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How to get a return on your brand and marketing investment

How to get a return on your brand and marketing investment

By Chris Murphy, chairman,integrated marketing agency, Balloon Dog 

One of the few positives that comes from trading in tough times is that it forces any business to look at getting effective and tangible benefit from all it does.

Nowhere is this more pertinent than an organisation’s investment in its brand and marketing – and this is exactly what it should be - spend that delivers a return for the organisation in the short or long term.

There is no place for the “nice to do“ activity or the “fluffy” stuff that leave the finance director rightly sceptical as to its true commercial worth. Marketing is a powerful discipline which sits right up there with sales and R&D, and the current climate is the time to prove that fact.

Traditionally many marketers have, with some justification, planned a brand lifecycle that went through stages from awareness to ultimately (or one could say eventually!) delivering sales.

The time lag between these two points could typically be between two and five years. Oh for such luxury! Today the impact on the top line sales or bottom line profit needs to be far sooner. And creatively that presents a great challenge to be seen as an opportunity not a barrier to great work – you CAN put a product or specific promotion alongside a brand message.

To truly evaluate the effectiveness of any activity you need to go back to basics and clearly identify:

What is the objective of your marketing?
Be as specific as you can as the clearer the aim, the more accurate the measure. Whenever possible link the aim to sales either directly or as part of a customer journey that will ultimately generate revenue.

Who are your audience?
Not just the usual age, status, gender profiles but the attitudinal elements that help to understand what influences the decisions they make about who they buy from.

How do you best reach them?
The world of media and the way people engage with communications channels change at an alarming and exciting rate. Keep up to date with how your customers source and absorb information. Understand their purchase journey.

What is the most relevant and powerful message to communicate?
Knowing who your audience are and how to reach them is wasted if you communicate the wrong message. Remember it’s what they want to hear not what you want to say.

Get these basics wrong and the work won’t work.

Often two other factors can hamper the ability to deliver and track the best return. Firstly cost – too often budgets are set against what is felt to be needed to do the campaign or project well, as opposed to what is the level of spend that can most likely generate the desired return on investment.

Do the maths at the outset, use historic data to predict likely sales and then using your marketing ratio set a realistic budget. Secondly the ability to measure response is often absent – sometimes a convenient fact for those who are nervous about the concept of accountability!

Don’t forget that online activity gives you all the data and measurement you could want for most activity and is often far cheaper to execute in the first place than many other channel options.

So when it comes to tracking effectiveness get the infrastructure in place to deliver the management information. If a piece of communication has a specific call to action make sure you can trace it.

Also don’t assume it is only direct marketing that you can monitor or that research is needed to evaluate other forms of work. Online surveys can deliver feedback on the strength of the idea and the propensity to purchase quickly and cheaply.

At the end of the day if you do nothing more than talk to the sales or customer facing staff about any anecdotal feedback then at least you are connecting the marketing and sales efforts.

Finally if you use an agency talk to them about payment by results. In such uncertain times there is a temptation to review the agency, or agencies, as the grass often appears greener. But don’t distract the marketing team unless the relationship or work is poor and with little hope of being corrected.

Nothing unites client and agency like sharing the risk and reward. Get the agency to commit to effectiveness over creativity because without this both parties and Marketing as a discipline have a bleak future.

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