Ultimate Guide to Business Call Tracking & Phone Leads
Leaking money is common in small to medium enterprise.
Much too common.
It’s especially tough when you don’t know where the cracks are. This is called the “black-box effect”, when a process in your business goes on without a way to properly supervise it.
The reason for a black box might be that you don’t fully understand the work (most SEO agencies love to stay in a black box).
Or it might be that it’s hard to track the results without some hardcore time-consuming micromanagement.
Up until now, the phone has been a common place for the black-box effect to appear in small to medium businesses.
Table of Contents
- How 3 Companies Pugged Their Revenue Leaks
- Call Tracking 101
- What Are The Dangers?
- My Process for Setting Up a Solid Call Tracking System
- How to Get More High-Value Inbound Calls
- Call Intelligence: Advanced Call Tracking
- How to Use Call Intelligence to Make More Money
- The 3 Core Benefits to Using Call Intelligence
- What’s the Next Step?
How 3 Companies Pugged Their Revenue Leaks
If you’re just about to get into call tracking, I’m excited for you. You’re about to identify and plug up major revenue leakages, and grow your bottom line. Here are three cases of companies doing just that.
Fannit was being wrongly accused.
The problem was in sales.
The phone agents didn’t know the answers to many of the questions that leads had. Spotting this gap in their process added $250,000 of potential annual revenue for the client.
As a luxury vacation resort in the Bahamas, Hotel Grand Lucayan spent most of their marketing budget on Atlanta. That’s where most inbound flights to the Bahamas came from, so it seemed to make sense.
After implementing call tracking, however, they found advertising int the US Northeast and Florida worked far better. They knew their highest performing areas down to the zip code. Grand Lucayan’s phone conversion rate went up by 157%.
To be omni-channel, you need to have a clear view of your customers’ buying cycles. No gaps. If you’re tracking click through rates but not inbound calls from specific ads, for example, you simply can’t know how well they’re performing.
Paychex reduced cost per acquisition by 43% and increased leads generated by 95% when they started tracking calls.
They found their Adwords campaign was doing more than twice as well as they thought, and they zeroed in on their best keywords. They also reduced their ad spend during peak times when the staff was often overwhelmed by call volume, thereby reducing their cost without losing any sales.
I, for one, like to know where my money is going. I like to see how each dollar is performing, and how much return I’m getting from my investments.
I’m willing to bet you do too.
Call Tracking 101
Imagine if you could track calls like you track clicks.
Wouldn’t you like to track the results produced by individual sales reps, individual calls, or calls that come from particular marketing channels?
Once you have this knowledge, you’ll never go back. It’s like going from tunnel-vision to 20/20. The phone is often the critical junction where a sale is made or lost.
I know you’re busy, so to prevent any wasted time for you or your team, I made this guide. Below you’ll find the step by step system I use with my clients to set up basic call tracking from scratch. Also, learn how to move into advanced call tracking (known as call intelligence).
What is Call Tracking?
Basic call tracking is the use of unique numbers (generated automatically) to track the source and efficacy of your inbound phone calls. Use a different number for each marketing campaigns, and your call tracking software can measure the true results of each channel.
Advanced call tracking involves the automatic analysis of phone conversations, pre-recorded voice menus, and auto-scheduled call flows. We’ll cover that later on.
What You Stand to Gain
There are five main benefits to call tracking:
- Know your ROI. You’ll know for sure how much money all your marketing efforts (and investments) bring into the business.
- Watch the right KPIs. Forget bounce rate. The phone contains much more critical metrics.
- Increase call conversion. Inbound calls convert extremely well already, and by tracking results, you can run tests to optimize sales.
- Call intelligence. With advanced call tracking, you’ll know the full picture of every lead who winds up on the phone.
- Find and fix money-leaks. Uncover gaps in knowledge or skill within your staff that would otherwise go unnoticed.
1. Know your ROI
Time and again, businesses who try call tracking find massive gaps in their knowledge about their own business and sales processes. You might be pouring money into something that you assume is giving you a good return when it’s just not, and simultaneously ignoring something that’s doubling every dollar you put into it.
Without call tracking, how will you keep your marketing channels accountable? Instead of hearing a monthly tally of keyword rank, bounce rates, unique visits, and other “potentially useful” figures, wouldn’t it be simpler to see how many phone calls each investment has generated for you?
With call recordings, you’ll also know the quality of calls coming from various channels. You can find real gold mines this way!
2. Watch the right KPIs
“Key Performance Indicators” are simply metrics that matter to your business. Many of us working in local SEO have focused on KPIs based on rankings and traffic. Not because they're necessarily the best, but because it's easy to track them. Relying on these metrics nowadays does not make sense. With the rise of personalized search and internet directories, they miss a lot of conversions.
