One of the biggest objections I hear regarding adopting an inbound marketing strategy is the belief that you cannot easily prove the ROI of activities like blogging, social media, content creation, etc. For CEOs who are driven by hard numbers, this can make adopting an inbound marketing strategy quite difficult.
The reality is that it is actually fairly easy to show the exact ROI of your inbound marketing activities and how each individual activity affects your bottom line.
The reasons many organizations, especially larger ones, have problems reporting on these activities is the lack of integrations they have between all of their tools and systems. These organizations treat each department as its own "silo" and don't integrate the people, systems, and tools from each department. This results in a very fragmented and disjointed approach causing a lack of data flow and making it difficult to prove ROI for any of your marketing efforts.
As we move forward in our data-driven business world, the companies that can integrate all their teams, processes, and tools together will be much more efficient and see better results. In the case of inbound marketing (especially content marketing), integrating your systems together into a closed loop tracking system is the key for showing ROI from your team's efforts. With a closed loop tracking system you will be able to track an individual throughout her entire buying lifecycle, from her initial interaction with your brand to the point that she becomes a brand evangelist.
Now, I know this is not as simple as flipping on a light switch. For organizations that currently do not have a closed loop tracking system in place, it will require a great deal of time, money, and commitment to get a system in place to maintain it. But it will be essential in moving forward in our increasingly data-driven world.
If you are championing this integration effort, it will be extremely important to explain to each team in the organization how their lives will become easier, how it will impact the entire organization, and get them excited to embrace an integrated system. Additionally, you will need to explain to the executive team how this level of integration and transparency will help improve your marketing efforts.
Once you have a closed loop tracking system in place, it is actually very easy to show the impact your content has on driving leads and converting customers. At our agency we use HubSpot to manage our internal and client inbound marketing efforts. When connected with your CRM, HubSpot's reporting tool will give you breakdowns on exactly which channels are producing visits, leads, and customers.
You can even break it down by which specific blogs or content downloads are producing customers.
Once you have this information, you can pull your customer list and attach their purchases to each individual based on information in your CRM. This will produce a detailed report that will break down the different channels or pieces of content and tie an exact dollar amount to the impact they are having on your revenues.
Then you can compare that data with the costs associated with your marketing program so you can see the exact ROI of your inbound marketing program. If you have good results, this makes it easy for your CEO to back your efforts. If you have poor results, it will allow you to effectively pivot your efforts and improve on your marketing.
If you have questions or ideas, please post in the comments section and let's get a discussion going.
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Luke is an industry leading inbound marketing specialist and an expert in progressive strategies integrating content, relationships, automation, and communities to drive lead generation and build brands people love.
He is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Savvy Panda where he helps lead web and marketing success stories for medium to Fortune 100 companies. Additionally, Luke is also the head instructor of Master Inbound, a comprehensive online inbound marketing training course. Find Luke on Google Plus.
March 19, 2014