I am a great fan of measuring the return on your marketing investment (ROI). ROI helps you evaluate effectiveness, improve performance, refine strategies, and increase your level of confidence in your marketing activities.

In fact, I really can’t think of anything negative to say about ROI. Well, there is one: Almost no one in higher education consistently uses ROI tools and techniques.

I find the reluctance to use ROI tools very troublesome, and over the past several months I have asked a number of practitioners why they are cool to the idea of measuring ROI. Some of their reasons include:

  • No time
  • No resources
  • Looked at marketing as a cost
  • Poor data collection habits
  • Lack of numerical fluency
  • A budget mindset that focuses solely on costs
  • Turf
  • Don’t want to know
  • Overly political decision making

From my perspective, these sound a lot like excuses, not reasons.

Last year, a colleague at Stamats, Eric Sickler, took a look at the characteristics of colleges that have a demonstrated commitment to ROI. He discovered that these schools invariably shared a number of characteristics, including:

  • Seasoned, respected, and powerful marketing champion in place
  • Strong political support
  • A leadership team that viewed marketing as an investment
  • A leadership team that was focused on results
  • An integrated approach to marketing that recognized the different requirements for measuring brand, direct, and social media
  • Marketers who were strategic thinkers and consistently prioritized issues and opportunities
  • A marketing team that was quantitatively oriented
  • A willingness to religiously invest a portion of the marketing budget into analytics
  • A team that valued overall marketing success more than they valued any individual marketing activity
  • Recognize that without measurement there is no improvement

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

While I don’t have any hard data to support a final observation, I think the anecdotal data is there: institutions that are committed to ROI evidence a number of characteristics that are often important predictors of overall institutional success.

So there it is: ROI best practices appear to be 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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