Saturday, June 25, 2011

ROMI and Women's Literature -or- Pretty Fly for a Marketing Guy

Years ago, at college (more years than I plan to say), I was signing up for English classes and I saw, for the first time in my young existence, an elective called Women's Literature. I wasn't sure if it was a literature class for women or a literature class featuring women writers. I wasn't being incendiary, I was trying to understand.

This evolved into a heated debate, with me cast as the villain (a role I am always content to play), about the rationale for this type of class.

• Do they need to lower the bar so enough women writers can hop over?
• Is this so that male chauvinist professors actually consider female writers in their curriculum? This argument doesn't make sense, since small-minded teachers can now let the Women's Lit professors cover those books.
• Are we focusing on literature written from a woman's perspective? And, if so, then why not read books by both genders with similar themes and/or are written in similar places and times? I would very much enjoy reading and discussing, say, Frankenstein and Moby Dick in the same class … and I was sure a literature professor could find hundreds of such pairings.

But this isn't a blog post about Women's Literature classes, so suffice to say that I just didn't understand why we needed a subset of literature called Women's. I still don't, but now have learned not to start this discussion.

Fast Forward to 2011.

In the past two weeks I have heard a great deal of discussion about ROMI (Return On Marketing Investment) and ROMI modeling. And I just don't get it. Why isn't it simply ROI?

• Is ROMI some sort of 'special' ROI to help lower the bar for Marketing efforts?
• Did we need some new buzzword to further confound management now that we can track more and more of our tactics? "I can show you, predictably, how engaged prospects are 15% more likely to become customers, how they will spend 20% more in their first year, the margin on this spend during that period, and exactly what it costs to engage them … but let's instead talk about ROMI."
• Does this make us feel good about ourselves as Marketers?
• Or is this a term used by Marketers that cannot yet figure out how to show value without their trusty mirrors and smoke machines?

Every time I hear ROMI, I think of sports statisticians who (rightly) create coefficients to predict a player's success rates from the farm leagues into the majors. "Sure, they're batting 380 in AAA, but the pitching isn't as strong there, so it's like batting 280 in the majors. Still strong, but let's not get that excited just yet."

I am unsure if ROMI shows a higher percentage figure than ROI or if ROMI-using Marketers have different calculations to find their ROMI score. If the scale is different, then it's not really ROI. If the scale is the same, then why do we need a special term?

An example where a special designation makes sense: Instead of calculating a publication's CPM (Cost Per Thousand), for example, I was taught to calculate CPTM (Targeted). While publication A reaches 200,000 readers, we really only care about 60,000 of those and, perhaps 1/2 care about 40,000 of those, so the CPTM calculation ... based on: $s/sum[60M + (0.5 x 40M)] ... shows the cost of the targeted portion of the readership. Publication B reaches fewer people, but the CPTM might reveal a better buy, even though the CPM is higher. This makes sense, since it actually discounts non-targeted reach.

But ROMI seems to be a buzzword that puts Marketing into a special (read: lesser) class of ROI. "Your ROI is pretty weak compared to the initiatives of other executives here at BigCo, but it's pretty good for a Marketing person. Keep trying, son, and someday you'll make it to the bigs."

In short: If it's ROI, please call it ROI. If it's not, then keep your mouth shut until you can use the "ROI" term without the asterisk.

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