It's an old rule: you can't manage what you can't measure. Diana Clement figures out that in marketing, it's still true

Are you playing darts blindfolded with your marketing? Do you have accurate measures of the success of all your campaigns?

Too many small and medium-sized businesses don't track their marketing campaigns well enough, says Chris McNair, senior product manager at Yellow. They throw money at a campaign and either assume or pray that it's working.

There are plenty of tried and tested methods for tracking both online and offline marketing. With the right metrics a business can determine which method of marketing is most effective, and do more of the same.

Online marketing is the easiest to measure, says McNair. Start by tracking unique visitors to your website.


"Whether you are using search engine marketing, search engine optimisation, or social media marketing, they all have a tendency to feed into and bolster the success of the website and the traffic to it," says McNair. "The number of unique visitors to that website is a really good indicator of how well the rest of the marketing campaign is doing."

Businesses need to look next at the cost of conversion. Are their online and offline marketing campaign cost-effective? "It comes down to: how much did it cost to acquire someone versus how much that person is going to make for your business."

Small businesses in particular don't always do a good job at tracking the business gained from their Google AdWord expenditure, website costs, and the time and money put into social media marketing, says McNair. "They need to work out how much the average person spends and the profit they make on that sale.

"More than any other method of marketing you can work out how much it cost to acquire that (customer or client) online. Digital marketing solutions are so transparent. It gives you an extremely granular view of how much it costs to acquire a customer."

There are tried and tested ways of tracking offline marketing as well, says Brandon Wilcox, director of Evolve Marketing. "If you can modify advertising to build in a response mechanism you can measure the results."

One such mechanism is to use a unique 0800 number or email address for each campaign. Calls to that number or emails to the address come directly from the campaign. Not all such campaigns will have an equal result. Designer furniture might have a better conversion rate in a magazine such as Urbis than a free giveaway newspaper, says Wilcox.

Email addresses, however, are becoming less useful for that type of campaign because people fear that they will be included in a database and spammed.

Another good response mechanism is to include an offer in the advertising. Evolve had a spa pool client that was throwing money at print advertising with no way of measuring the direct response. Wilcox designed a newspaper campaign where instead of advertising the sale of spa pools, the business invited people to call for a free brochure.

Previously, the business was getting 40 calls a week. When the new advert ran, 400 people called for a free brochure. They came directly from that advert. "The company got a lot of hot prospects," says Wilcox.

SMEs can also track offline advertising by looking at the sales numbers. If there is a spike in sales during or just after a marketing campaign it is likely that the two are related. But that is no guarantee that the marketing campaign was causal, says Wilcox. "It is not guaranteed because there may have been something else happening that caused the increase."

Evolve, says Wilcox, may recommend changes to strategy as part of a marketing campaign. He cites the example of a car auction client. The client was encouraged to move from offering general car auctions to targeting specific types of vehicles each day. "We advertised the first sale three days before the auction. The (business) had a 50% increase in people at the auction and a 100% increase in vehicles sold.

More difficult to track is branding. It is difficult for SMEs to quantify such marketing campaigns, says Wilcox.

These campaigns raise awareness, but only real way to track such campaigns, he adds, is with consumer research before and after the campaigns. "That is horrendously expensive. No SME can afford that."

Wilcox recommends SMEs monitor their offline campaigns online as well. Even if customers are directed to the business' website it is likely they'll go there anyway. Google Analytics will identify if there is a spike in visitors and help businesses analyse the benefits of that traffic.