Oyin Bamgbose is Head of Sales at ResponseTap, an intelligent call-tracking platform designed to integrate seamlessly with your existing suite of MarTech tools. Below is the adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast. The first part of this interview is available here.
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You work for ResponseTap, which specializes in call tracking software. Can you explain a little bit about what call tracking is?
When people hear those words, “call tracking”, one of the most common reactions is, "Wait a minute, people still make phone calls? Is that still a thing?" And the unequivocal answer to that is yes. There was a recent study with BIA/Kelsey, which showed that phone calls to businesses in 2016 were at 86 billion, and today that number is about 170 billion. So, phone calls to businesses has doubled in the last four years.
The way I see it, as every marketer raced towards the digital age, this shiny new world where the customer journey's entirely online and digital, they forgot about phone calls. It reminds me of the movie Home Alone. You remember when Kevin's family all got excited for their holiday and they raced to the airport, and they all just kind of forgot Kevin at home. Call tracking is Kevin. It's basically a tool that helps marketers gain insight into the PPC keywords from digital and traditional campaigns that drive inbound phone calls.
I think that's important, because phone calls still convert 10 times higher than clicks, according to the famous HubSpot research. So, for me, I say to marketers all over, don't forget Kevin.
How does call tracking fit into the overall buyer's journey?
Interestingly that there are actually, you could argue, three levels to call tracking.
- Campaign level call tracking
- Google call conversion
- Visitor level call tracking – what ResponseTap does.
The customer journey today is a lot more fragmented. Your customer will make several visits to your website before they go on and convert. And generally speaking, there are two ways in which a customer can convert today. They can either convert online, i.e. by filling out a form on your website or an e-commerce transaction, adding a product to a basket and checking out, or there's a phone number on your website, and they can pick up the phone.
If you think about the buying stages that a customer goes through, from the awareness phase to the consideration phase, through to the purchase phase, awareness and consideration takes place online, but generally speaking that purchase phase takes place offline, over the phone. We'll do all that research online, but when it comes time to actually part with money, or buy a product, or maybe book that test drive etc., people just tend to pick up the phone.
And where call tracking fits in is to ensure that you're not losing that valuable conversion data. You spend all this money on the front end to get visitors to your website, why lose them in the last minute when they then convert over the phone? Because all that happens is your CPA (Cost Per Action) then looks bloated because you’re not realizing that you're actually getting all these conversions from your efforts as a digital marketer over the phone.
So, that's how we fit into that journey. We know that customers, right at that moment when they want to purchase, will pick up the phone, so why not ensure that you're tracking that, and getting visibility of the keywords or digital campaigns or pages on your website that are driving these valuable phone calls into your business?
How are you able to implement multi-touchpoint attribution with call tracking?
With call tracking, when a visitor lands on your website, the software would drop a 12-month cookie on their browser, so we're tracking the online journey of that visitor. The keyword they've typed in, the campaign, the channel they've arrived on your website through, all the pages that they're viewing. If they leave the website and they come back at a later date through a different channel, or whatever the case may be, the software's capturing all those subsequent returning visits. So, the online journey of that customer's already captured.
And then of course, when they then go on to make the call, that whole journey's pieced together. In terms of the actual attribution modelling, that allows you to start to see all the different channels, all the different touch points, that are driving your conversions from start to finish.
As a very simple example, a visitor arrives on your website through a generic keyword search term initially. They do a bit of browsing around, they leave the website, then they come back at a later date again, maybe through social media - Facebook let's say. They leave the website again, and then finally come back to your website when they're ready to purchase via direct traffic. So, they just type in, for example AZoNetwork, straight away, and they just call into the business.
What call tracking is able to do is piece that entire journey together so that we know the first touch point was this particular keyword, the second touch point was Facebook, the third touch point was direct traffic.
