As digital marketing has gone mobile, call conversions have skyrocketed. That's because smartphones are, after all, still phones, and using a click-to-call button is the fastest and most natural way for consumers to connect with businesses. Why else would calls from search, social, and display advertising be expected to exceed 162 billion by the end of 2019?

But those calls, though often the most lucrative type of conversion, are also the most difficult for marketers to measure and optimize.

Call attribution software provides visibility into how all your digital marketing channels drive call conversions, who those callers are, and their impact on revenue; in short, it provides call tracking, call analytics, call intelligence, or call insights—whichever term you prefer.

The software integrates with the marketing platforms you already use to track and optimize online interactions, allowing you to optimize your digital strategy, messaging, and media spend to drive more clicks, calls, and customers.

Here's a basic lesson in call attribution, including how it works and how it benefits every type of marketer.

What is call attribution software?

It's a form of conversion tracking technology for marketers. Digital marketers use call attribution software to optimize for the channels, search keywords, ads, emails, Web pages, and online content that generate the most customer calls.

Who uses it? Digital marketers at businesses of all sizes in all industries use call attribution software. It is especially popular with Fortune 1000 and other large multi-location companies where phone calls play an important role in the customer journey. Marketing teams at those companies (and the agencies they partner with) drive thousands of calls a week from search, display, social, and other digital sources, and they need attribution to know how best to optimize.

What is it not? It's not call center software. Call attribution software is sold to and used by marketers, not IT or call center administrators. A mistake people sometimes make is that they assume call attribution software lives within the call center stack of applications. But that isn't true. Call attribution software does give digital marketers visibility into calls to call centers, but it isn't call center software. It works independent of the call center; it's for calls that go anywhere, including stores, dealerships, campuses, offices, sales agents, and, yes, call centers.

Think of call attribution as a key piece of marketing technology that is like Google Analytics, DoubleClick, or Marketo—but for call conversions. And, in fact, it works with those tools to help marketers improve performance.

How does it work?

Call attribution software works using a combination of cookies and a technology called dynamic number insertion (DNI).

DNI uses a small snippet of JavaScript code that replaces the phone numbers on your mobile (and desktop) webpages with unique trackable phone numbers (toll-free, local, or international) assigned to each visitor. Those numbers are taken from your own private pool provided by the software.

Using cookies, the numbers follow visitors as they browse your site; and, if they call, the call attribution software captures all the attribution and caller profile data. It can also pass that data to sales agents at the time of the call, as well as to other marketing platforms for use.

In a nutshell:

  1. Call attribution software dynamically replaces the phone numbers on your website with trackable numbers tied to a user's session without impacting the SEO value you get from having NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency across your website and secondary listing sites.
  2. When a customer calls, call attribution software captures the data and routes the caller to the best location.
  3. The conversation is recorded and transcribed and made available for marketers to analyze for insights.
  4. Data captured by call attribution software can be passed to other marketing solutions to optimize performance.

Call attribution benefits every marketer

Fully 81% of marketers say they would increase spending on digital, mobile, and social channels, but they struggle to accurately measure their ROI (including tracking and optimizing for call conversions).

Here's how call attribution benefits every marketer:

  • The digital marketing team can optimize for the digital ads and keywords driving customer calls with the same tools it uses for clicks, thus boosting revenue while lowering acquisition costs.
  • The Web team can prove the complete impact of the website on sales by getting credit for customer calls, and it can determine what Web pages and content lead to every call. (Don't forget to include call conversions as a metric in A/B tests!)
  • The analytics team can make smarter decisions both by understanding the role that calls play in the customer journey and their impact on revenue, and by adding missing call conversion data to analytics data.
  • The CMO can accurately track the ROI from all marketing investments, not just those that convert online, while proving to the CEO, executive team, and board how marketing programs are growing the business.

Not all call attribution software is the same, however. When evaluating a call attribution solution, make sure the platform has tools for you to analyze and manage the entire call and conversation.

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Call Attribution 101 for Digital Marketers: How to Optimize Calls Just Like Clicks

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image of Susan Bryant

Susan Bryant is CMO at DialogTech, a call attribution and analytics company, where she is responsible for overall corporate marketing.

LinkedIn: Susan Bryant

Twitter: @szbryant