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Online Marketing ROI- some precursors

Online Marketing ROI
Summary: Is online or digital marketing ROI nebulous? Not really - if you get the precursors right.
My pre-workshop expectation setting

Yah, I know …this topic has been over-discussed and often trampled upon in practice. But there are always view points — and here is my musing on the same.

In the recent training on digital marketing that I conducted two common expectations amongst the participants were (this is an exercise I do in the beginning of any workshop) — knowing about analytics and understanding the ROI (Return on Investment). In areas like PPC it is easy to explain ROI (or the other similar metrics like ROAS)— but in areas on content marketing , social media and SEO it is not as easy to make them understand. And that’s a different story.

So what are the precursors before even getting into the topic of ROI? (will cover ROI in respective areas subsequent posts)

What people are talking about Google’s Fred Update

For the past few days the SEO world is dancing to Google’s new ‘tune’ — Fred the Fish. As you see from the screenshot — many bloggers especially those who are earning money from blogs are very worried. They are worried as their ranking and traffic have been ‘apparently’ affected by this new Google update. However it is good to see that they are tracking the results on a daily basis. That’s great (though I don’t recommend getting too edgy by daily fluctuations)!

So here comes precursor #1- Track your results regularly to know your ROI.

Unless you track you will not know what is working and what is not. There is no point in waking up one fine day and realise that your money got wasted in wrong campaign. Or channel. Or content.

In India as we draw to the close of our business year , I am now busy preparing the ‘report card’ of what we did this year and what went right (and wrong). This was for the client (and for me it is what new things did I learn which I can leverage for the next year’s digital marketing strategy for my clients). In one particular client I was pretty ecstatic after I was able to reconcile the sales data (which I struggled to get after innumerable follow up with the busy and ‘excel-fearing’ sales team) with my lead generation data. My lead generation campaign accounted for 69% of the sales and that too at a 1.1% cost (on the topline). Did a quick victory dance. In my mind. But then as I was working to present the data , I was also preparing myself to answer the dreaded (and disturbing question) my client is likely to ask.

Why bother for SEO and Social Media activities , when the lead generation campaign is giving the results. Why not put that money into lead gen as well?

That brings me to the precursor#2. ROI needs to be calculated as a whole and not in pieces.

One of my random clicks of these planes doing a formation in the Aeroshow. Together they look beautiful

Well , if you only consider the lead gen campaigns they would not have been so effective if it was not aided by ‘search and social recall’ . This is called ‘cross pollination’ . Imagine seeing a brand in your Facebook feed on the way to office (OK — not while you are driving, please!) . And after sometime when you search for the product in Google the same brand appears as an search engine ad. The chances of you clicking the ad goes up just on the recall. Of course the ads have to be crafted well enough. I guess that’s what I need to tell my client when I meet them next week. You have to see it as a whole, not in parts.

This is an age of instant gratification. You want something , you go to your app and you have it. The same gets reflected in one’s expectation of the “returns”. Here is a common demand in the 1st meeting with some of my prospects:

Can you get all these keywords in the 1st page of Google in a month (or so)

And especially for them here is the precursor # 3. Have patience if you want the ROI.

All things remaining same , still you need to figure out strategies and tactics that will work for your business in online media (or even otherwise in life as well- is it not ?) . And in online media all things don’t remain the same. Google and Facebooks are constantly changing their algorithm (“to make contents more contextual for you”). And then there are your competitors (and their digital marketing team/agencies) who are slogging to find those opportunities in the space and optimizing on their digital marketing campaigns. And finally there are other factors which may come up which is beyond your wildest dreams (like ‘Demonetization’ in India took away most of my search traffic in Nov 2016). So you need to have patience.

Last year I met a brand manager of a CPG brand. Brief background : after having a great stint in sales he shifted to marketing. A very target driven guy, as you would expect from any good sales guy.

He asked me how can I get him 1 million likes in his Facebook page.

In good days , I love such questions. (Beware: I also have bad days) .So I asked him ‘what will you do with 1 million likes’ . Will it increase your sales? Or your retail shelf presence? Or your brand metrics like ‘brand lift’? Or your next promotion (no — I did not ask this last question aloud- just something in my mind)

And here is the last and precursor#4 — know what constitutes your ROI .That maters.

In online marketing there are only two goals- branding (reach/impression/lift etc) and sales (or lead generation, which again leads to sales). And we try to achieve one or both, with cost and quality (and sometimes velocity) being optimised constantly. Everything else just lead to these two. Often called micro conversions. In the above example it may be interactions on the page/post. But not on ‘how many people like my Facebook page’ . In Avinash Kaushik’s words these are just vanity metrics. Just google “buy likes for my Facebook page”- you will know what I mean. Just try it.

So those are my top 4 precursors before I get down to planning and tracking my ROIs.

How do you deal with this animal called ROI in your digital marketing. Would love to hear your views. And experience

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