Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why ROI isn’t everything (but it still matters a lot)

In an interesting take on the current obsession with ROI in marketing, blogger Justin Cooper laments that the phrase “ROI” was the top marketing buzz phrase of 2007:

For a marketing executive to say "This sounds great, but what's the ROI?" demonstrates that they are missing the point. The person that asks this question is caught up in the evaluation of their tactics and not thinking about the content of their customer's experience. It's like focusing on the buttons of the phone, rather than the conversation.

Now, for us marketers, this is a hairy argument—especially in B2B, and especially especially in uncertain economic times. Clients pay for our services, so we need ways we can demonstrate the impact of what we do. We even recommended using ROI-measurable tactics in a recent post.

But true marketing ROI can’t be determined by the handy numbers you can claim from an assortment of tactics. It’s got to be part of a larger strategy aimed at meeting big-picture goals like entering new markets, gaining market share, etc.

As Cooper points out, customers must be involved in shaping that strategy. They’re the ones whose interests will make or break your company’s success. So ask yourself: Are your customers full collaborators in your marketing conversation? If not, you’re just talking at them, not with them. And they probably aren’t listening much.

That’s why, absent a marketing strategy based on what customers actually want, reader impressions or basic response levels don’t count for much. But integrated with a comprehensive strategy to advance business goals, ROI-measurable tactics can still help you understand how well you’re supporting the cause.

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