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Engineering Marketing ROI

By Rob Hawse

Engineering is central to the manufacturing process and so many of the sales and marketing leaders we work with at manufacturing organizations are engineers or have an engineering point of view.

As a quantitative occupation, engineering values the ability to accurately predict and measure efforts vs. outcomes. And so when you have a marketer or sales person with an engineering point of view, invariably the first point of discussion is what kind of ROI they can expect from each marketing effort. In general, we’ve got no problem with that. We believe in marketing measurement!

Where I think we get disconnected is in talking about the return on investment in the foundational branding work, which is composed of brand and market research, and the development of the brand architecture and brand story. Every design firm worth its salt does some form of this. We call ours Workshop.

To be clear, it’s definitely possible to measure the impact of marketing (we do it all the time).

To make sure we’re getting maximum impact out of each marketing effort, however, its successful development hinges on information that can only be surfaced through research.

Research and development. You call it R&D. Bear with me. Research and development ensures the products you develop are what the market wants and saves you money by ensuring that every efficiency and every synergy is identified and exploited. Alongside the calculated results of R&D there are often serendipitous ones. (As marketers, it’s those serendipitous results we are really after!)

If measurability is all you’re after, any marketing effort will do. But we know that the marketing you want to be measuring is that which is capable of producing the serendipitous and stellar results. To have a chance at those, you have to do the homework. The research. The development. The workshop.

R&D/Workshop ensures we create messaging that will be worth measuring by making sure we know who the messaging needs to influence and what they think is relevant. It also tells us why your company is different and special, so that we can leverage those things to help tip the scales in your favor when communicating with people that need a reason to choose you over your competitors.

The results of the brand research inform the development of brand architecture and brand story and that structure enables us to nail the marketing messaging, thereby maximizing the potential impact of the marketing we create to carry them.

The reasons the foundational work as described doesn’t immediately “register” as R&D is that the information collection process is perceived by the engineering mindset to be soft, touchy-feely, ambiguous and anecdotal. And it is all of these. But because these characteristics are the antithesis of good engineering it’s hard for the engineering mindset to imagine how they could deliver information of any real value. The irony is that once we get engineering in the room, not only do they “get it” right away, they’re often our most valuable contributors.

Until that day, we (try to) shut up and tap into our deep experience with manufacturing to deliver marketing that experience has show should land in the ballpark. When it does, clients are impressed and happy, but us not as much because we know how much more efficient and effective it all could be if we also were working from the information surfaced by the foundational work and the insights unearthed by the engineering mindset, from the very beginning.

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