Yes, Virginia, There Is Online ROI

February 28, 2009

Every once in a while, we get pointed questions from prospective clients about the return on investment of major online marketing efforts. That's not a bad thing; indeed, we would encourage anyone looking to invest in any marketing effort to take efforts to objectively analyze and quantify ROI. Notice, however, that I said "objectively." Ah, there's the rub.

It's tempting to look at online ROI as the dichotomy of dollars spent and dollars gained, but it's just not that simple. Granted, we can always point to a number of projects where Digett clients have expressed great enthusiasm for expanded traffic, more sales, etc. However, we tread carefully when touting the ROI of our work. Site launches often coincide with a number of events—new product launches, for example—that may have little to do with us.

That disclaimer aside, we appreciate when a client like mint™ goes out of its way to credit us for its online success. We recently wrote up a case study on their online marketing activities for Boerne Business Monthly, based largely on details provided to us by mint™ honcho Christi Chittim. A few of the highlights:

  • Almost 70,000 visitors came to www.ohmint.com in its first year; traffic comes from all 50 states and several foreign nations.
  • The site has captured thousands of new user registrations.
  • Per Chittim, "In 2008, mint™ products were shipped to new stores in Singapore, Israel, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and England. Every single one of those customers found us through our new website!"
  • Also in 2008, more than 160,000 items were shipped as a result of online or web-generated orders.
  • Today, 99% of the company's orders are generated through the website.

We're content to let the numbers speak for themselves, and we're pleased to have played a role in the company's ongoing success. Still, we believe there's a very important point to make about those numbers, namely that they didn't spontaneously appear.

While Digett provided mint™ with a dynamic Drupal-based website and solid email campaign platform, it was up to Chittim and team member Lauren Parker to use them. From day one, they've embraced that challenge, filling the company blog with their own personalities and regularly sending out surveys and sales by email.

That leads us back to the question of ROI. By their account, mint™ has seen a pretty nice return on their online efforts. However, they didn't just invest money in the project—they also invested their time and effort. We'd love to be able to take full credit for their success, but it just wouldn't be appropriate; Christi and Lauren deserve a lot of credit for making themselves successful.

Use the tools you've been given, and you'll quickly realize that a money-in, money-out return analysis doesn't cut it in online marketing. Yes, there is online ROI, but you've got to measure it correctly.