Asking people where they heard about your business is not a tracking strategy. The data that you get from this kind of informal polling just isn’t that accurate or useful. Decades of mass-media advertising has led to the evolution of powerful defense mechanisms that enable consumers to tune-out most of the ad impressions delivered to them. In other words, they are ignoring your ads. At least they are trying to. It’s a survival instinct. If everyone paid attention to every bit of information flying at them each day, nothing would ever get done. As a result, if you ask a customer “how did you hear about us?” chances are that you will get a random or made-up answer.

Just because the informal polling method doesn’t work does not mean that you cannot effectively track your advertising. One of the easiest ways is to embed campaign-specific offers into your ad content. If you run a special financing deal exclusively on cable TV you can keep track of how many customers ask for it. Online is even easier. By creating a campaign-specific landing page you can measure results by monitoring the traffic to that page. Text messaging is another simple way to track response. It’s now very easy to have your customers send a text message to a specific number to get a coupon or subscribe to a mailing list.

If you do not already, start making embedded tracking mechanisms a part of every campaign you run. The examples above are just a few of the many ways you can do this. It can be a little uncomfortable in the beginning because it will highlight failure as well as it identifies success but the benefits are countless.

Something Worth Finding

Advertising used to be about finding large groups of people congregating and then interrupting them with a message. Kind of like walking into the mall with a megaphone or the town crier standing on a box on Main Street. Many businesses still approach it that way and wonder why their ROI is dwindling. Things have changed.

From this point forward stop thinking about finding your customers and start thinking about making something worth finding. Your customers are already searching for your products. Make sure that your resources are being adequately allocated towards giving them something they will be thrilled with when they find it. Working this way turns your customers into your sales force. Your job is to be sales support. Give them something great to sell and they will not only find new customers for you, they will also do it in ways that are infinitely more efficient than anything you could accomplish with a ‘traditional’ advertising campaign.

Once you wrap your head around this concept it will become mush easier to figure out how to approach ‘new media’ such as blogs, social networks, and online communities. As an added benefit, you’ll also start to see new ways to incorporate traditional media to amplify your efforts.

The Magic Bullet

There is no “magic bullet” in advertising. Despite reports to the contrary, social media tools are not the exception to this rule. While we’re at it – television, search marketing, radio, outdoor, bus benches, bathroom stall posters, sky writing, giant inflatable guerrillas, and tissue packs don’t qualify either. If you current marketing strategies are not producing results, moving them around to different media will not make a difference.

It’s true that social media and digital content are revolutionary forces that are literally unraveling traditional advertising models. You do need to know about Twitter, Facebook, UStream, WordPress, Typepad, Friendfeed, Flickr, Slideshare, RSS and all the other emerging platforms. But the most important thing to remember is that if your product or service is not remarkable and relevant to a well-defined niche there is no amount of friends, followers, viewers, subscribers or fans that will make up for it.

I realize that the whole “create something remarkable and relevant” thing is a little overdone these days so here’s a specific shortcut: Educate Your Customers – otherwise known as information marketing. Information marketing is the act of creating educational content about your product or service and marketing it (giving it away for free) to interested customers. Executed well, it’s probably the closest thing you’ll find to a “Magic Bullet” for marketing. There are numerous advantages to this strategy including:

  1. The content is inexpensive or free to produce
  2. You are offering something of value instead of trying to sell
  3. It gives you an opportunity to provide much more information than you can with traditional ads
  4. Provides a database-building opportunity
  5. Can enhance SEO efforts
  6. Differentiates your business from most competitors
  7. Takes the focus off price
  8. Trackable ROI
  9. Scalable
  10. Great way to leverage social and other digital platforms

Looking for ways to get started? Start a blog, write an ebook, record an audio presentation, make a handbook or users guide, produce a “how-to” video, create a survey, or publish an interview with an expert in your industry. Don’t do them all, pick one or two and knock it out of the park. Don’t look for shortcuts – create it yourself. Take your time, do your research, make it valuable and stick with it. We’ll talk about what to do with all this stuff in future posts.

Become an Insider

Sign up today to receive Contact Media’s FREE e-newsletter, The Contact Media Insider, packed with powerful and proven “insider secrets” to increase response rates, generate more leads, and turn your marketing into a profit center.

Your email address will never be shared, and you can opt-out at the touch of a button.