When marketing budgets are tight, your marketing needs to work harder and smarter than ever. Evaluating your activities needn't be expensive and it can save you money in the long-term. Fiona Blades, CEO of market research company MESH Planning, explains how small firms can measure their marketing
A lot of marketing activity is designed to drive customers to your website so you should analyse your website statistics on a regular basis. You need to know how many people are visiting your site, what pages they are looking at and when. Timing is everything. If you are doing some advertising, for example, you can see by the timing of visitors whether it has sparked an increase in website traffic.
When customers come to you, always ask them how they heard about you. It could be via word of mouth, an entry in a directory or they could have come across your firm at an exhibition. Asking where they heard about you should be common practice. Keep a record of what they say. It will help you to see which marketing methods are most effective.
You may know what channel your customers have come through but what was it about your message that triggered their interest? Ask a selection of customers what made them contact your firm. It could be anything from reputation to value for money. The marketing message that proves most effective should be the one you focus on in future.
If you are doing advertising in the press, you can publish different telephone numbers and URLs so that you can see where your enquiries are coming from. This way, you can track the response rate to a specific advertisement.
Whether you send a mail pack or a letter, you need a reply-paid card or envelope. The less someone has to do to respond, the higher the response rate you will get. The reply cards should have a code so that you can measure exactly where the response came from - which type of person, which area or which sector.
Response rates to mailings tell you how many but not why. If you've sent 1000 mailings, you could ring a small sample of 50 and ask them questions such as did they receive the mailing, did they open it, what was the key message, did they respond and why. This is the ideal job for a work placement student. You may find that while a mailing was positively received, many people just had not got around to replying. In that case, a follow-up mailing will undoubtedly increase response rates. Or you may find that using other channels with the mailing, such as phone or email, will boost responses.
As you evaluate your marketing activity, you gain more and more market knowledge. Your tests will show which media channels work best for your business. The evaluation will also reveal which customer groups are most responsive and which marketing messages are most powerful. Armed with this information, you can make your marketing even more effective every time.