ROI: Building a Successful Partnership

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What does ROI mean for you and your company? Is it a metric that you track? A conversation that you have? Do you know if it’s quantitative or qualitative? ROI, meaning return on investment, is the most important element to track in any purchasing environment. But it can be challenging to track for every client’s unique goals.  

I have watched companies place clients in boxes throughout most of my professional career. It never quite works out for anyone involved—businesses, consumers, and human beings are unique. And they come to the table with their own sets of goals, perspectives, and anticipated outcomes in mind. While some of initiatives may come into alignment benefiting all stakeholders, they typically need an adjustment to perfect the outcome for each client. Outlining what success looks like for your client, tracking towards that success, and then finally (and most importantly) making changes to that original plan for success will lead to a healthy, lasting partnership. 

Listen and Ask Questions

The most important step in understanding what ROI means for your client’s investment is to take the time to listen to their needs, wants, and goals toward ultimate success. If this is missed, the offer lacks value that directly impacts their customer. Getting to know your client and their customers not only allows you to understand their business, but it is key in building a relationship with them.  

To start, establish a series of discovery questions to understand what their vision of success looks like. This will ultimately help you develop an offering that suits their needs. The time spent early on asking questions and listening will lend itself to a higher satisfaction rate for outcomes later. Your discovery may look different depending on your offering. However, there are a few similar questions to ask across all companies: 

  1. What are your company goals? How do your professional goals map to this? 
  2. Are you trying to reach a certain audience? Is there a specific region or target group of focus? 
  3. What is your budget? What is your budget cycle? 

Develop KPIs and Monitor

Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) are critical to tracking ROI. It is always best practice to have 2-3 data validators in place, but there is distinct value in qualitative measurements as well. Spending time in discovery with your clients will help you determine these metrics for your work with them. I have worked with clients who needed to track an annual renewal rate, cost per lead, or monthly usage rate per API. We incorporated those KPIs into our own measurements to qualify the ROI of our initiatives.  

Determining the quantitative, data-tracked measurements will ultimately depend on the data you have at hand that can accurately be tracked on a recurring basis. This may require creating net-new systems, processes, and reporting to support your efforts. Qualitative measurements could come in the form of surveying the voice of the customer or member or satisfaction level of customer support or continuing to innovate on behalf of your client. How do know if an initiative is successful? Monitor these metrics weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually to look for trends. Now, what you do with that information can truly set you apart from the rest. 

Making Changes

Change can be hard and uncomfortable, but it is desperately needed to keep the competition at your back. KPIs provide data to make intelligent decisions within a partnership, whether that is a shift in an offering, developing a new model for client success, or increasing customer touchpoints. It’s one thing to gather the data for data’s sake, it’s a game changer when the data can inform change.  

Once an area of improvement has been recognized in the data, time is of the essence. Acting quickly will allow you to change course and begin monitoring for new trends quickly, but changes do not have to be dramatic to be effective. There could be small changes that you can put into place to quickly see success. You can also test different approaches to track the success of each. The important thing is to act swiftly and intentionally based on your findings to ensure you are always moving your client relationship forward. 

Your ROI

Everyone wants to know the ROI of any given product or initiative. Now, the next time your manager or your client says, “What’s the ROI of this?” you have two routes. You could always rattle off a few points that speak to the overarching success of a product, but truly getting to the heart of ROI for your client goes beyond trended data. The other route is to do the hard but essential work of discovery and understanding your client’s motivations for success. It takes time, diligence, and the desire to go above and beyond to ensure success for them, but it’s worth it. That success then turns into your own success.  

We live in a customer-driven world—stopping to listen, understand, and act will lead to a successful partnership for all involved.