When to use ROI in messaging

The ROI of your solution competes with other activities, time, solutions, etc.

As compelling as ROI calculations can be in the sales process, they don’t always resonate as expected in messaging strategies. This seems to contradict the marketing tenet of connecting solutions to revenue and the bottom line. What is going on?

Based on over twenty years of conducting buying journey and messaging research, one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen to using ROI in messaging is that your solution sits within a broader context of time, priorities, and internal perceptions. This challenge appears across sectors.

ROI of time

A universal theme we hear in our research is that individuals and organizations are stretched thin. They barely have the time and resources to complete the tasks and activities already on their plate. The pandemic exacerbated this trend.

As much value as a new solution can provide, it takes time to investigate, sell internally, adopt, etc.

Prospects can acknowledge the potential cost savings or ROI of a new solution but feel that to engage in all the activities associated with adopting a new solution, they’d have to take time away from something else. That something else often has a higher perceived ROI for the buyer’s time than learning more about a new solution: I need to get this product launch completed on time. I need to provide training for our sales force. I need to prepare for our customer conference.

A combination of available time and competing priorities underlies much of the inertia that keeps individuals and organizations from adopting solutions they acknowledge would make a difference to their business.

Hard dollar limits

One of the oldest adages in business is it takes money to make money. But sometimes, prospects do not have the dollars available.

The ROI of a new solution, even one that delivers quickly, takes time to be realized. Departments and organizations sometimes do not have the budget in the short term to add another solution or switch to a more expensive solution that will pay for itself in the long term.

Perceptions of costs and efficiency

Many ROI value propositions focus on saving money by making a process more efficient or offering incremental cost savings that scale to significant numbers.

This type of value proposition relies on the prospect having an accurate understanding of their processes, how much time they spend on the activity, the amount of budget they spend on their current solution, etc.

In the context of messaging (digital, social, print, etc.), few prospects will know the specifics of their situation off the top of their head. At best, they will think in terms of scope of magnitude. And clouding the waters further, it is human nature to overestimate efficiency and understate total spending on a solution, process, etc.

Furthermore, when a new solution makes a department more efficient, staff are typically allocated to other activities – they aren’t released. So at an overall level, the department becomes more productive, but the department’s bottom-line budget number doesn’t change (they have the same staff with an additional or more costly solution).

Collectively these trends create skepticism within the typical prospect about the cost savings and ROI a new solution could provide their organization. They may acknowledge the potential benefits of the solution and see it providing a significant gain in another organization, just not in theirs.

ROI messages work better further along the buying process

This is not to imply that ROI value propositions don’t resonate at all – it is more a matter of where in the buying process they resonate most. Due to the above-mentioned dynamics, prospects generally don’t find upper funnel messages focused on ROI that compelling.

The ROI value propositions resonate more and become more credible when prospects move to the buying process’s consideration/evaluation stage. At this stage of the process, prospects tend to shift from top-of-mind estimates of their current costs and operations and take a more detailed look at their current situation: what they are paying, where their inefficiencies are, and what those inefficiencies may be costing them.  

We’ve seen the above trends play out across a range of B2B sectors over the past two decades. They may or may not reflect the trends in your sector or market niche, but we believe it makes sense for B2B marketers to review how and when they use ROI messaging.

If you’d like help figuring out the context of your ROI for prospects just get in touch with us.

To read more on how we think of understanding customer value see the following posts.

Six dimensions for assessing a market opportunity

How to identify the right price point in B2B markets

Look beyond product for drivers of B2B value