Estimated Read Time: 19 Minutes
Whether through online chatter or by casual conversation, I have noticed an uptick in people asking a rather important question.
How do I track my promotional product campaigns?
Thank you. This is a question that tells me that you care about your results. It also means that you are one step closer to being a true marketer and growing your business. Because once you get into the habit of analyzing and tracking your projects, then the easier it will come to you, as well as it will be easier for you to imagine (trackable) creative ideas and solutions.
So either you’re right on board with me right now, gung-ho about learning more about tracking campaigns, or you’re a bit confused.
So, I’ll define some typical marketing terms and answer some questions, and then I will jump into my tracking ideas.
Marketing Terms- Campaign – I tend to define a campaign as multiple planned steps that lead to a result (hopefully the desired one), which can be analyzed, tracked, and improved upon.
It’s typically unique and outside of the usual blogging and social media posts; however, the campaign can include blogs and social posts to support and promote the campaign.
You researched, planned, executed, tracked, analyzed, and (if necessary) revised the various elements of the campaign. Despite my own definition, here’s a good article that has a slightly similar and a little more informative definition.
- Marketing Plan – A marketing plan is kind-of like a business plan. You analyze your current situation, you look at where you want to be, and come up with a plan to grow and get there. You look at everything, do a SWOT analysis, research audiences, improve where you can, grow where you need to, and jump on opportunities. Marketers take the time to look at all the facts and then create a strategic plan to implement and track. A marketing plan is that strategic plan that was created and will then be implemented. Learn more about marketing plans here.
- Marketing Goals/Objectives – Every single marketing campaign (or even general marketing actions) should have regularly updated goals/objectives. Time and money have been invested, there should be results. Thus, before jumping in, you need to define your plan and goals. This could mean brand awareness, a certain action as the result, increasing engagement, an inquiry, or even a sale/booking. Here’s a good article defining this further.
- ROI – I’ve mentioned this a few times in a previous blog (Like an Agency), but ROI stands for Return on Investment. In marketing, this means that after you take out all of the expenses of the campaign or project, what was the revenue generated from your activities? Without understanding how much revenue an investment generates, it’s pretty much impossible to know if too much or too little was spent. It is also impossible to say if the campaign was a success or failure. Or if the budget needs to increase next time. Learn more about ROI here.
- KPI – Just like ROI, I’ve mentioned KPIs before. KPI is an acronym for Key Performance Indicator. This is an important metric indicator of the current performance of your project, campaign, or plan. It’s a metric that helps you understand how you’re doing against your goals/objectives. Click here for a good definition of KPI and read this article about some good marketing KPI ideas.
- UTM Code – Although few people use the full name, UTM code stands for Urchin Tracking Module code. Used when you want to track a link through a source, medium, and campaign name. It hooks right up to your Google Analytics. Learn more about UTM codes here and read this easy how-to on setting up UTM codes on Google Analytics.
- Website Traffic – Alright, for those who don’t know you can track your website traffic via the various search engines, such as Google and Bing, there are different types of traffic – organic, paid, and direct.
Organic means that the traffic (the amount of people going to your website) was not paid for. That traffic came from searches, social media, or referrals from other websites or blogs.
Paid is, obviously, when you paid for people to be led to your website. You’ve seen those ads on Google, if you’ve clicked on an ad; you counted as paid-for traffic.
Direct is when someone goes straight to your website and did not type in a search in Google. These people might have your website URL memorized or your website has been bookmarked.
Now, there is other traffic to track, such as Referral, Email, Social, and Other, which count as organic, except for Other (that’s its own odd category because things are only placed there if they have nowhere else to go). At the end of the day, an analytics, website, SEO, or marketing person that has Analytics access and experience can drill down pretty far where the traffic came from.
Furthermore, you can track the amount of people that are coming in, watching the volume of website traffic. You can also see the location, types of uses, if repeating or new, and other metrics to define the website visitors and audiences.
I could easily go on, but I won’t. Countless blogs could be and have been written about website traffic. So, here’s a blog about website traffic terms, a blog digging into traffic sources, and a blog interpreting the basics of website traffic to help get you started into this bottomless topic.
