In this day of digital marketing and easy to measure analytics, print marketing is often overlooked when it comes to quantitative measurement. However, since many nonprofits still use a wide variety of print materials, knowing the ROI of a printed piece is important as you strategize for an upcoming campaign.

Here’s help with measuring the effectiveness of print materials

Create your plan

Like every good marketing strategy, you need to start with your plan. Ask yourself who you are going to reach, and how you plan to do that. It might vary depending on your particular nonprofit’s mission.

As a performance-based nonprofit, at the Seattle Chamber Music Society, we’re trying to target potential patrons. A few of the ways that we reach them are:

  • Create brochures to mail
  • Advertise in other arts program books
  • Have a print presence in local newspapers
  • Print postcards and posters to distribute to local businesses

These are just a few of the options, and again, will vary depending on who you want to reach, and how. Since we have a product to sell – our tickets— these have been effective ways to connect with the right audience.

Tag your materials

With each piece that you create, you’ll need to build some sort of tag. That could be as simple as a code if you have a discount, or you can go as far as to set up a special phone number that is connected with that specific print piece for focused tracking.

It functions similarly to online tags you use to tell if someone is connecting to your website through your social channels, emails, or digital ads, only now it’s for your print materials.

Having a decent CRM system is invaluable at this point because you can build out all these campaigns in your database so that when you start to get responses, you can track which channels were successful.

Diligence is the key

Now comes the hardest part. Everyone that engages or interacts with your patrons must do their best to find out how they heard about your performance, cause, event, etc.

While it takes more set-up, that unique phone number is one of the easier ways to track the success, you just count how many phone calls you get.

For any special offers you have, you can track the number of patrons that took you up on it. Sometimes we’ll offer the exact same discount to two different groups, but with unique promo codes, we can measure the success and reach of each group.

Answering the phones is the most challenging way to find out the individual success of any given print piece. You’ll have to ask how they heard about your organization, and without a specific prompt we often hear “a friend told me about it.” Just as frequently, we hear people tell us that they saw the ad in the paper, or they just received our brochure. Other times, when we do a list exchange, we’ll know that they got the brochure because they’ll let us know that they are on our mailing list, although they might not be in our system yet.

Since so much happens online these days, it is important to measure the actions taken on your website that were instigated by print materials. Again, it could be that they need to enter a specific promo code, much like on the phone. Another thing you can include is a one question “how did you find us today” survey and have a drop down with your digital and print campaigns to track those patrons that you don’t speak to individually.

Remember the ‘customer journey’

Another way to think about your measurement is to look at attribution models. The customer journey is often a long, confusing process (take a look at Google’s compiled data on a typical digital customer journey).

We know the steps, but how should you weigh the value of a given piece? Do you put more emphasis on the last touch, or do you think that the first contact is the most valuable?

The truth is that it often takes multiple engagements with a constituent for them to take action. The simplest, but not necessarily the best, way to measure is that the last action is the most important. There is a great article by Avinash Kaushik that delves much deeper into this, and worth thinking about to better define your own models for measurement.

Why bother?

The ever increasing analytic tools available on Google Analytics make it much easier to see the success of your digital campaigns. That ability to really understand your data means that non-profits need to start thinking about all of their tools in a similar fashion, including their print materials.

Doing the leg work at the start of your campaign gives you the power to know how many people your print campaign reached. Even better, you’ll know the percentage of people that took action. This gives you a starting point to assess if that particular campaign was worthwhile, or if it’s time to think about new ways to spend the budget to connect with constituents.

Seneca Garber

Seneca Garber

Director of Marketing at Seattle Chamber Music Society
Seneca is a Northwest native and has worked for Seattle Chamber Music Society (SCMS) and Seattle Opera over the past 15 years. He leads the marketing and communication efforts for SCMS and is a frequent volunteer at arts organizations and with Seattle Works.
Seneca Garber
Seneca Garber