So, depending on whatever attribution model you use in the business, whether that be first click or last click, you can piece that entire journey together. If it's first click, you've got the information, If it's last click, you know it's direct traffic, etc. So it just allows you to get a holistic view of your marketing performance as opposed to just focusing on maybe just last click or whatever the case may be. You get that whole, entire customer journey.
I actually have a question for you Franky, on that. As a marketer, how important is the customer journey? This is a question I've had for a long time. I guess, what I'm trying to understand - is tracking the customer journey for every marketer? Or is it this esoteric concept that's only reserved for the sophisticated marketer? Is it overkill for some marketers?
I suppose it depends – its something you build up to. About five years ago, although we sold marketing services, we didn't actually have our own marketing department set up. “The carpenter always has the wonky table”, was the phrase going around.
Then, we started to build up blog pieces and eBooks and webinars and pieces of marketing collateral - and the natural next step is to distribute that content, using social, or paid search, or organic SEO, and then it's only when you get those first two pillars in place that you can focus on the analytics and seeing who's actually engaging with the content. Because if you've got no content, you can't ask those questions. So, you've got to sort of incrementally build it up.
Once you've got a sufficient content base, like we have now - we have hundreds if not thousands of pages on AZoNetwork.com, with tens of thousands of visitors a month, looking at marketing science solutions.
Now, as soon as somebody comes in, we see if they meet certain qualifying criteria – so if they're a high-quality lead who has serious intent, and characteristics added to that intent as well. If you've got a marketing director of a U.S. Fortune 500 company, that scores very highly for characteristics. But if they're not interested in anything or if they've only been on one page, then it's a bit of a moot point.
But if they've got the intent and they're actually really gunning for "Can I have advertising solutions? Can I learn more about email/webinars/virtual events/podcasts?" Then that multiplies it and it gives them a much higher score.
But it's in that level of detail, if I can then pass that on to the sales guys, and say, "Look, this one is the VP of marketing from a Fortune 500 company, and they've watched three webinars, they've downloaded the eBook and they're asking about podcasts," for instance, then that's so much more impactful and so much more powerful - there's a story there.
As human beings we're emotional and we're tied to stories. Something I try to do in all my marketing, is tell stories. Even in the email example, that we were talking before, your four I's - the Introduction, the Insight, Inspire and Invest. You're telling a little story in four lines of an email, in 500 characters.
But tying it back to analytics and the customer journey, that's a story. Where has this customer been? So, it's so important nowadays. It's something that you wouldn't have been able to even fathom 10 years ago, because the technology was only just coming around. But now, it is so important, and I know the sales guys, when I can give them, "This guy’s been on 200 pages at AZoNetwork.com and he's a VP of Marketing," it just makes the whole job so much easier.
That makes a lot of sense to me. Can I ask a question of top of that – what if that guy calls? So, your lead has viewed all these pages, and then you can tell the sales guy, “Hey look, he's on the phone right now, he's called in.”
That’s unbelievably powerful - you've got their attention. It's not like you're sending an email to them, if you've got them on an inbound call, and you're then able to pair that up with their digital journey as well, that's incredibly powerful.
Based off of what you've said then, I guess tracking the customer journey, after you've spent that time building your content, and then you proliferate out through all these various different mediums, it's important that you are tracking that. So, regardless of company size, or whether you're B2B or B2C, is it then fair to say that understanding that customer journey, is important?
Absolutely. You can be a small business, or you can be a multinational business, but if you've got somebody who is showing a high level of interest in your company and you can see that they're a perfect fit for you, anybody who sells anything is going to want to see that.
How do you attribute that revenue when multiple touchpoints are involved?
The answer to that question is it's up to the marketer. Speaking about ResponseTap specifically, we've got generic attribution models built into the platform. You can attribute the revenue, or the phone call conversion itself, to last-click conversion, or you can switch it to first-click, or first/last click, or position based, or linear. Those attribution models are already there, set up in the platform and you can decide which one works for you.
