Results. That’s all that counts in small business — or any business: results.

Any promotion worth putting your time, money and effort behind is worth measuring. Only by knowing what kinds of results a certain marketing effort produces can you determine whether to run it again or what you may need to do to change or tweak it in order to make it more effective.

It’s absolutely amazing how many small business owners don’t understand this simple concept. They’ll let the Yellow Pages advertising salesperson sell them an ad in their local phone book, let the phone company ad department lay out the ad, then let the ad run with no way of knowing whether a prospect called or a client was obtained as a result of that ad.

The ad has no “accountability” or “measurability.” So, next year, the same ad runs, the same results occur, and the business owner continues to complain about how poor business is.

And the same thing happens with the owner’s newspaper ads, magazine ads, direct mail campaigns, Val-Pak marketing, and every other type of marketing he or she does.

Measuring results is essential. As an astute small business owner, you should never even consider running an ad or executing a mailing campaign or promotion without having some type of response mechanism to measure the results.

You wouldn’t think of ordering and paying for a product and not checking to see whether you received it.

Yet, many business professionals will run ads in their newspaper, magazines, Money Mailer, or Val-Pak, or send out a mailing and never even bother to see what kind of results the ad produced.

It sounds crazy, but it happens every day. And millions of dollars and countless hours are wasted because of it.

Some people even go so far as to say, “Well, my advertising isn’t supposed to bring in clients right away. Its purpose is to keep our name in front of our prospects and create ‘top-of-mind-awareness’ so when they’re ready, they’ll remember me.”

Well, top-of-mind awareness is certainly important. There’s no question about that. But you can’t afford to operate your business on “deferred results.”

Each of your ads and mailings must have a definite, targeted purpose. And each ad must be measured to see that it, in fact, does accomplish that purpose. We’ll talk more about this in a later section.

But for now, here’s a simple four-step system you can set up to measure the results of every advertising or promotion campaign you run:

Put together an “Advertising and Promotion Results Analysis” book. A simple three-ring binder works well for this.

On the inside of the binder, insert a few clear plastic page protectors.

Print up some copies of the “Advertising and Promotion Results Analysis” forms available to you by contacting us by email, and insert one in each of the page protectors facing the back of the binder.

Every time you run an ad or promotion, put a copy of that ad or promotion in one of the page protectors facing the opposite direction of the analysis form.

If you do this every time you run an advertisement, a promotion, or a direct mail campaign and you carefully analyze the results, you’ll quickly see which promotions are working, which ones need a little tweaking for improvement, and which ones you should discontinue as soon as you possibly can. As your binder grows, make additional binders.

In one binder place all your “A” ads and sales letters. That is, the ads that pulled the best return. In another binder, place the ads and letters that produced marginal results — or at least broke even.

And in the third binder, put all the “losers” or the ads and letters that absolutely bombed.

Then, when you get ready to do another promotion or mailing, you’ll know which ads or letters you can depend on, or at least which ones you can model your next promotion after.

Now, regarding the third binder, well, stay away from the ads in that one. Those ads have already proven you won’t want to run them again. But, the second binder, the one with the marginal or break even ads and letters, that’s one you may want to experiment with. Look over the ads and see what may have gone wrong.

Just because those ads didn’t make as big a profit or get as big a response as you would have liked is not necessarily a reason to dump them. Sometimes a little tweaking or adjusting can turn a mediocre ad into a real results producer.

BUT, do this secondarily to using the ads and letters in the first binder. They’re already proven winners.

Do you see the advantage of doing this? Having a copy of the ad or promotion and the results it produced in a central place makes developing your next promotion so much easier. No more guessing. No more wondering.

You’ll not only save time, but if you can take a proven winner and make it a little better – pull a 3% response rather than say, a 2% response, the difference is all profits to you.

Running the ad or promotion costs the same, whether it pulls 2% or 3%, but that extra 1% is a 50% increase in response rate. And that 1% may mean the difference between a profit or a loss on that promotion.

VisionPATH Business Solutions offers personalized consulting and advisory services to companies large and small. We have a long-standing reputation of providing honest, individualized advice to our clients. No matter your need, whether it is to capture new market share, to streamline processes and cut costs or to add services and grow you business, you can rely on VisionPATH to provide you with honest advice to help you achieve your goals.