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You might be wondering how a phone number can be used to determine how many people respond to a print ad. This brief article explains how unique phone numbers in ads can be used to track response.
First, it is important to understand that any advertised phone number can be routed to any other destination number. For example, a phone number for a local business can be routed to ring at a call center across the country, or a cell phone, or a land line hanging on the wall of that business. Think of an advertised phone number as a transparent entry point into a phone system, the number that a customer dials does not necessarily have any geographic relationship to where it rings.
The most common way to use phone numbers in print ads is to advertise using a unique phone number to determine how many people have called from each individual ad. This is possible because when a call is made and then transferred, the initial number called is able to gather and retain data on the call and caller. What this means is that by placing a phone number in a print ad and then routing it to a customer, the data associated with that call is available to the owner of the phone number in the ad, even though it rings somewhere else. Using this technique, it is easy to see how many people called an ad, how long they spent on the phone, the geographic location where the call originated and which party hung up the phone first.
Here are some things to watch when using numbers to track results:
Is the transfer of the call from the advertised number to the destination occurring seamlessly?
In most cases this is not an issue, but occasionally the transfer from the advertised number to the destination number can result in problems. Any glitch, static or pause can dramatically impact the results generated from an ad because callers are likely to abandon a call with poor quality or that doesn’t sound right.
Our suggestion (and this is what we do at MediaBids): test the number before it is in use. Try it from a cell phone and a land line. Get someone from a different geographical area, using a different phone carrier, to try it too. If you aren’t getting a clean and instantaneous transfer, don’t use the number and contact your number provider for a solution.
Is the phone number that is being used “clean?”
One big mistake that is often made when a phone number is being used to track results is assuming that just because the number is no longer in use by anyone else, no one else is calling it. For example, the number placed in an ad may have been in use for a long period of time by another business. For all you know, a plumbing business may have handed out thousands of refrigerator magnets with your tracking number on it. Just because the plumbers no longer use the number does not stop anyone with a clogged sink from calling it. This creates problems when tracking results generated by an ad because obviously, unless you want to unclog sinks, the callers are not going to be interested in what is being advertised.
Our suggestion (and this is what we do at MediaBids): It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure a never-before-used number. Anytime you get a number, ask for the phone records of all calls that have come into that number for 30 or 60 days prior to your intended start date. If you see that the number is getting calls from prior use, you should not use it. Those calls are unlikely to stop. Most phone number providers will disclose how long they rest a number before recirculating it but regardless of how long the number has been out of circulation, we recommend checking how many calls it is still receiving before you start using it.
How do I acquire a phone number to use in an ad?
There are many providers of phone numbers and what differentiates providers is often the way in which they display the data that is generated by a phone call. You can get a trackable phone number from a local phone company but it is unlikely to come with any access to a dashboard that allows you to see the results in real time.
Here are a few telephone number providers we can recommend:
Invoca ( www.invoca.com ) This is the company we use at Mediabids for all of our phone numbers. They have an excellent dashboard available for viewing results.