Marketing departments need to come out of their comfort zones and start demonstrating their impact on the bottom line, writes James Harrison.

With the much hyped credit crunch looming, there is greater emphasis for all business departments to justify their budgets. For sales this is a fairly straight forward process – how much are we spending on salaries and expenses measured against how much money is made. However, for marketing departments this is far harder to measure.

As a business overhead, the marketing function must now stop measuring itself against non-tangibles such as brand awareness and start to link its performance directly into the bottom line. They must be able to demonstrate to the rest of the company that their activities and results can show a clear ROI.

The actual measure can vary, but inevitably it will support the growth of the business either through increasing customer acquisition or driving sales. However, the biggest challenge marketing professionals face is that they need to change the view of what they do. They need to stop thinking of themselves as brand builders and reputation managers and now consider their role as a lead generating one.

This is much easier said than done, and the approach to measuring their success will take many marketing professionals out of their comfort zones. The first step in this process is for Marketing to stop measuring itself as individual silos; PR, Advertising, Direct Marketing and now Digital. Each of these marketing specialities can have a very positive impact on an organisation, but working together towards a common business objective will help focus them and establish a clear way of measuring their effectiveness.

Some of the business silos within organisations are far better at measuring and demonstrating their success than others, and the marketing head now needs to learn from and work with the other business heads to create a barometer by which to measure his success. They can work together to create the measurements for how Marketing can demonstrate a clear ROI, such as number of visits to the website, sales bought in via marketing, or reaching agreed number of customers. In addition, by working with these business silos, marketing is ensuring that the rest of the business is bought into what they are trying to achieve. 

The second process that marketers need to address is the way they create company messages. Marketers need to move away from what the company wants to say and identify what the audience needs. This way they can create an in-depth understanding of their audience. Who is it they want to communicate with? Who are those decision makers that sign off on the budgets to buy the products or services? What are their pain points? And finally and probably most importantly what and how do they digest information?

If a business can answer all these questions then you are well on your way to success. However, it is now down to the marketers to earn their money. They need to think about the impact that their collateral has on the audience they are trying to influence and create the language that is going to have the greatest impact.

From experience, we know that purchasing decisions are based on both rationale and emotion. The rationale is that they need a product or service, however they choice of product or service provider is based on emotion. The key here for marketers is to tap into that emotion by understanding their audience’s issues and challenges – and the strongest emotion is pain.

Hence marketers should be focussing their messages on their audience’s pain points. These pain points are the issues and challenges that the audience face achieving their objectives. Once these have been identified, it is then time to offer the solution in a manner that addresses these challenges.

Once these messages have been created they need to be used effectively through the different mediums available to the marketing department such as PR, advertising and direct mail. In addition, these messages should be used on the company website.

The role of the website has evolved – it is no longer just a shop window. This is now a sophisticated tool that generates sales, provides customer services and helps to build customer loyalty. However, too many websites have far too much content on them that their audience just does not read. By having very targeted messages you can reduce the amount of content and increase its impact.

Using the right language on the site, ensuring it is tied in with the right links to other sites and incorporating smart search engine optimisation methods, the website will become a hugely effective sales tool, ultimately helping marketers reach their objectives in a cost effective manner.

All of the above enables marketing to deliver figures that can show a clear ROI in a format that the rest of the business understands. This gives them something to focus their strategies on and be measured against. However, unless marketing professionals change the way their perceive their role; they will continue to struggle to deliver a clear ROI and be taken seriously by the rest of the business.

James Harrison is the joint MD of Harrison Moscow Communications.