RIP for ROI?
Twice now, in recent weeks, I’ve heard what whispers of what amounts to heresy from B2B marketers. The startling and (for some) unsettling suggestion is that ROI is over for B2B marketers, and its time for us to move on.
Who would dare speak such words? Who would presume to question the overwhelming doctrine that has governed B2B marketing for years? It’s a bold assertion, and not one that can be made credibly without confidence and authority.
The first ‘heretic’ is a senior client-side marketer from a global technology brand (who shall remain nameless). He’s become fed up with the obsession with ROI that marketers have had no choice but to cultivate, both driven and facilitated by digitisation and automation.
Despite being revenue-focused by job description, and an early automation adopter, he’s found it simply impossible to accurately and meaningfully demonstrate ROI. There are a wide variety of reasons for this, including the number of touchpoints facilitated by multichannel marketing; the complexity and length of the buying cycle; the complexity of financial reporting and management of large marketing teams. Many companies who claim they can demonstrate ROI are fudging it, he suggests.
It is something of a shock that my second heretic, Adam Sharp of Clevertouch, one of the UK’s leading automation exponents, and therefore less inclined to contradict the ROI mantra. At the recent ‘Culture of Content’ conference in Belgium, he suggested that ROI should be ditched in favour of ‘forecasted demand management’. This entails using automation platforms and ‘always-on’ marketing, to enable a migration from retrospectively justification of marketing to predictions of leads, sales and revenue. This is a profound and powerful change – it puts marketers on the front foot, able to effectively lead organisational growth, rather than as a delivery mechanism. It’s visionary.
Of course, two voices do not constitute a revolution, but the fact that they originate from individuals who might be expected to take the opposite perspective makes them interesting. There are remarkably few individuals prepared to contradict the accepted wisdom that ROI is pre-eminent in B2B. So could this be the start of the ROI backlash?