Why Asking “How did you hear about us” Is Killing Your Business

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When you ask many business owners how they measure where their customers come from, many will say something like “I ask everyone who calls how they heard about us”.

Sounds pretty foolproof right?

Think again.

Asking “how did you hear about us” is notoriously unreliable for these reasons…

Do you know what you’re really asking?

When you ask “hey John how did you hear about us?”

Are you asking…

  • The first time they heard about your business?
  • The last time they heard about your business?
  • The most memorable time they heard about your business which caused them to call?
  • All channels they’ve seen your business which caused them to call?
Smiling small business owner taking payment
Business owner: “How did you hear about us sir?”
Customer: “Um I Googled you”
Business owner’s thoughts: “You’re just saying that because you can’t remember where you saw us”

As you can see there are a lot of different ways this could be interpreted, and depending on which answer you get could drastically change the perceived success of any given marketing channel.

What does the customer think you’re really asking?

Even if you are very clear in your mind on which one of those questions you want the answer to, the customer isn’t.

And they will almost certainly answer in a way which does’t align with what you want to actually measure.

“It’s a method of measurement which is completely incapable of giving you information with any decent level of accuracy.”

The reality is that most customers have heard, or been prompted in some way about your business multiple times, through a variety of channels before they ever make contact with you.

But asking “how did you hear about us” assumes they saw a mention of your business once, and then decided to call.

So it’s a method of measurement which is completely incapable of giving you information with any decent level of accuracy.

File search and analysis
Most customers will have been exposed to your brand on a variety of channels before they contact you. So it doesn’t make sense to just give credit to a single marketing stream.

Trying to determine your most effective marketing channel by asking that question might get you somewhere near the ballpark, but you’re a long way from actually zeroing in on the channel which deserves the lions share of your marketing dollars.

How to determine your most effective marketing channels

So what’s the solution?

Setting up (and actually reading) reports from Google Analytics does the majority of the work for you.

You can figure out which touchpoints have been used during a customer journey.

Sure they might see you in a Google search, but they also saw your stuff on Instagram too.

User acquisition report from Google Analytics
This is an example of a high-level report showing how your website visitors found your site.

Just yesterday someone contacted me via my website, but mentioned that they’d also seen some of my videos on Youtube and Facebook too.

If they hadn’t mentioned that (and most wouldn’t) I’d have just assumed they came to me via a Google search or some other method, unless I was reading my reports.

Using data to make decisions is how many businesses are able to grow rapidly and predictably.

Ignoring data is how many slowly drown through a series of bad “gut feel” decisions.

Make sure you have the ability to measure EVERYTHING in your marketing before you begin any marketing activities.

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