Sometimes it feels that the last thing people use their smartphones for is calling others.
In fact, last week we found out that Millennials would rather get a root canal than call customer support when they need help with something. But, when it comes to mobile marketing, making it easy for prospects to call you when they want information that could be critically important to converting them into customers.
Steve Griffiths, SVP of marketing, strategy and analytics at the marketing technology firm DialogTech, shares with us the results from their study that found just how important phone calls can be to creating successful mobile marketing campaigns today.
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Small Business Trends: Maybe you can give us a little bit of your personal background first.
Steve Griffiths: I run our marketing group as well as our strategy and analytics group — which among other things produces research around best practices and statistics for multi-channel marketing, with the goal of helping marketers do a better job at their job.
Small Business Trends: Give us a little background on DialogTech.
Steve Griffiths: We are a marketing technology company, and we help marketers understand the role that phone calls play in their efforts. And it turns out that with the proliferation of mobile devices, more and more consumers are electing to engage with businesses by calling them. And we provide a set of tools and analytics to help marketers understand how calls are being driven into their business, where those calls are coming from so that they can make better decisions about which campaigns to run, which ads to run and how to essentially generate more leads in business through phone calls.
Small Business Trends: What’s really funny about it is everybody has a mobile phone, and we hear the importance of being able to engage customers with these mobile devices that they have. The last thing that a lot of people think about is actually using the mobile phone to call.
Steve Griffiths: It is funny. We call them smartphones and it’s so easy to forget that the word “phone” is actually in the name of that device because it has consumed so many elements of our daily lives — phone calls being one of them.
When you look at the data around how much advertising is directed to mobile, it’s already 50 percent of all digital advertising. And in a study by e-Marketer that was published recently, they project it’s going to be 73 percent of all digital advertising will target mobile by 2019.
Pretty staggering, and what it’s doing is generating phone calls. Why is that? It’s because as human beings frequently take the path of least resistance. If you think about being on your device, filling out a Web form with your thumbs, laboring through a cumbersome check-out process on an eCommerce site, digging through a mobile website that may or may not be mobile friendly. It’s friction in the sales process. Wouldn’t it be easy to just click a little button with one press, and engage in a conversation and just talk to another human being. So that’s really the dynamic at play, and it’s just simply the most natural or easiest conversion path on a smart phone. And so people are picking up the phone and calling.
Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about the role of call attribution within mobile marketing, and why the big impact it seems to make in understanding how effective your mobile marketing campaigns really are.
Steve Griffiths: I’ll touch on a recent research report we published that addresses some of those issues. So we looked at a sample of our customers. We have over 5,000 customers in 35 different industries and sectors ranging from small business all the way up through large, global enterprises. And we tried to understand where is attribution coming from within the mobile space. We looked at web forms, and we looked at phone calls. What we found was essentially half — 49 percent, actually — of conversions were coming through phone calls with the balance coming through Web forms.
So as a marketer who wants to understand attribution, who wants to understand which of my programs are having an impact and what is that impact, by neglecting to track phone calls I could be missing 50 percent or more of my conversions. And in certain industries, we saw that the number was much, much higher. We talk a lot about considered purchases, things you don’t buy every day, things that are complex or they’re expensive, financial services, insurance, automotive, a college degree, software — there’s a variety of things where your research undoubtedly starts online, but there comes a point where you have questions, you want to talk to somebody, and you pick up the phone and call.
So to answer your question, there’s really that bimodal attribution dynamic at play where you’re getting digital conversions, and conversions through phone calls. And as mobile continues to be a bigger and bigger piece of the mix, that number only gets bigger and bigger as well.
Small Business Trends: According to your study, 81 percent of calls from mobile are driven from mobile search and landing pages for your customers. So does it sound like a new-use case or new pathway? They’re doing more activities on their mobile devices and once they do a search, then they may actually reach out via phone.
Steve Griffiths: That’s exactly right, and you characterized it accurately. Those are statistics from our customer base that — and not necessarily representative of the whole market. But we see within our customers the source of phone calls coming from search, from landing pages on our customer’s websites, and to a lesser degree from display advertising and social media. Those are really the big four.
