We’ve all heard the old adage you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Even though many of us try, there’s no disputing that when a number or metric is monitored, highlighted, and shared throughout an organization, it attracts attention and efforts to improve it.
There is no shortage of metrics to track and fret over on the Web. There is unique visitors, email subscribers, session length, and page visits to name a few.
Many of these statistics do little more than distract business owners and marketing folks. In fact, the more metrics you try to track… the less focused you probably are.
When you aren’t focused, data loses its power.
When data loses its power, it fails to become information that can expand and monetize your business to its greatest potential.
There is one easily-tracked metric for service companies that nobody tracks.
It is phone calls. More specifically, phone calls that originate from your website or web marketing efforts.
Over the years, I’ve had the following conversation countless times…
Client: “Jason, we want to work to get more leads from our website. We aren’t getting very many email inquiries and we’d like to fix that. What can we do to increase this?”
Me: “Well, what about phone calls? Is your website producing any calls?”
Client: “No. It’s really not and it’s a bit of a shame.”
Me: “How do you know? Do you track the number on your site specifically?”
Client: “Well no. But we’ve told our staff to ask I think. And they’ve all confirmed nothing is coming from the website.”
Usually at this point I’ll suspect there may be a glitch in the system. Then, I’ll volunteer to set up a tracking number on their website where we can track all calls that number receives.
Since the number is only used on their website, we know any calls here can be credited to their web efforts.
Much to the customer’s amazement, we usually have call data by the next day.
“Wow, I had no idea we even got that many calls! And I sure as heck had no idea they were all coming from the website!”
Despite the web being around for quite some time now, I’ve noticed a flawed assumption…
Emails = Website Leads
Phone Calls = (Leads from Some Other Mysterious Place)
Why are web leads important to your top line revenue and the growth of your company?
1. Serious Prospects Call
That’s right! When a customer needs answers or has a need and is serious about addressing an issue, they often don’t want to fill out an email form, cross their fingers, and hope someone eventually replies.
Think about your own behavior. When you want answers, don’t you call?
This means that callers represent a disproportionate number of legitimate business opportunities.
2. Calls Typically Out Number Contact Form Submissions More than 6-to-1
You are likely undervaluing the call traffic from your website. I’ve set up many call tracking numbers for clients and frequently see 6 to 10 calls coming in from the website per 1 email from their contact page.
Remember, these are calls the customer does not typically credit back to their website! They just assume they are floating in mysteriously.
3. When You Know How Many Calls You Have, You Will Value Them
My customers are shocked when they see how many calls they are receiving from their website. After they see the correlation, they start to pay more attention to this rich source of viable opportunities.
Instead of seeing their website as an expense with no return, they begin to see it as a Goose churning out Golden Eggs.
Further — business owners begin to ask the questions…
“What’s happening to all these phone calls?”
“How are these calls being handled?”
“Are we fully capitalizing on this rich source of new business opportunities?”
These are great questions. These are questions people don’t consider unless they know their call volume.
4. No Calls Is A Red Flag Something Is Wrong
If you are a local service business and you are not receiving a steady and reliable stream of calls from your website, you have a HUGE opportunity to grow.
If you aren’t getting calls from your website, this is a fixable issue that has a strong potential to impact your bottom line profits, business growth, and company morale.
Even if your calls are relatively non-existent… it’s something you want to know and fix because… you don’t have to live this way![a]
5. You Can Better Evaluate Your Marketing Efforts
When you don’t track calls, you don’t know if your marketing investments produce results that impact your call volume.
Businesses that don’t track calls only have a vague idea if something is working or not. Often the anecdotal information received from sales people, receptionists, or other front lines receiving calls leads to inaccurate conclusions.
6. It’s a Metric Highly Correlated to Sales!
If I was to stand here and offer you (completely hypothetically) the following for $100, which would you choose?
1. 50 New Website Visitors
2. 50 Calls From Prospective Customers
If you chose option b, you win!
We often obsess over numbers that may or may not correlate to new customer opportunities.
Many people believe that website traffic is the key number to watch. Did you know it’s possible, and not even that uncommon, for website traffic to go up and calls to drop?
