How Do I Track my Print Campaigns? Let me Count the Ways.

If you want to wrap your print campaign in an aura of mystery and suspense, put your message in a bottle and toss it into the sea. But if you want to measure the effectiveness of your print campaign, you need to track it.

Print’s still got the magic touch – especially if a direct mail campaign is integrated with an online component.

Marketers track their print campaigns to drive their audience to some method of engagement or to initiate a buying process. They’re doing so by creating integrated campaigns (print + online), because print still engages. According to Millward Brown, a global leader in advertising, marcom, media and brand equity research, “Success will not go to those who focus on screens alone.” Their research found that “40% of campaign impacts derive from true multi-channel synergies.” People respond to print.

Only by tracking print, can you measure its effectiveness. Tracking your print materials can help companies do the following:

  • Measure responses.
  • Measure effectiveness.
  • Know in advance when your materials will reach their destination and when they arrive.
  • Analyze which campaigns are most successful (and vice versa).
  • Collect additional customer intelligence.
  • Access customer engagement in real time.
  • Synchronize your marketing messages and efforts.
  • Deepen customer engagement.
  • Strengthen customer loyalty.
  • Analyze a campaign’s data against your sales data.
  • Adjust a marketing campaign on-the-fly.

If you have good data, you can develop a print campaign that’s trackable, personalized, and effective.

Ways to Make Your Print Materials Trackable

Three of the most common tracking methods are PURLs, QR codes, and IMb tracing.

Print campaigns - trackingA PURL or Personalized URL automatically stands out from the rest of your printed copy. It’s typically a long-ish URL that has your name included in it, making it hard to ignore. A PURL campaign is a strategy, not a gimmick. It helps marketers collect new information about their audience, which helps them deliver increasingly relevant services.

You mostly see PURLs in direct mail or email campaigns. Let’s say you produce a postcard campaign to attract attendees to a multi-city conference. “Mary Smith” gets her postcard, which has a PURL like She’ll type/copy/paste this PURL in her browser and visit her own landing page (basically a microsite) if your offer is compelling enough.

In this example, you might use a PURL to get people to register or to access a special discount. Perhaps you use a PURL to get people to vote on a networking activity at the event, or to encourage them to enter a contest. Be creative with your PURLs to increase participation.

On the back end, you’ve created one or more unique landing pages with short forms. These pages should be as customized as your data allows. For starters, insert the individual’s name. In this multi-city event campaign example, you could reference the specific city and include images that relate to that city. Design-wise, make sure these pages match the theme of your postcard.

The PURL program collects all responses in real time, so you see who’s responding and when. You can set up automated email responses to people who visit their PURL, and your sales team can get instant alerts as well, for a speedy follow-up.

QR or Quick Response codes are those square boxes you see on things like direct mail, ads, maps, menus, and signage. They’re mostly reproduced in black ink, though you can print them in any color. They’re a type of 2-dimensional barcode that users activate when they launch a scanner they’ve downloaded (for free) on their smartphone.

Add QR codes to your print campaigns to engage your audience. Use them to offer something of value, like a video, a downloadable report, a special coupon, a landing page with content not available elsewhere, or a form to collect more data that will help you serve your audience better. QR codes are great for delivering deeper content.

IMb Tracing

One service offered by the USPS is IMb tracing, short for Intelligent Mail barcode tracing. This provides mailers with near real-time tracking information on different types of direct mail. A marketer applies Intelligent Mail barcodes to their print materials, which are then tracked and reported back.

You can track both outgoing and incoming mail, so you know when each piece has been delivered and, if you expect order forms or reply cards to be returned, you know when they’ll come back. Key information about this service is detailed here, in FAQ format.

With the information you collect, you can coordinate your messaging to your list and determine which campaigns succeed. You can track response time and improve customer retention. You can also plan cross-channel campaigns better. Here’s a helpful fact sheet about IMb tracing.

There are additional tracking services like TrackMyMail from Pitney Bowes, and online tools offered by Intelisent. Marketers should be familiar with these as well.

Bottom line? Partner with an experienced print specialist who can work with your data to create a trackable campaign. And unlike that hypothetical message in a bottle, which for all you know is still out there bobbing on the high seas, you’ll know right away who’s received and reacted to your modern-day campaign.

Want to share any of your successes in tracking marketing campaigns? Or if you have any questions for our mail tracking experts, click here to contact us today!

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