How To Guide: Optimized ROI – Increase marketing’s impact on revenue

1000 667 Pete Furseth

As promised in our last blog post, we will walk you through how to get your ROI the ORM Technologies way. We call it Optimized ROI.
This post was originally designed to be the last in a series of Martech posts. We were going to deep dive specifically on getting the Optimized ROI for your Martech stack only. However, we were getting a lot of messages asking how we’d get the Optimized ROI for all of marketing in general.

Since we got all those requests, we decided to broaden this deep dive to Optimized ROI for all marketing efforts.
The rest of this post is going to be pretty detailed, so I’ll give you a short two paragraph summary version before we dive in:

In brief

ROI is ridiculously important to understand not only how marketing impacts revenue, but what specific marketing investments are worthwhile. However, determining ROI at the depth and level required is difficult and time consuming.

In a profession dominated by timing, any amount of it wasted is a hit to our ability to enable revenue growth. That’s why ORM created a framework to automatically calculate ROI at all depths for tools, content, campaigns, and more. That way the next time you’re asked about ROI you don’t feel like this:
Optimized ROI: The answer you need
The rest of this article will be a deep dive (as promised) into calculating ROI the ORM way. Let’s get going.

Recap: ROI is a simple concept

With ROI, the cost of the tool/service/content/marketing effort is measured against the revenue it drives to you.

Here’s the issue: most often, anything that calculates ROI uses a “single attribution” method. For example, if you have some pay-per-click advertisement tool (say Google AdWords) their method of ROI would tell you that their tool gets 100% of the revenue from a lead that clicks on their ad that eventually became a won opportunity.

The truth: that tool may have been only part of the overall journey for that customer. While you could attribute every dollar multiple times between all the touches and interactions in that journey, you’ll only end up with ROI that heavily favors each individual tool and not your return.

What you need: Optimized ROI

Optimized ROI is what we call our method for calculating ROI across all marketing efforts. Now we’ll talk about how it works. First things first:

1. Measurement

It’s hard to calculate anything if you don’t have any numbers to begin with… At the very least, you need to track your leads’ journey.
Optimized ROI: Measurement

Who & What

At a minimum, know your leads and be able to distinguish them. Next, know what parts of your “content” they interact with. If you have a Marketing Automation Platform like Marketo or Eloqua, you should have all of that (or at least be able to do it easily).


When leads enter your funnel, know where they came from:

  • Social
  • List purchase
  • Anonymous/Organic
  • Advertisements

In other words, know your lead sources and make sure you’re tracking them. This is super useful for breaking down the ROI by origin of leads.


When a lead interacts with your content, how did they interact? Did they look at your content, click on something, watch a video, download a white paper? We’ll call these responses to your content.

What counts as a successful journey?

A lead interacts with your content multiple times. Whether that’s the same piece of content, or a program/campaign consisting of lots of individual “content”, doesn’t matter. The end of the journey is either successful or not. If a lead drops off the page before clicking the video on the landing page or doesn’t click through the call to action in your last email campaign, then it was an unsuccessful conclusion. A successful response is getting to the end of the journey; any lead that doesn’t get there had an unsuccessful response.

Go through your content and determine what counts as a successful response. Any other response we’ll count as unsuccessful.

Next step

Next, we need to associate our leads to opportunities. Which sounds simple, but usually isn’t.

Automated Lead to Opportunity Association

We first track all of our leads’ journeys. Next we need to ensure we still know which lead evolved into an opportunity as we track the opportunity through its lifecycle.

The “Automated” Part

Let’s stress that this should be automated. Relying on a salesperson having to click a button that says “convert lead to opportunity” is a recipe for missed ROI. Unless they are very disciplined when making a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) into to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), you’ll lose out on ROI. That’s not even including marketing-influenced opportunities you’d miss out on by relying on that manual process. Those are the leads that converted to opportunities that you might have been marketing to but didn’t finish their journeys before being scooped up by sales.

2. Calculate

Calculating Optimized ROI can be a rather silly balancing act
This is a slightly more complicated part. Remember all the responses that leads have to your content? Now we tie the revenue from opportunities to the responses of the lead associated with each opportunity. Does that make sense?

Revenue -> Won Opportunity -> Lead -> Responses

Awesome. When using Optimized ROI, we don’t want all the revenue going to each response. We want some fraction of the revenue to go to each response. Perhaps a bit obvious, but we want a higher fraction to go to successful responses over unsuccessful. After all, if a response was successful, that means that our marketing effort was successful (based on what we did in step 1.).

Attribution Models

In Optimized ROI, deciding what fraction of revenue each response gets is called the Attribution Model. Different models attribute revenue in different ways. We’ve previously written about many different attribution models. For this example let’s use a multitouch weighted attribution model.

Say what?

In Plain English:

We’ll attribute some fraction of revenue to all responses, but we’ll weigh successful responses higher than unsuccessful responses. For example, if a successful response has a weight of 5, then an unsuccessful response might have a weight of 1 (or even 0 if you don’t want to consider them at all). With one lead, there might be multiple journeys. We’ll divide the revenue between each journey based on each weight. So, if there are 2 journeys, and one has a weight of 6 and the other has a weight of 4. Then the first journey gets 60% of the revenue and the second gets 40%.

Can we complicate this any further? Yes.

Now that we have an attribution model, we can start rolling up revenue. That’s only half of ROI though. We still need costs. You’ll need the costs broken down by marketing effort. That way we can assign costs down to lead responses.

What next

Alright, let’s assume we have all this data. We’re savvy with Excel so we plunk it all into a big sheet and roll up all the revenue and costs. We’re feeling good, but then in walks the boss who says, “I don’t like this revenue attribution model. I want a position weighted model where only the first and last touch matter.” Welp. We need our Excel sheet to be flexible enough to do that.

