When there are more ways to market your business than there is budget to pay for them, decision makers frequently return to a metric for validation: ROI. Some even argue that it’s the only return that matters.
Randy Varela, director of digital marketing for Callaway Golf, faces this dilemma all the time. But his response is more sophisticated and considered than simply evaluating the latest earnings report. For Varela, the return that matters most is achieving strategic goals — goals that can, and must, be measured in a variety of ways depending on the initiative.
Varela leans on this discipline every day as Callaway continues to embrace an aggressive spirit of exploration and experimentation dating back to 2012. That may seem like a short throw for a company founded in 1982 that specializes in equipment for a sport dating back to the Middle Ages. But not many other companies are dedicating resources to creating their own podcasts, audio streams, live broadcasts, video series, and web columns with the same level of commitment, frequency, and gusto.
Has all the effort paid out? Well, Callaway sells more golf clubs than any other manufacturer in the U.S., the clear leader of a $3 billion industry. But, as Varela is quick to point out, value is not always defined in sales alone. Sometimes an ROI goal must serve a larger purpose to be truly useful.
Callaway is a huge, successful company. From a marketing perspective, how do you evaluate—and maximize—ROI?
For us, it’s primarily about setting up the right goals. You can’t just put your finger in the air and say, Ah yeah, that feels about right.
Setting goals sounds pretty simple. Is it?
It’s difficult because digital touchpoints are not siloed anymore. Consumers are doing research before they make a purchase—and that could be happening anywhere. To maximize our marketing investments, we have to make sure our efforts march towards common strategic goals.
Callaway has such a diversified portfolio of digital content. But new mediums are evolving all the time. How do you adapt and choose what to try and what to stay away from?
In the digital space you have to be extremely fluid. You can’t plan things out in January for the entire year. For us, the answer is test, test, test. If there is something new out there, put a small budget behind it—if it doesn’t work then move on to the next idea.
How do you recognize if something is working?
It goes back to establishing those goals upfront. If you have goals in place, it’s very easy to tell if something’s working or not. The good and the bad with digital marketing is that there is a ton of data, and anyone can massage the same set of data to look positive or to look negative. If I ask, "How are we performing?" you could say, "Well, average order value is really great." But if the goal was email acquisitions and you’re looking at ancillary metrics, then we’re losing focus.
If something isn’t working, then we’re not spending. On the flip side, if something advances the goals we will continue to spend there regardless of the budget. That’s optimization.
Callaway continues to create a lot of content, including podcasts and videos. How do you manage all that?
Our in-house media production company, Callaway Media Productions, creates several new pieces a day, whether it’s video, podcasts, or blog posts. We’re constantly creating content because we want authentic engagement with our customers. Golfers don’t just come to Callaway to learn about new products. They turn to us because they have an emotional connection with the game.
Can that way of thinking work for any company?
Each company must determine the sweet spot for their marketing spend. How much should you value someone watching a video you produce, or a partnership you broker? Determining that value takes time. You can’t guess.
Our content production is not just about driving online sales. The goal is creating a connection with golfers and being an extremely authentic, approachable brand that is part of the larger community of golf. When it’s right, you have this great digital ecosystem that all works together—your content, your commerce, your community. All of these pieces come together to create engagement. The ancillary benefit is sales. But you’ve also created a buzz that keeps people interested in your business and brings new people through the doors.
What technologies, services, or metrics do you see becoming even more valuable?
Content is going to continue to be extremely important—all types. Content helps tell your brand’s story, which is key within the digital space.
Another key component is continuing to focus and build out our loyalty program. It’s the 80:20 rule, right? Twenty percent of our consumers are going to make up 80% of our revenue so we need to be taking care of those consumers. They are our advocates.
How do you see digital marketing evolving in the future?
I don’t think anyone knows. It’s tough for me to wrap my head around what’s going to happen in digital marketing five months from now. But, for me, that’s what makes it fun. You just have to adapt.
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This article was created and commissioned by SteelHouse, and the views expressed are their own.