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How to Track Offline Sales (When You’re Advertising Online)

Tracking Offline Sales When You're Advertising Online

Do you know exactly how many sales you’re generating from your online advertising?  If you’re a web-based business and all of your sales convert on your website, then I’m sure your answer is “of course I do!”

However, if some or all of your sales come from phone calls or in person meetings, then you may be shaking your head, and mumbling “no, not really.”  In fact, you may even believe it’s impossible to precisely track these types of “offline” sales.  So you’re left with guestimates and funny math to back into a ROI calculation that may or may not be accurate.

For most marketers, this is a critical issue.  If you can’t track sales back to the ads, keywords or websites that generate those sales, then it’s impossible to know if your advertising is profitable.  Plus, it’s nearly impossible to optimize and scale your campaigns because you’re not sure exactly what’s working and what’s not.

Luckily, tracking offline sales is not impossible and it’s not rocket science.  In this article I’ll go over four methods you can implement this month to start tracking your advertising ROI.

1. Artificial Online Sale

This first method is a bit technical, but it’s not at all hard to implement. First you need to understand how online sales conversion tracking works.  When a prospect clicks on your online ad, a cookie (a small text file) is saved on her computer.  The cookie stores the information about which ad she clicked and which website the ad was displayed on.

Then, when the prospect purchases online, she eventually visits the “Thank You” or receipt page.  The “Thank You” page has conversion code embedded on the page that reads the cookie data and sends the information back to the advertising platform.  That’s really all you need to know… as you can see the magic happens on this “Thank You” page, which is where conversion data is sent back to the ad platform.

One way to track offline sales is to artificially create an online sale by sending your customers to a “Thank You” page with embedded conversion code.  Your customer already has the cookie on her computer because she clicked on an online ad.  If we send her to a webpage that has embedded conversion code, her conversion data will be sent to the ad platform just like in an online sale.

This tactic may require some creativity in your sales process.  If you’re already asking customers to visit a particular webpage after the sale is made (i.e. create an account online, schedule a training webinar, or maybe download an important document), then this is simple.  Add the conversion code to the webpage the customer visits and you’re all set!  Once the customer visits the page she’ll trigger the conversion code and you’ll see all of your sales in your ad platform dashboard.

2. Coupon Codes

I’m sure you’re already familiar with the concept of coupon codes.  They have been used to track other advertising like print, direct mail, TV, radio, etc. for many years, so this is nothing new.  All we’re doing here is applying a tried and true tracking mechanism to online advertising.

The key to make this work is to use a unique coupon code for each of your ads.  You could even use a unique code for every keyword or website you’re targeting in your ad campaign if you want really granular tracking.

Then, require the customers to give you the coupon code over the phone or in person to claim the offer you’re promoting in the ads.  As sales come in, you can match the codes back to the ads to calculate your ROI.

3. Call Tracking

Like coupon codes, trackable phone numbers have been used for many years in other advertising mediums.  And the concept is very similar – use a different phone number for each of your ads.

This works very well when you want to track large groups of ads.  However, if you want to track calls down to the keyword or website level, then you’ll find this can become very expensive.  If you have hundreds or thousands of keywords or website targets, then you would need the same number of phone numbers.

There are now several phone call tracking companies that provide a solution to this scalability problem.  For more information, check out ClickPath, IfByPhone, and Mongoose Metrics.

4. Go “Old School”

If you’ve read this far and none of the solutions above will work for your business, then there’s still the “old school” method of tracking – ask your customer how she found you.

Clearly, this method is the least reliable because of human error.  First, your team will have to remember to always ask, the customer has to remember which ad she clicked on, and your team has to accurately document this information for every single sale.  That’s a tall order, but it’s a worth a shot to at least get some data.

I recommend you try to incorporate all of the methods above to give you the most accurate information about your online ad performance.  As you collect more data and refine your tracking systems, you’ll be able to better optimize your online advertising and generate even more leads and sales

 

About the Author:

Phil Frost is the co-founder of Main Street ROI and a Google AdWords certified professional. Want more online advertising tips? Get your copy of Phil’s FREE report: 10 Steps to Dominate Google AdWords

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2 Comments

  • Hi,

    Great share. But you forgot to add AvidTrak.com, I’m using AvidTrak it is the great call tracking software in the industry.