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Putting It All Together: Planning, Measuring, and Tracking

Thanks for hanging with us this far in our six-part series about Marketing for your Green Industry business. Today we’re going to have the final installment – Planning, Measuring and Tracking the results of your marketing efforts.

Setting Goals

When it comes to goal setting, your marketing efforts (and the corresponding budget) should align with your business goals. What does that mean? It means that your growth targets (how much you want to grow the business by) should determine how you set your marketing goals.

Take your growth target and divide it by the average job size you have. That will tell you how many more jobs you need to sell in order to hit your growth target.

After that, you simply factor in your company’s closing rate. Divide the total number of Sales (new jobs or customers) by the total number of leads that came in, and multiply by 100. So if you sold 200 new jobs (that weren’t on the books at the beginning of your fiscal year) and you had 800 leads, the math is easy – 200 / 800 = 0.25 and 0.25 X 100 = 25 or a 25% closing rate.

Account for the difference between your closing rate and the number of sales you need to make in order to hit your goals. To work backward and see how many leads you’ll need, just divide rather than multiply by the decimal you got. So, if you want 100 new customers, you take 100 / 0.25 = 400. That means 400 leads should get you the 100 new customers you want.

A practical example of how to implement this exercise

Let’s say you run Cut It Out Tree Care, a \$1,000,000 tree care company. And you have a growth target of 15%, meaning you want to sell an additional \$150,000 in work the following year (1,000,000 x 0.15 = 150,000). That \$150k in growth is what you need to plan for with your marketing efforts.

Now, let’s say your average job size is \$1,818. And your closing percentage is 33%. Here’s how you do the math:

• \$150,000 in growth / \$1,818 average job size = 83 new customers needed (above and beyond what you got this year).
• A closing rate of 33% means you need to take 83 / 0.33 = 252
• This means you need about 252 new customers to hit your growth goals!

That’s not too hard, right? This is a great way to set a target to measure marketing efforts and see if you’re on track.

Calculating Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

Tracking your return on ad spend (ROAS) necessitates a few things – tracking and attribution. I’ll give a quick overview of both.

Tracking

With all of your advertising – even your Brand Awareness spending – you should consider using tracking phone numbers. A service like CallRail helps a lot – you can dedicate a specific phone number to each of your advertising channels (Direct Mail, magazine ads, Google Ads, etc.) and know exactly where that phone call came from. You should do the same with landing pages on your website. Make sure you create a unique URL for each channel. This helps you measure your marketing in a really clear way.

Let’s pretend I run a tree care company called “Cut It Out Tree Service” based in Kansas City, Missouri. My website is “cutitoutKC.com,” okay? I would create a unique landing page for each channel I’m running, like “cutitoutKC.com/tornadodamage/” to put on my Direct Mail pieces that talk about tornado season. I could also do “cutitoutKC.com/WinterWeather/” as the landing page for Google Ads I’m running about snow and ice damage.

The point is to make sure that you know the only place a potential customer could find that webpage is by interacting with one of your ads. Pro-tip: Have your web developer make these pages “no-index.” That’ll keep search engines from accidentally delivering them to someone who didn’t interact with your ad, thereby screwing up your data.

There are a few important considerations here. Some of you will say “We don’t want to confuse customers about what our phone number actually is.” I’ve heard that, and while I agree there is some validity to it, I’d rather have good data on how my ads are performing. If someone knows you by name, they’ll be able to find a way to contact you.

Foolproof way to Measure Marketing Efforts? No.

The other point to consider is that this is not a fool-proof method for collecting information on consumer behaviors. Tracking numbers and unique URLs are designed to give you insights, not to track every single lead.

Why? Because inevitably someone is going to put that Direct Mailer on their fridge, and forget to take it with them when they go to work. So, instead of calling the phone number on that mailer on their lunch break, they’re going to Google you and get your number that way. (This is also an attribution problem, not just a tracking problem. Keep reading for more on “attribution” below.)

You won’t capture every single lead from these tracking methods, but you will get valuable insights that help you make good decisions.

We are at the point where we need to talk about what marketers call “attribution.” Basically, how do you decide what type of advertising you performed that made the phone ring? What advertising channel gets “credit” for turning that person into a lead?

