The new ROI for CMOs

10 min read by Andy Smith 10 Sep 2022

New post-pandemic spending habits have created the next generation of savvy shoppers that seek to be engaged to the max. Marketing’s involvement is essential, but first we need to change perception about what customer value really means. Here’s some practical guidance on the new way to prove your worth.

During lockdown, we shopped our phones like we used to shop at Westfield – and we loved it.  Thankfully, there’s definitely life back out there. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that customers demand so much more than they used to, whether you operate online, have a brick-and-mortar business, or a mix of the two. 

Let’s face it. If a supplier doesn’t offer what we want, in our size, next day, with free shopping – oh, and Apple pay, and Klarna options – we ditch that search and start  over. 

The internet makes us expert researchers before finally parting with our buck, but equally, it allows us to be fickle and ‘drop the cart’ at the last minute for a better offer. (Some businesses will send you an email to make sure that you don’t, but let’s save automation for another time).

Against this challenging backdrop, businesses everywhere are reassessing their investment. Transformation efforts to ‘go digital’ will naturally get a substantial wedge of the pie, but marketing? Where exactly do you fit? And how are you going to prove your worth?

Marketing – the good old days

Go back just a few years ago, and things were so simple. When it came to setting up our activities, most of us referred to historic sales data to see where to invest our marketing efforts. We looked up our purchase KPIs, consulted our analytics, set up our events and campaigns – and off we went. 

What’s the issue now?

Basically, we can’t rely on historical data to give us a reliable picture of how customers are spending their hard-earned cash. In future, we may see an insistence on zero-based budgeting (ZBB) models, which work on the basis that you start your budgets from scratch each time you set up your marketing activities. As a result, it will be hard to convince your peers of the value of longer-term marketing activities (such as branding), that don’t have an immediate payoff. 

How can we prove our value?

But what’s changed is the way that we have to frame our contribution to the business. 

The old metrics are still relevant – more on that below – but instead of relying on direct marketing-to-revenue lines, your contribution now has to cover customer engagement.

Marketers need to keep hold of sales based KPIS and have an awareness of different indicators, such as signs that customers are going to buy. 

Why is this important?

Online competition is so fierce that it only takes one mediocre experience for customers to look elsewhere. Many people actually find pleasure in researching their online buys. They want the full brand experience in exchange for their credit card information. Price is important, but you’ve got to keep them entertained as well.

Ultimately, it’s keeping customers in the pen until they’re ready to race.

What are the new KPIs?

Customer behaviour indicators are the best possible sign of what our buyers and customers plan to do. And thankfully, there is a lot you can be doing right now to measure and report brand sentiment back to your C-Suite peers. For example:

Brand engagement KPIs

  • Organic website traffic
  • Web leads/sales generated from enquiry and contact forms 
  • Leads/enquiries generated from local landing pages
  • Localised content traffic
  • Positive reviews 
  • Keyword ranking including inbound links 
  • App usage and location
  • Newsletter signups
  • Conversion on gated content

But this makes marketing less accountable – right?

Wrong. Sales are crucial, of course, but so is having an engaged funnel of customers that put you front of mind when they do have a need. 

A PPC marketing expert might celebrate hitting their number when 100 clicks are reached, but any salesperson worth their salt would rather have three viable, highly engaged leads with intent to purchase, than 100 useless clicks.

Digital selling means using behavioural data to understand customers, and to then go after the most valuable opportunities.

People will only meet these KPIs if they have a great customer experience. And that’s the next part of the puzzle.

What you are duty-bound to do 

Just because people are changing the way they shop or do business doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll experience exponential growth through your website. As we’ve mentioned already, the customer customer (CX) needs to be on-point. 

This covers the whole journey, and some of it can and should be directly controlled by marketing. 

For example: 

  • Personalised content on the website
  • Fast loading pages that are easy to navigate
  • Joined-up campaigns across social, email and website
  • A personalised email journey, targeted to the buyers’ browsing habits and preferences

All of this sounds so easy. It’s not. But once you’ve got this sussed, then there’s further ways to prove ROI and that involves getting involved in the nitty gritty of what the rest of the business is getting up to. 

Taking marketing to the next level – CX projects

You’re aware of it already – digital transformation is happening everywhere. 

Perhaps your customer service has already evolved, from manually reading and replying to 100s of emails to a more automated ticketing system. 

These projects are often spearheaded by the head of that department, by IT, by external consultants. But marketing? Not so much. And that’s a missed opportunity. 

Now’s the time to extend your expertise by getting your seat at the CX table and in turn bringing further ROI to your organisation. Ultimately, you’re looking at working as a larger team, joining up the silos. 

A case in point – marketing vs CX = value

Let’s say your organisation recently made a great acquisition, and is now able to offer a business package alongside its consumer offering. 

The two ‘sides’ of the business are set up differently in terms of their locations, the balance sheet, and their culture – and right now, that’s very obvious to the outside world.

You know from the social channels that people are getting mighty annoyed by  their user experience as they are passed between seemingly uninformed call handlers.  

Ask yourself: What could marketing do to add value?

Some ideas:

  • Monitor the sentiment on the social channels
  • Map the different journeys that customers go through to get information 
  • Carry out qualitative research to find out what the needs and frustrations are
  • Implement content at each touchpoint to address the frustrations.
    • For example: a useful tool on the website, new signage in store, a FAQ page, crystal-clear pricing assets and upfront messaging across all channels, from downtime to out-of-stocks. 
  • Monitor levels of engagement and watch for improvements
  • Test and optimise, at all stages for what works and what doesn’t – while not being fearful to try it again in future.

How does customer-led marketing work in practice?

Let’s take a fictitious example: Morbius 2

The stats on the 2022 Morbius film officially marked it as the biggest movie flop of 2022, breaking $163 million, well under the $200 million benchmark for a comic book movie. Given the stats, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a Morbius 2. 

Now, we’re not saying we’d like the job of making money in Hollywood, but what if:

  • You could see, from close monitoring of their social channels, that there was a change in the zeitgeist that meant that there was in fact an appetite for a follow-up?
  • You could pinpoint where this sentiment was coming from – both geographically and in terms of the age, buying habits, job titles and salaries of this crowd?
  • You garnered the opinions of end users to shape the storyline for a follow up?
  • You convinced the moneymen that there was indeed, a case for a low-budget, highly adapted Morbius 2?

Reading the room, suddenly, the dire Morbius stats are irrelevant. They want Morbius 2!

Of course this is a massively simplified example, but it illustrates the importance of engagement, investment, and return. 

In summary: How can my brand adapt to the new ROI?

Knowing how your brand is perceived online is hard proof that your customers are in the right place – you can work on turning them into purchases, but if your brand rep is in the sink then you aren’t in the right place, global pandemic or not.

Need help to demonstrate your value as a strategic function? StrategiQ offers the help you need. Start the conversation today.

Let's talk strategy
Drag Read Watch