Business owners often find it difficult to know whether their marketing tactics are working. This can be especially tricky when you use a combination of marketing activities simultaneously, or if using personal-contact tactics such as networking.
No matter what business you're in, your marketing should be accountable. So here's a few ways to evaluate how well you're doing.
1) Look at your sales (or fee income). They should be going up! But be careful about what you measure. Some firms have a longer sales cycle than others. To get an accurate picture you might need to also measure the number of new leads being generated, or the number of appointments, or the number of billable hours achieved. Remember discounts or variances in fees will affect total sales values.
2) Ask your clients. Check to find out where they heard of you. Most businesses never ask this question and miss out on gleaning valuable insights into how clients select a service provider.
3) Does your advertising and/or promotional activity produce direct responses?
It should. If your answer is "I don't know" then you've got some work to do. In addition to 2) above, there are some things you can do to improve response rates.
--?Firstly, make sure you are advertising in the right media. Choose media to suit your selected audience. Be as specific as possible. And avoid rejecting options just because they don't look "exciting", such as trade journals that might have relatively small readership. Importantly, check with your audience to make sure they actually do read the publication.
--?Use a strong headline that asks a pertinent question, or gives a solution-oriented statement.
--?Include a clear call-to-action. Tell people what they should do. For example: Ring today for your free appointment; Ask for our free information sheet.
--?Include multiple methods of contact. Phone, email, and web site are all important. Give prospects a choice of how to contact you.
4) Do your networking activities create new opportunities for you? One of the major principles of effective networking is to "give" rather than "sell". That is, you should look to help others as you spread word about your services. But this softly, softly approach can make it hard to measure effectiveness.
To measure your networking activities make sure you track the source of incoming enquiries. Then see if any of your visible/tangible tactics can be credited with generating the enquiry. If not, then maybe you can safely say it was a referral generated by networking. This is made a lot easier if you're a member of a lead-generating club such as BNI or Leads. You'll get specific feedback each week from these groups.
5) Do your marketing tactics make it easier to sell your services? To do this your marketing activities and/or material should do the following:
--?Attract qualified prospects (who have shown a specific interest in your services).
--?Anticipate and diffuse potential questions/concerns from prospects.
--?Be easy to use when personally selling to prospects. For example: material should be relevant; images/charts easy to understand; and be presented in a format the prospect will be likely to keep.
--?Focus on your client needs and your points of difference (Unique Selling Proposition).
6) Check your sales conversion rate. The best approach here is to look at your historical records and determine whether your conversion (or closure) rate has improved. "Selling" is an important part of the "marketing" function, so make sure you assess your success at closing the sale, rather than just focus on generating new leads.
7) Does your plan have a positive return on investment (ROI)? Does it bring in enough new/repeat business to justify the expense? Rather than just look at the "marketing budget" as one total, you really need to evaluate the cost effectiveness of each specific marketing activity. Even if you think you're getting a great ROI overall, maybe you can do even better by changing or eliminating unproductive tactics.
(c) 2004 Stuart Ayling
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at www.marketingnous.com.au