Call analytics, or "call tracking" as it's commonly called, is vital to gathering and analyzing marketing data for your business.

Just as Web analytics can give you in-depth information about how customers find you online, call-tracking software offers important information about who your customers are, how they discover your business, and what exactly they're looking for when they decide to give you a call.

Navigating the call-tracking waters can be difficult, especially if you're not sure of what to look for in a provider. You'll want to work with someone rather than have someone work for you: To get the most out of your service, think of your call-tracking provider of choice as a partner rather than a vendor.

Ready to start your search for that perfect partner? Here are four things to keep in mind when browsing call-tracking providers; you can use this as a checklist of criteria to look for when shopping for call-tracking software.

What to Look for in Call-Tracking Software

1. Real-time Data

Gathering data about customers after they've called you is one thing. But what about gathering data about callers as you're on the phone with them? Wouldn't they feel more engaged if you knew specifics about them before they even start talking?

The ability to see calls in real-time gives you an incredible edge over your competition. Knowing exactly who your customer is as soon as your phone rings will give you a better chance of a successful sale.

Ideally, you'll want to look for a call-tracking provider that can supply details such as call date and time, duration, location of the caller, and call source—in other words, data you can use in real-time and later on for analysis and reporting.

Real-time data is not something that's offered by all call-tracking software; however, finding one that does offer it can ultimately help you better understand your callers and cater to their needs—and help your sales team increase it sales conversion rates.

2. Integrations

Most people dislike having to hop around from platform to platform to gather all the data they need to get the big picture of their marketing efforts. That's why it's important to go with a call-tracking service that can integrate with the other services you already use for lead qualification and conversion, and aggregate all of your data in one central location.

Google Analytics and AdWords, Marketo, Salesforce, HubSpot, WordPress... the list of commonly integrated marketing software and services can go on and on, depending on how in-depth you want to get with analysis and reporting.

Look for call-tracking software that integrates with the platforms you use the most. For many people, that's likely Google AdWords and Analytics, but if you're using CRM systems such as Marketo and Salesforce, you'll want to investigate options that integrate with those as well.

Start small. Get only what you really need at the moment; then, as you expand your marketing arsenal, you can increase the power of your call-tracking software. Most providers offer different packages of their product to cater to various needs; start with the basic package and see whether it leaves anything to be desired. You can always upgrade later.

Pro tip: Just because a call-tracking provider doesn't have the integration you want right now doesn't mean it won't later. Check the company's road map to see whether they have any upcoming integrations that you can use. Got an idea? Suggest it. Better yet, offer to help them create that hot new integration.

3. Ability to Alleviate Attribution Blind Spots

An attribution blind spot is an instance of lack of insight into where all of your leads are coming from. Knowing exactly what is causing customers to pick up the phone and call is essential to the success of your business.

By determining which marketing campaigns, ads, and Web pages are triggering phone calls, you'll be able to close the loop on analytics to better optimize your entire business for success, from your overall marketing strategy all the way down to individual campaigns.

One way that call tracking can help alleviate attribution blind spots is through call recording. It may sound simple, but call recording can provide valuable insight into exactly what is contributing to incoming phone calls. By listening in on calls, you'll be able to understand what core needs are driving people to pick up the phone. You'll also be able to better qualify leads and know where to spend your time in order to boost conversions.

Another way to alleviate attribution blind spots is through campaign or keyword call tracking. These powerful features allow you to actually see which keywords and campaigns (both digital and offline) are driving phone calls, allowing you to better optimize your marketing strategy based on results. Again, not all call-tracking providers may offer these features; if they are essential to your business, make sure that the providers you're considering offer them.

Finally, you may want to explore call-tracking software that offer mobile integrations to gain better insight into mobile customers and leads. Some call-tracking providers offer SMS text integrations that allow you to track text messages just as you would phone calls. Others allow you to gain insight into which customers are reaching you from mobile; you can then go on to better optimize your mobile presence.

4. Custom reporting

Gathering data is only half the battle. Your call-tracking service should also be able to offer stellar reporting abilities so you can gain a better idea of what's working and identify any areas that need improvement.

So that you can better evaluate success, reporting should coincide with your business's specific KPIs. Look for a call-tracking provider that offers a custom dashboard that makes it easy to see your calls, conversions, and any other necessary data all in one place.

Research and Test-Drive

Again, the services offered by call-tracking vendors may vary greatly from one another. Explore every call-tracking software thoroughly, and evaluate their features against your own business goals to determine which solution is right for you.

A few call-tracking providers offer free trials to allow you to test-drive their services. That's likely the best way to determine exactly which call-tracking service will give your business maximum ROI.

More Resources on Call-Tracking Software

The Essential Role of Call Tracking as an Inbound Marketing Tactic

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

Listen Up, B2B Marketers: 12 Steps to More Sales From Inbound Calls

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image of Lance Weatherby

Lance Weatherby is vice-president of marketing for CallRail, an Atlanta-based marketing technology company focused on call analytics.

Twitter: @Lance

LinkedIn: Lance Weatherby