If you are a marketing professional, there is a good chance that you have heard the famous quote by John Wannamaker, “I know that half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”
The reality is that generally, half of your advertising is not wasted. But any wasted advertising needs to be avoided. In order to assure that doesn’t happen, effective advertising measurement becomes a VERY important step in any good marketing strategy. Recently, I had an experience with one of my clients that provides valuable insight into measuring successful advertising campaigns.
One of my clients is a local car donation program and I have worked with them on their Washington DC marketing plans for the past 10 years. While discussing their advertising plans and marketing mix for 2013, they told me that the radio advertising they had been doing for years was not working as well as it used to. They said leads were way down for all broadcast media, but way up for the internet and “Google.”
My job is to help solve their marketing challenges, but I couldn’t figure out how this could be. Radio advertising in DC is effective for my other clients and the specific station they were on has as many, if not more, listeners as they have over the past few years. People are donating just as many cars as in the past couple years. So what is the issue?
My client has told me that he tracks his advertising very well. And I have seen the results of his tracking. So I had no reason to believe that wasn’t the case, but I was curious at how the results were being obtained. So I asked my client if I could investigate how his company collected this information and then share my experiences. He liked the idea.
Here is what I found:
I pretended I had a car to donate and called the 800 number. I was asked the standard questions….make, model, mileage, etc… and then was given directions on pickup. Before hanging up, I was asked, “for marketing purposes, we track where all of our calls come from. What number did you use to call us?” I responded with “the 800 number on your website.” The operator said okay, asked no more questions, and ended the call.
Just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, I called back in a week or so. I repeated the same exercise and at the end I got the same question, “for marketing purposes, we track where all of our calls come from. What number did you use to call in?” I answered the same way and the call ended without any follow up questions.
Neither operator asked me where I heard about the program. Donors are asked what number they called in on…versus “where did you learn about our program.” The client was trying to track his leads, but his operators were not asking the right questions.
When I called my client to discuss the results, I had him check the lead source for the donations that I had called in. Both operators gave credit to the internet. The internet was getting credit for TV and radio leads. My client realized he was making marketing decisions for his business based on assumptions the operators were making. And as a result, not giving enough credit to the results he has gotten from trusted lead sources.
Consumer habits have changed. When consumers hear radio commercials or see something on TV, they are very likely to search it on the internet. Many radio advertisers are saving time by leaving their phone number out of the ad knowing that customers will search the internet anyway. Google, in turn, acts as a taxi…taking the customer to the company’s website, the same way a taxi driver takes me to the restaurant I tell them I want to go to. When the manager asks, “what brought you here tonight,” responding with, “a taxi” would be accurate, but not the answer that will help him accurately measure his advertising!
This isn’t to say that internet advertising isn’t a valuable marketing option, but the internet can’t replace the value received from traditional media in influencing consumer behavior.
As a result of the study I made some key recommendations:
1.) Ask donors where they heard about you, not just the phone number they called to reach you. This will at least give you the remembered lead source which will be more accurate (this involves better operator training)
2.) Ask what prompted them to call. This will help targeting future messages and freshening copy.
3.) Tracking…the client needs to establish a baseline of web traffic and call volumes and compare that to his marketing plan and weeks his commercials run.
While I was collecting my research, the client was seeing a drop-off in donations during the time he was off the radio. He decided to return to the radio station that had delivered consistent results with fresh copy and a better plan to measure his return on investment.
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