Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

Inbound for Senior Living

When The Arbor Company, a provider of quality senior living solutions, wanted to pivot to inbound marketing, and improve its marketing ROI, it turned to inbound digital marketing agency SmartBug Media. SmartBug in turn, to fine tune attribution on its campaign success, turned to CallRail, the call tracking and analytics platform, which was already providing services to The Arbor.

To make sense of all that, I spoke with Mary Cate Spires, marketing strategist and SmartBug, and Jules Tompkins, content and communications manager at CallRail.

“Arbor actually had CallRail before they had SmartBug,” said Spires. “Arbor is a senior living operator of over forty communities throughout mainly the east coast, and they were using CallRail as a sales initiative, to record calls and use them as sales training, and also in an interesting way to support communities before they had phone service.” In other words, CallRail would provide a virtual call center for a not-yet-open community, then ported the number to the actual community when it opened its doors.

SmartBug came on the scene when Arbor’s VP of communication, Chris Harper, decided to change up the brand’s outbound marketing. “He started looking into inbound marketing, and at the end of his journey, three years ago, found SmartBug. Out CEO has senior living experience, which they were drawn to, but they were also drawn to the fact that we’re a full-service agency.” Inbound marketing, of course, means drawing prospects with engaging content.

“Senior living is a very hard decision process,” said Spires, “something that people spend a lot of time researching, whether it’s seniors themselves or their loved ones. Our full content strategy includes blogging, social media, email marketing, lead nurturing, and even interactive tools. All of this helps to educate that consumer, and really show them that The Arbor Company is a thought leader, and keep it top of mind. Even if they’re in California, and will never move to an Arbor community, they’re getting that information. They might also not be ready yet; they might be looking at activities for seniors. But as they go on that journey, they keep Arbor in mind as their go-to resource.”

CallRail solves a key part of the attribution puzzle. “When I became the strategist on the account,” explained Spires, “we were looking at our website conversions, and our visitor-to-conversion rate. I realized that, while that’s an important metric to look at, it’s not the whole picture. If someone has an immediate need when it comes to senior living, they want to pick up the phone and make a call. I was missing an entire aspect of the conversion process; I really didn’t see the whole picture of whether our efforts were working.”

CallRail offered a lead-scoring system based on its CallScribe solution for transcribing and analyzing phone conversations. SmartBug customized it with key words — “sales,” “tour,” “pricing,” etc — to enable CallRail to mark those leads as qualified. “I now report not only people who convert on the website or chat,” said Spires, “but also on Google organically bringing in x number of calls to this community.” CallRail assigns a unique phone number to each Google Ad, for example, allowing precise attribution for any resulting calls. 

It’s important, not only because many potential customers will want to interact with a human voice before making a senior living decision, and also because some such decisions are urgent, and can’t wait, for example, for a reply to an email. “In 2018, almost 50 percent of the residents actually started as a call, and I was able to look up their journey with CallRail to see how they originated. We do an ROI analysis every year for Arbor, and it added a layer to show how the investment was working.”

Just to finish painting the picture, CallRail also has a HubSpot integration which they customized for SmartBug to use for The Arbor. In other words, calls to The Arbor go directly into SmartBug’s instance of HubSpot, with the result that Spires can connect, for example, the downloading of an eBook with a subsequent phone call — or vice versa. “It helps because it let’s us know what the first attribution really was.”

Working with an agency like SmartBug is part of a broader strategy for CallRail. Tompkins told me: “We’ve recently launched a partner program for agency users, and right now I think we have over 300 agencies involved in that. I think the value for agencies is the ability to prove these previously unmeasured lead in-puts — being calls. When you’re looking at a space like senior living or home services, or legal, or healthcare, these are call-dependent verticals. And so agencies being able to prove that ads are producing not only online leads, which can be seen in Google Analytics, but also via the telephone (and sometimes the majority) is valuable. SmartBug are a great agency partner for us, but they’re one of many.”

In this set-up, although it’s natural to refer to the agency as a partner, SmartBug is effectively CallRail’s client, and The Arbor “the beneficiary of the data that’s coming through the product,” as Tompkins puts it. (The Arbor is directly CallRail’s customer for the services it was originally providing.)

The results are gratifying. SmartBug reports a 971 percent revenue ROI on inbound marketing and online advertising, and 64 percent of new residents arriving from online sources via organic search. For one specific community in 2018, SmartBug was able to prove a 1,015 percent revenue ROI, something which would not have been entirely demonstrable without CallRail’s analytics. 

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