3 Reasons Marketers are Unable/Unwilling to Measure ROI

The ROI question comes up all the time in the PR/Social Media Marketing world.

I’ve written about it a dozen times.  So has every other marketing blogger.  There are blogs devoted to measurement.  There are conferences devoted to measurement.  There are twitter chats devoted to measurement.

So much talk, so little agreement.

In my experience, almost every marketer who insists on measurement is ultimately quite satisfied with pretty charts.

IStock_000004878226XSmallThere are a few reasons for this dilemma…

Not every marketer has the inclination or budget to invest in measurement. For example, P&G is widely acclaimed for “getting measurement right” via their marketing mix modeling (MMM) approach … but it costs millions to do it right.  If the marketer decides to tackle MMM, but does so in a half-assed way, how is that going to be effective?

Not every marketer is willing to work with their peers in Sales. Ultimately most marketers agree that their feet will be held to the fire on motivating an expansion of the sales funnel.  But to accurately do so requires collaboration with Sales.  Sales & Marketing don’t always see eye-to-eye; it’s more convenient for them to be able to point at each other when things aren’t working.

Not every marketer is willing to talk to their webmaster. With so much of marketing going online, we can not only measure every click, but now can measure VIEW-THROUGHS.  From a 2006 DoubleClick report:

Survey respondents said they were twice as likely to notice a web ad <or online article>, not click on it, but visit the advertised site later (61 percent), as they were to click on an banner ad to reach a site (30 percent).

So, we’ve known about view-throughs since the 2006 timeframe, but few folks invest in systems to track it… when I ask clients to look into solutions such as Tealium, they invariably sigh, “I don’t like talking to the webmaster” or something to that effect.  Mucking about with the website is forbidden.

(Ironically this is even more likely to be raised as an objection by e-retail marketers, whom you’d think would care the most! — but every adjustment to the e-commerce site is as carefully plotted out as an act of Congress.)

It gets frustrating to be tasked with “figuring out the Measurement” stuff when so much of the onus really rests with the client to do a good portion of the systems implementation, tracking and analysis.

A pretty chart is just so much easier.  And 9x out of 10, works just fine.

Posted on: November 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm By Todd Defren
15 Responses to “3 Reasons Marketers are Unable/Unwilling to Measure ROI”


  • I definitely agree that charts can greatly simplify things. If you give someone a whole bunch of data in a spreadsheet, it will most likely mean nothing to them. You have to speak their language. Pictographs can make it to where both sides can understand the data that is being conveyed. Plus, it is nicer to look at than numbers. Spending a few extra minutes on organizing the data into a chart or graph can save lots of trouble.

    Also, with how many online tools there are for analytics and information, there is no excuse not to be measuring as much online marketing as possible.

  • Great post, Todd. When it comes to agreement, my feeling is that what matters most is gaining agreement between the client company, its executives and the PR firm as to what they are measuring and what constitutes success. As you know, every client will likely want something a little bit different, and that’s okay. The key is to measure what’s important to the client, the executive team and to the agency. Once the client-agency team has decided what they want to measure, it’s important to set measureable goals, create a strategy that is laser-focused on meeting and exceeding those goals, and then packaging the results of the program to show how you performed against those goals (pretty charts)! And, where appropriate, assign ownership to collecting the appropriate data with the understanding and agreement that some of that onus falls to the client.

    I would like to add, the performance of the program is a big part of the measurement reports. But, I believe it’s even more important to draw insights from those reports so you can adjust and improve the program moving forward. Measurement shouldn’t just be used as a tool to show clients, “here’s how we did.” It should also be leveraged to diagnose and correct problems. For example, are the executives being interviewed but not quoted? If the executives are being quoted, are they properly communicating messages? If the executives aren’t being quoted or effectively communicating the right messages, it’s our job to raise a flag and help them bring more compelling information to the table during media interviews. If we continually put executives on the phone with journalists and they don’t get quoted, the executives will deem the PR program as ineffective. It’s our responsibility to course correct by providing the executives with more detailed talking points, holding prep sessions prior to interviews or, in some cases, by scheduling media training.

    By analyzing the measurement data we may find, for example, that one particular product line is getting a lot of coverage. In that case, we need to ask ourselves, “Does this product coverage map to the company’s sales goals?” If the sales team is tasked with selling a more profitable, but less sexy, product it’s critical the PR team re-prioritize. If we don’t, the executives will say, “Yes, that’s great that you got all that coverage for that product, but it’s not driving the business forward.” Again, it’s our responsibility to ensure PR maps to sales. If it doesn’t, we can course correct before the executives start asking tough questions.

