DRTV Derailer #5: Lack of Accurate Tracking

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Irv Brechner

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DRTV Derailers is a monthly series on Internet-age issues that can turn a promising DRTV campaign into a train wreck.

The only way to get the truest picture of how your DRTV campaign is performing is by combining orders received in the mail, by phone, via direct URL to your website and through the search channel.

We’ve done a lot of work in the area tracking DRTV-to-online, and we understand the importance of doing so. Based on years of observing what other DRTV marketers are doing, here is our estimate of the percentage of DRTV marketers who track each response mechanism accurately and effectively:

  • Mail orders - 100%
  • Phone orders - 100%
  • Direct web URL - 5%
  • DRTV-driven search - 0%

This is not a typo. Almost every DRTV advertiser (except our clients) are not able to successfully track orders that arrive at their websites through either direct URL or via search. In fact, we believe that most DRTV advertisers:

  • Don’t think it’s necessary to track online orders.
  • Think it’s OK to assign online orders based on phone order patterns.
  • Have no clue about the importance of tracking web orders.

Even more importantly, we believe that DRTV advertisers are actually cancelling profitable DRTV spots and infomercials. That’s right! When the TV media buyers read the results and can’t account accurately for online orders, they may wrongly conclude that any given media placement is not working.

Here is a graphic representation of the results of one of our clients based on how online orders were tracked.

Online Orders Graph

This chart shows results from DRTV media placed on 10 stations/networks (ATV to JTV). The target ad allowable in all cases was $30.

  • Case I: Looking only at orders coming via phone, nine of the 10 spots were losers (red boxes).
  • Case II: By including web orders evenly distributed across all 10 placements, six of the 10 were winners.
  • Case III: By assigning web orders based on media spend, five of 10 were profitable.
  • Case IV: By allocating web orders based on orders received by phone, six placements worked.
  • Case V: By tracking and allocating web orders using our tracking system, seven of the 10 placements were indeed profitable.

What’s even more revealing is the net effective cost per order. Looking at column “DTV,” the CPO numbers for the five cases are $38, $13, $21, $11 and $16 respectively. That’s a very wide range, and it’s important to determine which of the five cases is the most realistic.

Case I is the worst scenario in terms of accuracy. No credit is given for web orders.

Cases II, III and IV are all arbitrary ways of allocating web orders, none of which is consistently accurate.

Case V is the most accurate method we know of because it tracks orders using a specially modified URL and makes an intelligent estimate for search channel orders.

Bridge over DisasterBridge Over Disaster

To resolve tracking issues successfully, you need to work with media buyers, search people and your IT professionals to develop the right tracking model.

The key to the best possible tracking program is to have both media buying and search handled by the same agency, or handle both in-house. It is essential to craft a program that has input from media, IT and search people.

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