You've put in hours upon hours spreading the word about your product, but has all your hard work been worth it? Small businesses often commit one of two marketing blunders: They jump from one tactic to another, or they stick way too long to the "tried and true" ads, says Bonnie Harris, principal of Wax Marketing in St. Paul, Minn. Fortunately, you can gauge your success and resolve any problems by accurately measuring the results of your marketing efforts.
Harris offers these five tips for figuring out what's working, what's not, and where improvements need to be made:
- Be a detective. Take a good sale, such as a big company that purchased ten of your products, and work backward, Harris advises. Look at everything that went into the order: Did you have coffee with someone at a networking event? Did that person then refer you to the company? If you own a store, ask every customer who walks in, "How did you hear about us?"
- Establish metrics. Once you identify what efforts went into the sale, you'll find that each step in the process becomes a point that can be measured, Harris says. Let's say that you went to a networking event and met a prospective client. Then the two of you had coffee — twice — and after two weeks, you followed up with a phone call that finalized the sale. Each of those events (attending an event, having coffee, having coffee again, making a call) is a measurable point.
- Track a certain period of time. Based on the steps that led you to the big sale, set up a marketing strategy. Perhaps you decide to keep attending events, making calls, and focusing on social media. Carry out the plan for three months, if possible.
- Evaluate the points. After three months, it's time to look at those marketing points and see how each one fared. You may not see any direct sales from certain points but find that they are still a key component in your marketing campaign. Case in point: A customer walks into your store and remarks, "I saw your article in the paper, then checked out your Facebook page and decided to come here." This tells you that your social media efforts may be a key step down the path to a sale.
- Make changes accordingly. If certain efforts are drawing more customers toward sales than others, you may decide to focus more on those key points and pull back a little from the others. Fine-tuning a campaign is like baking a cake, Harris explains: "You need certain ingredients, but you may end up tweaking the recipe to find what makes the best cake."
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