How to prove—and improve—your ROI in media

How to prove—and improve—your ROI in media
By Larry Guerrero
Partner, Media Services
Jun 8, 2022
According to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, 64% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) say that demonstrating the impact of marketing actions on financial outcomes is a major challenge. So, we know marketing is important—but how can you track its success for your brand and make it even better?

Here are three often overlooked things you can adopt to improve your media ROI.

1. Build your loyalty

Every experience a customer has should be positive and offer value, since users can feel alienated when brands only go for a quick transaction. Meeting your sales KPIs is important, but the long-term business value comes from nurturing loyal customers who keep coming back. To help identify key variables, you need to plan the messaging, offers, content, and timing—and you need to make sure it’s right for the consumer at the right time.

Building a customer database and identifying customers with a longer than average tenure with your brand should start with a customized targeting process. This process includes reinforced messaging so you can build a segment that looks like your customer base and nurture those customers to become long-tenured ones as well.

This is harder for some brands than others. For instance, some industries have very broad age bands, with lots of narrow segments within each band. Broad segments are difficult to market to, and if you have a unique message for every narrow segment, things can get out of hand quickly. But if you look beyond the surface-level data at the motivations of each band, you’ll see patterns and unique identifiers in each band’s needs. So even though the broader bands may seem too large for successful targeting, they all need specialized messaging to keep things feeling personalized.

That approach applies to loyalty as well: The best programs want to understand how their users think so they can go beyond simple audience research and anticipate what will resonate the most. The end goal is about program performance, but the overall process is about ensuring relevant messaging via the best channels. That way, your customers feel heard and seen while providing you with real value.

2. Embrace the spirit of the future

Web 3.0 is on the horizon. We’re already seeing some opportunities come from it, such as the metaverse, but ultimately, we don’t know what it will look like. It’s quite possible that Web 3.0 ends up being a double-edged sword for brands because it’s quickly becoming all about consumer choice and data.

Theoretically, people will be fully in charge of their data, and neither a platform nor a publisher will have access to any of it. This would make it difficult to segment and target the right audience for the right products or services. The flip side of that theory, however, is that giant companies could buy up all the consumer data and block smaller brands from accessing it.

The spirit of Web 3.0, ultimately, is about participation. It’s about respecting people by giving them a choice—and that trust, appreciation, and empathy is exactly what customers are looking for from brands. Humanizing loyalty is already very successful, and that trend will likely continue as Web 3.0 develops.

3. Create a transparent partnership

Building and measuring everything a campaign needs can be overwhelming for an in-house marketing team, so finding a partner with a comprehensive list of capabilities is often the best strategy. A partner’s success, however, can be limited when brands don't fully partner or share their data. Opening the door to share everything you know about your audience and industry position is vital to enable your partner to dive deep and find hidden insights, recommend better performance, and prioritize media placements.

A common problem for marketing teams is not understanding the customer journey, where they should engage with their audience, or what message they should communicate. Knowing which attribution or tracking mechanisms to use can help show the responsiveness of each point on the journey. Still, you need to know what your customer journey is to be able to track it. There’s a tendency to focus on what’s directly attributable, because it’s the easiest thing to report on, but going beyond a digital-only campaign to incorporate a broader mix of linear media, test markets, and control markets can drive additional participation across channels along the full sales funnel and grow your market share. A snowball effect happens when a partner can really understand your business and has the capabilities and experience to humanize the numbers.

Multi-touch attribution in digital is a great resource where budgets allow. Typically, a brand will see one channel—usually search—and get the bulk of the credit for conversions. But multi-touch attribution uses statistical modeling to show how all the different channels are contributing. Oftentimes, a brand will be surprised to see a channel that wasn’t thought to be very strong driving conversions as a major contributor.

The cooperation of the internal analytics team with a well-rounded partner is critical to understanding audience segmentation. Having access to first- and zero-party data to find out where the audit is coming from, which audiences are more likely to engage in the intended action, and how they engage allows the partner to strategize for and prioritize segment targeting—particularly important as we enter a cookie-less world.

All three of these strategies work together to move your audience along the participation curve, transforming from transactional consumers to emotionally loyal advocates for your brand. Proving and improving your ROI is about connecting to your consumers in meaningful ways—when that happens, the impact to your business will be both measurable and transformational.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Larry Guerrero, Partner, Media Services

    Larry is a paid media expert with more than 20 years of building engagement and long-term relationships with consumers that generate ROI for clients. View bio

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