The internet has certainly changed many aspects of our lives. We turn to it for entertainment, for news, to research products and vacations, and to get directions of all types. But perhaps the biggest change is the impact it’s had on marketing.
The internet brought the age of digital marketing with highly focused audiences and immediate responses that can be measured in real-time. But along with this comes information overload. The American Marketing Association figures the average American sees up to 10,000 ads on any given day! (source: AMA)
Leverage print to break through the clutter.
To measure direct mail marketing performance you can use call tracking phone numbers specific to your campaign or use digital call-to-actions that can be measured using Google Analytics. For more technical details on using Google Analytics read my Measure to Improve Your Marketing Performance article.
Here are ways to track the marketing performance of direct mail.
Measure Direct Mail Response
Here are six ways you can measure direct mail and other print campaigns.
1. Campaign Specific Landing Pages
Avoid using a homepage for the call-to-action of any printed piece. Using a campaign-specific landing page allows you to determine the response rate for your campaign and determine how visitors interact with your website.
Use a landing page with an URL like www.yoursite.com/winter-sale.
Since prospects reading a printed piece need to type in the URL in their browser, the URL should:
- Be easy for a person to type
- Use term(s) related to the campaign
Tip: To use a landing page to measure the direct mail campaign you need to be sure all the visits to the landing page come from the direct mail. You need to ensure the page does not appear in search results by adding a <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”> tag in the header of the page and ensure the page is not in the website XML sitemap. This should be easy to do with your SEO plugin in a WordPress website, or in the configuration settings of your landing page platform.
- Don’t have the page in your website menu or link to the page from other pages.
- Don’t email the link to people.
- Don’t allow the page to be crawled by search engines.
Using a campaign-specific landing page can be the easiest way to measure direct mail campaigns, but you need to be sure it is configured correctly so it only gets web page visits from the campaign.
2. Redirect with UTM Parameters
To your prospect, this looks the same as using a specific landing page. The difference is the easy-to-type friendly URL redirects to a URL that leverages Google Analytics to measure campaign effectiveness. You can answer questions like:
- What were the direct mail response rates for our house marketing list and a purchased list?
- How did direct mail compare to our email marketing for the campaign?
- How much revenue was driven by direct mail or email?
This technique requires:
- An easy to type URL like www.yoursite.com/winter-sale that serves as the call to action on the direct mail.
- The web page you want the prospect to go to. page like www.yoursite.com/winter-sale-landing-page
- A separate URL with Google Analytics UTM parameters that redirects the browser to the landing page.
An example is to use a URL like modernostrategies.com/measure-marketing that your website redirects a browser to:
In this example, the UTM parameters tell Google Analytics that in the campaign MeasureDirectMail, the source is a blog, the medium is a website.
Here are some sample parameters you can use for your print campaigns:
|Medium (Marketing Channel)
Tip: Using the optional utm_content parameter allows you to capture additional useful information. The parameter can be used for many things, including.
- A/B test any content in your direct mail, including headlines, copy, images, and the call-to-action.
- Determine if the prospect keyed in the campaign URL into their browser or scanned a QR code.
Create a different URL for each combination of parameters, such as:
You can use the alternate versions for different audience segments. Variable data printing technology is used to print the different versions of the URLs on the direct mail.
You can implement URL redirection using a plugin on a WordPress website, and there are other techniques are available for websites built on other platforms.
Implementing UTM parameters can be confusing at first but it becomes second nature once you use them effectively. You are likely already using them if you use an email marketing platform or digital advertising. They can also help measure social media effectiveness.
Using Google’s campaign URL builder is an easy way to learn about and create a link with the UTM parameters. But you need to be precise and consistent with the terms you use. Simple changes like a misspelled term, inconsistent use of capitalizations, or adding a space or mixing hyphens and underscores, all ruin your data and make it difficult or impossible to measure direct mail and other marketing campaigns.
We’ve developed the free Moderno UTM Parameter Generator to avoid these problems. It is an easy-to-use, easy-to-collaborate, tool with both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel versions. The tool allows you to add the UTM terms you use for campaigns and other parameters, and then select them in a drop-down list as you build your URL. It is especially useful when multiple people in your company create campaign URLs.
Using UTM parameters is normally the best way to measure direct mail campaigns.