Search is the largest, and if you think about search as a channel compared to some others, there’s intent there. When I put something into Google, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want. I might be actually looking to get a phone number. So, in the case of search, I might be conducting a search. A lot of times, I might not even get to the customer’s website with call extensions — those buttons on the ads that say “call” that typically are next to a button that says “website” and “directions”. Or it could be that I do a search and I go to a mobile website and I call from there. So that is a very common use case, and our customer base is customers that want to understand that behavior and track that behavior — both from the search engine results page and from their websites.
Small Business Trends: Maybe you can tell us a little bit about particular industries where this important — call attribution as a part of the mobile marketing initiatives.
Steve Griffiths: We’ve seen over the course of time, a number of industries place more value on phone calls than others. And they typically are items that you just don’t buy everyday for one reason or another. We see a lot of financial services, a lot of insurance, automotive, home services is a big industry — anything that involves letting someone actually come into your house. You tend to want to talk to someone before that happens. Technology, healthcare — there’s a variety of others of these sort of considered purchases where a conversation is very frequently a part of the sales and marketing process.
That said, with these trends around mobile, everybody’s phone is ringing more than it did a few years ago. So we’re really seeing a lot of growth come from what wouldn’t be the likely suspects — if you will — because the dynamic is really, really applicable to industries across the board.
Small Business Trends: And it looks to me like it would be pretty critical, because I’m seeing here the 5.2 minute average call duration. That’s actually an important metric from an engagement perspective. These folks are not only just calling, but it’s an absolute opportunity for companies to build a connection during that brief bit of time. But if you aren’t prepared to handle that call interaction, it could cost you a real opportunity to grow your business.
Steve Griffiths: That’s exactly right, and the 5.2 minutes that you mentioned is the average call duration that we see across our customers. But you look at other industries like financial services for example, the average is 8.5 minutes. Now that’s a pretty long phone call. That’s talk time. So great opportunity for businesses to provide a great experience to their customer, relevant experience to their customer. What’s a more personalized brand experience than literally having a dialogue with someone at your company?
So those are really important aspects of the sales process. And we see our customers value access to that information so they can derive insights to it. Not just how long the call is, but where did they come from before they called. Which pages on my website did they look at before and after they called? Assembling rich data and profiles around that call experience really gives you a lot of information to leverage to improve your marketing.
Small Business Trends: And it looks like if you aren’t having that capability to be able to handle the incoming phone call and be at the ready to engage, it could be a real missed opportunity. As I look here, some of the stats that you’ve gathered:
- 41 percent of mobile searchers will research other brands if the company has no click-to-call option.
- Sixty percent of mobile searchers say it’s important that businesses give them a phone number to call.
- I love this – 70 percent of mobile searchers have used the call button.
So it seems like it’s not just missing a little bit. It’s potentially missing a lot.
Steve Griffiths: It’s important not only for the reasons we’ve discussed, but because of credibility. And some of the stats that you shared were from a Google click-to-call study they did recently. It’s a credibility component. If you don’t see a phone number, does that make you think differently about a business? Should that be a local phone number? Should that be a toll-free phone number? There’s a different psychology at play if you will around that dynamic.
And then as far as the opportunity goes, you’re absolutely right. BIA/Kelsey, which is an analyst research firm, did a survey of small and medium-sized businesses about the value of different kinds of leads – leads that come in over the phone, leads that visited a store in a retail environment, social media leads, email leads, etc. And they found that phone calls were the number one most valued source of leads. And if you think about it, it’s not too surprising because there’s intent there. They tend to be customers that have done their research. They’re further along in the sales process, so by the time they pick up the phone and call in a lot of instances, they’re warm leads. So all the more reason to give the call channel a little extra TLC if you will.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about this survey and all the services that you actually provide?
Steve Griffiths: Dialogtech.com. And you can use this link (PDF) to download the report.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.