social media roiDespite possibly being the most overused business buzzword, everyone can understand the importance of ROI (Return on Investment for anyone unaware).

From CEOs all the way down to entry-level associates, it’s not hard to comprehend the need for determining expectations on what you can ‘get back’ from any kind of spend (time, money, etc.).

Note: That sentence doesn’t read, “…determining expectations on what you will ‘get back’ from…” 

See the difference?

Don’t get me wrong: Placing importance on knowing ROI is not a bad thing. In fact, it is necessary to develop metrics and goals to measure your investments successfully. However, this is where I am taking a sharp right turn – because ROI is rarely, if ever, guaranteed.

At the end of the day, no one has a crystal ball that can predict a business’s probability for marketing ROI. Moreover, if they say they can, you should probably be skeptical to what they are predicting. In a world with that level of predictability, the business community would likely be stable and perhaps a little stale. (It might also mean we’d be sending our kids to the Hogwarts School of Business.)

Some answers simply can’t be determined at certain stages of the process. Nobody can say things like:

  • If we want to grow revenue by 50 percent this year, we need to do 100 email campaigns.
  • If we invest $5K/month in marketing, we will get 5,000 new customers this year.
  • If we blog 5 days/week, we will increase our traffic by 4X.

It’s not that these statements are unfair or invalid. They just aren’t productive or practical approaches to determining a marketing spend or investment. Generally speaking, your business, customers, and potential leads are constantly changing. What might be a good strategy today could become an ineffective one tomorrow.

Take an email campaign for example. There needs to be calculated experimentation (guided by experience, strategy, and best practices) to find the message that resonates with the intended audience. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing approach.

That means you have to experiment to find the best subject line type that will work with your audience. You have to run A/B tests with CTAs to find what color converts best. Then, you might test the font – and on and on.

As a business or professional in search of marketing assistance, you should demand transparency, expectations, and goals when considering working with a marketing agency. Realize, though, that agencies cannot and should not promise ROI. However, here is what they can promise:

  • A partnership focused on achieving well-defined
  • A well-defined documented marketing plan and strategy.
  • A clear and transparent stream of communication (with reporting on tracked ROI).
  • A list of references that will speak to dedication, expertise, and character.