Selling Search & Social To The CEO: Measure Business Outcomes

If you were one of those children that sold lemonade under a homemade stand (or, like me, sold lawn-mowing services), business was pretty simple. All it took was the product or service, the flash of a toothless smile or a knock on the door, and your weekly allowance began to grow. If only digital marketing were this easy.


Let’s say that back then, you needed a cash advance from your parents in order to stock up on startup supplies. And let’s say in order to get this loan, you promised your parents you’d pay them back within 30 days.

In this example, your parents probably don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of exactly how you sold lemonade or mowed a lawn; they just want to know that what you are selling will get them their money back as promised (and hopefully make an allowance for yourself).

Your parents in this scenario are in the same position as a company CEO assessing the bottom line. When it comes to search and social, CEOs want to know how their investments in these channels are going to impact ROI.

It’s no secret that digital marketing is maturing. With new ways to collect and analyze data (and old ways that have fallen off the map), enterprise search and social teams are in an adapt-or-die period.

With that comes a need to be able to communicate the value of search and social to the CEO so that you can move forward in your program with executive support. This is the foundation of any successful search and social marketing program.

Know Business Value, Show Business Value

We all have metrics that are exclusive to our search and social channels, but mapping these metrics to the business outcomes the CEO cares about will improve the focus of your tracking.

Business Value and Marketing

The Altimeter Group published findings in 2013 from a study they conducted on enterprise social media; only 34 percent of companies surveyed felt their social strategy was connected to business outcomes.

The findings suggested the reason a company’s social media program couldn’t progress was due to the lack of executive support. Only about half (52 percent) of survey respondents said their executives were informed, engaged and aligned with their social strategy.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.17.53 AM

(Click to enlarge.)

That said, there are two things you should always have top of mind when venturing into a marketing program:

  1. Know business value
  2. Show business value

Start thinking about search and social marketing in business terms, and take into account:

  1. The cost of the product or service, and the margin
  2. The average order and lifecycle of the product or service
  3. The lifecycle of the customer and their orders over time
  4. The budget needed to make an impact
  5. The ideal and actual cost per acquisition of the customer or lead

This is where your tracking comes in. If you can identify areas of your website and social media that are driving value, what actions drove that value, and then show how investing in more of those actions could increase the revenue or conversion, you have something the CEO can understand.

Shy away from vanity metrics or the “easy” metrics, and start thinking about how your tracking impacts the company’s overall success.  Keep in mind that you might also need to build a case for additional resources or investment in technology to give the program legs. Again, you’ll have to show how those wish-list items would improve the company’s ROI as much as possible.

The following image via Altimeter Group is a good example of the stages of enterprise social media adoption, and the things to consider in each stage. Presenting this type of information to the CEO lends validity and robustness to social media marketing during the buy-in stage:


(Click to enlarge.)

And here’s a sample social media roadmap, also courtesy of Altimeter Group, that ties social efforts to business outcomes:


(Click to enlarge.)

For search engine optimization ROI, the following is an example of how to forecast in a way the CEO can grasp (courtesy of Alok Jain):

SEO Forecast

And here’s something to show investment broken down by initiative (courtesy of Alok Jain):

SEO Initiatives

To help drive the point home, you can equate general marketing and business activities to search and social activities:

SEO Activities


The stage digital marketers are in right now is comprised of mounds of data and huge potential for return on investment. We’re in a constant state of building the business case for search and social, starting from the buy-in stage and continuing each month.

That’s why knowing how to get the executives on your side from the get-go is crucial, and being able to tie those metrics to the business goals that matter month-over-month and year-over-year is the only way to demonstrate your search and social efforts are indispensable.

 (Stock image via Used under license.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Search Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise SEO Platform. He combines in-depth expertise in developing and marketing large on-demand software platforms with hands-on experience in advanced SEO practices

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