Measuring Success: 7 Ways to Track Direct Mail
One of the common arguments against direct mail is that it’s difficult to measure, which makes it a tough sell given the expense. Email is cheaper and easier to measure, as most platforms come with built-in analytics. But when you consider that direct mail gets three times the response rate as email and has the highest ROI of any marketing channel, it’s worth the time and effort to figure out how to measure it properly. In this first of two posts, we’ll look at the different mechanisms you can use to track direct mail. In a future post, we will turn our attention to metrics and how you might analyze results.
Tracking direct mail starts with a CTA
You need to start by making sure every piece of direct mail you send has a call-to-action (CTA). This is how you’re able to measure response rate, so it’s important that the CTA is campaign-specific and appropriate to where a customer is on their buying journey (you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date, so don’t ask them to immediately sign up for your product or service in the first communication).
A CTA prompts a prospect to take some sort of action—that can be visiting a website, completing a form, or calling you for more information. You can include more than one CTA (provided you’re tracking them all), but you must include at least one so you have something to track. If you include multiple CTAs, you can aggregate the responses to figure out your overall response rate while also seeing which channel or type of CTA resonates most with a particular audience.
Here are a few ways to implement CTAs so you can track your direct mail marketing:
Dedicated Landing Pages
By using a unique landing page on your website, you can see what kind of traffic you’re getting from a specific piece of direct mail or campaign. You can also see what visitors do once they arrive, like how much time they spend on the page, what they click on, and if they convert.
While visiting the landing page is the primary action, you should include a next step CTA on your landing page as well—schedule a demo, submit a form, or download an e-book, for example. Consider including a soft CTA (like the ability to download content to learn more) as well as a more direct CTA (like scheduling a demo) to provide options for customers who want to stay engaged but might be at different points in their customer journey.
PURL stands for personalized URL, and it’s a landing page or website specific to an individual, such as morevang.com/john-doe. Using the information in your data, you can create a customized landing page experience for each person in your prospect list, where every piece of content on the landing page is relevant to them based on what you already know. For example, if you know someone’s home address, you might include store details and a map to your location nearest to them on the page.
While PURLs cost a bit extra, they not only tell you if someone visited your site based on the direct mail but they let you know exactly WHO visited your site, even if they don’t take any further action. This is valuable information for both your marketing and sales teams when it comes to your follow-up strategy.
QR codes make it easier for customers to visit your campaign landing page or their PURL. You can also use them to garner more information, including the location and time of the scan, how many times a QR code was scanned, and what kind of device the person used to scan the code (e.g., iPhone or Android). This information can help you optimize your marketing and inform future A/B tests.
A word of caution on QR codes: while their popularity has soared during the pandemic—with many restaurants moving their menus online and providing a simple QR code at the table—not everyone is a fan. If your target audience skews older, be sure to provide other CTA options along with the QR code. People aged 65+ tend to use QR codes less than any other age group.
Using different promo or offer codes in your direct mail is especially effective when you want to test multiple different offers either simultaneously or over the course of a multi-touch campaign. Create a different code for each offer and each touchpoint to see which one customers respond to best. Just remember that if you accept offer codes in-person or over the phone, you and your team will need to track them manually so you can factor them into your response rate.
Unique Phone Numbers and Email
Some customers would rather speak to a human being than visit a website. Setting up unique phone numbers lets you track call volume and tie those responses back to a particular campaign. To do this, you will need to use call-tracking software that gives you the ability to create many different campaign-specific numbers.
Ideally, you should treat email addresses the same way, using a unique one for each campaign. You can often set up email responses to flow directly into your CRM as leads. This allows you to easily track them and quickly assign them to a team member for follow up.
Mail Reply Device
For some types of direct mail campaigns (fundraising comes to mind as a perfect example), it’s important to include a mail-in reply device for people who want to respond via more traditional channels. With many of our nonprofit clients, they see a larger percentage of older donors respond via a donation card and reply envelope, whereas their younger donors more often visit their website to donate online. If they only offered an online option, they would miss out on donations from a key demographic that isn’t as comfortable giving online.
Depending on the goal of your direct mail campaign, you might be able to measure the effectiveness by driving customers to your social media channels. For example, if your goal is to build brand awareness, you might include all of your social media channels in the call-to-action and then use the on-platform analytics to track any change in visits, likes, or follows. It’s obviously not as foolproof as some of the other methods listed above since a social channel can’t be campaign-specific, but it can provide anecdotal feedback on the efficacy of a campaign. Just make sure your team is prepared to interact with customers in a timely manner on social media if using this approach; otherwise, you risk doing more harm than good to your brand.
The key takeaway here is that you must include a clear call-to-action if you want to track your direct mail success. In a follow-up post, we’ll review the various metrics you can use to track direct mail and how to determine your KPIs based on your marketing goals. If you have questions in the meantime or want to get started planning your next campaign, give us a call.