The smartest rule you can follow regarding your marketing and advertising campaigns is this: You are no longer going to permit any advertising, marketing or selling investments to be made without direct and accurate tracking, measurement and accountability.
You’ll hear all sorts of arguments against such a harsh position, by media salespeople, by online media champions, by staff, by peers. You’ll smile and politely say, “Rubbish.” Each dollar sent out to forage must come back with more and/or must meet predetermined objectives. There will be no freeloaders; there will be no slackers.
This is now particularly vital with online and social media. Some of it is ad media pretending to be something else. Much of it is wrapped in its own deliberately confusing means of evaluation — likes, views, time of views, viral, etc. Ignore those other numbers and insist on clear, accurate measurements for return on invested money and time in such media, just the same as for all media. You’ll be told it’s different, but always remember you don’t get to spend different money or different hours on it.
There are two reasons for holding all media harshly accountable: First, because management by objectives is the only kind of management that actually works. When an NFL football team takes the field on Sunday, there are team objectives — not just winning, but for ingredients of victory that can be measured. Each player also has individual, measurable objectives that he and his coaches have discussed before the game and will evaluate after the game. So it should be when your team takes the field. Your team includes people you pay as well as marketing you pay for. You can’t manage what you can’t, don’t or won’t measure. Vagueness must be banished.
The second reason for direct measurement is that you need real, hard facts and data to make good, intelligent marketing decisions. Making such decisions on what you and your employees think is happening, feel, have a sense of, etc., is stupid.
So, let’s talk about tracking response. This means collecting as much information as you can, which is useful in determining what advertising, marketing and promotion is working and what isn’t, which offer is pulling and which isn’t. Admittedly, this can be a bit tricky. For example, Ad #1 may pull in new customers at $122.80 in cost and Ad #2 at $210, so you might decide Ad #1 is the winner. But the average first six months’ purchase activity of those coming from Ad #2 is $380; the average from Ad #1 only $198. Now, which is more productive? Further, 30 percent of those from Ad #2 may refer others, while only 10 percent of those from Ad #1 refer. Now, which ad is better?
Don’t shrug this off as too complicated. Set up systems to capture the data you need and set aside time for the analysis. If it’s painful and confusing at first, the difficulty will abate. You’ll make discoveries that enable you to make better decisions, better allocate resources, create better marketing messages and grow your business without simply growing the marketing budget proportionately. In a mature business, this is how profits can be grown without growing revenue.
Here’s an interesting example of what can be revealed: A chain of stores with advertising that produced a lot of walk-ins had in place a process whereby the clerks were to ask everybody which ad in which media had brought them in, and stick-count it, day by day. Unfortunately, this was subject to an enormous amount of “slop.” Employees didn’t ask and randomly added to the count in different categories or put a lot of numbers in “Misc.” A change was made, giving visitors a little survey card to fill out, pushed by huge in-store signage, entering them in a weekly drawing for good prizes — and suddenly, a lot of accurate data materialized, very contradictory to the data that had been collected or, often, just made up by the staff.
There’s an important key to tracking: offers. Different offers can be made in different media, to different mailing lists, at different times. Offer and promotional codes can be assigned to coupons, reply cards, surveys, online opt-in, response and order forms. For example, big direct-response advertisers on radio like Lifelock and Boll & Branch tie promotional codes to different talk radio hosts, which the consumer enters at the website to secure a discount or gift, often as simple as entering the host’s name. The internet also offers the local merchant an opportunity to force better tracking.
Pre-internet, a local restaurant advertising on several radio shows and in a couple newspapers, giving away a free appetizer with dinner, could only try to find out which ad brought a customer in by having the customer tell the wait staff in order to get the free appetizer and relying on the wait staff to accurately stick-count and report that collected information. Now the consumer can be driven to a different, clone website to download a coupon for the free appetizer, the coupons collected and tallied and a much more accurate result obtained — plus the restaurant gets the added benefit of capturing the names and email addresses of those visiting the site, and maybe offering online reservation-making options to the consumer as well.
Tough-minded management of marketing requires knowing things. Of course, hardly any tracking mechanism is perfect. The job is to get as close to perfect as you can so that you’re getting the best information possible.