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Research: Only a Minority of Calls Are “Good Leads”

The mantra, “local businesses want calls” is the refrain we’ve heard for a long time. And it’s largely true.

Calls are much more tangible than impressions or clicks. But as anyone who works with SMBs and sells calls or uses calls as an ROI metric knows: not all calls are created equal. And not all calls deliver value.

Those who sell calls generally bill upon a 30 second call duration. Sometimes the billing trigger is as little as 10 seconds. Business owners often want to know about the quality of those calls — are they new customers; are they telemarketers; are they wrong numbers?

Call tracking and analytics companies are typically transparent about the fact that not all calls coming in to a business are “good leads.” But I was surprised by Marchex data, released last week, showing that in Financial Services and Insurance categories, less than a third of calls were from new sales prospects.

Analysis of 1.5 million calls in Financial Services/Insurance Category

Good vs. Bad calls Marchex

As indicated, the data above come from an analysis of more than 1.5 million calls over a period of months in 2014. Marchex used an IVR system to identify prospects and existing customers. The rest of the calls were not long enough or were generated by telemarketers or were misdials.

If we combine existing and potential new customers, a slight majority (55%) of total call volumes were “legitimate.” Existing customers can also be prospects for adjacent products or new services, etc. But it’s striking to note how many of the calls were not qualified.

This may well be a decent number and benchmark (31% or 55%). The truth is, I don’t know.

With the advent of Do Not Call a number of years ago telemarketing shifted focus to business phone numbers and so now a good deal of the telemarketing call volume goes to local businesses instead of residences in the US.

As part of the research, Marchex looked at the performance of different largely mobile marketing channels in acquiring new sales prospects. The four channels were: directories, search, Marchex’s own “voice search” network and mobile display. Here’s how each channel performed when it came to delivering new prospects as a percentage of total call volumes in the category:

  • Mobile display — 37 percent
  • Marchex voice search network (collection of third party sites/apps/services) — 35 percent
  • Search engines — 32 percent
  • Directories (e.g., Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) — 11 percent

Unexpectedly, mobile display delivered the highest percentage of new prospects in the study. Search had the highest percentage of calls (48%) from existing customers by comparison.

I’m quite surprised that mobile display ads performed as well as they did. I’m also surprised it outperformed search and directories.

I spoke to Marchex and discovered that the company didn’t track each channel’s relative ad cost or performance in terms of actual sales closed. So it might be the case that the numbers immediately above would look different if we knew those two data points.

Regardless, I found these data to be interesting and striking.

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