Not Everything Has an ROI (and That's OK): Virginie Glaenzer on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Many marketers have a healthy obsession with metrics. We might experiment with channels and tactics, but we’ll dig in and invest a lot of time and effort only if there’s some indication that our audience is responding.

And yet we know that some things can’t easily be measured, like how someone’s emotional attachment to a brand affects the bottom line. But research has shown that buyers (even B2B buyers) are more likely to buy from a brand if they feel some emotional attachment, and they are more apt to trust brands that support social causes. Such positive emotion can benefit brands that sometimes suffer from some negative buyer perception, such as cable companies or utilities.

Few people think of “great customer experience” when they receive an electric bill, but it is possible to create a culture of customer-centricity and service. Just ask Virginie Glaenzer, former VP of marketing and customer experience at Great Eastern Energy.

Virginie is a digital evangelist, marketing technologist, and innovation thought leader with more than 15 years of industry experience, specializing in converging marketing (digital and offline). A seasoned business expert in SaaS and new technologies, she’s founded two software startups and recently wrote a book on corporate social responsibility: Awakened Brand: Five Steps for Creating an Awakened Brand by Tapping into the Consciousness Revolution.

I invited Virginie to Marketing Smarts to discuss why brands should “do the right thing” (such as educate consumers on energy conservation) even without a measurable, positive impact on revenue.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Smart brands educate the buyer, even if they can’t measure the ROI of being helpful (03:56): “Energy is one of those topics that are not on the top of your mind. It’s a bill that you receive. Although you appreciate electricity and gas because it makes your business viable, it’s not something you feel that you can influence. You feel that our bill is something that you pay, and I think that the whole deregulation market is very confusing. A lot of companies are taking advantage of consumers and businesses because it’s very technical and they haven’t really made it simple….

“But really, at the end of the day, as an energy company our mission is to help customers understand that they need to reduce their energy consumption…. It’s the right thing to do.”

To build a socially conscious brand, your commitment has to be genuine (06:20): “Unless the executives feel strongly and feel connected to that type of mission, they can talk about corporate responsibility and social good in a marketing fashion. We’ve seen a lot of brands turning into corporate responsibility companies because there’s a marketing benefit or advantage, and people are very sensitive to it.”

B2B or B2C, all buyers are human, so corporate social responsibility cuts across industries and audience segments (07:09): “Let’s define ‘corporate social responsibility.’ To me, this is about building a business practice that participates in initiatives that benefit society. So it’s…’triple bottom line’: people, planet, and revenue. We are 6.7 billion people on Earth, and if you look at the environment it’s not pretty…. Rivers run dry, species are actually going extinct. And humans, I think most people now, agree that we’re changing the climate, and all that is because we are driven by the pursuit of growth. That’s just a reality. We’re using too much too fast, and it’s just not sustainable.”

Supporting causes is good for business, but social good shouldn’t be driven by ROI (05:08): “I’m a big fan of ROI. I’m actually—because my background is in sales—I’m driven by data and anything that I do marketing-wise needs to have some sort of ROI… but corporate responsibility and doing social good in the world, that’s one of those things that shouldn’t be driven by ROI, because…the mission and the objective has nothing to do with being profitable. It’s about participating in an initiative that benefits society.”

Mainstream buyers are more socially conscious now, and your brand should be “awakened” to the idea of social good (12:58): “This notion of [an awakened brand] is about connecting with this consciousness crowd, and I’ve connected different trends, like technology, social media, the environment; and those trends—or making people aware and sensitive—is about our identity. When we look at the world outside, we don’t want to be the ones that are responsible [for damaging the environment], and I think that’s why a lot of people are getting passionate about corporate responsibility or doing social good, because it just doesn’t feel right to be the one destroying the environment. So…I’ve seen brands…being more mindful of the way they create their products, the waste they’re creating, the way they treat employees.”

To learn more, connect with Virginie on LinkedIn, and be sure to follow her on Twitter @VirginieG.

Virginie and I talked about so much more, including finding your brand voice (even as a utility), imposter syndrome and how to overcome it, and why marketers should give more industry knowledge away for free, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is senior program manager, enterprise learning, at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email, or you can find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone) and on her personal blog.

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