Let me make something very clear: You are wasting a lot of money in the way you currently market. You are throwing money -- your money -- into the trash can.

And you can stop it, right now.

You see, some of your marketing and advertising spend is not wasted. And, by doing more of what works and less of what doesn't work, you will enable those same marketing dollars to take you and your business much further. You'll be able to attract more business, get a greater bang for your buck, and, in general, make your advertising spend much more effective.

And there's only on thing standing in the way, which we can fix right now: tracking and unserstanding, where, in fact, your ads are working and where they are doing a dismal job. By simply working and tweaking that one simple metric, you'll see every dollar turn into several, as if by magic.

Most small businesses think that they are "the big boys," but here's a cold hard fact: most of us aren't them, and we have zero business trying to "be" them in the way we advertise and market ourselves.

Here's a little experiment to try:

Go into a medical office. (It's a great pleace to pick up year-old issues of whatever magazine is read in your parts of town.) Pick up a magazine that's at least a year old. Look through the advertisements that were there a year ago. And think about the following question: "How many of these full-page advertisers no longer exist?"

I've seen, time and time again, entrepreneurs fall into the deadly trap of advertising "Nike style." Advertising like Coca-Cola does, going "all out" in their advertising, trying to follow the big boys by branding their way into the minds of their customers.
(Try this: how many buses did you pass today? What were the ads on the sides of 'em? What was the ad on the back cover last week of the publication you read most?)

What you, the small businesses owner, need to do‎ is to track every ad you put out there-- and see what response you get.

Related: Paging Cindy, If She Exists. (And Why It's Important If She Doesn't.)

Here are some ways to track every ad for direct response:

1. Different phone numbers.

This is an oldie but goodie which is an easy way of seeing which ad people are calling from. Two different ads having different numbers is an easy way to track response.

The challenge with this, however, is that sometimes you want to brand a certain number. ‎Say 1-800-777-7777. When you want to tattoo that number into people's minds as the number to call when they need something (in this particular case, a private limousine service when you arrive at NYC airports), it would be a bit pointless to use different phone numbers. So what can you do?

2. Use offers.

So, a pickup at John F. Kennedy International Airport might be, "We know how hot you must be coming to New York in the summer. With your pickup, get a free ice cream if you mention this offer when you call!" in one ad, and "Free Italian ices, Brooklyn-style!" in another ad. Whomever mentions ice cream is from Ad A, and whomever mentions Italian ice is from Ad B.

You can also use "Ask for Alice" and "Ask for Todd" and "Ask for Emily" as three codes that would make it very simple to know which ad people are coming from. (And, no matter who answers, they can say, "I can help you with that...")

It's the old fashioned "department number" in mail-order ads, just updated to today's environment!

Of course, one of the beautiful things about Internet advertising is the ability to easily track what is working, because you can see where the clicks are hitting -- which ad is bringing in the highest number of clicks at the lowest cost per aquisition.

Where people miss out on profitable tracking, online or off, is that it's not just about which ad has gotten the click. It's about the ultimate profitability of that ad.

Related: Stop Taking Part in the Most Absurd Business Ritual

An ad that gets 10,000 clicks but one buyer of a single dongle is nowhere near as valuable as an ad that cost 5x the money, got 35 clicks, but the "clickers"‎ making those clicks being owners of companies who bought 75,000 dongles each.

An ad with a price in it will get much fewer clicks, as a matter of course. However, those clicks are from much more likely buyers of your product or service then the same generic ad. (Of course, when you think into this, it makes perfect sense: because you've eliminated the clicks from all those people who have no interest in spending the money you are asking on your product. For curiosity, they'll click and cost you the cost of that click, but when they know that you are looking for people willing to spend, they dissapear... which is wonderful news to your bottom line!)

Yes, of course there is room, sometimes, to make an ad with no price in it, especially if your selling process works with giving a free "lead magnet" to get customers in the door. But then you'd be doing it knowing that you're not trying to make a sale at the moment, but rather to simply get people into your sales funnel.

But when you are starting up, don't believe everything your "creative marketing" firm tells you about how you need to spend half a fortune on a video that will "go viral for sure" and on branding yourself in ways that cost a fortune (Hey, it's your money not theirs...). When it works, they take the glory... and, when it doesn't, you get nothing but a much emptier bank account to show for it.

Simply start by thinking strategically: How can I better see when my marketing dollars are working for me? What can I do to make this offer unique in a way that I'll know people are responding to it?

By eliminating what's not been working and doubling up on what is, your same budget will go that much further. And as entrepreneurs, it's these valuable business tweaks that do what it takes to move us to the next level.

And when you hit the Apple, Nike, Coke, and Audi level? Sure, then feel free to throw $10 million at 10 different projects. If only one succeeds, you'll be doing terifically. And if not.... well there's always more money to throw at the next agency after the one you currently use gets sacked.

But for now, tracking is where it's at.

Here's to your tracking success!

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