ROI: The New Age of Return on Understanding (ROU)

“Outside of finding the right external partners, in your experience, what are our biggest challenges to getting the ROI we desire?”

A client recently asked us this question after a pitch meeting—a thoughtful question that would naturally arise out of a discussion about dedicating dollars towards marketing investments. 

We answered their question right away: ROI (Return on Investment) is directly correlated with strategic focus. The challenge is keeping that focus from the onset. While we were content with that response in the moment, the exploration of the question, and its best response, weighed on our minds. 

This question is at the forefront of every marketer’s mind today—75% of marketers report being under pressure to cut MarTech spending this year to deliver better ROI. The stakes are too high, the market moves too fast, attention is too limited, and dollars are too finite to look past a healthy ROI. And while focused strategy is still the linchpin of our approach to higher ROI, it’s worth looking at the problem from a wider lens. 

Here’s our new answer: ROI = ROU (Return on Understanding). When your marketing investments and efforts are dedicated to better understanding, the returns inevitably follow.

Let us explain.

Waste Not, Want Not

At the risk of being cliche, John Wannamaker’s iconic lament, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,’ is an important starting point for ROI. Waste and marketing have been linked forever since. Now it’s the ‘job’ of new marketers to try and eradicate that notion—to preach the belief that XYZ is the salve for ‘marketing waste.’

At Mabbly, we believe waste and lack of understanding are inextricably linked. That’s why our mission, every day, is Elevation through Understanding. The better our understanding, the truer the path to elevation becomes. So, what, exactly must we understand?

  1. Understand the Real Problem We’re Solving

Every partnership starts with some version of the same request: Help us deliver what’s currently out of reach. However, the nuances within those asks are critical in the pursuit of success. 

If we don’t dig in and understand the true challenges and opportunities specific to each client, we’re no better than a medieval doctor treating the sniffles with ‘let’s amputate.’ It’s the acute areas of focus where we create accurate diagnoses of what needs to be dealt with, and subsequently, how to deal with those issues. The more we understand, the better we can treat the cause, not the symptom.

  1. Understand What Makes Them Tick

Mabbly serves all types of clients in all types of categories. But much like our client in question, we tend to encounter industries and services that are on the periphery of the public eye or are more technical in nature. And with each new technical challenge, we strive to keep one consistent ambition in mind—where’s the opportunity for human connection?

We’re not alone in this sentiment—only 38% of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs. 

Successful marketing is a byproduct of attention gained, and then attention rewarded. This combination falls short if we only focus on what’s true to the world of our category, not what’s critical to the heart and mind of our audience. With a clear understanding of what’s going unanswered, unaddressed, or unconsidered, we can create, capture, and convert.

  1. Understand What Works, What Doesn’t, and What to Do Next

Back to Mr. Wannamaker: How can we know what works? Well, that’s where an infrastructure of measurement and management plays a huge role. Unfortunately, only 33% of marketers strongly agree they gain insights fast enough for impactful decision-making.

It’s not enough to just show up in the right places. Every bit of marketing must take place in a carefully managed ecosystem of messages, ideas, and actions. When marketing is carefully planned, deployed, tracked, and recalibrated, we can then formulate new hypotheses and return to the world with more information and a clearer understanding of where we’re making waves and where we can improve.

Simply put, understanding is at the heart of every marketing strategy. If you want a higher ROI, you better start with a deeper understanding. ROI is ROU.

Reach out to Mabbly, a Chicago digital marketing agency, to learn how a deeper understanding of your marketing strategy can improve ROI.