No Proof of ROI

By Apr 01, 2009

Each issue, Chief Marketer will share one marketer’s story about what frustrates him about marketing technology. First up is Orvis’ Brad Wolansky.

Brad Wolansky’s biggest frustration with marketing technology these days isn’t about the technology.

It’s how the people selling it can never seem to demonstrate their software’s return on investment.

“I’m a math guy and it’s hard to make any investment, particularly in this environment, without being able to perform a measurable ROI in advance,” says the vice president, global e-commerce for outdoor gear merchant The Orvis Co. “If we’re going to make a technology investment, it’s got to have an ROI that is measurable and reportable. When I talk to vendors pitching a piece of software or a new idea — and I get about one a day — they’re never ready with that ROI calculation.”

He adds: “What would be refreshing is if someone presenting me their latest piece of software to do ‘X,’ in the same breath would say: ‘And here’s how it’s going to be measurable.’ ”

Most of the time, Wolansky says, the vendor can’t prove ROI because the software wasn’t designed to measure it.

“Sometimes they’ll say: ‘Well, you could do a before and after,’ but that’s nonsense,” says Wolansky. “Before and after doesn’t do anybody any good because there are too many variables. A/B [testing] is really the only way to measure something, and the only way to get A/B is if you build it into your software platform and you build it in from the beginning.”

When asked if he could provide an example of ROI proof done right during a sales pitch, Wolanksy mentions behavioral advertising platform provider Dotomi.

“I’m not ready to say this is a winning example, but it’s as close to one as I can give you,” he says.

Wolansky says he tried behavioral advertising with another vendor when it first came out, wasn’t satisfied with the results and stopped.

Enter Dotomi two years later, a company that has built the ability to measure ROI into its software, according to Wolansky.

“We’re in test mode with Dotomi and they’ve built into their platform an A/B testing methodology,” he says. “I never would have had a second conversation with them if they hadn’t built this in to prove their case.”

He adds: “Anyone who has a good piece of software who can demonstrate its performance: Hey, I still have money to spend. Granted, it’s harder to put new projects in place.”

Got a marketing technology frustration you’d like to share? Visit our forums at forums.chiefmarketer.com or e-mail ken.magill@penton.com.