Archive for February, 2011

How to Create Trackable QR Codes

I’ve had several conversations recently about the basics of creating QR Codes, and how to track visits to your site via a QR Code scan. So, I’d like to share a couple options for creating trackable QR Codes for your direct marketing, with step-by-step instructions.

New to QR Codes? Check out this primer first: Guide to QR Codes for Direct Marketers

A) Tracking QR Code Responses Using Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website, using Google Analytics for tracking your QR Code visits will keep all of your data in one location, and allow you to track the online behaviors and conversion rates of your QR Code visitors.

Here’s how to set up QR Code tracking using Google Analytics:

  1. The first step is to add tracking code to the URL of your target response page.
  2. With your new link in hand (or in your clipboard), it’s time to create your QR Code. Go to or your QR Code generator. Select “URL” from the dropdown, paste in the url with the tracking code, and click “Generate.”
    generating qr code How to Create Trackable QR Codes

    Fig 1: Generating a QR Code using ZXing Project.

  3. You now have a QR Code; download it and apply it to your direct mail piece, business card, billboard, t-shirt, or whatever else. When someone scans the code and visits your site, Google Analytics will track the visit and the associated source, medium and name.
  4. After you’ve tested the QR Code,  go into Google Analytics and navigate to Traffic Sources > Campaigns. You can sort by “Medium” and search for “qrcode” to see your test visit (Fig. 2).

Tracking QR Codes using Google Analytics

Fig. 2: Viewing a test visit from a QR Code using Google Analytics.

B) Using for Creating and Tracking QR Code

If you aren’t using Google Analytics, or just need a simpler process, the url shortening application is a great tool for tracking web traffic it redirects to your QR Code landing pages.

Here’s how to create a trackable QR Code using

  1. Create an account at
  2. Insert the target url into their url shortener. You’ll get a shortened url that looks something like:
  3. In your list of shortened urls, you’ll see the target url, with a link beside it for the “Info Page” for the url. Click on it, and you’ll see tracking information and a QR Code for the shortened url (Fig. 3).
  4. Right click on the QR Code image to save it; you’re now ready to use it on whatever marketing piece you’d like.

    Creating a trackable QR code using

    Fig. 3: Creating a trackable QR code using

  5. Now, whenever someone scans the generated QR Code, they’ll be directed to, which will count the visit and automatically redirect the visitor to the target url. This will happen fast enough that users won’t even notice the redirect.
  6. You can then use the reporting tool on your account to track scans/visits via your QR Code

There you go, there are two great (free) options for creating and tracking QR Codes. If you have any questions, or would like to share the free or paid tool you use, please add a comment!

How to Develop Triggered Customer Life Cycle Communications

Diagram of cycle of behavior-triggered communications.Using business intelligence along with triggered communications is the new rocket science behind digital and direct marketing. Identifying prospect and customer activities and behaviors that indicate the need for more or less contact, business intelligence is what makes everything else happen.

For example, using strategic business intelligence to detect when a prospect has moved further into the buying process allows you to trigger communications to influence the behavior of the individual.  Triggers can be simple or complex depending on your business, industry and capabilities.

Some common triggers include:

  • A prospect changing to a customer
  • A customer requesting a new product demonstration
  • A prospect’s status changing from “cold” to “warm” as identified through predetermined behaviors
  • A customer missing a regularly placed seasonal order
  • A prospect visiting your website multiple times within the same week
  • Online shopping cart abandonment
  • Algorithms and predictive models that indicate probability of purchase

Using Triggers to Initiate Multi-Channel Communications

With programmed business rules, triggers can then automatically initiate the appropriate actions, including automatic electronic and printed communications in the forms of: text messages, email, direct mail, and personalized landing pages (PURLs).  These individual communications can be sent one at a time, and can include highly personalized information such as product specifications and recommendations, industry-targeted case studies and testimonials, and satisfaction surveys to name a few.

Identifying and mapping the stages of the customer life cycle, and then applying strategic direct marketing plans to build sales and customer loyalty are worthwhile activities. By identifying the critical communication points for each stage of the customer life cycle, and then deploying relevant, triggered communications at those critical points, direct marketing can positively influence the life time value of the customer by increasing sales and the length of the relationship.

Creating Your Customer Lifecycle Communication Strategy

Developing a solid triggered life cycle communication plan begins with common principles:

  • Who wants or needs to hear from us?
  • What do they need to see or hear to make a decision?
  • What are they trying to decide? It is not necessarily just a purchasing decision.

Other important aspects to consider:

  • When do they need to see or hear the information?
  • Where would they like to receive the information: in the mail, via personal visit, telephone, email or Internet?
  • Understand why they want or need the information to make sure the communication is relevant and speaks to their situation.
  • How much information is needed?  Too much, and the person loses interest.  Too little, and the person doesn’t get what they need.

