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Direct Response Marketing

Tech Update: Measuring Up

9 Apr, 2010 By: Patrick Cauley Response

With the Web booming as a DR sales platform, what’s the best way for marketers to measure their campaigns’ success?


The campaigns are also seeing a dramatic shift in consumer spending to the Web. The question is: how do the kings of accountable, ROI-driven advertising retain their crowns in a Web 2.0 world?

To figure it out, Response spoke with a few leaders in Internet marketing with a direct response focus, and the discussions varied greatly.

“The great thing about online media is that, if managed properly, it’s 100-percent measurable,” says Mason Hewitt, El Segundo, Calif.-based Vantage Media’s director of business development, who was recently named as one of DM News’ 30 Direct Marketers Under 30. “Marketers should know the exact number of searches that take place for their product, regardless of whether they make a sale or not. Once they do make a sale, they should know exactly how much they spent online to capture that sale. But, just like TV advertising, the key is to get found. So, having a paid search, organic search and online public relations presence is exceptionally important.”

Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct utilizes a unique URL approach to track the online response to their campaigns. “We use unique on-TV-screen URLs that are ‘hidden’ from search engines,” says Aaron Raymond, the agency’s director of digital and interactive. “This enables us to measure the first ‘blast’ of DRTV-driven response to that site, which only DRTV viewers will see. Of course, as the DRTV campaign matures, viewers will often find this Web site via additional digital campaign channels like paid search, display ads and affiliate marketing. Using statistical deviations from baseline traffic patterns, we can begin to assess the impact of DRTV viewing on all visitors to the site. Then it is important that online and offline results data be integrated into a single reporting system, ensuring that they’re tallied and compared as a single campaign.”

Ken Osborn, CEO of Bridgeport, Conn.-based Liquid Focus, recommends using a good E-commerce platform that includes real-time reporting analytics that show geo-targeting, direct memory access (DMA), IP, time of day and other data points to help marketers link online sales to the offline ads. Ironically, E-commerce solution providers are sometimes met with apprehension and even resistance from traditional DRTV marketers.

“It’s a shame. I can count on one hand how many clients — and their agencies for that matter — actually use the information we provide them to evaluate what is happening with the offline campaign,” says Osborn.

If an order came from the Web and the cost is zero and if it came from the call center and it cost a few dollars or more, Osborn wonders why more marketers wouldn’t want that order to come from the Web?

“A few years ago, online response accounted for only a very small percentage of most DR companies’ overall campaigns,” Hewitt contends. “Today, online generally accounts for between 30 and 75 percent of our clients’ overall sales and in some cases, 100 percent.”

But, before that online sale occurs, a consumer needs to reach the product’s Web site. And the way in which they get there can vary.

From Calls to Clicks

Consumers today may be more apt to type your product’s URL into their Web browsers as opposed to picking up the phone. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 75 percent of online users are now buying products online. If they can’t recall the URL displayed during the spot, chances are they’ll go to one of the major search engines.

“Another reason people type the name into the search engines is because many consumers don’t understand the difference between their address bar and their search bar,” says Osborn. And search is an entirely different ballgame.

Johnny Mathis, CEO of Livemercial in Valparaiso, Ind., says, “If a consumer directly types a URL in a browser for their first visit, it can be assumed that the sale was driven from an offline source, and that source should be credited in full for the sale. However, a search engine can be viewed as a competitive marketplace. Once on the search engine, the consumer is still likely to shop your competitors.”

He continues, “Having a strong SEM and SEO campaign works as a form of pull advertising and should not be forgotten when considering who gets credit for a sale. The demand for the product already exists, but the advertiser needs to close the deal before their competitor does by shaping the most effective SEM and SEO strategy possible.”

Vantage Media is working closely with many of its clients to develop models that attribute offline media spend back to online searches and, ultimately, sales. “The key is overlaying offline media spend with online impressions, clicks and conversions. As media spend and ad messaging varies throughout the year, the effect on online performance becomes increasingly apparent,” says Hewitt.

Hawthorne Direct has found similar results. “Despite the inherent uncertainties of tying online search traffic to offline media driving it, there is rich online demographic information available from IP numbers and search membership. In our Web campaigns we have seen powerful confirmation of TV driving search and also how online site conversion, PPC conversion and general online performance increases as TV media budgets increase,” says Steve Kelley, chief technical officer of Hawthorne Direct.

When specifically tracking online response to offline engagement, Kelley says that unique URLs can provide relatively good measurements. For example, offline creative A’s URL performed 10-percent better than offline creative B’s URL.

Osborn, too, came back to incorporating unique URLs for different spots, comparing it to the response generated by many popular mobile initiatives. “This is just like texting: ‘Text 65654,’” he says.

Conversely, Hewitt actually advises against the unique URL strategy. “Only a small percentage of viewers will remember the unique tag, with the rest remembering only the brand name or top level Web site. The unique offer tag only serves to confuse viewers and takes away from the brand value,” says Hewitt.

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