Not sure if you’re getting the best value from your design partner? Learn how to measure the ROI of design partnerships through a combination of tracking KPIs, keeping a scorecard and following a simple formula. Fair warning: There’s some math involved. Don’t worry, the equation doesn’t come until the end.
It’s often said beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But when you’re putting your valuable budget and time into design projects, you still want to know if the work meets your goals.
When measuring effectiveness in business, the acronym ROI—return on investment—is inevitably top of mind. Even though that sounds super-businessy, measuring the ROI of design isn’t only possible, it’s essential to getting the most from your design partnership.
Putting an objective measurement on design might seem challenging, but it’s not impossible. In this post, we'll discuss the challenges of measuring the ROI of design, what you can use to evaluate design success and give you some formulas to help you understand how your design partner is performing.
While certain metrics, like ad performance, help you draw a straight line to the overall effectiveness of your marketing creative, other measures, like brand impact, are a bit more squiggly.
Digital campaigns provide quantitative data to measure ROI. Say you’re running a Google Ad campaign as an example. You can easily track conversion rates, click-through rates (CTRs) and the big one—customer acquisition cost (CAC). The numbers tell you what’s working and what’s not.
But what about branding work? These creative assets might not have hard stats like views and clicks, but there are still ways you can get qualitative data to help you understand how they're performing. You can look at traffic lift, use Google’s Brand Lift tool and survey customers. However, the line is still dotted and curvy.
Going one conceptual stack doll above the design itself, assessing the ROI of your overall outsourced design partnership can be broken down into two main components:
Together, these components can help you develop a tangible way to quantify your design partner relationship, which underscores your ability to produce outstanding, cost-effective creative.
No one can escape acronyms, not even design agencies and partners. KPIs give you qualitative insights into the effectiveness of your overall relationship. Measuring these KPIs gives you a deeper understanding of your design partner’s performance and the value they bring to your business.
If some of these sound familiar, it’s because many of these KPIs are similar to the qualities used to evaluate potential design partners.
Sharpen your pencils. It’s time to turn KPIs into actual numbers! A design partner scorecard helps you track and quantify KPIs. With the design partner scorecard, you score each KPI and then weight it to give you a total figure you can use to gauge the strength of your relationship.
Using a simple table, list all the KPIs you want to measure on the left column. In the next column, assign each KPI a score from 1 to 10, where 1 indicates poor performance, and 10 represents maximum effectiveness (or awesomeness).
Weighing scores provides a further measure by letting you prioritize which KPIs matter the most in your design partner relationships. The higher the weight, the greater the significance. One very important point: All of your decimal value weights must add up to one.
To calculate the weighted score, you multiply the KPI score by the weight: KPI score X weight = weighted score. In turn, your total score is the sum of all your weighted scores.
This example shows you how the design partner scorecard works and comes together when you fill in all the blanks.
|KPI Score (1–10)
This hypothetical design partner scores average to above average on every KPI, with the highest scores in quality, communication and technical skills. The total weighted score is 5.8 out of 10—way to go hypothetical design partner!
Building on quantifying design partner KPIs, you can also calculate design partner ROI as a percentage of the overall cost of their services. Here’s how the formula works:
Step 1. Double the service cost to get the maximum potential value (MPV)
In this example, the service cost is $3,500.
$3,500 service cost X 2 = $7,000 MPV
Step 2. Divide the MPV by the total number of KPIs
$7,000 / 7 KPIs = $1,000
Step 3. Multiply this number by the total weighted KPI score
$1,000 X 5.8 = $5,800
Step 4. Calculate the ROI as a percentage of the cost of the design service
Subtract the original service cost from the number calculated in Step 3.
$5,800 - $3,500 = $2,300
Step 5. Divide by the original service cost.
$2,300 / $3,500 = 0.66
Step 6. Multiply by 100 to get your ROI percentage score.
0.66 X 100 = 66%
This partner's score of 66% ROI is impressive. To interpret it, here’s how you view a range of scores:
As you try these methods, keep in mind:
Your relationship with your design partner affects the kind of design work you produce. In turn, the creative itself shapes customer experiences and your experience with the partner. (Can anyone else hear Elton John singing Circle of Life?)
Mutual trust and respect are amazing. And when you back it with proof of both the ROI of design and your design partner, you’ve also built a solid foundation for future decisions.
Alex is a freelance writer and newsletter aficionado based in Waterloo, Ontario. When he’s not writing for clients, he’s putting together TL;WR, a weekly culture and events newsletter his mom says is excellent. Alex has worked with some of Canada’s largest tech companies in PR, marketing and communication roles. Connect with him on LinkedIn to chat or get ideas on what to do this weekend in Waterloo.