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You need to Know Where Your Customers Are Coming From - And We Tell You Why.
If you run a small business, it’s imperative that you know WHERE your business is coming from!
Today, Google Analytics can help track your internet clientele, but that only goes so far and only gives you some of the information, not to mention it is open to interpretation and bias. For instance did you know that when a secure site refers a client to an unsecure site it shows up in the “direct traffic” section. And speaking of direct traffic, if someone refers a friend to your business at an event or social gathering, they will type in your URl and it will show as another “direct traffic hit” when, in fact, it was a referral. On top of internet advertising, how do you track results from Newspaper ads, Magazine ads, TV ads, Radio ads; and just how many people are contacting your business through referrals?
What is your business doing today to keep track of where your business is coming from? And WHY is this important? Let’s answer that second question first. It’s important to know where your business is coming from for a variety of reasons, the most important is so you can capture more business. But just as important is to determine how much it costs you to acquire a customer and which advertising medium is working best for you. Not only are advertising mediums important for their cost of customer acquisition, they are also important for the quality of the customer they attract.
Every business has those products or services they provide, because they have to in order to stay competitive, but really would rather not. And every business has those products or services that are the easiest to deliver and give the highest profit margins. (Yes even my business.) So, I think we can all agree that knowing where your business is coming from is an integral part of helping your company to grow and stay ahead of your competition. That said, here are a couple old tried and true methods that will, if nothing else, get you started in the right direction. It starts before the customer contacts you.
Here are a couple very easy ways to help you track your most profitable customer acquisitions streams.
1. PUT DIFFERENT ADS IN DIFFERENT PLACES. If you’re advertising in three mediums let’s say the local newspaper, a local “giveaway” magazine and the yellow pages (yes they still exist and are being put to good use by some industries), then place a slightly different offer in each location. For instance in you can put a 25% off add in the newspaper, put a “buy three get one free” offer in the local magazine, and in the yellow pages put a $25 off for purchase of $100 or more. All three of these ads are essentially 25% off, but when the customer calls in and asks for the “buy one get one free” offer you are reasonably sure they saw your ad in the local magazine. (Reasonably sure because they could have just been told about the offer by a friend and given your business a call.) However it breaks down for your company you’re still far ahead of those who do no tracking at all.
2. TRAIN YOUR STAFF. If you have staff answering the phone, greeting customers at the door or just taking orders, you’ve got to train each and every one of them on the importance of finding out how the customer heard about your company or special. Teach each one to work it into the conversation as they are taking the order or greeting the customer. Be careful that they don’t “attack” the customer with a barrage of questions before they even hear the customer’s concern or request, this will kill orders. They can respond with replies such as, “The buy one get one free offer is a great offer, where did you see it advertised?” If the customer cant’ remember, then follow up with “Did a friend tell you about it or do you think you might have seen it in the paper or the magazine?” A casual “off-the-cuff” questions will elicit a much better response and customer experience than a “check list of questions” sitting in front of the employee. A strong rule of thumb is to limit your employees to three or less questions. If they can’t get the information out of the client through three or less questions, then just accept it and move on.
3. AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE. Here’s one that comes from the very old days of mail order sales but is still used everywhere today to good effect. Add a department to each and every ad. For instance when you place an ad in the local newspaper, you can simply instruct your customer through the ad to ask for Department NP1 to take advantage of the offer. You can even code specific offers with individual codes, for instance if you ran a 24% off offer in the newspaper, you could have your customers ask for Department NP25 to receive the offer. Of course there is no Department NP25, but you’ll train your staff to recognize that as the code for the ad that was 25% off that ran in the newspaper. They can simply say “This is the correct department” or “I can help you with that.” Trust me, this is done ALL the time even today. Pay particular attention to radio and TV ads and you’ll see it popping up everywhere. Why? Because it’s free and it works.
I mentioned that the last suggestion was free, but of course, they’re all free. Thus ANY business can apply these techniques and apply them today. There are MUCH more sophisticated methods of tracking where your business is coming from but most of them (typically) only apply to the internet and usually cost money or require quite a bit of upfront practice / learning to apply them. I’m not saying they aren’t worth it (which they are) but these are free, easy to implement, simple and - - they work!
ONE LAST IMPORTANT NOTE. Now that you have the process in place to collect all of this valuable information, how will you keep track of it? Through a simple spreadsheet that you can easily create. You can collect the numbers in a couple of ways, you can hand out a copy of the spreadsheet to each employee and then at the end of each month or at the end of a given advertising campaign, you can consolidate the numbers and decided on where to spend your money for the next campaign. (If you want to make it a little easier, you can use google docs for free and make a single online spreadsheet that all employees log into which will tabulate the numbers for you.) Remember, the better you track where your customers are coming from, the better decisions you’ll make about spending your advertising dollars and the more your company will grow.
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