Every small business owner understands the importance of ROI. Operating on tight budgets requires justifying every expense, and this is especially true for your small business marketing dollars. Understanding how well your marketing efforts perform is an important part of long-term success
Tracking helps small business owners keep their fingers on the pulse of marketing effectiveness—from online advertising and SEO initiatives to email campaigns and the reach of print flyers—so they can adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. Call-tracking software can help illuminate marketing effectiveness by showing the origination point of phone-based leads and the route that some consumers take from research to purchase.
What is Call-tracking Software?
Many small businesses already track their online customers through Web forms and similar tools. But that captures only part of the picture. If customers opt to call the business rather than use the online contact form, you lose important information.
"The phone call is the hottest lead for any business," says Sean Leonard, CEO of ActiveDemand, a call tracking solutions provider. "If you're not tracking the calls, you're not tracking the business."
Call-tracking platforms give small businesses specific phone numbers for marketing campaigns, Web advertising, and other customer contact points.
"In its basic form, a call to a specific number tells you that conversion is a direct result of this specific marketing expenditure," Leonard explains. Business analytics, once the purview of big enterprise, now help small businesses compete. "Optimizing marketing budgets to drive sales is just as important for small companies as it is for large multi-nationals," says Leonard.
If, for example, a person types "computer store Chicago" into a search engine and then calls a firm that came up in the search results, call-tracking software captures that lead. "Call tracking lets you attribute that phone call to the money you paid for the keyword 'computer store Chicago,'" says Brendan Jackson, director of marketing at call tracking software vendor DialogTech.
That type of information isn't typically reflected in the Web forms that many small businesses use, but it helps you spend your marketing dollars effectively. "It shines a light on that missing piece of the puzzle," says Jackson.
Data from the Pew Research Centershows that 68 percent of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone, almost double the figure from just five years ago. Mobile devices reside in an increasing number of coat pockets, which makes call tracking an important part of a small business marketing strategy.
Call-tracking Software Features and Functions
Designed to work alongside whatever phone system or calling platform you already use, call-tracking solutions rarely require specific hardware. A short snippet of code—added to your company website—directs callers to the tracked number.
But when shopping for a call-tracking solution that fits your needs, other cost factors come into play. "Much of the cost comes from buying different phone numbers," Jackson explains. "Try to find a solution that recycles the numbers quickly, so you can buy fewer numbers."
Guarding those numbers against spammers is also an important consideration, and any prospective call-tracking platform should have mechanisms in place to address it. "Spam calls are a big issue in our industry; even more so as we enter the political season," Jackson says. "It's important to choose a company that offers controls to filter out potential spam calls."
Businesses must also understand the cost breakdown of potential call-tracking solutions. Leonard recommends asking about these important expenditures: the cost per number, air-time cost, and the minimum commitment required. "Vendors vary greatly here," Leonard warns.
He also suggests asking how the call-tracking solution reports its results. "Is it automated? Are dashboards available?" Without a way to dive into the data, small business owners may find the platform doesn't deliver as much cost efficiency as expected.
Even as you consider the expenses your company can bear today, it's also vital that you know what additional functionality your chosen system can offer as your business needs grow and change. Ask vendors for pricing on other modules or complementary systems that could be valuable tools down the road, such as interactive voice routing (IVR) and conversation analytics
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from food service to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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