As a marketing strategist my most important responsibility is to assign an ROI to practically everything the marketing department does. Travelling to events, online and traditional advertising, even every hour of time spent on each project by each marketing associate, all have numbers attached to them. This obsessive collection and analysis of data isn’t just important for proving the value of the marketing department’s efforts and justification of its budget; it is the main tool that our marketing executives use to make decisions about promotions, allocation of resources, and overall strategy.
Some of you are reading this and thinking “of course you track everything and make decisions based on that data, how else would you run a marketing department?” But some of you are wondering what the value of this type of data-centered decision making really is. Of course, I could give you a dollar amount, but that number isn’t relevant to anyone who doesn’t work here at Randall-Reilly. Instead I’m going to try to provide 3 key principles that will hopefully help your marketing department be more streamlined and effective.
Critics of those who emphasize ROI and hard data over “instinct” or “gut feelings” will often say things like “you can’t prove the ROI of the couch in your office lobby, does that mean you’re going to get rid of it?” Besides this being a bit of a straw man, I usually answer that I could put an ROI on that couch if I really wanted to. Since we have already bought it, and a new one wouldn’t come out of marketing’s budget anyway, I’m not going to take the time to do that. But this discussion does bring up an interesting point.
If you can’t prove the ROI for something, maybe it is pointless or maybe it just isn’t being utilized properly. If your couch isn’t providing a return on the investment your company made in it, maybe you should be meeting with more clients in person to build a better rapport. If your Facebook page isn’t driving traffic/leads/customers to your website, it isn’t because Facebook isn’t a good place for you to find a targeted audience. It is because you aren’t properly leveraging your brand’s social media presence. Data won’t ever do your thinking for you, it is just an important tool that you should be using regularly.
Your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms (both of which you have and use… right?) are powerful tools in your company’s arsenal. Despite the power and flexibility of these platforms, many companies don’t use them to their full potential. Don’t just track how often your salespeople contact clients, track how they contact them. Even more importantly track how your clients try to get in touch with your salespeople. Live chat capabilities built into websites are increasingly popular, but if no one is using them, don’t waste the real estate and clutter.
Don’t just track incoming links to your website; track what kind of leads come in through those links. This will help you better target your advertising and might even give you ideas on where you should be building links in the future. Depending on your company’s target audience, remember that conversions are the ultimate goal. Increased traffic might look good on a chart, but more conversions will make a bigger difference in your company’s bottom line.
Pretty much everyone is on Facebook, that is more or less a given, but depending on your target audience you might not want to necessarily have an active presence on every social media platform on the planet. If your product/service is tech related, you had better have a vibrant presence on Google+. If your customers are largely women, Pinterest should be your playground. If your product lends itself to images, Instagram is a must.
There are also industry/occupation/demographic specific social networks and forums that your brand might be ignoring because their audience isn’t as large as Twitter or LinkedIn. Remember, reaching the correct audience is much more important than reaching a large one. The internet is a big place and without powerful analytics to inform how you spend your ad budget, you are bound to get lost.
Tracking and analyzing data can be an intimidating prospect. Many marketers are even secretly afraid that if they really stare into the dark abyss of their department’s ROI, they won’t like what they find. It is possible if you determine the ROI for every marketing effort you are currently engaged in that you won’t like what you find. This is no excuse. Don’t fear the unknown, know the unknown, and then capture it.