If you’re advertising online and some or all of your sales come from phone calls or in person meetings, then you probably know it’s not easy to calculate your return on investment (ROI) from your ad spend.

This is a critical issue because if you can’t track the sales back to the ads and keywords or websites that generate those sales, then it’s impossible to know if you’re generating positive ROI.  Plus, it’s nearly impossible to optimize and scale the campaign if your ads appear to be working.

Many business owners I speak to think it’s impossible, too complex, or too expensive to track offline sales and, therefore, they either stop advertising online or simply hope and pray that it’s working each month.

The truth is it’s not actually that difficult and in this article, I’ll reveal 4 methods you can implement this month to start tracking your ROI.

If your sales occur exclusively online, then it’s easy to see your key metrics in your advertising platform or in your analytics software (i.e Google Analytics).  For example, you can calculate your cost per sale down to the exact keyword prospects are typing into search engines and optimize your bids accordingly.

However, if your sales occur offline via the telephone or in person, then these metrics are not readily available in your reports.

So how can you track online advertising for offline sales?

Here are the four methods that I’ll explain in this article:

  1. Create an artificial online sale
  2. Use coupon codes
  3. Use trackable phone numbers
  4. Go “old school” and just ask your customers how they found you.


Artificial Online Sale

This tactic requires some basic understanding of how online sales conversion tracking works.  When a prospect clicks on your online ad, then a cookie (a small text file) is saved on her computer.  The cookie stores the information about which ad she clicked.

Then when she purchases a product she eventually visits the “Thank You” page.  The “Thank You” page has conversion code that reads the cookie and sends the information back to the advertising platform.

So to track offline sales we just need to artificially create an online sale.  The customer already has the cookie on her computer because she clicked on an online ad so we need to force her to a webpage that has conversion code to read the cookie information.

This tactic sounds straight forward, but it 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.

Coupon Codes

You may be familiar with the concept of coupon codes and how they are used to track offline marketing campaigns.  This same technique can be applied to online marketing as well.

For example, if you’re advertising an exclusive offer online then you can display a different coupon code for each ad and source of traffic.  So if you’re advertising on hundreds of different keywords, then each keyword would have a different code to allow you to track sales back to the exact keyword.

Simply require the customer to give you the coupon code over the phone or in person to get the exclusive offer.  Then you can match the codes to the ads and sources of traffic.

Trackable Phone Numbers

This tactic is simple – use a different phone number for each ad and source of traffic that you want to track.  For example, if you’re running ads in Google search and Bing search, then you can use two different phone numbers for each search engine.  Then when you get calls and sales from the “Google” phone number you’ll know for sure that the Google ads generated the sales.

This works very well when you want to track large groups of ads.  However, if you want to track calls down to the keyword level then you’ll find this can become too expensive because you would need hundreds of different phone numbers.

Some of the top online call tracking companies have solutions to this problem using dynamic phone numbers, but I won’t get into those details in this article.

The “Old School” Method – Ask Your Customer

If none of the techniques above will work for your business, then you can always just ask your customer how she found you.  This is obviously the least reliable method because many customers will simply not remember or incorrectly remember which ad they clicked and where they saw it.

So we recommend using a combination of one of the methods above in addition to the “old school” method of asking.  This way you’ll have two data points to help you make better advertising decisions.


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