As we know by now, measuring the ROI of offline marketing such as print advertising is tricky to say the least. Online marketing is the smarter, hipper cousin and gets all the praise and attention in the battle, since it’s so much easier to measure with tools such as Google Analytics. We have a window into the behavior of our customers like never before and in the case of GA, it’s free. In my opinion though, it is not a fair comparison to measure offline marketing with the same yard stick. Both ingredients can be crucial for the recipe; the trick is understanding how much is required, based on your industry and the behavioral trends going on.
Finding a Place for Offline Marketing
An interesting example of being misled by the ‘source’ of a lead came via my uncle, who has been running a Hotel Guide company for over 20 years. The company has an online presence as well as a high-end print and mailing program. When a booking comes in via the website, this is identified as having come directly from web, either from a search engine query, a referring site or a direct visit.
Twenty years ago, was every booking that came in tracked as a telephone booking? What led to the phone booking since there were no websites? Offline marketing of course. The same concept still happens, but simply to a lesser degree. The seed is planted in a magazine ad or newspaper article, so that when someone decides to go online and make a booking, for some reason they feel more comfortable booking with a hotel that they vaguely remember. At least in certain industries, then, having a presence offline can pay off.
How to Track Offline Ads?
One way to bridge the gap in measuring your offline ROI is to create ‘vanity URLs’ for specific pages on your website, and track how many people use the vanity URL to reach your site. For example, if you were a web company you could create a landing page on your site that offers a free website audit, purchase a memorable domain like http://www.freewebsiteaudit.com, and direct it to a landing page on your website that provides information about your special offer. You would use this new, eye-catching domain only in your offline advertising, so that you could track how many people arrived on that page after seeing your offline advertisement.
Tracking the Vanity URL in GA
Here’s the hard part. We need to ‘tag’ the real URL to provide the information we are looking for when we view the data. These are variables that we can label with a campaign, source and medium. For example, a ‘Fall’ campaign in the ‘local paper’ source, which is ‘print’ medium. The actual url would look something like http://www.mywebsite.com/?utm_campaign=fall_promotion&utm_source=local_paper&utm_medium=print. This is not catchy, of course; hence the need for the new vanity URL that we can track.
[Helpful Hint: Visit Google Analytics URL Builder to learn how to set up and tag a campaign]
Before making any big decisions about your print advertising budget, it’s generally best to have some data to back them up. In some cases, simply having that presence in the right publications can help your branding – but don’t forget to incorporate online technology to support your offline marketing effort.
Penny for your thoughts?
Please let me know your experiences with measuring offline media media and how much value you place on it in your industry.