Marketing budgets are easy to cut in an economy as punishing as this one, so it's never been more essential to prove marketing works. Here's how some top companies demonstrate their worth:
Help do the research. "Our biggest challenge is getting clients to commit to measuring return-on-investment," says Rob Felber, president of Felber & Felber, a marketing firm in Twinsburg, Ohio. "They forget to ask, 'How did you hear of us?' They let their systems break down, and at the end of the day, they don't know if the marketing worked or not."
Follow up to remind clients to do what you've been consulting them to do, or create a software program or website to measure their progress. If you can't create a program, recommend software or a website such as NetSuite or CisionPoint Advanced Analytics Dashboard, which specializes in measuring ROI.
Help your customers' clients. As Ron Price, a Nampa, Idaho, business consultant, says: "Customers are the ultimate source of ROI, and if you can help your clients create raving fans, the ROI goes sky high." If you see your client growing, consider nominating them for an industry award. If your client wins, you'll be linked to the victory. If not, they'll still be grateful you put them forward.
Change your business model. Dick Grove of Ink Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., made his PR company a pay-for-results firm since founding it in 1997: Clients pony up only when they get media coverage, and if the exposure is small, the client pays less.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.