How to Measure Advertising Results

It should be said first and upfront: you can measure advertising results from every media. Traditional, digital, subliminal, online, offline, experiential, indoor, outdoor, audio, video…all of them.

With that out of the way, I want to briefly explain why I am personally authoring this blog post. Arkside Marketing was born partially out of frustration. Through my experiences in all three sides of the marketing industry, it became apparent that many people in this business are limited. Some by choice, some by employment (restrictive companies or bosses), and some by ignorance. I do not mean any of those as an insult. Just facts. Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) of your advertising is critical. Marketers have inaccurate or partial views of how to craft a message, what media(s) may work best, or how to properly quantify results. That last item is what we will address here. Being able to track or source results is so vital to effective marketing that it is a core element of Rule #1 at Arkside, and we only have 2 Rules. Additionally, it is foolish and arrogant to believe that marketers of the past simply threw their money against a wall in radio or television and did not accurately measure the revenue generated. Let’s look at some of these shortcomings and how they can be addressed.

Can You Source Sales from Marketing?

Yes.

The answer is that simple without any qualifiers. I will boldly go further by stating that any professional marketer who claims you can’t measure advertising results either doesn’t know how or is lying. The former can be fixed. The latter is an operational danger to your company. Important information can be gleaned throughout the marketing and sales process and this has always been the case. Today’s technology has exponentially increased those capabilities. They are more accurate and educational.

To fully measure the ROI of your marketing investment you need to implement tools which empower you and remove hurdles that restrict you.

How to Measure Advertising Results

This list is by no means complete, but these are some of the most accurate and engaging methods by which you can calculate your marketing ROI and obtain data to optimize future campaigns.

Old School ROI Methods

Unique Phone Numbers – Arguably one of the most effective and well-known ROI measurement tools in the business. Simply give each media outlet its own phone number. If you get a call on a particular number you know what ad generated it. You can do the same with each creative in an A/B test as well. Make sure you calculate call volume against the cost of each individual ad. You also want to track the sales quantity and profit margin of each call to determine the value of leads from the individual media. WARNING: Do not do this across online directory listings or social media. Ad campaigns are okay, but your phone number must be consistent on all of your online profiles.

Coupons – “Bring in this ad to receive…”. Not much easier than this. It can teach you a lot about your audience if you gather the right data. Where did they come from? What else did they buy? How long were they in the store? Male or female? Etc. But beware of misinterpreting your data. A coupon can have high or low redemption rates for a variety of reasons: offer value, time sensitivity, geographic distance, competitive offers, bad timing (alcohol coupons after election day are good, steak dinners the first Friday of Lent are not so good).

Limited Time Offers – A cousin to the coupon, but with an added hook. Give customers an incentive to help you suddenly sellout. “Come in before this Saturday  to save 50%!”. Limited time offers are usually asking people to adjust their schedules so make sure you are providing sufficient enough incentive (a.k.a. savings) to do so. Keep in mind that these can be done in-store or online. Don’t feel limited on how or where to send people.

Codes/Words – If Jane wants her free tote bag, she needs to say “Happy Strawberry Day” at checkout. Keep an audio (if legal to record in your state/country) or written log and count how many bags were given out. Staff training on this is critical. They need to understand the value of the campaign and should not be handing out bags without the code. Again, this can be applied online as well: Enter the code at checkout or upon arrival to reveal a unique coupon.

Referral Bonus – This particular tracking method encourages both new sales and existing customer loyalty. It incentivizes your customers to refer their friends and family. If your product or service price can absorb a small dent, a referral bonus empowers your customers to become “brandvocates” and your most effective sales force. Remember – word of mouth is your best form of advertising. Referral bonuses are great because the referrer is usually very diligent about making sure the referral gives them proper credit. This greatly enhances your trackability.

Ask For a Specific Person – This one requires delicate deployment. If you have more than one person, the best way to use this is to advertise a product or service that only one of your staff is able to represent. For example, if Sally is the only person in the company who knows about the new Widget3000, launch an ad campaign that says “ask for Sally, our Widget3000 expert!”. Not doing so may still bring Widget3000 customers but you know those that ask for Sally saw or heard a particular campaign or media. It also achieves the goal of inspiring the customer because they are working with an expert that can answer their questions. Finally, it can expedite the sales process which enables greater quantities sold per day, higher total commissions (which makes Sally happy), and is more likely to result in a positive review from the customer.

Loss Leader Pricing – The most well known examples may be car dealers. You’ve all seen low priced vehicles with the famous “one at this price” disclaimer. The concept is straightforward: drastically discount one unit with the goal of attracting attention and opportunities to switch the customer to a regular-priced unit or higher-priced item. This is very effective for tracking purposes as you can monitor how many calls, emails, in-store requests, or social posts you receive for the offer. It works well across traditional and digital media.

New School ROI Methods

For most “new school” or digital tracking methods, you will have multiple added data points to make future decision making more informed. You can receive demographic, geographic, experience, and perhaps even psychographic data in addition to raw response and engagement rates. Make sure you have detailed tracking tools installed on your site such as Google Analytics. You can’t know too much and knowing too little costs you money.

Unique URL and/or Landing Page – These two tactics are related and can even be the same thing. A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is just a website address. Could be as easy as “www.ArksideMarketing.com” or something longer such as “www.arksidemarketing.com/why-fox-should-not-have-apologized-for-x-men-billboard/”. For online campaigns, sending traffic to a unique location is very effective at funneling traffic, tracking response rates, controling what information is seen, and beginning to source your new lead.