I’ll give you an example from another industry – personal injury lawyers.

Personal injury lawyers can make a HUGE payday with just a few of the right clients each year. So, what do they do? They put themselves EVERYWHERE – billboards (lots of them), online ads, magazine ads, the crazy ads you see on shopping carts at the grocery store, TV ads – you name it. They’re even sponsoring the local sports teams (professional on down to little league).

So, here comes the nightmare for measuring your marketing….how do you tell what worked? Was it the TV ads with the catchy jingle? Was it a billboard? How about those yellow pages (the phone book would have died a long time ago without lawyers)? How do you determine which of these channels was “the one” that brought that client into the firm?

Attribution models – a quick overview

I’ll start by saying this: for a much more thorough understanding, you should read this article. It’ll go much more in-depth into the different types of attribution. And while it’s specifically written for Google Analytics, the principles apply.

• First-touch attribution: 100% of the credit goes to the first interaction the lead has with your company. The answer to “Where was the very first place they heard about us?” is first-touch attribution.
• Last-touch attribution: 100% of the credit goes to the very last interaction (that makes them a lead). The answer to the question “How did we get their information?” (phone call from a direct mail piece, they filled out a website form, etc.) is usually last-touch attribution.
• Time-decay attribution: this model assumes interactions closer to conversion into a “lead” have more significance. Therefore, interactions with your company closer to the time they convert have more “weight.” For example, if the new lead had five different interactions with your company before becoming a lead, the first one might only get 15% of the credit, while the last interaction might get 40% of the credit. This one is messy.
• Linear attribution: this model assigns an equal value to all touchpoints in the customer’s journey. For example, assume again that a customer had five interactions with your business prior to becoming a lead. Those five interactions would all be assigned 20% credit.

There are several others, but these are the most common I’ve seen from marketers. To be fair, they all have a place; there’s a reason they all exist. They might give you a different look at your marketing efforts and show you value in something you previously did not value (like billboards or Twitter advertising).

Which Attribution Model should I use?

For most businesses, a last-touch attribution model will suffice, with one very important caveat – you have to make the distinction between Lead Generation and Brand Awareness advertising. If you’re unsure about that, you can read this blog for clarity. When calculating your return on ad spend (ROAS), don’t automatically discount something that “isn’t performing” if it’s a Brand spend. I’ve seen lots of business owners unable to make this distinction. They’re using Last-Touch Attribution and then discounting anything that wasn’t the “last touch.”

In our example with attorneys, this would be like a criminal defense lawyer getting rid of everything except the phone book. (Why the phone book? Suspects usually get one phone call from a landline phone, so the phone book still does well.) You can see how foolish this is, right? No one in need of a criminal defense lawyer is going to pick up the phone book at the police station and call some random lawyer with their one phone call. They’re going to call someone in the phone book who they have heard of in the past.

It’s the same way with you. Last-Touch Attribution makes your reporting easier. That doesn’t always make it the most accurate. You need both Brand Awareness ads AND Lead Generation ads to make the whole thing work.

How do you tell where a lead comes from? This is called “sourcing,” and it’s crucial to measure your marketing. Properly sourcing leads is the bane of every marketer’s existence.

Most businesses will tell you “We ask everyone how they heard about us!” and assume this is enough. It’s not.

A more sophisticated question is something like “Why did you call us today?” or “We know you have choices in the marketplace. What made you decide to choose Cut It Out Tree Pruning to work with?” This gets more at the reason they chose your company, and that’s closer to the real reason they called.

You might find this is an actual referral, they saw your professional work at a neighbor’s property, or they drive past your office. Of course, these reasons don’t help you decide where to spend money on marketing, but they do tell you that perhaps it wasn’t the website or the Google Ad that really sealed the deal and turned them into a lead.

Calculating ROAS

Calculating your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is pretty straightforward. You use this formula:

Sales dollars attributed to that source / Money spent on an advertising channel = ROAS

Here’s an example of this. If you spent \$3,000 on Google Ads for a month, but that converted into \$10,500 in Sales, the calculation looks like this:

\$10,500 / \$3,000 = \$3.50 ROAS, or \$3.50 in Sales for every \$1 you spent on marketing.

