blog: jon sherrington

Marketing ROI

I have been doing a lot of reading on ROI lately and found that writings on this can vary quite significantly on how to address this, and yes it appears to be very muddy. At the end of the day though, the big question still comes down to “How do we know we are spending our marketing dollars effectively – and how do we demonstrate it to others?”.

When trying to answer this question, there is not one clear cut ROI formula that defines this that can be applied universally for all marketing activities. (I am stopping here but his comments continue in the forum)

Reply from David McNab:
Here is a thought that might incite fear in the hearts of marketing departments everywhere – instead of muddling around with a whole sloough of measurements of ROMI, ROI, ROC and the like for measuring marketing performance why not simply make the marketing department (probably along with sales) accountable as a profit centre ?

This isn’t hard. Simply “sell” the products to Marketing at a discount (sales price less industry average marketing and sales percentage) and let them live or die on the profit they make.If the spend doesn’t drive excellent returns marketing loses. If it does, they win. Tie bonus to the results and we have accountability.

No-one does this. Hmmmm I wonder why … ?

My contribution to the thread:
That would strike more fear in the hearts of the Treasury and the shareholders. The marketers perpetual vision of success would make him/her the most likely to want to grab hold of the reins. But it takes more than marketing sense to make a business flourish.

ROI is a simple calculator in a small business environment. Just ask the owner. He knows whether the money spent had any payback. The simplicity of the question gets lost in a more complex enterprise. And it is our own fault. The inability to define a marketing ROI is because marketers still execute programs based on assumptions and then develop complex rationale, couched in the finest jargon and best-case case studies that they cherry-picked to win their point.

For example, brand advertising => top of mind => market share growth => profitability. It is a leap of logic that baffles accountants, because, while it sounds logical and insightful, there is still the no-name bottler selling more soda that Pepsi, without spending a nickel on marketing. Sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not. But the marketing dogma says “It’s empirically true.”

We now live in a state of technology where marketers can develop program models that are so targeted to a specific customer segment or objective, ROI should be a constant measurement per campaign. But it is easier for marketing to say, “We think this is a good idea. Let’s try it and see.” That’s a sink-tank not a think-tank. And do we ever fear failure. Nothing hurts quite so hard as being told by someone who knows zip about your profession that your last campaign bombed and you have to fumble for excuses.” That ended my posting. But the adjunct that I would put in this blog is that Customer-centric marketing is designed for ROI measurement. When you define your marketing based on customer values you can measure the uplift of a specific campaign because you are marketing with an identifiable objective rather than a catch-all mentality. The focus of customer-centricity identifies the real drivers of your marketing programs. There is a common failing of a goals-driven enterprise – fling many things at the wall to see what sticks, figure out later what it was and explain to accounting why your marketing budget should not be cut by 50%, even though 50% of your investment was wasted.

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What is digital flatulence? It is the unexpected, public, disruptive and frequently embarrassing electronic notification that someone (other than the person with whom you are speaking) wants your attention. It could be your mother, or about something of no immediate consequence. Either provides the same distraction.

The range of audio styles for this is so diverse that, unlike organic gaseous emissions, it is easily traced back to its source. It doesn’t matter how permissive the recipient is (opted-in) to receiving interruptions, the intrusion affects everyone in the vicinity. Therefore the onus of digital flatulence (no pun intended) falls to the sender, not the receiver.

We are only a few years into the popularity of this media, and there still exists in the minds of many users a certain cachet, that they are so sought after, or that the present moment is never as important as the interruption. This cachet is trumpeted by Telcos, to my mind being the equivalent of encouraging digital flatulence contests between high frequency users. (You have to have gone to a British All-Boys School to truly appreciate the metaphor.)

My prediction is that, within a couple more years there will be a societal backlash against media invasion into personal space through excessive emails, texts, pings, alerts, notifications, spam, spit, twitters or any other expletive noise coming from a wireless device in a public space. They will be treated with the same disdain as smoking, urinating or emitting a loud and malodorous body stench into the local atmosphere.

We create our own problems through exploitation of new media opportunities and this is one that will more obvious in people’s lives, as wireless devices become permanently joined to the human hipbone.

As customer-centric marketers we have an opportunity to define policies regarding how to engage with this media, to prevent this backlash. Here are some suggestions:

Device manufacturers:
Work to improve silent modes of notification.

