Tracking ROI of promotional products

Easy Ways To Track The ROI Of Your Promotional Products

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 – 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’t know if it’s working. We’d like to do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working, and then there’s the matter of needing to justify the expenses to a boss, shareholders or a business partner. If you don’t have a plan and a process in place and capitalize on what works for your business, you’ll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes and even miss out on potential sales.

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s just you who struggles with knowing whether or not your marketing efforts are paying off, the good news/bad news is that you’re 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 – knowing what’s working or not and why. If you’re asking these questions, don’t worry you’re 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’ll start there. But before we get into the what and how let’s take a step back and review the different aspects of the sales process. There are many different models, so I’ll share the one that we use at Botanical PaperWorks:

Take a look at how you can use promotional products through each aspect of the sales process.

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’s 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.

Take a look at how Botanical PaperWorks used a #seedpaper self #promotion to send a powerful message about spreading wildflowers to benefit important species like bees.

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’d 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’s 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’d picked up. Did anyone look at them, read the material, or go to the website? That’s when we started trying to track the ROI of the promotional products.

We did three things, two which worked and one which didn’t 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 “How did you hear about Botanical PaperWorks”. 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 “I picked up your seed bomb samples at the Canada Post event last month”, then we knew that the event and the particular promotional product were successful in generating this lead. Other times they’ll say “I found you on Google” 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 “call to action” 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

Google Analytics and are two easy (and free!) ways to track visits.

a) Track visits with a link shortener like 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’t 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:

See how we at Botanical PaperWorks tracked visits to a unique website address we created for our self promotion at the PPPC National Convention.

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 link, provided that you don’t 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 “Landing Page” and you’ll 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’re walking by and want more information on Botanical PaperWorks, you can scan the QR code with your phone and you’ll be taken to our website or catalog.

In reality, no one uses QR codes. Even back in 2012, Forbes was predicting that “QR codes are a dying art we might want to consider moving on from” due to consumer’s lack of use and business’ incorrect use. We’ve 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’s daunting to learn a new program like Google Analytics, so if you’re not set up, start first with the service. It’s easy to learn and you’ll be able to get your toes wet without plunging in head-first. Here’s a tutorial that you can use for starting with

Please post your questions or feedback in the comments, we’d love to hear from you. And good luck as you start tracking the effectiveness of your promotional products!


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