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Hot on Their Trail

How to use the net to track offline customers
December 1, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/73724

If you're using an ad-tracking program, you're likely monitoring the profitability of your internet marketing efforts. That's if your customers buy online. But can your customers order by phone, fax, mail or in person? If you aren't giving credit to the online ad campaigns that generate offline business, you might cut programs that are making a significant boost to your bottom line.

This doesn't mean you should necessarily funnel all customers through an online form. Perhaps you capture a higher number of sales by offering customer support to those who want to connect with a live person. Or maybe customers spend more because your in-store salespeople recommend items in addition to the original purchase. So continue using the internet to drive offline sales-just track the originating source of new business. Consider the following:

You'll typically need to create your own tracking codes in-house. Many internet tracking solutions generate hideously long tracking URLs that would look out of place on coupons or order forms. Though, for simplicity's sake, you could use the name of the campaign, exposing your marketing efforts to potential competitors isn't a good idea. Instead, use numbers, letters or a combination of both to create a customized naming convention.

It might seem overwhelming to monitor dozens or hundreds of tracking codes that flow through various offline sales channels. You can initially group campaigns together by type. For example, instead of tracking five newsletter sponsors separately, group them under one code. That will give you an indication of performance by campaign type, such as newsletter sponsorships, banner ads, search engine paid listings and link trades. When you're ready, analyze campaigns individually because you'll find winners and losers within each type.

By tracking offline sales generated from internet marketing, your ROI report should look even better.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Sedaowns an internet marketing agency and is author ofSearch Engine Advertising.