One of more interesting conversations I've had lately has been around return on their marketing investment. Every prospect or client wants to know how they are making money from the money they are spending on marketing. Historically that's been hard as traditional, offline media makes it virtually impossible to know how a billboard, radio spot or brochure impacts the sales cycle. With money shifting to online channels and the advent of analytics the expectations about what companies are getting from marketing has been elevated. As marketers we need to keep up, but there's a lot on the client side that needs to happen as well.
The hardest part from my experience is trying to get clients to operationalize conversion points - the areas of their business that need to adjust or change that can help marketers and business owners alike see the impact that marketing is having. It could be creating landing pages that tie into PPC campaigns, a phone number for calls from a campaign you create, or simply asking new customers how they heard of you. All can start the chain of information required to know the true ROI of marketing. Sometimes that means changes in how a business is run or how information is tracked, but it's required if you are going have insight into the buying cycle and marketing's impact on it.
For e-commerce sites conversion points are relatively simple - they all go back to a click on their website at some stage and depending on your sophistication can point to where the click came from and give credit where it's due. Since I deal with a lot of service-based companies the goals are more about people setting up appointments, placing service orders or downloading content. As marketers we need to ask our clients about conversion points and determine effective, efficient ways to track them so there is visibility into the entire buying cycle. It may mean some non-marketing questions, but if you can crack that code your value to the business will grow exponentially.
Marketing always has to fight for dollars - if we can show our direct impact on the business and prove our ROI then money will come faster and easier. Take the time to talk to your clients about the buying cycle and conversion points. It will give you the edge you need to show them value both now and down the road.