Often, I work with businesses trying to determine the return on investment for their online marketing. For e-commerce companies, it's not that hard. They can use their Web analytics to see how many people are coming to the site and how many actually convert by checking out. But what if you sell offline? Then it's not so easy.

Just about any company can put a special phone number on their site that appears nowhere else. If anyone calls it, you know they came from your Web site, so you can tie that eventual sale back to your Web marketing.

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Small B2C companies need to find a way to link their online activity to what they do offline, often that involves some form of couponing. If you allow your online activities to discount your prices, or add a free gift, or provide some other service, just require the customer print out the coupon and present it when they buy.

For B2B companies, it's usually more complicated, although couponing can work for them too. For many B2B businesses, they do face to face or phone sales through their own sales teams, or, more commonly for small B2B firms, manufacturer's representatives. They usually find themselves passing leads that they hope the sales people will close.

At big companies, they follow these leads with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, where the lead is tracked at every contact point and evaluated as to how close they are to a sale (and what can be done next to get them over the line). Most small businesses don't have such systems because they are expensive, but in recent years some very inexpensive CRM systems have appeared that give small businesses a way to use CRM, too. Highrise and Zoho CRM are both used by small businesses to track their prospects through to a sale. If you can hand off your online customer activity to your CRM system, then you can follow your online marketing to sales, just like the big boys.

Many small businesses fail to close the loop from Web marketing to sales because it is hard. But that omission keeps you from knowing which marketing activities are working and which ones aren't. If you make this extra effort to track your sales, and your competitors do not, you'll have a leg up on them that will supercharge your online marketing.

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March 16, 2010

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > How can small businesses measure offline sales?