It’s time to tackle a big topic:  marketing ROI.  I get a lot of questions about this, sometimes related to specific platforms or marketing methods, sometimes with a general application.  For the serious-minded business owners who ask this question, I want to give you guidelines to help you monitor results.  For those who have been using this question in lieu of the question, “Will this make me an overnight success?” I want to give you a reality check!  Let’s talk about how to measure marketing ROI.

If that second objective came out a little blunt, just know that this is often what people mean when they ask me questions about ROI.  What’s the ROI on a Facebook post?  The ROI of a one hour consultation with me? The ROI of going to a networking event.

Many of us have gone ROI overboard, so I wanted to start with this answer first.

When you hire a bookkeeper one month to get your finances squared away, do you expect that you will never have to hire a bookkeeper again?  When you clean your home, do you think that is the last time you will ever need to clean it?  When you cook a meal for yourself and then get hungry again hours later, do you get angry?  You just cooked!  What a waste!

Of course not.  Bookkeeping, cleaning, and preparing meals are examples of something you have to do on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis if you want a healthy business or lifestyle.  So is marketing.

Marketing is about sharing the message of your business. This is something we have to do consistently, for the life of the business.  It’s how you get leads in your sales pipeline so you can bring in revenue.  However you do it, if you want to get sales you have to be sharing your message.

As a starting point, my general business advice is that you find a way to market your business – hopefully a variety of ways to market your business – that you will be able to do consistently and long-term.  Being discerning about ROI does not allow you to bypass the struggle every other business goes through to get their brand out there and build their client base.

Being discerning about ROI does not allow you to bypass the struggle every other #business goes through. #smallbiz #smb Click To Tweet

That one Facebook post is a great addition to the hundreds of other ones that are helping you move the needle.  That one hour consultation is a wonderful way to answer questions and steer you down the path for the best next step of the many next steps to follow.  That one networking event is the beginning of building new relationships that will only bear fruit with time and attention.

This may sound bleak, but there is also hope in it.  Not everyone is prepared to be this diligent.  If you keep getting out there and being persistent, you can set yourself apart.  The aggregate of your marketing efforts will be what moves the needle.

The aggregate of your marketing efforts will be what moves the needle. #business #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb Click To Tweet

And if you are coming from the understanding that marketing is a forever activity for your business, then the question of ROI is a productive one to ask.

So let’s address that question tactically.

I want to point out that the marketing you do may have different purposes.  It’s not as obvious as saying that you are marketing to bring in sales.  There are more stepping stones than that.  This means that it is important to define the purpose of each type of marketing activity you do.

What are examples?  You could be trying to reach brand new leads to begin building relationships.  You could be continuing outreach to existing leads to bring them further through your pipeline.  You could be on the verge of closing a sale, and it’s actually time to go into sales mode.  You could be trying to create positive awareness or even change perception of your brand.  You could be trying to build your reputation.  All of this is marketing, and all of this would be done and measured in different ways.  In fact, some of these are inherently quantifiable and some are not.

Reputation building and perception building marketing activities may very well fall under the PR category.  For the average small business, one person is probably wearing both of those hats.  You might try to track this by measuring click throughs on links that point to articles you have written, awards you have won, influencers that have mentioned you, etc.  If the landing page is on your site, a look at Google Analytics will tell you what is happening.  I recommend that you read here for some of my favorite stats to review with Google Analytics!

Tracking reputation is hard to measure because of how subjective it is.  However, you can insert questions into your prospecting process to create measurable data.  Ask how people heard about you.  Ask what made them call you.  A lot of times new clients call me and tell me straight away the experiences they have already had with my brand.  I can learn a great deal from the path they have taken that led to picking up the phone or emailing me.

If you are trying to attract new leads or move existing leads further through the pipeline, that should be your primary objective.  For many of us, marketing is about getting a series of touch points with our audience before they are comfortable enough to make a purchase.  If you assume that people need to build trust with your brand before they buy, then an immediate sales close is probably not going to have good results for you.  Instead, planting a clear, easy, barrier-free call to action and tracking the conversions on it is your best bet. (This all has to do with your marketing funnel, and I encourage you to read this if you are unfamiliar with what that is)!

I would like to point out that social media is usually best for building reputation, attracting new leads, or moving them through your pipeline.  So, those who are taking the sell, sell, sell approach are likely going to come away disappointed.  For whatever reason, “What’s the ROI of a Facebook post” is a question I get often.  Just because you are spending oodles of money to run an ad on a thing you want to sell doesn’t mean anybody went to Facebook to purchase it.

When you are marketing online, tracking clicks, getting people to sign up for email lists, charting individual data from email list analytics (read here for one of my top tips all about this topic), and tracking website data is a quantifiable, documentable way to see where you are driving traffic and how your audience is behaving.

When you are marketing offline, do what you can to plant measurable data points out there in the world.  Put postcards in a partner’s store and label what partner store it came from so you know when it comes back to you.  If you run an ad, point interested parties to a designated link just for that ad source or give them a clear promotional code that will tell you how they found you.

Do what you can to plant measurable data points out there in the world. #marketing #business #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb Click To Tweet

You can’t track ROI without data, so give yourself a chance to get that data!

As I said earlier, if you are asking about ROI because you are on a search for instant marketing success, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Instant marketing success isn’t a thing.  Somehow, someway, your brand has to build.

Instant marketing success isn’t a thing. #business #smallbusiness #microbusiness #smallbiz #smb #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

But when you know that and you are looking for ways to measure your experiments, track results, and see what is working the best for you, you are setting yourself up for repeatable success.  There are many ways to market a business, and success looks different for each method you can use.  Knowing the exact purpose of what you are doing and where your lead is in the funnel helps you create a stronger strategy.  Each step of the strategy may lend to a unique way to measure marketing ROI.

Hopefully this marketing tip sheds some light on the question of ROI, however you meant the question!

For end-to-end support in creating your marketing funnel, I encourage you to check out this course on how to Create Your Most Profitable Marketing Strategy.  This DIY, self-paced course will change how you look at your business and how you call your clients to action!