It always makes sense to ask successfully acquired clients and customers how they came to hear about your business. By carefully comparing how well each of your advertising efforts performs, you can bulldoze past a lot of trial-and-error and simply direct your budget toward what works, both in quantitative and qualitative units. For example, if no one’s seen that ad in the newspaper but everyone heard about you from a friend or relative, you may wish to pull your print ads and focus on buzz-generating word-of-mouth campaigns–or even reward former patrons for referring a friend. And if you’re reaching a higher caliber of clientele via brochure than billboard, you’ll certainly want to bring your message down to the smaller scale, which can also cut back cost.

These days, tracking is everything when it comes to building successful campaigns. Online, it’s perfectly easy to determine how a person landed on your page; analytics mark each click-through by its referring links, search engine source, browser type and even the viewer’s physical location—it’s not only effortless, but also automatically built into most website content management systems. But even online there’s always more you can do; when it comes to e-commerce, many shopping outlets utilize codes. Asking buyers to enter a code before they take advantage of a sale helps marketers to track which sales and campaigns were more successful than others, and to help determine if shoppers heard about it from a newsletter, referral or ad. This is why you might see several usable codes available for the same sale, depending on where you hear about it.

In what other ways can coding and tracking be used in your business endeavors? Mad 4 Marketing recently posted job listings on several career search websites. But each posting required us to pay a fee, and since we weren’t sure which websites or which wording would be most successful for attracting the best new teammate, we decided to generate a few different ads. We asked job candidates on each board and posting to reply with a different subject line. This took a little more time and thought, but we were able to see from where we were getting hits, and what kind of prospective employees were nipping the bait. After the first week we cut our ad placement (and cost!) in half and only used phrasing that was clearly expressing our desires to the most qualified candidates.

Another example is Satori’s text message campaign. In 2008, we used a lot of on-the-scene guerrilla marketing to advertise for the newly opening apartment rental community in Fort Lauderdale. We wanted to reach out to those who already lived in and loved the surrounding area of South Florida. At each event (such as street fairs, art shows and the boat parade), we advertised the chance to win six months’ free rent by texting a code to a given phone number. At each event, the code differed. That way, we could see which community event had directed the most participants to our giveaway, as well as which regions or crowds were most interested in Satori. This information turned out to be extremely valuable in later marketing endeavors, such as choosing local ad placement.

The bottom line is that tracking efforts are a smart investment in the future. It means looking past today’s brochure or even tomorrow’s website, toward next year’s entire marketing strategy. Tracking provides you with the tools to always understand and surpass prior tactics–and no matter what, this means that you will ultimately succeed.