September, 2018
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



How to Track and Test Your Marketing Plan

CARSON DUNLOP

Once you start to implement your marketing plan, you can evaluate how your marketing strategies are working. As I described in last month’s issue of the Reporter, your marketing plan is a dynamic document. Be critical, particularly of where you spend your marketing dollars. If a particular strategy is not performing, abandon it. If another strategy is doing well, do more of it. 

The goal is to optimize the return on your marketing investment. 
How do you know if your strategy is working? Tracking and testing will help you find out.

Develop a strategy to effectively track your marketing efforts.
Tracking means determining exactly how much profit you gained from a particular strategy.

Example: You decide to distribute flyers to every house in your area that comes up for sale, believing that if the homeowners are selling their house, they are probably going to buy another house. At the end of six months, you are trying to decide if you should continue with this strategy, but you don’t know if these flyers brought you inspections or whether your clients are getting to you through another channel.

This example illustrates that you need to track the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. There are so many ways to grow your business; it doesn’t make sense to spend money on strategies that are not paying off. The tracking procedure has to be built into the design. Some strategies are easy to track, but others are difficult. 



What are some different types of tracking methods?
One easy-to-track strategy is coupons—you just count the number of coupons that come in.

Another effective and inexpensive way to track advertising is to ask every customer or client how he or she heard about you. You can do this when they book the inspection, on site at the inspection or both. We recommend both. You then need to keep track of this information. At the end of the month, you will have a list of all of the ways your clients heard about you. If you know where all your clients heard about you, it is easy to find out which marketing strategies are working.

Another style of tracking you can use is the questionnaire. Some inspectors ask clients to fill out a simple survey and one of the most important questions is to ask how the client heard about you.

You may also choose to have a separate phone number installed. For a major promotion or marketing strategy, you may even want a number with a distinctive ring. You will know that all the calls that came in on that number are from that strategy.

Tracking business volume is less accurate for pinpointing effectiveness, but it may give you a general idea. We have used this method to track the effectiveness of office talks. We track how much business is referred from a particular real estate office so we know approximately how much business we can probably expect from the office in the upcoming months. We then unleash a marketing campaign on that office, such as making a series of presentations in the office. We can then monitor the increase in business as a result of the campaign. We use the same strategy when targeting top agents, one on one.

Don’t forget about your online marketing efforts!
In 2018, you need an online marketing strategy, but thankfully, the success of these efforts can be easily tracked.

For website content, look at goal completions. With free applications like Google Analytics, you can easily track website traffic, how many people filled out a form, the pages they visited before they filled out the form and how many people watched a video. 

Tracking also enables you to review each lead and identify where they came from, how they got to the site, what were they looking for and much more. 

All of this information can be used to find out what strategies are working and how to find more leads using them.

What about the marketing strategies that can’t be tracked?
How do you deal with such a strategy? You don’t use it! Don’t participate in marketing efforts that can’t be tracked with a high degree of reliability. Most good marketing strategies can be tracked, although it might take some creativity.

How does Carson Dunlop do it?
At Carson Dunlop, we track our business as a percentage of all the real estate transactions in our area every month. These figures are available from the local real estate board. This allows us to track our increase in market share rather than absolute numbers. This can help make good decisions.

For example, if home sales in your area are up 30% in a month and your sales are up 10%, you may actually be losing market share. On the surface, a 10% increase in business is encouraging and you decide to continue your current marketing efforts. The reality is you are inspecting a smaller percentage of the sales and your marketing program may not be working.

The same thing may be true in the other direction. If you try a marketing strategy and your sales stay flat, you may be discouraged. But if you know that area real estate sales dipped 20% during that period, you are gaining market share and your marketing program may be working very well.

You should also have a list of inquiries you can cross-reference with your client list. You can find out which strategies generated the most inquiries and which actually produced results. For example, you may discover that the leads you get through your website are more price-resistant—they are price shopping. But the leads you get from the mortgage broker convert easily to inspections. This is the kind of information you need to track. 

Test different strategies and see what works and what doesn’t work. 

Once you become proficient at tracking, it’s time to add another level of sophistication to your marketing mix: testing. 

The mantra is: “Test everything.”
If you launch a marketing campaign that seems to be paying off well, don’t be satisfied. Try tweaking it a bit and then track it closely to find out if your tweaking made the strategy work better or worse. If it works better, throw out the old way and use the new. Interestingly, small changes can have a big impact.

If you are trying something new and feel unsure, test it in a market that is not going to hurt you if it fails. 

Let’s say you are thinking of testing a completely new pricing strategy or a new inspection report format. Try it on a segment of your market rather than on all of your clients at once. Maybe you would use the new format for five referring agents only. Then monitor the reaction. Because it is difficult to predict the reaction, take it slowly.

Sometimes, you are excited about trying several new marketing strategies. Resist the temptation to implement them all at once because you won’t be able to tell which is effective.

For example, you introduce new features and your market share goes up 10%. That’s great, but maybe one of the strategies alone would have caused this jump. Worse, maybe one of the strategies would have caused a 15% jump, and one of the other strategies is actually driving people away. 

Measuring one thing at a time is effective. Measuring several strategies at once is impossible.

Carson Dunlop is Canada’s oldest and largest home inspection firm. Our clear, image-rich inspection reports are the best in the industry. Backed by over 40 years of experience, our knowledge and uncompromising standards have become the benchmark for our profession. In fact, we literally wrote the book on home inspection