Tracking to Stay on Track

A hand sheepishly raised in the back of the huge auditorium caught my eye near the end of an email marketing session I led nearly two years ago. Suited with jacket and tie, he seemed almost apologetic as he phrased the question.

“Al,” he said, “I’ve found this seminar very instructive and informative. You’ve given us all a lot to think about. My question is fairly straightforward. You keep mentioning this ROI. I’m somewhat embarrassed to ask, but what’s the significance of those three letters, R-O-I?”

His courage in asking only strengthened my belief that many in that group were just as confused with the concept and definition of ROI (return on investment) as many marketing, advertising, heck, even direct response professionals are. How clear are we about the components of calculating ROI?

If we’re honest about our companies, and ourselves, are we really focused on building strategies and corresponding tactical plans that are quantifiable and provide everyone in our organizations with real measurable data? What’s the bottom-line measurement, anyway?

I worry many organizations and well-meaning professionals aren’t as focused as they should be on driving their organizations from this bottom-line mentality. Though the dot-com bust placed additional scrutiny on efficiency, how many marketers really took action to effectively quantify their programs? I still see a tremendous lack of accountability relative to all types of marketing tactics deployed in the new definitions of customer acquisition, retention, and relationship management.

Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) concurs. A November 2003 study on measuring campaign profitability found only 34 percent of email marketers track customer profitability as a campaign metric. Despite all the emphasis on data mining and analysis, data isn’t used productively, and the specialists involved in this work are relegated to “numbers person” status in their organizations.

Well-used data translates into relationships that grow. That same Jupiter Research study found scrutinizing campaign profitability would actually drive improved targeting tactics. In this age of message bombardment, isn’t relevance the key to an ongoing relationship and improved performance? Yes, we’ve seen it firsthand from a fistful of innovative marketers, but there are too few.

We’re living through one of the greatest periods of change to influence the information age. The Internet has had a more profound effect than any other communications medium (with the possible exception of the telephone). Never before has there been a greater need to evaluate the basic foundations of business and customer communications.

Yet many of us seem bewildered with the task ahead. Some are trapped in their own denial and resistance to change; others flail away in a vain attempt to gain traction in some direction, believing movement is progress.

Business history shows that with all paradigm shifts, there are individuals and companies that seem to accelerate through change. As a result, they establish leadership and dominance in their fields. Others follow, but time is of the essence as evolution, complexity, and effectiveness of such leadership in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven market can render others obsolete and exposed.

New market realities require a new approach. Leaders will be those companies that effectively leverage data, marketing channels, campaign management, automation, and analytics to build customer relationships. These capabilities truly transcend the marketing channel. Done correctly, they involve the consumer in a continuous brand experience that’s anticipated, consumer-controlled, relevant, timely, value-driven and benefit-focused.

Easier said than done, but ask yourself: How do I measure up?

Till next time,

Al D.

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