By Shaun Chatman

Your marketing dollars are supposed to raise brand awareness, boost sales, and heighten customer loyalty—but how do you know if those dollars are doing their job? You need to measure and understand the return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts.

Measuring Marketing ROI Is Tricky

On the surface, measuring ROI seems simple. You just compare what you spent on a particular campaign with what you got from it. It is easy to see how many people viewed a particular video or how many “likes” a particular social media post received. For other marketing efforts, however, measuring is less cut and dry.

A Forbes contributor explains that part of ROI is not measurable at all. He says that this “involves creating customer awareness, creating brand advocates, and building the community that drives earned engagement to the campaigns.” These things may not pay off right away, but they will help build long-term support for your brand.

Set Goals and Have a Plan

Since measuring marketing ROI is oftentimes a challenge, how should you go about it? First off, you must set goals. Do you want to gain a certain number of followers on social media? Do you want your latest business video to garner a set amount of views? What are your sales goals for this quarter? While answering such questions will not always help you determine if a particular marketing effort is boosting your bottom line, if you reach your goals, you’ll know you’re doing something right.

Have a plan for measuring ROI. There are tons of analytics tools out there that you can use to track page views, the time spent on a particular page, click-throughs, and other metrics, but sometimes all the data can bog you down. Use a simple platform like Google Analytics to provide you with a basic view of how your website visitors behave.

The types of data you will use will vary between different marketing projects. For example, when you’re measuring the ROI of a video, you want to consider things like how many minutes of the video get watched and the number of unique views it receives.

Use Data to Drive Decisions

Ideally, before you embark on a marketing endeavor, you’ll have an idea of how you plan to measure its ROI. Use the data you collect, along with benchmark information, to drive decisions about your future advertising campaigns. The benchmark information you use could involve how similar projects from other companies perform or you could compare this year’s data with last year’s.

The information you collect will enable you to make decisions that relate, not just to future marketing efforts, but also to your overall approach to how you interact with consumers. For example, if one of your campaigns carries a trendier tone than others and experiences success, you might start to perform A/B testing to see if you should bring that same vibe into other aspects of your business.

Measuring and understanding marketing ROI is a challenge, and you will never be able to get a complete view of the impact your efforts make. However, by setting goals and using data to your advantage, you can make decisions that will benefit your business.

Shaun Chatman is a freelance writer who has written for many authority blogs. Though he likes to write about everything, he especially likes tech, finance, business, and education. He lives with his family and two dogs in Dunedin, Florida. @Shaun_Chatman.