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Direct Response Marketing

Tech Update: Measuring Up

9 Apr, 2010 By: Pat Cauley Response

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


Mathis referenced complex tracking systems that follow a consumer throughout the entire purchase cycle. “This will allow a DR marketer to credit certain values to every channel of their campaign,” he says. “Every channel we use is tagged with a specific tracking mechanism, including coupons, invitation codes, an alternate landing page or a tracking URL.”

Hawthorne Direct’s Raymond agrees. “Proper tagging of paid search keywords will help the marketer attribute search impact on their DRTV efforts,” he contends. “Typically, advertisers identify keywords that are ‘credited’ to DRTV. It is also important to note that paid search can often complete an order or improve conversion rates for orders that would have been lost. If a consumer forgot the TV URL, mis-keyed it, or wanted to do a little checking prior to ordering — all these potential losses can be recaptured by robust organic and paid search efforts.”

Web DR Sans TV

The free and open Internet has done more than give a voice to the individual in the form of blogging; it’s also allowed entrepreneurs to market their own products and services. In that vein, a myriad of Internet-specific DR campaigns have popped up all across the Web. Tracking and measuring their success seems to be slightly less complicated.

“Measuring online response from online ads is cake. Although nothing is 100 percent, we can pretty much track every order that comes from online ads down to source. There are programs out there such as DirectTrack, as well as cookies, unique domains, and in-house tracking and reporting systems,” says Osborn.

He adds, “If an ad is properly set up and trafficked online it includes a URL. If someone clicks on that particular ad, the reporting system shows that click. If the person places an order, the order is linked to that click, and in turn back to the source. Since most all of today’s online advertising is affiliate-based, this is an imperative part of the process.”

Still, not everyone is thrilled with all of the online DR practices.

“Online DR is a developing channel that is mainly driven through display advertising and affiliate marketing, and frankly, has some questionable practices,” Hewitt says. “For traditional DR, the Internet has been a place to harvest demand rather than create it. The prolific online-only DR products use negative option billing and automatic opt-ins, which are easy ways to create immediate revenue, but aren’t going to be sustainable. That said, as the Internet becomes more integrated into our daily lives, I believe purely online DR will develop into a profitable and measurable category where customers also can have positive experiences.”

Hawthorne Direct utilizes standard online tracking methods such as tags, pixels and referrers. “Typically, a Javascript-based Web beacon is employed,” Raymond says. “These tools include Google Analytics, Omniture, WebTrends and others — and are ideal for measuring campaign success in terms of views, visits and visitors metrics. These tools are much less accurate when measuring key campaign metrics that include order and revenue data; this data should be rooted in the system-of-record and integrated with other traffic data to be accurate and meaningful. A best practice implementation of an analytics solution for a DR-marketer will include this type of integrated model.”

Mathis cites the cost of inventory, the duration a user is on their landing page, which links are being clicked and the areas of a site that attract the most traffic as figures DR marketers can use that will lead to optimization and bring down the cost of making a sale. “DR marketers also utilize a complex cookie-based tracking system to help improve the campaigns, but in the end it is all about the database of sales made,” he says.

Advancements in online technology and analytics have enabled marketers to gain extremely valuable consumer statistics. “Marketers should know the general location of every visitor based on their IP address. Using this data, marketers can glean almost as much information as from a phone call,” says Hewitt.

Presently there’s much more to measuring a campaign on the Web than search engines and landing pages. Social media sites have changed the way people share, spread and consume personal information and news. A whopping 75 percent of Americans that find news online get it either forwarded through E-mail or posts on social networking sites, according to research from Pew Internet & American Life Project.


Boasting more than 400 million active users, with an average user spending 55 minutes a day on the site, Facebook is no longer a buzzword. If used strategically, DR marketers can retain customer loyalty, generate sales and even measure their responses in social media. That is, if they’re willing and tactical.

“Everyone in the DRTV industry is enamored with social media, but hardly anyone is doing anything with it,” says Osborn.

And for those who have dipped their toes in the social media waters, who’s to say they’re doing it correctly? “Social media is a buzzword that’s often used but, as an online strategy, it’s more often misused. Effective utilization of social media all goes back to the product or service being sold. Simply having a social media presence is not enough,” says Hewitt.

Raymond asserts that it’s important that a social media presence mimic the sales message, benefits and offer found on DRTV. While social media has a reputation of being the Web’s latest Wild West, at times it’s actually not that complicated.

Mathis says the easiest way for a DR marketer to integrate social media channels is to simply ask customers to share their experiences with the product and then monitor their feedback. “You can create a Facebook fan page for a successful product and ask customers to upload pictures of themselves with the product,” he claims. “Add a link to this Facebook page on your sales page and you have instant social proof that links back to your sales page. Consumers can easily go back to the sales page and purchase that item once they see how satisfied everyone else is.”

However, marketers need to consider the big picture and nature of their product before blindly building a presence on one of the social networks. Hewitt used Snuggie as an example of a DRTV product with a well-executed social media plan.

Snuggie’s TV commercial has received more than 1 million views on YouTube, the product has more than 50,000 Facebook fans and there are numerous Twitter feeds dedicated to Snuggie sightings. On the other hand, he notes that Proactiv Solution’s most popular commercial has less than a quarter the number of views and its Facebook page has less than 6,000 fans. When measured by online search volume, Proactiv is the more popular product, so why are they so much less popular in social media?

Hewitt says the answer is simple. “It’s fun to talk about funny blankets with sleeves and less fun to talk about your acne problems. But that doesn’t mean social media can’t be effective for Proactiv. If I were running their social media strategy, I would leverage their celebrity endorsers’ presence in social media. Avril Lavigne has more than 2.3 million Facebook fans that follow her every word. Imagine if she posted about the effectiveness of Proactiv on her Facebook page? This illustrates the importance of a well-planned social media strategy,” he says.

But the question remains: can sales or interactions driven through social media be tracked effectively? “The one area where social media eludes full integration with DRTV is its uncontrolled nature,” Raymond says. “DRTV is all about creating its own buzz through a very careful, controlled, sales process, leads from a specific offer, desired action, and measureable response. Social media is almost the complete opposite. In social media, there is little control of creating the buzz, there is almost no control of negative attacks, cross-selling, specific offers and measurement.”

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