The channel often missing from marketing platforms’ discussion about a multiple-channel environment is the oldest interactive channel — the telephone.

But telephone calls are still a common way of interacting with a brand, becoming more so with the rise of mobile. Today, Santa Barbara, California-based Invoca is releasing its Invoca for Search platform — an update to its existing product — to help fill that gap in marketing platforms.

“The big gap has been what happens on a phone call,” VP of marketing Kyle Christensen told me, “and to connect it with the other channels and the broader customer journey.”

“Marketers have a bunch of fantastic tools for click intelligence,” he said. “But when you [the customer] jump offline and into phone calls, they lose insight.”

Suppose you’re out and decide you need some lawn tools. You search for “lawn tools” on your phone, and, as many people do, you choose click-to-call on an ad in the search results to phone the nearest retailer. Let’s say it’s Home Depot.

The biggest driver of phone calls to a brand is mobile search, by far. Invoca’s platform has previously been able to attribute that call to its origin. It placed a snippet of JavaScript code on the search ad, as it can also do for a website, landing page, display banner, or other digital asset. A unique phone number for the brand was generated for each instance of that asset, in this case the search ad.

Your call into Home Depot on that number, then, is immediately connected to that search ad and those keywords.

If you’re not logged in, the platform may not yet know your actual name, but it knows that the anonymous customer with that device ID is interested in lawn tools.

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If you simply entered the address on your home computer, and then manually dialed the phone call on the site, similar tracking takes place. That’s because the phone number is generated for that instance of the web page, and it’s associated with the cookie that the website deposited on your hard drive. There could also be site tags, URLs, or other flags associated on the site with that unique number.

Your call to that special number goes first to Invoca, and then is redirected to the brand. Invoca tells the brand’s CRM that the call on that number is from the guy with that cookie.

With Invoca’s updated platform, your call — from mobile, landline, or through a computer — becomes a full-fledged channel of information in the brand’s marketing platform, with more “call intelligence” and a greater ability to trigger marketing responses, like follow-up ads.

Invoca’s newest system doesn’t only track referral data, metadata, or cookie correspondences. Christensen told me that Invoca for Search parses the phone call conversation itself, making note of how long the conversation was, the type of phone, and what was said.

“Our [system] intelligence is scoring the phone calls for keywords,” interest in a given product, or any other info the brand wants to scan, he said.

Customer notification of this parsing, he said, is the ubiquitous “this call is being recorded for training purposes,” or however the brand wants to put it.

Confidential information like credit card and Social Security numbers can be blacked out in any transcription that lands in the brand’s CRM, he said, but it’s “really up to [the brand] to manage [that] relationship.”

“We haven’t seen resistance” to this practice, he noted.

A Google AdWords analytics screen in Invoca for Search.

Above: A Google AdWords analytics screen in Invoca for Search.

Image Credit: Invoca

Often, modern marketers have been trying to drive consumer interaction away from phone calls and toward more scalable systems, like self-help websites. A phone call to a brand meant one human operator working in real time with one customer, which was seen as a costly interaction.

But phone calls from customers are also high-intent interactions. Customers really want to get or find out about a product, and the sales conversion rates from phone calls are high. Brands had been able to do things like know from your home phone number that you’re an existing customer, but now the range of phone-related data is expanding.

By making a phone call even more valuable because it is adding all this data to the customer profile and other parts of the marketing platform, Invoca is — let’s say — helping to change the conversation about the marketing value of incoming phone calls.

Because of this, Christensen said, the pre-release customers of Invoca for Search have been “trying to increase phone calls.”

The updated platform also provides what Invoca describes as the first integration between phone call info and Google AdWords through the API, as well as integration with Google Analytics and DoubleClick DS3.

The ol’ phone call is now the new frontier in marketing systems. Christensen noted that competitors Marchex and IfByPhone also have search products that track mobile phone calls, but he said theirs are less extensive in providing phone-related data and have more extensive setups. IfByPhone has also been working with ActOn to increase that marketing platform’s phone capability.