Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Would you buy a car if the speedometer doesn’t work or if you couldn’t gauge how much gasoline is in your tank? Would you purchase an air conditioning system that had no thermostat, no way to judge temperature? Would be happy with a watch that wouldn’t give you the time of day?

Measurement and assessment. These are important factors when you’re talking about how much fuel you’ve got until the next exit or how much time until your next appointment. They’re also important factors when you’re talking about one of the most essential investments made by your company: marketing.

Is your marketing getting you where you need to be? Which aspects of it are really working for you? Which parts aren’t effective? Sadly, for some contractors, the answers would be, "I have no idea."

Marketing is not an exact science — meaning, some things will work for some people, not for others. But it's a studied science, and the more you study your marketing, the better you can see for yourself what's working well and what's, well, not working at all.

Marketing success will always be based partly on trial by error. You can count on certain trends and techniques, but at any given time, any market or any customer base may not respond like you think they will. But there's no need to consider "lack of response" a marketing failure. Consider it, instead, valuable information.

And this is the kind of information that comes by tracking" Another word for tracking is testing, but essentially, you can’t get any idea of how well any ad or promotion works unless you track it. When you do, you’ll have an advantage that pays handsomely.

Bear in mind, on a Direct Response ad, you're expecting results, so it's easy enough to chart every incoming lead and attach it to that ad's performance. On Retention marketing, or Image ads, this isn't as immediately measurable, but the place to start is with your receptionist.

For any incoming lead, your receptionist simply asks, "And how did you hear about us?" or "Which ad brought us your call today?" or other such straightforward, friendly questions. The answer to this — amassed hundreds of times — will determine for you:

  • Your most profitable ads
  • Your most profitable media
  • The best areas of response
  • The richest combination of marketing methods
  • The value of customer or prospect lists

Your receptionist can keep up with this in a number of ways. I've seen very effective companies use a "tick mark" system of noting an ad's response that is then fed into a weekly results sheet for leads and sales. I've also seen sophisticated contact management software that had a field for incoming leads per media type. Any method is better than no method. The essence of tracking is to find what works and how well it's paying you back.

Of course, as you track, you must apply. It's not enough to know something doesn't work. You must use that knowledge to strengthen other marketing efforts — and turn your knowledge into a powerful marketing advantage.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a contractor marketing firm. He'll be conducting a marketing seminar a Comfortech 2007 on September 26-29 in St. Louis. His company offers turn-key marketing solutions for contractors for lead generation, image, branding, publishes newsletters and offers Monthly Marketing Coaching. For more information call 800/489-9099, or fax to 334/262-1115. For a free marketing newsletter, and/or a free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time.” contractors can fax their letterhead with the request or e-mailfreestuff@hudsonink.com.