    These examples are just scratching the surface. By generating timely and accurate data about the PR program, a measurement solution helps us identify issues that fall outside the norm – and signal potential problems. Once the root cause of a problem has been identified, we can take corrective action.

    Kristin Jones, CEO

  • Garious says:

    Maybe, the reason why plenty of marketer ( especially in the field of social media ) are unwilling to measure ROI is because of fear – that all their efforts are not getting their clients the conversion rate that they originally promised. It doesn’t mean that out of, say, a thousand followers or friends you’ve got that all of them will opt in and buy what you offer. I recently read a study that email marketing works better than social media marketing when it comes to getting new customers. And they say that email marketing is dead?

  • sALLY says:

    We assist many clients with media measurement for marketing and PR purposes and find that the most successful companies we are working with at the senior levels are accomplishing the most our of their PR metrics programs by really understanding ‘return on influence’ – combining the standard PR measurements with the new influence of social media meaurements.
    We do this by providing a strong combination of human analysis, robust content and technology which are all customized to the clients requirements.
    The ‘story’ becomes the reason to measure the effectiveness of a program or a campaign, change the message or strategy if it is not working as planned and develop a sound strategy for future campaigns.
    you can learn more by going to http://www.dowjones.com/mediameasurement

  • Ryan Ward says:

    My business (real estate) derives most of its income from online lead generation. Sometimes the sales happen quickly (1-3 months) and other times it can take years. Tracking something like that can be difficult, but we have found is that we have to ultimately pick some kind sales cycle so we use 6 months from lead generation to closing.

    We track analytics on the website, call times to our leads, scripts used to convert leads and more.

    When it comes to social media sites, we do not convert as well as search engines therefore our ROI is lower. We use that info to decide where to put our resources moving forward.

    It’s a business. Not looking at it is just an easy way to get out of business sooner rather than later. Especially in this economy and with a competitive business segment…

  • Jon S. says:

    You hit on a really valuable point with regard to marketing and webmaster/IT teams.

    I work with a lot of PR and Marketing folks who craft all the great messages and angles of outreach, but have no idea what is going on with the website. It’s akin to opening up a brick-and-mortar store, creating all of the collateral, signage, etc… and having no idea if the store ever put the sign up! SEO is a really difficult area where this plays a critical role.

    It seems there is really a growing space where agencies and clients may need to engage with a consultant team that works between the agency and the client to make sure everyone is getting the best results. This is valuable in several respects:

    * The consultant team can do analysis and look at the vendors in a much less biased way. This prevents personal relationships that PR/Marketing experts and the companies themselves may have from interfering with results. (This can anything from monitoring product, to newswire, to collaterals producer)
    * It can often lead to increased value and spend from the company because the perceived value is often higher after the analysis is done.
    * Focus can be maintained by the Marketing/PR contact on messaging, channels, etc.
    * Goals are better defined and results better understood.

    Good post.

  • mark weiner says:

    Great post. As someone who has participated in more than 40 marketing mix models — including the first P&G models to which you refer — let me suggest that while making the “PR to sales” connection is the sexiest form of ROI, PR people contribe increased ROI every day in ways that are simply overlooked as ROI factors: “doing more for less and with less” is routine, within reach but, unfortunately, boring for most who seek the “holy grail. Read more at http://www.InstituteforPR.com for a comprehensive white paper on MMM (and others related to generating and demonstrating PR’s ROI.

  • Marketers who don’t want to involve themselves with sales should really get over themselves.

    Who ultimately pays their salary but SALES! Great marketing is only great if there are sales $$. No sales, it’s not great marketing!

    So stop blaming it on the sales people. If your marketing is not working, it’s your fault. You gotta work with you what you go, so make it work.

  • Nicole says:

    I find measuring ROI works pretty well for short sale cycles, but for those of us with long sales cycles with many factors outside of our control, it gets much harder. For exmaple, parents and students start gathering information about colleges up to 6 years before they will actually go to college. So many of our click-throughs and other measurements are also catching those people that realy aren’t in a position to act for the next 2-6 years. Any suggestions?

  • In the end, the real problem as usual comes down to lack of communications between people and departments.
    This is probably where the real change should happen, and soon. That’s the problem I try to avoid in my business.

  • Mike Layton says:

    This post hits home for me, although from the measurement side of this (and for media, not ads). There are those times when we feel that we can produce a pretty compelling chart if we’re able to incorporate specific page analytics with related exposure. As you’ve pointed out in your post, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As for the pretty charts, yeah, they accomplish a lot. But even more important is ensuring those charts’ data points are not missing any positive data. I almost feel I could draw those charts in crayon as long as no positive data is excluded (and understandably so, as a lot of hard work stands behind those metrics). Thanks for sharing, Mike.

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