Marketing Spend: Understanding a Proposition, the Seller’s Perspective, and Value Measurement

I was first introduced to the discipline of marketing and its inherent emphasis upon quantitative analysis in B-school a few decades ago. My academic background up to that time was diverse and had included multiple undergrad majors in the sciences, economics, and even liberal arts (what was I thinking?). I knew that statistics and methodology were essential analytic tools but became increasingly frustrated with the ever-increasing emphasis on quantitative decision-making in quasi-scientific areas like management and marketing.

Just this week, a potential client’s marketing analyst said, "My budget committee needs to know the conversion rate that your clients have achieved from the marketing programs you offer." I explained that the answer is infinitely variable and ultimately contingent upon their service, efficacy of individual solutions, and methods of potential client pursuit with contacts. It's also mysterious to me that quantitative obsession is not universally applied to all variables within a proposition.

If you're in services sales, how many times have you heard something along the lines of ".... we appreciate your time and understand what you're proposing, but the cost is beyond our current budget and we have alternative resources at a lower price point." At that point, you may wish to say, “No you don't... and if you truly understood what we're offering, you'd also realize that you're comparing pineapples to lemons.” But that would not be very enchanting.

The challenge in overcoming obsessive preoccupation with guaranteed quantitative results and communicating that the value of a proposition is equally qualitative and quantitative is not the potential client's responsibility – it falls entirely upon the vendor. Communicating the qualitative component is, I believe, an art form. Success comes not only from graphics, site/material design, videography, and allocution, but also from the ability to communicate verbally and in writing. Despite the increasing tendency to skim as a result of overload, this remains a critical and artful skill in the selling and sourcing of any complex service.

And of course we must define what we’re measuring! After all, if the “conversion” metric is the sale of a company vs. the sale of a solution, that’s something else entirely – and just as important a metric the further up the ranks one gets.

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