A simple flashing LED has some great advantages in power-saving and reduced public intrusion. The goal of a wireless device should not be to interrupt whatever the user is doing, but to enable them to function proactively from any location at the convenient moment.

Enable features that are common on landlines e.g. Do not disturb/Busy call-back later settings and Automated redial when the line becomes free

So, if I need to call you and you have put your phone on Do Not Disturb, then as soon as you free up your phone my phone will ring, and as I pick up it will redial your number and connect us. That way I know I am catching you at the earliest moment of convenience and I don’t have to keep redialing and leaving multiple voice mails. I remember having this feature on landlines in the UK years ago. Surely the technology must still exist?

Carriers & Marketers:
Understand your customer’s preferences

Send out your spit, spam, twitters and texts within very defined windows of time to minimize daily intrusions and resentment build-up. Track instant deletes as a strong hint not to resend the same message over and over and over again. Work together as carriers and marketers to bundle packets of messages into specific time windows that are socially more acceptable, e.g. happy hour, the drive in, the drive home etc.

Stop trying to herd cats.
Your staff are easier to reach than ever before, but don’t exploit the situation to create social mayhem.

This subject is more than a nuisance in cinemas and concert halls. It is more than teen’s googoo-gagaa-ing over the latest ‘happening’ thing on the bus or subway. We are headed into a wireless spaghetti world of unwanted noise, where privacy will become a ridiculous notion for lack of social grace in digital human behavior.

This is not a soapbox rant. It is a clarion call to marketers to understand the negative impact of wireless social media on our quality of life and be proactive and build better customer relationships through smarter solutions.



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Selling Integrity to Truth-starved Customers

My log-cabin beach vacation, cooking with charcoal, without TV, cell phone or laptop, using my own paddling power for water sports has given me a reaction to returning to life as I usually know it. But here goes:

Q. How do customers evaluate marketing hype?

Perceived Customer Value = √ Brand Value Proposition (√ is the square root of)
Actual Customer Value = Retail Price LESS 40%

It is an automatic filter. We need the hype to penetrate any sense of value and we need the discount to feel it was worth paying for it.

Q. What is the reason that most customers don’t read either the blurb or the small print?

Because they make a choice to believe in the realm of mythical marketing. Tolerance for myth and brand legend has been drummed into consumers through mass media hypnosis (a.k.a. hype-nosis?)

Q. Aren’t money-back, satisfaction guaranteed programs assurances that the customer will be satisfied?

It’s a compromise, not a lure. Money-back warranties go hand-in-hand with unbeatable, lowest price promises. In contradistinction to the belief that it means the customer will love the product, the program only really gives you the choice to pay less instead of more for something better. It works because most customers are willing to lower their satisfaction in tolerance to the price. It is also provides a mechanism for the manufacturer to back out of customer revolt with impunity.

Throwaway Society
We have become a throwaway society because we have been lured by marketing hype into buying cheap, not-as-good-as and ‘only-the-latest’, letting hype fill the vacuum between availability and durability. This has destroyed our domestic manufacturing sector, since only the lowest-paid employees can build the cheapest products. And nobody wants to be the lowest-paid employee. We have put our blinkers on because the illusion of achievement is more appetizing than the reality. Latter-day historians who recall the feel-good 50s and the number of advertising icons that it spawned, should be able to measure the decline over the past 60 years in the value of substance over image by the rate of product refresh in almost every category of consumerism. If it isn’t new it isn’t wanted. And we now live in a world where the hype is not the mirror of society – rather society that has become the mirror of the hype.

Yet even as we ram our blinkers on to hide the obvious flaws, there is a hidden consciousness that we know what we are compromising and we grit our teeth wishing that we could get better value for less hype. This is evident in the increase in stress and depression and the disappointing failure of consumerism to provide true-life satisfaction. It is even more evident in the importance of self-image and self-esteem in the human psyche and its disastrous consequences in the teen community when hyped-up expectations are not achieved.

Where is integrity to be found?
Do the purveyors of myth still hold all the cards? Where is integrity to be found? Can marketers be scrupulously honest, deliver real value and retain customers through a cost of ownership that saves money over time, reduces waste through extended product lifecycle and builds a longstanding relationship between the customer and the provider? Are customers now even ready for integrity? Politicians, economists, marketers and advertisers might quote the immortal line: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Who wants to know that the unbeatable-value product’s true cost of materials is 10% of the sale price, or that the brand name sneaker doesn’t cost three times as much to manufacture. We have enough trouble absorbing the reality that a Canadian car cost 20% more than the US for no reason, or that the price of oil is not really set at the value of the supply, refining and distribution cost. Our flock mentality is a soothing anesthetic that keeps us grazing in the direction the shepherd is pointing – just so long as we can keep the wolves at bay we are happy to ruminate.

