Advertising is a Numbers Game
By Michel Fortin

Ted Turner once said, "Early to bed and early to rise, work like hell and advertise." While the first part of that equation is probably the one I follow the least (sleepless nights working the web are just too many to count), there is an immense truth behind it all. To survive and thrive in today's hypercompetitive online world, one has to both work hard and advertise -- which are in my estimation two key ingredients of continued online business success.

Obviously, in order to put your site on the cybermap you need to promote it. But advertising alone can be a risky endeavor if you lack specific information. You need to know not only if your marketing efforts are working but also how they are working. As the cliché goes, "It is better to work smart and not hard." Well, working smart is where the "how" comes into play.

Most people wrongfully tend to make assumptions by looking strictly at the end results (in other words, sales). They fail to also look at the pipeline results. Pipeline results go beyond tracking the obvious. You need to know the number of leads a specific ad or marketing effort produces, the conversion ratio of those leads into customers, the costs-per-lead, and the value of each and every visitor to your site -- and that, whether they've bought or not.

Armed with this information, you will obtain at least three specific insights into the results of your marketing endeavors. First, you will know if your ad copy is pulling the numbers you anticipated. Second, you will know if your web site copy is successfully converting curious browsers into serious buyers. And third and most important, you will know where your ads are pulling the most leads (i.e., where you're getting the biggest bang for your advertising buck).

According to a study by Cognitiative, Inc.,* consumers felt empowered by vendors that they trusted and with whom they had built up an online relationship. Of course, any relationship based marketing approach (which should be included in one's marketing portfolio) requires repetition, credibility, and time. But relationships, however, must start from somewhere. And the initial steps one must take in order to generate in the very least the knowledge of one's existence are what need to be tracked. Here's what the study found:

- Consumers discover/find new web sites via:

  • Word-of-mouth (100%),
  • links (83%),
  • advertising (67%),
  • magazine articles (61%),
  • newspaper articles (50%)
  • and conferences (17%);
- And business users discover/find new web sites via:

  • Magazine articles (94%),
  • links (88%),
  • advertising (76%),
  • word-of-mouth (71%),
  • newspaper articles (53%)
  • and conferences (47%).

     [* -- Press release, April 1999]

Consequently, if you're going to advertise, particularly if you're going to invest in paid advertising and take advantage of that potential traffic mentioned above, you will need to know from where your traffic originates. Tracking is imperative to your online business' health.

However, there are a few basics that need to be considered beforehand. First, the problem in many cases is that most advertisers use institutional advertising to promote their site. They also have the tendency to place their dollars on what looks good or what makes them look good, and not on what offers the best potential results. Marketing that simply says "I'm open for business" but does not invite people to do something is impossible to track.

Direct response marketing is the kind that invites people, directly in the ad, to do something. Whether it's to click on a banner, buy a product, subscribe to a list, call for more information, or view a web page, the ad should lead to a clear and specific outcome. Thus, your advertising must contain a command, such as "click here," "buy now," "act today," "subscribe me," or "call for more info" This way, your efforts become quantifiable and measurable.

Next, you should set goals on what amounts of traffic you wish to achieve out of a specific ad or marketing effort. While you should be conservative, your goals must still be good enough so that you have a pretty good benchmark against which to compare your results. That way, if your ad is not producing the quantity of traffic you originally projected you will be able to take corrective action along the way rather than knowing about it when it's too late.

For example, according to the latest data from NetRatings (, the average click rate of online ads is about 0.85%. If the traffic of the site on which you wish to advertise is, say, 1,000 visitors a day, that should equal to approximately 8.5 leads per day -- of course, with all things being equal and depending on the quality of your ad.

If you track your visitors and if your ad is not pulling at least 8 visitors a day from the site mentioned above, then you know that something's wrong with either the quality of their visitors (target marketing) or the copy of your ad (copywriting). Eventually, the more information you gather, the better equipped you will be to make more profitable marketing decisions.

For instance, if your ad has produced the expected traffic on one site but the same ad has done poorly on another, then you know that the problem has to do with the site on which your ad appears. But if your ad is not pulling at all, then you know that it may have something to do with the quality of your ad. Either way, it all starts with tracking and compiling the results.

It all boils down to this: Like it or not, advertising of any kind is a risk. But tracking your results and then working around them is to take calculated risks.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is an author, speaker and marketing consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Visit He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" delivered weekly to 125,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at

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