From Paper to Proof: Tying Offline Media to Online Attribution

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Print isn’t dead. There, I said it.

A bit awkward, you know, because everything’s so . . . digital now. But most marketers (including myself) can’t deny the beauty of a great offline campaign. Here at CM, we still believe in the power of print because we’ve seen its potential first-hand and we realize the benefits of a cohesive strategy.

Truth be told, there are even times that print media is the most effective way to deliver a message to those that may not be seeking you out directly. It’s a tried-and-true method for almost every industry out there, but the real challenge comes from tying it to online efforts, which can be a pretty daunting task.

But have no fear, my friends—this is exactly why I’m bringing you an arsenal of tips to help show you the way when it comes to better tracking your offline strategy through to your online efforts.

(Keep in mind that these tips assume that you’d like to tie your online and offline campaigns together into a tidy little bundle, so if you’re not running campaigns in an integrated fashion, maybe these tips will make you reconsider so you can measure your print marketing online!)

Website Tracking

Working under the assumption that you’re directing potential customers to a landing page for more information (as you should be), cross-medium tracking can get a little tricky. The first step to fill in that gap is to acquire a vanity URL that is easy to remember and reinforces your marketing message. This is optional of course, so you can use your regular URL, but going the vanity route ensures you can make a clean split between regular website traffic and campaign-specific traffic. In other words, your data will be easier to attribute. For this example, I’ll be using trycm.com, CM’s vanity URL, and for this specific ad, I’ll be leading readers to the URL trycm.com/widgets.

Now that I’ve decided on the URL I’ll be using, I’m going to head on over to Google’s Campaign URL Builder and put together a tracking URL so I can view activity in Google Analytics.

Here are the required parameters and what they mean:

  • Campaign Source
    Where the URL is from. This would be something like a publication name. Be specific.
  • Campaign Medium
    The marketing medium – is it print, radio, tv, paid search, etc.?
  • Campaign Name
    Be specific. Whatever you call your campaign, be consistent across all mediums.

Once you fill the required fields and hit “Submit”, you should have a URL that looks something like this:

http://trycm.com/widgets/?utm_source=pretend%20magazine&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=widget%20sale

url-builder2

Look a little lengthy? That’s okay. Now we’re going to use some nifty redirects to send trycm.com/widgets to the much longer tracking URL. This step is a little more involved, so depending on your technical knowledge, you may need to ask your web developer for help here. Here’s what that looks like:

url-campaign-tracking

Note: Don’t have the ability to add redirects to your website? Bit.ly is a great alternative if 301 redirects are not a possibility. Just shorten the tracking URL you created and customize your bit.ly link.

As extra reinforcement (and maybe even to appear super cool?), QR codes can be included alongside your URL to offer yet another option to get in touch. Most marketers have an opinion about QR codes and whether they’re effective (and it’s so, so polarized), so at this point I’ll just recommend that you check them out and form your own opinion about their potential for printed media.

Pro Tip: Consider offering your viewers an incentive for visiting your website, whether it’s a contest entry, download, promo code, printed coupon, or even free information. This works well for generating sales, collecting leads, and it might even help you to better understand the people who are interested in your business. Of course, once they arrive at your website, don’t forget to steer them in the right direction with a clear call to action, whether it’s reminding them to fill out a form, purchase a product, or redeem an offer. All of the usual rules of online marketing apply here! If you have a form, don’t forget to ask how they found you!

In Google Analytics, you’ll be able to view your campaign statistics through Acquisition -> Campaigns, and if you’re using a vanity URL that isn’t shared with other campaigns, you can use direct traffic statistics to gauge your progress as well. If you’re selling a product or collecting information through forms, make sure to set up goals to track your conversions.

Keep in mind that there’s no way to track 100% of interactions across mediums, since you’ll always have people that will search your company or offer or even connect through social instead of using the information you’ve provided. You will have outliers. For this reason you should make it as easy as possible for users to find your offer, which leads me to my next trick . . .

Paid Search

What better way to support your offline marketing than with a paid search campaign? Taking this extra step can help to funnel the stragglers where you want them, plus it’ll be ultra-targeted (based specifically around your campaign) and therefore low-cost.

As an example, for my widget promotion, I’d likely build out an AdWords campaign with a keyword focus that includes my brand as well as the main parts of my marketing message—perhaps terms like “Customer Magnetism widgets”, “Customer Magnetism widget sale”, and “Annual widget sale.” My supporting ad might look a little like this:

great-widget-sale

It’s also important to note that with paid ads, you’ll be privy to keyword data you just can’t get otherwise. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Call Tracking

Especially with offline advertising, call tracking is priceless. Services like Jet Interactive and Mongoose Metrics offer tracking phone numbers you can use in your campaigns to accurately measure the return you’re getting, and they even integrate with Google Analytics and/or Google AdWords.

If call tracking software isn’t feasible for you right now, invest in training the people answering your phone to ask every new caller how they found you (and hey, don’t forget to record it every single time!).

So there it is. Offline and online marketing don’t have to be at war. In fact, we’re all better off when they’re treated as allies. Once you get your game plan together, you’ll be tracking your advertising efforts better than you ever thought possible, while bringing together a truly well-rounded ad campaign.