What is the ROI on Obsessing About ROI?
I can’t take credit for this headline. It reflects a comment I heard once during a discussion about marketing metrics. One of the beauties of contemporary marketing is that it provides data. Lots of it. And it’s nice to know that an SEO upgrade delivered X percent improvement in unique visitors, or Y number of click-throughs, etc. It’s all good stuff and used properly can be very beneficial in assessing how we use various digital marketing tools and channels.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if this obsession with metrics and ROI isn’t “clouding” our judgment a bit (pun intended). I’m reminded of a quote by a famous man who knew a thing or two about numbers, Albert Einstein:
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
I believe this quote has relevance to contemporary marketing. Like I said, we now have access to amazing amounts of data and I am certainly not advocating we go back to the era of marketing when John Wanamaker issued another famous quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.”
It’s been said that marketing is both an art and a science. The science part can be measured and acted upon. But the art component requires a less empirical approach. Here’s just one example. We are strong advocates of blogging, both for ourselves and for our clients. This kind of content has multiple benefits. It builds an organization’s thought leadership credentials (reputation), it often leads to public relations and social media opportunities and it enhances search engine impact. The latter benefit is generally easy to identify. But can one definitively establish a direct correlation between the blogging activity and the acquisition of a specific piece of new business? In most cases, no. As often as not, buying decisions are made based on brand awareness built over time and through multiple touchpoints.
Marketing is like life. It’s a matter of balance. Let’s use the tools we have at our disposal in smart and appropriate ways. But let’s not overthink things. The return on investment worrying about our return on our marketing investments probably isn’t very good – or conducive to our collective sanity.
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