- Form – A form consists of questions that a visitor on a website answers to get something in return. What information is required or given depends on how the form is set up and what questions are asked. This can be anything from just a name and email for a newsletter signup to a more detailed list of questions, like when applying for a job. Both are considered forms. Furthermore, if set up correctly, the predetermined emails will get emailed the information of the form to proceed accordingly; in addition, the form information will go into other lists, workflows, and activities. Learn more about what you can do with forms here.
- Landing Page – Assuming you know what a webpage is, a landing page is a webpage that is encompassing or discussing only one topic. More often than not, a landing page is to capture a visitor’s information via a little content and a form. Often, the visitor will get something out of the deal by some sort of information, whitepaper, offer, or so on. But, the landing page is dedicated to just that one topic and usually asks the visitor to fill out the form with their information. Learn more about landing page design here.
Want an example of a landing page? Click here or click the button below to go to our landing page for our Awards and Recognition Stats and ROI Whitepaper. Get the latest stats to utilize for your award and recognition program proposals or presentations.
- Call Tracking – By registering your phone number with a viable call tracking company, you can track where your calls came from. You can separate sources and campaigns, and then see the effectiveness of a landing page or a promo product campaign by giving each source a separate call tracking number.
Basically, you can track call metrics by giving a specific campaign or source its own trackable number. Then all you do is see how many phone calls go through that number (by going through a legitimate company, the calls get automatically redirected to the “real number” that you designated, whether that’s you main line or a certain department’s). Learn more about call tracking by reading this blog.
Q & A
Q: What do you mean by tracking?
A: I mean when folks come to you, they are asking for the typical hats, awards, and bags, but they are also asking for something else. No, I’m talking beyond the expected excellent customer service. I’m talking about results. It doesn’t matter if it’s an award for their top sales people or bags to hand out at tradeshows; they need to justify spending that budget to their higher ups. Thus, if they don’t see results, they will discontinue the program.
So, how do you show that the investment is worth it? Beyond the typical top-of-mind and brand recognition reasoning, you need to look at hard numbers. Numbers that can be tracked and show an actual ROI. Below I will discuss 9 different ways to track campaigns that give hard numbers to track and utilize for KPIs or ROIs.
Q: What are “results?”
A: That depends. What are your objectives for this campaign or project? Is it to increase creative ideas within your company’s employees? Is it getting phone calls for a plumbing company? Is it getting more form fills for a demo of a product? Every company has different goals and reasons for a custom or promo product.
So, you have to find out why the project, campaign, or program is being put into place. What goals do they have?
Ask questions to learn more.
Set a goal in place, then using KPIs, track the progress. Then, after tracking the hard numbers, you take a hard look at those numbers. What are the results? Was the ROI good? Did you hit your desired goals? Did you barely miss the goal? Or did you completely flop and you need to go back to the drawing board? That tells you how effective the project/campaign was and what the real results are – using trackable metrics.
Those are the main questions that I can think of, but if you have more, write them in the comments & I’ll try my best to respond.
Tracking Ideas for Promotional Product Projects and Campaigns
I mentioned a while back, that I used to work in the agency world in a previous life, so tracking campaigns is second nature to me. I was flabbergasted when many told me that tracking their projects or campaigns is not common, or even done. When I mentioned that I had ideas, many became curious. That’s what inspired this blog – enter the Robots quote, “See a need fill a need.”
I’m sure I can come up with more tracking ideas, especially if I had a specific project proposed to me, but here are 9 tracking solutions that can easily be implemented on many projects.
1. Track Website Traffic
I’m sure you all saw this coming with the definition above of website traffic. However, if you ask the website person for your company or client to see if there are any upticks, then that’s at least is a start. If your tradeshow was in California, despite being a nationwide company, and there is an uptick in website traffic from California the following weeks to months, then that is a pretty good KPI. You can also look at how many are new versus returning visitors in that area.
Plus, if you have a CRM/Marketing Automation system like Salesforce, Pardot, HubSpot, SharpSpring, or plenty of others, then you can see if certain companies are checking out the site. If you did a laser-focused campaign you can see if, via the website traffic, those targeted people are on your website.
