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How to Use Data Driven Marketing to Track Responses

All your data driven marketing campaigns are designed to evoke some sort of response. You may be trying to drive purchases. You may simply be trying to drive web traffic or registrations. A key component of your marketing message is a clear call to action.

That call to action is central to almost all of the marketing experiments that you design. This means that in analyzing the results of your experiments, you will typically be looking at the response rate. Loosely speaking, a response is an answer to your call to action. To learn anything from your campaign, you need to be able to recognize when a customer has responded.

It’s critical to identify, up front, how you are going to track responses to your campaigns. This involves connecting responses to the target audience of your campaign. If your call to action directs a customer to a retail store to make a purchase, you need to find a way to track that purchase back to your campaign. If customers make their purchases anonymously, your experiment is a bust.

How to use data driven marketing to identify responders

In many cases, figuring out which customers have responded to your campaign is not all that difficult. If your purchase process requires customer to identify themselves and provide their address, then it’s fairly easy to connect their purchase back to a direct-mail campaign. Airlines, hotels, banks, car dealers, and a host of other industries require a good deal of information from their customers at the time of purchase.

Tracking is also relatively straightforward for online transactions that are generated from e-mail campaigns. As long as the customer enters the correct e-mail address to receive a purchase confirmation, you can track that purchase back to the e-mail address used in your campaign. If your online purchase process requires the customer to register and log in, then you’re golden.

In other cases, you need to get a little more creative. One common way of doing this is through the use of promotional codes. You give the customer a code that they provide at the time of purchase that is preferably short. This code allows the customer to take advantage of a discounted offer. It also allows you to connect their purchase back to your campaign.

One problem with this approach is that these offer codes can grow legs. People sometimes share the codes with their friends. In some cases they find their way onto the Internet. At some level this is a good thing, because it does generate business. But at the same time, it complicates your experiment.

A simple refinement of the offer code approach solves at least part of this problem. You can actually generate individualized offer codes that can only be redeemed once. You might get a plastic discount card in the mail that actually has a magnetic strip on the back that can be swiped at the checkout counter. This ties your transaction more directly to you.

This technique doesn’t require the use of physical cards. It’s just as easy to create individualized offer codes that you can serve up to the customer in an e-mail. In fact, the plastic cards that you receive can actually be used this way as well. They have a code printed on the back, much like a credit-card number.

How to use data driven marketing to define your response window

Another aspect of your marketing experiment involves what you’re willing to treat as a response. More specifically, you need to decide when a response can be legitimately associated with a particular campaign. Your response window is the period of time over which you can reasonably assume customer behavior is really caused by your communication.

Many campaigns involve time-sensitive offers. In these cases, your decision is pretty obvious. The response window closes when the offer expires. But not all situations are this simple.

In other cases, you might need to put a little thought into how long you want the response window to stay open. Control groups are a simple technique for getting some idea of when your campaign is no longer working.

But the basic idea is that, even if it doesn’t come with an explicit expiration date, your offer or message has a limited shelf life. You don’t want to be counting purchases that happen a year later, for example.

You also need to be a little careful about the beginning of your response window, particularly when you’re using direct mail. You need to allow time for the mail to be delivered. If a customer buys a product on the day you dropped the mail, there’s a pretty slim chance that your mail piece had anything to do with it.

How much lag time you allow will depend on the geographic scope of your mailing as well as whether you are paying first class or standard bulk rates.

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