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Carl Gerhardt

Business Sense & Sensibility

By Carl Gerhardt

About Carl

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

 

Marketing ROI – Who Cares?

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Recently, there was an article shared by Printing Impressions that may have been a bit shocking to those entering the marketing services/cross-media arena. The article was from Advertising Age with the headline “Study Finds Marketers Don't Practice ROI They Preach.” A study of 243 CMOs found that the large majority don’t establish their budgets with the intent to use ROI as a key metric.

That seems to contradict some of the talk during the recession that marketing executives now scrutinize virtually every marketing project for an ROI. It seem that the words spoken by department store founder John Wanamaker more than 80 years ago—“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.”—are still very much the order of the day.

Those of us who grew up in the corporate marketing world may have a better grasp on this. Savvy marketers often must work in “gray areas” of value measurement for projects. This makes it especially difficult to keep top management (or a customer) sold on the work you are doing and to protect the marketing spend necessary for any company to succeed.

Unfortunately, this mindset can also cause many marketers to cop out when it is time to justify results. The attitude that “if my boss (or customer) is happy, that works for me” will not last long when the financial chips are down and it can end up becoming career limiting or customer limiting.

Industry pundits promoting marketing services tell us that we need to use all of the sophisticated tools in the Web-to-print and cross-media arsenal to be able to measure and track ROI. But, why spend the money on those tools when marketers are still not really actively using ROI to measure results?

It could be that the study mentioned above is flawed and/or that we tend to draw generalized conclusions that lead us down the wrong path. It would seem logical that marketers would want to prove the value of their efforts. More importantly, we can create competitive advantage by helping them to measure value.

We could spend pages analyzing the reasons why it is so difficult to track marketing campaigns and determine return on investment on marketing dollars spent. Instead let’s just list a few key points to keep in mind when we work with our clients on marketing projects and campaigns:
  • Recognize that even though many, if not most, clients do not track ROI on marketing plans and projects, they should do so in the best way possible.
  • When we sell a program, obtain agreement as to how a program will be measured.
  • Don’t over promise or create unreasonable expectations.
  • Don’t assume that small businesses without dedicated marketing executives don’t care about value measurement. They may actually be more keyed into ROI than large companies since the owner is most likely involved in marketing decisions.

Finally, the study I mentioned found that 57 percent of the responding CMOs don’t establish their budgets according to ROI measures. Doesn’t that mean that 43 percent do? Those of us selling marketing campaigns would be well advised to always consider the ROI as an important part of the value promise we make to our customers.
 

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