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Marketing As A Utility: Why A Discussion of ROI Is Complicated

Done right, consistently and over a long time, digital marketing should be free.

Yes, free.

When digital marketing is founded on best practices, it delivers a return on your investment. Marketing isn’t alone in this, naturally. Nearly every time you put money into your business, you should get more out of it. But, for obvious reasons, businesses are diligent about proving marketing ROI.

It wasn’t that long ago when both marketing and advertising suffered from the same fate: It was all but impossible to prove ROI from either. Imagine buying space on a billboard. You might be able to estimate how many people pass by over a given timeframe … but how many of them saw that billboard?

How many of those who saw it stopped to read it?

And how many of those who read it were actually influenced in their future buying behavior?

These questions have been with us for a long time, and they’re likely to be around forever in some form. In the old days, “you pay your money and you take your chances.” One of the big changes that comes to the table with digital marketing is more precise, granular feedback about your results.

But even the best marketing technology still provides only partial visibility.

It all comes down to something known as attribution.

The Quest for Attribution Defines Modern Digital Marketing

Attribution is the term for understanding the chain of events in the buyer journey and how a piece of marketing or advertising collateral influenced them. You have clear attribution if you know for a fact that someone saw your marketing and it resulted in a conversion.

That conversion could be a buy, an email list sign-up, or a social media follow. Whatever the case, it’s a definite action on the way to becoming a customer. When you can directly connect marketing to those actions, you have 100% attribution. That informs where, when, and how to use your marketing spend.

Sometimes, attribution is crystal clear.

For example, just about any Central Florida business with a digital marketing strategy starts by launching an analytics suite. The free Google Analytics suite enables you to see exactly how someone reaches your website and what they do once they get there. It’s a treasure trove of valuable information.

One user’s session on your website might look like this:

  • They arrive on your website from your social media
  • They read a blog post about their problem or question
  • From that post, they sign up for your lead magnet
  • They join your email list and receive the lead magnet
  • An email the next week gets them to revisit your website

In a situation like this, you know several things. You can be pretty sure, for example, that a specific social media post tipped the scales and got your user to visit you. You can say with greater confidence that you had a really relevant blog post and a lead magnet compelling enough to take action.

You can even consider that last step a positive sign that your email marketing is on track.

In this instance, for this one person, you have plenty of signals that add up to clear attribution. But this is just one case. If you don’t have all your data collection set up, then it’s hard to tell what users are doing and why. And even with data, sometimes human behavior remains mysterious.

With a Central Florida marketing agency on your side, you’ll consistently be finding new ways to collect and correlate your data. That data will continue to inform you so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t – unlike traditional media placements where attribution is hazy at best.

But even with the best methods, attribution is never 100%.

When you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of people, you often go by averages.

And so, you still can’t be sure that every cent of your marketing spend is making an impact.

But an experienced marketing team will collect data, refine their insights, and apply the lessons learned on a monthly basis. This means that, although some things in life will always be a mystery, you’ll be able to see improvements on a regular basis. A 2%-3% improvement every month really adds up.

And by “closing the loop” with your customers, you can double-check marketers’ assumptions.

Why It’s So Powerful to Close the Loop for More Cost-Efficient Marketing

There’s some information that the marketing on your website, social media, and other digital properties just can’t get. Someday, marketers may be able to tap into customers’ brainwaves, but not today. And that’s the key: Some of the most valuable insight you can have comes only from customers.

Not prospects. Not leads. Customers.

Yes, it’s super frustrating to see prospects visiting your website and bouncing off, never to return. And you can speculate until you’re blue in the face about what your leads are thinking as they put off a buy for weeks or months. But, in the end, it’s all about those who ultimately become customers.

Their feedback helps you understand the market and do better next time.

Only a customer can tell you whether your blogs made an impression on them. Only a customer can tell you what their favorite video of yours is. In short, only a customer can give you an overall impression of how things worked (or didn’t work) for them on their way to that all-important first purchase.

Yet, many Central Florida businesses are going without this crucial information.

Without closing the loop, even hindsight isn’t 20/20 – you know something is working, but you can’t be sure what. That’s why one of our top recommendations to maximize ROI is to make sure you follow up with new customers, get their opinions, and ask them for a testimonial.

That also opens the door to future referral business.

With this last piece of the puzzle in place, your marketing team can implement lessons learned across all the steps of the buyer journey. This still isn’t perfect (nothing is) but it moves you toward the end goal of digital marketing: A lasting competitive advantage that others can’t duplicate by spending more money.

Digital Marketing ROI Is About Playing the Long Game

Every piece of marketing collateral you develop has the potential to influence thousands of people over the whole lifetime of your business. And once that collateral is set up, your spend is zero – unlike online advertising, where your results end as soon as you stop paying.

Over months of refinement, a trustworthy digital marketing team can deliver a virtuous cycle of growing website visits, inquiries, and sales. Part of the value an agency offers is the ability to learn, connect the dots, and adapt even in the face of imperfect and incomplete data.

You can’t calculate ROI to the penny, but you’ll never be in the dark.

Learn more or get started with Central Florida’s top marketing agency by contacting us today.

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1 Average median salary in Florida for ‘Marketing Director’, based on research by Glassdoor. 2 Retirement calculated at 3% contribution, based on research by nirsonline.org. 3 Health premium average calculated by ranges provided from a 2016 Health Benefits survey. 4 Total employee average calculated at first year and includes the following considerations: $4k onboarding and training, $1k software and subscriptions, and $3.75k outsourcing help. Total agency average based on Florida-located, full-service agency.