But there is a new movement in consumer behavior that is starting to redefine how marketers react to the voice of the customer. Twitter, the blogsphere, online consumer reviews, and the greater information research base available to consumers through the Internet provide customers with more knowledge power to make more guided choices. Social networks and the democratization of information have started to fragment traditional media. Marketers can see the effect of their mythical mishaps in real-time.

Life as we know it has not yet completely changed, but there is a backlash that is starting to form around the ‘customer as the centre of the universe’. It will take some time in gestation for the mass marketing industry to stop trying to leverage new media tools in order to regurgitate the same product solutions. The real Nirvana of customer-centric marketing will be when marketers start to align their product and service development roadmaps around distinct online communities that aggregate common values from disparate parts of the commercial and consumer universe.

How do you prepare your customer market to be resilient in the face of change? By selling integrity, making hype relevant, by identifying with and responding to customer communities as distinct market segments; by personalizing your message and values to the audience segment, which means rethinking your product deliverables and distribution mechanisms; by investing in your customers before you invest in your products; by delivering on your marketing promise or accepting failure as the result.

Integrity is not something you can manufacture on a large scale. It is something that is built, brick-by-brick, within communities and localities that has to stand the test of endurance, in relationship, satisfaction and repeated experience.

Are your customers ready?
Are your customers ready for integrity? Are you ready to put your customer’s claims ahead of your own? It is a new vista for marketing that triangulates customer expectations with affordable value and professional conduct. It is communicated through relevant networks and communications grids that the customer defines. And it requires a closer ear to the ground and more sensitive market intelligence than quantitative methodologies.

I don’t think of it as evangelism. I have the good fortune to apply real, effective and successful marketing campaigns selling integrity to truth-starved customers It is one of the most refreshing aspects of my profession to present truth as an alternative to myth and enable businesses to build successfully on their deliverables.

If you want to find the right route to your customer, build relationships and generate demand in a new era of customer-centric media than you need to re-engineer your hype and start selling integrity to a truth-starved marketplace.



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Borrowing from a recent article in the Nat Post Business Section (that applies the standard Mars/Venus equational imbalance), about a book called “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy”, penned by Business Strategist Dev Patnaik, also founder and chief exec of Jump Associates, adviser to businesses on growth strategies:

“Companies often hinder their success by focusing too narrowly on selling products and not on their customers’ actual needs.” ibid.

He has written a book about a concept he describes as the ’empathy gap’ between employees and the customers they serve. Well, that saves me the trouble.

Dev specifies the gap as a chasm between employees in organizations and the people (customers?). I wonder if the euphemism was derived from actual experience of shopping at The Gap?

Not wanting to put the onus entirely on employees I was relieved to see he spoke of “Companies stamping out customer empathy” within their staff and then being “surprised when their employees make poor decisions or try to sell things that their customers don’t need.”

From the interview (attached) it comes as a fairly rudimentary exercise in customer-centric marketing. I haven’t bought it, so I can’t recommend it, but it is all grist to the mill.

But I want to deepen the thought: he describes the growth of a business as a cause, as success moves the stakeholders away from the products that they produce. What elastic band magnate uses the same product to hold up his socks? Not like the old days when he couldn’t afford socks with lycra built in (not a real example in the book).

Question: is there a lack of integrity in the staff of a business that does not use its own product? If they use a competitive product then the answer would be “Yes.” If you work for Chrysler and you don’t drive their wheels then you won’t think too much of customers that roll up with a Dodge Hemi under the hood. But if the employees are not users of that product, then there is no reason for the lack of empathy. I doubt that manufacturers of prosthetics are all missing body parts, yet they probably care more than most about how the customers feel using their products.

