How do you know your campaign is working?
Some people just assume the card they like best is working - or the longest list is paying off with bigger profits. But that's assuming, not tracking. If you try to gauge results based on intuition versus information, it could cost you more than just the price of an ad campaign - it could cost you customers as well.
Tracking a campaign's results is a vital part of marketing and, frankly, can take your marketing campaign to a whole new plateau.
So why don't more businesses do it? Honestly - I have no idea. But they don't.
Like the example of sending out multiple cards to the same list in the earlier chapter, you have to know which ones are working and which aren't for them to be truly effective. Likewise, if you have more than one way to recruit new customers, you need to set up a tracking system so you know if each is working or not.
For example, you start a postcard marketing campaign for your business and send out 3,000 postcards the first week. When they start hitting homes, you get 30 calls. Did all of these leads come from the postcards? Probably not. Because the week before you got 8 calls and hadn't sent out any postcards yet. So how can you tell who actually got a postcard?
The answer: All you have to do is ask them. It's as simple as asking, "So how did you hear about our company?" The hard part is making sure that any employee in your company who answers the phone and may talk to a new prospect remembers to ask the question every time. (Give yourself this task and notice how many times YOU forget to ask. It's hard to create new habits and break old ones. So don't be too hard on your staff when they forget. Just gently remind them each day until the new habit is formed.) With that said, surveys increase in value with the number of participants.
Conversely, they suffer in value for lack of participants. So the fewer prospects that answer this question, the less accurate your information will be when making future marketing decisions.
Now, let's assume that you have been sending out postcards for a while and you have a good number of calls coming in. If you ask the question, "So, how did you hear about our company?" they may respond, "I got your postcard in the mail." But, by now you have mailed postcards to 4 different lists, 3 times each. That's a lot of variables to cover with such a simple Q & A. How do you tell which list - and which mailing - this customer was from?
The answer: Put a marketing code on the postcards that will tell you which specific postcard they received and when it was mailed.
Give each list a name and work the date into your marketing code as well. Now tracking comes into play, and the only thing your representatives have to ask is, "Would you mind reading me the marketing code above your address?" This code should give you all the info that you need to know to help you keep your marketing results tracking as accurate as possible.
Try not to operate off of assumptions about what worked if you haven't tabulated your results. When you collect all the data, you can finally make your future marketing decisions based on the facts - not feelings.
That brings me to another tracking error. As I've said before, one mailing one time to one list is not going to change your bottom line. But, depending on your business and how long it takes for your particular market to move on a decision (such as trying out what you have to offer) will determine how many times you should mail to them before deciding it's working or not working. Wow. That was a mouthful. Let me try to unravel that. I just spoke with a marketer that sent 20,000 pieces one time to a list of bankruptcy attorneys. She got 3 or 4 responses. She decided it did not work. She tracked and that response is simply too low to produce the ROI she needs to make that a successful mailing. But, notoriously, lawyers do not move quickly or make rush decisions. What she should have done is send 3 mailings to a list of 7,000 attorneys and then determine her results. Now she's decided they won't respond and she is no longer mailing to them. However, those that were a bit interested will probably forget her if they don't get a reminder. So my point is this - she tracked her response but didn't review ALL the data (how long does it take a lawyer to respond to a direct mail piece? - not a riddle, just something to research if you've never mailed to them before) or practice effective repeat mailings before concluding it didn't work.
I couldn't wrap up the advice in this book unless I put down the last, but not least, important factor in monitoring your direct mail marketing and your income. It has to do with when you should change your marketing and what the tell-tale signs that change is needed are. How does "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" apply to marketing?
Change is good, right? Not always. Think about this: Why would one take something that is going well - no, great - and change it?
The obvious answer is to make it better, right? Not!
In business or in marketing, change is not always good.
When you have certain promotional actions that are in place making things happen, or in better terms, making you money - don't change them!
Why do I say this? Because I see it time and time again. Someone has a marketing campaign that is bringing in a good return on investment and they up and decide to change their postcard! And why do they do it? Believe it or not, this is the answer I most often get, "Er, uh, we just decided to do something different."
And then some three or four months down the road, they call back with their tail between their legs and want everything back the way it was before. In this latter case, change is good - changing it back to what was working.
I am not just saying that to say that one should always keep their postcard marketing campaign the same and never change it. Quite the contrary. Change your marketing, change your habits, change your way of life when it warrants it. There is really some truth to the old adage. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Maybe it's human nature to want to change everything once something gets going just the way they planned it. Who the heck knows? All I can say is step outside the human-nature box. Change only when things are drastic - or when change is warranted.
Drastic circumstances deserve drastic measures. But how do you determine drastic? Sometimes that is really easy. Your company's income is crashing. Do something! Change! Or better yet, figure out what you changed and get it back to what was working.
How about a plateau? Does that deserve change? Depends on how long that plateau lasts. I have never seen something level off and stay level forever. It either goes up or down.
I know an optometrist who had a very successful practice in small town USA. He never really marketed. He never really had to. People knew of him from miles around. Mainly he did PR stuff - a fundraiser here, networking there, etc. His good works made him well known and respected and the community "ooo'ed and ah'ed" over him so much that the local newspaper paper loved printing it.
But things changed. Malls started opening up. People started shopping away from small-town USA and into the bigger cities and malls. The environment changed.
But he didn't. He still kept a good practice, but you could see something interesting - his gross income started to plateau. And over the years that plateau gradually started to show where it was really going. I'm sure you're getting the picture by now.
Now, would that demand drastic measures? Taking into account inflation, cost of living and other factors that are on the rise - yes, I would say that would demand drastic measures. Did he take them? Not until the dire nature of his situation became all too apparent. But yes, he finally did take them. He started postcard marketing his "you-know-what" off!
I have another client that is just a dream. They have had the same list for the past five years, ever since they have been in business, in fact. They mail to 30,000 physical therapists over and over and over and over and - and have never changed. They figure if it is bringing in the income, it is working. And it keeps working.
Marketing plans are like recipes; change one ingredient and the taste changes - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Remember how long it took you to create that recipe, how much testing and tasting and research and analysis went into creating a recipe specific to your company and your needs. Do you really want to go and mess with all that hard work and effort?
So, next time you think about changing your marketing plan, make sure it needs it. Look at your numbers. Are they improving? Declining? If your income is going up - don't change one single thing. But if it is going down or flatlining - change!