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Dear Marketing World: ROI is NOT A Unicorn

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Dear Marketing World: ROI is NOT A Unicorn image 8472794550 2c0024b4bd mIf you use Facebook often, you may have noticed that on occasion, Facebook will show you a “recommended page” to like right in the middle of your news stream. Some of the recommendations I have gotten have been downright strange, and usually I completely ignore them. However, as I was scanning through other day, I saw a note about an ROI e-book from a company called Infinigraph, a software company. In fact, here is a screen capture of the post that was previewed for me:

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This looked promising. Even though the phrase “content marketing” is already tired, I was interested in the idea that someone was finally trying to tie real metrics to this marketing concept. Here’s the problem though. When you actually download the free PDF, this is what you get:

Dear Marketing World: ROI is NOT A Unicorn image screen shot 2013 02 28 at 11 06 13 am

That’s not exactly how the e-book was previewed, right? Confused, I decided to check out the table of contents to see what these “20 areas of excellence” were:

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Dear Marketing World: ROI is NOT A Unicorn image screen shot 2013 02 28 at 11 09 25 am

This did not seem to represent an e-book that should have “ROI” in the title, so I decided, one more time, to dig a little deeper.Although there are a few good tidbits, I found the summary of the “Metrics” chapter rather disconcerting:

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As we have discussed previously, clicks are not really a way to measure ROI. They are simply a way to measure how much traffic your marketing tactic has driven to a specific landing page. If you are spending $5,000 to promote your content and you are measuring your success with web clicks, you are going to be out $5,000. An e-book with “ROI” in the title should offer ideas on how to turn clicks into real sales, perhaps by driving traffic to a sample request form or a page that has an RFQ/RFP form so that you can funnel the leads into your CRM system.

In short, a promotion that mentioned ROI and indicated it would be a primary focus led to an e-book that only really focuses on metrics in one chapter, and in that chapter represents ROI in a less than ideal fashion. Sadly, this kind of scenario is occurring with increasing regularity in the online world. ROI is a great term to pull in traffic because we all know it’s a huge issue, but what you get, more often than not, is a bait and switch.

The Real Trouble with These False Starts

While Social Media treats ROI as a mostly mythical creature that people like to read about in hypothetical scenarios, real-life companies are struggling to actually track the ROI of their social media marketing efforts. Consider these statistics that NectarOm (Nectar Online Media)published in a recent study in collaboration with the Socia Media Clubs: Out of 400 people surveyed, 73% do not even track the ROI of their social media efforts. Of the people who do attempt to track the ROI of their social media marketing efforts, 46% said it was not a major driver of revenue.

Let’s think about this in the context of the InfiniGraph e-book. They suggest that a single campaign may involve a company spending $5,000 in Facebook ads. Based on the NectarOM study, most companies would not even make an effort to track the return on that $5,000. The companies that would track the investment would, for the most part, find that their ROI was poor.

If you are a company that is now tying a majority of your marketing time and money to “content marketing” and then promoting that content via online channels, whether through paid Facebook ads or paying an employee to promote that material, ROI should be something squarely in focus. That does not mean tracking the clicks, retweets, shares, or likes. That means tracking how many sales you generate. It’s just that simple.

Let’s stop with the game-playing

For a few years now, “authenticity” has been a buzz word in the world of online and social media marketing. It is not authentic to use an important word or phrase and then present something that is a) not entirely relevant to the title and b) not the highest quality of information related to the topic you previewed. An company that is talking to brand managers should have been cognizant of the fact that marketers like me, and maybe like you, would have felt suckered after downloading that e-book. The same sensation applies if you promote a white paper, a blog post, a webinar, or anything else that promises to offer insight into a topic but turns out to be something else entirely.

There is the simple common sense of not doing this, but there is also the fact that there is clearly a desperate need in the marketing world to understand how important it is to track your ROI for any marketing campaign, including social media. Otherwise you might as well throw piles of money out your window. Using these important concepts to draw people in is distracting companies that truly need advice on how to control their marketing budgets.

Let’s stop treating ROI like a mythical unicorn. Let’s stop using it as bait to lure people into an entirely different topic. Instead, let’s work on ROI as something that companies should have been tracking from the moment they integrated social into their marketing.

What do you say? Can the marketing world meet this challenge?

Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. All valid points. I think maybe you missed the point though that ROI from social is impossible if your fans aren’t seeing you. My experience with clients and major brands is that few have all the systems in place they need to track ROI accurately, and sometimes it’s completely impossible (an OTC brand without ecommerce, and no good coupon tracking). One thing is for sure tho, your ROI is low or nil if your visibility through edgerank is damaged… so we’re attacking it from an ROI protection standpoint. Thanks, Margi! Brian

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