Empathy with the customer has to be defined within the culture of an organization, not at a product level. In fact it doesn’t have to be product relevant. The manufacturer of women’s hosiery doesn’t have to wear the product, (if he is not accustomed to pantyhose). He/She just has to understand the problems that wearers of such products have to deal with in the context of: warmth, protection, comfort, appearance, climate, U/V rays, skin sensitivity, ease of putting on/removing, durability and budget. That puts hosiery on the same plane as global warming. I am in no doubt that, in the microcosm of daily frustrations with women’s hosiery, there are issues that are scalable to global warming. This is what we can call ‘empathy’. I don’t know if the author of the book goes so far to say so. But, it should be, from the CEO down to the photocopy worker, that empathy is ingrained. That way a customer might actually believe in the advertising.

Otherwise you might as well be as far removed from the Sun as Pluto and wondering why your customer is orbiting a different solar system.


Loyalty and Price Elasticity

In recent marketing history the belief was formed that rewards increase customer retention. Up to what point is the value of the reward negated by a price increase? Forget rewards – with any price increase, what is the melting point of intrinsic loyalty?


Hypothesis: Wal-Mart unilaterally increases its pricing by 15%. Could the Wal-Mart brand handle a 15% bump in prices?

Fact: gasoline goes up universally 50% and is absorbed. At 100% it starts to topple one of the world’s biggest companies. What do you do next?

Experience: your insurance company surcharges you on your dental plan because your dentist increased his fees outside the range of their policy limits. Do you swallow the difference or find a cheaper dentist?

Air Miles Rewards offers to double its rewards on select brand name products. Do you buy them or go for the store brand at the lower price?

Your hair-stylist: on whom you depend doubles his/her fees. To what extent is that reflection in the mirror worth the increase?

The answer to all of these questions depends greatly on to what extent price was a factor in the original decision. In the blog entry “Price, Shmice!”, I posited that Price is an indicator of value, but marketers should evaluate the decision criteria that precede it before they start messing with their prices, and presented the following as predetermining factors ahead of price valuation:

Achievement: how well will this decision help me to achieve my goals? Convenience: how easy is it to engage or acquire this product or service? Comfort: can I use this product or service easily or with peace of mind? Esteem: how will I be respected for this decision (by self or others)? Pleasure: how will I derive pleasure from the outcome of this decision? Trust: how can I trust that all my expectations will be met?


Wal-Mart could not handle a unilateral 15% increase across the board because the trust that it has built up with its customers is based completely on price-point. Wal-Mart doesn’t cheat like some other discount retailers. All its products meet its discount values standards and any departure would breach the trust of its customer relationship.

Gasoline is oligopolistic. Come one price increase come all. But there’s no love lost. If you were to put your pump price up $0.001 cent above the gas shack down the street, watch and wave your kishkas goodbye, as no self-respecting driver will want to be seen in your station. There is zero loyalty now in the gas station business and I am bona fide PetroPoints customer. 2 years ago I would have given them a penny premium. Not any more.

Your choice of dentist has nothing to do with price. Trust, convenience and comfort are important values in play here. The surcharge on your insurance will only affect you if it brings economic hardship. You would sooner look for a better insurance plan.

Air Miles: doubt it. Most consumers put off future gain in favour of immediate gratification. That’s why personal savings are at an all-time low, credit card debt is an all-time high and most people fail to keep to their diet. If you are pre-disposed to buy the branded product and the rewards come gratis, you should buy in bulk while the promotion lasts, giving the branded product a false sense of accomplishment and the likelihood of repeating the mistake when sales falter over the next 3 months.

Hair-Stylist: offer to sweep the floor for them, or spread the visits out by a week or two. If it costs $300.00 for you to have your hair done with highlights and the whole bit you will see the increase as more reflective of the true value of you than the stylist. Esteem, achievement, pleasure, trust, comfort all come with a successful trip to the personal image reinvention store.

The customer-centric marketer will seek to constantly over-deliver value relative to the price. This is insulation against price increase, as the increase will then only reflect true commercial value. It is the quintessential value-add. As the price increases the customer-centric marketer will create more value-add offsets to the price escalation. Most marketers don’t put the customer at the center and when the prices increase there is no elasticity. Loyalty rewards are an artificial stimulant to fabricate a customer retention framework but they don’t offset price increases.

I am not an opponent of rewards. I simply don’t regard them as effective incentives for loyalty. As long as they don’t cost anything I will enjoy them. But increase the cost and bye-bye. I reward customers because I believe that they deserve them, not because the reward will keep them loyal. The customer-centric marketer will match price elasticity with values for long-term customer retention. That is what is meant by “Customer-centric marketing increases loyalty, frequency and continuity.”



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