Oh Yeah, That Powerful Computer In My Pocket Is Also A Phone

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A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Facebook recently joined Google and Twitter by offering a click-to-call functionality in its ads, giving consumers an option to call businesses directly, versus emailing them or completing an online form - effectively making the plain old phone one of the most powerful on/offline marketing tools of the coming decade.

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140 Years Old And Still Kicking

Why are the world’s biggest Internet companies investing in a technology created in the late 1800’s? Despite the fact that phone calls have been around for over 140-years, they represent the next tsunami of marketing dollars. People continue to surf the web to gather information when making a considered purchase. However, when they are ready to buy, they now stay on their handheld supercomputer and place their order by initiating a call. This approach of guiding consumers online and then offline (on/offline) through the purchasing process represents the future of commerce, whether it is online to a call or online to an in-store visit.

It’s undeniable that consumers are digesting more online content on the mobile supercomputer in their pockets than via any other modality. So much so that Google recently reported that mobile search has finally overtaken desktop search, and Facebook rolled out a new app called Hello that connects the dots between people’s social and phone contacts.
To shed light on the future of online calling, one of Rincon Venture Partners’ portfolio companies, Invoca, analyzed 32 million phone calls, across 40 verticals. The results were recently published in the 2015 Call Intelligence Index.

Some of the key points I took away from this research include:

  • 54% of all calls stem from engagement on a mobile device; mobile search marketing is the top driver, responsible for initiating 45% of calls
  • 75% of all calls to businesses originate on a mobile phone
  • Non-mobile, online channels, such as desktop search, display ads and review sites drive 30% of calls
  • Offline channels drive just 16% of calls; the phonebook, accounts for just 2% of calls to businesses

The average call duration is 16 times longer than a website interaction, at 4 minutes, 7 seconds

To better understand how this trend is impacting marketers, I reached out to Matt Miller, SVP, Analytics & Technology at the global marketing agency Performics. Matt shared with me a number of interesting insights, including that his firm has, “... gotten pretty good at implementing call intelligence platforms which economically connect brands with their omni-channel marketing strategies. Call analytics are helping (our) clients prioritize (phone) conversations with customers who are more likely to buy, which makes marketing strategies more profitable. The ROI from tools like Invoca are so clear that our clients are asking to extend this across more areas of their organization.”

Though the lines are blurring between online and offline interactions, it is now more important (and challenging) than ever for marketers to clearly understand the return generated by all their customer channels, including phone calls. Companies like Invoca and IfByPhone are uniquely positioned to help online advertisers monetize old-fashioned phone calls.

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You can follow John on Twitter: @johngreathouse.

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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