marketing plan

By Rieva Lesonsky

There’s an old saying: “I know half my advertising is working—I just don’t know which half.” Small business owners have always struggled to figure out if their marketing efforts are actually getting results—and social media has made the challenge even harder, according to a The CMO Survey released earlier this year.

The study found that just one-third of top marketers surveyed can demonstrate the impact of their marketing spending. The percentage is even worse for social media; only 15 percent of CMOs could prove that social media marketing expenditures had an impact on the business.

The sad thing about this is it’s really pretty easy to track whether your marketing efforts are having a bottom-line impact. Here’s how:

  1. Start with a plan. Your marketing plan should include the different avenues where you plan to market your business, from print to online advertising to social media. It should also include goals for what you hope to achieve with your marketing. Make them quantifiable and realistically achievable. For instance, you might hope that a specific online ad will drive X number of visitors to your website; that X percent of those will take an action such as emailing you, downloading a white paper or calling your business; and that X percent of those will actually make a purchase.
  2. Track your results. You can track results of specific ads and marketing outreach in many ways. On the most basic level, if customers come into your store, restaurant or business, tracking results can be as simple as asking them how they heard about your business. For a print ad, direct mail piece, radio ad or online ad, you can include a keyword or code that customers use to get a discount off a purchase. For social media and online advertising, you can also use online analytics tools to track the results of your efforts. Google Analytics is free and it’s all most small businesses need to see where visitors to their websites come from. For example, you can see which websites direct traffic to your site, such as whether most of your restaurant website visitors come to you from Yelp!, Facebook or Twitter. You should never do any type of advertising without building in a way to track whether it worked.
  3. Dig into social. When it comes to social media, most business owners get caught up in counting their fans or followers, or feeling good because they got a lot of Facebook “likes.” That’s part of it, sure, but you also need to see which social media activities pay off in real sales, so you can focus your precious time on those. You’ll want to measure:
  • reach (how many people are seeing your social media activity). This includes measures such as how many fans and followers you have or how many people are in your Google+ circles.
  • engagement (how many people interact with your social media accounts). Engagement activity could include posting, commenting, retweeting, sharing or clicking on your links.
  • conversion (how many people take the next step and actually become leads or customers). Conversion could include registering on your website, buying something from your website, contacting your business by email or phone, requesting more information or downloading information). Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest all offer analytics tools for businesses as well as guides for how to use them.

4. Assess and readjust. Make time to sit down and assess all this data you’ve gathered. Evaluating your marketing efforts does take some time and planning, but it will pay off in the end by enabling you to focus on the marketing efforts that work and stop wasting time and money those that aren’t working.