Planning and Evaluating Marketing Programs

Measuring and understanding your Website’s success is a critical process that is sometimes overlooked. Many times, marketing efforts stop at getting traffic to the site. The next step is to evaluate results.

By “connecting the dots” between your marketing programs and end results, you can improve performance. Ultimately, site success depends on how well your site performs with respect to your goals. Measuring actual results against those goals tells you how well your site is succeeding.

Improving results means not only measuring the results themselves but also measuring, understanding, and adjusting the events that lead to those results. Further, having a marketing plan that identifies general strategies and specific programs for meeting your site goals will give you a higher baseline performance to work with when improving upon your site’s success.

Have a Plan

Whatever your Website goals, a marketing plan helps you meet them. By including two or three general strategies to meet each goal as well as specific programs under each strategy, you are better able to evaluate and improve performance.

For example, let’s say you make high quality, custom-made scarves and wish to sell them regionally:

– A Website goal could be to begin selling scarves online and achieve “x” amount of sales in the first six months online.

– One general strategy for meeting that goal could be to get the site known locally by fashion conscious ladies in your community.

– A specific program to support this strategy could be to hold a contest on your site, with the prize being a free, customized scarf. To promote the contest, you could issue a press release, which you send to fashion editors, etc.

By taking this funneled approach – planning down from the broad goal to the specific marketing program – you are better able to evaluate how well each program supports (or fails to support) your goals.

From the start – when you are developing your plan and deciding site structure – think about how to measure performance. Measures will differ, depending upon the situation, but should be both quantitative and meaningful with respect to helping you improve site performance. Choose a set of measurements that will tell you not only how your marketing programs are working, but also how well they support Website goals.

Evaluate Marketing Programs

To evaluate a marketing program’s success, decide your objectives first. You can then “connect the dots” between those objectives and your site goals. Later, when analyzing program results, evaluate not only whether the program succeeded in meeting objectives, but also how well it moved your business toward its Website goals.

It is possible to meet an objective for the marketing program while failing to support site goals. Many traffic generation programs serve as an example. Businesses will often participate in “hit” programs with disappointing results. They reach “hit” objectives, but move no closer to site goals.

Consider Return on Investment (ROI)

One way to evaluate marketing program results is through Return on Investment (ROI) analysis. ROI is a computation that tells you how much you received compared to what you put into a project. You can express ROI in terms of a dollar amount or as a ratio. Either way, the formula itself is simple.

The dollar amount formula tells how much you increased profit in total dollars as a result of the project:

(Cost savings and earnings as a result of the project) minus (Dollars invested)

The ratio formula tells how much you got back, in dollars, for each dollar you invested in a project:

(Cost savings and earnings as a result of the project) divided by (Dollars Invested)

IMHO, things get sticky when you try to define “cost savings and earnings as a result of a project.” This is because returns from marketing investments are broader and often more abstract than returns from some other types of investments. Marketing investments have not only direct monetary benefits, but indirect benefits as well. These indirect benefits are often intangible and difficult (if not impossible) to measure directly.

If you are part of a typical small business with limited resources it may feel like you are in a no win situation. Accurately computing ROI requires a detailed analysis for which the internal resources and expertise are often lacking. Outside consultants can spend hours unearthing data and computing an accurate ROI, but this can be expensive on a small budget.

This does not mean, however, that you cannot use ROI as one of several inputs into program evaluation. When figuring ROI and evaluating marketing program success, keep in mind that each project will realize different types of benefits. Aside from direct dollars cost and direct dollars returned, consider other potential project benefits, including how well it supports your site goals. Other aspects to consider:

Improved customer relationships. Happier customers can represent a return on investment. This can be gauged through repeat order patterns, by a change in the number of complaints/compliments, or through customer surveys comparing pre- and post-project satisfaction.

Influence on offline sales. Online activities often have an influence on offline transactions. You may experience sales leads originating from your Internet programs, for example. Customers may also be driven to your offline store as a result of online information.

Brand building. Online activities can mean better long term growth for your brand. Market share changes, online interactions, and brand awareness surveys are some ways you can judge brand building effects.

Company growth potential. Factor in long term growth prospects when evaluating your project. For many businesses, the Internet provides access to new markets and customers. If you have a local business, for example, your Website could extend your business far beyond the city limits.

Take into account these broader implications, pay attention to how well a marketing program supports your site goals, and measure program results. By taking this three pronged approach, you can better choose marketing programs with positive results.

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