bigstock-Business-person-standing-again-38886112Let’s face it: tracking is the “ugly duckling” of business marketing. Tracking isn’t as sexy as traffic or conversion, so it’s rarely discussed and often overlooked. Sometimes you’ll only remember tracking AFTER you’ve launched a marketing campaign and at that point it’s too late.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us.

Unfortunately, you can’t retroactively add tracking mechanisms to measure your marketing campaign performance. So you need to think about this stuff before you turn your ads on, before you click send on an email blast, and before you invest time and money into any traffic or conversion optimization strategy.

Why Is Tracking So Important?

Everyone says tracking is important, but have you ever really thought about why it is? Couldn’t you get away with just focusing on driving more traffic and more conversions and be successful?

The truth is no, you can’t. You absolutely will not be successful with online marketing without proper tracking in place. Here’s why…

First, you need tracking so you can “cut the fat” and ditch any campaigns that are losing money. Not every campaign you launch will be successful. And since that’s true, you need a way to determine which campaigns are wasting your time and money.

Second, you need tracking so you can reinvest more of your budget into the campaigns that are generating positive ROI. One of my private clients was able to boost profits by 50 percent simply by turning off an unprofitable ad campaign and reinvesting the same ad budget into a profitable campaign. No change in ad spend. Just 50 percent more profit in my client’s bank account.

That’s why tracking is so important.

The 5 Elements You Need

OK, hopefully now you’re convinced you need tracking — but what does that mean in practice? Well, it means you need the following tracking systems in your business:

  1. Website Analytics: This one should be obvious. You have to track how much traffic you get from all of your marketing and advertising campaigns. Plus, how many of those visitors convert to leads via webform submissions.
  2. Phone Tracking: I’m always surprised by how many businesses do NOT have phone call tracking in place. It’s such a simple tactic to track how many phone calls are generated from each of your marketing and advertising campaigns. For example, you can use a different phone number for each of your campaigns and then you’ll easily know how many calls came in from each one.
  3. CRM Tracking: This one is a little more complicated. As you see I listed these in order of complexity, but they are all necessary nonetheless. A customer relationship management (CRM) system is simply a database to store your leads, sales, and any other business contacts. Popular CRMs are Salesforce and Infusionsoft. You can also use an Excel file or a Google Spreadsheet to get started. CRM tracking is critical for non-e-commerce businesses; e-commerce businesses can track all of their sales using website analytics since the sales all occur online. However, non-e-commerce businesses make sales over the phone and in-person where website analytics can not help you. As long as you track the source of traffic and how many leads and sales were generated, then you can measure the effectiveness of each of your campaigns.
  4. Split Testing: Split testing, or A/B testing, is really a conversion optimization tactic. However, I include it here because split testing is worthless unless you are tracking everything correctly. For example, if you’re split testing a webpage, then you need to measure how that impacts the number of phone calls (phone call tracking), the number of Web form submissions (website analytics), and the number of overall leads and sales (CRM tracking).
  5. KPI Tracking: The four elements above are all tracking systems you need to measure performance. KPI tracking is how we bring it all together into a concise list of metrics that will give you X-ray vision into all of your marketing campaigns. A KPI is a key performance indicator. Any data point that gives you insight into your marketing performance could be a KPI. As the business owner or marketing manager, it’s your job to monitor the correct KPIs — and then make data-based decisions to improve your overall marketing performance.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Phil Frost is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Main Street ROI in New York, NY. Main Street ROI teaches internet marketing strategies that actually work for small businesses. Click here to get the Ultimate SEO Checklist to help you rank higher in Google.