Automating Your Marketing Campaign for an Online Business

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Business owners measure the success or failure of their first marketing campaigns by keeping track of orders by using pen and paper or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. As the size of your online business and marketing campaigns grows, you have to make sure that everything is recorded properly so that you can go back and analyze the data in whatever way you need.

This process becomes especially important when you start having multiple campaigns running at one time. Suppose that you’re using e-mail marketing to promote a few product lines that you’re carrying and you’re using direct mail or telemarketing to continue to build brand awareness and add to your customer database.

With both these campaigns running, you want to know exactly which source is delivering that new customer to your website so that you can determine separately the profitability and success of each campaign. This process is often handled using UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters. UTM is simply the process of adding special tags to a site’s URL to track the source of traffic.

Here’s how UTM works:

  1. You assign each campaign a specific code or keyword (the UTM parameters).

  2. When you build your e-mails, you assign a link that includes the code or keyword to the product you’re selling.

  3. When a potential customer clicks the link, it goes directly to the product page on your website.

  4. Your e-mail marketing program then counts how many times the keyword shows up in the links that people use to access your website and matches that number against the orders placed on your website.

    That way, the program can determine important measurements, such as the click-through rate, or the percentage of people who saw the ad and clicked it to go to your website.

To learn more about e-mail marketing and automation tools, you can find a host of information and resources at the Be Relevant! Email Marketing Blog.

After you start automating your campaigns and relying on individual, targeted codes for each campaign, you can follow your prospects throughout your site to see how your campaigns are working together. You can follow, for example, how a customer who clicked in response to Campaign A might have checked out three or four more web pages on your site and responded to Campaign B for something completely different.

This data becomes quite useful as you plan future campaigns and figure out which campaigns you can combine.

In e-mail marketing, this testing technique is often referred to as A/B testing or split testing. Usually, you divide your target email customer list into two groups and send both groups an e-mail that is the same, except for one item, such as the subject line.

Or perhaps group A gets an e-mail that uses photos while group B’s e-mail doesn’t have photos. (You can also test for multiple differences, called multivariate testing, but that’s more complex.)

To demonstrate this concept, Anne Holland, an experienced marketing researcher, helped create the WhichTestWon.com site. The site gives you a weekly test using real examples, and lets you try to determine which of the two test e-mails or landing pages for a campaign generated the most response.

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Not only is this a good way to test your gut about what works, but you also capture real ideas that can be used in your own campaigns!

E-mail marketing software and automation tools are available starting at $20 per month, although MailChimp offers a free basic version. Check out the following tools to make testing easier and help increase your online marketing efficiency:

When you rely on these automated tools, you gain many benefits, too:

  • Your employees can spend more time on other parts of the business rather than generate e-mails and count results.

  • The automated tools handle the mundane tasks of resending e-mails when an error occurs and collecting e-mail verification receipts from customers who open your e-mail.

  • These tools usually provide built-in reporting capabilities so that you can view results without you or an employee having to summarize the data and calculate results.

You’re in the business of selling something, not generating marketing campaigns. Although these issues are important to your business, your time is better spent building your business rather than on handling the details of a marketing campaign. Outsource these tasks so you can focus on others.