Or the reverse? Traffic drops and calls go up?
Often looking at how many unique visitors come to your site, fails to take into account the composition of the traffic. 50% of visitors may come to your page for a new blog post but may be located outside of your territory. This would cause traffic to go up and have little impact on calls.
7. You Can Learn Details That Have Huge Impacts on Long Term Profits
Did you know that something as small as using a phone number with a local area code on your website can increase the calls for that territory? Did you know that in some cases using toll free numbers (800, 877, 888, etc.) have shown to reduce call volume from people looking for a local business to help them?
We reserve phone numbers at a low cost for our clients as a value-added service to help us track their efforts.
If your business covers a territory that has five different area codes, I’d strongly recommend using the localized area code for each location. Even if all the calls are routed to one centralized recipient or phone system.
People want to do business locally and they often think a business with their area code will respond faster and provide better service.
While larger national companies use 800 numbers, people may feel like they are going to be working with a faceless corporate machine that treats them like just another number.
When you track calls, you can determine if are people calling from an area code different than your main number. Then, you can likely increase your call volume by securing a number from that area code and listing it on your website.
8. You Can’t Monitor Hang Ups Without Tracking Calls!
Hang ups cost businesses in a very big way. We spend time and money to drive customers to our websites, and they pick up the phone to call us and somewhere along the way before they speak to a human… they hang up!
Do you know what they did after they hung up?
They called someone else.
One client (details changed to protect the innocent) was offering industrial equipment sales, parts, and repair services. Many of our clients are in this space.
We set up a tracking number on their website and noticed an abnormally high number of hang ups.
They received 120 calls per month and 49 were hangups!
This was concerning. What was going on here?
Our tracking technology allows us to click on calls and listen where they hung up. They all seemed to hang up at the same spot of the phone tree greeting and it didn’t take long to see why…
This company had a far-reaching territory that covered a few states. However, the greeting said “You have reached XYZ company of [City Name].”
Anyone outside the immediate vicinity of that city, would promptly hang up and find someone else who is local.
They had no idea this was going on prior to tracking call volume which later led to monitoring different call metrics. 43% of their calls were leading to hang ups–and they had no idea!
That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in lost sales. It’s painful to think about… but most people don’t know because they don’t pay attention to their call volume.
9. Where Are Your Calls Coming From? Where Aren’t They Coming From?
Once you track phone calls, you will notice that callers originate from the same cities and area codes.
This should help you guide your marketing efforts and encourage you to further localize content on your site around these areas.
You may also discover that a key cities in your territory are failing to show up as an origin city in your call reports. This means action needs to be taken.
What we do is run an audit to focus on this location and determine what online exposure opportunities are being missed. What are the competitors doing that we can emulate or improve upon to increase visibility?
Running a business with blackout spots in your territory is like racing a car that’s not firing on all cylinders. If you are a distributor or dealer, you likely PAID to be visible in that territory.
It’s like securing 40 acres to plant crops, and only using 10 acres.
Enough of the metaphors… on to the 10th and final reason you need to track calls.
10. Get a Baseline, Spot Trends, and Predict Seasonality
Quite simply, as you begin to track phone calls you will become better at anticipating demand in your business. As you see investments in your website and marketing positively impact your baseline call volume, you will establish a new expectation for your business.
As I stated in the beginning, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Here is what is equally true: when you know and understand the importance of certain key metrics, you will inevitably desire to improve those numbers. When you improve those numbers, you are able identify opportunities, set goals, and break records.
Having reliable data, understanding what that data means, and how it correlates to the bottom line frequently leads to improvements.
The best testimony to call tracking success: our clients. We have seen their businesses transform since we began offering a service to pay attention to this simple overlooked metric.
Prior to tracking calls, businesses were flying blind and succeeding but not reaching their full potential. If you fail to measure call volume, you fail to respect each caller as an opportunity which has an adverse effect on sales and cripples growth over time.
The Yellow Pages are becoming a distant memory fading into the rear view, but calls are still the preferred communication method by serious customers.
Jason is a Web Marketing consultant and the CEO and founder of Digital Harvest, a Tampa-based marketing firm that helps companies increase their online exposure and generate more business.