For example, when someone searches for a local plumber and calls directly from the SERPs, you wouldn't see that as a click-through. And yet, it could be the hottest lead you got that day! A rankings & traffic report forgets about those valuable phone calls.
3. Increase call conversion
Calls are highly profitable.
According to Google, inbound phone calls are 10-15 times more likely to convert than inbound web leads. BIA/Kelsey notes that 61% of businesses rate their inbound phone calls as "excellent leads," while only 52% rate leads from the web as excellent. Most high-ticket products and services depend on phone calls to close the sale, and they’re the most important sales to be tracking!
You can only sustainably improve what you measure. When you know what’s bringing in the most calls, and how many calls vs. sales you get, you can start running tests and optimizing your sales systems. Until then, you’re in the dark.
4. Call inteligence
Going beyond call tracking and recording, those with the budget can also get “call intelligence” to get to work for them.
Get alerted when someone who was on the phone a week ago shows up on your website again.
Automatically assess the sales skills of your telephone sales reps.
Track how many times a customer showed interest in purchasing, without having to sit through recordings.
And much more.
5. Find and fix money-leaks
It’s time your receptionists and other call agents were accountable for their performance on the phone. It’s not about being “Big Brother” or pointing fingers. It’s about helping them improve and become masters of their job, to become an even more valuable asset to the business that pays their wage!
For example, they might have knowledge gaps that they feel too busy or too embarrassed to mention or fix themselves, leading them to stumble through customer questions and lose sales. Advanced call tracking is great at figuring out where phone performance can be improved.
As long as your workforce is happy to learn (as they should be!), then performance-tracking will be good news for everyone.
What Are The Dangers?
I hear a lot of common concerns about call tracking. Most are quite valid, so let’s address them here to make sure you don’t make the mistakes that some do.
Keeping the same number (for NAP consistency and vanity numbers).
Your Name, Address, and Phone number ought to be consistent across the indexed web. This is NAP consistency, which is an important ranking factor in modern local search.
- Dynamic Number Insertion.
- Keep the number semi-consistent.
- Your rankings won’t take a massive hit. Keeping one number per paid campaign, for example, will help you much more in marketing intelligence than it could hurt you in SEO.
Your SEO guy holding onto your numbers
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but some shady SEO practices are going on out there. Some agencies try to keep their finger on the button of your campaigns, so if you want to show them the door, all the progress they’ve made for you goes with them.
There are two steps to preventing this:
- Educate yourself on how call tracking works. Use it on your own for at least one advertisement, just to get a solid understanding of the process.
- Make sure any contract you have with an external marketing team addresses the ownership of numbers generated for call tracking purposes.
Eventually, a phone number goes around the block. It doesn’t commonly cause a problem, but from time to time you might get a brand new call tracking number that another business once used. It might have been a spa resort or a drug dealer. There’s often no way to find out. Either way, you’ll get a few calls from disappointed callers looking for the other business. It’s a small price to pay. The longer you use a dirty number, the fewer wrong calls you’ll get (and it’s rare in any case).
If you’re concerned with having a number which used to be associated with something shady, simply do a Google search with the number in quotation marks, including the various ways phones are written (with/without the area code, with/without the digits grouped together). If it’s not indexed by Google, there’s nothing to worry about.
In the United States, call recording is legal from cost to cost. There are some regulations, which depend on the state. See this article by Digital Media Law to read up on these regulations. Before you begin, simply check whether you need to be registered as a call recorder in areas you will be targeting.
Most regulations simply require you to notifying the caller that their conversation will be recorded. I’m sure you’ve heard a pre-recorded message telling you this in the past.
*Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and nothing I say qualifies as legal advice.
My Process for Setting Up a Solid Call Tracking System
Phase 1: Choose a call tracking provider
Always use a SaaS service with cloud PBX technology. They will be able to handle any sudden peaks in traffic, and troubleshoot other issues.
In-house call tracking is what large corporations have been doing for a long time, and it takes the resources of a corporation to make that option viable. SaaS has opened this technology up to the rest of us.
It also makes sense to choose a call tracking provider who is also a Google Partner. Click here for the list. My personal preference is RingoStat.
Phase 2: Set up a tracking number
If you’re a business that operates locally, get a local number. This helps give you an SEO bump.
Get a call-tracking enabled phone number.
Set the destination number.
This is your business’s root phone number.
Use that number for a marketing campaign that you want to illuminate.
Don’t muddy the waters by using it everywhere. When you want to compare two different marketing channels, use two different numbers.
Phase 3: Hook up analytics
If you’re using Google Adwords, you’re now ready to get maximum mileage out of the “Click to Call” feature. Pop a tracking number into that field, and you’ll have added a layer of Google Analytics on that number.
