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A channel friend recently called me to complain about his marketing company. “They keep telling me that I’m getting great results,” he said. “But I just don’t see it.”

It immediately occurred to me that it had not occurred to him how preposterous that statement really was. “When did you give them access to your billing system?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, incredulously. “I wouldn’t give anyone access to the sales system. Are you nuts?”

Rather than discuss my sanity, I asked him to explain to me how they knew he was getting great results. His response made everything clear. “They tell me I’m getting all these hits on my Website and clicks on links in my emails. Great results, they said.”

Taking Results to the Bank

It made a world of more sense to my friend when I explained that “hits” and “clicks” are not results, they’re indicators. “Actually,” I explained, “you would have to be telling them that you’re getting great results. Results come when you have new sales and you deposit the payments in your bank account.”

It was then that it occurred to me that it could very easily be that he would be crediting any increase in sales to the marketing, when it really came from an increase in activity or effectiveness of his salespeople.

“There’s one piece in between that may be missing,” I quickly added. “You need to correlate new contacts obtained from each marketing activity with new customers engaged, or new sales to existing customers. That’s the only way to know how meaningful, how productive your marketing activities have been.”

“How in the world do I do that?”

It Takes Some Discipline to Know What’s Paying Off

The return on investment from marketing has always been difficult to measure, but it becomes infinitely easier if you have, and properly use, the right tools.

Tool #1: CRM—What are you using as your CRM system? If your answer is “We’re not using anything,” well then—that’s wrong. You’ll have to change that. CRM can be a boon to any company that sells anything, including yours. It doesn’t have to be huge with capabilities spanning from the Earth to the moon.

The most important feature is that it tracks responses to every marketing activity:

–If you hold an event, it tracks who attended.

–If you send out email, it tracks who responded.

–If you post on your blog, it tracks who read your blog.

–If you do call blitzes, or any kind of calling campaign, it tracks whom you reached and to whom you spoke.

–If people visit your Website, it tracks who visited and where they went on your Website

Yes, those hits and clicks are important indicators.

Tool 2: ERP—This one is hopefully a given–that you are running some kind of ERP or order processing and sales billing system that keeps track of every new customer you add to it, and every sale you make. If the answer to this is no, stop reading this article right now and find yourself a good accountant to guide you.

Tool 3: Back to CRM—This is the tricky one. Get your salespeople, business development specialists and marketers to use the CRM system religiously. No, this is not simple. They have to clearly see the value the CRM system delivers to them before they will use it consistently and properly.

Tool 4: The Comparison—If you’ve successfully implemented CRM and have all your people using it properly, consistently, even enthusiastically, and you are billing sales properly, you now have two databases that need to be compared to each other. In the worst case, you could have people do this manually, but it’s easy enough to automate.