UTM Codes -As strange as it sounds, UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” because it was invented by a company called Urchin Web Analytics. They were bought by Google in 2005. They created a way to attach information to a URL. If you saw that you were receiving traffic from “mail.yahoo.com” to your website, you would know people were clicking a link in from their Yahoo! email account. But with UTM codes, you could see traffic from “mail.yahoo.com?utm_source=campaignA&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=widget3000discount”. Each part of that code tells you an additional piece of information as well as enabling you to launch multiple campaigns simultaneously, do A/B testing, and separate identical campaigns that may have launched at different times. UTM codes can be extremely lengthy but they have no impact on the user’s experience. It only provides you data.

Form Submission – Another multifaceted tracking tool. You can already count how many forms are submitted via your website. But have you gone deeper on their value? Form submissions not only give you raw response rates, they can also tell you the value of the path to the form. Some website visitors may go from your home page, through a couple product pages, over to your portfolio or testimonials, abandon a shopping cart or two, and then finally request more information via a form. Others may go from a custom landing page straight to a form submission. Both paths generated a lead, but if you analyze the flow path more deeply, you may discover that people going straight to a landing page are submitting forms at a lower rate than those who “wander” around your site. Those who wander may feel more comfort or trust with your brand and are therefore more likely to contact you. Perhaps the landing page isn’t providing enough information and your page menu doesn’t allow them to go elsewhere on the site. The point is getting a form submission isn’t nearly enough data for future decision-making. It is a starting point for your analysis.

Click Through Rate – We’ve referenced the value of knowing what and how certain things prompt a response. Tracking a click through rate (CTR) helps you understand the final effect of a user experience. Monitor what pages, forms, ads, and media are generating higher engagement. But make sure you are tracking ALL clicks: ad click, call-to-action item click, form submission, menu clicks, internal links, etc. You need to understand what your customers are looking for on your website, social media, videos and, most importantly, why they are looking for it. Tracking each available CTR can help you understand that.

ROI Methods Effective in Old and New School Media

Contests – There are so many different ways to run contests that I can’t list them all here. Basic guidelines are as follows:

  1. Make sure your entire contest is legal: methods of entry, prize(s) given, winner selection, winner notification, legal disclaimers, etc.
  2. Offer a prize that will entice your audience to enter. Just because you want to promote it doesn’t mean your audience will care enough to enter a contest for it. Think about it from their perspective.
  3. Promote it through all relevant media channels and encourage staff to do the same.
  4. Use the winner (and presentation event, if you have one) as another promotional marketing tool
  5. For results measurement, track all relevant engagements including number of entries, website traffic, in-store entries, calls, sales opportunities, sales (quantity, margin, and secondary purchases), and media impressions.

Spot Time Alignment – This method allows you to sync your digital and non-digital media. If you have a TV or radio spot airing at 10:02am, track your website traffic, social engagement, calls, and in-store visits immediately after the spot. People tend to be curious about something after hearing about it. This data can be a critical element when doing your ROI calculation and making decisions about future marketing investment. Two media may generate similar sales volume, but knowing which produces a more research oriented customer can help you refine your sales process and capture the higher hanging fruit.

Product/Service Profit Margin – I have already referenced it multiple times in other tracking methods, but it deserves its own explanation. It is vital to understand how a particular marketing lead impacts your profitability. Selling 100 more Widget3000s is great, but if your radio leads are more likely to also buy accessories or your Facebook leads are more likely to be hagglers, that data should factor into your future decision making. Fox Business viewers may be more profitable than HGTV viewers. You won’t know this unless you match each customer to their lead process. It can mean the difference between thousands or millions of dollars in revenue.

Collecting Customer Data

We have covered a huge variety of ways to track every media in existence. There is no advertising you can’t track with the right approach and execution. All of that tracking relies on collecting customer data. Digital media are great at providing basic demographic and geographic data, but you have the ability to go deeper. Consider the difference between these three questions:

  1. How have you heard about us?
  2. What brought you in today?
  3. Why did you decide to purchase today?

Each question gives you a unique and valuable piece of data. All three help you better understand who your customer is, how your brand is recognized and perceived, and where your sales strengths (and potential weaknesses) are. Here are a variety of ways you can gather customer data at multiple points throughout your marketing and sales cycles:

  • Online surveys
  • In-store surveys (not very reliable, but can be part of the process)
  • At point of purchase (“Can I get your zip code, please?”)
  • Loyalty program enrollment
  • Focus group
  • Beacon tracking
  • New customer/client enrollment form
  • Website traffic tracking (Google Analytics)

Make sure you are honest with your customers and potential customers about what you’re collecting and what you’ll do with it. Privacy policies are required by law in most places so make sure you are compliant.

You Can, You Should, and You Must

Moving forward, don’t ever let someone tell you that something can’t be tracked. In the 2,500+ words above, I have show you how to do so across every possible media. I have also shown you how to collect additional data to enhance the total value of your marketing and improve your sales. And I will leave you with one final point:

YOU MUST DO ALL OF THIS.

The successful companies of the future will be disruptive. They will know more about their customers than ever before because their customers know more about them than ever before. Knowledge is power. Understanding their emotions and decision-making process is what can separate success from failure. Your competitors can be smart or you can. But someone will go out of business and it will be the company that knows the least.

Don’t believe me? Think about how much Amazon knows.

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