From gas at the pump to meat at the grocery store, everything seems to be getting more expensive, including the cost of advertising. This means that business owners and marketers have to be extra conscious of how they are allocating their marketing budget. Tracking seems to be the answer. However, while I agree that some tracking is good and should be factored in to your marketing decisions, there isn’t a single ad platform, analytics tool, automation system, or CRM that will give you 100% perfect data. There are also certain marketing tactics that are easier to track than others, such as digital vs. print, but that doesn’t make harder-to-track tactics void or worthless. You can’t track credibility, likability, and reputation.

Let’s say you’re currently investing in both digital and traditional marketing. You are running an ad on Google and you’re also running an ad in Strictly Business—or any other local business publication! A person sees your ad in the magazine and reads your press release or quote in a story. They don’t currently need your product or service, so they don’t pick up the phone right then and there to make an appointment or put in an order. A couple of months later, they do need your product or service, so they get on Google to do some searching. They come across your Google ad, which makes them recall learning about you in Strictly Business, so they click on the ad to visit your website. This ends up in a sale or, at the very least, a hot lead. What marketing medium gets the credit in this scenario? Technically, both mediums should get credit—Google put your business in front of the customer’s face when they needed it, but sharing your story in Strictly Business is what established the trust in your brand and, ultimately, tipped the scale in your favor over your competition. However, the data won’t tell you the full story. How could it? Trust me, I wish there was a way to know every time this very scenario has happened so I could put the data-dependent minds at ease.

Using coupon codes or special phone numbers to track your traditional marketing efforts isn’t an error-proof plan either. Chances are, if a person sees your ad in a magazine, on a billboard, or through sponsorships (typically with repetition), and they decide they want to hire you or buy what you’re selling, they’re going to get on their phone or computer and type your name into Google. From there, they’ll call or visit your website (which is why it’s so important to have a good website!). So unless you are extra vigilant about asking every person who does business with you why they chose you, how can you accurately track those marketing avenues? Even if you do have a system set up to get this feedback from customers, you’re not going to get perfect results because people often just cite their last impression, when really there were a couple of factors that influenced their decision.

If you’re dead set on relying on data for your click and conversion tracking, and have therefore given up on traditional marketing, please at least be aware of all the common discrepancies that exist between platforms such as Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Facebook Ads. Take the time to educate yourself on what the numbers you’re looking at actually mean. Also, depending on the types of digital ad campaigns you opt in for, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that those ads will end up in front of real people. They might, instead, end up being served to bots or other “non-human signals.” This is known as ad fraud, and there are a lot of statistics out there that will shock you. For example, according to the Statista Research Department, the 2021 cost of digital ad fraud worldwide was estimated at 65 billion U.S. dollars. That is approximately half of what is spent on digital advertising in the United States annually. In 2021, PPC Protect found that 36% of display ad clicks were fraudulent or invalid.

The reason I’m addressing this topic is not to convince you to stop tracking altogether or to stop doing digital ads—I’m addressing it because it genuinely makes me sad to see businesses, especially local businesses here in Omaha, get so tripped up on tracking their ROI that they overlook some of the tried and true traditional marketing methods.

Something my husband Shayne and I like to say is that the real ROI is Return on Integrity. It’s hard to build trust through an ad alone, which is why Strictly Business offers our clients so much more. We are in the business of telling stories and helping other local businesses gain credibility and a good reputation in print, online, and on social media. Let’s talk if you want to learn more!