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How to tell if your marketing investments are paying off

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As John Wanamaker famously said, "Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half."
Have you ever wondered this same thing? Chances are, the answer is yes. But marketing doesn't have to be guess work. After all, with so many different technology and Internet analytic tools available to us now, why should it be?
The problem that I see with most of my clients is not that they don't know about these tools, or even that they don't have them in place--it's that they don't know what to measure or how to assess the data being delivered to them.

For instance, Google Analytics is a great tool, and it's free. With a basic snippet of code placed on the footer of your website, you can see all kinds of data about your site's activity--how many people are visiting it, where your site traffic is coming from, what actions they took on the site, etc. Or to measure response to your social media campaigns, Facebook Insights and link tracking tools, such as bit.ly are beneficial, but again, only if you know what you are trying to measure in the first place.
So what are some best practices for measuring the effectiveness and value of a marketing program?
  • Define your benchmarks and criteria for success, then align those benchmarks to a specific action or measurement. Example: if the goal is to drive traffic to a specific page on your site (such as an online purchase form or contact form), then make sure to setup your online tracking tools to measure those specific actions. One way to do this is to setup Goals and Funnels within Google Analytics. A GOAL is a website that serves as conversions for your site; a FUNNEL is the path that you expect visitors to take on their way to converting to the goal.
  • Collect as much data as possible that can help you evaluate response to your marketing meassages and campaigns. Don't just rely on one method to understand customer response, interaction and behaviors.
  • Create realistic and tangible goals. Defining a specific goal, such as--through ad campaign A, our goal is to increase online conversions to our e-newsletter signup page on our website by 5 percent in three months--is much better than a general goal, such as we want to increase awareness of our new line of running shoes.
  • Remember that customer/audience interactions can happen in a lot of ways, not just online. That means you need to find ways to capture customer interactions, behavior and interest using other means, not only through actions taking place on a website. Some ideas: setup unique toll-free numbers, aligned with different marketing or ad campaigns, if most of your business occurs from phone orders OR create a QR code on your in-store signage or print catalog. Whenever someone scans the QR code into their smart phone, it takes them to a specific place on your website, where you want to drive traffic.
Now, more than ever, marketers and business decision-makers have their eyes on the bottom-line, and with the right tools and processes in place, it is possible to see where those valuable investments are going.
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