Google Analytics is a common integration for call tracking platforms, so you can use it even without an Adwords campaign. Double check that the platform you want to choose has this feature before you hand over your credit card number.
Focus on one metric above all others – First-time callers. It will take about 3 to 6 months of call data for this metric to emerge from the noise, since at the start, everyone will “technically” be a first-time caller.
Phase 4: Generate more calls
The next chapter is packed with my favorite techniques for increasing the volume of inbound calls.
The “master technique”, however, is deceptively simple.
Now that you have tracking in place, you can watch any change you make to your marketing systems ripple through your results. However, that won’t help you much if you make changes at random.
Be a scientist about it. Choose one thing to test at a time, and keep everything else the same. Implement the test, and wait until you have statistical significance before you make a decision on the change you’ve made one way or the other.
This is the one principle to rule them all when it comes to optimizing your results in business.
Test, track, analyze, repeat.
How to Get More High-Value Inbound Calls
When you have a robust call tracking system in place, you feel excited to invest in a new campaign, because even if it doesn’t work the way you’d hope, you know the data you’ll get from it will be true and useful.
Make your site call-friendly. Independent market research company Ipsos found that 70% of mobile searchers use click-to-call. At the very least, this means hyper-linking the telephone number on your website with “tel:+441010101010” for example. Be sure to include the area code at the start of the number to make it clickable.
Add more design and functionality with a callback widget. Most digital marketing blogs will persuade you to put share buttons on your website that follow the user as they scroll. But you don’t pay the bills with shares, do you? You pay them with the sales that happen on the phone. So why not replace your share buttons with a call button that follows the user as they navigate your website, and keep your call staff only a quick tap away at any moment.
Pages with a telephone number convert better than those without, even if the number is never called. If your goal is to get calls, do one better by making the number more inviting with a callback widget or other click-to-call button. You don’t have to be techy to pull this off. There are many tools available today for creating beautiful landing pages. Among my favorites are:
Add coupons to your landing pages to help prompt on-the-fence leads to action. Make sure they know that quoting their unique coupon code over the phone is the only way they will get the discount. Don’t be afraid to give them a fat discount either. The phone is a great place to upsell, and repeat custom is worth the initial cut in price. The critical thing with a landing page is getting them past the hump of tapping that call button.
With Google Adwords, the majority have focused on getting people to click, but search advertising can be even more effective for inbound calls. You can create as many different campaigns as you have target demos. Optimize them for calls with phone-specific calls to action:
- Call Now
- Call Only Promotion
- Discounts Over The Phone Only
- Free Estimates Fast Over The Phone
- Discover What We Can Do For You Over a Short and Fast Phone Call
Pro Hack: In the Adwords interface you can add a location extension, which will present your phone number listed in Google My Business. Maybe people, especially from desktop, will call that number without clicking. No click means you don’t pay a penny. Free calls!
Bing & Yahoo
When you’ve found a groove that works in Google Adwords, it’s a cinch to import the same campaign into Bing or Yahoo Search. These widely used Google-alternatives might not have as huge a user base, but they are certainly big enough, and they are more relaxed about what you can do in your campaign.
Pro Hack: Add your phone number in the display URL of your Bing Ad. This can lead to free calls.
With a Facebook business page, you’ll have the option to set up a call campaign. You’ll have the same audience targeting features as you would with any other social ad campaign.
Use promo numbers for your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and any other platforms where your target demographic spends time. Have your social media managers handle the phone calls from those platforms so your other sales agents can focus on their own specialty channels.
Your business citations should be plastered all over the internet, and be as consistent as possible. The same title, the same email, the same description, and the same telephone number on all your citations helps your search results in Google Maps.
The downside of using the same number on every citation means that you cannot differentiate traffic from different citation sources. My recommendation is to take this trade-off. Citation traffic is organic traffic and therefore is not the most critical kind to dissect.
Call Intelligence: Advanced Call Tracking
In today’s multichannel world, people bounce from device to another. Call intelligence helps you connect the dots to understand the journey your customers are taking to get to the point of sale on the phone.
The technology is new, and therefore still expensive, but it is amazingly useful. With where the industry currently is in 2016, I doubt we’ll have to wait very long before it becomes as affordable as basic call tracking.
Case Study: Call Duration vs. Call Intelligence
A large publisher (you will have heard of them), based their billing system entirely on having calls that lasted more than 2 minutes.
They hired Convirza, a call intelligence company, to optimize their phone sales systems.
Convirza analyzed millions of calls over a few months, and compared a number of metrics with sales results. It turns out that, while phone duration did correlate a little bit with the success of a call, it was a incomplete picture.
There was much more that predicted whether a call resulted in a sale, such as:
- Percentage of silence. More than 50% meant the customer was on hold. So many 2 minute calls contained only 40 seconds of actual talking!
