Why You Should Include Phone Calls in Your Email Performance Metrics

Email Marketing


Email remains one of the most popular vehicles for outbound marketing. Despite the abundance of articles and blog posts proclaiming the death of email marketing (Overcrowded inboxes! Spam! Social media is killing email!), a 2013 benchmark report from MarketingSherpa found that 64% of companies planned to increase their investment in email marketing.

Email isn’t going anywhere. But the email marketing naysayers and Chicken Littles do have a point: people get a ton of email each day, and they have very short attention spans. That’s why businesses generating the most value from email marketing are the ones that continually test all aspects of their campaigns – from subject lines and format to messaging and calls-to-action – to find what works and what doesn’t. They also use marketing automation tools to closely monitor performance data like open rates, click-throughs, and conversions, to eliminate those strategies that aren’t generating results.

The Missing Piece of Email Reporting: Phone Calls

All of this brings us to the big hole many marketers have in their email performance metrics: phone calls generated. If an email triggers a phone call, that lead should be attributed to your email marketing efforts. That’s where phone call tracking software comes in — it allows you to track phone calls back back to their source, and attribute associated revenue to the correct source.

Marketing automation tools can tell you which email recipients clicked on a link, visited your site, and downloaded your whitepaper, webinar, or free trial. With proper CRM integration, they can track these email marketing leads though your sales funnel to revenue, so you know which email campaigns are having a real impact on your business. But what about when a lead reads your email, and decides to give your company a call? Ideally, that phone call would be attributed to your email marketing efforts in general, and to that specific email in particular.

So if you don’t track and analyze calls from specific emails, what’s the big deal? Here’s why tracking phone calls is so important in email marketing.

The High Value of Inbound Phone Calls

Not all leads are created equal. While web leads like whitepaper downloads and webinar registrations, are excellent vehicles for generating new contacts to market to, those leads are often just beginning their research. More than likely they are only kicking the tires and aren’t ready for a sales manager to engage with them.

Inbound phone leads are different. A 2012 BIA Kelsey Group study found that inbound callers are 10 times more likely to make a purchase than leads that simply clicked a link. That’s because leads that call you are most often further along in the buying process and ready to engage with a sales rep. So even if your email campaigns only generate a low volume of inbound calls compared to clicks and downloads, the calls are the leads that most often translate to revenue. Therefore, these leads are the ones marketers most need to track.

Failing to account for the sales pipeline and revenue from these inbound calls does a big disservice to your email campaigns. This practice also falsely deflates the ROI metrics you present to your executive team.

The Popularity of Smartphones

Business Insider estimated that there were 1.4 billion smartphone users by the end of 2013, and that number is expected to double in the next three years. In the U.S. alone, over 135 million people have smartphones, and that figure is expected to grow 40% to reach 192 million by 2016.

That’s a significant percentage of your target audience, and according to a report from Return Path, 88% of people check their emails daily on a mobile device. As discussed in this ebook from Marketo, Marketers today need to understand that their email messages are potentially being viewed on mobile devices by a large – and growing – percentage of their target audience.

How is this relevant to tracking calls from emails? Because of mobile click-to-call links. These are links in your email text or on your mobile site, making it possible to call your company in a single click. People reading your emails and browsing your site on a smartphone might be more likely to click on these links, triggering a phone call.

That means that as mobile adoption continues to increase, so does the probability of calls from mobile devices to your business. The ability to track these calls back to the specific marketing source, including your email marketing, is an important part of understanding your ROI.

Which Call-Related Metrics to Measure in Email Marketing

One of the great things about email is the wealth of data it provides marketers. Open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, unsubscribes, and hard bounce rates all give you insight into the effectiveness of your messaging  and the quality of your lists. In measuring calls from email, some metrics may be more valuable than others. 

The first and most obvious metric is the raw number of phone calls each of your email sends generates. You can do this by creating a unique phone number, listing it in your email send, and collecting data with call tracking software. You can measure calls triggered by the email itself, or calls triggered by visits to the email’s landing page, using a similar technique. Call tracking software can automatically display a unique, trackable number on the email’s landing page, so that if a lead calls the unique number, the software will still attribute it to the original email.

But while measuring call volume is a good start, what most marketers (and their executive teams) today really care about is the quality of those calls — more specifically, whether or not those calls are translating into sales opportunities and revenue.

That’s why, when it comes to tracking email-triggered phone calls, you should use the same metrics you would use in email marketing: opportunities, revenue, and cost per conversion. These metrics can be gathered by a call tracking service, along with these additional, call-specific metrics:

  • Call location: Understanding where callers are located geographically can help you advertise more intelligently. For example, if 60% of call triggered by your emails are coming from New York and Chicago, you may wish to run more advertising and email campaigns in those areas, or to create more email with messaging focused on those locations.
  • Call day of week: That strategy also applies to when people are calling . If some days of the week receive a higher volume of quality calls triggered by emails, you may wish to send more emails on those days.
  • Calls converted by agent: Are some sales agents better at closing inbound calls than others? Are calls from certain email campaigns better suited for one agent over another? Knowing who closes what best can help you optimize a campaign’s chances of success.

Does your organization include email-triggered phone calls in your email performance metrics? Do you have any questions about including these metrics in your marketing automation platform? Let us know in the comments below.