Conversely, if you spent \$3,000 on Google Ads and only saw \$1,000 in Sales, your ROAS would look like this:

\$1,000 / \$3,000 = \$0.33 ROAS, or \$0.33 in return for every \$1 you spent.

Now, repeat this with every single place you spend money on advertising. I know it’s a pain, but if you want to really measure marketing results so you can make data-informed decisions, you have to do it. I recommend keeping a spreadsheet and grouping them by the type of ad channels. You might have a tab or just a section on the same spreadsheet for each segment. They could be grouped however it makes sense for you, but that will help keep you organized.

When doing this for a large landscape company I worked for, I grouped them by type. I had a section for digital marketing (Google Ads, SEO, etc.), one for Print Ads (Direct Mail, magazines, etc.), one for local sponsorships (Little Leagues, the local high school booster club, etc.), Media Buys (TV, Radio, etc.).

You may decide to organize yours differently; by a community that the messaging reaches, by the vendor you’re working with, etc. The point is to organize it all so you can see in one place a) what you spent on that channel, and b) when you spent it.

After tracking all of the ad spend, it’s simply a matter of pulling together your reporting at the end of the year and reconciling the two lists.

It’s worth saying this very explicitly so there’s no confusion – if you have a channel that’s working really well, invest more of your marketing budget into that channel the following year. As you calculate ROAS, if a particular channel (Direct Mail or your SEO efforts) is really fruitful, allocate a higher percentage of your budget to those things. If it’s a Lead Generation effort that’s not as fruitful, shrink the budget for it or eliminate it altogether.

Measuring Marketing Results

Don’t get caught up in making sure everything is a positive ROAS. You need to evaluate the success or failure of your marketing efforts by a few key metrics.

• The number of leads – did we hit the number of leads we were striving for?
• New Customers – did we hit our sales goals in terms of new customers, even if the leads fell short? If so, that means we drove quality leads, and our closing percentage went up (double-check the close rate to be sure!).
• Growth – if we missed both of these, did we hit our Sales targets? If so, that means we grew the average value of each job we sold through our marketing efforts.

It’s important to measure your marketing success or failure based on metrics that you’ve established ahead of time. If you don’t, you might be setting yourself up for failure in the future. Let me give you an example.

If you hit your growth goals, but fail to hit the number of leads, it’s important to ask “Why?” If you don’t get to the root of why your campaigns failed to generate the expected response from potential customers, you might enter the following year with a similar, underperforming plan. “Hey, we hit our Sales numbers, so it’s all good” is a really bad reason to stay the course.

Failure to examine what happened with all of your Sales and Marketing metrics on a yearly basis (if not a semi-annual basis) is setting you up for failure in future years. There will come a time when you need those campaigns to generate a certain level of incoming leads, and if you don’t work it out before you’re desperate for them, you’ll be in a really bad situation when the economy turns.

There are some things you can do to troubleshoot for underperforming channels.

What type of ad spending is this?

The very first question you should ask yourself is “What type of ad spend is this? Is it a Brand Awareness spend, or is it a Lead Generation spend?” For a clearer understanding of the difference, see our previous blog on this topic. The true measure of marketing results comes from determining the type of spending in which you are investing.

Lead Generation spending should yield a positive ROAS. Brand Awareness spending may yield a positive ROAS, but that’s more of a bonus than an expectation. Checking your assumptions about the type of advertising is the very first step.

Did we make assumptions?

You may have done your research and created great Buyer Personas, but get the audience wrong. Sometimes this happens when you assume you know exactly what your average buyer looks like.

Another question to ask is “Was the messaging off?” Sometimes you thought a message was going to resonate with your target audience, and it just….doesn’t. I’ll give you an example, and while it comes from politics, this is not a political stand of any kind

Most people would assume, as a general rule, that messaging about “gun control” would resonate with all Democratic voters. And as you’re reading this, you probably agree. Unless you’re reading it from Montana. There, even the Democratic Senators own guns and support gun rights.

Again, not a political statement. It’s a story about how we’re prone to assumptions about our audience when we’re trying to market to them.