Again, there are other metrics on Google Analytics, Google Search Console Tools, Bing Analytics, and so on that you can utilize to see if your campaign is working. This is just the start of a plethora of possible tracking options, but at least this gets you looking, investigating, and experimenting. You will eventually get favorite metrics; all marketers do, for different types of campaigns.
2. Landing Pages
Landing pages are perfect for tracking campaigns and projects. Since they are pages dedicated to that one topic, you can put contest details with the entry form, you can put a deal to sign up for which will go straight into someone’s inbox, or even make it a page that’s a portal into the site used just for tracking purposes.
You can create any number of landing pages (at least with a fully functioning and owned website), so you can create a landing page for each tradeshow or event, or just send all of your tradeshow traffic to the one landing page, either way, you can track the traffic.
This could tell you how many people looked at your promotional product and went to your landing page.
Here’s a popular example. Give out a promotional product with a coupon for $5 off XYZ service and when the prospective client goes to “get the discount,” he or she will go to the website’s landing page. They will read the info and grab the coupon off the page or fill out the form for the coupon to be emailed to them, depending on how you set up the page/discount user flow.
It means a dedicated prospect is interested and willing to take the step of going to your landing page, which is a trackable item. Go into Google or Bing Analytics, and check out the traffic numbers. Then, if you have a form on the page, you can also gather leads and have that trackable data as well.
3. UTM Codes
A UTM code, as stated earlier, basically takes a link (whether it’s to your homepage, landing page, a services page on your website, or something else) and gives that link a tracker.
As you can see, the top is a typical URL , which does not have any special link tracking besides the usual Google Analytics that I set up for the whole website, which you will not see in the URL.
The bottom example has a UTM code for my email newsletter that I sent out. Now, this is a rather long UTM code that was not cleaned up because it was automatically generated and I’m not paying extra money for a pretty and small code here. It’s not being seen by my users.
However, for a campaign, I would make it short and pretty. Either by paying money for a branded UTM code or by paying a little amount for a vanity bitly link. Bitly is great for link shortening and link tracking but it’s a 3rd party company and does not “hook up” with Google Analytics.
At the end of the day, a UTM code, or something along those lines, allows you to track and have hard data to use. It gives you a clearer picture of which links, products, and sources are effective.
You can put a different UTM code on each product, use one code for each campaign or event, or you can use UTM codes for other reasons.
I’ve even paired up landing pages with UTM codes, which means I created one landing page to be used during the tradeshow season, but then created different UTM codes for the different tradeshows, so I could see which tradeshow was worth going back to. You could do the same with promo products, seeing which promo product (using UTM codes) gets the most traction.
Furthermore, I look at the general website traffic as well to see the overall changes. Maybe some people just went to the website instead of the landing page. You can’t control what people do, but as long as they get to your website, right?
Do you see the potential? You can use each individually or together.
But all of these are online/website tracking solutions, so let’s look at some off your website, shall we?
4. Call Tracking
Call tracking costs a little bit of money, but it’s a fantastic resource. This blog has a great story about the importance of call tracking and Google ads, but it can also apply to promotional product campaigns.
As I mentioned in my definition above, call tracking allows companies to instantly create local or toll-free numbers. Then, marketers assign numbers to particular campaigns, products, events, ads, and other sources/reasons. This means, if there’s a separate call tracking number, companies can tell if the phone call is from a Google ad, radio ad, promotional product, print ad, or even a social media campaign. Since each number can be assigned labels and nicknames, it’s easy to see which source triggered a phone call.
If your company or clients are already paying for this service, it’s a no-brainer and easy solution.
Because at the end of the day, phones still need to be ringing, so call tracking software is an easy solution for tracking phone call inquiries and their sources.
5. Social Media Campaign
There are so many creative and fun ways to track via social media. These are just a few, so you will likely already have or find your own fun twists.
In the modern day of social media, having a fun, unique way of doing a promo product will get some attention. You don’t have to go viral to be successful, but at least make a splash and increase your followers or engagement.
This could mean how many people are using your hashtag, how many people are posting photos of your booth or location, or how many people are posting and interacting with your cool promo item.