Buying processes are becoming longer as both consumers and businesses carefully consider each purchase, and for complex products and services it can take months to more than a year to close a sale. Poorly timed digital and direct marketing processes that try to force a prospect into a premature purchasing decision will cause the prospect to become annoyed with the communication. They will assume future communications are irrelevant and will eventually “tune out” all attempts at engagement. Aligning triggered direct marketing efforts to the customer buying process is critical for success.

Four Ideas to Put Love in Your Loyalty Program

Empty chocolate gift box.

Ever been disappointed by a gift? You're not alone. 73% of consumers participating in loyalty programs have received promotions for products and services they already own (CMO Council).

Irrelevant offers and messages alienate customers and reduce the love in the Return On Marketing Investment (ROMI) of loyalty programs.  A recent study by the CMO Council uncovered that 73% of consumers participating in a loyalty program have received promotions for products and services they already own.*  Ouch!

In addition to wasted marketing resources, customers become less and less interested in reading your communications.  They think, “Why should I read this?  I already know everything about this company and they aren’t going to offer me anything special.”

Forging a deep emotional bond with customers is at the heart of building loyalty.  Direct marketing communications play a significant role in achieving a personalized experience, yet 68% of consumers rate reward program communications a seven or less on a ten point scale.** So what’s a direct marketer focused on customer retention to do?  Here are four ideas to consider:

  1. Make sure all your data points are aggregated. This includes purchase data (both online and offline), email opens and clicks, critical online behaviors (especially important for non-commerce web sites), and direct marketing activity and response.
  2. Speak relevantly. By the very nature of signing up for a loyalty program, people are certain their purchases are being tracked.  They expect you to use the information.  So if someone only buys from only one category and nothing else, some level of cross-selling is OK, but you have to communicate about what’s important to them. The CMO Council Study also found that, “only a third of companies capture personal or product preferences from program members.” In addition, “80% said they are happy to provide additional personal data if they see that it is being used to provide relevant perks such as special offers, discounts and loyalty bonuses.”***
  3. Offer appropriately. Do the offers you post to Facebook have more value than the ones you email to your loyal customers?  Nothing does more to diminish the value of a loyalty program than giving the wrong offers.  Not all customers are as valuable as others, so not everyone should receive the same offers.  (And keep in mind the relevancy issue from #2.)
  4. Show genuine appreciation. It is a loyalty program after all.

Loyalty programs have come to the forefront of customer retention marketing. Growing and expanding the love in the customer relationships evolves around cross-selling, up-selling and lengthening the customer life cycle.  Using data intelligence to provide messages and offers that are personalized to customers, demonstrates that you are interested in helping them in some way, and not just trying to hit the next sales quota.

What are some other ideas to improve the relevancy of loyalty programs? Please share in our Comments section.

*CMO Council, Why Relevance Drives Response and Relationships
**Research conducted by Colloquy/LoyaltyOne and Direct Antidote
*** Transactis Report

Determining the Best Way to Produce a Variable Data Print Project


Determining the best production method for data-driven print communications can be challenging.

I love a debate.  One that is often tossed around in the print production community is the best way to produce printed pieces with variable text and imagery.  Before we go any farther, let’s do a little glossary to make sure this is easy to understand.  At Mail Print these terms mean the following in relation to printed output:

  • Variable data: contains information or imagery that changes from piece to piece. These are truly personalized to each recipient.
  • Versioned: a single strategy translated into several static versions.  These are not personalized, but grouped to improve targeting and relevancy.
  • Static: each piece output is the same for the entire print run (the only exception often being the recipient address for a mailing.) Everyone receives the exact same piece.

When producing a project where the output is not a static piece, there are three options:

  1. Produced using variable data printing on a digital press
  2. Versioned pieces using offset printing combined with digital or inkjet printing
  3. Multiple static versions printed on a traditional offset printing press

Why does it matter which print method you choose?

Let’s look at a few real blunders that have resulted from applying the wrong method to a project:

  • A variable data project without “real” variable data is less costly to produce as a versioned project.
  • A company’s advertising agency spends countless hours creating versions for a job that should have been printed as VDP (variable data printing) delaying a time sensitive project by five days.
  • Because of the intricate nature of an offer strategy, a database analyst spends extra hours reviewing each data set of the segmentation because each segment will be produced separately as versions.
  • Worse yet, because the data set is separated, incorrect, irrelevant offers are distributed, ruining the impact of the piece and destroying the ROI.

Choosing between Variable Data and Versioned Print

So how do you know if your data-driven project should be produced using variable data or versions?  In my experience this check list holds the answer to the debate:

  • How many varying text fields and images are you using?
  • Do you have any variable information within another variable field?
  • If you produce it by versioning, what would the total number of versions be?
  • What is the total quantity for the project?  What are the quantities for each version?
  • Does splitting the data into multiple groups introduce risk into the project or increase the data processing cost?

One last word of advice… your printer can be a vital partner in helping make these types of decisions.  Engaging them early and often gets the debate over and done with before unnecessary personnel and production costs come into play.