Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO of Botanical PaperWorks, producer of seed paper promotional products and Vice-Chair of the PPPC looks at how you can track the ROI of promotional products Heidi Reimer-Epp of Botanical PaperWorks looks at how you can track the ROI of promotional products. When it comes to marketing, all of us have the same problem \u2013 proving the ROI of our marketing expenses. Do we have anything to show for the time and money spent? Marketing should bring in more leads, more sales and better branding. But sometimes we just don\u2019t know if it\u2019s working. We\u2019d like to do more of what\u2019s working and less of what\u2019s not working, and then there\u2019s the matter of needing to justify the expenses to a boss, shareholders or a business partner. If you don\u2019t have a plan and a process in place and capitalize on what works for your business, you\u2019ll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes and even miss out on potential sales. If you\u2019ve ever wondered if it\u2019s just you who struggles with knowing whether or not your marketing efforts are paying off, the good news\/bad news is that you\u2019re not. Everyone struggles with it. According to this recent study on the State of Inbound Marketing, proving the ROI of marketing spend is the #2 marketing challenge, second only to generating traffic and leads which one could argue is part of the same challenge \u2013 knowing what\u2019s working or not and why. If you\u2019re asking these questions, don\u2019t worry you\u2019re on the right track. In this post, I want to give you the tools to start tracking a specific part of your marketing strategy, the ROI of promotional products. The topic of marketing ROI is too large to address in one post, so since I have a lot of expertise in promotional products, we\u2019ll start there. But before we get into the what and how let\u2019s take a step back and review the different aspects of the sales process. There are many different models, so I\u2019ll share the one that we use at Botanical PaperWorks: Since marketing is the backbone of the sales process, we look for ROI results that are both marketing and sales. For example, Marketing communicates the brand\u2019s expertise in the Positioning stage which then generates customer interest and develops relationships with buyers in the Lead Gen\/Lead Nurturing stage. Marketing provides support material for the salesperson who then is equipped to close the sale. At Botanical PaperWorks, we use promotional products for the first three stages of the sales process and sometimes combine several stages into one piece. For example, at the PPPC National Convention, we handed out these Seed Paper SAVE BEES Bookmarks. The plantable self-promotion featured a powerful message about how promotional products could help spread flowers and benefit important species, which tied into our new Native Species program and why a potential client might be interested in sharing our products (Positioning). We doubled-up and used the promotional product for Lead Generation by including a call-to-action. We wanted interested customers to talk to their distributors and request more information. So how\u2019d we do? Before we starting tracking our Marketing ROI, we felt good if we handed out all of our giveaways at the show and came back with empty bags. This loose metric indicated that all of our promotional product pieces were now in the bags of the attendees. And while it\u2019s a vague measurement, it was a good start to developing Botanical PaperWorks brand awareness. Then we wondered how many attendees were throwing out the samples that they\u2019d picked up. Did anyone look at them, read the material, or go to the website? That\u2019s when we started trying to track the ROI of the promotional products. We did three things, two which worked and one which didn\u2019t work: 1.) Ask new customers How Did You Hear About Us? This was an easy addition to our phone and email process. We simply started asking someone \u201cHow did you hear about Botanical PaperWorks\u201d. Pretty soon, we were able to see a trend with lots of customers hearing about us from a trade show, Google search, customer request and other sources. This data helped us identify which events and which promotional products generated leads. For example, if the customer said \u201cI picked up your seed bomb samples at the Canada Post event last month\u201d, then we knew that the event and the particular promotional product were successful in generating this lead. Other times they\u2019ll say \u201cI found you on Google\u201d and then we know that our website is ranking well in Google search results and drawing in leads. 2.) Add a unique website address to the promotional product We also started adding a unique website address (also called a unique URL) to every promotional product that we give away. As with the Bee Bookmark example, we include a \u201ccall to action\u201d which invites the recipient to visit a special website address (unique URL) for more information. When the lead visits that unique URL, they get a special coupon or information and their visit gets tallied in Google Analytics or Goo.gl. Google Analytics and Goo.gl are two easy (and free!) ways to track visits. a) Track visits with a link shortener like Goo.gl: You enter the long URL into the service and get a shorter link. You put that shorter link onto your promotional product and invite people to visit the link for more information. Provided that you didn\u2019t share that link anywhere else, any visitors to the unique URL\/link will have come from the promotional product. Collect the data for as long as is needed for your promotion to fully circulate and then take a look at your report. It will look something like this: b) Track visits with Google Analytics: If you have Google Analytics set up on your site, you can create a Landing Page and track the visits. To use this next method of tracking traffic, create a new page on your website and put that page URL on your promotional product piece. As with the Goo.gl link, provided that you don\u2019t link to or mention this landing page anywhere else, you can assume all traffic to that landing page will have come from the promotional product. To view the traffic data, log into your Google Analytics account. Go to Acquisition\/All Traffic\/Source. Add the secondary dimension of \u201cLanding Page\u201d and you\u2019ll see a report that looks like this: 3.) Use a QR Code In theory, QR codes are a great idea. We put them on our trade show banners so if you\u2019re walking by and want more information on Botanical PaperWorks, you can scan the QR code with your phone and you\u2019ll be taken to our website or catalog. In reality, no one uses QR codes. Even back in 2012, Forbes was predicting that \u201cQR codes are a dying art we might want to consider moving on from\u201d due to consumer\u2019s lack of use and business\u2019 incorrect use. We\u2019ve stopped using QR codes completely. Get Started Today I want to share a final thought on proving marketing ROI, and that is that it can seem scarier than it really is. You just need to take a baby step. It\u2019s daunting to learn a new program like Google Analytics, so if you\u2019re not set up, start first with the Goo.gl service. It\u2019s easy to learn and you\u2019ll be able to get your toes wet without plunging in head-first. Here\u2019s a tutorial that you can use for starting with Goog.gl Please post your questions or feedback in the comments, we\u2019d love to hear from you. And good luck as you start tracking the effectiveness of your promotional products!