“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”. When John Wannamaker said this over 100 years ago, he had a really good excuse! In 2017, with all the knowledge and tools at our disposal, there is no excuse. I cannot think of a senior executive team or company board that would be prepared to accept, let alone listen to, ‘alternative facts’ from their head of marketing! It is now critical for organisations to have clarity from their marketing departments about where to invest for best impact. And as we head in to an extremely uncertain world presenting great threats – or great opportunities – it seems far too many marketers are still reluctant to put their heads above the parapet when it comes to confidently and consistently demonstrating marketing ROI. With budgets coming under increasing pressure, organisations need to ensure their marketing efforts are incredibly focused, producing the best possible ROI – tactically and strategically. Focus, focus, focus Ashley Friedlein (Founder of Econsultancy) recently published his predictions for 2017 digital and marketing trends. We were thrilled to see that his #1 trend is ‘focus’ as the guiding principle for marketing in 2017. Ashley argues that shareholders and boards are losing patience with marketing and digital strategy and execution ‘which lacks focus’. He believes that too much indecision, incompetence and lack of operational clarity is dressed up as ‘agile’ marketing or obscured with ambiguous phrases. So we need focus, and ROI needs to be tied directly to a very clear set of marketing objectives covering: Reach: in to clearly defined target markets – feeding the funnel Engagement: top of funnel interaction via various channels Conversion rates: through a number of clearly defined stages Revenue: yes – marketing IS accountable for revenue! Positioning: ‘perception is reality’. What do your customers and prospects think of about you? Start with the facts… As we head in to ‘choppy waters’, to stay afloat, you need clarity on the elements of your marketing that deliver good ROI so that you can continue investing for growth. Your competitors may very well start sinking, or shrinking, as they focus on the wrong things or spread their investments across too many areas. So the first, critical investment you need to make must be in analysing the results of your marketing over the last two to three years. Don’t be afraid if the hard data you have seems thin in quantity or uneven in quality. Make what you’ve got work as hard as it can. Go back to the raw data if you need to, and search for insights that might guide you. And while you’re doing this, start putting in place systems and processes to enable you to track and measure your marketing activity and outcomes. In doing this, seek progress, not perfection. You’ll get close to perfection faster than you think! Invest in expertise If you need more expertise than you have in your business to get this done, don’t hesitate to enlist help from a specialist partner. The payoff from working with external experts with vast experience, depth of knowledge and the right skillsets will far outweigh any initial costs. The sooner you can gain clarity on what has worked in the past, and implement the tools to measure your marketing results going forward, the sooner you will be able to ramp up your marketing ROI. Our quest for truth It is my personal mission, shared by the team at MPG, to ensure marketing stays well clear of a reputation for presenting ‘post-truths’, frighteningly Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016. It is unforgivable to put forward marketing reports and strategies full of material ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. The world has come a long way in the past 100 years and – forgive me for being sentimental – I hope that marketing can be a beacon of hope, light and truth as we enter the next 100!