Measuring ROI – Timesheets For A Digital Agency

BC Web Wise Blog Author

Nitin Patil is PHP Team Lead @ BC Web Wise

Do you get a clearly defined commitment from your agency on the resources and time, and cost of tools it invests in your project? Are you able to identify why you are spending X for your agency retainer or a development project? If you are often challenged by a lack of transparency then read on.

The Time Warp

At BC Web Wise, we figured a few years back that an average employee spends around 8 hours in the office moving from one task to another. We defined costs by fair assumptions on the time a job would take. But not withstanding the same, we found a 3-month project at the onset, turned out at times to be a 9 month project or may be even more. The broad scope remained the same. Yet, the work just rolled over. Possibly more layouts were demanded, sections were added, content was being updated because we were behind schedule, client was not available, brand manager changed, logos changed, their branding changed. However pinning it down to how much time we spent on the project was almost next to impossible.

On the other hand we also had certain projects where the client assigned a retainer but did not allocate the work as expected. Monthly updates did not happen because the client was not available for approval of the idea. So no execution happened. It might seem like money for nothing, but not without a big cost to us. At the end year, while accounting for the retainer it becomes a challenge to again summarize what was done and what, if not, was not done and ensuring that we were able to justify the retainer.

So some web research and review of tons of products made us realize how critical it was to understand the efficiency of each employee and evaluate the work carried out by each on a daily basis, and came up with a very simple and easy solution : The Time Sheet.

The Time Sheet

Time sheets are a systematic record of our team members daily tasks with relation to the time spent on its completion. Computers and the Internet have made the process of entering data very simple, as well as generation of reports a matter of a few clicks.

The Time Sheet helps us to track the time spent on each account, maximize profit and keep clients in the loop through total transparency. Everyone in our team, including the administrative staff and non core-product development teams, sales and servicing teams, finance etc. fill the task sheet. With this we have been able to effectively measure the cost of management and production of our accounts.

Not only has this helped us to accurately gauge the profitability of each individual client but tracking time spent on our client’s accounts has enabled to understand cost allocations and ROI. It means that both strengths and weaknesses are 100% visible pushing everyone to work their hardest and most efficiently at all times. In addition, it also allows us to identify inefficiencies in both our processes and individual team members. For example, we can identify individuals within a team taking more time than average on a specific task and then provide coaching to help the individual work more efficiently and improve upon their weaknesses.

Time Tracking Helped Lower Costs In 3 ways:

  1. Making processing more efficient
  2. Making costs visible so you can lower them
  3. Accurate billing and Timely invoicing

Time tracking increased our revenue, as we were able to get correct invoices out for all hours utilized in working for a particular account over a period of time. It speeds up the overall payment cycle, right from invoicing and receipt.

Timesheets Help Projections of Costs & Timelines

Further the timesheets has helped us accurately build a body of knowledge about how much effort different jobs take to develop. For example if developing a 50 page non-flash or animation based website has historically taken 2 months, then it can be assumed that creating a new one will take 2 months. Equally we are able to identify and apprise clients about potential delays that can be caused from their end. Our timesheet software has the ability to track resource costs and project expenses to allow for better future budgeting.

How Timesheets Can Work For You and the Client

Historical data, if not already mapped will be impossible to track should there be no data inputted already. Ask for a record of monthly efforts to be shared and recorded starting today. You will not only get accountability but will be able to understand the efforts digital campaigns require much better. You can move towards getting better ROI, focusing on jobs that are delivering and those that are not so efficient.

How to Measure ROI of Internet Marketing

How do you measure Return on Investment (ROI) of Internet Marketing? The web lends itself to be measured. After all every impression of a graphic being measurable, the path from which your visitor landed on your web page being traceable, the pages viewed, the likes and comments, the viral effect everything lending itself to being tracked.

However, just like you cannot trace a sale from a TV or Print ad to the actual sale, it is not possible to track the same from your digital campaign, unless you can link an online or mobile coupon at the point of sale.

What is critical however is the difference between a visitor viewing a TV ad or a print ad and the one who is online. The Web or Mobile surfer has clicked on to your website, social content or search listing is that the online customer has proactively chosen to engage with your brand. This is already a plus compared to the audience who is viewing your content as it passes by. The web visitor is very likely to be a customer or a brand ambassador.