Ideally the marketer would already have an idea of what works for their business. but the software also allows you to compare and contrast the different attribution models. So, you could view for example, figure out how many calls you got from Google PPC by last-click, but then contrast that or compare that with first-click.
So, we've got that attribution model comparison report in the platform, where you can actually see which attribution model is providing you with most conversions, for example. So, from Google PPC, are we getting most of our conversions last click? Or is it first click? Or is it when we switch it to linear, etc. You'll be able to view that information and then start to make those informed decisions as to which attribution model works best for your business long-term.
How do you choose which performance metrics are the most important for your sales team?
When I think of sanity/vanity, I'm always thinking of the marketer, straight away. For sales, we very rarely focus on any kind of vanity metrics - because it's so results driven, it's very difficult to focus on vanity metrics.
Some sales leaders may feel that KPIs are vanity metrics – e.g. the number of calls a person has made, the number of emails they've sent, etc., but I disagree completely. I think all of that activity on the front end helps you measure what you're going to have in the back end. As a sales leader, I'm trying to build a scalable, predictable, revenue generating business.
So, all those metrics are important, and again, we touched on this earlier – it’s about removing the ambiguity for the salesperson. When you hire someone, or you bring a new SDR (Sales Development Rep) into the team, it would be great if you could tell them, "On average, this is how many calls you need to make,” or, “Here's how many emails you need to send, in order to hit your target."
If you can give that sort of information to someone on the front end, that is very valuable, because they have an idea of what they're working towards. And then we can then start to amplify that, or turn the knobs on certain metrics to increase the output that we get at the end. So, if we understand completely, end to end, how many calls someone needs to make, that generates X meetings booked, and of those meetings we know what our conversion rate is into opportunities, and then what our conversion rate is through the opportunity stages - all of those metrics, from end to end, are completely valuable.
For me, all those sales metrics everyone’s familiar with – I think they're all sanity metrics, unless you're a business that's not interested in building a predictable model.
Which are the most important metrics that you think marketers should be measuring?
Another question for you at this point, if I may? Why in many businesses do they even consider vanity metrics instead of the sanity metrics? Why would a marketer focus on click-through rate more than they would conversion?
I think click-through rate is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the inputs that you have control of – so if you're talking from an email perspective, the subject, the pre-header, who it's from, all that kind of information. How engaging the title is for content, or how engaging the display advert is - it is a measure of all of those things. That's what I'd argue from that perspective.
Ultimately, you're trying to drive traffic to your website so that visitors can educate themselves, and then once they get to the top of that funnel they work their way down your buyer's journey into somebody who's ready to buy. And that might take a while - it might take a week, it might take a year.
But you've got to put as much traffic in it, at the top, as possible, and then provide the content to accelerate the rate at which they're learning about your company, or about your solution, or how you can help them. So conversion rate is massively important, but then I'd argue that click-through rate is also important from a marketing standpoint.
I guess I need your help here, to understand whether I'm looking at things too simplistically. When I think of vanity metrics, I'm thinking clicks, impressions, the reach of an ad - all that stuff will help you discover the size of your audience. But in my mind, I'm thinking, "So what?"
If you have a massive audience, and they aren't buying anything, what's the point? Or is that too harsh a view? I'll try an example here.
The reason why I think sanity metrics are much better is, they provide you with insights into what's actually raising revenue. Let's say I've got two datasets. One dataset is showing me a list of keywords that got a hundred potential buyers to view my ad. So, this dataset is showing me a list of PPC keywords that got a hundred potential buyers to view my ad. The other one tells me a list of keywords that led to 30 buyers. Now, if I was only given a choice to make bidding decisions on one of those datasets, I'd choose the latter every time. But is that too simplistic a view?
If it's one or the other, yes, I'd take the 30 buyers, but it is a simplistic way of looking at it - both datasets have merit. I'd say it's the classic bird in the hand versus two in the bush.
