The True ROI of Digital MarketingBy Clay Morgan

When Lindsay Bell told me the topic for May’s blog posts was “web marketing” I thought, “well that’s specific,” so I assumed I could write about just about anything.

Today, rather than titillating you with advice, I’ll give you a warning.

But, of course, I must start with a story.

There’s a mom and pop pizza place near my house. Family business. Owned by Nick. Signs of success are everywhere. He and his wife drive nice cars and live in a nice neighborhood. Their son goes to private school.

The business is always packed and it is the best pizza I’ve ever put in my mouth.

What is his web marketing plan? I don’t think there is one. He does occasionally do a Groupon or Deal Chicken, he has a Facebook page he updates occasionally, and they do have a website.

But that’s about it.

Where’s the web marketing they need? I mean, without it you are going to die, right?

As Nick told me once about his Facebook page, its a nice thing and they like putting pictures on it, but he’s too busy making pizzas to worry about “likes.”

Oh Criminy, Another Story…

Not long ago, I had a conversation with Eleanor Pierce, our shared media manager.

We’re going to be making some changes to how Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich approaches its social media, so we talk a lot and I pretend to be very wise and all-knowing while she shares her ideas.

This is what I know for a fact: Somewhere between two-thirds and three-fourths of all new business inquiries come across the content on the Spin Sucks blog at some point before calling.

Maybe they read the book, then started to read the blog, and finally after hearing Gini Dietrich speak somewhere, decided to pull the trigger.

Maybe the order is different, but the odds are they cross our blog at some point.

That makes the blog – a digital marketing product – very important.

However, there is a problem. That’s not a sale, is it? Someone still has to actually get the prospective client, or customer, to say yes.

So I asked Ellie a question.

“Person A and I start following one another on LinkedIn. We share content. Maybe have conversations (oh boy! engagement!). How do I turn that in to $250,000?”

The problem is that final leap from social media engagement to actually purchasing our services.

What Does this Have to Do with ROI?

There are still a lot of unbelievers when it comes to digital marketing.

Yes, it becomes pretty obvious when it comes to an eCommerce site, but what if you aren’t selling online?

How can I prove how much client revenue Arment Dietrich generated because of our investment in social media?

Can the pizza place show how many dollars rolled in from Facebook?

It’s easier when you are doing a digital ad or when you can count how many Groupons are received, but otherwise?

I work in the field and I have a hard time explaining and understanding how some aspects of digital marketing turn into dollars.

Back to Nick, the guy knows how to make and sell a pizza. He sees the effect of a Groupon or Deal Chicken coupon, but not necessarily from a dollars and cents perspective, on the Facebook page.

Here’s the point I’m getting to: The digital marketing world is filled to the brim with people who have no idea what they are doing, charlatans, and spin (sucks) doctors trying to pass themselves off as a guru, ninja, Jedi, or some other putrid synonym for expert, which they are not, and they know it because they can’t bring themselves to say “expert.”

Oh Dear, Clay’s Done Gone on Around the Bend!

How do we separate ourselves from the pack? Go around the bend in a good way, if you will?

We have to prove ROI, and in business, there is only one result that matters: Dollars.

You can call me shallow or callous, but you also have to call me right.

Don’t believe me?

Go waste a business’s money and see how long they keep you on board.

In the very first proposal Gini sent to a prospective client after my hiring, there was something in it that I just loved.

I don’t remember the exact verbiage, but it was along the lines of “for $X investment, you should expect $X return.”

That is the kind of guarantee we have to make if we’re going to transform web or digital marketing.

Three Ways to Get to ROI

How do we get there?

  1. Understand business. If you don’t have a little business sense, how can you help someone else’s business? You don’t need an MBA, but it sure helps if you can read a P&L.
  2. Understand the difference between sales and marketing. They are closely related, but they aren’t the same thing. Understand the difference and know which you are offering.
  3. Connect the dots for the client. There may be several dots taking them from some digital marketing action to a sale, but it is your responsibility to take them through those steps.

I can take a prospective client and show Gini the dots that include this blog.

It isn’t a matter of read Spin Sucks then hire Arment Dietrich, but “read Spin Sucks” is in there.

It is an important dot.

Because of it, I can draw a direct line from first contact by a prospect to them becoming a customer. And that allows me to assign a dollar value to the blog.

And that is true ROI.