Tracking Clients Across Multiple Exposures

One of the biggest mistakes that service organizations make is acting on the assumption that individuals or businesses become clients or customers through a single marketing or interpersonal exposure.

Is this true?

Sometimes. But more often than not, prospects become clients through several exposures. For example, we have found that some law practices are hesitant to invest in marketing or business development because their clients come through word-of-mouth. The phenomena of “word-of-mouth” is wonderful when it happens. But it is foolish to think that “word-of-mouth” exists in a vacuum. Even the individual who is referred to an organization by a trusted friend, will in all likelihood still visit that organization’s website or look at its brochure. If the message conveyed in these vehicles is inconsistent with how the business and its services was described by the friend, a disconnect is created that can limit the opportunity for a successful lead conversion. In this case, the potential customer has been exposed to two “touchpoints,” neither of which is reinforcing or underscoring the other. Similarly, when exposures reinforce one another, it stands to reason that the overall perception of the business (and hence the likelihood of converting the prospect into a client) is enhanced. In many ways, this is the very essence of integrated marketing.

In tracking the ROI of an integrated marketing campaign, it is important to consider all of the ways in which each client was exposed to the business. But taking such an approach also creates some logistical problems. For example, if one wished to ascertain the ROI of an advertising campaign, most would assume that the standard formula {(Revenue – Advertising Expenses)/Advertising Expenses} would suffice. However, this would fail to account for all of the other ways in which new clients may have learned more about the the business or the professional practice. Were they aware of the recent media coverage about the organization? Did they visit the web site? Did someone refer the company or justify the decision to contract with it? Were they introduced to one of the business’ key players, salespeople, account executives, attorneys, etc.

Another way to look at this is to question why millions of dollars are allocated every year for marketing materials and activities that unto themselves, may generate zero new revenue. A new company logo is created, a strictly “image” advertising campaign is initiated, an expensive brochure is produced. Why? The answer lies in the fact that when executed well, they make other elements of the overall marketing program work that much more effectively.

The interesting thing is that if one could determine the relative contribution of each marketing “touchpoint” to overall revenue growth, one would then be in a much better decision to determine the “value” of specific marketing elements. For example, today, creating a new web site can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. How can the marketing decision maker know how much he or she should invest in that site? How important is it that it “look right” and how much is lost if the decision is made to skimp on the expenditure?

Traditionally, there have been only limited ways for tracking the business development process across multiple touchpoints and in a holistic manner. Thus there is no real formula that truly captures this process. To do so would require determining how much of a new client’s revenue was due to exposure to an ad versus how much from the referral of a trusted friend. And in more complex cases, it might require allocating new customer revenue amongst a PR campaign, a firm brochure, a web site, a seminar, a referral from a trusted friend and still another referral from an already existing current client of the firm.