5 Ways to Tackle the Tricky Business of Measuring Branding and Marketing ROI

Return on investment


One of the major benefits of the digital age is that marketers now have far more meaningful metrics by which to evaluate the success of their initiatives. It’s no longer just about creative swagger and assumptions regarding your audience. We have an avalanche of data on consumer preferences and behavior, website usage, content engagement, and more at our disposal.

It’s enough to make ya giddy.

With this data comes the ability to quantitatively evaluate the performance of our efforts. A landing page, for instance, can be analyzed relative to conversions. Your display ads can be scrutinized according to cost per lead. Your social media posts can be compared on the basis of impressions and engagement.

But is that really enough to demonstrate ROI on an overall strategy? How do you calculate the dollar value of a shared meme from your Facebook page? How do you determine the expected RoR on a newsletter subscriber? How do you assess the impact of a prominent retweet to your bottom line? How do you nail down the contribution of a new logo to your profits?

This conundrum is particularly relevant to those making a case for a specific budget or allocation to a marketing initiative. This data glut has created an impression among those not directly involved in marketing that everything can be boiled down to decimal points. But what about all of the peripheral marketing and branding activities taking place that push your audience to convert? How does one explain that to the powers that be?

1. Whenever possible, give the people what they want — namely, hard numbers that take into consideration short and long term impact. There are those who have come up with creative ways to make such determinations. Data segmentation, in particular, can help you do things like measure cost per lead relative to customer lifetime value by channel. It’s not possible to do this for every aspect of your strategy, but delivering where it is can help your credibility.

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2. Even when metrics are not tied to dollar amounts, collect, organize, and analyze trends in performance. Maybe you don’t have a way to definitively say how much an article share on Facebook is worth to your organization, but if you can demonstrate improvement in engagement, it shows that the strategy is working the way it should.

3. Contextualize all available data relative to aggregate spend. How much are you spending on your marketing as a whole? When possible, tabulate marketing-specific salaries, service provider expenses, ad spends, contract work, new technology acquired within the given time period, and any additional expenses accrued through planning and execution. Hold that relative to the overall performance of the company during the same time frame, and focus specifically on improvement in associated metrics. Is this a perfect form of analysis? Of course not. But it’s more meaningful than trying to parse individual metrics as a big, messy pile.

4. Take it a step further, and put those calculations in the context of simultaneous organizational developments. What is the sales team’s conversion rate? Is the problem the traffic you’re driving, or their ability to close? Has the product been going through significant changes? Were there PR problems that popped up and might have stymied the performance of the marketing efforts? Help management understand the bigger picture. They sometimes forget that marketing does not exist in a bubble.

5. Talk about tangible and intangible results. It’s super easy to focus on short-term marketing performance, but much of the work done by a marketing team is about laying a foundation for long-term success. That work may not provide immediately obvious benefit, but it will help boost the performance of initiatives overtime. Make sure to manage expectations by discussing relevant and realistic time frames for evaluating the performance of that work, and remind them that those efforts are a form of investment.

Will this solve all of your analytics woes? Probably not. Will it help get the ball rolling in a positive direction? Most definitely.

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