Prove It: How to Track Marketing Campaign Response

Dec 22, 2020

how to track marketing campaign responseMarketers invest significant time and resources in creating campaigns they hope will engage their target audiences, increase sales and grow their businesses. But, of course, in today’s marketing environment, hope is not enough. Marketers need to be able to make confident marketing decisions about how they invest their marketing dollars – which channels to use and when to use them – in order to achieve the greatest return on their investment.

Marketing ROI is important because it justifies marketing spend and helps pinpoint what you should spend on. It is also a key performance indicator companies use to hold their marketing organizations accountable.

Tracking marketing campaign response is an essential step in maximizing marketing ROI. Here are some tips on how and what to track in order to optimize your campaigns and demonstrate the ROI of your marketing programs.       

1. Start at the End

Campaign tracking is one of those marketing disciplines that needs to be thought about and designed at the beginning of a campaign. What is the outcome you’re trying to achieve? Do you want to generate awareness, website visits, store visits, or online or in-person purchases? After running your campaign, you will want to know if your campaign was successful in achieving the desired outcome. You’ll also want to be able to prove the results were driven by your campaign.

Once you know your desired outcome, make sure everyone on your team is working toward the same goal and understands how their efforts impact your ability to track responses and overall success.

2. Set Up for Success

Once you’ve identified the desired outcome of your campaign, focus on your customer data. Before setting up promo codes, create a database of your customers. Take steps to unlock data siloes across your company to ensure you can track various customer touchpoints once your campaign runs.

Some organizations are more advanced in integrating and sharing customer data across their businesses. Know that when someone within your organization says, “We can’t get that data,” it usually means it’s a technology issue, not that they are not allowed to access that data. Once you identify any obstacles to data access, work with your peers to overcome them. Have a data analyst from your team meet with data stakeholders across various areas of your organization. Reach out to the person responsible for your POS system or your website manager and let them know how their functional area is connected to your campaign. Be clear about the data you expect to be able to get from them once the campaign runs.

3. Map the Customer Journey & Track All Channels

Prepare to track campaign results by anticipating the channels your customers will use to respond. The method of campaign tracking you use depends on both the medium used to engage a customer, and the channel they’ll use to respond. Think about the customer journey and consider every potential response channel, then make sure you have tracking in place for each.

Direct Mail

Printed codes, custom phone numbers, and call center support are among the many ways to track direct mail offers. Think about a restaurant that creates an offer of a free beverage with the purchase of a meal. The marketing team plans a multi-channel approach to promote the offer, which includes direct mail, email and online via the company website. Below are some of the ways to track responses based on these channels.

  • Barcode: One of the easiest ways to track the restaurant’s free beverage campaign is a barcode that is scanned when the customer brings the coupon into the restaurant. The barcode links back to the customer’s name and address for clear attribution to the campaign. Most point-of-sale (POS) systems are equipped with barcode scanning technology that can capture the customer data. The restaurant marketer will work with their POS system team to extract the data needed to track their campaign.
  • QR Code. Similar to a barcode, a QR code printed on a coupon can be scanned into the POS system at the restaurant to collect the customer data for tracking back to the campaign. A QR code can also be scanned by the customer’s mobile phone to take them to a webpage without requiring the customer to type a URL or other information.
  • Promo Code. A coupon can be printed with a customized promo code or discount code that is unique to the individual. When the customer shows the promo code at the restaurant or types it into a website or mobile app to apply the discount, the marketer can then identify the exact customer redeeming the offer.

The ability to embed campaign-specific data into these codes enables marketers to fine tune their offers through A/B testing. In the case of the restaurant marketer, they could test two different offers – one offering a free drink, the other offering a free side of fries. The codes contain the details of each offer, along with the customer data. Once tracked and analyzed, the results of the A/B tests can be compared to determine the best offer for the right customers in future promotions.

If your marketing objective is to generate phone calls to your business, there are a variety of services that allow you to set up custom trackable phone numbers that you can include on a direct mail piece. Trackable phone numbers can be assigned to every campaign and the service’s tracking platform will help you capture and analyze your call data. These numbers can be used for direct mail as well as digital marketing campaigns. Couple a custom phone number with click-to-call technology to track calls generated through email, mobile and websites, much like you would track online clicks.

Your call center can also be trained to track responses. A customer service agent can ask a customer to look on their direct mail piece for a code the agent can then enter into the database identifying the caller who is responding to the mailer. Marketers can also work with their call center’s customer information system (CIS) team to flag specific customers for specific campaigns.


In addition to utilizing the same kinds of codes and custom phone numbers used with direct mail, email marketers can use personalized URLs that identify a specific individual. For example, a bank may offer $100 to open a checking account online. A personalized URL in an email promotion would identify that person and the offer. The URL that points to the landing page where the customer can sign up online is unique to that person, allowing you to track to the individual consumer level.

Email analytics are part of most email platforms, allowing you to track email open rates, clicks, bounces, etc. In addition to the platform metrics, you should also set up Google Analytics so you can track the link activity to your webpages. This will enable you to measure your success in achieving your campaign’s desired outcome.

4. Tracking Awareness

We’ve talked about the various ways you can track an offer through multiple channels. But what if your marketing campaign isn’t about an offer? How can you track responses to an awareness campaign? When there is no specific offer, the best way to track the impact of your campaign is by conducting pre- and post-campaign surveys. About a month prior to launching your awareness campaign, survey your target market asking something like “How aware are you of X, Y, or Z?” Once the survey is complete, launch your awareness campaign. A month after it ends, conduct a second survey of your target market asking the same question from the first survey. Compare the results of your pre- and post-campaign surveys to determine if and how much you have moved the needle on your awareness objective.

5. When You Can’t Track at the Start of a Campaign

You may be wondering what your options are if you don’t have a way to track at the start of a campaign, or if your campaign involves multi-step marketing, like retargeting prospects that match your customer profile. All is not lost! Tracking can be applied after a campaign has launched. This is called post-hoc tracking.

For example, imagine you are seeking to enroll new students in a monthly fitness program at a gym. The three steps to becoming a student are: 1) a physical fitness assessment, 2) a tour and trial week at the gym, and 3) enroll in the program. 

To move prospective students to Step 1, you market the program through direct mail and email. Once a prospect has contacted you, you can ask “How did you hear about us?” and record that information with the person’s name. Additionally, your data analyst can match that prospect’s name and address to the original direct mail or email list and create a tracking code at that time, including the date the prospect contacted you. This date serves as a means of tracking the prospect back to your campaign. As that prospect advances in the journey, new unique codes can be generated and assigned to their record to track their progress.

6. Analyze to Optimize

Once you have tracking data from your campaign, make sure to take the next step of analyzing it to understand how your campaign performed. Segment findings by demographic to pinpoint where the impact is. Then use your analysis to optimize future campaigns.

Final Thought: Don’t be Intimidated

The thought of tracking campaign responses can be overwhelming because it often involves a variety of technologies as well as the need to access data from separate systems. If you’re unsure of how to get started, or if you have limited internal data resources, consider working with a data provider who can extract the data you need from various systems and organize it into one repository to make it useable.

It may not be the most glamorous part of marketing, but when set up and executed effectively, campaign response tracking is one of the most powerful tools in the marketer’s arsenal.

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Ashlie Ossege

Learn how Vya can help simplify local marketing through our marketing resource management systems, campaign execution services, and print expertise.

Tags: QR Codes, marketing campaign, email marketing, direct mail marketing, brand awareness, marketing data analytics, data-driven marketing, customer data management, Actionable Marketing Data

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