Attention C-levels: Marketing ROI = advertising ROI? I think not.

It’s terrific that marketing experts are devoting time, attention and serious discussion to the return on the marketing investment.  I’m chiming in.

First, marketing is not advertising.  Advertising is a component of the marketing effort, and any agency that tells you the two disciplines are one and the same — or that advertising must drive the marketing bus — is simply trying to sell you a big campaign.  Which might be the same as trying to sell you a well-known bridge or monument. 

Somebody had to say it.

Second, to measure marketing ROI, and therefore the various functions — like advertising, media relations, executive communications — that constitute or integrate with Marketing, let’s try something new.

  • Think of Marketing as a profit center.  Your measurements include:  does the sales force think that Marketing has helped it generate leads, open doors and/or close a sale?  If the answer is yes, then find a way to measure the cost — yes, cost, not "investment" — as well as the yield of Marketing’s effort by each sale won.  And, make sure Marketing gets credit as a member of the team that makes the sales happen.  If the answer from the sales force is no, then Marketing is in deeper excrement than you thought.
  • Think of Marketing as a results center.  As many experts assert, there’s going to be some part of the Marketing cost that you just can’t measure in hard numbers.  Enter leadership and effectiveness.  Your measurements include:  when you go to a Marketing functionary, you get help; at the end of the "day," you have an ad campaign that sings or a brochure that rings or a website that pings; and, every marketing activity sends the same message across multiple channels to multiple buyers.  Service, potency and consistency are elements you can evaluate, and a "yes" answer means that your time and insight aren’t being wasted, they’re being leveraged.  That is ROI.
  • Think of Marketing as a thought center.  When it comes down to it, the most powerful marketing has a personal touch — and not just on the customer/receiving end but on the delivery end.  Your measurements here include:  are we passionate about what we are selling; and, does what we say convey the power of a unique thought about our product or service?  Marketing functionaries should be helping you expose what you love and believe about your company or product just as much as they are helping you reach the touchpoint on the audience’s side.
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