The Mad Men days of marketing are over. No longer are a creative director’s strong gut instinct, assistants artistic eye, and luck the greatest predictors of a campaign’s success. Today, data has taken Don Draper’s place as king.

Welcome to the era of marketing tracking.

Testing and tracking variables of marketing campaigns offers insight into what’s working and what’s not. Without detailed data, marketers are forced to guess what customers really want. Now, we have the information to take an objective look and allow the consumers to tell us with their data what they want. Tracking allows you to “cut the fat” off your marketing campaigns so you can not only save money, but also focus your resources on what’s really working. Without marketing tracking, it’s difficult to know what exactly to cut, and sometimes it’s the thing we least expect.

We reached out to tracking experts and several businesses to find out what surprised them the most after they analyzed their marketing data. Here’s what they said:

1. Which Marketing Strategies Are Actually Converting Leads

“One year, we gave up 24 weekends in speaking engagements all over the state of California. At the end of that year, I pulled data from our CRM to see where leads were tracking from. Indeed, our speaking engagements. However, I also pulled conversion data. Where were leads coming from that actually converted? Well, long story short, we stopped working most weekends the following year with no drop in sales. Come to find out, referrals and the internet were driving the majority of our most valuable leads. So speaking engagements drove leads; they just did not convert. I dropped what didn’t work and started focusing more on what did. Now, we bifurcated traffic so we’re diving deeper into SEO vs SEM leads. It’s access to the data that makes all the difference. And, I got my weekends back.” – Aaron Norris, Vice President, The Norris Group

2. How People Navigate Through Websites

“When we started to track the way that users moved through our site, I was surprised to see how often people were retracing their steps and how jumbled their journey through the site was. We often assume that people move seamlessly from one page to another, but since tracking the movement I’ve realized that it’s far from being this straightforward. Consequently, we’ve had to adjust our content to cater to this movement and ensure that visitors stay engaged.” – Max Robinson, Scotland Shop

3. How Significant Color Choices Are

“Colors, yep colours. After conducting A/B testing on our website we noticed that color scheme plays a huge role in website and business performance. What we noticed during this marketing tracking is that certain colors and even placement of call to action buttons increased our click-through rate by 80%. We went a step further and used certain colors that appeal to our target audience which we researched in my scientific studies. By targeting our audience with specific colors, our CTR increased another 30%. It’s a truly powerful and easy-to-use tool.” – Lewis Thomas, Director, Vlogger Gear

4. The Devices Users View Content On

“For some time now, we’ve been told that this is the ‘mobile era’ – the era where people use their mobile phones for internet usage over the more traditional PCs, laptops and tablets. It wasn’t until I started paying attention to our visitor device usage that I realized just how true this was. 75% of our visitors are on mobile phones. Rewind just two years and that percentage was less than 50. That’s a staggering increase in mobile internet usage, and it’s only going to increase further in the coming months and years.” – Jason Scott, Digital Marketing Specialist, Archway Cards Ltd

5. Who The Target Demographic Really Is

“I work with a sports apparel company (think Under Armour, 2XU, etc.). We were contracted to help them expand their marketing efforts. During our discovery meeting, we talked about persona targets, typical consumers of the product, etc. Through this conversation, we aligned on some general starting points like athletes, ages 18-35, male, etc., and then we launched our paid efforts. It didn’t take long to see these assumptions were off-base. Our Facebook remarketing demographics showed a higher percentage of sales coming from much older users — ages 45-65 — and the demos included a 60%-40% split female to male. Additionally, our Google display campaigns showed similar demographic profiles.

We immediately began working on a customer survey and quickly learned that many of the products were being purchased for surgical rehab for this older demographic: knee replacements, hip replacements, etc. What we learned? By following the data, we found a completely new product target and, even more importantly, confirmed that sometimes a client can be too close to their product. Always test and allow the data inform future strategies.” – Jon Clark, Founder & CEO), Fuze SEO, Inc.

6. The Performance Of Organic Vs. Paid Channels

“Ads are positioned above organic search results and for a long time pay-per-click ads were essential to driving business. However, recently this trend has balanced out more towards organic results. Despite Google’s attempts at making their ads look almost indistinguishable from organic results, consumers are becoming savvy enough to identify and value organically ranking pages more. While the paid channel is still somewhat of a necessity for many industries and terms, organic visibility is becoming more valuable than ever before.” – Igor Kholkin, Online Marketing & Business Development Consultant, IgorKholkin

7. Which Marketing Channels Work

“For a number of months, our marketing efforts were spread thinly across a number of platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, Bing; you name it, we’ve tried it. It was only when we started tracking that we were able to identify what was working and what wasn’t.

We kept our strategy as simple as possible: Make an offer, send traffic to a landing page, and capture the visitor’s information. Being in a B2B industry, you’d imagine that LinkedIn and Twitter would be excellent platforms for generating B2B leads; but the results that we were shown were quite the opposite. We found that visitors to our website from search-related channels were about 80% more likely to convert; this includes visitors from both Bing and Google. But oddly enough, the landing page’s design and copy had little effect on conversions. Increasing the number of fields on the lead-capture form did not show a decrease in sign-ups either. So, the number one thing that we learned from this experience is that the selection of your marketing channel is arguably the most vital; everything else comes secondary.” – Aaron Lin, Managing Director, Ignitive

8. The Value Of Referrals

“When we started tracking our traffic sources for the website for Northwest School of Music, we were surprised to discover that most of our traffic that converted was direct traffic — people who went straight to our site after Googling our business name. These were people who had already heard about our business (presumably through word of mouth) and were now seeking us out. The reason this was surprising is because we spend a fair amount of money on Google ads and Facebook ads and had assumed that most of our traffic was coming from those sources. When I started tracking my marketing and traffic sources to my blog, I was surprised to discover that most of my traffic (and eventual customers) came from referrals from other blogs — not from big search engines. This proves how valuable exposure in your industry is!” – Gillian Perkins, CEO, Aptus Creative Marketing & Owner Northwest School of Music

Regardless of all the different variables listed above, there’s one central theme among them all: Different businesses yield different results. What might be working for one business might not be working for the other, even if they’re in the same industry.

Dig into your data and see what you find. It might surprise you.

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