Is Your Marketing On The Right Track?

Oct. 1, 2006
No matter how well you plan, part of your marketing success will always be based on trial by error. You can count on certain trends, but at any given

No matter how well you plan, part of your marketing success will always be based on trial by error. You can count on certain trends, but at any given time, a customer base may not respond like you think they will. This is why marketing is said to be a mix of science and art.

But there’s no need to consider “lack of response” a marketing failure. Consider it instead as valuable information. I’ve written a bunch of loser ads myself, and clearly don’t mind admitting it.

Marketing success means finding out what works and what doesn’t. And that’s done by tracking, or testing. Essentially, you can’t get any idea of how well any ad or promotion works unless you track it. When you do, you’ll have an advantage that pays handsomely.

Without tracking, your ads and marketing investment return is a guess. And that’s a joke. You wouldn’t put money in a bank that said, “Your return on this money will be, well, I don’t exactly know because we don’t keep up with that. Whatever you get, well, that’s what you get.” You’d take your money and run, never to return.

One distinction: on a direct response ad, you’re expecting results, so it’s easy enough to chart every incoming lead and attach it to that ad’s performance. On retention marketing this isn’t as immediately measurable, but you can start with your receptionist.

For any incoming lead, your receptionist simply says, “And how did you hear about us?” or “Which ad brought us your call today?” or other such straightforward, friendly question. The answer to this — amassed hundreds of times — will determine:
• Your most profitable ads
• Your most profitable media
• The best areas of response
• The richest combination of marketing methods
• The value of customer or prospect lists.

Your receptionist can keep up with this in a number of ways. I’ve seen very effective companies use a “tick mark” system of noting an ad’s response that is then fed into a weekly results sheet for leads and sales. I’ve also seen sophisticated contact management software that had a field for incoming leads per media type. Any method is better than no method. The essence of tracking is to find what works and how well it’s paying you back.

The rule of thumb is that if an ad continues to run, or a letter is continually mailed, then it is regarded as some success. But that is not always the case.

For instance, if you’ve seen one of your customer’s ads for umpteen years, you may be assuming he’s getting great results. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve critiqued contractor ads that have been used for five or more years where I immediately ask, “And how has this been working for you?”

“Terrible,” they reply. “But it’s all I have so I keep using it.” A distressing reason to keep using any ad or promotion, it ignores valuable information made available by the ad’s lack of response.

As you track, you must apply. It’s not enough to know something doesn’t work. You must use that knowledge to strengthen other marketing efforts — and turn your knowledge into a powerful marketing advantage.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors.To receive the free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time” call 800/489-9099 or fax the request on letterhead to 334/262-1115. For a free marketing newsletter, fax the request on your letterhead to 334/262-1115 or visit