ROI Is For Cowards

October 22, 2010

This morning I heard a snippet of talk on AM radio. As AM talk radio often is, it was offensive. The announcer said, “And with Val-Pack’s guaranteed ROI…. ”

I switched to my iPhone playlist, but those offensive words stayed with me. I’m going to pay to have my offer bundled in a snail-mail envelope that most people will throw away? Really? Because of guaranteed ROI on marketing that may annoy more prospects than it delights?

As online marketers we’re better than that…right? Well, maybe not. We cut branding activities while spending more on email marketing and pay-per-click because the email and PPC yield reports, metrics and charts with lines going up and to the right. Up and to the right keeps us from getting fired. That’s not hypothetical. I have a friend who had the courage to note that driving one particular line up and to the right was expensive but dropped zero dollars to the bottom line. He cut that expense and reinvested in activities that drove both incremental dollars and better customer experience. That kind of courage draws interesting rewards. He was fired but is now a CMO in a ground-breaking company and loving every minute.

If you don’t want to be a CMO in a ground-breaking company and love every minute, keep your head down while driving things up and to the right. Don’t ever ask why. Too risky.

I’m in favor of measuring ROI and I do it rigorously. I’m also in favor of keeping an eye on the gas gauge and speedometer because they provide key information. If you’re driving to Las Vegas, you have to do those things.

But the gas gauge and speedometer aren’t a road map to Las Vegas. You can monitor your performance by watching them all day while driving in the wrong direction. Marketing is about telling people where you’re going and getting them to go there with you. A gas gauge and speedometer won’t do that. A map helps tell people where, but not why they should go with you.

First you need a vision. Start with an image of the fireworks and fountains in front of the Bellagio.  Next is a map. Or a GPS if you’re into marketing automation. The GPS serves the same purpose as the map, but you can’t automate vision. Finally, fill the tank and watch your speed, especially across West Texas.

My father’s joke on long road trips was “we took a wrong turn, but we’re making such great time we’ll just keep going this way.” The kids in the backseat knew it was a joke. Do we sophisticated marketers know it?

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

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One Response to “ROI Is For Cowards”


  1. […] ROI is for Cowards by Russ Somers (Egghead Marketing) Are you number-crunching in lieu of asking, “Why?” […]


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