Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

How to explain digital marketing ROI to your CEO (using the ancient method of Socrates!)

Be honest: when was the last time your corporate boss said “I LOVE the marketing return-on-investment! This really helped us GROW this quarter!” If you’re being honest with yourself, chances are the answer is slim to none. The majority of us never experienced joy when it comes to explaining digital marketing ROI to a corporate non-marketer like a CEO, CFO or CIO (unless of course they are in marketing automation or run a social media startup). It seems that measuring digital marketing, and social media ROI seems to be as elusive today as ever.

Reality bites: Why is it that with the amount of Big Data analytics and KPIs that are now readily available to us, we still don’t seem to get it right? I often envision that if Digital Marketing ROI was a perfume, it would be branded as “Frustration” by Calvin Klein.

Yet surprisingly, most of us do little critical thinking but tend to have a lot of ready-made answers that mostly end with “it’s not our fault”. In other words, we don’t seem to ask the right questions. In comes the highly effective Socratic Method. Yes, Socrates, that old Greek philosopher dude, had a pretty cool method of getting to the heart of the problem. According to Wikipedia, the modern version of the town square, “The Socratic method is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas. The Socratic method searches for general, commonly held truths that shape opinion, and scrutinizes them to determine their consistency with other beliefs.”

Think your boss doesn’t appreciate your marketing ROI? Maybe you should start by challenging the commonly held truths and fallacies about marketing ROI and digital specifically! Consider examining your digital and social media ROI metrics against the following digital Socratic questions and see if they hold water. At worst, you will become a digital philosopher with more followers than Socrates. At best, you’d become the digital marketing leader that your company deserves.  

1. Are you focused on digital marketing ROI or Business outcomes? Big data analytics allow us to measure digital engagement, influence, velocity, frequency and repeat visits and downloads. But do any of these measurements matter when it comes to sales, marketing or public relations? Align the metrics you measure with the ones that the CFO, CIO and CEO are using like cash flow, contribution to revenue, creation of new profit centers or reduction in overhead by using innovation communications.

2.Do I have the ‘Buy-In’ from non-marketing stakeholders to marketing automation as a revenue enhancer? The fact that you embraced digital marketing, marketing automation and social media don’t mean that leadership understands the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’. They might consider it another IT infrastructure expense rather than the insightful tool that it could be to double sales. When rolling out a new program, make sure that the buy-in isn’t limited to the marketing and public relations teams.  

3. Do I have the reporting platform to keep the C-Suite engaged? Nothing could more frustrating than having a big win in social media engagement than having your boss say ‘so what, that’s not our target audience, irrelevant’. It happens because success communications cannot be a cartoony dashboard in the boardroom. Take the initiative and interview your boss about what she cares about, then leverage the relationship to build a position where you can report the outcomes of your great successes and learning data in front of the decision makers.

You see; the word ‘engagement’ applies not only to the external target audience but to your leadership which enables you to make digital marketing success a monetized experience, a promotable career, with tangible results.   



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