Your marketing plan includes everything you do that somehow tells people that you are open for business. This includes handing out business cards at a local networking event, advertising in local newspapers, email marketing, billboards, SMS, radio... this list is endless, but everything is part of your marketing plan.
If you sat down to itemize every one of those marketing "touch points" that you've used in the last 12 months, could you assign a level of importance for each one that helped close a sale?
Exactly how important was it that you handed your business card out at the Chamber of Commerce meeting? It probably was worthless unless you followed up with that person, and then kept in touch with them.
Exactly how important is it that you placed an ad in the newspaper? Did that ad generate sales at all?
The process of trying to assign some type of value to each and every marketing touch point is called Attribution. When you dive into the world of marketing analysis those "touch points" are called "Channels."
Every one of your channels plays an important role in customer acquisition, awareness, and ultimate conversion. If you have an e-commerce website you can use Google Analytics (GA) to assign values to all of your channels and associate those values with the actual sales figures. GA would then be able to show you a report of which channels helped most to close the sale. If you don't have an e-commerce website, you can still track different marketing through your website, but the final conversion numbers would need a bit of manual calculations.
Understanding what part of your marketing is important for what purpose will help you establish first contact with potential customers, continue brand awareness, and increase sales. Furthermore, understanding how your marketing works will help build repeat buyers.
Based on my experience with jewelry stores I put together this brief list of marketing channels and what role they play in your marketing plan.
I'm using these abbreviations to make the list easier to read:
first: This is a channel that would be viewed as a first point of contact or introduction to your store.
branding: This channel is good to use for continual brand awareness that doesn't necessarily include a sales message.
support: This indicates a channel that could be used as customer support. Although a support situation would typically help a specific person, when done in a public forum you can illustrate your level of customer care.
conversion: When the proper sales message is crafted, this channel will contain a call to action (like a 1-day sale) that creates an urgency to make a purchase.
- Business Card - first
- Billboard - first, branding
- Radio - first, branding, conversion
- TV - first, branding, conversion
- Newspaper - first, conversion
- Shopping Carts - first, branding
- Newsletters (not yours) - first, branding
- Direct Mail - conversion
- Facebook - first (by referral or paid ad), support, branding, conversion
- Google+ - first (through search or maps), support, branding, conversion
- Twitter - first (if you use hashtags correctly), support, branding, conversions
- Pinterest - first (if you have lots of boards for wedding related stuff or designer names)
- Organic Search - first, branding (because Google will always show sites people have already visited)
- Paid online ads - first, branding (through remarketing), conversions (via specific product targeting), conversions (via specific remarketing targeting)
- Email - branding, conversions
- SMS - conversions
I know for a fact that it's almost impossible to accurately and consistently ask customers how they heard about you, or if they have seen any of your ads. We forget all the time how we first heard a name or were inspired to visit a store. That's why you need to be very creative in how you track every one of the above ads, even the traditional media. It's all done through tagging. Tagging refers to the way you add extra tracking variables to all the URLs and links you give people. Those variables are then captured inside Google Analytics when they visit your website.
Oh, speaking of your website, you will notice that I didn't mention your website in the above list. That's because I view that as the central hub that you lead people to. They are easy to track once they arrive, it's the tagging process that's tricky.
Please refer back to my previous Nugget on setting up tagging.
In a perfect world everyone would visit the URL you have in your traditional media ads. But that doesn't always happen. Most of the time people will simply remember the ad for future reference. All traditional media ads should have a call to action that tells the person to visit your website for some reason. Sorry to say that ads with a ring and slogans like "Wife Insurance" are just... well... worthless. Some folks might think a "Wife Insurance" ad is for brand awareness, and those folks are wrong.
Even brand awareness ads should have calls to action that lead people back to your website. A good copy writer will understand how to craft a headline for brand awareness as well as a call to action.
The URLs that you use on traditional media ads need to be carefully thought through. URLs on billboards and TV need to be memorable and easy to read. URLs mentioned in radio ads need to me memorable or tie into a slogan or jingle. The domain names (URLs) you put in your newspaper, business card, and SMS can be less memorable.
You should use a different, specialty domain name in every one of your old media ads. Domain names are very inexpensive now and you could register 20 or so and use them on a rotating basis. I suggest buying them from Stellium Networks (Stellium.net) or GoDaddy. Stellium is a reseller for GoDaddy and you can usually find slightly better pricing from them than GoDaddy.
Every time you use one of those specialty domain names you would use the built in Forwarding feature in Stellium to tag those people and send them to your normal website. You'd have to ask your marketing agency or SEM pro for help with the technical details here.
Another option is to use a QR Code in your print ads. Sadly, most marketers are stupid when it comes to QR Codes. Whenever you use one of these 2D codes you need to explain why someone should scan it. You also need to target them to mobile website landing pages. If your website is "responsive," then you need to skip this option because your website will actually work against you.
Once all your tagging is in place you can watch Google Analytics to see where your customers are coming from. Depending on your tracked results you will know which channels to spend more money on for different results.
Want to acquire more new customers? Then spend more time and money on the "first" channels that have the highest tracking data.
Want more sales? Then spend more time and money on the "conversions" channels that have the highest tracking data.
Analyzing all this stuff does take a lot of time, but the bulk of your time will actually be spent in the planning and setup of the tracking techniques. All this tracking should be included in your individual advertising and holistic marketing plan from inception. I.e. every time you THINK about running a new ad you should talk to your SEM agent first.