Would you go on a trip without a map or a GPS? If you’re not monitoring where your marketing dollars are going, it’s the equivalent of knowing where you want to go but not having a map of how to get there.

Every year Realtors spend millions of dollars on Web sites, search-engine optimization, print advertising, billboards and a host of other marketing services. When the industry had to rely almost exclusively on traditional advertising strategies, it was difficult to measure a specific ad’s effectiveness.

This issue was especially challenging for agents. The ad for your listing might run in the Sunday paper, but how could you tell how many people called on the property? In most offices, the "floor duty" agent took the incoming ad calls. Anyone who has experienced this system knows how frustrating it is to hear a call come in on one of your listings and then hear the floor-duty agent fail to get the caller’s phone number.

Would you go on a trip without a map or a GPS? If you’re not monitoring where your marketing dollars are going, it’s the equivalent of knowing where you want to go but not having a map of how to get there.

Every year Realtors spend millions of dollars on Web sites, search-engine optimization, print advertising, billboards and a host of other marketing services. When the industry had to rely almost exclusively on traditional advertising strategies, it was difficult to measure a specific ad’s effectiveness.

This issue was especially challenging for agents. The ad for your listing might run in the Sunday paper, but how could you tell how many people called on the property? In most offices, the "floor duty" agent took the incoming ad calls. Anyone who has experienced this system knows how frustrating it is to hear a call come in on one of your listings and then hear the floor-duty agent fail to get the caller’s phone number.

Even today, thousands of agents are still investing in mailers with no means of tracking their effectiveness. A few savvy agents use coupon codes on their mailers or a tear-off portion that can be sent back to the agent. The challenge is that most people throw these away.

Many agents market their listings using "Just Listed" and "Just Sold" cards. Typically, these cards lack a call to action that would motivate the recipient to contact the agent. As a result, there is no tracking mechanism that allows you to determine what works.

One marketing company created the strategy of sending out postcards with just a URL where people could view additional information on the agents’ listings. That system worked well since this company’s Web sites tracked unique Web visitors. What happened, however, was that when agents put their pictures on the marketing pieces, the response plunged to virtually zero.

If you’re ready to stop wasting money and to begin tracking your marketing efforts, follow these suggestions.

1. Monitor your Web site statistics
Many major Web site providers already provide this function. If your Web site does not allow you to track how many unique visitors you receive each month, where they originate, and the landing pages that motivate your Web visitors to leave valid contact information, you can remedy this problem by using tools such as Google Analytics or Statcounter.com. This information is meaningless, however, if you are not carefully identifying your marketing pieces and paying attention to where leads originate.

2. Track your sign and print advertising calls
Toll-free call capture or interactive voice response (IVR) technology has been around for about 15 years. This technology is still a great choice for tracking because signs continue to be a primary way that buyers find property. …CONTINUED

The way IVR works is that you pay for a toll-free phone number. The IVR provider gives you 1,000 extensions. You can leave a pre-recorded message on the system for anyone who calls on your listings. You then assign an extension to each marketing item you produce.

For example, extension 101 could be the 125 Elm St. sign, extension 102 your newspaper ad, extension 103 your Craigslist ad, etc. When someone calls, they hear your pre-recorded message. As soon as the person hangs up, the system sends the caller’s phone number to you instantaneously.

Because you paid for the call, you are entitled to the contact information. Furthermore, there is no issue with the federal Do Not Call list because the consumer initiated the contact and you have a record that demonstrates that fact.

IVR is also a powerful way to convert more listing appointments into signed listings. The reason is that up to 90 percent of the calls that come into most real estate offices are lost because the person answering the call cannot get the caller’s phone number. When you demonstrate the system, sellers may be ready to sign with you on the spot.

You can also include your toll-free number on all of your print advertising. While there is no easy way to track traditional print advertising, including an 800 number with a "pre-recorded message" increases the probability someone will call you. More importantly, you will have a valid phone number where you can call a prospective client back.

3. Text messaging tracking
Many first-time buyers prefer to send text messages rather than make phone calls. The next generation of IVR uses SMS (text messaging technology) to achieve the same outcomes using text messaging. Companies providing this service include Goomzee.com, Cellahouse.com and Cellsigns.com.

4. E-mail tracking
There are numerous applications that make your plain e-mails more attractive. Some applications allow you to track whether your recipient opened the page. A company called Fabusend.com has taken this a step further.

Suppose you send pictures of five different listings to your buyers. Normally you would have no idea whether your buyer opened the pictures or not. Fabusend can tell you which listing pictures they looked at multiple times and which ones merited only a single look.

Clearly, you will want to show the properties that had the most views. More importantly, by tracking what they repeatedly open, you can more easily identify which types of properties are best suited for their needs.

By tracking your results, you can determine which marketing strategies are best for your business based upon actual behavior rather than speculation. This is the best GPS you can have for marketing your real estate business.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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