You will be going to market with your Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study. You can’t wait to splash those hot numbers on the website, cite that ROI in a blog post, retweet that PV, or host a webinar to share your results. And I am so excited for you. Activating the TEI and getting leads from the study you’ve commissioned is the best part. But before we start activating the TEI, let me drop some kernels in your popper.

1. Realistic ROIs Improve Credibility, Which Is Good For Your Company

Ultimately, a TEI study is only valuable to your marketing and sales efforts so long as your prospects find the analysis to be credible, informative, and useful.

  • To be credible, the analysis must be conservative, complete, and defensible to even the most suspicious decision-maker.
  • To be informative, the study must clearly communicate the drivers, meanings, and interpretation of its findings.
  • And to be useful, the study must help decision-makers see the possibilities, understand what they mean, engender trust in the quality of data, be relevant to their organization, and be easily leveraged when building their own internal business case.

We’ve heard from countless customers that the main reason they buy a TEI from Forrester is because Forrester is credibly, objectively third-party. Keep this in mind when you see your ROI figure: We’re not going to inflate your tires because you have commissioned us to do so, but if the customers give us the data to back benefits up, we will gladly show them.

2. Unrealistic ROIs Aren’t Credible With Buyers

Our clients (marketers like you) often push for more, higher, bigger ROIs. We are beholden to the data we collect, and fortunately for you, we have heard from readers that exceedingly high ROIs are not considered to be realistic or credible, even with significant data and explanation to back the results.

In fact, any ROI that doubles its return or more (100%-plus) often generates scrutiny. Let’s look at this from a nonbusiness perspective: When you make an investment in the stock market, the reality of a “good” investment is single-digit or low-double-digit annual returns. There’s a spidey sense that starts tingling if the promise is unreasonably huge — if you can really double your money that easily, why hasn’t everyone done it? (Harry Markopolos famously said of Bernie Madoff that the returns Madoff’s clients saw were like a baseball player batting .960 in a year; “no one is that good”.)

So while, as a marketer, you may logically seek to pitch your technology with the highest, most strongly worded numbers and benefits, prospects themselves may not take those numbers seriously. When you push claims too far, it threatens the vendor’s ability to convert a reader into a qualified lead. Therefore, a business case with a lower (but still positive) ROI can have better success in converting a prospect to a customer than one with an ROI that is high enough to immediately make a reader question its validity.

3. ROI Inflation Will Hurt, Not Help, Your Salespeople

Marketers often want high ROIs, but this can potentially put your salespeople in a difficult position where the prospect does not trust them or the company overall due to incredulous claims. When a salesperson is backed into a corner by a prospect that is skeptical of an excessive return, it would be better to have shown that prospect a more conservative ROI from the beginning.

The drive for a high ROI is counterproductive to the trust that readers will place in the work, and once trust is reduced, that distrust may shift to the vendor as a whole and to its salespeople.

Even in those cases where the prospect believes in the inflated number, they may find resistance from their decision-makers. At the end of the day, it’s better for your brand’s customer experience and your salespeople to be more conservative. Be sure to read Part 1 of this blog series for other ways to help your salespeople highlight more than just the ROI.

Although it can be hard for marketers to admit, it is in the best interest of technology vendors, their sales teams, their marketers, and their customers that TEI studies are conservative, complete, and, ultimately, defensible. These facets typically lead to TEI studies with lower ROI, but these studies are in fact more effective at proving the business case of the technology solution.