Why You Must Measure the Return on Your Marketing Investment

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Part 11 of 12: What I Wish I Knew as a New Marketer

I want to let you in on a little secret.

The best way to gain internal credibility for your marketing efforts, do better marketing, and even increase your marketing budget, is not directly related to planning, creativity, or even management, but in drawing a link between your marketing investment and the revenue generated by that investment.


You guessed it, another conversation about mROI.

mROI, of course, stands for measuring return on investment.

Instead of simply looking at return, those who practice mROI are interested in the revenue generated by that return.1

Let me state it another way. If XXYYZZ University spends $3 million on marketing with no understanding how that initiative impacted their bottom line, the likelihood is high that marketing will always be seen as a cost and when budgets are tight, that seven figure cost will loom large.

But suppose XXYYZZ University knew that the $3 million investment in marketing generated $4 million in tuition or annual fund revenue. In other words, for each dollar invested, they earned $1.33 back. This insight changes the core question. Instead of “Why did we spend so much?” the question becomes “Why don’t we invest more?”

Because this logic is so clear, you cannot help but ask, “why do so few colleges practice mROI?”

Not Using mROI

I think the answers are both philosophical and practical.

On the philosophical side, many marketers are wary of measurement and believe that marketing effectiveness simply cannot be measured with any great precision. While that may be true of some marketing, the reality is that while not all marketing can be measured, more can be measured than most marketers want to admit. Across the board, the tools for measurement are improving.

Read Part 10: Great Marketing Makes for Great Messaging, Part 1

Eager to more fully understand why practitioners are often cool to the idea of measuring ROI, I began to query my clients. Some of their reasons were a little less philosophical. The reasons I heard most often include:

  • No time
  • No resources
  • Poor data collection habits
  • A budget mindset that focuses solely on costs
  • Turf
  • Don’t want data to get in the way of what they want to do

Using mROI

We once looked at the characteristics of colleges that have a demonstrated commitment to mROI. During this research we noted that these institutions tend to display the following traits:

  • Seasoned, respected, and powerful marketing champion in place
  • Strong political support for marketing
  • A leadership team that intuitively understands marketing as an investment and not just a cost
  • A leadership team focused on outcomes and not merely output
  • Marketers who are strategic thinkers and consistently prioritize issues and opportunities
  • A marketing team that is quantitatively oriented
  • A willingness to religiously invest a portion of the marketing budget into analytics
  • A team that values overall marketing success more than they value any individual marketing activity
  • A team that recognizes that without measurement there is no improvement

It dawned on me that these two sets of characteristics describe not only two distinct approaches to marketing, but two distinct approaches to campus leadership.

I don’t have any hard data to support a final observation, but I am pretty sure that I am correct: It appears that mROI best practices are inextricably linked to institutional best practices as well. Or stated another way, institutions with a commitment to best practices in one area likely are committed to best practices in other areas as well.

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