On the importance of advertising, many experts say that: “Advertising is the key to keeping a business in front of consumers.-Advertising generates new sales which leads to repeat  business from existing customers and creates new leads that turn into future sales. The more familiar buyers are with a business or brand, the more likely they are to purchase that brand.”

Advertising is not the gamble it once was. It's easy and profitable to make informed decisions based on market trends and conversion rates, and knowing your most profitable campaigns and where people are calling you from.

  In the United States, more than $150 billion a year is spent on advertising. The number alone is nothing, but what if $120 billion of that was knowingly wasted? This $120 billion drain is not all encompassing, but one Utah business owner admits, "I know that 80% of my advertising is not working, I just don't know which 80% it is."

  It has proven difficult to collate a reliable or approximate statistic pertaining to effective and ineffective ads purchased by that $150 billion. A television campaign averages $200,000 for one 30-second slot during prime time. $160,000 is a lot to lose on an ineffective ad. With the same projected losses, mailers, purchased blindly at about $1,500 per week is a waste of at least $1,200.

  The reality is with layoffs, budget cuts and the recession, no one can afford to gamble. Unfortunately, many advertisers don't know how to avoid it. Those that do mistakenly consider the ability to make informed advertising decisions a luxury. The cost, if any, is significantly less than 80% of any advertising budget.

  Here's the 'how to; A store sets aside $6,480 a month for their advertising. $6,000 is committed to 1,000 weekly 4x6 post card mailers. The remaining $480 is spent on a radio spot. There are a few options available to the store to ensure a maximum return on investment by tracking their ad campaigns.

  First, the store's staff can be instructed to ask everyone who calls how they heard about the store. This is not the most practical approach. A similar measurement is to include language in the advertisement like "mention this ad and get 10% off."

  Another simple, less accurate, but more technical way to track an ad campaign is to include the store's website in each ad. A majority of consumers tend to 'check out' a new business online. There are many software and online subscription options available at a wide range of costs and ease of use, but by following up on website views, the store can get a general idea of how effective their advertisements are. A free option in the 'do it yourself' genre is to create separate email addresses for the mailer and radio campaign.

  A slightly more complex option for the store is what's called third-party ad tracking services. A third-party ad-tracking program will count the hits coming in from different URLs. The hits are then be used to determine which ad campaign (radio or mailers). Dex Knows, White Pages and similar publishers often include third-party tracking for an additional fee.

   The store can utilize a tracking program, or subscription without a third party. This service is provided by call tracking. The phone number appearing on the mailer, is different from the phone number advertised on the radio. Both numbers automatically and invisibly forward to the store.   The store owner logs into an online account and views the analyses.

  Recalling the $480 for the radio spot, and the $6,000 for the mailers, suppose the store finds that the mailers are not generating more than one or two calls? That $6,000 can be reallocated.

  It is obviously imperative to hold your advertising accountable. Making informed advertising decisions maximizes return on investment.