Online measurement extends offline

Sometimes, the phone is mightier than the mouse.

In other words, many digital marketers rightly focus more on making the phone ring than on filling online shopping carts.  In particular, organizations that market high-consideration products, local storefronts, and/or in-person services often get more leads and sales over the phone than on the website.  But the website is still a key part of the customer education process, which is where call-tracking technology comes in.

By the same token, not all of the marketing budget for even purely online businesses is spent on web marketing like SEM, email, banner ads, affiliates, social media, etc.  Even the newest-fangled dot-com will test the established offline channels that have worked for decades: TV, radio, print, direct mail, out-of-home, etc.  Some of this non-web marketing is for brand-building, but all of it should move the needle, which is where web analytics, counter-intuitively, come in.

Call tracking has been around since the heyday of the Yellow Pages, and at its simplest involved using a distinct, dedicated phone number for each ad to be tracked: one for the half-page in the weekly newspaper, one for the radio spot, as granular as you wanted to go and could afford.  Now, the same idea can be applied to pay-per-click search engine ads, to reveal which keywords and ad copy make people pick up the phone right away.  And since search engine users often want to check out the advertiser before pressing “one” for sales, call-tracking measures calls by people who visit the company website.

Better still, calls from website visitors can be segmented based on how they found the website using technology that displays a different phone number on the site depending on whether the visit came from an email, a banner ad, or a search engine…including which search engine, keyword, and ad drove the visit.  Most call-tracking vendors – and there are a ton – report visits and calls, allowing for a nice call rate metric to rank various marketing channels.  A few allow customer service reps to score the outcome of calls, such as whether a sale was made.  A very few integrate – notably IfByPhone and MongooseMetrics for Google Analytics users– with web analytics systems to insert calls as a metric in those reports.

Of course, today’s call-tracking vendors will still happily provide a dedicated number for your new billboard, since they charge by the minute of call time, among other factors (call tracking is definitely a high-consideration service).  But that billboard will probably have a URL, too, so why not a unique URL that enables tracking of resulting website visits, purchases, and calls?

Empirical Path clients have advertised vanity URLs – think, www.fake.com/tv – and micro-sites – a la www.faketv.com – to measure how offline marketing efforts impact online activity.  Our recommendation is to have these landing pages re-direct to a page that uses “campaign tagging” – URL parameters readable by web analytics tools – to link those visitors, their paths, and their conversions to the ad that deserves credit.  Then, web analytics reports will list Mad Men-era channels like TV and outdoor alongside PPC and Twitter as referring sources, with online conversions and revenue for each.  Add in the cost data for each, and marketers can start to compare ROI across very different media and technologies.

What’s old is new, as usual: customer acquisition still occurs in traditional as well as purely digital ways, and so does customer satisfaction.  So there is no reason to track these approaches differently, when each costs time and money and yields (we hope more) money when measured and optimized using the right tools and metrics.

Please read more about our web analytics projects and service-sector clients, or contact us for more information.

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