Maybe you started a contest, such as posting a photo using a hashtag and the winner gets an awesome promo product. Or you hand out fun promo products and you have a contest with the best photo with the promo.
Do you see how you can do so much?
You can have contests, scavenger hunts, polls, and more to trigger engagement online with your brand. Get your online (and offline community) involved.
Track those likes, shares, comments, website clicks, link clicks, reach, impressions, and so on. It’s all hard data to use and track. Plus, it has a fun, modern element.
Note: Be sure to take into account your target audience and company brand. If it’s a more formal audience and company, this might not be the best solution.
6. Refer a Friend
We all know these “Refer a Friend” programs. Why? Because they work.
You just have to be smart and track the info.
Here are a few ideas:
- Have a question on your contact page/landing page - “Where did you hear of us?”
- Have a special landing page for referrals.
- Give out cards with discounts and special tracking codes.
- Tell your best customers that they get a great promo item or one free service if they refer X number of friends.
If you have a system in place, from a landing page to a point system for your client referrals, then you have great data that’s easy to track.
When was the last time anyone did something so simple?
“Where did you hear of us?”
Having the receptionist or sales person ask that quick and easy question at the beginning of the conversation will give you so much data and insight.
Maybe a phone call was triggered because the company’s website looked interesting. Maybe the prospect went online and filled out a form because they had a need and have been wearing your hat for the past 8 months. Maybe a friend referred the awesome service provided.
When that simple question is asked and tracked, that’s free and easy data.
8. Business Cards with Tracking
We all know that business cards are used everywhere, from business contact info to advertising and promo vehicles.
Business cards travel, so use and track those cards.
Ideas for tracking a coupon or business card:
- Tracking code for internal company use (like how TV ads will ask you to put in promo code TV99 online). That’s a tracking code that was set up to give a discount, but tells the company where the sale came from.
- Dedicated landing pages are usually set up for special discounts and contests anyway, so have the deal funnel into a trackable location.
- UTM codes are great if the link goes to a landing page, but are vital if you’re just having the card go to your homepage or a general page. How else are you going to track otherwise?
- Call tracking, as aforementioned, allows for the number to be tracked. So, have a number set up for business cards and see if those networking luncheons are worth attending more than just getting your face out there.
- Create a special card for each event and have it be turned in. This means you can just keep a tally of each “type” of card handed in.
Whether the card is used for business contact info or as more of a creative promo solution, either way be sure to utilize these tracking solutions to get more in-depth insights.
This sounds like the most obvious, but it is often overlooked.
After investing so much money, you want to see results, right?
Then track how many customers, demos, and calls are the result of the campaign.
A while ago, we had a technology company come to us requesting an innovation award program. They needed more R&D and wanted to boost patents filed. After many conversations, we found a solution. When an employee filed for a new patent, they were given a new piece to their custom desk award.
Due to the nature of the award, target audience, and program, it was easy to make a direct correlation. Patent filings increased in the company since the innovation program launched. The more patents filed, the more awards were given out.
Internal programs with direct correlations like that are easy to track, from attendance to safety. The better the numbers, the more awards, commemoratives, and trophies are given out.
Those are numbers that are easy to track and explain, and this is also when we typically leave the realm of KPIs and make our way into the world of direct ROIs.
Each of these tracking ideas can be used separately or combined, which allows for a unique solution that you can offer.
However, tracking results is more than a service or option, it is vital now. If you want to stay relevant and want to continue your promotional products program, then you have to prove the worth using hard data. Each of these solutions provides hard, trackable data.
So, tell me in the comments your favorite solution or if you have your own ideas! Share your stories so we can all improve together.
Do you have questions? Reach out and I’ll be happy to provide my insights.
Kristina Hublar is your friendly neighborhood Marketing Specialist at Bruce Fox, Inc., which means she is the person behind the keyboard for the social media, emails, website, and other marketing efforts. She’s new to Bruce Fox, but is an Indiana native. In her spare time, you’ll find her plotting her next road trip, bobbing along to music while crafting, spending time with loved ones, or with her nose in a book.