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How long does it take to see ROI from digital marketing?

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Written by Carlos Pinheiro on February 22nd, 2016

Return on investment doesn’t happen overnight in digital – let’s talk about the metrics you’ll need to monitor, and when it’ll start paying off.

This is a tough question we are asked from time to time, and it’s not a straightforward answer. Before you even begin, auditing and planning are essential to ensure that you’re actually seeing return on investment from any marketing activity.

By identifying KPIs, taking measurements before you start, and monitoring marketing metrics throughout, you should be able to see the benefits triggered by your activity. However, the first step is understanding what that activity actually is…

Paid, owned, and earned media – what’s the difference?

Let’s divide digital media into three categories – paid, owned and earned. Paid and owned are the two that you have immediate control over, and earned is the one that you (no surprises) earn in the form of coverage from online publications, or your customers, talking about you.

The initial effects of paid advertising are pretty much instant. For a quick injection of traffic to your site, this is ideal, and there is evidence to show that the effects of advertising online aren’t just short-term – it can contribute to brand building as well.

The impact of owned media is directly proportionate to the amount of time (or potentially, money) you put in. A new website won’t see instant results – in fact, we usually find that figures drop immediately after launch and Google does take its time to re-index sites. We would usually see traffic pick up within one or two months post-launch (with no supporting promotional campaign – quicker with!).

Don’t forget, your job isn’t done with the launch of a new site – you need to keep your content fresh and relevant, and add to it regularly to make it work hard for you.

When it comes to social media, it isn’t just about growing your list of fans or followers, it’s about engaging those people, listening to what they have to say, and providing value.

Earned is the one that takes real time, as it’s based on your company doing such a cracking job that your customers can’t help but tell people about it – or playing the PR game with influencers and publishers. You’ll need to help them out by giving them shareable content.

Beyond all this, consider the cross-channel effects of digital marketing and make sure you have the tools in place to measure where you can. Online advertising can effectively grow offline sales, and any online activity will contribute to building your brand.

How do you know you’re not throwing your resources away?

As always, content is key. Any activity you do online will add to your brand’s worth, if you do it consistently, well, and people find it engaging. This doesn’t mean shouting into the void – consider your target market when you’re planning, and if you put the right content in the right place at the right time, it should be plain that people are finding it useful.

How long does it all take?

For a well-planned strategy, the amount of time it takes to see ROI really depends on your buyers’ sales cycle. In a cycle of six to 12 months, we’d usually expect to see a strategy start to pay off within three to six months, and likely gain revenue as a result in less than 12. In short cycles, the effect is usually quicker.

We definitely see a snowball effect. In essence, the more (time/effort/budget) you put in, the more you’ll get out, and the faster results you’ll achieve – but you must be consistent. And don’t forget about those positive long-term effects that putting resources into your brand can have.

Headshot of Carlos
Written by Carlos Pinheiro on February 22nd, 2016

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