So with all the numbers that are indeed measurable, how can you map your ROI? Here is a list of simplified solutions on how you can do that just that.

Setting Goals and Objectives

To map ROI from Internet Marketing it is very critical that you have set your expectations at the onset and also shared it with the agencies who are delivering the solution. Often enough clients / brand managers are not sure of what the end result should be. For example, if you are looking at the website to deliver key product information, the agency will build one that does that. However designing the site alone will not bring in the traffic. The consumer should be informed about this url, or should be able to easily find it. Doing display ads, search marketing, direct mailers, adding the url on your packs, emails, TV and print ads can do that.

If you want the visitors to specifically know more about any one product or service, and fill in an enquiry form and that is the primary action you expect then this goal should be written and shared with all stakeholders in the project.

Traffic To The Website:

With free tools like Google Analytics or try this list of 50 + Tools, you can get a fair idea on the number of visitors who came once, those who visited again, keywords that they used to visit your website, and finally the quantum and quality of time they spent on your website. What all did they view on your website, did they visit the sections you wanted them to, or did they exit from the homepage.

Say your website achieved 5000 unique visitors and each spent 3 minutes on the site on an average. Look also at maximum time spent by any visitor and least time spent. While an uninterested customer would have exited your site quickly, your most interested and likely customer might have spent 10 minutes, making him or her a very likely potential customer who is all set to buy your product.

Review what it would cost you to do a one to one sale with this customer, or measure it against any other campaign you would have done. How much would it have cost you to get 5000 customers in any other form and engage them for 3 minutes. Or how much it would have cost you to reach 500 customers and engage them 10 minutes with each. If there is a better cost online, or if the cost per customer engagement justifies the average value of sale per customer, you know your ROI is positive. Or otherwise!

Social Media Likes & Followers

It is great to have a large fan following, the ROI can however be measured only if this traffic is engaging with your brand. Again, set your expectations right, and have clear objectives of social presence.

a. Your website traffic analytics can show you how much of the traffic you got came form Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc.

b. The engagement, how many people are talking about your brand, liking and commenting on posts, asking questions, retweeting, recommending, sharing, etc. Essentially the quality of engagement is something that you should monitor and have grip on. This will also help you to sift the wheat from the chaff, essentially genuine and real followers from fake profiles used to like your page or follow you.

Similar engagement costs comparisons as for a website visitor can be applied to the social media consumers who engaged with your brand. Social media analytics is still a nascent product market, so you do rely on insights provided by the social platforms themselves such as Facebook Insights, or the WordPress Dashboard. You can find recommendations on a few tools on but we recommend relying on the available insights as these third party tools do need to be tinkered and tested with still.

Search Marketing

It is very easy to track traffic that comes to your webpage from the organic as well as inorganic listings or Paid listings (pay per click ‘PPC’ campaigns) on search. While keyword ranking is a starting point to see if you have started listing on keywords that you have identified as important in your context. However the increase in ranking just establishes that the SEO process followed by your agency is apt. The measure of success would be traffic and engagement. The increase in traffic post your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a definite indication that the SEO is working. Like wise the traffic that is coming from your PPC campaigns, here’s a post that gives your 5 Key Metrics To Measure Success of Paid Search Campaigns.

The measure of real success then comes from what did this increase in eyeballs result in. Whether the right profiles of visitors are being attracted can be measured by what they are viewing on your site, actions they are taking, the engagement with these users.

Display Advertising

Goal setting is critical here and expectations have to be realistic. Multiple objectives should be avoided, and if unavoidable, at lease prioritize on the expectations. You cannot expect brand and performance to weigh equally.

This is true for PPC search campaigns as well as Display advertising, either you focus on branding, brand awareness, or on performance, the number of leads, sign ups or sales your generate. While it is totally understandable that both are critical for you, a campaign has to be designed giving higher weightage to either or. For brand awareness – check the impressions and clicks to the landing page. For Performance based – check (quality) number of people signing up forms or buying products online.

So measure and analyse. Results depends on various factors – your brand equity where it stands vis a vis competition, consumer perception, consumer need; the positioning; communication message; creative impact; media plan; media outlay. Based on your analysis fine-tune your communication techniques to capitalize and convert the customer who is at your doorstep.