Measure your marketing! 7 Simple ways to work out what’s working and what’s not

For many of today’s business owners, Lord Leverhulme’s famous quote from the end of the 19th Century, still rings true

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted and the trouble is I don’t know which half.

When you’re running a small business every bit of marketing budget really needs to count, which is why at Extended Thinking, we’re often asked how best to measure a company’s marketing efforts. The good news is that, with developments in technology and some simple business approaches, you can monitor the outcome of your marketing investment more effectively.

1. It pays to be clear about what you want to achieve

Firstly it does help to be clear about the results you want to achieve. Often we come across vague or aspirational goals which are hard to measure, such as ‘I want to raise awareness’ or ‘I want to generate sales enquiries’. Goals which instead are specific, measurable, action focused, realistic and set within a specific timeframe (SMART) really do aid successful marketing campaigns. This is because they focus all the elements of the campaign to the task at hand and ensure progress can be measured along the way. Consider these more focused marketing campaign goals:

  1. To get 20 of our target customers to sign up to our Spring sales promotion by 31 March
  2. To generate a 30% click-through on the ABC article in the February e-newsletter followed up by our sales team within 3 working days
  3. To generate 40 enquiries to our servicing offer between 1-30 June
  4. To win 60 new customers (value £x) from within a 20 mile radius of our new Oxford office by 31 July 2014

2. Building a robust target list

If you are going to invest in the creative treatment and media of a marketing campaign, you want it to have the best chance possible in generating a positive response from your target audience. To achieve this you need to make sure:

– The data you have about your target audience is current and accurate

– You understand the nuances and profile of the people in that target list so your choice of media, timing, content and style of marketing campaign resonates with them 100%.

Where possible, focus your marketing on smaller groups in a tailored approach rather than follow a scattergun approach to a large target list. Not only are you more likely to generate a favourable response this way, it will be easier to manage and measure.

3. Trackable calls to action

One of the reasons why digital marketing is hugely popular is because its technology provides businesses owners with a whole host of analytic data. Of course this popularity has a downside too, consumers are swamped by digital campaigns and have become more selective about what marketing they interact with. The proliferation of media also means more choice and more routes to try to get in front of your target market and this can get really expensive for the smaller marketing budgets.

There’s something to be said then for still using traditional marketing, such as direct mail, where you may currently experience less competition.  The key here though is not to run generic campaigns but instead build one around a specific offering or call to action. Include a code, voucher, dedicated phone number or web page, or something that people have to mention when responding to this campaign. Record the frequency of enquiries from these sources so you can track which code/element of the campaign generated which response. Remember the more you can tailor or personalise your campaign to the recipient’s preferences, the better the response will be.

4. Numbers will only tell you so much

It’s great to be able access open rates and click-through volumes with e-shots and it’s handy to see what visitor traffic has passed through our online ads and websites. This only tells part of the story though, and if we don’t drill deeper into the data we may miss chances to convert warm customer interest into sales or other business goals. There are lots of digital marketing evaluation software programs and tools available. If the thought of this is too overwhelming for you, at a basic level the analytics that come with most e-shot packages do guide you on who clicked on what link. This insight helps you to follow up interest whilst it’s warm. With websites, do track which pages are resonating (or not) and use this insight to guide you on what tweaks and changes to make. Also see which sites are referring traffic to you – especially if you are running any affiliate marketing campaigns or ads on the web.

5. Quality not just quantity

And if you use social media as part of your marketing approach, look beyond the volume of interactions to the quality of them. Link these back to your original objectives and consider:

– Are the people we want interacting with us? If not, do we need to change our approach or pull out of this channel altogether?

– The quality of those interactions – What conversations are we having with our social media following? Is this what we had hoped for… or not?

6. Be patient and set up internal tracking systems

Some activities will be easier and more immediate to measure than others. If you want to measure the sources of sales to you, you need to put in place systems or protocols amongst your sales team which at the very least ask ‘how did you hear of us?’ Of course in reality a customer may have encountered a number of your marketing efforts before picking up the phone or sending through a contact form request. If you can record the different touch-points you initiate and record the success of these, over time you will start to see patterns of which combinations work well for different customer profiles and with certain product/service offerings.

Also try to evaluate which calls to action were most successful in your marketing campaigns – what their content was, how they were presented and which channel they appeared in. This will help you foster further success in the future. That longer-term view is important. All too often business owners are impatient and expect an immediate response straightaway from a marketing campaign. Sometimes the nature of their product offering, or customer profile means that it takes a number of targeted interactions to build credibility and ‘warm’ customers to their business.

7. Take the initiative

What with leading very busy lives and often facing information overload, customers have perfected the art of screening out marketing messages. Of course if we have a specific need we will seek out suppliers to help us solve it. Many business owners invest in expensive marketing campaigns only to sit back and hope the phone will ring or email orders start flooding in. In reality this rarely happens and their campaign is only step one in a longer sales conversion process.

Instead, the more marketing-savvy business owners see their marketing campaigns as a way of initiating interest. They then know they need to follow up and fuel that interest to convert it into new business. So be prepared to follow up your e-shots, your direct mail and your advertising to keep your business offering front of mind with your target audience.  Use telemarketing, additional insight, taster/trials or further offers to try to swell that embryonic interest.


There are many ways to track and measure your marketing investment. In doing so ensure you don’t miss out on a crucial final step – acting on the results. Make sure you do something with your data and analytics to either improve the results or maintain them. If you don’t learn from this insight then you may be disappointed or frustrated by your further marketing efforts. Remember, your customers’ preferences will continue to change and evolve over time, as will buying habits, technology and media channels. Be prepared to keep fine-tuning your approach as a result of tracking what works and what doesn’t.

If you are clear about:

    1. what you are trying to achieve
    2. the profile of your target market
    3. which marketing message, creative treatment and channel resonates most with them
    4. how best to measure that channel

It will help you generate a more positive (and trackable) return on your marketing investment.

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

Julie Hall

Business Mentor & founder of Women Unlimited

Julie is the founder of Women Unlimited and a business mentor to women who know they are ready to step into their leadership. She works closely with them to help them remove the blocks that hold them back and achieve their business goals. Clarity, Focus, Strategy, Mindset and Marketing.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.