The Never Ending ROI Story, Part IV

In the last few weeks I've discussed how ROI stories must include a financial component, infused with a customer story and the value it brings to the business. But there is still a piece missing - in order to pull this story together, you have to highlight your campaign efficiencies, what you learn from each campaign and how the organization is developing into a "marketing machine."

One of the hottest discussions now is about learning organizations - organizations that can be adaptive to market changes, competitive changes, and organization changes. According to Jack Trout, strategy is the process of moving your team toward a winning position. The fact is, we as marketers must facilitate the moves toward establishing businesses as learning organizations. The e-mail channel provides the perfect opportunity for it, with tangible results. Now ask yourself, "Are you more proud of the actual results of your campaign, or are you more focused on your team's gained experiences through the campaign efforts?" Even a losing campaign can provide an opportunity for your team and the organization to learn. But the only organizations that I see doing this effectively are e-mail acquisition companies because they live by the principle of testing and its value in optimizing spend.



As we are well aware, marketing programs are generally focused on tangible objectives. E-mail is no exception. It is held to the fire on many levels by static numbers that rarely get translated into real business value.

We must keep in mind that e-mail marketing isn't something that can be taught through an instruction manual - it is an evolved practice much like CRM. E-mail marketing is a form of tacit learning much like learning how to balance on a bike: It doesn't matter what instruction you are given, you must develop your own feel in order to do it effectively, and that only happens through time and experience.

An interesting way to think of this is by reflecting on when you first learned to ride a bike. When your parents reflect on your first bike-riding experience, they probably mention the tenacity of your efforts. I would be surprised if they only discussed how much the bike cost or how quickly you got to your destination. Like riding a bike, marketing is about the experience not just the result.

If you try selling that alone to an executive team, you probably won't get the response you hoped for. You have to infuse the other elements we've discussed. Your internal ROI story should include stories of efficiencies gained that remain within your audience's grasp. Talking about 'multi-variate' testing methods and what type of subject line works won't enhance your story. Telling them that by sending the e-mail on Monday instead of Wednesday, you achieved a 20 percent lift in response won't enhance it either. Now, talk about your team's ability to quickly adapt to top prospects' responses in order to adjust your e-mails to effectively reach this coveted customer segment, and what they learned along the way, and you've got a strong story.

This is a progressive story that should be built layer upon layer. First, you meet financial objectives that mean something to your business. Then you have a customer or business story that brings customer value to life. By weaving this customer value into an internal story that highlights your team's efforts, you will have a complete account of your campaign's relevance. You should speak to the improvement in response and conversion by key customer segments and how your team optimized to get the most out of this control segment. You should speak to how you were able to provide better predictability to response because of the experiences gained by your team. And finally, you must tout the value of the insight behind the effort. Search and media advertising are notorious for this approach, why should e-mail be left out? Our value is in more than pushing out an e-mail. As I often say to my team, everything we do has a value and means something to our business. The way we test, the way we report results, the way we mentor our account teams and our clients, and the way we optimize the strengths of our partners, this is all about the value of the effort, not just the return.

Like your parents recalling the journey of your first bike ride, your senior executives will be proudest of their "marketing machine" development, not the results from a singular campaign or result. Don't diminish the value of your efforts by discussing ROI events without referencing the improvements you've made in your marketing organization.

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