There are few things in life we choose to do while blindfolded – the act of covering our eyes while performing a task, even a routine one, instills emotions such as fear, anxiety and confusion. With our eyes covered, any acts we attempt are done with uncertainty, taking a longer path toward our goal, if we reach the goal at all. A perfect example is the adolescent game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, which invokes instinctive and reactive behaviors, often ending with a misplaced tail.

Metaphorically speaking, the billion-dollar industry of online marketing grinds forward in a similar fashion, driven by millions of visually impaired marketers in pursuit of a moving target with a recipe that rarely produces the same results twice. And if it did, they would be none the wiser.

The Internet evolution has been one giant paradigm shift, which now touches almost every aspect of daily life and is redefining the very core of the global economy. At the epicenter is the rapid proliferation of faster and cheaper technology, which is fueling growth of online window shoppers and the ever-increasing need for targeted and effective marketing. Yet, for most businesses, Web-based marketing remains elusive and mysterious.

“I know that half of my marketing is working. I just don’t know what half!”

This well-known marketing lament may be humorous, but it is also much too true. Unfortunately, for many marketers, if half of their efforts were successful, they would be doing far better than they currently are. The stark reality is that most marketing campaigns are executed without measurement, and the success or failure of that effort goes unknown. To make matters worse, these impotent attempts are often repeated because of the lack of any evidence to indicate a subsequent attempt has any merit.

If you don’t measure, how can you manage?

This is a question I ask business owners every day. Most who do some sort of measurement consider their current methods sufficient and the results a foregone conclusion. What they fail to recognize is that, in this era of rapid technology growth and invention, new tools are emerging that are as dynamic and evolved as the very people they seek to purchase their products and services.

For those who “market by blindfold” and are looking for a better mousetrap, there are tools and services available that are designed specifically for various marketing vehicles such as Pay-Per-Click, banners, e-mail, newsletters, and others.

I often hear, “I get Web analytics from my hosting provider, and it’s free.” Immediately, I picture someone trying to build a house with only a hammer and a few nails. If you rely on a free tool to determine the effectiveness of any marketing that directly impacts your financial marketing budget, I strongly urge you to consider another age-old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Whether it is Google or your Website host, “free” does not make it the right tool for the job.

You must consider the tools. A few needed for effective marketing management include:

  • Managed e-mail distribution
  • Real-time visitor tracking (Web Analytics)
  • Pay-Per-Click and banner ad conversion analysis

With a little looking, you will find that many tracking services are less than $100 a month. Consider this: If you spend $1000 on marketing and $100 to track it accurately, you could realize what half is ineffective (saving you $500 the next month). Then, by the end of the 2nd month, you are ahead $300! It would then follow, if you applied $500 more to the marketing that is actually working, you could continue to improve your efforts by tracking it and applying what you learn from the results!

Managed E-mail Distribution

Whether you send 10 e-mails or 10,000, knowing the “who and what” of that campaign is vital. Many managed e-mail distribution services make sending opt-in e-mail newsletters and offers very simple and affordable. The benefit of using a service is that they have relationships with the largest ISP’s and SPAM filters, which ensures your messages will arrive.

For example — if you sent 10 e-mails and you could actually track the results and see that one was a bad address, two were never opened, seven read your message, and two from the seven clicked through to your Website…what would you do? You could immediately re-send to the two that did not read the message and re-market to the five that did not click through. 100% effectiveness, 100% proven results.

Real-Time Visitor Tracking (Web Analytics)

Let’s say we have executed our marketing strategy and people are clicking on our Website. Now what? Can we see how many people are responding? What they are doing at our site? Web Analytics provides the clues and evidence that show the cause and effect behind your marketing campaigns. Tracking the activities of your Web visitors will give you valuable insight not only to the effectiveness of your marketing, but the virtual merchandising of your Website.

Just think – if you had 10 Website visitors, seven of them left after viewing your home page and three viewed only a couple of pages. What would you do? You could immediately

  1. verify that your marketing message and audience reach is relevant to your business;
  2. ensure your home page conveys your sales and marketing message;
  3. test your Website to be sure it displays properly in a variety of Web browsers;
  4. test your navigation to be sure there are no broken links.

Pay-Per-Click and Banner Ad Conversion Analysis

Tracking ad conversion is actually easier than you might think. Tools to track conversion are available by most Pay-Per-Click providers. However, tracking visitors through to checkout is also possible with Web Analytics tools. This is sometimes more insightful, as you are able to identify behavioral patterns with analytics that may lead you to further refine your marketing and Website messaging, resulting in greater returns.

A Proactive versus Reactive Conclusion

When it comes to online marketing, there is nothing better than seeing the fruits of your efforts in real-time. This is a paradigm shift in itself for many marketers because many of the tools that allow a “big-brother” view are relatively new. To be able to watch your visitors click on your ads, and to see how they interact with your Website once they arrive, allows you to make decisions about your marketing approach proactively. This gives you the ability to make changes on the fly, increasing effectiveness and reducing cost immediately.

It is absolutely possible to spend less money on marketing and increase your sales. Marketing is the catalyst that drives revenue and maximizing your performance will have a direct impact on revenue. Good Web Analytics allow you to feed your marketing engine and feed your bottom line.