Why ROI Will Never Die

Twi flip

This post celebrates the release of two books, Katie Delahaye Paine‘s Measure What Matters and Olivier Blanchard‘s Social Media ROI. Zoetica is giving away five free copies of each book today to the first 10 people who answer the question “Why will ROI never die?” on our recently revamped web site (thank you RAD Campaign for the excellent design).

Of all the social media memes, the ROI conversation is built to last. It actually preceded social media through generation after generation of marketing, and is the issue clients care about most. Because many marketers cannot commit to outcomes preceding a marketing or communications campaign, this question will continue into the next century, too.

There are some who have an extremely literal (and somewhat narrow) view of ROI, the text book definition of quantifiable sales numbers mapped to output. While accurate, many executives do not understand the difference between a desired outcome and literal ROI. They just want to know, “Will we get what we need if we engage in this marketing activity?” To them that is ROI. Guess what? They’re the ones hiring, and this question is absolutely valid.

This timeless truth dates back to John Wanamaker’s legendary quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Department Store Mogul Wanamaker graced the earth from 1838 to 1922, and is considered by some to be the father of modern advertising.

This issue is resolvable today. At least online it can be thanks to customized URLs. Literal ROI may be a little more challenging, particularly for high-end consultative sales, but for other types of outcomes there is no excuse. Whether it’s foot traffic, increased conversations, a better reputation, these things are all measurable online using approaches such as the Three As of measurement. Further, tracking systems like Eloqua are changing the game for consultative sales, tracking initial web visits all the way though to the sales identification process, and then leads.

Regardless, you can build in measurement to gauge the success of a program from the outset. A good strategy has clear goals that it is trying to achieve, which gives a strategist something to measure against. Not having measurable outcomes — sales or other desired results — is the mark of a shoddy strategist.

As to the ROI purists, organizations invest in marketing communications for more than immediate, direct financial outcomes. Smart companies and nonprofits know that branding and marketing creates opportunities, many of which are measured as leads. But even communications vehicles that produce attention, while guilty of creating hype bubbles, can be measured.

Marketers have to deliver real outcomes, end of story. Clients do not hire or stay with firms that can’t produce ROI or outcomes. Clients hire marketing consultants that perform and help them avoid pitfalls. Similarly, marketing staffers need to produce internally. Companies and nonprofits retain employees that deliver results, and the rest find themselves looking for employment before too long. That’s business.

That doesn’t mean you should promise the undeliverable. Instead, offer a different path. More importantly, hone the practice of strategy, including measuring outcomes from the start. It is an essential skill set! There will always be marketers and communicators who cannot deliver on this. In fact, most cannot. That’s why the ROI meme will never die. Poor marketing will always create the need for it.

Win Your Free Copy of Measure What Matters or Social Media ROI

Book Giveaway

Don’t forget, Zoetica is giving away five copies each of Katie Delahaye Paine‘s Measure What Matters and Olivier Blanchard‘s Social Media ROI. If you want to win a copy, simply answer the question, “Why will ROI never die?” Please leave your answer in the comments section on the Zoetica contest page (responses that do not address the question seriously will not win).