Too Much Focus On ROI?

Is John Marshall of ClickTracks Analytics guilty of heresy? At the recent INBOX 2006 e-mail conference in San Jose, Calif., he posited the radical idea that interactive marketers are too focused on ROI. Despite the fact that I was there to moderate another panel on e-mail reporting and analytics, I had to agree.

We seem to believe that because we can track so much of what happens in an e-mail and on a Web site, we have all the answers; everything is black and white. When it comes to human behavior, Marshall points out, there is a lot of gray.

The title of Marshall's session was "Boost E-mail Campaign Results Through Web Analytics." Co-presenter Elaine O'Gorman of Silverpop had this good advice for developing a successful integration of Web and e-mail data: start small. Getting started, said O'Gorman, is easier than you'd think. Choose one or two things you would like to measure, e.g., e-mail clickers who reach the order acknowledgement page. Instead, many companies try to capture every possible piece of data they may ever need, and the result is a ridiculously long and expensive implementation and a mountain of indecipherable data.



Why do it at all if we're too focused on ROI? The data is extremely important for building a successful e-mail effort, but it doesn't tell the whole story. As we know, human beings are erratic and data capture is imperfect. Just because consumers didn't get to the order page in a straightforward, measurable path, doesn't mean they weren't influenced by the content of the e-mail and their time on a site. So if you say that every e-mail sent delivered $33.16 in incremental revenue, which you know from the hard data, you're selling your efforts short.

Look at your colleagues in traditional advertising. Do they try to quantify the value of their efforts to the penny? Cha! As if!

Augie Ray of Fullhouse, marketing guru and numbers geek by day, retail and online business owner by night, provided me with a concrete example of the concept. He found that when he ran his paid search marketing strictly by the numbers, eliminating ads that did not deliver a positive ROI, his total sales were not as high as when he allowed a few seemingly unproductive ads to remain in play. Similarly, he reported that although the sales directly attributable to his e-mail newsletter were low, the number of customers who mentioned it while shopping in the brick and mortar store more than justified the effort. "The e-mail newsletter helps to differentiate me from other small business, keeps me top of mind--or at least prevents me from being forgotten--and reinforces our store's brand," said Ray.

So while the E-mail Diva does not suggest that you abandon data collection and analysis, she does recommend that you consider the larger picture. In addition to the value captured on all those lovely reports and spreadsheets, there are unquantifiable yet positive brand impressions. Your e-mail program is even more valuable than you know. So make sure those in charge of the purse strings see the whole picture, with all that beautiful gray.

Good luck!

The E-mail Diva

Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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