Return On Investment (ROI): Basic Concepts & Examples




Updated 2/3/2024

Understand the basics of ROI, or Return On Investment. Learn how it’s calculated and why it’s important to your productivity efforts.

ROI cover - graphs and plants

In the simplest terms, Return on Investment (ROI) is a financial metric used to measure the probability of gaining a return from an investment.

It is a ratio that compares the gain or loss from an investment relative to its cost. ROI is expressed as a percentage and is used for personal financial decisions, to compare a company’s profitability, or compare the efficiency of different investments.

Why is ROI Important?

It is a versatile and widely used profitability ratio.

  • Performance Measurement: ROI helps measure the efficiency or profitability of different investments, enabling a comparison of gains across various sectors and investment types.
  • Decision-Making: Analysis can guide crucial business decisions regarding resource allocation, potential investment opportunities, and evaluating business strategies.
  • Goal Setting: ROI can aid in setting and monitoring financial goals, providing clear targets to work towards.

How to Calculate ROI

The formula for calculating the metric is simple:

ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100

Net profit is the gain from the investment minus the cost of the investment. It’s important to remember that costs can include more than just the initial investment. Depending on the context, it could also include operational or maintenance costs.

Example Calculation

Let’s understand this better with a simple example:

Suppose you invested $1,000 in stocks (your cost of investment) and sold them later for $1,200. The net profit from this investment is $1,200 – $1,000 = $200.

Using the ROI formula:

ROI = (200 / 1000) x 100 = 20%

This means that the return on your investment is 20%.

Leveraging ROI

Learning how to use it to make informed business decisions is what matters. Here’s how you can leverage it in your business:

  • Comparing Investments: Use ROI to compare the efficiency of different investments within your business. This will help you channel resources to areas with the highest returns.
  • Analyzing Profitability: It can help you measure and track the profitability of various aspects of your business over time, aiding in forecasting and setting financial targets.
  • Evaluating Costs: Regularly calculating and assessing ROI can help identify high-cost areas in your business where returns are not proportional to the expenditure.

Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

While this is a valuable metric, it comes with its share of pitfalls:

  1. Over Simplification: ROI is an easy-to-understand measure, which can lead to oversimplification. Remember that while it’s a useful indicator of profitability, it shouldn’t be the sole reason for your decision.
  2. Ignoring Time: It doesn’t account for the time value of money. An investment’s return over five years is not as valuable as the same return achieved in one year.
  3. Subjectivity in Cost Measurement: The costs included in the ROI calculation can be subjective and lead to inaccuracies. Ensure to include all relevant costs for a more accurate assessment.

ROI & Digital Marketing

These two have a crucial connection for determining and adjusting your strategies.

  1. Effectiveness Indicator: ROI measures the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategies. It highlights successful campaigns and flags areas for improvement, helping you refine your approach.
  2. Decision-Making Aid: It helps inform crucial business decisions. By analyzing it, you can identify where to allocate your marketing budget best, investing in high-ROI efforts like SEO, and reconsidering those with lower returns.
  3. Resource Allocation Guide: ROI can steer you towards effective resource allocation. Knowing which marketing channels with the highest yield allows you to maximize your marketing spend.
  4. Benchmark for Future Planning: It is a benchmark for future marketing strategies. It enables realistic target setting and progress tracking for future campaigns.
  5. Balance Between Immediate Returns and Long-Term Value: While ROI is crucial, it’s important to remember that some digital marketing initiatives contribute to long-term brand building, not just immediate returns. Therefore, it’s essential to balance immediate measurements with long-term marketing goals.

By leveraging ROI, you can optimize your digital marketing efforts for immediate returns and long-term success.


ROI is an essential tool in your business toolkit. It can guide you toward more profitable investments and help steer your business to success. However, it is crucial to understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. It should be used alongside other metrics and considerations to make comprehensive and informed business decisions.


Get Powerful Templates

Streamline your content management
with dynamic templates and tools.