By this point we all know that at the end of the day the top priority of marketing should be to create customers for the business – whatever the business may be.

As a marketer, you live in a world that is adding channels on seemingly a daily basis, while at the same time the consumers’ attention are being drawn in a hundred different directions making it increasingly difficult for any brand (especially those without an endless budget) to stand out.

In the end the mission is sales, well at least that is the myth, but I think we would all agree that when we invest in marketing we seek a return. More times than not those upstairs that write the checks and control the budget want marketing to drive more sales. But in a world of short attention spans and unprecedented options are there key performance indicators (KPI’s) that should be attached to marketing and social media efforts that span beyond just customer acquisition and sales?

The short answer is yes, there are, and while these new KPI’s should, by no means, replace the onus on marketers to create customers and revenue, they do measure different aspects of a business that are equally, if not more important, for long term performance than their traditional counterparts. In the vastly evolving landscape of marketing, the new KPI’s must also reflect the following:

  • Customer Retention: How successful are we in keeping customers and building repeat business?
  • Customer Satisfaction: Are our customers happy? How well are we doing in getting them to share their satisfaction to build word of mouth?
  • Product Improvements/Optimization: Is our community driving ideas to help us innovate? Whether products or services, do we have our finger on the pulse and how much are our customers helping us accomplish this?
  • Employee Productivity: Does the company adequately equip and empower employees to succeed?
  • Employee Retention: Are we creating a brand that employees are proud of and a place of work where they can grow personally and professionally?

Happier Customers, Better Products, Satisfied Employees

The business of the future should not simply measure their marketing by the dollar value returns that it creates.

If you look at the numerous studies that have shown the value of a satisfied customer or the return on stronger employee morale, you would have to be crazy to dismiss these items when determining the success of a marketing program.

The challenge that remains is how, or perhaps if it is possible to measure the direct value of investing in customer satisfaction.

For instance, Zappos, from their earliest days, have set out to build the ultimate customer experience. With almost a “Never-say-no-to-a-reasonable (or unreasonable) customer demand,” their customer experience teams will do whatever it takes to maintain a happy customer.

I suppose a marketer may say that is a customer service expense, but I would beg to differ. When an unhappy customers’ situation is flipped on its head by a small expense approved by an empowered customer service professional what you have is an investment in your customer; to create and keep them, and that is without a doubt a marketing investment. Furthermore, the cost of replacing a customer is 6x the cost of retention, so why wouldn’t we want to keep our customers happy?

Another great example is the way companies such as Dell and Starbucks use online communities to drive product development and innovation.  While one company is a technology company and the other is a beverage company, both have invested substantially in building their brand evangelists by making their most loyal customers ideas and input feel welcome and sometimes even utilized in their product optimization.

While Steve Jobs may have been known for never putting his ear to the street and just “knowing” what his customers want, he was the exception and not the rule. Companies that can find ways to listen and adapt to their customer feedback can build a new type of loyalty that translates into dollar returns. The challenge again is how do you attribute that to a campaign? Is it even possible?

Where Marketing ROI Is Heading

In the future Marketing ROI will have to spread its wings to move beyond just customer creation and measurable dollar value returns.  However, I want to be clear when I say that doesn’t mean those activities aren’t important, because they are.

The creation and continued evolution of metrics that measure the baseline value of more satisfied customers, the involvement of a brand’s community in product development and the investment in more satisfied employees will all become anchor points in the process of building a marketing strategy.

Perhaps the biggest difference will be the way smarter businesses big and small will apply the new marketing KPI’s to enhance their marketing 24/7/365 rather than placing a hyperawareness on the peaks and valleys created by a traditional marketing strategy, which is dependent on campaigns that do little to build loyalty within the brands’ stakeholders.