What's the ROI?

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Famously Steve Jobs was once asked at an Apple shareholder meeting by a shareholder who wanted to get some insights into his most in-depth thinking: “What keeps you awake at night?” Jobs replied, “Shareholder meetings.”

Can you envision Jobs in a shareholder meeting being bogged down by endless questions all focused on ROI?

I don't have fancy shareholder meetings, but I do have sales meetings.

Sales meetings where the question of what is the ROI for someone attending a Brigadoon gathering usually comes up.

The exchange usually proceeds down this path:

Question to me: "What's the ROI of me attending a Brigadoon event?"

Response from me: "I have no idea."

Question to me: "Will the people in the room buy my product?"

Response from me: "I have no idea."

These two responses are usually less than satisfying to the person posing the questions. 

There is usually silence as well. Plus the questioner is generally puzzled, perplexed, and many times perturbed.

Being shaped by consumer environment where the customer is always right, hand-holding is demanded, and orange slices are provided for everyone, such cavalier responses from a seller can be unsettling.

After this breathless, how does this conversation move forward moment, this is how I usually respond:

"If you are interested in having conversations with compelling entrepreneurs and thought leaders in dynamic settings, Brigadoon is probably for you. The ROI of Brigadoon is up to you on how you use the conversations and settings to your enhance your business, mental health, investments, and performance. If you need a clear, from the start ROI, Brigadoon is probably not for you."

From my observation, those Brigadoon attendees that are free from seeking a calculated ROI from the start have the best experiences and leave the gatherings smarter and more energized. Not having a predictable and repeatable ROI for Brigadoon works because the result is divergent and distinctive for each attendee.

It's tempting for those of us selling a product to obsess about providing secure, measurable, and help me explain to my boss what this is results for a customer.

It's tempting to make it easy, black and white, and predictable for customers - it is called industrialization.

It's the difference between dinning with Ronald McDonald and Grant Achatz.

Ronald McDonald spends all his time focused on delivering value meals, predictable experiences, and repeatable french fries.

Grant Achatz spends all his time focused on delivering expensive meals, unpredictable experiences, and unrepeatable french fries.

The market, management, and mainframe reward the industrialist with short-term accolades followed by a relentless need for ever more of the same growth and productivity that got them accolades in the first place.

Today's industrialists define our economy, secure the headlines, get interviewed on CNBC, and win awards from magazines, but they offer very little excitement for tomorrow. Their work makes it easy, black and white, and predictable for customers. It's industrialization.

Some products, services, and outcomes must be designed from the start to alter the culture, eschew ROI, and operate in ways that will ensure the customer must define her ROI that is individually divergent and distinctive.

As long as industrialists are focused on ROI, uncomplicated, black and white, and predictable, there will be a gap for those of us that want to engage in a customer experience that is ambiguous, smoky, and unpredictable.

If you are working in an overly industrialized business, I would recommend adding a little unknown to your offerings. Customers will find the outcome they desire. Customers will be comfortable in finding their value. Customers will want more.

Thinking back to Steve Jobs and the iPhone environment, when you unpack an iPhone, there is no roadmap, no predictive outcome where the device will take you.  Each smartphone experience is divergent and distinctive.

That's the ROI.

-Marc A. Ross | Brigadoon Founder + TLC

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in thought leader communications and event production. Working with doers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders, Marc helps them create compelling communications, winning commerce, and powerful connections. 

Marc Ross

Based in Washington, DC, I specialize in thought leader communications and global public policy for public affairs professionals working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

Clients hire me to ghostwrite, engage influencer networks, manage media relations, produce events, audit their communications infrastructure, consult on hiring, provide issue briefs and news generating talking points, as well as manage end to end communications projects where I assume a role of project leader and general contractor.

I work independently but provided access to a substantial global network of collaborators with expertise in websites, graphic design, audio, video, polling, data analytics, and research.

Using the latest tactics of an American political campaign with expertise shaped by being a practitioner of global business communications, I help clients tell their story and build trusted relationships with all necessary stakeholders.

Successful communications are all about STOCK = strategy, tactics, organization, consistency, and know-how.