Tracking Marketing ROI: Mission Impossible?

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  1. What are the primary reasons tracking ROI is so challenging? Tracking Marketing ROI is challenging for almost all organizations: clearly defining what a touch point is, whether you are tracking activities and/or results, and what is to be tracked in both Marketing and Sales activities will help in creating consistent data for analysis.  Consistency is key.
  2. Marketing may be responsible for tracking, but needs to work closely with Sales to identify what to track, and to acquire meaningful information for analysis. Establishing ROI is a team effort that will benefit all.
  3. Tracking social media is useful to identify awareness of the organization and communicate with influencers, although there is still a question of whether it can be tied to ROI.  The general consensus is that social media is still immature as a marketing tool, but it can’t be ignored.

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


  • Allan Wilson, President, Allan Wilson and Associates
  • Claude Couillard, Canadian Field Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.
  • Eliot Muir, CEO, Interfaceware
  • Fawn Annan, President & Group Publisher, ITWC
  • James Roy, ITWC
  • Liana Leider, Marketing Analyst, QHR Technologies
  • Kelly Luo, Marketing Manager, Sigma Software Solutions
  • Anu Vijh, Senior Marketing Manager, Symantec Corporation
  • Trevor Dantas, VP Marketing/Digital Products, Toshiba Canada Limited
  • Peder Enhorning, President & CEO, Unilytics Corporation
  • Paul McDevitt, Business Leader in Marketing Sales, Services/Marketing Strategy, Unity Connected Solutions
  • Sandi Sandiland, GM, Xerox Service Marketing, Xerox Canada

What We Learned

  • Tracking marketing ROI is not a perfect science: it’s only one way to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing activities.
  • Sales and Marketing must agree at the beginning of the project how ROI is to be tracked.
  • General management must provide an environment – possibly with incentives – that encourages both Sales and Marketing to update the system used to track data for ROI analysis. Both Sales and Marketing people must understand the importance of doing this.
  • ROI is most likely to be tracked for marketing activities directed towards prospective clients, not existing clients. However, ROI is much higher in campaigns directed to existing clients, so should also be tracked.
  • Marketing activities – such as social media – implemented to build awareness are important:  it may be more difficult to track ROI for them, but that doesn’t mean that awareness activities should stop.

What are the primary reasons that tracking ROI is so challenging?

  • With long sales cycles and high turn-over, tracking the first touch point is often forgotten. It is easy to do at the beginning of the sales cycle. Sales and Marketing should try to reasonably agree on ROI.
  • Some only tag once per lead; others tag at every touch. This is challenging and can be suspect.
  • It is difficult to assess metrics of what is being done versus what is working. It is difficult to measure Sales and Marketing; in Sales, you either make a quote or not. Marketing is more granular.
  • Each Sales person has a different definition of what is considered a first touch point and lead scoring. Inconsistent data within cycle, including lead source left blank continues to be challenging.
  • Technology system(s) are not always integrated with company’s CRM.
  • Always ask, “How did you hear about us?” Be thorough.
  • Ensure Marketing project/content is understood by all. Sales may be ready to ‘sell’ but Marketing may have developed a nurturing campaign. Both parties need to understand the hand off.
  • Improving company web page with tracking analytics will support Sales.
  • Establish an Inside Sales team to help with “noise” before going to Sales to sell.
  • Marketing and Sales roles are blurred. Everyone needs to work towards making company grow.
  • Google analytics can be useful for simple actionable data.

What is Marketing’s role in tracking ROI? How do you deal with that challenge?

  • As a group, define what will constitute successful ROI between Marketing and Sales.
  • Conduct predictive analysis for the past three years: it can be time consuming but can work.
  • Tracking leads can be educational to define metrics and clearly communicate to Sales what you are measuring. Manual tracking can be the challenge – we need a better method.
  • Set up a funnel to obtain great results. Input is key.
  • Continuously ask questions to determine how to help Sales. Listen and seek answers. Align campaigns and don’t always go for net new customers.
  • A single platform is easier to measure and can be easier in smaller organizations.
  • Many organizations tie sales performance to compensation. Sales roles are “on the line”: perhaps Marketing’s roles should be too.
  • Simplifying measurements can make budget requests easier. From the onset, agree on three to four metrics.
  • It could be easier to hire from a pool of successful Sales to fill a Marketing role. It may work on the fly but not in the long-term. Sales are very “tactical”: Marketing is very knowledgeable about brand awareness and relationship building. This may be difficult for Sales.
  • ComSquare tracks impressions, channels and ads. Subscribers can see what competitors are doing, where they are spending, etc.
  • Positive-Sum Scenario can be more advantageous than Zero-Sum Scenario.
      • “Positive-sum” outcomes are those in which the sum of wins and losses is greater than zero. This becomes possible when the size of the pie is somehow enlarged so that there is more wealth to distribute between the parties than there was originally, or some other way is devised so everyone gets what they want or need. 1
      • In a zero-sum situation, it is impossible for one party to advance its position without the other party suffering a corresponding loss. 1

Do you use technology to track social networking investment and how?

  • Facilitate Twitter feeds; obtain analytics to see who’s driving conversations, who is doing what, number of tweets, who clicked on links, who shared. Reporting includes historical text.
  • How spontaneous should we be? Respond right away or leave it.
  • Social media is about numbers. Question the numbers. Social media still needs to mature. Its real value is unknown but don’t ignore social media.
  • Where and who to play with? B2C or B2B? Nurturing cycle via social media can be significant; still searching a good analysis tracker.
  • Use social media for the right target market, don’t use Twitter if prospects are not there. Verbally ask which social media tools they are using. Tracking remains a challenge.
  • Twitter, LinkedIn, Bitly (a URL shortening service) have good tracking tools. B2B marketing should ignore Facebook.
  • Get into practice to follow up tracked “touches” within a week.
  • All campaigns should be tracked with cookies: include social media to see sources and measure those metrics.
  • Social media is a tool to generate awareness. Techies on social media are influencers, not decision-makers.
  • Social media is generational. “Social” crowd versus “non-social” crowd.
  • Unsure if social media tracking makes sense. It is meaningful to Marketing but difficult to link to financial results.

We know that the ROI of marketing to existing clients is better than to prospects, so how do you balance client versus prospect investment?

  • We are marketing-driven. If a campaign doesn’t bring in a new customer, the campaign is considered a failure.
  • Upsell and cross-sell, consider unique and specific segmentation to existing customers to track ROI.
  • Pay attention to “old license file” especially when there is a campaign for a “new release”. Going from v9.0 to v10.0 should be measured the same way as a new purchase of v10.0.
  • Consider partner training, user experience group training events, and referral programs as client investments.
  • Use channel/inside sales for prospecting: new business can be distracting.


Hunters versus farmers: Hunters are best to close a sale and don’t fill out forms; you always know where the farmer is and they are easier to manage and control. It is easy to collect data from farmers; hunters’ data is more challenging.



Posted By: SMA

One response to “Tracking Marketing ROI: Mission Impossible?”

  1. Eliot Muir says:

    Thanks for organizing this event Bob – it was most enjoyable.