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Hard and Soft Digital Marketing ROI

March 15, 2017

We get asked a lot “What’s my Digital Marketing ROI going to be?”. For years, we have answered this question with almost total focus on the “hard ROI” based on searches per month, cost per click on Pay per Click, conversion rates, SEO difficulty, conversion rates, and sales per raw lead. These predictions were helpful and in most cases did provide a glimpse into what was possible for ROI on an online marketing investment.

The problem with predicting hard ROI is that even though there’s tons of data available, a lot of assumptions have to be made on each step of the process. It will never be an exact science because the marketing systems keep changing and competitors are not going to stand still for the status quo. Our advice on predicting hard ROI is to ask a few simple questions:

Often, for big ticket B2B items, the math is simple, one big sale will pay for 6 months or a year of digital marketing. When the profit per sale goes down, the simple approach may not be accurate enough. In this case, a six month or one-year test to get more data may be your best bet. This is where the SOFT ROI of DIGITAL MARKETING comes in.

Soft ROI for digital marketing includes these kinds of things:

If you watch the data, the impacts from the soft ROI will start to impact your hard ROI numbers. Sales from other lead generation activities will increase. You will get more leads from trade shows because the people that visited your website after getting a brochure will be impressed. Loyal customers will share your blog posts and social activities with others like them who might be future customers. Leads from networking or word-of-mouth will easily find you online, get more information from your website and call you.

ROI from digital marketing hasn’t turned out to be the exact science we all thought it would be 5 years ago. However the ROI is real and adds value to your business.

At B2B Marketing, we specialize in lead generation for B2B businesses so hard ROI is in our DNA. We are working to better understand the full ROI including the soft factors in this article. If you have ideas or thoughts, please send them to us at or call at 843-670-7838.

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