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Historically, marketers have found it difficult to measure their return on investment. Even so, its importance means that 7 in 10 digital marketers say they are currently measuring ROI. But is that really what they are measuring? A new report [pdf] from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions suggests that marketers may be measuring KPIs but not ROI.

First off, LinkedIn’s survey of 4,000 B2B and B2C marketing professionals across the globe found that marketers are measuring ROI too quickly. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents say they measure ROI during the first month, with one-quarter (26%) measuring within the first week of the campaign. This seems incongruent considering 55% of those same marketers state they have a sales cycle that is 3 or more months long.

Indeed, B2B sales cycles can typically take an average of 6 months or more. However, only 4% of respondents say they measure ROI at the 6-month timeframe.

What Are Marketers Measuring?

When asked what metrics they use to measure ROI, respondents named a variety that they use across their objectives. LinkedIn argues that marketers are not measuring ROI but instead are measuring KPIs, which only give a short-term view of a campaign and not the overall story.

Marketers most often used the number of likes/shares/followers to measure objectives such as increasing brand awareness (54% using for this objective), building an online presence (58%) and increasing engagement with content (74%). Further down the funnel, respondents used conversion rate to enrollment or customer (60%) and total enrollments or revenue generated (48%) most when measuring lead nurturing.

However, on average the metric most often used across all objectives were cost-per-click (CPC) and click-through-rate (CTR). The report points out that CPC is a KPI – not a measure of ROI – as it does not show impact per advertising dollar spent. That said, just because a metric is used the most does not mean that it is the primary metric.

On this note, it might be worth pointing out separate research by Spiceworks, which notes that B2B marketers focus on lead and conversion metrics. LinkedIn’s B2B nature means that while its advertisers may be more focused on these areas, it’s in LinkedIn’s interest to encourage advertising strategies beyond such methods.

The Pressure to Report ROI

Marketers are probably using these short-term indicators like CPC and CTR in lieu of ROI because they are under pressure to show results and justify their spend early on in a campaign.

With 46% of respondents to LinkedIn’s survey saying they have budget allocations discussions at least once a month, the pressure is on to justify spending. Another 58% say they need ROI to justify their spend as well as get approval on future budgets.

Marketers are also quick to optimize campaigns, with 90% saying they make optimization decisions within one month of the campaign (75% doing so within 2 weeks).

Sharing ROI Results

Six in 10 respondents say they share their ROI results with other stakeholders. Some 47% of those share them with other marketing teams, while others share them with finance (30%) and sales (29%). How marketers share their results is dependent on the type of company they work for, per the survey. SMB marketers were found to share more often with other marketing teams while marketers working for enterprise companies share more with cross-functional teams.

No matter who they’re sharing them with, almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents report not feeling very confident in their ROI measurements.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Results are based on a survey of 4,000 global B2B and B2C marketing professionals from 19 countries across industries.

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