It's Time to “Hit The Track”

Don’t worry, I'm not talking about having you go and do laps today to get in shape.

The “track” I’m talking about  isn’t running track, but rather the concept of  tracking. As in “tracking your response rates,” “tracking your conversion rates,” and “tracking your ROI.”

When I deliver my Outrageous Marketing presentations to live audiences, I usually put up a  slide with a long list of advertising media for the  audience to study. It includes items like:

• Newsletters                                             • Radio

• Sales Letters                                           • Val-Pak/Card Decks

• Post Cards                                               • Voice Broadcast

• Lumpy Mail                                           • Print Ads

I ask the attendees to raise their hands as I read through the list to see if they use each individual media. Predictably, the hands go up and down as I move through the list.

Then I ask them two critical questions:

1. How are they working for you?

2. How do you know?

The first question usually elicits responses ranging from “Great!” and “Fantastic!” to “Lousy”  and “Not so great.”

The second question, on the other hand, results in silence, usually lasting four or five seconds, until some brave soul raises her hand and timidly answers, “Track the results?”

And, of course, that’s the right answer. Because you can’t improve what you can’t measure, and if you have no way of measuring response to your marketing, you’re nowhere.

I always talk about the “Four M’s” of Outrageous  Marketing: Message, Market, Media, and  Moment. Of these, “moment” is the one that’s largely ignored. But it can be one of the most effective: presenting your message at a time when it will have the greatest impact – a time when people will pay attention.

Like when someone is sitting on a plane.

American ExpressHere are two examples of promotional pieces given to me by flight attendants on two flights. The first one is a cocktail napkin (on left).

The second one is a small folding card (see below).

How do you think these worked for the respective companies? The answer is that we really don’t know, because we don’t have the results of  these two campaigns in terms of response rates.

But the real problem is that one of these companies doesn’t even have a clue what the response rate is either.

Magellan ExhibitYou see, there are many things I would suggest to improve the effectiveness of each of these, but the cocktail napkin has something absolutely essential that the folding card is lacking.

It’s small, and subtle, but take a few seconds and see if you can spot it.

If you said the tracking code on the website link, give yourself a gold star. This allows American  Express to do what the other company simply can’t do: measure.

How many passengers received the napkins?  How many responded? Of those who responded, how many made a purchase? Of those, how many made a subsequent purchase? How many bought a related product?

How many of them referred friends, family, or colleagues?  What was the total return on investment of paying the airline to replace its normal napkins with these specially printed ones?

And, of course, the two most important  questions:

1. Was this campaign worth the investment?

2. Should we do something like this again?

Not a single one of these questions can be answered by the second company because the company simply doesn’t know! Because there’s no tracking device, the entire campaign cannot be measured – and this makes it arguably useless from a marketing perspective.

On the other hand, the card looks nice, and may win some kind of design award. Problem is you can’t deposit design awards in the bank.

The unique advantage of our kind of marketing over traditional brand-building, “identity”  marketing is the fact that it is trackable. Properly  designed, you can know the response rate and ROI of a sales letter far easier than you can measure the effectiveness of a billboard.

You can track the response of an ad that drives prospects to a phone number with an “extension” coded to that particular ad easier than a “call for more information” ad that rings to your main phone line.

Here are just a few examples of things you can do that will help you track responses:

• Set up a separate 800 number linked only to your ads, with detailed reporting

• Create separate “landing pages” on your website for each e-mail promotion you send out

• Use coupon codes to match responses to sources on all mailings

The list of these is actually quite long, but you get the idea. It really doesn’t take much effort to add even the most basic of tracking devices to your marketing campaigns.

And once you start measuring based on facts and data instead of theory and conjecture, you’ll be able to focus your efforts – and your money – on strategies that you know are working.