It’s a conundrum for every business: No matter how a prospect first learns of your company, chances are they’ll check out your website before they call you. And then, when your phone personnel ask the million-dollar question: “How did you hear about us?” the caller will respond, “I saw you online.” The prospect may have been referred by a neighbor, heard a radio ad, or passed one of your trucks on their commute, but no matter, “I saw you online” will be the answer.
So when every lead seems to be a website lead, how do you really tell where your money is being spent wisely?
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll set aside digital advertising, where clicks are easily trackable. Talk to a web professional about tracking conversions as well, so you’ll know how many of those clicks are filling out the Contact Us forms on your website.
As to better tracking of your traditional (radio, TV, print, direct mail) advertising, here are some suggestions.
1] Dig deeper: The first and best step is a heart to heart with your phone-answering personnel. Explain the problem and the solution, which is asking the second (and sometimes the third) question. When a customer says he or she found your company online, you then need to ask “… and how did you happen to find our website?” Go for “unaided recall,” in other words, don’t prompt the caller with, “Did you hear a radio ad or did someone recommend us?” Not at first, anyway.
This is equally important when your staff member is making the call to someone who filled out a website form. Funny as it sounds, make sure they don’t assume that a lead sent from your site is a website lead. The main goal here is to get your phone answerers out of their check-the-box-and-move-on mentality. Be certain that they understand how vital it is to the business that they get this right.
2] Crack the code: In this age of online shopping, consumers are increasingly conditioned to use coupon codes to save money, and nearly every e-commerce site has a place to enter a code. Consider leveraging this behavior by assigning each of your ads a brief code. For example, if you’re sending a Valpak insert in September, it would prominently feature promo code VP-9. This works best in print but can be used in a radio or TV ad as well: “Mention code SUMMER16 to get these savings.” Train your phone folks to ask, and add a space for the code to the forms on your website as well.
3] Use tracking: For as little as $25 monthly per phone number, companies such as CallSource will provide unique phone numbers to assign to each campaign. These can be local numbers in your area code or toll-free 866 or 877 numbers. (The toll-free part is clearly not an issue in the cell phone era, but some like to use these for a more “big time” appearance.) Many media outlets—especially in direct mail—offer these numbers at no charge with your advertising contract. In all cases, they’ll forward to your main number.
Besides the obvious benefit of knowing the source of each call, calls are recorded so you can listen to them online and make sure your phone personnel are doing what you expect. (This feature once led me to fire an answering service when I caught them telling weekend callers to call back on Monday, with no attempt to capture contact information.)
But there are a couple of drawbacks. If you’re using these numbers online, be aware that Google likes to see a consistent NAP (name, address, phone) for each business. And they can be difficult to get rid of—any number of directory sites are crawling the web at any given time and may display a discontinued number for a long time.
Further, a customer who first calls you on a tracking number is likely to save it in their phone and use it throughout the cycle of the project. You’ll need to play back the calls to make sure they’re actually leads and not existing customers (or salespeople from other media; you’ll get plenty of those as well).
One more note: As traditional media have been squeezed by online options, some have taken to offering pay-per-call arrangements. So, for example, instead of paying traditional column-inch rates for a newspaper ad, you’re billed a fixed amount for each call to a tracking number. These can be a real boon for your budget, but be warned: The devil is definitely in the details. Look carefully at what constitutes a “qualified call” in the agreement, so you’re not paying for wrong numbers or calls from media salespeople.
Offer them a landing: Hopefully you know by now that any digital ads should point to a landing page specific to that product and promotion, so users aren’t just randomly dropped into your website where they can wander around and forget why they came. You can also use landing pages to improve tracking of your non-digital advertising. Keep it simple; you want the call to action in a radio ad to be easy to remember, like “yourcompany.com/radio,” not “yourcompany.com/fall-window-and-door-half-off-sale.” Simple analytics will show you how many visitors a given page has had.
Will everyone who sees or hears an ad remember to use the special URL? Nope. Some will just Google search your name, go to your website, and tell your phone answerers that they found you online, which takes us back to that first item above. So train your phone answerers and remember: There’s no “perfect” here. With some combination of the suggestions above, though, you should be able to get a much better handle on how your marketing efforts are converting.