We often talk about marketing ROI, or the return on investment in advertising, as if it is a fixed and immutable number.

You may have heard the story of a marketing professional at a large consumer goods company headquartered in Cincinnati who famously carried a little card around with the ROI of each media channel printed on it. Whenever a media salesperson pitched a new media channel, this dog-eared reference would be consulted. The marketing pro would compare the ROI of the proposed media to those listed on the card and frequently reject it based on these fixed (and inaccurate) ROI scores.

Unfortunately, this anecdote represents a common theme in marketing. Looking at ROI in this myopic way limits the overall potential of your marketing mix to drive higher returns and increased performance for your business.

So how should one look at marketing ROI, and more importantly, are there ways to increase it?

Assess the return

First, let’s lay to rest the idea that a channel or marketing effort has a static ROI or an ROI independent of the entire marketing mix. When trying to assess the return on one’s marketing investment, it’s essential that the effort is measured holistically. Managing marketing channels separately and using siloed measurements fails to show any interaction effects. Marketers’ jobs might be somewhat dependent on their ability to measure what’s working, what’s not, and just as importantly, what may be helping or hindering the overall marketing effort.

Leading marketers are quickly adopting Unified Measurement/Total Marketing Measurement models — a new category coined by Forrester and Gartner respectively. The concept is the evolution of measurement methods to provide one integrated, holistic view of marketing effectiveness. Most significantly, however, a unified measurement approach gives marketers new capabilities to leverage interaction effects between channels, creating a 1 + 1 = 3 effect.

These integrated solutions deliver insights to marketers to better model the impact marketing and advertising are having at the person level. The approach has the dual benefit of strategic insight and tactical decision-making: integrated solutions help guide investment in different media coupled with methods to best match creative, copy and messaging across every channel — both online and offline.

With a unified measurement approach, you may create — or hack — a higher ROI for your marketing investment.

Hacks that can influence one’s overall return are:

  • The message.
  • The targeting.
  • The reach and frequency dynamic.
  • The cost of advertising.
  • The media.

1. Hack the message

It may seem obvious, but the message and the creative you use to deliver it have a considerable influence on the impact of your marketing. We know that getting the right message to the right people can drive a significant increase in a channel’s effectiveness.

Even more importantly, a better understanding of the interaction effects of marketing can inform the best combination of messages across a customer’s journey. For example, a consumer may see a commercial on television, search on their computer, watch a product review on a social media app, and finally, get directions to a store on their phone. Advertisers with a unified view…