Measuring the ROI of Marketing Efforts

Andrew Stanten


Andrew carrying wood beam

Measure twice, cut once. Sage advice my dad shared when teaching me about home improvement projects growing up.

Fast-forward 30-something years, and this wisdom holds true. But now, rather than measuring and cutting wood posts, floor boards or carpet squares, I’m talking about measuring marketing tactics and cutting stuff from the budget that doesn’t deliver a strong ROI.

Twenty-first century A/B testing

In the ’90s, I worked at healthy lifestyle publisher Rodale. We A/B tested everything – magazine cover lines, price points for a book and more, like direct mail.

The goal of most PR today is to drive site traffic, raise awareness and lead prospective customers to the sales funnel.

We’d create two completely different mail pieces for the same product and send them to separate, small groups to see which generated more results. The one that did better was sent to the larger list.

So, in essence, we measured twice (the A/B test) and cut once (the larger mailing) to ensure we’d get a good ROI.

Today, technology makes A/B testing much easier.

Many email marketing programs enable you to A/B test subject lines. The program Altitude uses, Campaign Monitor, takes a random sample of the overall list, splits it into two groups and sends one group the A subject line and the other the B subject line. After a short period, the system calculates open rates and the subject line that generates the higher rate is the version that gets sent to the remainder of the list.

You can use social media to A/B test, too. Thinking of running an ad but have a few creative concepts? Let your community weigh in. Measure the response on both sets of creative and cut the ones that fall short.

Running a Google AdWords campaign? Test different landing pages to see which works best.

Website measurement for ROI

Make sure your website has Google Analytics installed, which provides data about your website – number of visitors, where visitors are geographically, which external sites are driving the most traffic – for free.

Distributing a press release? What kind of spike in traffic does it create? Launching an ad campaign in New England? See if you’re getting more traffic from those states. Published in an online publication and thinking about advertising with them? Is the site driving traffic back to your site?

Google Analytics can generate a site “heat map” to show you exactly where people are clicking.

For example, you may find that a feature in the upper right-hand quadrant, above the scroll – a prized position on your homepage – gets limited click through, while a link at the bottom of the page gets excellent time-on-page metrics and leads to more conversions. That information indicates a shuffling of those features is in order.

Social media measurement

It’s not enough to ask an intern or new grad to run your social media because they’re young and have an Instagram account. When they have an Instagram account, they can buy instagram followers to increase the number of followers.

You need to develop a strategy, processes and metrics – and monitor effectiveness.

If you’re creating content as part of your social media strategy and are seeing an increase in the number of shares, retweets or comments, you’re on to something. Analyze what type of posts are generating the most engagement and get rid of the stuff that isn’t working.

Traditional media

When I was director of PR at Lehigh University, I was told the board of directors wanted my group to maximize impressions. I asked, “Would you rather see a story about bizarre behavior at Lehigh in National Inquirer and get 14 million impressions or have us focus on getting 500,000 impressions from a thoughtful article in Atlantic Monthly?”

I was never asked to produce another impression report.

The goal of most PR today is to drive site traffic, raise awareness and lead prospective customers to the sales funnel.

Altitude client Acoustic Sheep appeared on Dr. Oz a few weeks ago. In real-time we monitored website traffic and saw a tremendous spike in the moments during and immediately after the segment.

From there, it’s easy to run a calculation to see if the time and dollars invested in getting the story placed plus travel expenses were worth it by looking at actual sales data from those spikes.

Today – just like those many years ago when Dad and I were working in his shop – being careful and thoughtful up front can save you in the end. Whether it’s plywood, time or cash.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.