Is Digital Marketing Disrupting Your ROI?

Finding the ROI is a challenge, but it’s possible

The SMA/ITAC Think Tank in February explored the topic of digital marketing and ROI. The discussion covered a broad range of topics, including the risk of overwhelming prospects with digital messages, the continuing importance of face-to-face, and how to involve Sales in digital activities. These are some of the key learnings from this Think Tank session:

  1. If you’re struggling to find the ROI related to your digital marketing activities, you’re not alone.
    • Many organizations are finding it a challenge to achieve a return on investment from digital marketing, and also to identify any ROI obtained. 
  2. There are several ways you can address these challenges.
    • Try better targeting, more relevant messages and use more effective ROI tracking tools.
  3. Involve Sales from the beginning.
    • This is critical – Sales needs to be involved upfront in the planning process so they understand their role, can contribute insight and are fully aligned with the marketing activity.
  4. Integrating traditional marketing methods – such as events, call programs, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings – with digital activities can make for a powerful combination.
    • Think about ways to promote traditional events and activities via digital, and highlight your digital activities across traditional avenues. For example, include URLs on all printed material and promote them at trade shows, create microsites for marketing campaigns, events and new products, etc.

This SMA/ITAC Marketing & Sales Think Tank was hosted at Xerox Canada in Toronto, Ontario by Sandi Sandiland, GM Services Marketing, Xerox Canada. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.


  • James Mosakos, Client Manager – IBM Business Unit, Arrow ECS
  • Anu Vijh, Head of Marketing, Capgemini Canada Inc.
  • Adrian Kailan, Account Manager, Intercept Group
  • Benjamin Lascar, Business Development Manager, LINKBYNET
  • Ray Deutschbein, Enterprise Account Executive, Marketo Inc.
  • David Polt, Marketing & Communications, Pathway Communications
  • Ravi Yedery, Manager of Infrastructure Operations, Pathway Communications
  • Shannon Major, Senior Manager, Field Marketing, Canada, VMware Canada
  • Dave Dewitt, Marketing Brand and Pricing Manager, Wainbee Limited
  • Sandi Sandiland, GM Services Marketing, Xerox Canada

Comments from our Discussion

Below are participant comments from our Think Tank.  Each event is unique, and the needs of each technology company represented at the event are equally unique. As you will see, there are different opinions and approaches, but also some clear themes. We think you’ll find these comments from our participants very interesting. 

What we learned

  • Focus on network and content development.
  • Truly understand the customer, get the right information at the right time and properly engage Sales. This can translate into a solid ROI tracking.
  • Focus time and energy on specific marketing campaigns. Avoid a broad brush.
  • Frustrations and struggles continue across all companies.
  • Omni experience gives Sales team increased legitimacy to help drive business for a holistic customer journey.
  • Hold small events, executive round tables on a regular basis to build awareness and drive targeted messaging. Take this information to build digital content.
  • Invest in lead scoring – on your own or hire externally.
  • Goldilocks Zone: not too hot, not too cold … just right. Focus on ‘that’ zone; it is a smaller, more manageable group. This can help grow business with better traction on ROI.
  • Investigate why you are doing what you are doing. Think about long term strategy. What’s driving your business? Tailor your message to what is driving your ship, instead of what is happening today. Take a step back to see what is empowering the next generation.
  • It’s not a single thing that will get you there; it’s the 2mm shift that will get you there.
  • Avoid working in silos – everyone should be responsible for Sales. Invest in this collaboration.

What frustrations do you continue to experience with tracking ROI on digital marketing?

