May 6, 2010

How Do I Track the Value of My Marketing Efforts

Yesterday I wrote an article about the cumulative effects of marketing and a reader asked how I track my results. First and foremost, if you missed my article yesterday, let me repeat YOU CANNOT PERFECTLY TRACK EVERYTHING. You just can’t. Things happen indirectly as a result of your marketing, that’s where some of that cumulative magic comes in. (Read my article from yesterday for examples of this.)

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about what you can track using Google Analytics (because it’s free and pretty easy to use):

1. Bounce Rates
When you find a way of promoting your site be it advertising, guest blogging, cross-promoting, etc. You’ll want to pay attention to what the incoming traffic from these sources does. If your traffic has a high bounce rate from a source (meaning the vast majority of visitors leave after viewing one page) that source might not be very well-targeted for you and you may want to turn your attention elsewhere.

Important: View the bounce rate in the context of your site’s bounce rate. If your entire site has a high bounce rate, the problem may be your site, not your marketing venues.

2. CPC
CPC, or cost-per-click, is what you pay to get a person to come to your site. It’s easy calculate a CPC for an ad. If I pay $100 for an ad and I get 500 clicks then I paid 20 cents per click. The tricky thing is everything has a CPC, even “free” stuff. (Side rant: There is no such thing is as FREE marketing. I am so sick of hearing about FREE marketing. All marketing costs money unless you don’t subscribe to the thought that time is money. And if you don’t you should. Your time is valuable. If your FREE marketing costs 20 hours it is 20 hours x  your hourly rate. Sometimes FREE can be expensive.)

To calculate CPC on stuff you don’t pay for, such as blogging, SEO, etc. keep track of the hours you spend on those things. Then decide what you think your time is worth hourly. If you spend 2 hours per week blogging and you think your time is worth $25 per hour, you spend $50/week blogging. Now go into your site stats and see how much traffic your blog generates. If your blog gets 100 visitors per week you are paying 50 cents per click.

What is a good cost per click?
There is no general answer. Lower is better, but good depends very much on your business. It should be based on the average value of your orders and your conversion rate.

3. Conversions
This is the metric we look at most often. How much did a traffic source result in direct sales? I recommend that, if possible, you track other things than sales, such as Facebook fanning, Twitter following, newsletter sign ups, etc.

Tracking that stuff can be difficult because you either need to be pretty tech savvy or spend money on fancy technology. Google Analytics is free and it will track sales and newsletter sign ups (assuming you can install Google tracking code on your thank you pages for newsletter and sales). It won’t track your Facebook and Twitter sign ups at this time but it’s better than nothing.  (I am sure eventually you will be able to track that stuff with Google Analytics, but not today.)

Tech savvy types can use cookies or track IP addresses of their visitors and use that to track visitor activity in a database. They can use AJAX to track clicks on their Facebook and Twitter links. This technology allows the business owner to see a complete profile of a customer’s activity on their site.

4. Overall Traffic
You should be seeing an overall increase in traffic as you spend more time and money on your marketing efforts.  I know that as we increased our advertising expenditures on our ecommerce website we saw a drastic increase in site traffic from all over the place. It’s because more people were coming to our site, sharing our links with friends, spreading our site around via word of mouth, etc.

If I get 1,000 people coming to my site each day and just 1% of them are sharing my site with others that means I have 10 people promoting for my brand EVERY SINGLE DAY! Now multiply that over the course of a year and I end up with thousands of people promoting my brand.

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May 5, 2010

There’s No Magic Bullet: The Cumulative Effects of Growing Your Brand

Filed under: Growing Your Business — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 9:14 am

Live Plant Cutting with Recycled Glass Vase and Care Instructions by SevenAcreWoods

The #1 question small business owners want the answer to: “What can I do to grow my business?” This is a loaded question and it has hundreds, if not thousands, of answers. The short answer is that there is no ONE thing you’ll do that will make your business a success. All your press, your marketing, your business development, etc. is cumulative. Here’s what I mean:

Imagine a moderately popular blog writes about your business, 100 people visit your site. One person buys something. 50 of them leave after viewing 1 page. Another 30 leave after viewing a few pages. 5 of them get on your mailing list and one of them makes a purchase 6 months from now. 1 of them tweets about your brand and 10 of their followers visit your site, 1 of them starts following you on Twitter. Another visitor posts your link on her Facebook wall and their friends visit you, one of them buys something. Another visitor posts about your business on his personal blog.

If you’re looking at raw sales that came from this one press hit you might not be impressed. You only got one actual sale.  A closer look reveals that you actually got:

  • 1 direct immediate sale
  • 2 indirect/delayed sales
  • a blog post (which leads to more SEO, more traffic, more fans, more newsletter subscribers, etc.)
  • a Twitter follower
  • 5 newsletter subscribers

Suddenly that one press hit is a lot more valuable.  Now consider that every little thing you do that brings new people to your site — advertising, getting press hits, blogging, cross-promoting, etc. works the same way. Each thing can result in incremental growth of your brand. This is to say, don’t get discouraged when you don’t see immediate over night success, because each small thing is helping you along in ways you may not realize.

