The Devil is in the Details

Posted on: April 14, 2013

Whenever I tell a business owner that they have to start accurately tracking their advertising and marketing, they tell me that they already do. They ask prospects the age-old question, “how’d you hear about us?”

The problem with this approach is threefold:

1. It’s inaccurate

The biggest problem with this question is that it’s inaccurate. Prospects lie. There, I said it. Some do it on purpose, but most do it unintentionally. They’ll tell you that they used Google when they actually used AOL. They’ll tell you they saw your ad on TV when you’re not even doing TV advertising!

2. It obfuscates the details

Everyone has heard the saying, “junk in, junk out.” Well, from a marketing analytics perspective, the question, “how’d you hear about us?” is the epitome of a junk question. It tends to generate vague, generic responses like, “the internet” or “Google” or “the yellow pages.”

Let’s say that these answers were correct. Let’s say everyone you ask says that they found you through “the internet.” How do you intelligently invest more money in “the internet?” Think about it… investing more in the internet could mean:

  • building a new website
  • doing SEO (or more SEO)
  • investing in pay per click (PPC) advertising (or increasing your PPC budget)
  • doing Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn ads
  • getting on Pinterest
  • creating a YouTube channel

So… which of the aforementioned are you going to test?

Most of you can’t possibly afford to test all of them. Let me let you in on a little secret – At present, most of the strategies above are a complete and utter waste of money for most businesses. Even the ones that are (almost) universally profitable (SEO and PPC definitely fall into that category), you’ll waste considerable amounts of money if you blindly throw money at them.

If instead of “the internet,” the answer to the question, “how’d you hear about us?” was:

“First, I Googled “plumbers in Baltimore.” Next, I clicked on your paid ad and the ads of a few other companies. Then, I realized that what I really need done is a sewer line inspection. I didn’t see that on your site initially so I searched, “sewer line inspection Catonsville, MD” and your website came up in the organic results, so I clicked it and called you.”

If you could get answers like THIS from the question, “how’d you hear about us?” you could take some very specific actions and really super-charge your advertising performance and marketing return on investment!

A great tracking system for your website and your marketing can give you data like this.

3. It makes reporting and analysis difficult

When you ask a question like, “how’d you hear about us?” you have to record the answer(s) someplace. Most companies, especially small businesses, don’t have a formal, connected system or way to do this (like a CRM). If the owner answers a sales call, she/he scribbles the answer on the piece of paper in front of them. Their customer service and sales reps do the exact same.

Then, at the monthly sales and marketing meeting, when you ask your team, “which of our marketing strategies are sending us the most leads?” no one has all those little scraps of paper with the answers. Instead, everyone starts relying on their memory. Most people can’t even remember what they had for dinner two nights ago, let alone which marketing strategies are generating the most/best leads!

Conclusion & Takeaways

When it comes to tracking your advertising and marketing, the devil is in the details. Although it takes more thought and effort to setup a system that allows you to capture the details, you need them in order to make intelligent decisions.

If you need a way to motivate yourself to do things correctly, just remind yourself that:  Business is a sport. Your competitors are trying to KILL YOU. What’s difficult for you is difficult for them. It’s the will to do that which is difficult… that which others are unwilling to do… that separates the winners from the losers.

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