3. Personalized URLs
Using a personalized URL, or PURL, in your campaign allows you to:
- Conduct detailed segmentation analyses. Since you know individual behavior you can analyze performance using any data you have, such as industry, company size or job title.
- Increase response rates by providing personalized landing pages for each prospect.
- Learn what your prospect is interested in by tracking what pages they visit.
- Make the website visitor a known visitor to your marketing automation platform.
There are multiple services available to commercial print providers that allow you to set up a subdomain and create a unique URL, like winter.yoursite.com/todc, for each person in your marketing list. Cross-channel marketing platforms like Mindfire and EasyPurl allow you to create the PURL call-to-action as well as landing pages and integrate email marketing. They also have built-in campaign performance reporting.
Other services like purlem create the PURLs, allowing you to implement using your own website technologies.
The primary disadvantage of setting up a campaign using personalized URLs is that it requires specialized software to implement.
4. QR Codes & Augmented Reality
QR codes and Augmented Reality (AR) can be used with any of the three techniques described above:
- A simple URL that goes to a landing page
- A URL with UTM parameters
- A personalized URL
As smartphone adoption increased, QR codes gained popularity for marketers in the early 2010s. But they were often poorly implemented, with marketers not thinking through the user experience. One of the funniest marketing presentations I’ve seen was by Scott Stratten, of UnMarketing fame, about the poor user experiences frequently provided by QR codes:
But QR codes never went away, and now that both Apple and Google have made them more accessible in their smartphone platforms, and marketers seem to be improving customer experience design, they are again gaining traction.
There are many tools, such as qr-code-generator.com, that allow you to easily make QR codes. For QR codes with personalized URLs, digital print savvy commercial printers can create QR codes from the PURLs and use variable data print to personalize each mail piece. Alternatively, the personalized URL services discussed above can create personalized QR codes.
Augmented Reality (AR) can provide a much richer, interactive experience. URLs can be embedded into images in the direct mail or in the AR experience. A downside of AR is it requires a smartphone app for your prospect to engage. This is too big a barrier unless the audience is already very engaged with your brand.
By embedding UTM parameters into your QR code and AR URLs, you can measure direct mail performance in Google Analytics.
Using a QR code, combined with a visible friendly or personalized URL, can provide the best campaign performance by making it easy for the prospect to respond on both smart phones and computers.
5. Campaign Specific Call Tracking Phone Numbers
You may have unused phone numbers in your phone service that can be tied to specific direct mail programs.
There are also call tracking services like 800.com or CallRail that allow you to tie specific phone numbers to different campaign touches. These also provide detailed reporting, can integrate with marketing automation and CRM systems, and have additional features like call recording that allow you to improve inbound marketing skills.
Call tracking is often an overlooked way to measure direct mail campaign performance.
6. Unique Coupon Code
Coupon codes can be used for in-store or online discounts, or a promo code can be used to provide access to some content or service.
A single code can be used for the campaign. This will allow you to measure overall campaign effectiveness. A unique can be implemented using variable data printing, allowing you to convert an anonymous website visitor into a known visitor, or to A/B test different direct mail content.
Summary of Measurement Techniques
|Campaign Specific Landing Pages
|Easiest to implement if you can create landing pages.
|Each campaign needs a unique landing page.
|Redirects with Friendly URLs
|Allows accurate measurement of campaign performance.
A single landing page can be used to track different campaigns, audiences, channels, design, and copy.
|The ability to redirect URLs on your website is needed.
|Personalized URLs (PURLs)
|Achieve high response rates by customizing the landing page for each visitor.
A single landing page can be used.
Allows accurate measurement of campaign performance across a variety of segmentation variables.
|Require IT to set up unique domain names.
More expensive as special software is needed.
The first campaign takes longer to implement.
|QR Codes and AR
|Can be used with any of the other techniques.
URLs and PURLs can be encoded with UTM parameters or personal identifiers.
|Requires using a smartphone app to respond.
The call-to-action is not obvious to everyone.
|Campaign Specific Phone Numbers
|Tracks phone call responses
|Requires set up
|Unique Coupon Code
|Customers are used to coupons
Helps measure revenue
|Requires integration with back end systems
Use the techniques in this article whenever you are using a website as the call-to-action for any printed piece so you can measure marketing performance.