If you've been in the business world for any length of time at all you've probably heard the phrase that marketing is "more art than science." The idea is that it's hard to measure and judge results because tracking data on how a marketing channel is performing is complicated and difficult.
To some extent, that's true enough. That said, it is also true that marketing channels have often hid behind this line as a way to justify a lack of innovation and underwhelming results. They can wave their hands around a bit about the work they're doing, make vague comments about not being able to track everything, and hope that you, the property manager, marketing director, or regional manager, buys it.
Unfortunately, that strategy has often won out, forcing apartment communities to continue pouring money into marketing sources that simply do not perform. But tech has finally caught up and now we can track how channels perform.
In this post, we want to talk about one specific method that is particular promising: call tracking.
What is call tracking?
Apartment call tracking works by setting up various phone numbers that are assigned to each marketing source. So an ILS might be 555-555-5555, another ILS is 555-555-5556, your community website is 555-555-5557, and so on.
When someone calls the number, the call is rerouted to your leasing office but the call is registered as coming in on a specific number which corresponds to a specific source. This allows you to know which marketing source provides the most phone leads. So after 30 days or 60 days or whatever window of time you want a report for, you can pull the data and see that x number of calls came from one number and y came from another and so on.
With an intelligently constructed call tracking strategy, apartment communities can know exactly how each lead source is performing.
Today we want to talk about three of the biggest benefits to using apartment call tracking to assess your marketing performance.
Call tracking makes it easier to determine exactly how much a marketing source is producing.
In the days before tracking numbers and call tracking the best you could do to accurately judge a marketing source's work was to rely on your prospects accurately remembering how they found your community or on people filling out some sort of guest card either when they arrived in your leasing office or on your website.
That strategy might be better than nothing, but it's impossible to say how much better it is. You're relying entirely on human memory, which isn't the most reliable source.
With call tracking you can pull up a report and immediately know "This source generated 27 calls last month." There are still some judgments that have to be made here—does that number of calls justify the cost? What is the quality of the call? How long is an average call from this source? Are people who call from that source becoming residents? But the point is you're not just taking shots in the dark. You're making judgments grounded in data.
Call tracking makes it easier to quickly summarize how a source is performing.
On a related note, then, we must also consider the other benefits of being able to easily access data on how marketing sources are doing for your community. If it's budget season and you need to know what sources to renew and what ones to cut, it's really nice if you can have a simple table of data that says "Here is marketing source A's cost-per-lead and cost-per-lease for the year. Below you can see it broken down month-to-month."
Data doesn't just need to be available, in other words. You also need a way of using it to help shape decisions. So if you can plug your call data into a spreadsheet and get to work crunching the numbers, you're better equipped to make sound leasing decisions.
Call tracking can strengthen your position as a marketer with your manager.
There are many places where a community's leasing strategy can break down:
- The price-point can be set badly.
- The leasing staff may be bad on the phone.
- The leasing staff may be bad giving tours.
- The property may be in poor shape.
- The marketing team may not be generating leads.
The trouble is that it's not always easy to explain which of the above is happening at a struggling community. With call tracking you can have a greater amount of data at your disposal when you talk to your supervisor. If your community is struggling, then it's important that you have more numbers than the vacancy rate to talk about with your manager.
If you can go into the meeting and say "You know, this marketing source seems to be doing well and I think we could do even more with them if we pushed some money away from this other source to them," then you're going into the meeting in a strong position with ideas as to how you can fix the community's problem.
On the other hand, if the data you have is mostly bad news, that can also give you something to talk about--we need to overhaul our marketing strategy, what we're doing isn't working, here are some ideas to change that, etc.
The point is that if you have a struggling community you don't want to stumble into the meeting mumbling about the art of marketing, how it's hard to say if x or y is working, etc. You can to be confident as you look forward and feel like your marketing choices aren't simply guesses or an attempt to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Good apartment call tracking data can provide you with the information you need to make intelligent, data-backed decisions that you can bring to your leadership team.