John Wanamaker at SocialMartketingConversation.comThe ghost of John Wanamaker, shimmers into view before you and says “in my day I knew half my marketing investment was wasted but did not know which half – today you have a hundred more options in which to invest… and now 90% of your marketing investment is wasted.”

The image shimmers out of focus and disappears – an image of your accountant materializes and tells you that you’re a business burning through a million a month and when you get visitor to your site, there is nothing more than a form to fill-out for a call back.  The phone number on the ‘Contact Us’ page leads to a ‘Dell Hell’ kind of experience and no human being can be reached from outside.   Zombies?  Yeah – they get through, but only because they’re brain-eating, persistent monsters randomly pushing buttons on their Zombie-phones.

The final chapter in this scary tale is that you have no idea whether that $1.12 pay per click campaign has driven ANY traffic to cover your costs or whether the visitor has even been to your site before.  Scary huh?

It’s a horror story being repeated a million times in a million companies all around the world.  In spite of all the automated counters, data collectors and postings in the social web, businesses leap to use the technology that has been promised to get hundreds of customers to walk through your door.   Most businesses have no idea how or if the investments in marketing you’re made are panning out.

The hero in this horror story is that it’s not an unsolvable equation and making better decisions about where and when to invest is possible – more so than has ever been possible.

How to Escape the Nightmare

Zombie face at SocialMarketingConversations.comStart with the small things – listen first… listen like the mummy is somewhere around you – quietly and intently.  Find out where your customers are congregating like a crowd of brain-eating zombies.

Next, understand what your audience is saying and what they’re talking about.  Knowing that Dr. Jeckle is also Mr. Hyde will help you craft and time the message so that Mr. Hyde is prompted to connect with your Facebook page, leaving Dr. Jeckle out of the community of followers and friends.

Now reach out to connect. The tentacles of human-hunting aliens should have nothing on you.  Once you know what’s being said , who is saying it and to whom they are saying it means that you can regularly and easily participate in the discussions going on and not been seen or treated as the Monster from the Black Lagoon.

Now take a step back every time you post new content and see if you’ve put out what speaks meaningfully to your audience.  Include a call to action, a link and most of all, make sure you’re participation is relevant to the audience.  For the hard cost that goes into an installation of Google Analytics, you can see the correlation between postings and visits.  If you have a product that can be purchased online, even by using a Gift card or eGift card, you can then start tracking how visitors arrived at you site, where they came from and what they did after they left your site.

Is this all you need to do? Maybe… but I’d bet that this implementation would only be the start of the journey to improving the payoff of your online and social marketing investment.

Beginning with these steps will help keep you off the Elm Street of marketing when Freddy is prowling for a new victim.  As you participate in the discussions and communities relevant to you your product and company you’ll uncover what content drives participation and engagement – the first step in stopping what doesn’t work and what does.  Following these simple steps will keep next year’s Halloween Haunters away from the doorstep, out of the cellar and vanquished from the creaky attic.