Lastly, I’d look at the Call to Action (CTA) for the initiative. Did you assume that a “\$25 off the first service” on a Plant Health Care program would be enticing? Or that a “Free Backfill and Seeding” on that stump grinding ad would do the trick? Sometimes what we think is going to resonate with our potential customers just isn’t enough to make the phone ring. Try a different CTA and see what happens.

If you have a Lead Generation piece out (like Direct Mail), and it isn’t performing as you expected, it’s easy to become frustrated and throw your hands up at the “sunk cost” of such a project. But any savvy marketer knows that the only really sunk cost is the one you don’t learn from. Measuring your marketing results and drawing data-based conclusions helps you improve the next time.

Some of the more common problems I’ve run into with Direct Mail pieces include:

• Poor layout or ad design (too busy OR the ad elements don’t draw the eye).
• Trying to put too many messages on a single ad (Direct Mail postcard is to drum up landscaping business, but you put info about gutter cleaning, pressure washing, and snow removal on there as well).
• Incongruent messaging and imagery (the message and picture don’t line up quite well enough to make the ad effective).
• Tracking set up improperly (no tracking phone number or specific web page that you’re directing people to use).
• The Call to Action (CTA) wasn’t compelling enough for people to actually call.

Try to do a “post-mortem” on any advertising initiative you run. Track the number of leads and the ROAS as best you can, and look for areas you can improve upon. This goes for more Lead Generation initiatives (like Direct Mail) as well as Brand Awareness campaigns (like magazine ads).

Don’t measure marketing efforts as a success or failure in the digital space without asking LOTS of questions. At a very high level, there’s a lot that can go wrong with online ad campaigns. Here are some questions to look into if your campaigns aren’t performing well.

• Do we have the tracking set up properly? (Setting up Google Analytics properly can be a huge headache; it’s easy to overlook something. You might just be missing data and the campaigns are actually working well!)
• What keywords are we competing for with our campaigns? (Some keywords are especially competitive. Instead of competing with Trugreen for “lawn care” in general, try bidding on “lawn fertilization in X city” and look for cities you service, for example).
• Are we using effective landing pages? (Do people who click on your ad find information about the service they searched for? Will they know how to contact you for a quote once they get to that page?)
• Do the ad’s copy and the landing page align well? (If you’re running ads about tree pruning, but they click and get a page that talks about stump grinding, that’s not a good experience.)
• Is there any problem with the form on the landing page? (Occasionally, I’ve seen issues where the campaign is working  – getting clicks and people are filling out forms for a quote – but there was a problem with the actual form on the website. Be sure to check this, too!)

These are just some of the questions you can begin to ask as you dig into problems with the campaigns you’re running or that your digital marketing partner or agency is running. The really encouraging thing about digital ads is you can adjust these on a month-to-month basis if something isn’t working. You generally need about 30 days of data to see if something is working well or not, but that’s still far more flexibility than print ads give you!

Planning – put it on the calendar!

Believe it or not, calendarizing this is probably the easiest part! You’re basically trying to give yourself a visual representation of what messaging is going out on what channels and when. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; I’ve often done my calendars in Excel or Google Sheets. I’ve included a screenshot below for reference.

This is for our fictional tree care company I imagined, based in Kansas City, Missouri. You can see a) what channel is going out, b) a small idea about the messaging, and c) when that messaging is going out. For my ease of viewing the calendar, I also color-coded the chart: Direct Mail efforts in a red hue, other print ads in yellow, digital advertising in green, local sponsorships in blue, and media buys in random colors. That just makes it easier on me (knowing a red block means “Direct Mail” without having to look too hard at it). You’ll need to find what works for you and your team.

If you plan on your deadlines for approvals on the final artwork, messaging, etc. being completed at least one month in advance, you’ll stay on track the whole year. Plus, everyone who is impacted by marketing activities (sales staff, customer service, scheduling, etc.) knows when to expect a higher volume of calls.

Rinse and repeat

You’ve made it! We’ve been through a lot in the last six weeks. You’ve learned:

• How to identify your target customer and create a Buyer Persona
• The difference between Lead Generation and Brand Awareness