I am often amazed when I begin working with a new client to find that they have no real means of measuring how successful their investments in marketing have been. Considering that, on average, companies spend over 10% of their budget on marketing, it would make basic business sense that a company has a firm understanding of how well its investment was performing.
So why do so many small businesses fail to effectively measure their marketing ROI and performance? Having spent eight years at the helm of a small, non-marketing business, I was guilty of the same failing. The main metric we used to understand the effectiveness of our marketing was to compare marketing spending to monthly or quarterly profits or losses, or we just used anecdotal evidence. The real reason was that we didn’t know a better way to measure.
In hindsight, I realize how silly this was. With so many moving parts to an overall marketing strategy not closely tracking the results of individual ad investments made it difficult to truly understand what worked and what didn’t. We likely ended up spending more on things that didn’t work and perhaps even got rid of investments that were performing well. I am still responsible for the marketing at that company and we’ve shaped up our ship on the measuring front.
Fortunately for you, there are many solutions available at a low cost to help you measure your marketing effectiveness. Having a plan to measure your marketing comes at the top of the list.
- Planning – Before you invest in a new marketing effort, say to your team, “Is there an effective way to measure this? What is involved? Let’s get a plan in place.” Do this for every individual investment, but have a plan to measure your overall strategies as well. Compare different campaigns against one another, compare various media options, tie an ROI to each investment and do the math to figure out what it costs to earn one client with a specific campaign. Take the time to figure it out. Find out where best to put your limited marketing budget so you get the MOST for your spend. The following tools can be used to measure your success.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics helps companies understand how well their website is performing. From total visits to metrics related to individual actions, there is a lot you can track. Analytics serve you best when using before and after information to determine if a change had a positive result. Google Analytics gives you the opportunity to establish goals for various user actions you want your visitors to take and includes the ability to associate a dollar value to the conversion. This gives you more insight into the performance of your website allowing you to make the changes that are necessary to improve.
- Call Tracking – There are many call tracking solutions out there. We’ve used a few and are extremely happy with CallRail. For $30 a month you get 10 numbers that you control and 500 minutes of talk time. Calls are recorded and dynamic number swapping changes the phone number on your website depending on how visitors enter, allowing for more effective measurement. They offer keypad scoring for after-call reporting and keyword level call tracking to help you manage your SEO and ad campaigns. There are many other features allowing you to customize the solution to fit your business needs.
- Conversion Tracking – If you’re investing in online ads, you should be measuring conversions. In a nutshell, if you drive traffic to your website from an online ad, there NEEDS to be a call to action. No matter the call to action, you should be able to track whether the desired outcome was achieved or not. Google Adwords, Bing Ads, retargeting ads from Adroll and others all allow you to track conversions and associate dollar values with each conversion.
- Google Search Console – Use Google Search Console to see how Google sees your website and where your site shows up in search results for different keywords. Learn what keywords drive the most traffic to your website. This will be the interface you will use to interact with Google’s team if they notify you of a problem.
- Moz Open Site Explorer – Use Moz OSE to understand how your link structure looks. Search engines look at how many links are pointing to your site and how many links on your site point to the pages within your site as well as other websites on the web. They use this information as one way to determine where to put your site in search results. Compare your website’s links against those of four competitors to understand what you might have to do to get a leg-up.
- SEO Site Checkup – SEOSiteCheckup.com will grade your website against SEO best practices. Get recommendations on how you can improve your website to show up higher in search results. This tool also allows you to test your website against your closest competitor.
- Social Insights – Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn all have insights or analytic tools to help you understand how well your pages are performing. Twitter’s analytics even give you recommendations on how to improve your social performance. If you’re investing in advertisements on any of these platforms, the metrics are robust.
- Email Metrics – If you are using an email marketing solution like MailChimp (our favorite), Constant Contact or any of the several that are out there, you should be tracking open rates and click rates to see how your subscribers are engaging. MailChimp even allows for A/B testing so that you can determine how different approaches to the same message perform, allowing you to improve future mailings.
- Custom Measuring Solutions – Sometimes measuring the effectiveness of a campaign isn’t so easy. Radio, for instance, can be difficult to measure. In these cases, you may need to get creative. Creating unique pages on your website to associate with these campaigns is one solution (and you can use Google Analytics and a call tracking number to get the best data). You can also create and promote a unique offer that you ask customers to reference when placing an order or making a purchase. Having a solid plan to record the use of promotional offers is important in these cases.
Of course this list is not complete depending on the marketing solutions you employ. If you’re using an automated marketing platform like HubSpot or Infusionsoft, there is a TON of data that you can use to beef up your campaign, get better results, and improve marketing ROI.
What is most important this year is that you take steps to better measure the effectiveness of your marketing investments and use that data to make smarter decisions. The data that we’ve collected over the years has helped our clients realize that digital and inbound marketing can deliver 10x greater results than traditional marketing. This, in turn, has helped them to embrace a once scary investment and soar well above what they thought was possible for their companies.
If you’re looking for help creating a plan to measure and steer your marketing plan in 2017, reach out to us below or by calling (888) 978-4918. Helping you reach exponential growth through 21st Century marketing solutions is why we are here.
Originally published on January 6, 2016. Updated December 28, 2016.