So Call Me, Maybe… Tracking Your Business's Phone Number

This is a follow up to a guest post, So Call Me, Maybe… Should You Put Phone Numbers on Vehicle Graphics?

Online marketing is practiced in some form by a growing number of companies every day. One of the things companies love about online marketing is the ability to track their efforts. Whether it’s website stats, url link shorteners, or Facebook Insights, the ability to track your marketing efforts is a big plus with this “new” form of marketing. No more relying on those hazy metrics from the Mad Men ad agency days to determine if you are contributing to business goals through marketing.

While most online companies have heard of, or actively participate in, tracking their links and emails, a smaller percentage participate in call tracking. No, I’m not talking about tapping phones — that’s creepy and illegal. I’m talking about placing a unique phone number on a certain campaign or medium to track who called, and from where.

I posted the question online asking who within my network tracked phone calls. I got a few responses stating that they had anywhere from a few to dozens of tracking numbers. When I worked in the auto industry, we had so many I lost count. While services like Mongoose Metrics and Ifbyphone make tracking easier by providing dashboards, reports, and tons of other cool features, what if your company doesn’t have a budget to perform these tasks?

The first thing to do is ask for a budget. Most services in this space are relatively inexpensive. If that route proves fruitless, I have an easy, free alternative for you.

Refine Your Tracking with Google Voice

A bit about Google Voice — it’s a free service that allows you to get a phone number and route the calls anywhere you want. You can text from it, you can check voicemail online, or it will transcribe and email your voice messages. It does tons of other stuff, as well, but that’s for another post. All you need to get a Google Voice number is a Google account. Hopefully, your company is using Google Apps and their amazing webmail service so you already have an account. If your company is in the dark ages or has to use Outlook for various reasons, don’t fret. Signing up for a Gmail account grants you access to Voice as well.

Now that you have your Gmail account setup, type voice.google.com into your favorite browser (If you use Chrome, it has an awesome Google Voice extension). You will have a chance to pick a phone number based on area code, a unique character string, or both. When I setup the tracking number to go on our delivery vehicle decals, created by TKO Graphix, at our Elkhart, Indiana location, I could not only select the Elkhart area code, but also, customize the last four digits to spell out “FLEX” (our name is FlexPAC). Instead of an 800 or 888 number, we now have a phone number that appears to be local and has some branding power as well. Point your Google Voice number to an inside sales rep, a customer service line, or anywhere else your heart desires. All of this functionality for the budget busting cost of $0 a month.

Simplifying The Process

You are probably thinking, “Hey Chris, that’s pretty cool and all, but that only gets me one phone number; I need multiple numbers.” The beauty of using Google Voice to track calls from your marketing campaigns is that a Google account is free to setup. Need another number, setup another account. Already setup “tkographix@gmail.com” for your first number? Sign up for “tkographixtimbuktu@gmail.com” to get a Google Voice number for your Timbuktu office. You can sign up for 100 accounts if you want. Lucky for me, the industrial packaging and janitorial supply distributor I work for is on Google Apps, so I have north of 60 accounts at my disposal. You say, “Man, Chris, that’s going to be a huge pain to remember all those passwords to login with.” If you go from memory for passwords, stop right now and visit LastPass. If that still isn’t enough, Google now offers multiple sign-in. You can be logged into numerous Google accounts at once and toggle between them. Problem solved.

Don Kincaid made a great suggestion for tracking calls. He said companies should start small. You don’t have to begin by tracking 20 different campaigns or mediums. Don suggests picking two numbers to start with. Once you have a process in place to cross-reference the inbound calls with your ERP or CRM, run reports and actually track the calls, then ramp up later. One person I talked to even tracked their promotional items like pens and calendars with a unique number. The possibilities are endless, which is good and bad so use the power wisely.

While Google Voice isn’t specifically designed for this practice, and it has some limitations, you can’t beat it for the price tag and ease of access.

Do you track other marketing activities, but not phone calls? Let us know some challenges, or why you don’t, in the comments below.