Three Steps to Measure Your Company’s Marketing Profitability

By: Anuj Khanna

Whether you are a bootstrapped or invested startup or even an SME or a large enterprise, it is utmost crucial to analyze profitability of your Channels, Products, Markets and Customers

In my earlier article on Annual Plan Control, we examined achievements of the planned results for sales, profits and other goals. Another important control to put in place in start of the year is Profitability Control. This is simply because Profit is like money in the bank and businesses need to analyze the profitability of their various products, regions, customer groups and channels.

Past research over the years has shown that:

  • 20-40% of a company’s products are unprofitable and upto 60% of their accounts generate losses
  • More than half of customer relationships are not profitable. Also, 30-40% are only marginally profitable. More often than not, a mere 10-15 % of company’s relationships generate most of its profits.

The process to measure Marketing-Profitability consists of three steps as shown in the figure below:










  • Identifying the Functional Expenses


The company needs to determine the expenses being incurred for the marketing activities such as selling, advertising, distribution, packing, billing & collection, et al. Next task is to break each expense and allocate it to different marketing functions. For example, if most salary went to sales representative and rest went to advertising manager, packing, office accountant, then the total salary will be allocated according to these activities. Finally, all the natural expenses of salary, rent, etc are mapped onto each functional expense of say, Selling, Advertising, Billing, etc.  


  • Assigning the Functional Expenses to the Marketing Entities


The next step in the Marketing-Profitability Analysis is to measure how much functional expense is associated with each type of channel. For example, based on number of orders placed through each channel, the company can allocate accounting expenses. Also, based on number of ads placed for each channel, the advertising expense can be allocated. This way an average cost can be calculated based on the total number of ads. Based on the amount of sales efforts required for each channel, the cost for the sales calls can be allocated to the specific channel.


  • Preparing a Profit-and-Lost statement for each Marketing Entity


Last step is to prepare a profit and lost statement for each type of channel. The cost of goods is assigned according the amount of sales for each channel, e.g. if one channel achieved half of the total sales then the cost of good allocated to that channel will be half of the total cost of goods sold. From this gross margin, one can deduct the proportion of each of the functional expenses including Selling, Advertising, Billing, Packing etc. This overall calculation shall give the net profit for each of the channel. The key inference from this calculation is that the gross sales from a specific channel does not equate to a higher profit from that same channel.

While determining the correcting action based on the profit and loss statement, the company also needs to consider factors related to buyers, market trends, marketing strategies, etc. before concluding which channels are the best to continue investing in and which channels need to be dropped. Marketing Management can evaluate alternative actions more specific to the channels that are not doing so well.

Costing is one of the important factors where arbitrariness in the choice of bases calls for adding the judgmental element as well. For example, while allocating selling expense, a company uses number of sales calls, when in principle it should use ‘’ number of sales working hours.’’ The more serious judgmental element affecting this analysis is allocation of ‘’full,’’ ‘’direct,’’ and ‘’traceable’’ costs. It is worthwhile to add few definitions as below:












Using direct cost in the Marketing-Profitability Analysis is a no-brainer and there is a small amount of controversy regarding inclusion of traceable common costs. The major controversy is regarding allocation of non-traceable common costs, in which case it is known as full-cost approach. In order to analyze true profitability, all costs must be assigned to the various marketing entities.

Overall, the Marketing-Profitability Analysis gives the relative profitability of the different Channels, Products, Territories, Customer Groups et al. It certainly does not prove that a company needs to drop the unprofitable marketing entity nor does it tell that the company will be more profitable if these entities are dropped.  In today’s highly competitive environment, Profitability Control is a crucial control to put in place in your company at start of the year.

Have the most profitable year 2018.

(The author is a B-Tech from IIT BHU and MBA (Marketing) from California State University, Los Angeles. He is a Software Products and IT Services Marketing professional with 22+ years of experience in Product Marketing, Public Relations, Marketing Communications, Marketing Programs, Branding, Marketing Automation, Marketing Strategy and Influencer Relations.)

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