I find that its good to be able to increase the input form the top end, so if you're able to optimize it at the advert level, or if there's different ways along the buyer journey that you can optimize how they receive emails or which sort of subject lines they get or which emails they get in a certain cadence, that’s all useful. I think it doesn't have to be one or the other - it can be a combination of the two, where you’re smoothing the path, and you’re increasing the number that get from point A to point B, at every step of the way.
It's fascinating that we can go into this level of detail nowadays, because we've got the MarTech 5,000 or 6,000, its probably even more nowadays - there's tools to optimize every step of the buyer journey.
So what data should you prioritize?
Personally, I prioritize number of converted sales.
We used to put a lot more emphasis on lead generation, but in reality, we'd probably only pass about 10% of the leads through to sales, because I don't want to put my name to something that's a tire-kicker or a time waster. I want to make sure that it's got the maximum possible chance of converting.
Do you insist on a data barrier for eBooks and downloads, or do you just want people to consume your content?
To answer that question, I'd like to provide a tiny bit of context. On your podcast, you interviewed a colleague of yours, where he talked about how the role of marketing in many businesses is just sales [Chris Walker, Marketing Science Ep. 6]. They've literally built two sales teams, as opposed to a marketing and a sales team.
And I agree with him in the sense that we're starting to see marketing trying to sell, and I'm not sure if that's the role of marketing. And I know things have changed and moved on, so perhaps there's more responsibility on marketing to try and do some of the selling early on. But for me, when I think about marketing as a function, the best thing that a marketer can do for me to help me, is when I call a business, that when they answer the phone they go, "Yeah, I've heard of you guys."
If I can have 10 conversations a day and nine out of 10 people go, "Oh, yeah, of course. We've heard of you guys." Perfect. They’ve done their job.
So with lead generation - there's so many tools out there now that can help the sales team generate their own leads. So for me, the macro-level brand awareness I think is way more important than trying to get marketing to get people to always raise their hands.
Don't get me wrong. If we could all just sit back and the leads are just coming in, we have to do nothing, that is the Holy Grail. But for me, personally, if I could just have 10 conversations where nine go, "Yeah, we know who you are. We've heard of you." Perfect.
I've been with AZoNetwork eight years, starting off in sales, and we used to ring people up and speak to them and they wouldn't have a clue who AZoNetwork were. But we run 10 sites, AZoM, News-Medical, AZoNano, etc. All very niche subject-specific sites, and they'd know about AZoM, or AZoNano, because they'd been around for years, but AZoNetwork was still a relatively new site that we created. And brand awareness was something that we did struggle a lot with. But now, like I said, we have tens of thousands of people on the site every month.
It's great that we've been able to build up that brand awareness, and we've done it with a lot of hard work and creating quality content, which is now in the form of a podcast that we're on right now.
What would you put it down to? Would you put it down to the quality of content you guys have started creating?
I'd say it's a combination of everything. Buy-in from the whole team is important - if you're putting your heart and soul into content, then you want your colleagues to be proud of it, and you want your sales team to be sharing it. Like you said before, you're not asking for time, you're not asking for a specific meeting, but you're just asking that they read this one piece about someone who is like them in a similar industry.
It's basically putting yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer, or the people who are going to be your customers - you've got to create content for those people. And to do that well is difficult. You've got to have empathy, and find out what those pain points are.
How do you see the future of high performance sales and marketing for the next three to five years?
I think sales has changed, forever, in my opinion. I think COVID-19 has forced our hand in many ways. Digital transformation is something that we all knew was coming, but I think it's slapped us in the face pretty hard.
So, things like face-to-face meetings will evolve into video meetings, or video conferences. Walking-around management, for example - metrics and insightful reports will take its place. All of those changes are positive, due to the objectivity that it'll encourage.
Where CRM used to be optional - no longer. Where remote presentations used to be optional - no longer. Screen sharing, email, call recording - they're no longer novelties, they're now necessities for doing business in this digitally revolutionized world.
