Tech meets traditional: Digital marketing drives more phone calls by far.

CCIn a classic case of marrying tech with traditional marketing, digital channels are driving more calls to businesses than ever before.

What’s more, digital channels are now responsible for nine out of ten phone calls made to companies as a result of promotional efforts using the ten most popular marketing channels.

These findings come from the 2016 Call Intelligence Index published by Invoca, a phone call tracking and analytics firm that evaluates phone call activity across 40 industry segments.

Invoca’s 2016 evaluation covers more than 58 million phone calls generated from ten marketing channels — six of them digital and four of them “traditional offline” channels.

According to Invoca’s analysis, the biggest single source of phone queries is mobile search — representing nearly half of all phone call volume. But the next five channels that follow in line are all digital as well, as can be seen in this list:

  • INMobile search: Drives 48% of phone calls to businesses from marketing channels
  • Desktop search: 17%
  • Desktop display advertising: 11%
  • Content / review websites: 9%
  • Mobile display advertising: 3%
  • E-mail marketing: 3%
  • Total digital channels: 91%


  • Radio advertising: 3%
  • TV advertising/infomercials: 2%
  • Newspaper advertising: 2%
  • Directory advertising: 2%
  • Total non-digital channels: 9%

Comparing the 2016 results against a similar analysis conducted by Invoca in 2014, digital marketing channels have continued to rise in prominence — from representing 84% of the total phone call activity to 91% today.

The Invoca research also finds that phone calls are supplementing digital interactions, which is the result of consumers shifting between various different digital channels as they go about their research — often employing several different ones during the same mission task.

One of the biggest jumps in digital channel usage is in the automotive segment, where it’s clear that a big shift is underway from offline to digital channels — particularly mobile. The automotive industry experienced nearly a 120% increase in digital sources driving phone calls in the current Invoca research compared to the previous one.

So there’s no question that digital now “rules” when it comes to marketing channels. But far from causing the demise of a traditional channel like a phone call — as some people predicted not so long ago — digital channels have simply changed where the consumer might be just prior to heading for the (smart)phone.

What are the latest trends in the popularity of different marketing communications channel tactics?

The DMA’s 2015 Response Rate Report provides answers.

marketing channelsPeriodically, the Direct Marketing Association conducts field research to take the pulse of marketers and the various channels they’re employing to support their marketing campaigns.

In the DMA’s most recent survey, conducted online this past December and January, marketers were asked which one of seven channels they utilize in their campaigns.  The seven choices listed were the following:

  • Direct mail marketing
  • E-mail marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Online display advertising
  • Paid search advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Telemarketing

The results of the survey show that e-mail marketing remains King of the Hill when it comes to its popularity as a MarComm channel, with more than four in five marketers including the tactic as part of their promotional campaigns:

  • E-mail: ~82% use as a medium in promotional campaigns
  • Direct mail: ~50% use
  • Social media advertising:  ~34% use
  • Paid search: ~30% use
  • Online display advertising:  ~29% use
  • Telemarketing: ~17% use
  • Mobile marketing: ~10% use

Clearly, the research findings show that marketers are using multiple channels in their campaigns:  Two-thirds of the survey respondents use more than one channel, and around 45% of them reported that they’re using three or more channels in their promotional campaigns.

Social media advertising is a new entrant on the list in the DMA research.  It wasn’t even included in the DMA’s 2012 survey, yet today appears to be an important part of the channel mix.

On the other hand, mobile marketing remains a channel that isn’t being utilized by very many marketers — at least not yet.  In a similar survey conducted by the DMA in 2012, its adoption rate was similar to what the 2015 survey has found.

The graph below compares 2015 and 2012 survey results.  Aside from the lack of movement with mobile marketing, another interesting trend is the significant decline in the utilization of direct mail marketing.  Back in 2012, it rivaled e-mail marketing in popularity.  Today, only half of the marketers surveyed continue to use it as a marketing channel.

And a third big trend is the utter collapse of telemarketing as a popular MarComm channel — likely happening under the twin weight of high costs and massive phone message filtering.

DMA chart

In terms of future anticipated usage, the DMA research found that marketers are, in fact, warming to mobile marketing.  It and social media advertising are the two channels that have the best prospects for new adoption, based on the future intentions reported by these respondents.

The 2015 DMA report is available for purchase here.

So Many Marketing Channels … So Many Vendors …

Managing multiple vendors has become nearly a full-time job for some marketers.

marketing channelsManaging channel communications isn’t very easy for marketers these days, that’s for sure.  It’s because so many companies are using multiple outbound channels to connect with their customers.

Illustrating this point, at the Direct Marketing Association’s 2014 annual conference, some 250 marketers were surveyed by Yes Lifecycle Marketing about their activities.

The results of that survey revealed that more than half of the marketers are using at least six outbound channels to connect with customers.  And another 20% use more than ten channels.

Guess what this means?  Nearly 30% of these marketers report that they’re managing (or more likely juggling) seven or more technology vendors and service providers as part of their MarComm duties.

More to the point, many marketers are devoting huge chunks of their week just coordinating all of these tech and service providers.

For an unlucky ~20% of the respondents, the time commitment is upwards of 15 hours each week – more than a third of the time that makes up a 40-hour week.  (“What’s a 40-hour week in marketing?” one might ask, of course.)

Even for marketers who are using a smaller number of vendors to support their media and communications channel efforts, the involvement of various internal stakeholders is high – more than seven, on average, during the vendor selection process.  So the coordination responsibilities just keep adding up.

What this means … 

The Yes Lifecycle Marketing Survey found a correlation between the “choreography” demands of managing multiple vendors and the fact that other marketing activities suffer as a result — namely, market strategizing, business operations and customer relationship-building.

And even with those duties getting shorter shrift, the marketers surveyed still complained about having too many vendors to coordinate … significant challenges with properly integrating the various functions … insufficient budgets … and above all, a lack of adequate staffing.

To top it off, the typical tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer at a company isn’t exactly lengthy — ~45 months at last count.  It’s enough to make one wonder if a job in marketing is worth it.

The answer to that question can be summed up this way (with credit to Oscar Wilde and apologies for the riff):  “The only thing worse than being busy is … not being busy.”