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What The HBO Series Girls Can Teach Marketers About the Value of Phone Calls

3 min readMarch 19, 2013

The premiere episode of the HBO hit series Girls deftly defined the hierarchy of modern communications. While giving relationship advice, Marnie, played by Allison Williams, describes this communications hierarchy in the form of a totem:

The lowest would be Facebook, followed by Gchat, then texting, then email, then phone. Face to face is of course ideal, but it’s not of this time.

This rarefied view of phone calls is supported in a recent Harvard Business Review article, in which Dan Pallotta observes, “You used to be able to just call people. You didn’t have to be on someone’s calendar to have a phone conversation.” He describes the all too familiar string of emails leading up to a call before an actual conversation ever happens.

HBO's Girls Phone Call Tracking

The cast of HBO’s Hit Series, Girls

Actual business conversations are so valuable that 61% of businesses rank the telephone as their top sales channel (BIA/Kelsey). It’s easy to see why. With all other forms of communication rendered subservient to the phone call, the call itself becomes incredibly powerful.

With this concept so prevalent not only in business, but also in society’s  greater consciousness, why hasn’t marketing yet gotten the memo?

Think for a moment about how good marketers have become at interpreting web analytics, which I’ll define here as everything that can be measured online. A relatively inexperienced marketing manager can pull reports out of systems such as Google Analytics or AdWords, and report on common analytics, such as referral sources, search keywords, or form conversions.

But how many marketers do you know that have this kind of experience pulling call metrics, let alone developing strategies after analysis?  I’m not talking about companies that simply track calls as part of their marketing metrics. Plenty of companies are doing that. But ask yourself how many marketers can tie call metrics to marketing ROI?  The crowd suddenly gets quite thin.

On every episode of Girls, low-totem communications such as Facebook messages and texts help move the plot forward incrementally. But the real plot points occur when conversations happen. The same can be said of your business. Customers that are not sales-ready often want to keep conversations in the considerably safer realm of contact forms and email. But the real action is in the phone call. After all, 43% of all search-related conversions actually occur over the phone (AdInsight).

So phone calls are more meaningful than other forms of business communications. Then as marketers, we’re going to have to get as comfortable analyzing call metrics for marketing ROI as we are measuring everything that happens online. Fortunately, we now have the advanced call tracking tools to get the job done.

The ability to truly measure the ROI of your marketing efforts for all online and offline activity should be motivation enough. Need more? How about the fact that your sales team, and even your receptionist, answer calls all day long, and you have no hard evidence as to whether your marketing efforts are consistently driving valuable calls.   And if you don’t care about any of that, then you should care because Girls’ creator Lena Dunham says so.  She seems pretty smart.