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BFS Capital Blog

Tracking Marketing ROI Totally Feasible for Small Businesses

March 1, 2013

When running a small business, there are a million things that need to get done on a daily basis. With all you have to do, how can you possibly find the time to figure out if your marketing is working and to actually measure the results?

The short answer is: You must. You’ll never know what to do in the future if you can’t assess what you’re doing now. The really good news here is that you don’t have to be an analytics genius or have the resources of Apple to track your marketing performance. There are tools available and some relatively easy ways to do it.

Marketers have long struggled with how to measure ROI, or return on investment. While online advertising and social media have leveled the playing field, they have also complicated the issues. What are we measuring? What kind of customer activity is meaningful? Is there some sort of new-era ratio for spend vs. results? argues that ROI no longer means ‘return on investment’ but instead should be viewed as ‘return on impression,’ which encompasses both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ metrics. The article contains terrific information in Understanding the New Marketing ROI; read the full article here.

But as a small business owner, you probably want to get right to it with some concrete tools and resources for tracking ROI. The Fox Small Business Center offers 7 Tools for Measuring Your Marketing ROI, smart, low-cost suggestions that will help you get started right away. Several of our favorites include:

    • Ask your customers—every one of them!

It’s not all that difficult. It means identifying all the touch points where customers interact with your business and then making sure the question is asked at that point—How did you find us?—whether in person or online, including room for additional comments, too. Businesses that do this swear by the information it yields, often more than the answer to the original question.

    • Call tracking.

Most businesses use multiple channels. Specific messages may vary by channel, but all encourage customers to call the company. What you want to know is not just the total number of calls, but which channels are generating the most calls. We recommend checking out companies that specialize in call tracking, like Twillio or CallFire.

    • Promo codes.

Special promotions to drive traffic are a favorite among small businesses. But all too often, no one knows which customers were responding or which promos pulled more customers. The fix is easy. Just assign a unique code to each promotion or channel and ask for it, either in person or online, when customers respond.

    • Google Analytics.

Don’t be put off by the term, ‘analytics.’ Business owners say there’s almost nothing as user-friendly or cost-effective for measuring online marketing efforts, and the data you get on things like traffic and page views is crucial in knowing how to tweak your approach going forward.

Be sure to check out the additional tools recommended, including those specific to social media or customer relationship management (CRM).

A lot of this same kind of information is reinforced by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). But, NFIB offers another ROI tip worth mentioning: Tracking and managing your contacts. This should include keeping and organizing information on all customers and potential customers, including how they heard about you and how they’ve done business with you in the past, all in one place. You might want to check out an Internet-based CRM service for this, especially to set up your system. You’ll see patterns emerge, which will help you focus your efforts in those areas where there is the greatest potential.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /