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Marketing by the Numbers

Do you know if your marketing efforts are paying off? More importantly, do you know which marketing campaigns and channels are profitable and which are losing money? 

Marketing is one of the toughest areas to calculate return on investment, and one of the reasons is because customers may have had contact with your company in multiple ways before they make a purchase. Other reasons such as a lack of systems are more easily solved and can give you valuable information that you can make smart decisions with.

One main goal of marketing is to acquire leads that will hopefully turn into buying customers and even repeat customers. To start measuring your marketing efforts, we need to find out where those leads are coming from and measure which ones became your customers. That means we need to develop a system that tracks a customer from lead source to sale.

The hard part is that some of this needs to be done outside the accounting system.  The good news is that there are many tools and analytics available to help in this process.

One of the first things to do if you don’t already have it set up is to record the lead when they enter your sales process. Enter basic information about them in your CRM (customer relationship management system), and be sure to ask them how they found out about you.  This will help you track the lead back to the campaign or channel that they came in on. Once they’ve made a purchase, you can connect the lead to the customer record and track revenue by marketing source. 

If your leads come in digitally, there are many automated tags you can set up to track where they originated, whether it was from the web site, a particular web page, a social media account or a link from an email you sent out.

An important statistic for businesses is cost per lead, how much it costs to generate one lead for your business. The cost will vary by channel or marketing source. For example, someone coming from your website will cost less than someone coming from social media in most cases.

Once you know how many leads to generate to make a sale, you can start calculating what your marketing budget should look like.  More importantly, you’ll be able to forecast your revenue more accurately, too.

While numbers are probably the last thing you think about when you’re doing your marketing, they can be very effective for your bottom line.  There are many metrics beyond cost per lead that would be valuable to measure as well.  Here are just a few of them:

  • Number of leads (in total or per channel)
  • Number of press mentions
  • Number of direct mail pieces sent out
  • Number of email subscribers
  • Number of social media connections per platform
  • Number of posts sent, number of shares, number of comments
  • Total web visitors, new and returning
  • Google rankings for keywords
  • Number of customer reviews per site, ratio of positive to negative reviews

You might not think of accountants when you are doing your marketing, but we encourage you to think about the “numbers” part of marketing, the financial side. And as always, if you want help developing these processes and metrics, please reach out.

Getting Started with Accounts in QuickBooks Online, Part 2

We covered a lot of ground last month, but there are still some things to know about working with transactions you import from your banks.

Last month, we went over the basics of managing financial transactions once you’ve downloaded them into QuickBooks Online. We walked you through the mechanics of connecting to banks and credit card companies online and described the process of reviewing imported transactions, exploring concepts like:

  • Categorizing them, and marking them as billable
  • Adding them to an account register; matching them to related transactions; or transferring them to another account
  • Using Batch actions to process related groups

 

We explored QuickBooks Online’s Banking features last month, including the site’s ability to work with related transactions as groups.

This month, we’ll look at the process of setting up rules to automatically classify transactions as they come in from your banks. We’ll also provide a brief overview of the Chart of Accounts.

Bank Rules
We’ve already discussed QuickBooks Online’s ability to guess how transactions should be categorized (it’s not always right, but you can change incorrect ones). It also allows you to memorize transactions that recur on a regular basis; this also saves time and improves accuracy. There’s another way the site also uses automation to help minimize keystrokes: Bank Rules. Based on your input, it will scan incoming items and classify them, so you don’t have to. This can be very helpful when you regularly import transactions that share specific attributes.

Let’s look at how this works. Click Banking in the navigation toolbar, then click Bank Rules. Once you’ve created your own rule(s), they’ll appear in a grid on this screen. For now, click New rule in the upper right corner. Basically, you’re going to tell QuickBooks Online that when specific conditions are met, as you can see in the example below, it should take the specified action(s): assign a Transaction typePayee, and/or Category. You can also have the transaction automatically added to your books.

You can create Bank Rules in QuickBooks Online that will automatically assign a Transaction typePayee, and Category to imported items that meet specific conditions.

We suggest you meet with us if you’re going to take on this task. If your business processes a lot of transactions, Bank Rules can be incredibly helpful. But set them up incorrectly, and it could take many hours to untangle the errors.

Account Registers, Chart of Accounts
In this column and the last, we’ve been working with transactions as they come into QuickBooks Online directly from your financial institutions, before they appear in your account registers. When you clicked Add after you looked at—and perhaps modified—a transaction listed under For Review on the Banking page, you sent it to that account’s register.

Notice that the site’s registers look similar to their paper counterparts; you may remember recording checks and deposits in the back of your checkbook if you’ve been in business long enough. There are two ways to see them in QuickBooks Online. When you’re on the Banking page, look over to your right. You’ll see a link labeled Go to Register. Click it, and you’ll be taken to that page for the account that’s currently active.

You can also open your account registers from the Chart of Accounts. We don’t talk much about this element of financial management because it’s not something you should be modifying. Nevertheless, it’s the heart of your accounting system. It consists of a comprehensive list of your company’s accounts, divided into assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and equity (along with subaccounts). Transactions are assigned to the appropriate account and recorded in the General Ledger, which is another element of accounting that we don’t discuss because you don’t have to deal with it in QuickBooks Online.

You can view your company’s Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online, but we recommend you don’t modify it. 

Click on the Accounting tab in the navigation toolbar, then Chart of Accounts. You’ll see your individual bank accounts listed here, along with a View Register link.

A Critical Concept
Again, you won’t have to deal with the Chart of Accounts, but it’s very important that you understand how to manage downloaded transactions as you move them into your bank accounts in QuickBooks Online. Mistakes here can trigger errors in reports and taxes, as well as create general confusion. We’d be happy to get you on the right path with this critical function.

Preparing for the unexpected

In September of this year, one of our clients had an issue where his debit card was compromised. This debit card was also attached to his Facebook advertising account. This kept him from doing any paid promotions on Facebook including sponsored posts and ads. For a company that relies on social media, this was extremely frustrating.

His solution was to open an additional account at a different bank at a backup account. He is now transferring one percent of his revenue there when he does his allocations. This would protect him in the event that he should have another such experience. The only problem with doing so was the delay in being able to purchase due to bank paperwork getting the new account created.

As difficult and time-consuming as that was, he learned a valuable lesson and we thank him for letting us share it with you. In this day of technology-based banking, we must always take precautions for fraud. Whether you open a separate account and make regular deposits as he did or attach a second debit card to your original checking account, you need to develop a backup plan for when you can’t access your account.

In the words of Warren Buffet, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

If you need any counsel, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Defining Blockchain

 

Blockchain is a term that has been bantered about quite a bit when referring to the future of accounting technology. While its impacts are primarily long-term in nature, let’s take a brief look to see what everyone is talking about.

Blockchain is a technology that can store transactions. Some people have referred to it as a digital ledger. Unlike your current accounting books, transactions recorded using blockchain technology are public. This digital spreadsheet of transactions or records is copied across thousands of servers so that there is no single point of failure. It’s a decentralized, distributed, and public digital ledger.

The blockchain ledgers are updated constantly as new records are added. They are also reconciled constantly. Once added, the records cannot be altered retroactively.  This feature has many implications for auditing in that many records won’t need to be validated the old-fashioned way because blockchain is self-auditing.  Auditors will still need to validate the non-digital components of a transaction such as physical inventory counts.

Prior to 2016, blockchain was originally referred to as block chain, where the blocks are the list of records or transactions.  While the records are public, they are protected through cryptography.  Each block includes cryptographic code from the previous block that keeps the entire chain of data safe and verified.

Blockchain is then a way for two parties to safely record their transaction permanently and with verification.  While bitcoin is the most common current use of blockchain technology, many developers are working on new applications. Development started heavily in 2017, so it remains to be seen which applications will take off and which will die.

Blockchain’s uses in the future will be many:

  • Banking is the most obvious application, and right now the focus is on international transfers.
  • Stock trading.
  • Smart contracts. This concept is a huge part of what blockchain could be used for. Smart contracts are economic actions using blockchain that can be recorded without human interaction. They could initiate bill payments after goods have been received and after checking that there are funds available.
  • Elections.
  • Legal transactions, such as land titles.

Medical records, so that there is no more filling out of forms in each doctor’s office.

Blockchain in the future may eliminate the double-entry bookkeeping system that we have now.  Instead of each person keeping their own set of records, companies will write their transactions into a public blockchain ledger. This will reduce the cost of bookkeeping in the long term. But for this to happen, much development must be done to standardize and optimize the financial system. Many accounting professionals are working today toward that goal, which is many years away.

For now, the biggest implication to realize for a blockchain future is that personal reputation will become incredibly important.  Blockchain systems eliminate the intermediary so that you are doing business with other people in a peer-to-peer environment. Identity protection, as well as reputation, will become essential.  Blockchain is also likely to take off first in countries where there is a lot of corruption and/or corporations are not trusted.

Blockchain may not impact your life today, but it’s definitely something to watch on the horizon.

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