Monday, April 26, 2010

Measuring Marketing Takes More Than ROI

Over the next several days, I'll be posting articles here about measuring the performance of marketing, including the use of marketing return on investment, or MROI.

This may not be one of the sexiest marketing topics out there, but it has become an extremely important one.  For the past several years, CEO's and CFO's have been demanding greater financial accountability from the marketing function, and they are now pressing marketers to prove the value of marketing activities and programs.  Many years ago, John Wanamaker is reported to have said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is, I don't know which half."  CEO's and CFO's expect better from marketers today.

I'm also writing about this topic because, even though there is a large volume of literature about how to measure the performance of marketing, there are many misconceptions floating around, even about some of the most basic principles.  For example, you can find many marketing campaign "ROI calculators" in use today that calculate ROI based on revenues or sales instead of profits (in one of its various forms).  If a marketer presents one of these kinds of "ROI calculations" to a CFO, his/her credibility can be undermined.

Another issue is that in recent years, MROI has become the "gold standard" for measuring not only the overall performance of the marketing function, but also the performance of individual marketing activities.  Some experts argue that this approach is both possible and essential.  But, like any metric, MROI has limitations, and we need to understand those limitations in order to use the metric in the right ways, for the right purposes.

In my next few posts, I'll start by explaining the basic idea of ROI, and I'll describe how ROI has been used to measure business performance.  Then, I'll look at the components of the ROI formula and describe how each of the components should be defined and calculated and what issues that may present.

And finally, I'll argue that, while MROI is an important metric, we need a more holistic approach to get a comprehensive view of marketing performance, especially in B2B companies with complex marketing/sales processes and longer revenue cycles.

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