  • Developing personas around a segment using different platforms to pull it all together continues to be a challenge.
  • Once engaged, whether self-identified or anonymous, you will need to be able to talk in a relevant manner; otherwise you will lose their attention. Engagement needs to be very personalized.
  • First touch or last touch attribution model. Last touch typically receives reward for acquisition. This brings a skewed view on a multi-touch funnel.
  • Social media tracking does not provide accurate data on conversion, making it difficult to allocate funding. Once this is understood, you can optimize channels.
  • Top three challenges: 1. Planning in silo; 2. Content not relevant; 3. Tracking challenges.
  • Responses to email broadcasts continue to be low, even with brand name organizations. Outbound calling may obtain increased response with better results.
  • To reduce frustration, need to understand digital touches to measure ROI correctly. Should each digital touch have its own ROI?
  • Avoid setting targets based on past results; instead understand industry, established customers, campaign persona, content messaging, etc.
  • Focus on conversation, not on how the campaign should/will be measured.
  • If a prospect attends a physical event, it is most likely that they are interested in that company. However, if a prospect clicks on an email article sponsored by a company, it does not signify that they are interested in that company, rather that they are interested in the topic of the article.
  • Be cautious with click count – there is ‘fraud’ or ‘phantom’ clicks. This can cause increased frustration to decide where to invest budget. Consider Search Engine Marketing (SEM) with Google AdWords.
  • Review the customer journey – are we saturating the market? And is the messaging accurate? Risk of prospect/client opting out which increases acquisition cost.
  • Canada is very different from the US, because Canada has CASL. Marketing efforts cannot group US and Canada together – we are different.
  • Consider geotargeting campaigns to improve customer journey, messaging and persona.
  • Consider niche marketing; work with your existing client base.
  • Marriage between customer service and marketing needs to be a shared experience.
  • Face to face meetings, including outbound calls are more relevant than emailing.

Scoring in relation to customer journey is needed. Concept of customer journey – needs to be specific to business, on-boarding, net new, up-sell/cross-sell. And scoring model needs to be different across every product. Then align this to Sales – are they engaged? There is improved Sales follow up when scored appropriately by Marketing. It’s a pendulum; link this back to digital for a more accurate tracking to determine what works and what doesn’t.

What has been lost with decreased traditional marketing? What do we want to come back to? Can it be re-balanced?

  • From an enterprise perspective, IT sales are very complex. Traditional marketing, including face-to-face and personalization are needed to create perception and demand for relationship-building. Then use digital activity for on-going touches. Small- to mid-size organizations continue to be a challenge.
  • There is risk of fatigue with the numerous messages out there; too many people chasing too many customers. Prospects/customers are getting bombarded.
  • Be smart with content with a strong call to action; include the right level of personalization.
  • Avoid selling using digital marketing. Use traditional marketing to start a face to face conversation. Then commence building demand generation.
  • Bring all the players to the table; what is Sales doing that Marketing is not?
  • Balance marketing with gentle quarterly digital campaigns.
  • Intimate relevant conversations can be very helpful to advance in an organization; consider executive thought leadership events.
  • Marketing has become a ‘coin-operated machine.’ Instead use leadership team to continue to develop customer journey to increase scoring.
  • LinkedIn can be very successful for information gathering and better listening.

Who builds digital marketing – Sales or Marketing? How do they fit?

  • Sales needs to continue prospecting activities, including nurturing campaigns. Marketing qualification is very much needed.
  • Email broadcasts, such as an e-newsletter are developed by Marketing and delivered by Sales for that personal touch.
  • Engage Sales at the start of the planning process; ask for Sales pain points, target market and what services to focus on. Both parties buy-in to meet agreed BANT (Budget Authority Need Timeframe) criteria. Pre-planning between both parties is a great set up for teamwork.
  • Ability to arm Sales with information is challenging but critical. Unified messaging is crucial on what is and isn’t working.
  • Conduct account planning sessions: Marketing to coach and tailor client message so that Sales is not surprised.
  • The group that you are not selling to or they are not buying from is the challenge. How do you get into those accounts? Difficult to converse with this group.
  • Marketing needs to align campaigns around business goals. Listening to Sales continues to be a challenge. Bring Sales to the table in different capacities.
  • Understand client, do research. Measuring intangible touches and tying it to consumer continues to be a challenge. Marketing needs to look top-down and identify why they are buying. Understand what is driving consumer behaviour.

Posted By: SMA

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