Even if we salespeople become ready for face-to-face meetings, customers may not be. I imagine customers are going to be thinking, "I don't know, is it worth the risk, you coming down to see us?"
The truth is, every sales leader has known that digital transformation was on the horizon, and everyone should have already pivoted by now, and adopted more remote selling habits. But COVID-19 has accelerated it for sure. Sales leaders, we've got two choices - we can wait for things to go back to normal, or we can just get on with the new normal. And I know what I'd rather do.
I had a conversation about this recently with some colleagues, and we broke it down to about four things that we know are going to change in sales.
1 – Digital Tools
We're going to have to start leveraging tools like LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. A salesperson now has to be able to prepare beforehand for each meeting, and have a clear agenda for everyone who's in that meeting, because you've not got the luxury of that face-to-face anymore, so it's got to be clear. Everyone who's joining this video conference call has to be clear what their role is.
You have to engage everyone on the call as well. So, even just using little things, like get maybe a colleague on the call. Maybe if you're an AE (account executive), maybe get an SDR to help work the chat on Zoom, while you're doing your demo. So, we know the digital revolution is already here.
2 - Speed
We talked about it earlier, how one of the main characteristics of a modern seller is speed. And that's because the modern seller, they're always online - they've got to respond to messages and emails very quickly. And the buyer, who's also got that millennial mindset, the perfect the answer is not a few days away, it's right now, a few minutes from now. So speed is going to be another key change.
3 – Self-guided buying
One of the major shifts is that the balance of power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. B2B buyers say that they can complete about 62% of their selection criteria online. They don't have to speak to anyone. So, again, the role of the salesperson is just to make sure they're there to add value and be consultative.
4 – Monitoring technology
Rather than having to check in with your field reps periodically, we've got to a point now where we've fitted every salesperson with a FitBit tracker. I can see how many calls they've made during the day, I can see how many emails you've sent today, I don't need to call you to get that information. I can see that you've got three key accounts that you're working on and here are all the tasks and next steps that you've set for yourself. All that information is there at my fingertips. What you're doing that's working, or that's not working, we can view that information too. So, instrumentation is another key thing.
All of that just helps to build this new digital sales ecosystem that we're going to start living in. So, that's where I see it going. It's going to be digital. And is the old way coming back? Are face-to-face meetings coming back? I don't know. We'll see.
I totally agree on the need for a clear agenda - when you're in a meeting nowadays, you've got to know what the meeting's about beforehand, because only one person can speak at a time, because it just doesn't work otherwise. So you've got to be even more organized than before, and everybody's got to be on the ball. And when you do speak, if you've got 20 people on the call and you get your 60 seconds to speak, then you've got to make sure that you communicate effectively and clearly. No waffling, nice and concise.
Yeah I agree. But do you think we're going to be missing something, in terms of face-to-face meetings? And is what we're missing worth the risk of rushing to go back to that way of working?
Good question. Only time will tell. I still think obviously the relationships are going to play a huge part in it and I know at the end of a day when I've been on eight different calls, speaking to different people, and I've had my headphones on all day, it gets to you, and you don't want to be like that all the time. So, I know that there's relationships to build. I think we're going to save the actual physical face-to-face for much more specific cases where it’s needed to build those relationships, and build that network.
Very true. This is truly an unprecedented time. We talked earlier about the BIA/Kelsey research, which predicts that businesses are going to receive 170 billion phone calls this year. That research was done prior to COVID. So, many businesses have seen a massive spike in phone calls over the last three months.
Not all of those phone calls are welcome, of course - many consumers are calling up to arrange payment holidays or cancel agreements, so not every phone call that they've been receiving over the last three months has been welcome. It's obvious that the pandemic has thrown a lot of confusion into the most routine of business transactions. The market is volatile, people are out of work, and marketers need to be smart with their advertising money.
Now, it goes without saying though, that measuring their return on investment is a must. This is clearly not the time to rely on your typical metrics.
