Despite shrinking budgets the pressure on marketers to drive growth shows no sign of letting up. 1 in 5 decision makers expect cuts to their marketing budgets next year and the need to do more with less continues to shape budget allocation as CMOs move towards technology-enabled, digitally capable models. All areas of business are coming under greater scrutiny to become more accountable, and the focus on demonstrating tangible business benefits from PR and communications is only going to increase. However, many CMOs are still seeking in vain the holy grail of linking up hard-won marketing leads with delivery of actual sales revenue.
The good news is that there are strategies CMOs can use to measure ROI and convince commercially-driven board executives of the value of PR and marketing for the business.
Reporting the metrics that matter to your business
First and foremost, marketers must work with other senior decision makers on what success looks like for their business. A vast array of digital tools put a wealth of useful data at the fingertips of today’s CMOs to demonstrate the impact of marketing and PR programmes. Evidence of effective lead generation – the lifeblood of business growth – can be obtained from several sources. For example, Google Analytics data can be used to measure the number of referral sources generated from media coverage and the incoming traffic driven to hosted content such as blogs and reports.
Raising brand awareness to aid customer acquisition remains a key priority for many businesses. PR and earned media in particular have a critical role to play in SEO strategies as trusted backlinks to a company website are the most influential factor improving search rankings. If PR is effective in earning backlinks from sites with high domain authority (such as a national news outlets), CMOs should be able to report an improvement in their own website’s domain authority, meaning company content will rank higher in search results, resulting in an increase in inbound leads from organic search.
These data driven insights should be used when reporting on activities and to shape future campaigns. And, of course, it’s common sense for all marketing reporting to be designed from the outset with the wider business audience in mind. Aligning our campaign reporting with the dates of board meetings and collaborating with CMOs on showcasing the business impact using the metrics that matter to them are simple yet highly effective ways for us to help our clients’ meet their objectives.
Close the gap between marketing and sales
For many marketers, however, a gulf remains between efforts to generate and nurture leads and the role of sales teams to convert these into paying customers. Of course, it’s relatively easy to report how marketing is driving enquiries to a company website; what is important is how these leads are qualified and progressed towards a sale within the business.
Marketing automation platforms and sales enablement technologies have grown to fill this void, making it easier for companies to map the customer journey from acquisition to revenue. However, even where these kinds of digital tools are not in place, it is still possible to gain valuable insight from sales departments. Even where specific, granular mapping of individuals is not possible, sales teams will already be reporting on metrics such as spikes in enquiries, leads generated and sales revenues, either via anecdotal feedback or more sophisticated evaluation. These reports can still be manually aligned with marketing campaigns to provide insight into the impact of marketing activities – from a prospect commenting to a sales person about an article they’ve read in a high profile industry publication, through to a spike in calls following a new product launch campaign.
Close collaboration between marketing and sales is an integral part of our approach. Working alongside our clients’ marketing teams, we ensure our communications activities are aligned with their business growth priorities to support their lead generation and nurture programmes. We engage with their sales and business development teams to ensure that our content addresses real customer pain points and the wider industry issues their prospects are facing; we highlight media coverage for use by them to nurture leads; and we make it easy for them to engage with their target audiences on social media channels.
A fast-track to the crux of what really matters to your business can be found in your finance department. A source of valuable commercial information, the CFO can help the CMO identify KPIs that really matter. Insights into which product or service line is the most profitable, or which industry sector is set to really move the needle for the business can be used by marketing directors to shape their strategic decisions and campaigns.
CFOs are, of course, key stakeholders when getting annual marketing budgets approved and will, rightly, demand rigour from CMOs to report ROI from their activities. Where budget has been allocated, it is important to obtain as much value from that investment as possible. PR and communications can be used effectively to derive greater value from marketing spend.
When working with our client KCOM on an event at the BT Tower we ensured longevity of communications activity well beyond the event itself. Thought leadership content from a host of industry speakers was used in ongoing PR and media relations to reach a wider industry audience and was also used to create a takeaway magazine for ongoing lead nurture by the sales team; creative social media content ensured amplification of our client’s messages beyond the delegates in the room; and videos and animations created on the day were used to engage the target audience on social media channels and in automated marketing campaigns.
The ability to demonstrate tangible commercial value where budget has been allocated to a marketing activity is of growing importance. Today’s CMOs should surround themselves with an in house and agency team that will employ a creative, hard-working approach to overcome these challenges. By measuring properly the things that impact on the business’ bottom line, CMOs can more effectively report on ROI and how marketing activity is helping push the business forward in a language that makes sense to all board members.