Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lose the Marketing Love Handles Without Lifting a Finger

I got an email the other day from a marketing technology company trumpeting their software’s ability to help me “improve marketing ROI without lifting a finger.” Wow. Incredible. Can’t be true, can it?

I asked for a demonstration copy to see if I could realize the incredible benefit, but no luck. They wouldn’t send me one. So to test the validity of the claim, I went to the center of all things factual – the internet - to see what else I could do without lifting a finger. The options are amazing. I can:
  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Find a high-paying new job
  • Earn a college degree
  • Write a book (someone else will do it for me)
  • Drive more traffic to my website
  • Be healthier
  • Look better
  • Attract more members of the opposite sex
  • And, my personal favorite, grow more hair.
I feel stupid. I’ve been spending so much time at the gym, writing my own books, taking my own college exams, choosing my own food carefully, and fretting over my hair. I could have spent all that time goofing off and gotten better results.

And I’m really pissed off about the effort I’ve wasted on measuring and improving marketing ROI. For seven years now, I’ve been working on improving marketing ROI all day every day; working with hundreds of marketing, finance, and sales managers in dozens of companies; overcoming obstacles of technical, structural, cultural, and political dimensions; making slow and steady progress.

NOW I discover that, had I just purchased the right software, I could have achieved much more with virtually NO effort. If my clients ever find out, I’m screwed.

On the whole, I think this magic ROI elixir software is really a good thing. It will:
  • Reinforce CMOs’ desire to believe that they can and should delegate ROI efforts even further down the org chart. Afterall, they have many more important things to worry about.
  • Give marketing managers something more tangible to point to when asked “what are you doing to improve the return on our marketing investment?” Of course, we’ve bought some software to fix that.
  • Postpone the question another year while the software winds its way through the procurement process and then gets passed around the IT department – all the while allowing the marketers to keep doing things the way they have been doing them.
  • Befuddle the finance department and get them off marketing’s back. You know how those finance guys love data. They’ll gladly wait awhile if they think there’s some data coming.
So forget all that phooey about aligning on metrics, implementing smart experiments, and methodically improving analytics. Don’t waste time on smarter marketing research. Just cut that shrink wrap on the software box, hit “install”, and off you go.

Then wait for the Easter Bunny to deliver your bonus check.

Hyperbole is a dangerous tool in the hands of marketers – particularly when it comes to measuring marketing ROI. It undermines our credibility with the more serious financial types who often are key influencers on how much we get in the way of resources and what we can do with it. It reinforces their perceptions of marketers as wild-eyed optimists willing to try anything new to deflect the gravity of the questions being asked. Besides, if there WERE a magic marketing ROI software, do you really think your progressively-minded organization would be amongst the very first to find it?

Bad news. There is still no substitute for diligent, disciplined work when it comes to measuring the payback on marketing. Technology enables, but vision and persistence win every time. Show me a company with the will to work at it, and I’ll show you the company that will get clear insights into their ROI long before the software buyers ever realize they’ve been misled.

Measuring and improving ROI is much more like going to the gym every day; watching what you eat; taking classes to earn a degree; and (take it from one who’s done it) writing a book yourself. Persistent, methodical effort is rewarded with great benefits.

So let’s get after those spending love handles and the marketing muffin top.
Pat LaPointe is Managing Partner at MarketingNPV – specialty advisors on marketing metrics, ROI, and resource allocation, and publishers of MarketingNPV Journal available online free at www.MarketingNPV.com.

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