How are you tracking (your marketing)?
When it comes to marketing, you can be the most brilliant and creative strategist but it may all come to naught if you don’t evaluate your results.
Monitoring and evaluation of marketing campaigns and tactics is one of the most overlooked components of any marketing and communication strategy.
It is also one of the most important aspects. You need to know your money is well spent, especially when marketing dollars are hard to come by. You need to know what works, what doesn’t work and what can be improved?
The thing is that sometimes it can be hard to prove a direct link between marketing activities and results. You may have implemented a fantastic new advertisement in your local paper and sales around the same time increased by 10 per cent. Can you argue there is a direct link between the two? Yes and no.
There are definitely sophisticated marketing metrics and tools available that can help you determine cause and effect. Larger companies have the resources to put facts and figures to what are often intangible results.
However smaller businesses should not despair. Here are 10 free or low cost ways you can monitor and evaluate the success of your marketing activities.
1. Know before you start
I have previously talked about how important it is for any marketing activities to have marketing objectives that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely/timeframes) and directly link back to your overarching strategic goal or aim as an organisation. Then you know what you are trying to measure.
If your marketing activity is not going to contribute to the organisation’s overarching goal and doesn’t support your vision and values, it may not be worth proceeding with it.
Sample objectives may include: Inspire 20% more calls-to-action (calls/likes/share/views/comments) or opt-in to your mailing list; Generate 20% more sales leads; Increase customer enquiries by 10%.
2. Have baseline or benchmark data
Before you start your marketing activity it is a great idea to find out what existing benchmark or baseline data you already have, so you can easily compare before and after performance. This data does not need to be that sophisticated if you don’t have it already. It can be anecdotal even. For example if you are hoping to increase customer enquiries by 20% over six weeks by implementing a particular marketing activity, you need to know what the level of customer enquiries were before you implemented the activity.
If you don’t have hard data from statistics collected or ‘Contact Us’ emails, speak to people who do have a clear idea. Frontline staff and sales reps can give you informed opinions and anecdotal evidence. If you have time before you start your marketing, ask them to collect some data over a period of time, even if it is just a week.
Even if your marketing objective isn’t specifically to increase sales, it is still an indicator of whether a marketing activity might be having an effect. Your marketing objective might be to increase awareness of your organisation, but certainly sales could be a flow-on benefit.
Sales can be measured by new leads generated and converted sales, number of customer enquiries and bookings, customer referrals and billable hours. Be aware though of any peaks and troughs in your business and any other promotions underway, as well as your sales life cycle when measuring sales. You don’t want to be misled into thinking your sales have increased suddenly by 20% in one month, when historical sales data says it always increases at that time of year.
Ask your customers, staff (especially frontline staff) and stakeholders if they heard/saw/responded to your promotion. Ask them for feedback and suggestions, all of the time.
Do this formally via a questionnaire or survey. Free on-line survey tools such as Survey Monkey are really useful and can collate data for you. Use the same questions in your survey and repeat it at another time so you can have baseline data.
Use ‘How did you hear about us?’ questions in Contact Us forms on your website and a drop down list of options such as ‘local newspaper, Google, a friend (please specify your friends name so we can thank them)’. Keep the drop down options up-to-date as you introduce new promotions. If you don’t have one of these on your website yet, get one.
Also get your staff to ask the question ‘How did you hear about us?’ verbally whenever they hear from a new customer. They should also keep a record of the customers’ responses.
5. Measure Return on Investment
Know how much you have spent on your marketing activities. You need to consider all costs, such as advertisement rates, printing and design costs, but also consider labour costs (hourly rates), additional resources and equipment required to make your marketing activity happen.
Compare your costs to how much money (sales revenue and profits) you think can be attributed to your marketing activity and present it in a dollar term to see if it is worth it.
6. Check you’re reaching your target market
Let’s say your target market is 30 to 40-year-old mums, but the majority of people engaging with your marketing activity are 21-year-old university students.
With this information you need to reevaluate how to reach your target market and whether it may be worthwhile targeting a new market segment or not.
7. Measure your digital and social media performance
Use free analytics and other built-in tools such as Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics and Google Analytics. You can gain valuable profiles of the people engaging with your site and how they are interacting. If people are liking it, viewing it, sharing it or commenting, you also know your social media efforts are working.
Track website hits/click-throughs, (your website provider should be able to provide this type of data), e-newsletter subscriptions, number of people engaging in your social media platforms (notice I use the word engaging rather than number of followers, which sometimes can be overrated if those followers aren’t actually engaging with content).
8. Track and monitor mentions
It is very useful to monitor mentions of your brand name, and reproduction of your key messages across all media including social media.
You can set up free Google Alerts to track mentions on the internet.
You can check for reviews about your company on on-line directories, and review sites such as Yelp.
Monitor media such as your local newspaper and radio for mentions and record whether it was positive or negative.
9. Competitor Response
It’s always a good idea to monitor what your competition is up to and if all of a sudden they start mimicking your marketing activities, you could reasonably deduce you may be making some serious cut-through.
Remember imitation is the highest form of flattery.
10. Learn and evolve
Take on board what you have learnt from your monitoring and evaluation. What is working? What’s not? How can we improve? And remember it is an evolving process. The same thing won’t necessarily produce the same results forever. Stay innovative, don’t be scared to try something new, but make informed and calculated risks when it comes to marketing. Finally you can engage an expert if you do need extra help.
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