Having owned an ecommerce site for a few years now, I’ve seen this work first hand. My site gets orders each day from press hits that went online over a year ago, Facebook, people who subscribed to my newsletter months ago, things I posted on Style Hive months ago, message board posts our fans wrote months ago, etc.  After having amassed so many links over such a long period of time, we now consistently get business from work we did months or even years before.

It usually takes several months, if not a couple of years, to really break through as a small brand and consistently see website traffic and sales. This is because each little thing you do is slowly building a presence and a fanbase for your brand. Eventually all the little things you do each day will be working in concert to bring consistent website traffic and consistent sales.

While you can certainly throw a lot of money at your brand and get much bigger much faster, most small brands aren’t in the position to do that so it’s a matter of being slow but steady.  As web technology evolves, we’ll probably have smarter and better ways to track long term and indirect benefits of our marketing efforts. As it stands right now, there’s no way to effectively track every little boost your brand gets from marketing.  This means you have to track where you can (newsletter sign ups, increases in site traffic, Twitter and blog posts that mention where the author discovered your brand) and consistently invest time and money in the things that attract your target demographic to your website.

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May 1, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:

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April 27, 2010

Take Their Advice For What It’s Worth

Filed under: Growing Your Business — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 6:12 am

Last week I ran a series called “The Best Thing I Did for My Business.” I interviewed entrepreneurs and collected their experiences and shared them with you. I hope you noticed that they all had different answers to that question. While it’s absolutely a great idea to learn from others’ experiences and get advice from other business owners, their business is not your business. What worked for them may not work for you. What failed for them might be a huge success for you.

I see so many conversations on business owner forums that go something like “Don’t use Adwords, it’s a waste of money” or “Advertise on Craiglist, it got me 10 wholesale orders this week!” You kind of need to ignore this sort of talk.

Sure, take ideas away from other business. If they say coupon codes helped them grow their sales, feel free to give it a shot. If they say Adwords failed them and you have a similar type of business don’t go whole hog and start on Adwords with a $1000 daily budget. It’s important to learn from others, but never take their experiences as gospel.

The thing that worked for them may not work for you because you have a different type of business or a different type of customer or a different price point or a different brand image. The thing that failed for them may have failed because their product photos or web design are sub-par and anything they try is going to fail.

This is why it’s extremely important to really understand your business, your customers, your market, your path to success. You can learn from others’ experiences but always be objective and consider whether their advice or experience truly applies to you. Also think of ways to extrapolate what they say as it applies to your business.

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April 23, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:

This content is copyrighted. See my content sharing policy here.

February 24, 2010

Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick TWO

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 5:24 am

The subject of today’s post is a mantra uttered frequently by engineers (although it’s probably said by other types of professionals too). What it means is when planning a project, you can only have 2 of those 3 objectives met. If you want it fast, it’s either going to be expensive or the end result is going to suck. If you want a good end result you can either do it on the cheap and take your time or spend mad cash and have it tomorrow. You get the idea. This same principal applies to growing your business, especially when it comes to things like web design, marketing and PR.

If you want to make a big effective splash in a short frame of time be prepared to hire professionals, be prepared to spend on advertising. If you haven’t got much cash to spare be prepared to take your time and learn to do things the right away on your own or suffer the crappy consequences.

Below I’ve outlined a few popular strategies for growing your business and which virtue you’ll sacrifice to make use of them.

GOOD & CHEAP (not so fast)
Building your own press list and individually querying each press contact
– Learning HTML and PHP and developing your own website
– Learning GIMP or Photoshop and editing your own product images
– Learning to implement your own search engine optimization
– Actively using your social media profiles regularly to engage customers
– Growing your own newsletter subscriber base and marketing to them

CHEAP & FAST (not very good)
– Posting a link to your shop on Craigs List
– Setting up social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. and waiting for fans to connect with you
– Making a few 100 flyers to advertise your business and leaving the stack of them in a local cafe.
– Using a press list you found online and mass emailing all of the contacts with the same pitch.
– Scoring free business cards from Vista Print that come with Vista Print advertising on them.
– Spamming people with links to your shop, even if they have not opted into receiving a newsletter from you.

FAST & GOOD (not very cheap)
– Hiring a top notch PR firm that can deliver results (CAUTION: Read my post about how to go about this before you try it)
– Paying for online or print advertising
– Hiring an SEO consultant (This is fast’ish. SEO is never instantaneous but a pro will probably get results faster than a newbie)
– Hiring a photographer to shoot and edit your product photos
– Hiring a graphic designer to develop a brand identity package for you (business cards, logo, etc.)

In my personal opinion good shouldn’t really be up for debate. I am always willing to sacrifice either speed or cost to get good results.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the more emphasis you place on any one or two of these values, the more the less emphasized value(s) are going to suffer. Sometimes you may get away with being fast and good while still cutting a few cost-related corners, but the more you veer off into one of these objectives, the more the others are going to suffer.

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