Ghetto and Free Call Tracking With Google Voice

One of the most useful tools at my disposal since making the jump from minor league solo practice marketing on a budget to major league marketing for a fifteen-lawyer firm is call tracking.

Why? It’s simple: it’s the only way to really tell where your leads are coming from.

“But, we ask everyone who calls our firm where they found us!”

Great, and that gets you 90% there. But what do you do when they say “the Internet?” or “Google?” (Meaning they used Google to go to Avvo, to then go to your website, before calling you.)

The beauty of call tracking is that you can assign a specific number to each source — then when a call comes through that forwarding number, you know for sure that it came from the associated source without relying on the memory of a stressed out caller who is desperate for legal help and does not give a damn about helping you identify which of your ads are actually working.

But wait: call tracking isn’t cheap. Many providers charge around $50 per month, plus a per minute fee. You might say “$50 ain’t bad,” but $50 added to a dozen other services to host a website, develop content, promote yourself in directories, solicit online reivews, etc., and it all really starts to add up. But you can get almost the same functionality. For free.

How? By using my favorite free service: Google Voice

In Previous Google Voice Hacks

In times (and columns) past, I’ve written about using Google Voice for call forwarding, texting, and even as an office landline or fax number — the landline is especially helpful for small offices when combined with a multi-headset cordless phone.

But this use might be the most creative of them all: set up a handful of distinct Google Voice accounts and forward them to one phone number, assigning each number to a different online source. Voila: free call tracking!

Step One: Sign Up for a Lot of Google Accounts

Google only allows you to have one number per account — possibly to reduce spam and other abusive conduct (like — arguably — this). So, if you have multiple marketing channels (and you really should), you’ll need to sign up for multiple Google accounts. Ideally, the phone numbers will be local area codes, but in this day and age, I don’t think a consumer is going to bat an eye at a “long-distance” code — especially since long-distance charges are a thing of the past (unless you are calling abroad).

Step Two: Forward to a Single ‘Landline’

Google only allows a single Google Voice number to be forwarded to each cell phone number, so if you see an error when trying to forward multiple accounts to a single number, that’s probably why. Instead, choose “office” or “home” as the type of phone number.

Step Three: Fix the Voice Number Display Settings

In the settings for Google Voice, there is an option to either have the real caller’s number display to your phone, or your Google Voice phone number. (Click the gear icon on the top right, then go to Settings, then Calls.) Pick the latter — and that way you’ll know that each time that number appears on your phone, someone is calling through a particular ad.

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Why This is Awesome and Why it Sucks

This is awesome because Google Voice is free — making your call tracking free! And because you don’t have to ask each caller where they are calling from. Plus, if you advertise for multiple practice areas or to different markets, you’ll know before you even answer the phone what type of case you are about to discuss by simply saving your multiple Google Voice numbers in your phone and labeling them as the associated marketing source and practice area, such as Yelp — Estate Planning.

(As another example, this is great for law partners with different practice areas. If an ad triggers one specific practice area, you can direct the call to the appropriate lawyer before answering the phone.)

As for the cons, the big one is this: you don’t get caller ID. If you miss a call (and the caller doesn’t leave a voicemail), you’ll have to log in to Google Voice and check the History (missed call logs) to get the number to call back — an onerous step if you set up twenty-two different accounts to track twenty-two different marketing channels.

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