Truth in ROI: How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Blarney

Like a mythical search for a leprechaun’s pot of gold, marketers must often undertake a circuitous route to evaluating ROI.

First, there’s the bravery test. Post-recession marketers now find themselves defending every penny in an otherwise tight budgetary environment. Those who can muster the courage to tie marketing and ROI together will always have a compelling and competitive edge.

Second, there’s the wisdom test. One of the conundrums that we frequently see in analytics is the desire to measure everything. But that my friends is a quicksand from which there is no escape. While we can measure just about anything these days, the wiser question is “should we?”

I’ll admit to the guilty, geeky pleasures of drilling down into the latest Google Analytics report, following one thread of a thought process, then mining further for other facets in search of an explanation. Who hasn’t? The point is that it’s way too easy to get distracted by those threads when you don’t have a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to steer by.

William James, the American philosopher and psychologist said, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

Third, there’s the fool’s gold test. Consider this problem. You’re responsible for a non-retail website. There is no historic, legacy data. No prior year’s analytics. However, there are five years of annual sales reports showing a spike in October, a dip in December and recovery in January. Still, the client looks at December’s web traffic report and says it’s too low and there must be a marketing campaign to make it bounce back.

Do you work 72 hours straight to build a marketing campaign that will increase web traffic? (That’s fool’s gold.) Or do you work with the client to help them understand that their budget is better spent elsewhere since web traffic mirrors the sales cycle and will recover on its own? (That’s the pot of gold.)

Finally, an Irish proverb that’s tailor-made for those of us who love marketing ROI…

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.