Getting the Whole Story: Essential Metrics for Tracking


Incorporating tracking methods will provide better accountability for your marketing campaigns and more peace of mind.

By Tim Ross

For small-business owners, every dollar counts. So, it’s easy to see why entrepreneurs are often unwilling to spend money on marketing efforts that don’t yield an immediate return.

Yet, relying solely on sales figures to judge the success of your marketing programs is plagued with problems. Consider that marketing campaigns can take months or even longer to impact sales, particularly in industries such as automotive repair or health care, where users may not act on an advertisement until a break-down or illness occurs. In other instances, marketing can generate leads that don’t get turned into sales because of problems in the customer service process. It’s also common for business owners to target the wrong potential customers, a mistake that can doom any type of marketing effort.

These issues illustrate just how important it is to track a variety of metrics throughout your campaign, since sales statistics only tell a small part of the story. Here’s a look at some tracking methods you should be using to ensure that your marketing is delivering the results you want. While many of these tactics can be applied to track everything from an email blast to pay-per-click campaigns, we plan to focus on direct mail since it’s a fairly common marketing strategy in the franchise world, particularly for customer acquisition.

Before we jump in, however, it’s important to note that before launching any marketing campaign, it’s essential to outline your goals. While driving sales and eventually profits is typically the end goal, there are other questions you may want to consider that will help guide whom to target, what type of offer to make and how many mailers to send. For example, are you more interested in customer retention or customer acquisition? Do you want to achieve a certain response rate? Are you more focused on attracting large numbers of customers or are you hoping to increase the amount each customer spends when visiting your business? Setting some expectations beforehand will make it much easier to determine if your campaign was effective once it’s complete.

Analyze your territory

Once you’ve determined your goals, the next step is to take a close look at the consumers residing in the surrounding area since geography often drives purchasing decisions. The tendency with direct mail is to pick a certain number of households to send to based on the business owner’s budget. A smarter approach is to drill down deeper to identify the demographics that make the most sense for your business. For example, if you own a cleaning service it might be more fruitful to target families with young kids (who are often too busy to keep up with housework) and older residents, who could use help with household tasks. Home value, household income and spending habits can also be worth considering when deciding who to target.

Most direct mail companies should be able to offer a good look at the make-up of your neighborhood. But to be as effective as possible, you should also examine your existing customer database. You can use that information to gain insight into what type of neighborhoods might respond most favorably to your offer. That process, called penetration reporting, matches your database against mailing lists and carrier routes to determine which routes will drive the best results – based on the number of customers generated from those areas or the amount of money spent by those customers. After analyzing that information, you can then update your routes or add new ones to maximize your market potential.

Measure leads

Tracking leads provides you with another valuable data point to help assess the effectiveness of your campaign. One easy way to measure leads is through call tracking. When you employ call tracking, a local number is established specifically for your campaign and placed on your mailers. Calls to that number will be routed directly to your shop, so your staff can answer any inquiries that might be generated from the campaign.

Call tracking is a great tool because it shows whether a campaign is generating calls, how many calls and from what phone numbers. Because the calls are recorded, it also provides business owners with the opportunity to identify faulty sales techniques. There are many instances when a campaign gets the phones ringing, but a sales person falls short when it comes to converting that lead into a sale. Maybe the sales person doesn’t follow your carefully crafted phone script or turns away business because of scheduling issues. Listening to those calls will allow you to identify such problems and provide additional training to address deficiencies.    

While it may be difficult to listen to all the call recordings, even listening to a few each day should give you an idea of any trends or tendencies your front counter staff might have. It may also be worthwhile to look for a direct mail company that will analyze the calls for you and alert you about specific issues that could be impacting your marketing success.

Compare target audiences to actual customers

Imagine that six weeks have passed since your direct mail was distributed and you’ve seen an uptick in sales, but since you likely have multiple campaigns in the works at all times, it’s hard to credit the increase to your postcard offer. A good test to see where the rubber met the road is to take all your sales for a certain period after your mailing went out and compare that to the mailing list where your postcards were delivered. That comparison will provide you with real data detailing how many people came in as a result of the campaign, how much they spent, how many were new customers and how many were returning customers who were prompted to visit because of your offer. This method of evaluation also allows you to easily calculate ROI, because you can compare what you spent on the campaign with the total dollars generated by the marketing effort. This last step closes the loop on your campaign and offers the insight you need to decide if a campaign was worth the money.

Unless you’re the only game in town, your business can’t survive without marketing. But if you’re like most busy entrepreneurs, you probably prefer to spend your time running your business instead of worrying about whether your marketing campaign is working. Incorporating the tracking methods outlined above will provide better accountability for your marketing campaigns and more peace of mind.

Tim Ross is President of Mudlick Mail. Find out more at