How much are 10 potential customers worth? Reanalysing the ROI of digital marketing campaigns


The other day, one of my teammates and I were discussing potential marketing tactics for one of our educational clients, and he asked me a very interesting question – “What is the ROI of a marketing campaign where only 10 people take part?” I find this question extremely relevant in the modern marketing context, as people often equate digital marketing with virality and loads of leads in little time. Therefore, any marketing activity that only engages 10 people is probably not worth it. And that is exactly what my colleague’s apprehension was centred on.

I feel that this is a topic worth exploring, and it needs better understanding both by the brand as well as the marketing team involved in brand marketing.

Marketing is an age old phenomenon. What has changed due to digital?

The common notion of digital that most brands have is that of creating viral content. I have had the chance of interacting with marketing heads of public listed companies, and this seems to be the general belief.

But in this hunt for the next “viral video”, we are forgetting the beauty of digital marketing and why it is useful for brands. Digital has the capability to market your brand to one customer, at a unit level. It does not have to be a spray and pray tactic like those employed during the era of traditional advertising, where you showed your advert to the universe and hoped for the best.

Digital has the potential to measure customer engagement, and can influence a customer purchase journey. It can help you foster relationships with your customers. This was unheard of as a marketing success metric even five years ago in India.

Why is virality not the best thing about your business?

Alright, let me be honest. If you can create content that goes viral and gets loads of eyeballs, that is a great marketing success story. And if you have done that, congratulations. But let me be the devil’s advocate here. Virality may do nothing for your business goals. You may end up getting loads of shares on social media, but can you guarantee that this “success” will actually improve your sales six months down the line? Most probably not! Which is why I can safely say - do not chase virality!

Just like a black swan event, virality that actually makes a difference will probably happen once in a while, but it will be incredibly difficult to predict the nature and timing of such occurrences. And the lifespan of such viral content is usually small. Also, do remember that creating viral-worthy content is tough, and you need to spend a lot of time and even money to repeat the same level of success.

Consistency is Key

This is the most underrated aspect of any digital marketing strategy. People never talk about sustained levels of engagement, growth in “real followers”, improvement in customer sentiment, growth of word-of-mouth and impact on sales. How many digital marketing managers actually attribute social media content to the top line? Instead of chasing viral content that may get a million views, focus on how you can be relevant even to 10 people who care to engage with your content on a regular basis. This brings me to my next point.

So what can a campaign that attracts only 10 potential customers achieve?

This was the question that baffled my teammate. So, let‘s say you are the digital marketing manager of your brand and you want to focus on how you can impact sales through digital marketing efforts. You are being presented with a campaign where only 10 people may be interested. This goes radically against conventional marketing thought. Should you do it?

Let’s take the example of the educational client I mentioned earlier. How about conducting a webinar that provides some very interesting insights that both students and parents find useful? Initially, you may attract only 10 people. But if you can create value, word-of-mouth will happen. Those 10 people will get 10 more people the next time you conduct your session. And soon, in few months, you will be able to attract a sizeable population who find value in your content. Can they become your customers? I can very well see that happen. If people trust you, and other people refer you to them, they are happy to buy from you. It is all about how much of a difference you can make in your customer’s life.

According to a research by Ogilvy, Google and TNS, 74 percent of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions.

And the best part is - webinars will not cost you anything significant. So, the lifetime ROI is tremendous.

You have to focus on good quality, relevant content that your target group will find valuable. And you need to do it consistently.

This is the real power of digital. Can any other form of marketing deliver this? No.

So, don’t just go for a big bang from the very first ball. You might hit a few, but you will not survive long enough. Games are won when you keep chugging along right through those 50 overs. As the commentators say, “You need to keep the scoreboard ticking.” That’s how successful run chases happen. And marketing is no different.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)