As artificial intelligence becomes more commonplace, the role of phone calls in marketing is becoming increasingly more complex. This is particularly important for small businesses, since these technological advancements can have much greater consequences for SMBs compared to their larger counterparts.
So, as an SMB marketer, it’s only natural to ask yourself: Are phone calls still a crucial metric for small businesses? The answer is yes, and they’re more important now than they’ve been in the past — here’s why.
Phone calls and marketing: A brief history
Before we get into why phone calls are more important than ever for small businesses, it’s helpful to understand how phone calls and their role in marketing have changed over the years.
Before digital marketing became standard practice, businesses generated phone call leads by including their phone numbers on billboards, TV ads, paper mailers, radio commercials, and other forms of traditional advertising. But without analytics technology, it was difficult — if not impossible — to know which channels worked and which ones didn’t.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and digital marketing and analytics have become the norm. Businesses can now optimize their marketing for lead forms, landing pages, and other online conversions. Even better, they can now see which of their campaigns are working best, and learn valuable information about how their customers interact with their business online.
And with the advent of digital marketing and analytics came the rise of smartphones. In our increasingly mobile-first world users can now make Google searches on demand, which means businesses need to be able to handle spur-of-the-moment phone calls. It’s the reason why click-to-call ads exist, and why Google launched call-only campaigns in early 2018.
But isn’t AI killing phone calls?
While it’s true that AI-powered text and chat bots are becoming more popular, phone calls aren’t disappearing. In fact, according to a recent BIA/Kelsey report, calls to businesses are actually projected to grow to 169 billion per year by 2020 — doubling the 89 billion business calls made in 2017.
But even if calls were being replaced by bots, that doesn’t mean small businesses could adapt to AI as quickly as large enterprise companies. Marketing software like automation platforms and CRMs are considered standard in today’s day and age, yet many of those tools are too expensive for your average small business to consider. (The latest-and-greatest AI marketing tools are rarely built with SMBs in mind.)
How AI makes phone calls more valuable for small businesses
The reality is that AI technology isn’t advanced enough to completely replace phone calls for most companies, and especially not for small businesses. This is especially true for businesses that offer more complex services, such as law firms.
But even setting aside the latest advancements in analytics tech, it’s still in your best interest as an SMB marketer to invest in calls as a marketing channel. For one, phone calls convert at a 10 – 12 percent higher rate compared to lead forms. And perhaps even more importantly, phone calls are full of rich analytics that you just can’t get from online-only conversions.
In other words, savvy small businesses shouldn’t try to use AI to eliminate calls entirely — instead, you should put this technology to work to earn more leads and extract even more insightful data from your marketing channels.
This is where our SMB call tracking tools come in: Aside from helping you learn which marketing channels are generating the most calls, advanced call tracking platforms can also use AI and machine learning to analyze your calls and help you get as much insight as possible out of what your customers have to say. You can then use those insights to inform sales, marketing, product, support, and more — all with minimal effort on your end.
Let’s say you run a law firm that uses Google Analytics, and you also use a marketing automation platform to see what happens before and after prospects fill out a lead form online. You’re able to track how many people click the phone number listed on your sit, but that’s all your marketing tools can tell you. By adding call tracking to your marketing stack, you could have as much — if not more — post-conversion data for your calls as you do for your lead forms.
For example, you could use call recording to automatically qualify leads based on keywords, allowing you to focus on following up with the best of the best prospects. You could also use Conversation Intelligence to comb your calls for frequently used keywords, and then optimize your campaigns based on those keywords. Both of these tools help save you time and provide deeper insight than you’d get from a lead form alone.
At the end of the day, phone calls aren’t going anywhere for small businesses — nor should you want them to. AI is making phone calls an even more useful lead and data source, and call tracking tools can help you harness the power of it.