The sales and marketing landscape uses print, in some form or another, so widely that it is rather difficult to measure actual print catalog ROI (return-on-investment).

At the same time, it’s very important that we are able to measure print catalog ROI. After all, we have so many other marketing channels at our disposal: Web, email, digital catalogs, mobile Catalogs, Telemarketing, etc. We have a finite amount in our marketing budget. So we always want to make sure that we’re getting a good bang for our buck. If we are draining too much money into one channel that isn’t getting a good return, then it’s basically as though we are TAKING money from another, more successful channel.

The executive team is going to expect that you have an actual marketing strategy. So the print catalog ROI should be based on this strategy. Without this solid plan in place, they are going to be less than willing to commit the money and resources needed to carry it out!

To add to the difficulty, a good print campaign isn’t really designed to produce gaudy short-term numbers. Rather, its purpose is to bolster long-term profits. It has to support the online side of the equation.

Consider that e-commerce retailers experience a 163% revenue boost by simply incorporating catalogs into the marketing mix—compared to those that do not. That is beyond significant. Yet, when a customer takes initiative from a print catalog by making the actual purchase online, how do we properly credit the role print just played in that transaction?

Remember, before you can CALCULATE your print catalog ROI, you first need to accurately RECORD and MEASURE.

Here are some of the more popular direct response mechanisms today:

1. QR Codes

We see Quick Response Codes utilized everywhere these days: bus stops, movie posters, store windows, and yes, modern print catalogs. By scanning these codes with a smartphone, readers can go directly to a website landing page. Then, you can track this unique visit easily tracked through subsequent responses or an eventual order.

2. Response Codes

This is a code that you can publish on the mailed print catalog. During the order process, the customer then quotes when you ask for the code. This method works best when you wisely include a location-based element to the response code. You can track not only the efficiency of the printed material but also the kind of regional variance you are seeing.

3. PURL (Personalized Landing Pages)

This is a website that is personalized to each visitor. By making it relevant to each customer, you are increasing your chances of converting the visit into an actual transaction. This works especially well when you combine it with a special, personalized offer. Basically, first you need enough information about the customer to utilize a personalized page. Then, you have the perfect opportunity to target your offers accordingly, which immensely increases your print catalog ROI.

4. Web, Telephone, or Mail

The three most obvious ways a customer is going to try to reach you. You will want to track the profitability of all three channels, just as with Print. With the Web, there are analytics packages you can use (such as Google Analytics). When communicating by telephone, then you need to track responses. How? By finding out where the customer saw the advertisement. Alternatively, you can run through Codes that tie back to the print material. For mail, the postal tracking info includes a code that is part of the return form. This code relates back to you which printed material the order came from.

5. Trade Show

At trade shows, many businesses commonly provide printed materials. Take advantage of this opportunity. Include other direct response mechanisms like QR codes or personalized landing pages along with your handouts. That way, you can accurately track these responses to factor into the print catalog ROI.

6. Special Offers, Coupons & Vouchers

As we all know, offering “specials” tends to encourage further action from customers. It’s important that we track this. Whether it is your sales team taking note of the response to a call or specialized software that logs a website visit. Each offer or special deal should have a Code associated with it, like our other examples above. With the code, you are able to track both the effectiveness of the printed marketing material and the actual offer or special itself.

Tips to Track Print Catalog ROI

Tip 1. Leads Generated From a Catalog

One of the best side benefits of print promotions and refer-a-friend offers is how quickly we can generate strong leads. Because print catalog ROI is highest when you target them to the proper audience, it makes a lot of sense to get them in the hands of those who appreciate your products the most. By virtue of a simple insert, our strongest customers can refer friends to receive the print catalogs also.

Not all leads are created equal. If you purchase a list of e-mail addresses for an e-mail campaign, technically those are 10,000 leads. Of course, the click-through rate is low and the conversion rate is even lower. Email works despite this for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s very inexpensive to send 10K emails. Secondly, it takes so few conversions to make it profitable.

When it comes to a print catalog refer-a-friend, the quality of the lead is much higher. You couldn’t ask for a better lead. After all, this is (likely) coming from a repeat customer that knows the lead’s likes & dislikes already. A good percentage of these high-quality leads will be year-round browsers and buyers. We’re taking advantage of an already top-quality customer and allowing them to put this catalog in the hands of someone they feel has a similar taste and purchase ability.

Tip 2. Sales Generated From a Catalog

There are several great ways to track sales as generated from a print catalog. The most obvious is by adding in special pricing or a discount coupon. Both of these allow the sale to track back to the specific catalog offering. It’s possible to create custom codes that allow you to trace both Response Rate and Inquiry Rate.

Take it a step further by tracking which types of products perform differently within different catalogs, even across different regions. Moreover, you can also track who calls or follows up. Prepare your internal sales and marketing teams about these special codes and offers before each customer call. If they aren’t aware of a response code or its purpose, valuable data can fall right through the cracks!

Tip 3. Online Keyword Re-Use

Anyone who knows what SEO stands for realizes how important it is to your bottom line. Because online searches can be tracked, we are privy to information about our readers that we couldn’t before. We could track what people were buying, sure. However, we really didn’t know what else they were looking at in the catalog that didn’t translate to a conversion. Furthermore, we couldn’t create plans or new methods to remedy that, in order to maximize our sales.

Nowadays, we know exactly what people are searching for and how they’re trying to search for it. This makes our online keywords ultra-important. Through keywords, prospective customers can find us. Even existing customers can find exactly what they’re looking for faster. Since building up these online keywords and perfecting them is so important, it makes sense to use them as much as possible. One great way to do this is by using the online keywords as the Index for the print catalog. This way, what your customers are searching for in Google becomes what they search by in the print edition.

Tip 4. Brand Establishment

Catalogs engage quite unlike any other medium. They inspire the end buyer in ways that email, online, or even digital catalogs simply don’t live up to. There’s something about the glossy pages and the physical beauty of holding and flipping through a catalog. It just can’t be replaced. When customers latch on to a print catalog, they tend to become “fans” in a way that doesn’t occur online. Your catalog and brand are literally at their bedside, on the coffee table, or at the kitchen counter.

It even goes beyond simple brand loyalty, however. Your catalog is in easy reach for visitors and in plain view. In other words, the customer WANTS others to know that your catalog and your brand are important to them. There’s a certain pride they feel about shopping at your store. It can even be a point of conversation. If someone asks your customer, “Where did you find these drapes?” Instead of just telling the person where they purchased it, they can grab the catalog and show them the page. Not only are they happy with your brand and product line, but they also help get it in the hands of others.