In my previous post, I discussed the importance of tracking your sales. Some of you undoubtedly thought to yourselves, “OK, smart guy, and exactly how are we supposed to track our sales?” That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked it.

There are a number of ways of tracking where your sales come from. Here are a few:

Mention Code for Free Gift
This is the tactic the storage company I wrote about used. Their ad said, “Mention the word ‘bus’ and get your first month free!” If you’re using any kind of giveaway, discount or other promotion, put a code word in the marketing piece that’s unique to each piece.

Shopping Cart Tracking
Most web-based shopping carts have tracking systems built in, which enable you to insert unique links into newsletters, web pages, affiliate e-mails and more. When prospects click on the link, the shopping cart software records which link generated the lead. (Note: If your shopping cart doesn’t have this capability, call or e-mail me for the cart I recommend.)

Enter Code in Web Site
If you’re running a promotion that requires people to visit your web site, but you’re using off-line media (print, radio, TV), give prospective visitors a code to enter to fulfill the promotion. Again make each code unique to the marketing vehicle it appears in.

Ask for Someone Specific
If you’ve ever seen an ad that listed a phone number and then the instruction, “Ask for Margaret” or “Ask for Ted,” here’s a secret: There is no Margaret or Ted! The name is a fictitious one, created for the ad as a tracking device. If the ad appears in five magazines (or five newspapers or five whatevers) each ad will carry a different name. When a caller asks for that name, you know where the call came from.

Dedicated Phone Number
You can designate a specific phone number for a specific marketing piece or campaign. Every time that particular line rings, you know why. Many yellow pages companies have a service that provides you with a unique phone number for your directory ad. They’ll do the tracking for you and show you how many calls came from your ad.

Code on Coupon
If you use coupons, put a code on them matched to the delivery mechanism, whether it’s direct mail, newspapers, e-mail, etc.

Ask Your Customers
The most obvious way to track the results of your sales and marketing efforts is, ironically, one of the least used. Ask your customers how they heard of you!

Unless you’re a gigantic company with millions of marketing dollars to waste (and most marketing dollars are wasted), you should never undertake a sales or marketing effort that isn’t trackable. This goes for ad campaigns, web site overhauls, sales training initiatives and everything else that affects your sales.

And of course, having that data is pointless unless you actually look at it! Review your data on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis to see what’s working and what isn’t. Only with good data can you make good decisions.