When a visitor fills out a b-to-b company's registration form online, it's easy for marketers to see how that person found out about the company's products and services.
The visitor may have discovered the company via a search engine, social network or a banner advertisement.
But what happens when the person decides to go off the grid and pick up the telephone? It's a pretty good bet that could happen in the b-to-b arena, which is consultative in nature and requires relationship building.
Depending on the sophistication of the call center, b-to-b marketers find themselves unable to capture the precise source of the lead, which can make things more difficult come budget season.
“When I got a phone call, I didn't know if it was from my online efforts, PR, word-of-mouth or some other marketing vehicle that generated the phone call,” said James D. Murphy, CEO of Afterburner Inc., which provides corporate training seminars and whose clients include Cisco Systems, IBM Corp. and Verizon Communications.
However in the last two years, Afterburner's voice communications have improved dramatically, thanks to Ifbyphone, whose technology treats phone calls like data.
“By having this technology, I know whether the person came from my website, a certain Web page [on the site], a certain link or pay-per-click,” Murphy said. “Now I know what's working and what's not working, and where to spend my marketing dollars.”
He added that the technology has been a “game changer” for the company. “Without this technology, we would be missing a huge part of the picture—inbound phone leads—in our ROI analysis of these separate online channels.”
Ifbyphone's technology assigns a unique phone number to each online ad campaign, search engine, target keyword or other marketing vehicle. When a visitor is referred from one of the marketer's traffic sources, that phone number appears on the company's website.
The technology, which tracks both online media venues and traditional media channels, is also designed to route a call to the agent who is most likely to close a sale, said Irv Shapiro, CEO and CTO of Ifbyphone. “We provide the source of the call and can use that source to forward that call to the right place in your business.”
Shapiro calls the software the “missing piece” of online analytics. “It's an opportunity for marketers to differentiate themselves because they can now say to their clients—either in-house or third-party—that, "we will apply marketing automation techniques to all marketing [channels] and not just the Web,' ” he said.
The software assigns as many individual numbers as the client warrants, whether it's a handful of individual telephone numbers or thousands of numbers, Shapiro said. The technology can also remember the original marketing channel the visitor accessed should a second or third marketing channel prompt the actual phone call.
“In today's commodities-based sales environment, where a customer may easily look for alternatives on the Web, the phone can be the clear differentiator,” Shapiro said. “For b-to-b companies, it is so much more important to make sure you manage the voice side of your business as effectively as you're managing the website of your business.”
Scott Buresh, CEO of Medium Blue, a search engine marketing company, is deploying Ifbyphone's software for Afterburner and other b-to-b clients.
“Whereas before, it was a very dicey proposition to figure out [what prompted the telephone call], now we've got hard data and not just anecdotal data based upon somebody asking, "Where did you hear about us?' ” Buresh said. “We can match up the data with closed sales and find out not only where your good leads are coming from but where your bad phone leads are coming from.”
To be sure, there are those sales reps who collect the data on what marketing vehicle, in particular, sparked a telephone call. However, depending on the price of the product that's being discussed on the telephone, sales reps may instead gather information they consider more salient to closing a sale rather than information on what marketing channel led to the telephone call in the first place.