Google analytics, the keyword tracking, your social media monitoring, in my opinion are all crucial tools for sure. But those techniques alone, they can actually just reduce your digital marketing to a guessing game.
So, call tracking is more important than ever right now, because although we won't know the true impact of COVID-19 for some time yet, we've already noticed two emerging trends already.
One of them is that customers’ needs may have evolved, and the second is that customers are a lot more cautious now. And that translates to even more questions.
So, if you consider that first trend, that customers’ needs have evolved, the question usually is, how can you use call tracking to understand your customer's evolving needs? Well, it's obvious that the digital marketing strategy that made sense in January, February, March, is most likely already obsolete. Our lives have dramatically changed and during times of uncertainty, or during a crisis, people prefer to talk.
So with call tracking, businesses can use speech analytics to record and transcribe inbound phone calls to detect when the caller has mentioned the virus or anything related to it.
A very basic use, is to just understand the virus’s impact on inbound calls. So, marketers would be able to see the volume of inbound called that mention the virus. The key here is to then compare that with the number of non-virus calls, just to gauge the extent of how the virus is dominating conversations.
If you then take that one step further - imagine a report that shows you the number of calls where the conversation includes the virus, you filter that by marketing source, right down to the keyword level even. You can start to understand the types of calls you're driving and determine if they're the right ones.
One of the clever things that we've seen our customers do is create a COVID-19 hotline - a dedicated phone number specifically for customers with COVID-19 queries, so they can figure out if that hotline is getting more of the right types of calls, and if consumers are still calling their other phone numbers to discuss the virus as well. That's an intelligent way of using call tracking that we didn't even come up with, that was a customer's idea.
And then if you take one further step, you can also use call tracking to figure out the impact of COVID-19 on your conversion rates - something every marketer wants to know.
Imagine a report that's called Call Quality by Keyword for COVID-19 Calls:
Column A – Keywords
Column B – Number of calls generated by each keyword
Column C – Number of sales conversions
Column D – Revenue generation
When you integrate all of that call tracking data into your existing marketing stack - Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Adobe Experience, etc., you can start to adjust your bid strategies and allocate budget for COVID-19 callers specifically. Because you've got that report, you can see the influence that those callers are having, and if they’re converting or not.
You can also segment those callers into audiences to allow you to re-target accurately. So, if the COVID-19 callers are not converting, you can suppress Google ads to those guys. And if they are converting, then you can set up re-targeting, so that you keep showing your ads to those COVID-19 callers as well.
And then of course you can then leverage the data for smarter keyword bidding in general, because you've now got visibility of the keywords that are driving conversions and the ones that aren't. So, that's just some interesting ways that call tracking can be used in this time.
Intelligent call routing ResponseTap Ember
We've just launched a new product called Ember - so this specific to ResponseTap, not just call tracking in general.
Basically, Ember allows us to route calls intelligently to the right person in your contact centre based on the customer's journey. So, as a simple example, let's just say you're on the Virgin Holidays website and you're looking at holidays to Barbados, and then you call Virgin Holidays.
We can route that call intelligently to a Barbados specialist in the contact centre, without the caller having to press anything on the IVR (Interactive Voice Response), which is great for the customer experience – they call about Barbados and straight away an operator says, "Hi, you're through to the Barbados team."
Straight away they’re impressed. And perhaps you can convert better as well, because you're pairing the right customer with the right agent.
Then you've got caller prioritization. So, if COVID-19 callers are what you want, because they’re converting, then again you can route those calls intelligently. And then finally, you can report on unanswered calls, and caller experiences in general. If COVID-19 callers are calling to complain about certain common things, or asking questions that come up all the time, perhaps you can add that information as an FAQ on the website.
So, if you know the pages on your website that are driving a bunch of FAQ-style COVID-19 questions, you can actually optimize that page and add all of that relevant information to that page. And then of course, you can reduce the number of noise calls you're getting and increase the proportion of sales-ready calls that are coming through.
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