“Over and over, each marketing campaign on its own – at best – broke even. And at worst, lost money. But the pure and simple fact was: the company grew by 650 percent. How could this be?”
In Chapter 2, “Return on Audience,” in Killing Marketing, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose reflect on a seemingly odd case: a company that successfully grew by 650%, yet could not account for its marketing success through any of the traditional ROI metrics we usually apply to campaigns: click-rates, leads, conversions, etc.
The authors suggest that marketing is not, in fact, an “investment,” but a cost of doing business, like overhead and payroll. Measuring each campaign individually is like trying to determine the investment value of each gallon of gas you put in your car. It’s the wrong question. The right question, for your car and for your marketing, is this: in sum over X period of time, does the car/marketing get you where you want to go?
Joe and Robert address the dilemma this way:
“If marketing’s mandate is to maximize ROI, you have every incentive to never do anything new at all. [Italics my own.] Look at it this way. Let’s pretend your mandate is to maximize marketing’s ROI percentage. If I spend $200 in marketing to get $250 in revenue – then technically my ROI is 25 percent. But if I spend $0 and make $100 – my ROI is 100 percent (or really infinite). To maximize my marketing ROI percentage, it’s actually smarter for me to spend no money and hope for one sale than to spend more money and hope for many sales.”
They go on to suggest a better model, “return on audience,” that merits attention. In their words: “This is looking at marketing as a business model – a profitable investment that is meant to provide access, and accumulation of attention and loyalty from a true investment: an audience.”
In practical terms, this means:
- NOT paying excessive or undue attention to individual campaign metrics;
- Paying attention to the accumulated impact of multiple efforts over a more lengthy period of time.
I’m not a math guy. I’m not an expert on metrics. But I do understand this: I invest in a number of marketing tactics (writing, speaking, networking) that are a bitch to measure, but DO produce results over time.
How do I know? Because I ask prospects and customers how they found me. Not surprisingly, their path (or “buyer’s journey” if you will – I don’t like the term myself) is usually rather elliptical, and rarely involves direct shots from a tactic executed to a sale closed. I hear things like:
- “I didn’t attend (such-and-such) conference, but I found your name on the list of speakers…”
- “A colleague of mine shared an ebook you wrote a few years ago that I really liked…”
- “Your website popped-up in a search for ‘writing workshops’…”
- “I used to work for X, where you helped us draft our website…”
- “Someone on LinkedIn recommended your blog post on storytelling…”
Note that in each case, the prospect’s action was set in motion by something I had done, yet would have remained opaque to most or any means of campaign measurement.
In other words, no one has ever read Writing Copy for Dummies, then picked up the phone to give me new business, ever. But Writing Copy for Dummies opened up a world of speaking, writing and networking opportunities that transformed my practice for the better. If I had measured the ROI on the book, in the usual way these metrics are determined, I’d have to say it was zero, nada, goose-egg city. But in reality, the returns from writing and publishing the book have run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
I’m not suggesting that you stop being accountable. But I am suggesting that you lighten up on campaign metrics, and give greater credence to overall marketing performance, in aggregate, over longer periods of time.