4 Ways to Improve the Way You Track Your Advertising and Better Understand Your Results

If you think “How did you hear about us?” is an adequate way to track your advertising – we’re here to tell you you are wrong.  Sorry to be so brash, but someone has to tell you. Before you get offended or leave this post, scroll down to be enlightened on the most effective ways to track your advertising and better understand your results.

First, understand that transactions are different from reach. 

When you buy an ad, you don’t buy a transaction, unless you buy a coupon or special offer style ad.  EVERYTHING ELSE IS REACH.   We get it,  when you spend money, you want a guarantee that you are going to get what you paid for…. especially when it comes to advertising, especially print advertising.  Unfortunately, that’s not how advertising works.

In order to be at peace with your marketing plans you have to stop tracking only transactions and start measuring value in REACH.

When you buy an ad, you buy the # of people you can reach within a demographic…. NOT the final customer. So when you are choosing advertising options…. choose base on reach and ask yourself what type of awareness can this media outlet bring for my business. Not how much money can I make from this ad?

But I still want to track my ad…. 

Ok.  Yes! You can track the performance of your print advertising!  And no, it’s not by verbally asking “How did you hear about us?” In fact, with the technology of today’s world, you should never have to utter those words again.

Here’s why the question “How did you hear about us?” Doesn’t work.  Human error.  Rushing.  Not caring.  It’s not the job of your potential customers to keep track of your marketing efforts, it’s yours. So don’t leave their response to the question “How did you hear about us?” open for interpretation. The response should be pretty simple. Comparing your marketing plan.. it was either.. your print ad, your online ad, a friend, or recent PR coverage, etc.  OR ALL OF IT.  But Betty, who just wants to know how much it costs to have a wedding at your venue, doesn’t care about your marketing, she just wants to get down to the reason why she called.

Don’t grill her, or waste her time trying to validate your marketing….

Instead do this…..


Your contact form or request for proposal form on your website is more valuable than you think.  Since your website is your new receptionist, it’s crucial that she/he is accepting all the necessary valuable information you’d normally have a human ask. Besides the obvious information you need from new inquiries, asking the question “how did you hear about us?” is likely the 2nd most important question to have on the form.

Doing these steps will immediately improve the marketing tracking answers you get from customers…

  • Make the question “How did you hear about us” required.  This should be obvious.
  • No open ended questions.  It’s not the job of your new client to track your marketing. Trigger their memory with a list of all the potential places they could have seen you.  “How did you hear about us” is an open ended question.
  • Use checkboxes for multiple answers.  Once you’ve listed all of the print, bridal shows, websites, social media, friend referrals and even editorial your business is in, use checkboxes instead of a dropdown list so that the client can click ALL THE WAYS they’ve seen you instead of only one.  If studies show it takes multiple impressions for a client to take the initiative to call your company, it’s likely they’ve seen your business in several places.  This will help you get more specific results.

If your contact form or RFP form does not look like this, you are leaving information on the table and not accurately tracking your ads.



Your website is your receptionist.  Period.  No longer do people see your ad, scan for your number and dial up right away.  They research you first.  And where?  Your Website!  So, having a bird’s eye view of how people have found your website (it’s not all links from other sites!) and what they look at on your site when they get there are crucial indicators of your offline and online marketing and how effective your site actually is at keeping their attention once they’ve arrived.

Web Analytics programs tracks three different ways visitors get to your website.  Only one of those actually tracks internet referrals from other websites.  Here are the other two best ways to keep track of your offline marketing with Web Analytics…

  • DIRECT TRAFFIC.  Direct traffic is a list of people who have gone to a search engine and specifically typed in your website address.  Meaning… they already knew it.  They didn’t search you or find you on another website, they saw your website address somewhere else (eh hem, perhaps your print ad) and typed it into the URL address box.
  • SEARCH.  Organic (meaning not-paid for) search traffic is two fold.  There are people who search for your business type and people who search for your business name.  Type is true organic search that you can thank the search engines and SEO for.  However, Business Name searches should be attributed to your offline marketing and general brand awareness campaigns. Whenever you see someone search your business name, ask yourself… “How did they know about me to google my business name?”


By assigning a unique local phone number to each advertising or marketing campaign, you will be able to track all of your phone calls back to the campaign that generated the call. This will allow you to discover exactly which advertising campaigns are generating sales and revenue for your business.

Here are three custom phone number companies I recommend…


I placed this at the bottom of the list because it’s truly an old school method, however still effective in some cases.  If you’re going to do a direct mailing piece or promotional hand out at a bridal show, tradeshow or ad, use a promotion to get people to pick up the phone or call instead of just a branding piece.  Then, give your promotions unique codes that your management can track when clients turn them in.  If you don’t have a computer system that keeps track for you, create a spreadsheet that your manager can enter the customers into when they bring in the coupon.  Remember, no one is going to bring in your ad/postcard for no reason, they need the incentive like $500 off or a free gift so don’t forget that part.  At the end of the promotion or year tally up the results to see which promotion worked best.

If you aren’t doing all of these things together, you simply cannot accurately say “I didn’t get anything from my ad.”