs. As each organization is unique, selecting a "best fit" tool requires a broad understanding of all the choices available, internal IT integration and support considerations, business processes required to track or analyze results, and what measurement criteria are optimal for one's industry. For example, marketing professionals should:

  • Decide what metrics need to be measured, for example: cost per lead, cost per channel, campaigns, sales cycles, conversion rates per campaign.
  • Determine how to measure these metrics via initiatives like surveys, call center data, direct response, clipping services, click-through rates, etc.
  • Develop a methodology or process to measure and analyze data for trends and action items.
  • Create a communications plan for disseminating relevant data to key internal stakeholders and decision-makers.
  • Build consensus and construct a revised marketing plan that leverages future opportunities based upon results measured.

    In challenging economic times, many organizations are forced to make decisions based on results of short intervals. Taking a proactive stance in providing feedback to senior management ensures that internal communication channels remain open, positive, and informative. In this win-win scenario, senior management feels empowered to make decisions based on actual numbers and accomplishments while marketing professionals receive feedback on performance issues or change of strategic direction in a timely manner. The result is an iterative process by which alignment of goals, performance metrics, and next steps are achieved through communication of tangible results. This circle of information enables marketing professionals to successfully justify their value in contributing to an organization's goals, while helping the organization refine the effectiveness and profitability of marketing investments.

    About the Author
    Leslie Ament, partner of Hypatia Marketing and Communications, has a broad range of experience in all aspects of strategic marketing and integrated marketing communications. Her background includes marketing International Thomson Publishing, and Banta Corp., and Arthur D. Little Management. Contact her at Info@Hypatiacommunications.com or 617-230-0067.

    Copyright 2003. Hypatia Marketing & Communications
    All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced, published, or distributed in part or in whole without express written permission of the author.

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