Why Can’t Marketing Answer the ROI Question?

“Where is my marketing ROI?” is a question many business leaders are asking, and an alarming number of marketers can’t answer. Based on a recent survey by ANNUITAS:

  • 33% of business leaders rate marketing’s ability to demonstrate ROI at 6 or lower on a scale of 1-10
  • 72% of business leaders feel CMOs in general are measuring against the wrong goals

This type of disconnect between leadership, sales and marketing is stunning. Business leaders are tasked with growth, but they can’t achieve that goal if they’re unable to close the loop between marketing programs and sales performance.

The inability to understand and drive efforts to improve marketing ROI is a huge problem for companies looking to achieve growth. Too often, marketing is chasing ‘more’ instead of ‘better,’ and measuring activity instead of impact. But those types of metrics don’t impact the bottom line, causing business leaders to recognize that marketing must become more strategic and revenue driven.

Measurement Mania

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this challenge is that there have never been more opportunities to measure marketing activities than there are today. At last count, the 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic included 7,040 solutions. If only half of those solutions include some measurement and reporting capabilities, the ability to measure just about anything is at marketing’s fingertips.

Marketers are surrounded by tools and technologies to help them measure their activities, but business growth isn’t measured by activities, and therein lies the heart of the issue. It’s not what can be measured, but what should be measured.

When marketing and business leaders focus on activity-based goals, they are valuing effort over outcome. Activity-based goals are easier to measure, and, frankly, easier to achieve than those based on sales. This is how the term “vanity metrics” was coined. While achieving these types of goals make marketing teams appear successful, they don’t do anything for the business other than inflate self-image. If you are unable to understand performance and improve in a meaningful way to reach company goals based upon your metrics, you’re likely measuring a vanity metric.

Random Acts

So how did we end up in a world where marketing is viewed as a very busy cost-center? Most marketing today is ruled by the concept of the campaign. Typically, these are one-and-done, outbound activities that have more to do with the marketing calendar than they do the buyer’s journey.

These efforts target prospects based on loose factors, such as title and company, and they randomly push messages to buyers without consideration of where they are in the buying process. Since only a minority are in an active buying process at any point in time, the campaign reaps what it can of today’s buyers, and the machine starts all over again.

With a low hit rate and little intelligence to leverage for the next campaign, it’s likely that the effort costs more than it was worth in terms of ROI. But, when faced with the prospect of ever-increasing goals and expectations, many marketers keep driving more and more campaigns, in the hopes of intercepting more buyers at the right time through pure brute force and volume. With the increasing availability of technology to automate this type of marketing, it has become a dangerous norm.

Turning Outside In

It turns out that connecting demand to the buyer journey does more than create a better customer experience; it also creates a framework for demand marketing that rises above random acts to drive better outcomes and higher ROI. By orienting people, process, content and technology around this framework, valuable insights are a natural outcome that can be used to continually optimize demand.

By shifting demand to orient around the buyer journey, marketers can realize more benefits from their efforts. It begins by mapping the buying process and all the buyer’s information needs at each step of the journey. What pain points do they have? How do they learn about solutions? Where do they consume information?

This becomes the underpinning for perpetual, scalable, strategic demand. Strategic demand orchestrates multiple marketing and sales touch points across both inbound and outbound channels with a sense of the end-to-end ‘story’ we are trying to drive with a buyer.

With the orientation around the buyer journey and its touch points, technology becomes more than a way to automate random acts of marketing. It becomes a way to automate a reactive buying environment. Strategic demand sees buyer interactions and contextually reacts in a way that tactical marketing can’t. A strategic demand marketer that implements this type of program can drive perfectly timed, relevant conversations with prospects across multiple engagement channels.

With no need to reinvent the wheel every quarter for the next set of campaigns, strategic demand marketers can instead turn their attention to adding to the engine and optimizing for outcomes.

Unlocking ROI

By incorporating a buyer-centered approach, demand marketers can truly unlock ROI. Since they’re no longer just as good as their last campaign, they can focus on optimizing an always-on approach that aligns with how buyers want to engage.

Measuring a program that enables ROI- focused KPIs enables understanding of:

  • Which channels drive the most qualified leads (that ultimately convert to sales).
  • Which content assets are most effective at addressing buyer needs and converting prospects to customers.
  • How to most effectively combine the right channels, content offers and tactics to drive sales

Just as importantly, a truly optimized demand marketing program provides this visibility in real time, so that investments can be shifted to more ROI positive channels and content before engagement budget is exhausted on low performers.

Shifting to Strategic Demand

ROI is a crucial component of a Strategic Demand Marketing state, but the shift from tactical marketing to strategic demand requires a true Demand Marketing Transformation. This requires a reset in how we approach the buyer and the processes and programs used to sustain the approach. The shift doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a holistic approach that overhauls all aspects of people, process, content, technology and data.

Learn more about Making the Shift from Tactical Demand Generation to Strategic Demand Marketing.

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