“Death of Detroit would wallop ad world” …”… nightmares of a blue Christmas” Shocking! Tell us something we don’t already know!  Turning a few more pages I see, “As site traffic slows, online marketers tighten their holiday budgets.”

And that’s when I calmly fold-up my recent copy of Advertising Age and call my dentist to schedule that long avoided Novocain-free root canal!  I mean really, all this doom and gloom is probably enough to send some folks home early for the holidays to hang out with the relatives they have successfully avoided all year long.  But I’m an opportunist, so the timing couldn’t be better!

There has to be an opportunity here, right?  We’ve heard a lot of noise in the trades about the fall of online display advertising in favor of performance-based advertising.  The good news is that lower budgets and fewer advertisers can actually mean less competition.  For smart local advertisers and their agencies, that is something to cheer about!  Literally it means more business leads for less money and a higher return on investment, if campaigns are executed properly.

We know that local advertising is, by its very nature, “performance driven.”  Driving direct response whether by a click, a call or an in-store visit is the essence of local marketing.  Performance-based advertising is great for measuring online effectiveness, but what about when the phone rings?  That part of the equation has typically been black-boxed and presents a huge opportunity.  As an industry, taking credit for the phone leads we generate is a huge win; we can sign more clients and increase budgets by delivering more, highly-qualified leads, including phone calls.

That said, it is one thing to make the phone ring, and quite another to track that call down to a lead source, a keyword, or both; enter call tracking.  Call tracking enables marketers and agencies to track inbound calls in response to both online and traditional advertising.  Effectively, call tracking is to the phone what Web analytics is to the Internet.

The ability to capture both click and call data is the holy grail of local advertising analytics.  Even though it is reasonably priced, many advertisers and agencies don’t take advantage of this simple tool in their local ad campaigns.  Obviously, I’m a call tracking fan, so allow me to share with you some of the reasons you should add it to your plans:

Call tracking is cost-effective and easily implemented

Call tracking works by placing a unique phone number on any advertising vehicle from a newspaper to an online ad.  When the trackable number is called by a prospective customer, valuable data on the source of the lead, duration of the call, time of day, geographic location of the caller as well as call outcome is collected.  Call tracking is easily implemented without any major upfront cost and is an inexpensive way to measure the cost-effectiveness of any form of online or offline advertising.

Call tracking captures data on missed calls & generates a solid return on investment (ROI)

If a prospective customer calls after hours or hangs up before the call is answered, advertisers can elect to receive an email containing the caller’s phone number.  Why let this lead get away?  Working with one of our customers in the Philadelphia area, we discovered they were able to generate an additional 240 leads a week just by returning these calls.  At a value of $20 per call, they are generating an additional $19,000 per month in sales leads without spending a penny more on advertising!

“This call may be recorded for training purposes”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this while waiting on hold and probably dismissed it as readily as the ear-numbing muzak we have grown accustomed to.  But by recording the customer experience from the moment of contact, businesses can work with their employees to improve performance and close more sales.  And it only makes sense.  If you’re spending money to get prospects to pick up the phone, why not leverage call recording to coach employees on delivering outstanding customer service every time the phone rings.

Phone leads from search engine marketing (SEM) can be tracked down to the keyword level

Just as the efficacy of online advertising can be measured down to the keyword level, advertisers using call tracking can assign unique phone numbers to different SEM campaigns, search engines, publishers and even paid versus organic search, allowing marketers to measure and prove ROI for leads that result in a phone call.  You are probably generating calls from your search efforts already, but without call tracking, you are not getting the credit you deserve!

While performance-based advertising seems to be the focus of online marketers, phone calls remain the primary currency for local businesses.  Research continues to demonstrate the important role search is playing as part of the purchase funnel.  The Kelsey Group has reported that 86% of search engine users search for local products and services online.  According to a study by TMP Directional Marketing and comScore, the two most common activities following an online local search are a visit or a phone call to a local store.  That means businesses of all sizes can harness the benefits of call tracking and leverage phone analytics as an important part of their advertising strategy.

It’s time to get proper credit for driving phone-based leads.  The opportunity is huge and smart marketers and agencies can take advantage of this downturn to prove just how valuable they are!

In fact, let me prove it to you.  The first five folks that email me at ajacoby (at) marchex (dot) com (and have an advertising campaign that can benefit from call tracking), I’ll provide a free call tracking number and we’ll report back in three months on the success of the campaign.

Ari Jacoby is the President of Voice Services at Marchex. He is responsible for developing and executing strategy as well as sales and business development. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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