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Some agency clients may think that an immediate bump in sales revenue is the only way to gauge the ROI of a marketing campaign. Of course, measuring the results of any campaign is more complex than simply tracking conversions.
While agency professionals might be focused on other positive aspects and developments, the real key to success lies in making sure the client understands the value of these less obvious metrics. But aside from increasing sales, what’s one method agencies can use to show clients the ROI of their work when it’s not apparent to the client?
Here, members of Forbes Agency Council discuss 15 unique methods of showing ROI to marketing and advertising clients that illuminate a far bigger picture than the number of sales.
1. Set Micro-Goals For SEO Campaigns
SEO inevitably becomes the least expensive acquisition channel for all businesses, but those results don’t come until you put in strong efforts early on and accept that you’ll see little return on those investments for weeks, or even months. It’s important to set micro-goals in these scenarios. We look at how many times a ranking occurs before we look at how many times a ranking gets clicked on. – Brent Payne, Loud Interactive, LLC
2. Track Clicks To Show Activity And Interest
Long-term partnerships often take time and don’t garner immediate growth for a client, but the revenue driven in the end is worth the wait. Setting expectations and early KPIs (other than ROI) can help the client focus on what’s important at the launch of a campaign. A good example of this is tracking clicks to show activity and interest before jumping into revenue. – Abby Campbell, Perform[cb] Agency
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3. Study Customer Journey Analytics To Set Expected Timelines
Study the customer journey analytics closely for time dependencies to set client expectations. For example, unknown brands with high price points will see a much longer customer journey across a variety of touchpoints and devices. Pro tip: In Google Analytics, you can see this clearly in the Multi-Channel Funnels and Path Length reports to set a baseline for when to expect ROI on campaigns. – Jacob Cook, Tadpull
4. Measure Inbound Traffic, Queries And Social Media Engagement
It is unlikely that clients will see an immediate increase in sales. A better way to measure the success of your marketing or communications campaign is to look at your analytics for an increase in inbound website traffic, queries and social media engagement. If you don’t see these increases within the first quarter, it’s time to reassess your tactics. – Valerie Chan, Plat4orm PR
5. Use Different Metrics Across Different Time Horizons
There are many metrics used to gauge the ROI of a campaign, and it’s important to look at these metrics across different time horizons. For instance, sales, engagement and impressions are great metrics to measure across both the short term and the long term; repeat purchases and increased LTV are great metrics for the medium and long term. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable
6. Focus On Upper And Mid-Funnel Outcomes
Focus on measurable outcomes throughout the upper and middle parts of the funnel. This could be video completions, PDF downloads/content consumption or lead/contact form submits. Measuring these actions and optimizing toward an efficient cost per action allows us to prove that our marketing efforts are working while also collecting an audience that can be retargeted for future, lower-funnel efforts. – Russ Williams, Archer Malmo
7. Show Clients Metric Tracking Data
Showing clients metric tracking data does the trick. Numbers are harder to argue with than vague ideas of what successful sales goals should be. One method we use is to show exactly where and how marketing efforts are impacting visibility, increasing traffic and spurring growth. Set up a comparison of industry standards for perspective, and then you can say, “Look here—these are your dollars at work.” – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
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8. Review How Boosting Longer-Term Indicators Also Lifts Revenue
ROI in terms of increased sales or revenue is usually a key indicator of a successful campaign. Other, longer-term indicators of a successful campaign include increases in activity, engagement with consumers, responsiveness, impressions and overall brand sentiment lift. These metrics should eventually lead to revenue lift as well. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
9. Think About Lifetime Value
In many instances, it actually makes sense to take a loss on a new customer or first-time purchase if you know the long-term value will be profitable for the business. Think of your loss leaders as “gateway” products that can bring you loyal customers willing to buy big-ticket items. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures
10. Report Both Returns On Investment And Returns On Influence
There are two methods of reporting ROI to a client: as a return on investment and as a return on influence. Influence focuses on visibility, engagement and audience numbers. Investment is specifically targeting conversion-based metrics that you can track and tying them to the investment. Together, they tell the full story. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
11. Prove Aspirational ROI With A Quarterly Survey
ROI can only exist in two categories; it’s either part of an objective or part of an aspiration. Objective measurement is easy because it’s tangible. An aspirational ROI is far more difficult to measure, as it requires understanding what behaviors need to happen over time that will lead you to that goal. One way to do that is to create a baseline survey and distribute it every quarter. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave
12. Use Distinct Metrics Based On The Client’s Biggest Goals
It depends on what the client’s biggest issues and goals are. For example, if there is a negative brand perception, do pre- and post-campaign surveys to measure the change. If the goal is more leads, measure website traffic to landing pages used in email campaigns and paid digital. Sales cycles vary; in healthcare tech, for instance, they can often last 12 to 18 months, so ROI should be measured in other ways too. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications
13. Measure The Incrementality Of Advertising
One important metric that clients overlook is incrementality, which is defined as the lift in your chosen KPI that can be attributed to advertising. Your true advertising ROI should reflect the amount spent on those who need it to convince them to buy, not what was spent on people who were already shoo-ins. That number might be lower, but it is a better indicator of how well your advertising is performing. – Jeremy Fain, Cognitiv
14. Give Clients Data They Can Use To Target More Specific Audiences
Not all ROI has to be measured with sales increases. Show clients consumer data such as page views, demographics, location, gender, age, interests, clicks and more. This is valuable information that companies can use to market to a more specific audience that already likes their brand. Data is a measurable ROI that may not necessarily be an increase in sales, but which can lead to it. – Tony Pec, Y Not You Media
15. Show The ROI Of Clients Maximizing Value For Their Customers
Many brands measure value gained from customers, but few put the same effort into maximizing value. As such, most organizations meet a fraction of customer needs and values. By exploring the link between customer performance indicators and customer lifetime value, companies can optimize how their brands help customers function and succeed while ultimately growing their bottom line. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member
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