How to Measure ROI During Tough Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that brands do business. With government-mandated shelter in place orders, consumers are figuring out new ways of doing business in order to fill their needs and wants. As consumers navigate how to continue supporting their favored brands, businesses are adapting their marketing efforts to continue to reach their audience.

Even though times are tough right now, it's essential as a business owner to stay the course and weather the storm. This is uncharted territory for businesses and consumers, and adapting to meet the needs of your customers is critical. You need to shift your messaging and strategy, which will ultimately change how you're tracking your ROI. 

In this article, we will discuss several ways in which you can effectively measure ROI during tough times.

Determine Your Goals

The first thing you must determine when contemplating an adjustment in your marketing strategy is what your most important objectives are. While customer acquisition and increasing revenue are always at the top of the list, during the current times, you may need to shift your focus to match the reality of the situation. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to accomplish with my marketing?
  • Is my primary goal to increase brand awareness?
  • Am I trying to increase sales right now? If so, what is a realistic goal to have? Can my customers actually purchase from me right now? 
  • Are my objectives realistic in light of the current situation?

Common Marketing Objectives to Consider: 

  • Increase overall sales 
  • Increase sales for a particular product or service
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Acquire new customers
  • Retain current customers 
  • Drive referrals or reviews 
  • Increase engagement with your target audience
  • Expand business with new products and services

The key to properly setting goals is to identify them with the SMART methodology: your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Here’s an example of a SMART goal you might set for your business right now:

  • Specific: Increase website traffic by 30%. 
  • Measurable: Increase website traffic by 30%, which would mean having unique monthly visitors averaging 60,000 or more per month. 
  • Achievable: We believe this is achievable because we already receive steady views and they’re starting to increase with more consumers being online and an increase in new content published to our social media and website. 
  • Realistic: With consumers spending the majority of their time at home, they’re online more often. If our website gets more traffic, it will help to increase brand awareness and keep our business top-of-mind with consumers.
  • Time-bound: While there isn’t a set end date to shelter-in-place measures, we have set a date to achieve this goal by the end of July. 

When you adequately identify and set your goals according to the times, you will be able to measure them more efficiently and effectively.

Choose KPIs that Align With Your Goals

Once you've determined your marketing goals and overall strategy, you'll need to decide on how you will measure your ROI utilizing appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs). Common KPIs associated with radio and digital advertising include:

  • Gross sales. The overall revenue coming in from customer purchases, before any deductions are made.
  • Customer acquisition. The number of new customers acquired during a designated time frame.
  • Return on spend. Also known as "return on ad spend" (or ROAS), this basic metric helps quantify the effectiveness of a given marketing campaign. The formula is: revenue / cost = ROAS.
  • Email marketing results. The effectiveness of an email marketing initiative is often measured by the open rate and click-through rate (CTR).
  • Website visits. The number of unique visitors to your company's website during a set period of time.
  • Social media engagement. This can be measured in several ways -- the number of followers your account receives, number of likes or comments a post receives, and the number of shares a post generates.

While times are complicated and marketing strategies are adapting, the KPIs in which you measure the success of a campaign remains the same. Choose KPIs that best fit your current goals so that you can best evaluate how your marketing is performing right now and continue to evaluate and optimize your efforts. 

How Does Measuring ROI Change During a Time of Crisis?

The current crisis has made many businesses adjust the way they measure marketing effectiveness. As a result, some of the KPIs listed above have become more difficult to measure, whereas others have become more commonly used.

What may need to change when measuring ROI? Here are some factors to consider:

  • You may need to adjust your goals and measurement criteria. For example, customer acquisition might have slowed down for the time being. However, you may still be able to keep your brand top-of-mind for customers and prospects. Change your tactics and choose new KPIs to measure so that you can see how your business is performing during this tough time. Good ways to measure awareness include engagement, website traffic, and social mentions. 
  • You may not be able to measure in-store traffic and sales at the present time. It may be best to switch your efforts to amplify your digital presence to subsequently account for the loss of in-store traffic and sales. If you’re able to still sell your products or services, even if in a new and non-traditional way, be sure to tweak your marketing to reflect that as well as how you’re tracking your ROI.
  • Your ads are more empathetic with the current state of the times. Don’t rely on your messaging that was produced before the pandemic. Rework your marketing creative to be more sensitive and thoughtful to what your customers and prospects are currently going through. For example, Budweiser’s #OneTeam campaign is highlighting those working the front lines while informing their audience that they are shifting their sports investments to provide aid. 

Times are tough now, but if you are willing to adapt your marketing strategy and KPIs to the "new normal," your business will likely come out the other side more reliable than ever. As you make these changes, you will still be able to measure your ROI in these tough times. Remember, this is only temporary, and the changes you make to your business now will help you in the future.

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