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So tell me, how do YOU justify your existence?

I have been fortunate enough to get an advanced ‘peek’ at some of the findings of the annual B2B Leaders report and my eye was drawn to the headline statistics that: 
  • only 29 per cent of survey respondents were confident that they could calculate RoI on their activities ‘most of the time’
  • some 23 per cent stated they could determine it ‘about half the time’
  • and 25 per cent could ‘some of the time’
As a professional services marketer reporting into a newly appointed CEO whose prior role was CFO, this resonated with me, to put it mildly.
Certainly us B2B marketers have it drummed into us – rightly – that the only way to ‘gain a seat at the table’ (don’t you love that cliché?) is to ‘speak the language of our clients and the business’.
We all know that’s about demonstrating and putting a value to your impact.
Oh the irony...
But if you like me spend a lot of your time explaining to those same clients – be they management consultants, lawyers or accountants – what a good case study looks like, the difference between ‘features’ and ‘benefits,’ urging them to ‘quantify’ the impact of their work on their client’s business, the irony of this will not have been lost on you.
So why is calculating RoI so hard?
I am currently writing a ‘project wrap-up report’ on a recent integrated marketing campaign (it had significant content and social media components so calling it an ‘RoI report’ feels ambitious at best.) Here are my observations, any suggestions or solutions gratefully received. 1. Because no one has the killer formula
Most people will be able to point to results be they ‘page views’ or ‘likes,’  or press coverage but, at the risk of asking the obvious, how do you translate this into a monetary value? Old hatLike a parched traveller happening upon an oasis in the desert, I seized upon advertising value equivalent for PR – the practice of calculating how much it would have cost to buy the space occupied by an article, had it been an ad – only to be told that it was no longer a respected measure and ‘old hat’. 2. Because no one can put a value on awareness
This is related to the first point and is an old branding chestnut. If you can identify how many leads your initiative has generated, you are on a path to determining RoI. It may be a decidedly ‘zig-zaggy’ one that peters out in places (lead times for sales will blur the lines) … but it’s a path nonetheless. If however your objective is the dreaded ‘generate brand awareness,’ there are probably some good ‘qualitative’ indicators of your success on a specific campaign: positive comments from industry think tanks, or even number of page views… but how much is that all worth? And by that I mean in that specific instance versus in terms of brand equity over time? The person who devises the algorithm for that will earn their place in the textbooks, if not in the hearts B2B marketers! 3. Because analytics are hard to interpret
“Well, Mr CEO our report received 1,500 unique views.” Huh? 4. Because clients themselves don’t know what RoI to look for
Often clients will sign off on significant marketing spend without really knowing what they want to get out of it. I think it’s our role as marketers to initiate a conversation about what their objectives should be, even if that conversation is not an easy one to have. I think the RoI debate raises other questions such as ‘how much of your budget should you devote to activities for which there are few measurable results?’ and even… ‘is the social media bubble about to burst?’ all if which are blog topics in their own right. For the time being, I’m looking forward to reading the full annual B2B Leaders report and finding out how others tackle the problem.
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