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Defending marketing's ROI starts with measurement

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The new "Hindsight" box on the facing page sends me back in time every two weeks to read stories and news from the pages of BtoB predecessors Class, Industrial Marketing and Business Marketing. These visits to the Crain Communications Inc. archives are fascinating in part because I often find items that are as relevant today as when they were first published.

Take the following excerpt from a March 1939 essay by Keith J. Evans, manager of the sales promotion division, Inland Steel Co., and advertising manager, Joseph T. Ryerson & Sons Inc., Chicago:

"When considering the marketing problem from an advertising viewpoint, too many of us are prone to substitute clever ideas in copy, design and art work for a scientific study of product and customer interests."

The editors of Industrial Marketing liked Evans' essays a great deal. Indeed, the series debuted in Class more than a decade earlier, in 1923.

Without measurement you cannot begin to answer return on investment questions. ROI has always been important, but in the current economy and squeezed budgets, it has been elevated to the very top of the list.

Quantifying marketing's value is the topic of this issue's Page 1 story by Senior Reporter Kate Maddox. Maddox spoke to advertisers, agencies and analysts about how marketers handle ROI. Her story is essential reading for anyone defending a budget today.

"There is no recession in measurement," Don E. Schultz declared in a keynote address at the B2BBQ Marketing and Media Summit last month in Austin. "Anyone who's in the measurement business at this point, particularly of advertising and promotion and branding, has more business then they know what to do with." Schultz is president of consulting firm Agora Inc. in Evanston, Ill., professor of integrated marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and author of several books on marketing, advertising, branding and sales.

During his talk, Schultz advised his audience to explain marketing projects in terms of their contribution to the bottom line, correctly noting that this is the language chief executives care about.

Measurement can also cause grief. Consider those who salivated at the concept of the online banner ad. They hoped to have a dynamic mechanism for gauging an ad's effectiveness: the click-through. You have to smile at the unhappiness over those numbers, which have tumbled over time. Without measurement, we'd still be debating the value of banners, instead of adapting our strategies and trying new things.

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