“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”John Wanamaker
An Introduction to Closed Loop Marketing
The only sure way to know where your money and time is being best spent is to use closed-loop analytics. Anything else is more or less guessing. Closing the loop means you can track exactly where a customer first came in contact with you. The best and easiest way to close the loop is to make your website the central hub for all marketing activity. Search engines, social media, email marketing, referral links, paid search, even offline campaigns should get filtered to your website. Once someone visits your website, you can cookie them and start tracking their activity.
Your website becomes the entry point of your closed-loop system. As the lead progresses through your sales and marketing funnel you’ll be able to attribute them back to the proper channel. If they came into your site through a link from a trade show, an email marketing campaign or a search term, for example, you’ll be able to trace them back to that original source.
Google analytics will allow you to track sources of traffic like search term or referring website, but you’ll need to go a step further than this in order to make sure that you’re accurately assigning your leads to the right marketing initiative.
Marketing software will be able to add tokens and track traffic by channel. By looking at this data you will be able to see trends and compare channels. You will know which channels are your most valuable and and also which are the least. Then you can work on fixing the problems of the latter.
If you have a good programmer in house they can create a tracking URL that google analytics can identify and associate with a particular campaign or initiative. This will enable you to more accurately track visitors who otherwise look like they are coming from direct search. Make sure you have tracking tokens in place and your data gets assigned to the right categories. By attaching a tracking token to your URL anyone who clicks that link is signaling to your analytics tool that they are coming from a specific place such as Twitter. The same type of tracking tokens apply to different channels, such as email, paid media and referral traffic.
As you attract traffic and identify where that traffic is coming from, you need to track the behavior of your visitors. Which pages are they coming into your site? Which pages are they viewing? What pages are they leaving from? Such intelligence will illustrate a path that can help you optimize for faster visitor-to-lead or even visitor-to-customer conversions. Google Analytics does a good job of this when it is set up properly.
But here is the kicker: to closed the loop you have to be able to connect a web visitor with their lead information once they convert on a form. Without this piece, you’ll have two separate databases, one with anonymous visitor history from Google and one with lead information from your form submittal. As a result, you won’t be able to connect those leads back to their respective marketing source.
In order to make this work for you, either do something very technical on the back end of your analytics platform or you start using some marketing software that does this for you. There are a few companies out there that have figured out how to do this and there is no point re-inventing the wheel.
Google Analytics let’s you know where your visitors are coming from. When they submit a form on your website you’ll know who they are because they are submitting their personal information. This is the start of a meaningful relationship. This step is crucial to closing the loop and being able to associate customers information back to their entry source.
The way to capture this information is to direct website visitors to a landing page with a submission form (or also known as a lead capture form). Once visitors fill out this from, you’ll have whatever contact information you asked them for: name, email, phone number, etc. As a best practice, you should be sending most of your traffic to landing pages and forms so that you can grow your leads database. Learn more about building awesome landing pages here.
Finally, you need to look at all of the leads that your sales team has closed and attribute them back to their original marketing initiative. This should be a relatively straightforward process. For most medium-sized business, the easiest way to achieve this is through your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. For smaller businesses, you might do this more manually using a spreadsheet.
Once you have the loop closed you can focus your efforts on the channels that bring in the best personas. If you haven’t created your personas yet you can do that here.