Getting Bang Out of Your Marketing Bucks
by Blair Kuhnen
Are you looking at tighter marketing budgets in 2007? Faced with tougher markets, more aggressive competition, and apathetic consumers, we all have to become smarter about how we spend marketing dollars. To become smarter, you have to do two things. First, you need to assess the performance of each dollar you spend. Second, you have to reallocate your spending to where your company gets its best results.
Sounds easy, but it's not. It's not easy because attributing performance is murky. You want a constant approach that works across all your prospects and buyers. Your staff also has to be consistent without being overly burdened. Let me share with you some of the best practices developed by builders with effective tracking methods. Learn these secrets and use them. We all will be better off.
Recognize that there are two key things you can track: (1) leads who contact you prior to visiting (e.g., Internet leads), and (2) shoppers who simply show up as physical traffic in response to your marketing. 80% of Internet-driven physical traffic NEVER registers on builder or third-party (i.e., NewHomeSource.com, Move.com) websites. So, for every lead converted to physical traffic, there are four shoppers who simply show up as physical traffic. The goal is to use information provided by tracking Internet leads and on post-contract marketing surveys to focus your marketing dollars where they really count.
Secrets of Tracking Internet Leads to Sales
Let's talk about tracking leads. You need to identify leads from sources you pay for. There are two lead types builders should track to get an accurate picture of third-party distribution channel performance. First, there are direct leads from NewHome Source or other third parties. There’s no problem with identifying these leads; you receive a list. Perhaps you receive this list as a data feed directly into your CRM. Second, there are leads from your own website that are directed there by a third party. This is more difficult to measure. The builder needs to implement "referrer" tracking. Your IT guys may already do this for Google or Overture paid placement traffic. With every link from a third party to your website, you should have a source tag that shows up in your Web logs.
Rather than a simple link of http://www.pulte.com, your vendor can append a source tag. (for example, http://www.pulte.com/?source=NHS) Then, in what are called extended logs, the builder can see this referral source on the logs for hits to the registration page and the thank you page. Store this tag as a session variable. Your IT staff can then match this source to the lead in your reporting. Now you know which leads gathered on your own website were sourced from which vendors.
Combining both the third-party and builder website leads sourced from third parties, you can identify all the leads driven by any third party. Once these leads are aggregated, the next step is to look for conversions. If the builder has an online sales counselor (OSC), we recommend they use this resource to track conversions, since they will have a vested interest in finding "sales."
To find sales you need to compare sales records (legal names, previous addresses and phone numbers, email addresses) to the same information you may have available for a lead sourced from NewHome Source or your own website. It is semi-manual; you can put the information into Access or a spreadsheet, but it takes a person to compare matches to find your sales driven by your website or NewHome Source.
If you do this, you will have a fairly accurate picture of the Internet leads that have converted into sales. However, as you recall, there is still the 80% of the Internet-related traffic into your communities that you are not able to track. That is where the post-contract marketing survey comes into play.
The Best Method for Identifying Sources of Sales
Is there a better way to get an accurate picture of Internet leads converted to sales? I think there is. Several past clients of mine have used a post-contract marketing survey. The great thing about this survey is that nearly all customers will fill it out. More importantly, these are your buyers. It answers the ultimate question, "How did my buyers find out about me?"
The post-contract survey may be the most accurate and easy method to find out which marketing vehicles are most effective. You can ask many questions, but you must ask these two: (1) "What single source of information was most influential in helping you decide to visit us on your first visit?", and (2) "Which sources of information did you use to help decide which communities to visit?" Everything else is nice to know, but if you can answer these two questions with a measure of accuracy, you can focus your marketing mix towards what works for selling your homes in your market.
I hope this helps focus your marketing dollars where your company gets the most BANG!
Blair Kuhnen is VP of Marketing & Business Development at BHI. He can be reached at 512-289-7370 or email@example.com.