"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." These words, most frequently attributed to American entrepreneur John Wanamaker after the turn of the 20th century, are no less vexing to marketers 100 years later.
New York-based real estate firm Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy (CBHK), for instance, regularly uses direct mail, print and online advertising to showcase its properties. And while direct mail and online ads each are trackable in their own ways, print ad effectiveness is difficult to gauge.
Enter Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). When CBHK first switched to VoIP phone service from New York-based M5 Networks nearly three years ago, it did so to reduce telecommunications expenses, says Philip Kent Kiracofe, chief technologist at CBHK. Since then, however, M5 has developed Campaign Manager, a suite of services that allows marketers to solve Wanamaker's age-old dilemma.
The gist is this: Through the VoIP service, M5 provides CBHK with a bank of 2,000 different phone numbers. Each property that CBHK advertises is assigned a series of phone numbers from that bank. Each number assigned to a property is then assigned to a different direct mail piece, print or online ad sent in support of that property. This allows CBHK to see which marketing channels drive the most phone volume.
"We can see which medium, whether it's a particular Web site or postcard mailing or print ad, is producing the best result down to a granular level, which is the individual property itself," Kiracofe says. "And by assigning multiple numbers to a single agent, we see not only which ads are most effective, but which agents are most effective as well."
One component of the Campaign Manager suite, proprietary technology developed by CBHK that's called Ad Tracker, automates the assignment of new numbers to a property. Ad Tracker, as its name implies, then tracks every time one of those numbers is called and compiles data used in the reporting software: the ad that generated the call, the agent that answered the call and the call's duration. And rather than using special reporting software, Kiracofe is able to run all reports through a Web portal.