- Call spam, usually made by bots. This is a big problem in many call based industries.
- Lead quality score. Calls under 2 min had almost the same lead score as those over 2 mins.
They found that call duration is not the main thing to determine lead quality. It’s still important, but there’s a lot more to it.
- Sales Inquiry
- Price Request
- Depth of Sales Process
- Caller Sentiment (are they excited?)
- Objection Language
- Negative Emotions
- Buying Signals
- Personal Information
Basic call tracking can tell you where calls come from, it can record your calls for manual review, and it can be linked with Google Analytics to assess things like which ad keyword generate the most calls.
Quality of lead, however, is difficult, if not impossible to track in an automated fashion without call intelligence. This is where call intelligence shines, and can blow the doors off your current marketing campaigns.
How to Use Call Intelligence to Make More Money
What would you do if you could track the number of times your leads expressed interest, or raised objections, or even the level of sales skill your phone reps exhibit?
These are known as conversational metrics, and they’re only possible with call intelligence.
It’s expensive now, but in the near future I’m sure it will become much more affordable.
Using call intelligence to its full potential requires following these three basic steps:
- Gather Useful Insights
- Personalize the Customer Experience
- Strategize with the Data
Gather Useful Insights
Call intelligence addresses the blind spot in your marketing analytics. Use it to attribute revenue and conversions back to your marketing campaigns and get in-depth insights about your customers.
Call intelligence can capture the following data points (and more):
- Peak phone call times
- Repeat vs. new call
- Call outcome
- Average call duration
- Geographic location
- Caller intent
- Phone type
- Demographic data
This kind of data is either impossible or time-consuming to track any other way. That’s why I’m so sure this is the future. When this technology becomes more affordable (just as basic call-tracking has done over the past decade), any business will be able to fill up the last gaps in their analytics and see exactly what’s making them money.
Personalize the Customer Experience
- Custom Call Experiences
For example, set up distinct menu prompts for first-time callers and repeat callers. This customization can even be based on the caller’s online activity.
- Leverage Conversation Analytics
Use signals from a phone call to customize a caller’s experience after the fact. For example, put them on retargeting or nurturing campaigns depending on keywords they say during the call. Or use the results of phone calls to test different sales scripts, thereby improving the experience of all callers.
- Follow-Up Right
Put callers into follow-up campaigns based on call activity.
Since you know their entire journey, online and offline, you’ll make sure the right message goes to the right person at the right time. No more accidently retargeting a converted customer with a discount for something they just bought!
Act on the Data
- Double Down on Successful Campaigns
With call intelligence, you don’t just know which channels bring you the most calls. You know which bring you the best leads.
- Determine actual conversion paths
Do most people call straight from a well placed search ad? Or do they decide to call only after some email nurturing? See their whole history laid out in front of you.
- Tie revenue to phone calls
Instead of measuring success by call volume (which can be very misleading), measure it by actual revenue, and know which cogs in your machine are making the cash register ring.
- Test and Optimize
There are many things that could make your sales jump up, and with a stable tracking system it’s fun to experiment. Review the results at the end of the week or month or quarter.
Phone number tests:
- Font / Style
Landing page tests:
- Calls to action
The 3 Core Benefits to Using Call Intelligence
- Increase in call volume
- Better lead quality
- Greater marketing ROI
You don’t have to change your phone number or do anything with your phone system.
Increase in Call Volume
With insights into what’s actually driving phone calls, you’ll know how to drive more. e.g.
Better Lead Quality
Improve the entire customer journey, including their experience on the phone, so you can get more of those high-value calls.
Greater Marketing ROI
With proper analytics set up, you can improve all your channels constantly. The first step is seeing the exact ROI of every channel, laid out in front of you. The second is watching it go up.
What's the Next Step?
So, you have a business that profits from phone calls, and you want to fill in the gaps of your analytics and know the true ROI of your marketing.
What do you do next?
I would suggest choosing first a marketing automation tool, we made a marketing automation for small business blog posts
Unfortunately, advanced call intelligence is still quite expensive for many SMEs, even prohibitively dear for some.
That is the nature of new technology. But have hope. It’s also the nature of technology that as it ages, the quality goes up, and the price comes down, so if you don’t have space in your budget for the deep stuff just now, keep an eye on the market, because one day you will.
Basic call tracking is much cheaper, you can get your system started today, and it will give you the most important insights.
If advanced call intelligence is a “100”, basic call tracking is still about a “60”. You’ll still be able to track how many phone calls you generate from each marketing channel.
For most businesses, that’s more than enough to raise your revenue this quarter, if you do it right.
Learn more on B2B Lead Generation Best Practices for 2019.