To know if a particular ad works or not, you have to be able to track the responses to that specific ad
There are a variety of ways you can do this. Some are more accurate than others. But if you do not code your ads, you cannot track response. And if you do not track responses, there is simply no way you can measure the results of your advertising.
And if you do not measure your advertising, the only thing you can be sure of is that your are wasting a big chunk of your ad dollars.
Of course, you will always have some responses you cannot allocate to a specific ad. The trick is to keep those “no codes” (or “white mail”) to a minimum.
Here are some ways:
1. Key code the coupon. Put a unique code in the coupon of your ad. It could be an abbreviation of the publication’s name, plus the date. Or it could be a letter-number combination you make up. Or sequential codes. It doesn’t matter … so long as you record the code along with all the other information about the ad (that’s what the front side of my response sheets are for).
What does matter is that you can count how many responses you have from the particular ad.
2. Code the address. You’ll often see “Dept. XYZ” or some such in the address of an ad. Especially one without a coupon.
To me, this is too obvious and unnatural. Maybe I’m perverse, but since I know why that “Dept. XYZ” is there, I always leave it out when I reply to one of these ads! Better to use a code that looks like it’s an integral part of the address.
My previous office occupied the whole fifth floor of a building. (So instead of “5th floor”, I’d put “Suite 501” or “Suite 539.” That way, the code appeared to be an integral part of the address.
(This can help tracking fax orders … when people put your address at the top of a letter.)
Another hint: always check the envelopes. Inevitably, when they open the mail, new staff chuck away the envelope and just keep the letter. So you will have an order – great! But the code was on the envelope, not on the letter!
And sometimes (even worse) the customer’s return address is only on the envelope! … an order, and nowhere to send it!
1. Code the phone number. One way to code the phone number is to add “extension 123: after the number.
A better way is to say: “Call Albert (or Mary or Joyce) at…” and change the name each time you run the ad. That will also help track responses by fax.
2. Ask the customer. You can always ask the customer. If you do not run a lot of ads this is an easy way to keep track. Just say, “Oh, and where did you hear about us …?” Or: “How did you find out about this offer …?”
(Be prepared for responses like: “Oh in today’s paper” – when the last time you ran the ad was last week!)
Important! Do not put words into your customer’s mouth.
Ask a non-specific question: “Oh, and do you remember where you heard about this offer…?”
Not: “Did you see our ad in today’s paper ..?”
The first question will prompt your customer to search his or her memory. To the second question, many people will simply say “yes” to get the question out of the way.
For Phone orders: you can ask what code is on the coupon.
If your customer starts to get confused, be prepared to say: “Oh well, never mind.” It’s better to have a sale without a code than no sale at all!
1. Get the customer to bring in the ad. For a restaurant, an ad offering a free drink with any meal (“just bring this ad with you”) makes it easy to measure the results. At the end of each day, just total up the sales the ad makes for you.
Ask each customer, “Have you been here before …?” and you will know how many new customers you have generated.
If they have a good experience, they will be back.
2. Allocate “no codes.” Wherever possible, attribute responses to some ad – or series of ads. Here are a couple of ways to do it:
By offer. If you have run three ads offering a free Pepsi, and another three offering a free coffee, it’s easy to attribute a response to one or the other series.
Similarly, different products, different prices can easily be allocated to a series.
By time. A Friend of mine simply puts all the “no codes” in the latest month’s mailings. (You keep an extra record sheet for “no codes,” allocated to the campaign or series of ads.) Over time, it averages out.
If you just run newspaper ads, you are probably safe to put all “no codes” in the records for this week’s ad.
You will never be able to trace all responses. It is very important to do so when the hard-to-trace responses make up a high percentage of the total. If you cannot allocate them wisely, you will have no way of knowing which ads are paying and which are not.
1. Keep records by “day of response”. You will note on my record sheets there’s a new line for each day you get a sale. “Day 1” is the day you run the ad (or go in the mail).
This way, you can measure the pattern of the ad – and the media. Inevitably, you will find that the responses bunch together soon after the ad runs, and then slow done to a trickle.
By tracking ads in this way, you can figure out their “half-life”: that is, the number of days after you run the ad that you get half all the responses (or half all the dollars) you are going to get.
Say, on average, your ads make 120% of break-even. And it’s two or three weeks before you get the last response.
If you know that the average “half-life” of your ad is five days, you do not have to wait the full three weeks to know whether the ad is working or not. If, after five days your ad is only 40% of break-eve, you know it didn’t work. If it is 75%, though, you know you have got a winner.
You will also find that different media have markedly different patterns. In a daily newspaper, you might get half the response within a day or two, and only the occasional response after five or seven days.
In a monthly magazine, it might be three or four weeks before half the response is in.
Once you have accumulated this data, you can quickly decide whether a new ad is working or not. Why wait three weeks (or three months!) to discover if a new ad works when you can find out in a fraction of that time!
– Brad Sugars –
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