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Diving Deeper into Measuring Insights ROI

In a recent ATI Gathering…Insights ROI, the community looked at the complex issue of insights return on investment from several different angles. Combining insights, data, and analytics allows for the activation of insights across the organization. Once activated, superior customer experiences can ensue. Closing the loop on learnings from the activation of insights propels the organization forward, allowing dynamic decision making, revelation of new opportunities, and ultimately better ROI.

If you can measure it, you can manage it. Insights leaders came together on this panel discussion on “Measuring Insights ROI” to share their respective philosophies and approach to establishing, iteratively improving and subsequently proving an ROI paradigm.

All Things Insights would like to thank contributors Nicole Moreo, Head of Customer Insights for North America, LinkedIn; Stan Sthanunathan, Former Executive Vice President – CMI, Unilever; Tiffany Davis, Head of Global Insights, Prof. Products, The Clorox Co.; Shilpa Khanna, Associate Director, Transformational Growth Insights, The Clorox Co.; and Dan Stradtman, Chief Marketing Officer, Bloomfire.

For insights ROI, “It depends on what you measure and what your objectives are,” says Davis. “You have to see if it’s working or not. What’s the most important measure, and work your way backwards. Some sectors, such as retail and consumer packaged goods, you can hit the ground running but in tech there is more of a twilight zone.”

Ultimately, Davis asks, “What are we trying to achieve? What are the benchmarks? You have to bring a process to it.”

Moreo agrees with Davis’ sentiments. “What are we trying to measure? Whatever your department is, what is an objective, a target audience, how to move forward? What is your goal? Reputation, conversion? You can’t control everything. You have to have smart conversations.”

For Clorox’s Khanna, much is brought to reality with budgets. “It comes down to how much can you get with what you have at hand. Then there has to be success criteria. How can you move the needle? Developed methodologies lead to more research, pulling into earlier testing. Earlier is better than later for conversion. It’s harder to measure on the back end.”

“Did my research contribute to investment?” ask Khanna. “There needs to be multiple checks on ROI.”

Stradtman sees differences depending on the business. B2B, for example, has a long cycle and not very sophisticated tracking systems. “It’s how to convince the value. Different executives have very different viewpoints. You have to demonstrate cause and effect. A key is readily admitting the number might be wrong, it’s a repeatable definable process but might not be an absolute number. Demonstrate positive momentum.”

Sthanunathan advises to use caution when measuring. “A return on what?” he asks. “You can show ROI, but it can sometimes be a trap, to get pressured to drive short-term growth, but you don’t have a strong plan five years down the road. Always measure ROI for long-term strategies and growth.”

He continues, “My point of view is that when the CFO asks what is the ROI, what value have you brought to the function, it’s a red flag. Here’s an ROI death trap. But link ROI to long term growth, to vision and visibility, improving that paradigm along the way.”

Khanna agrees with the fundamental foundation of the research and the long-term value. “How can I do with what will live five, seven, ten years from now? Values change but some things stay valued over time. Consumer needs. Encourage multiple initiatives to build off of that. There will be a much better return on ROI. Better insights, pushing more towards action.”

It may seem to be pushing uphill, especially when there isn’t an established culture of insights. But you can show long and short term simultaneously, notes Stradtman. The foundational research can show ROI from zero to ten years, showing efficiency and effectiveness. Second, innovation projects may not payout for a certain number of years. Aligned to marketing opportunities can help focus the conversation on what matters faster. Lastly, position commercial insights from zero to two years. Make sure the organization is aligned to what will drive revenue. “There are tools in place to track and measure. The technology is starting to catch up and make it easier,” he says.

Even with technology, LinkedIn’s Moreo notes to focus on the data first. “Take incremental steps, why are you rushing outputs? What are you trying to prove?”

Davis advises that, “Insights play into a larger plan but what are we trying to do? What’s the time and turnaround? Ground everybody to what makes sense. Make it as strategic as possible so they can ‘eat’ off that plate for several years.”

While there is not a black and white way of measuring insights, Khanna says, create value. Certain frameworks can miss the holistic view. It’s like the tip of an iceberg—you have to dig deeper. “Don’t recreate the wheel on how to share insights, show other departments they can benefit, show how it can be useful.”

Clorox’s Davis advises, “Create trust. I am a trusted partner and voice in the room. Be the voice of the consumer.”

Stradtman of Bloomfire asks, “How are you telling the story, how can it be consumed? Actionability is key to drive sales and change management. Have the voice of the consumer at your side.”

LinkedIn’s Moreo adds, “Our job is to build that bridge of context, what do they need to hear. What are their goals and what language, how will this help me in putting through the insights with the right lens.”


  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

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