When the Internet emerged as a new media outlet, one of the elements that no doubt set it apart from traditional media was its reporting capabilities. While popular media like radio, TV, and newspapers could merely estimate usage by consumers, none of them could provide concrete statistics on how many people actually interacted with an ad. The immediate, built-in tracking capabilities of online advertising is a godsend for advertisers who previously weren’t sure what was working for them. There still may be the question of how many clicks convert to customers, but it’s a step in the right direction.
As great as that is, however, it still may not be the whole story. Whether you’re advertising online or in print, you’re most likely using a phone number, as well. If you’re not tracking that phone number, you’re not seeing the full picture. Calls coming into that number are most likely the leads with the best potential for a sale, as the customer made the decision to select your ad and make a connection. In order to find out the full impact of advertising, it’s important to test everything.
In order to have a clean test, it’s vital to utilize a unique phone number that’s used exclusively in the tested ad. The placement could be in print Yellow Pages, internet Yellow Pages, as part of a digital program, or even in other media that supports a campaign. By using a unique number in a single ad, it’s immediately clear how many calls that ad drew. From there, conversion factors can be applied to estimate return on investment and/or cost per lead.
Using a unique number can be especially helpful if you’re trying to see how many calls are coming in to a certain Print Yellow Pages heading, or if you’re comparing two placements. For example, print Yellow Pages publishers provide “split run” directories in some markets, where two slightly different versions of directories are distributed to the market. If each directory includes a different ad, you can see which ad size or content drove more calls within the same context. Armed with that knowledge next year, you can run an ad with the confidence that it’s your best option. Sometimes advertisers want to use the same number in their primary heading as well as a minor heading, but spending a few extra bucks on a separate number for the smaller heading can confirm if it’s even worth having an ad there. If it is drawing calls, great… and if not, the small investment in an additional line could save significant money down the road.
Sometimes testing has the potential to change an advertiser’s entire philosophy. We recently had one client who has traditionally used a toll free number in their advertising, and we encouraged them to do a test using both a toll free line and a local number, since we knew from past testing that customers generally prefer local numbers. As it turns out, more than two-thirds of the calls to the test lines have been made to the local numbers, and without the test, the client might never have realized the impact of including a local option.
Call tracking can provide a wide variety of information beyond simple call counts. For example, most call tracking providers include detailed reporting with the tracking line, including full caller ID information. Clients can match up that call detail report to their customer database to see which callers are now customers. The call detail report also gives a general snapshot of where callers may be coming from, just by looking at callers’ cities, or even their address when available. Reports also show call time, call length, the number of rings before the call was answered, and if any calls went unanswered. This data can be useful in improving the customer experience by encouraging employees to answer calls more quickly, or even changing business hours to reflect when customers call most.
Another useful element is call recording, which creates audio files of all calls coming into test lines. Call recording allows deeper analysis of call data to understand why people are calling. The customer experience can be monitored and improved, and hearing customer feedback and questions can aid in crafting better advertising content in the future. Previous call recording we’ve done has captured deficiencies in automated answering systems, proved that even short calls can be valid leads, and measured the proportion of callers who were current vs. new customers.
Whether you utilize call tracking simply to measure volume, or whether you choose to dig deeper into the data to improve your business, call tracking can give you valuable answers to your advertising questions.
Amy Rybczynski, Marketing Research Analyst