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How to Measure Promotional Campaign Effectiveness

Marketing blogs are full of advice on how to measure promotional campaigns’ performance. Here's what they don't tell you.

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Measuring the performance of marketing campaigns involves an alphabet soup of terms. They range from your click-through rate (CTR) to your cost per lead (CPL), to your customer acquisition cost (CAC). (Here’s Hubspot’s guide to all of these marketing acronyms.)

Not only do you need to report on these acronyms, but you also need to paint a clear picture of how they all relate to each other.

Let’s say you send out a promotional email campaign with a high CTR, but a high CPL accompanies it. You might briefly celebrate that your email copy and design is generating clicks, but then wonder what’s happening on the landing page.

As a marketer, it’s hard to create a coherent narrative around the effectiveness of your promotional campaigns. It can leave you feeling somewhat powerless.

This article aims to help you go from merely reciting off percentages and numbers to answering critical questions about what works and doesn’t work.

Plan From the Start

When it comes to planning promotional campaigns, most marketing teams focus all their energy on the promotion they want to run. 

They build out a campaign around an idea–say a buy one, get one free promotion. Then there’s a back-and-forth on the details.

What product should they focus on? Is their seasonality they can take advantage of? What image should they use?

Don’t get me wrong–these are all essential questions. But these discussions rarely involve the fundamental question, “What does success look like for this campaign?”

If you do ask, it tends to involve a one-word answer like sales.

We get that it’s difficult to put an exact number on something–especially if it’s a new promotion or product. Saying we expect a specific conversion rate or ROI can make even the most confident marketer uneasy.

What we recommend you do instead is pull the following critical metrics from your past promotional campaigns to use as benchmarks. 

  • Conversion rate: the percentage of your audience that takes the action you want them to.
  • Return on investment (ROI): how cost-effective a promotional campaign is. The mathematical formula is (profit minus cost) / cost.
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): how much you spend to gain a new customer.

Using historical averages, you can set KPIs from the outset that are much better than guesstimates or generic goals like increased sales. 

That way, you can say with confidence whether something worked or didn’t work.

Map Out Your Measurement Strategy

The litmus test of whether a promotional campaign is successful or not comes down to only a few metrics. Your CEO doesn’t care if you had a high open rate on your last campaign if he sees a negative ROI.

But as a marketer you don’t want to be in a situation where all you can do is hope you have more wins than losses. You need to be able to explain why something works and why something doesn’t. Then you need to apply those learnings to your next campaign.

Otherwise, it’s impossible to build a robust and consistent marketing machine.

The issue is that because of poor measurement strategies, marketers tend to simplify things to offer some explanation. No one wants to admit they have no clue why a particular campaign bombed.

The reality is that it’s rarely bad copy, it’s rarely the wrong channel, it’s rarely a lack of follow-up from sales, and it’s rarely a bad idea—it is almost always a combination of these and other factors.

When you simplify like this, it means you’re missing out on the opportunity actually to improve what you’re doing. 

With that in mind, here’s how to develop a complete narrative.

1. Start with a Hypothesis and Test It

We all have our inherent biases. Copy that sounds too informal and jargony to you might appeal to your target audience. An image that you dislike might cause your audience to purchase.

Thankfully we don’t live in a world where we have to choose between A and B. You can run tests on your promotional campaigns to see what is more effective.

Start with a hypothesis, such as a 10% off versus free shipping promotion, or product A versus product B, and see what performs better. Over time these tests will become increasingly refined and allow you to develop more granular insights. You can go from testing offers to the size of a call-to-action button.

(We’ve written before about how A/B tests can help your SMS marketing campaigns––there are a ton of other excellent guides out there on A/B testing for email and paid media.)

2. Measure All Elements of the Journey

Facebook Ads Manager Metrics can tell you a lot about your ads performance. You can see the frequency with which your audience has seen your ads. If you run a video ad, you’re even privy to the video average watch time.

It doesn’t tell you–in detail–what happens when they click on the ad and visit your landing page. Conversely, you can see the behavior of Facebook traffic in Google Analytics, but not ad level metrics. The same is true for any marketing channel, from email marketing to SMS marketing.

The point we’re trying to make is that you need to build a cohesive view of both elements of the journey–how people interact with your email, ad, or text and how they interact with your landing page.

While a marketing analytics tool that covers absolutely everything and gives us a 360-view would be the ideal solution, we’re left piecing this together ourselves. 

We’ve written before about how to track your SMS campaigns in Google Analytics. While it refers to SMS, the same process can be applied to any marketing channel, so it’s well worth a read.

We also recommend using a tool like Hotjar. Raw numbers from Google Analytics can help you see the big picture, but using features like Session Recordings and Heatmaps, you can see how people are interacting with your website and where they’re falling off.

3. Always Be Optimizing

Year Round Brown is a large tanning salon chain in South Dakota. They’ve run the same annual promotional campaign around Memorial Day for years. This year they layered in SMS marketing and saw a 20% increase in revenue. 

It takes time to hone your marketing campaigns performance and test out new approaches. You need a philosophy similar to Intercom’s “ship to learn“, defining and measuring promotional campaign success is just the beginning. You need to test and measure new approaches continually.

Key Takeaways

Dig and gather as much data and information as you can, but don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to ultimately understand: how you can better your promotional campaigns and what their current impact is. If that’s your North Star, you’ll put your business on a great trajectory.

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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