The essence of marketing ROI can be expressed in one word: PATIENCE.
The typical delay between beginning a new marketing program and seeing those investments pay off can be 12 months or more.
While the exact timeline varies for every business, the time lag is usually caused by one of three key factors: sales cycle length, building the marketing foundation, or budget.
Last week, we made suggestions about how to manage these three elements to get faster results.
Today we'll look at three marketing tactics that also have a dramatic impact on your ROI timeline, and offer tips to accelerate results.
1. The reality of the "Content Saturation Index"
When it comes to content marketing, your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Content impact, and your timeline, are also a function of how much content already exists in your category.
For instance, let's think about what happens when you begin a content marketing program focused on a set of industry keywords. In a saturated category with lots of existing content on that topic, it's difficult for your content to reach prospects when they search on these keywords. There's a boatload of competition using the same keywords; if you're not the 800 lb. gorilla in your category, even the most succinct, entertaining, or inspiring blog articles and web pages won't make a dent. By contrast, unsaturated content niches can deliver your content in search results more quickly.
The definition of an "unsaturated" content niche is fewer than 10,000 pages of returned search results on a keyword. By contrast, when a content category returns over 1 million pages of results, content strategy needs to shift to break through that clutter. (Source: Marketing experts Chris Penn and Mark Schaefer)
Is it possible to overcome a category's information density? In a saturated category, it's very challenging to create content that breaks through – even with content that is relevant, helpful, and shareable. Look for opportunities to be distinctive and get noticed by narrowing your audience focus, and using content such as video or interactive applications, platform focus, and other tactics to increase impact.
2. Building social media relationships
The timeline to marketing results can be influenced by your use of the social networks, and the depth of relationships you have there. It takes time to build a social network that will deliver your content, generate referrals, and position your company as a valuable resource.
According to marketing expert, author and educator Mark Schaefer, the first few years of most social media programs are typically spent actively building your social network, creating the relationships and trust that can lead to word of mouth recommendations, and warming sales opportunities. As a result, it can take years to nurture an uptick in warm sales opportunities from your social network, depending on how well established it is.
Are there short cuts to building social media connections? Not really, but a two-pronged approach can help to accelerate business results from social media. First, focus on building an audience organically: Set priorities, focus on one or two social platforms, and be consistent with your activity, targeting the audience that matters most to your business. Depending upon your sector, consider using paid promotion on social networks to boost reach. In all cases, the quality of the content you offer can make the biggest difference. Many companies try to manage the hungry social networks on their own. It takes time, energy, and creativity to feed the social media beast.
3. Fine-tuning based on results
No marketing program is going to be optimized right out of the gate. An ongoing process of testing, evaluation, and adjustment is needed to apply learning from actual online behavior and conversion to the next round of marketing. For example, our client, DMD Marketing Corp., encourages their pharma email clients to use email as a platform for testing messaging and offers. The data drives what they call "continuous corporate learning," so marketing spend does double duty: reach and research.
Once your new program is underway, measure the results of initial efforts and iterate for improvement. It's not uncommon to spend several months developing a baseline of activity, and then make ongoing adjustments based on that data.
Here's how to go about it: set specific goals, track and measure effectiveness, improve results where you can, and double down on your highest return activities. Make sure to track key metrics monthly.
Marketing ROI and marketing impact
When done well, the assets you create with your marketing - like engagement elements on your website, content assets, relationships on the social web, and brand loyalty - should contribute to business goals long after you begin achieving positive cash flow.
Whether you use a simple metric like net cash flow after marketing expenses, or the more sophisticated ROMI (return on marginal investment) to measure profitability, marketing has to make financial sense. It helps to know how long it takes on average to achieve marketing impact, or it's easy to get frustrated.
How long do you think is reasonable for marketing to pay back? What's your experience been with marketing programs? Have they paid out as expected?
Contact us for a Whiteboard Consultation, to learn how to measure and improve marketing's impact on your business.