3. Flexibility

Just as our marketing efforts change and adapt overtime, our ideas and conceptions on attributing revenue (and even costs) change. As part of your ROI framework, you need to have the flexibility to change attributions. This may not seem mission critical right now, but it really is.
Optimized ROI Flexibility

What-If Analysis

The ability to do “What-If” analysis is vital in understanding your ROI. You can get totally different ROI numbers with only slightly different attribution models. Some models have an inherent bias. First-touch models favor the “Drivers” (tools/content/campaigns that drive leads into your marketing funnel). Last-touch models do the opposite. They favor the “Converters”. These are the tools/content/etc. that push the leads over the edge to become MQLs.

One model or another may completely change how your marketing ROI looks. This helps you see the full picture. You can see the “best” ROI a tool could have, the “worst”, and the “middle ground” all by changing the attribution model.

That’s why flexibility isn’t just valuable, it’s critical.

4. Slice and Dice

Now that you have the flexibility to shift how your attribution works, we can start reporting in all kinds of ways. Since we were wise enough to attribute revenue at the response level, we have a lot of reporting possibilities.
Revenue by:

  • Journey/campaign/content/etc
  • Lead source
  • Lead demographic data
  • Any lead segmentation

Why is that cool?

Having that depth of reporting gives you the ability to track the ROI of your marketing efforts and the Martech tools you use.
If you have a tool that produces leads (e.g. a list purchase service), you can see the ROI of the leads from that tool. Hopefully, you’re getting revenue to justify the cost of those list purchases.

Similarly, if you have a tool to create optimized content, hopefully, the ROI from that content is better than content that doesn’t use that tool.

Measurable A/B Testing

In that vein of thought, this reporting power for ROI is a great way to perform A/B testing. Try a few campaigns using your tool and a few without. Measuring the ROI will tell you if it’s really worth it. Even if the tool generates more revenue, if the cost is so high that the ROI is the same as not using the tool, then you’re better off spending those dollars elsewhere.

Apart from doing A/B testing against the tools, it also gives you great insight into what works and what doesn’t in your marketing efforts. Trying different content and messaging yields more data to help figure out what works well for your business.


Most importantly, this reporting depth helps you determine sustainability. In the end, we want sustainable marketing strategies. We can all get lucky and time a message just right to have an outrageously awesome reaction (the Power Law). Yet we want to make our marketing baseline higher month over month and year over year. We do that by identifying sustainable marketing strategies with good ROI. It is impossible to that as quickly as we could without optimizing for your ROI.

5. Optimized ROI

This is the best part. When you can look at your ROI in all kinds of ways, have the flexibility to change how ROI is calculated under the hood, and the detail down to the response, we can do some pretty epic stuff.

“Data is the new bacon” in this new age, and we love new age bacon. With all our ROI data, we’re going to start optimizing. By “optimizing” I mean maximize revenue for the minimal cost. Simple right?

Step by Step

  1. To start, get your super flexible, totally awesome Excel sheet again.
  2. Make a timing distribution for each journey/program/campaign/content. Make sure to build in how long it takes to implement, execute, and achieve revenue.
  3. Now create a sheet for each combination of content, tool, program, campaign, and other marketing efforts you have ever had.
  4. Choose a time period as your marketing “cycle”. Usually it’s a fiscal year.
  5. For each combination, set aside those where the total time of the combination is impossible to fit inside a single cycle.
  6. If this already seems too complicated, then you’ve passed the sanity test, and you can skip to “The end goal”.
  7. For each combo calculate the total revenue generated and total cost.
  8. Now create a matrix (i.e. table) of all combos by all combos (in geometry this would be a hypercube).
  9. In each cell, write down the combined ROI of the intersecting combos (total revenue – total cost).
  10. Now repeat step 9. for all different multiples of the combos (i.e. running the combo multiple times) until you either give up or run out of space on your computer.
  11. Select from all those sheets the cell with the highest ROI.
  12. Now repeat steps 4.-11. for a time period 2 times, and 3 times longer than your starting marketing cycle.
  13. From step 12, you now have the optimal combos to maximize ROI per a multi cycle plan, per combination of combos, and an Excel file so large it can be seen from outer space.
  14. Now do steps 1-13 for each revenue attribution model you want.

Did I forget to mention to place growth limits on revenue when running multiples of the same combos? You’ll need to do that too. ROI for anyone marketing effort is shaped like an S-curve, so the relationship between cost and revenue is not linear. Thus you will need to discount the revenue gained as you increase the number of times you “multiply” a combo.

The end goal

As per our agreement in the last post, I’ve now given you all you need to do Optimized ROI. It’s complicated, and you will spend a lot of time trying to do it by yourself.
I’ll never say you can’t do it though. I am living, breathing proof that anybody can learn how to do ROI. However, I know what most marketers would rather be doing: marketing.

The problem

You can spend all your time down in the weeds of ROI, and then you’ll miss your marketing forest.

The solution

We’ve created this ROI framework (which mercifully does not use Excel) to get your Optimized ROI without you having to spend all your time figuring it out.

We handle automatically tracking leads to opportunities without you having to set up any tracking in your marketing automation platform or CRM. OSM automatically detects and determines responses based on what you set in your automation platform. We have a flexible attribution model that lets you tailor it to whatever you like.

And most of all, we handle solving the optimization problem to maximize your ROI. It’s what we do. We love solving these problems. If you want your ROI without the pain and hassle of doing it by yourself, you know where to find us. @ORMTech and