Promo ROI: Tracking and Measuring Client Promotions and Your Own Marketing
It’s a phrase usually associated with home improvement projects: measure twice, cut once. But the idea behind it is universal. If you’re not using all the data available, you may as well be flying blind. That’s especially true in marketing, which is why there’s a cottage industry built on CRM platforms and analytics tools and the like. And for promo distributors—who, aside from providing marketing services for their clients, are often marketers themselves—it goes double. Flying blind is not an option. You’ve got to measure.
And one of the most critical data points to measure is return on investment, or ROI. If you can show your clients exactly what their money got them, it’s a powerful thing, an affirmation that their investment in you was worth every penny. And if you can see how your own marketing efforts performed relative to the cost, you can tweak and experiment to get the most bang for your buck.
If you’re not doing these things already, don’t worry—it’s never too late to start. And if you are, well, there’s always room to improve. So we asked Linda Neumann, director of marketing and client services for Brilliant Marketing Ideas Inc., a distributor based in San Diego and founder of the Marketing Ideas Box, a subscription box for distributors, for her best advice on the topic. Here, Neumann, also a member of a direct marketing association, answered a whole bunch of our ROI questions.
Promo Marketing: How can distributors help their clients understand their ROI for promotional products?
Linda Neumann: I am in direct marketing, and everything is tied to ROI. Unfortunately, very few clients use promotional products exclusively just to hand out. Many times they are part of an overall campaign that has a number of pieces. Distributors can help their clients by showing them various statistics the industry prepares to compare, say, a bag’s ROI to a pen’s ROI. Then they can select the item that will fit into their program knowing the item has better ROI than what they originally thought. They may change their campaign based on those statistics. The best thing a distributor can do is get involved early in the client’s campaign and help them select the best product for the campaign, with the biggest ROI, for the best success.
PM: We’ve seen the term “return on experience,” or ROE, used sometimes. The thinking is it’s easier to track how promos made someone feel than it is to track any definitive metrics. Have you ever heard of this? Is this something you do?
LN: Return on experience has been around at least for five to 10 years or more. Basically, putting the center of the research with the consumer. Instead of measuring ROI on a campaign, they consider the brand experience, which actually became easier with social media. Social can provide very powerful feedback to enable marketers to get a handle on the relationship of the brand to a customer, as well as the feeling they get about the brand, the service, the products etc. Engagement measures the prospect or customer’s actions (i.e., visiting a website, opening advertising, downloading an app)—whatever gives evidence that the prospect or customer is letting the brand in. I think marketers paid more attention to this concept because emotions play a bigger impact in the purchasing decision.
Back in 2009 was really my first attempt at a very basic ROE for my company. Using a new and popular tumbler with a straw, I mailed it out to prospects and customers to get them to engage in my Facebook page. I received a number of emails and started gaining fans to my page, then further tried to engage them in other things. I think most distributors are doing it in various ways. However, they may not be measuring it against other metrics. It is fundamentally like a marketing plan. You have strategies that, for a client, could include TV, print, PR, events, referral programs, etc. Each is measured, and total ROI can be calculated. Now, however, there are so many more things to consider with Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. on how someone can engage with a customer. Clients are always interested in increasing their ROI or ROE and finding new and better ways to measure it. At a very basic level, you look at new business and your marketing expenditures, right?
PM: Are clients asking for this kind of information on ROI metrics or insights? And do you provide it for them?
LN: Most of my clients are marketing managers, so they are familiar with measuring, and as a board member with a direct marketing association, we provide a lot of training in that respect. So, knowing how to put things together to measure, or what to measure, or conclusions you can draw from the data, is helpful for a distributor to understand when speaking or selling to a client.
I think most clients are trying to better understand how to measure everything, always, but they don’t think of their promotional products distributor as their primary resource. They look to a variety of other sources. And, honestly, I don’t know that many promotional products distributors have much to offer their clients here, because we don’t really provide the tools to understand, track or discuss this type of service. We sell products, and this is primarily a marketing service. Since I have a direct marketing background, I do provide guidance in this area if asked, and I do ask them if they need any advice or assistance with tracking results.
PM: How important is it for distributors to track the ROI of their own marketing efforts?
LN: I always believe it is beneficial to track metrics of any kind of marketing a distributor does. If they don’t know what a program or promotion did for them, they won’t know what is working and what is not. We all have a gut instinct about what we believe has worked in the past, but when you actually track, write it down and compare, sometimes you are surprised. My belief has always been, if you are going to spend time and money on marketing, measure it so you know what happened and what worked.
PM: What are the challenges in tracking ROI, and how can distributors sidestep them?
LN: For distributors trying to track ROI, it’s fairly easy, but there’s a tendency to put it off. If they send 10 letters and get two responses, they get busy following up on the two. Then they do another promotion and send 10 letters and get four responses, and they get busy again. A year later, they may remember the customers they got from each, but they may not remember which one brought in better results. “Better” may not be the number—it may be the type or size of customer. And when measuring, so much more goes into looking at campaigns, as numbers can do a lot of different things. How can they sidestep the challenges? By just doing it. Not doing it is like not finishing the marketing effort. They can keep it basic so they don’t have the challenge.
PM: What’s your advice for distributors looking to start tracking ROI?
LN: For distributors who are trying to track their campaigns, I would suggest a simple spreadsheet. Just document things like where you got the list, what date you sent it out (including what day of the week), how many you send out, what leads came in (open rate, or response, or joining your social media site, or inquiring), what other activities did you see, how long did it take to get the responses, etc. After awhile, you will get a good feel for what worked the best. The nice thing about tracking is that you can share information you get with your clients. If you have a success with a particular product you can share that information with clients and offer a special promotion for that product, perhaps.
PM: If, for whatever reason, tracking ROI isn’t an option, how do you measure success for your clients?
LN: If you don’t track ROI or ROE, I think you measure success in growth—growth of the particular client, as well as growth from referrals. Face it, if clients don’t understand the need to track this, and they are just handing out products for awareness, then they are getting a positive response when they hand things out because most people love to get free stuff and they are not going to give any negative feedback (even if they turn around and throw the item away.) However, if a client is asked where they got the item, and gives you a referral, I would say that is success for the product itself.
Each client probably has to justify their expenses, ROI or ROE, to their management or owners, so distributors can help by understanding the helpful metrics, providing industry research that comes out and being aware of the products that are “hits” that fit in with their needs. The key is to enhance a client’s program by helping them in any way you can. The more valuable you are, the more likely you solidify that client.