Stop Guessing, Start Knowing: Are Your Marketing Dollars Wasted?

By Jeremiah Wilson

The other day, I asked the CEO of a mid-sized company what I thought was a very broad question: How have you grown your business?

I was expecting the answer to be about something like values or hard work. I was expecting sort of a long answer about what it takes to succeed and how to build something successful from the ground up. I was expecting to be inspired.

His answer wasn’t inspiring, it was real-world. It was practical.

His answer: marketing.

That’s all. One word.

The Problem

Most businesses track where their marketing money goes. For example, 15 percent on signs and banners, 25 percent on traditional advertising, 45 percent on coupons and direct mail, and 15 percent on Internet banner ads. Knowing where the money goes is a start.

But, do they know which marketing tactic is actually working?

Many small and medium-sized businesses send their precious, hard-earned marketing dollars out into the world and just sort of assume it’s working.

Do you know which specific elements of your marketing strategy are effective? Are people calling your business because they heard your ad on the radio or because you sent them a piece of direct mail or a coupon? Do you know?

Most small and medium-sized businesses simply don’t know. And in the current economic climate, they’re ignorant of this information at their peril. Marketing money is being wasted simply because businesses don’t know what is working and what isn’t.

Large corporations track every penny of their marketing budgets. WalMart is a good example of this. They know, to the penny, exactly how much it costs to get each customer to walk through their door. And you can bet that Coca-Cola, Apple and GE also know exactly which ads work and which ads don’t.

And if this information is critical for giant Fortune 500 companies with money to burn, you bet it’s critical for you and me.

The Solution

Let’s say you own or are CEO at a small or medium-sized business. You do a direct mail or coupon promotion once every quarter. You’ve run online banner ads and do search engine marketing.

When someone calls, you simply have no reliable way of knowing who they are, why they called, or which piece of advertising got them to call. Either employees don’t ask, they don’t write it down, or the person the on the phone can’t remember and makes something up. Bottom line: the vast majority of the time, you have no reliable way of knowing.

Unless …

Unless there’s a way to track those calls and figure it out.

That’s exactly what new technology like call tracking offers. It’s like Google Analytics for the phone.

Here’s how it works. Call tracking assigns a different phone number to each piece of advertising. You put a certain phone number on your direct mail promotion, a different one on your local radio ad, a different one in the phone book, and a different one on banner ads. All these numbers are routed directly to your main phone number (so you don’t have a bunch of different phone lines). And then, using our proprietary online tools, you can see exactly how many people, how many leads and customers are calling from a certain number. The bottom line: You can see which ad is working.

Pretty cool huh?

So, let’s say you spent 20 percent of your marketing budget on radio ads, but in a three-month span, that phone number only generated four percent of your calls. You would know you’re dumping money into a marketing source that isn’t producing anything.

Using call tracking tools, you can see who’s calling from which number; you can see information about who’s calling, see where they’re calling from, and even track what they’re calling about.  You can even follow each “prospect” through from start to finish and see if they ended up buying or not (allowing you to judge the “quality” of your leads from each advertising source).

And the best part? You can actually hear the call. The technology records it for you, and you can listen to it right on your computer.

Benefits of Recording the Call

How did your employee handle the call? Did he or she sell effectively? Do your employees need more sales and customer service training, or more information on your products?

Additionally, you even have access to our exclusive industry-specific scorecard so you can rate your employees on very important elements of the phone call. Did they greet the customer well? Did they ask for the customer’s name and use it? Most importantly, did they try to set up an appointment or make the sale?

These are tools that used to be available for only big corporations; now, they’re affordable enough for the little guy.


Remember the business owner we met at the beginning? The realist who wasn’t into philosophical solutions or impractical advice? He’s right. Your business will grow because you market wisely and well.

But before you spend another dime on marketing, make sure you can track whether your marketing dollar is effective.

Jeremiah Wilson founded ContactPoint in 2001 with a patented device that records customer phone calls, allowing companies to hear what their customers hear. Prior to that, he specialized in logistics, customer service and sales training, and was assistant to the counselor of economics at the U.S. Embassy to the Czech Republic; he currently serves on the board of directors for various global companies.
Originally published: Oct 25, 2011

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