Analytics: Google, Schmoogle. Let’s talk phone calls.

Larry Lisser, President of ChannelStrength
phone keys.jpgI read Ramon’s recent posting on using Google Analytics to improve the effectiveness of email campaigns. He’s right. If you’re not using Google (or dare I say something different) to monitor and measure the results on any online marketing spend, you need to be. But the article got me wondering. Ten good years into the era of small business doing business online, why are we so obsessed with clicks, open rates, unique visits and more?
I don’t know about you but if you’re like most, clicks don’t pay your bills. Phone calls – the ones that turn into business relationships – keep the lights on. But traditionally we haven’t included phone calls among the ‘must have’ metrics of the Web. We just want the phone to ring. And often.

But here’s a little known fact: a little effort and a little money will take you from the little idea you have of what kind of calls your online spend is generating, to knowing lots about how many calls you get, from whom, from which campaign – even which keywords work best for phone calls.
Some of the companies offering these benefits are new; some of what they offer is not. There are several superb small business virtual PBX providers, like GotVMail, that offer 800 numbers and nifty call routing to make your business sound big. But there are also emerging providers – like Ifbyphone or VoiceStar – that add a web-friendly layer to these features, and overall seem more interested in being part of your online marketing plan.
These companies automatically turn your phone numbers into clickable links. Your email reader or web site visitor (or someone anywhere online) clicks on the link, enters their phone number – and presto you two are connected. Best part: no equipment, special software, or nothing for either you or your caller. And now that the numbers are clicks, you can monitor and measure them like you do (or don’t) everything else online.
Here are some suggestions on how to use these services in your online marketing:
Email Marketing: Whether you’re using ConstantContact, VerticalReponse or any like provider, their applications make it easy for you to hyperlink to from your email to any page, right? This is how you end up with click-thru rates I talked about earlier. All you need to do is insert your phone number ‘link’ from Ifbyphone or others, and now phone calls can be measured just like click-thru’s.
Bottom line: More calls from the campaign and a new metric that tells you how the campaign really did. (Note: these services and others can also make it easy to insert campaign-specific 800 numbers. Add a custom 800 number to your campaign – online or not – and then use it to measure how you did, or use it to make sure that calls from that campaign go to the right person).
Web Pages: Same deal. Turn your phone number into a web link, use hyperlinked images to create stronger call to actions around getting the phone to ring. You can put the phone link ‘behind’ anything you like. Result: A much clearer picture of who’s calling from the Web, when and why. SiteKreator, the company that has been so patiently building my own new site, recently made it easy to integrate this feature. Have a look to learn more. For those of you buying key words, imagine the value of knowing which keywords are driving the best/most phone calls.
Online marketing is a must these days. But if you’re going spend money, you need to know what return you’re after and get a clear picture on how your money is performing.
Lisser_thumb.jpgLarry Lisser is a telecom junkie and the president of ChannelStrength, a consulting company that works with business communications vendors to develop and deploy innovative partner strategies. You can read more at ChannelStrength’s Blog.