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Three Easy Ways to Track Advertising

Are you really getting the most for your money? These methods will help you make sure.
November 17, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/73966

If you're running a comprehensive marketing program, with a solid combination of advertising media plus direct mail and e-mail, chances are you've got leads and responses coming in from just about everywhere. So how can you tell which of your marketing tactics are stellar performers and which need to be replaced? Tracking your marketing responses is easier than you think, and it's the smartest way to save marketing dollars by cutting the fat and eliminating any nonperforming media and tactics.

The best way to track your advertising responses is to key each ad with a unique code, so every sale or lead can be identified according to its original source. Here are three ways to make every lead identifiable:

1. Apply key codes. Key codes are used in print advertising and direct mail. Suppose you were running an ad campaign in a group of magazines. In order to track the responses from individual publications and issues, you would need to include a different key code in each of the response mechanisms. Your direct-response print ad in the January issue of Builder magazine could be coded "BL-1," while another ad in the February issue of Remodeling magazine might be coded "RE-2." These codes would appear in the "reply to" section of the ads, so when responses were generated, you could immediately determine the source of each lead.

Key codes are often incorporated into the bounce-back mechanisms of direct mail. The next time you receive a direct-mail package, take a closer look. Chances are, you'll see that the response envelope is imprinted with a code (consisting of letters and/or numbers), and you'll also find that code on the order form or the response card.

2. Provide a unique number or URL. It's a good idea to acquire several toll-free numbers for use in different aspects of your marketing program. For example, you might track the results of a direct-response TV campaign by using a unique, memorable toll-free number--and use a different number to track the leads from a concurrent print or radio campaign. For larger campaigns, inbound call centers can provide reports showing the number of calls to each toll-free number, including the percentage and number of calls from every state and by time of day.

Another way to track responses from offline campaigns is to provide unique URLs. By taking advantage of "domain parking and pointing," you can have multiple versions of your domain name or different URLs that all point to a designated landing page on your Web site. For instance, respondents to an outdoor ad campaign might type in a simple URL that's easy to remember, such as "MyBoat.com," and then be instantly forwarded to your primary site. Your Web logs would reveal the number of responses that came to each URL.

3. Track online responses. Whether you're monitoring the results of online ads or an e-mail campaign, it's important to have unique tracking codes for each. One way to measure responses to an individual ad or e-mail is to track hits to your Web pages by including a "?" after the URL, plus your code. For example, instead of using "mydomain.com," your coded link might be "mydomain.com?A." This will in no way alter the landing page, and it will show up in your log files. Another alternative would be to create multiple copies of your landing page--each with a different file name--then link from your e-mail solicitations or online ads to specific landing pages.

Of course, the bottom line isn't merely to measure how many leads you generate, but how many convert to sales. By tracking all responses according to their sources, you can test individual ad campaigns to see which marketing approaches and offers produce the most profitable results for your company.