One of the maxims we live by is: “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” In self-storage, where marketing and promotion dollars can go quickly, and turn and occupation are the twin drivers of revenue, it’s crucial to be able to track your leads and know what actions are converting to a sale.
So what works and what doesn’t? Here are a few pointers for lead attribution.
Try to remove or reduce your reliance on human reporting. The trouble with humans is, we’re human. We’re distracted, we forget, and we sometimes stretch the truth in order to please our bosses, look good, or just stay out of trouble. That spells havoc for attribution. If you’ve been in the business a few years you won’t be surprised to hear that one former manager we spoke with admits he just attributed as many sales to any given promotion as he needed to justify the expenditure.
Asking customers how they heard of you is worse than unreliable. First of all it takes many exposures to your brand to create enough awareness for a person to call you. By the time they’ve driven by, seen an ad, noticed a Valpak, or found you on Yelp, they have no idea where they “first heard of you.” So the most likely answer will be the last place they heard of you – your sign in front of the building!
Then there are the ‘quasi-technical’ solutions meant to work around humans – like “whisper” technology. It’s supposed to work by ‘whispering’ the name of the source of the call just before the caller’s voice is heard. So, for example, a self storage lead might click on a Yelp offer to call in, and the person answering the phone would hear a softly whispered “Yelp” before the caller’s voice. The location manager answering the phone would then write ‘Yelp’ into a log by the telephone. Sounds great in theory. One client paid for it, installed it, and trained everyone on it. But when we called to check, the first time the location manager forgot to pay attention to the whisper! So we called right back and asked again. This time he listened, but wasn’t sure what it said.
The most reliable lead attribution we’ve found is the a call tracking system, which automatically displays a assigned telephone number for each lead on the website. One for Yelp, one for direct traffic to the website, one for the mobile site, one for an ad or coupon, etc. Each location receives a set of numbers and can generate more as they add to their roster of promotions. All the numbers reroute to the actual location phone, of course, but because they are different on the originating end, there’s no question where the lead came from.
Here’s something to be aware of, though, when you’re shopping for a call-tracking system — check to make sure that you will own the phone numbers. Local directories are exploding in number on the internet, and many of them are pulling info from your website or ad, and ‘scraping’ (copying) information from one another. So if you only rent the numbers and then discontinue the call-tracking service, the old numbers are still out there — but they no longer connect to you. If you purchase the numbers, you can make sure that you still receive the calls — whether you’re tracking them or not. This can save you the headache of trying to correct it all.
With proper lead attribution you can put your budget where it does the most good. We identified markets that the client had determined were ‘computer illiterate’ only to find that they were the strongest online drivers of traffic! We found markets where Google was useless and Bing was a powerhouse. Where mobile really pulled. And that let us reallocate funds from dead-in-the-water promotions and support the strongest performing media.