Internet telephony is perhaps today’s most important tool for small businesses.

What is it?

Exactly what it sounds like: telephone over the internet. With the furious pace of technological advance, internet phones have become highly efficient, affordable and ubiquitous. There are several companies that offer this service, most famously Vonage and Skype.

Vonage acts just like any home phone, except that your phone set is connected to the Vonage adapter device, which is connected to your internet modem. The advantage of Vonage is that it can be used without a computer.

Skype, meanwhile, is a program installed on your computer. The key benefit of Skype is that it can be used for video-conferencing, as well as other cool features like screen-sharing. Skype now has more than 550 million users!

In both cases, calling other internet phone users anywhere in the world is absolutely free, and other calls are relatively cheap compared to regular land lines.

There are now many other companies that offer these services so you may find the one that’s perfect for your business.

The Power of Call Tracking

As a small business, it is essential to know if your marketing is working effectively. For example, if you advertise through three marketing channels, say newspapers, mail flyers and on the Internet, it is vital to know which of these works best and brings the largest return on your investment. This will make your advertising more effective while saving you tons of money.

Call tracking allows you to accomplish this goal by setting up a separate phone number for each of your advertising methods. Each call is logged under the corresponding channel, letting you know exactly which channels bring in the most calls and clients. In time, you can eliminate the marketing methods that don’t work and focus your efforts on the ones that do. All the better, call tracking is extremely affordable, costing approximately $5 a month per phone number.

Don’t worry – you won’t need to answer multiple phones! Each of the numbers is redirected to a single destination. The only difference is you know exactly where that call came from. Plus, these statistics are saved and stored allowing you to analyze the data time and time again.

Recording Calls for Improving Performance

You want to know exactly what works for your clients. Using internet phones makes it incredibly simply to record calls and save them. With the click of a button, you will have an endless pool of information at your fingertips. Analyzing the calls can help you figure out which words and phrase spark your clients’ interests, terms that should be avoided and which promotions garner the most sales. Even better, you can monitor your employees’ performance, determine the best scripts and most effective sales pitches.

Taking it to the Next Level: Call Mining

If you get many calls, it is unlikely that you will have the time to listen to all of them. Call mining transcribes the conversation into text format, allowing you to “mine” the endless depths of information. You can search for specific words, measure the questions and comments that come up most often and so on. The technology is still relatively new, but is sure to take a larger footing in the near future. An early pioneer: www.callminer.com

Fast Response via SMS

A related feature is the ability to send SMS text messages directly from your website. You can be immediately notified, on-the-go, regarding major activity on your website. This is especially important for getting the upper-hand on your competition in a world where people (customers) demand instant gratification. If someone requests a quote or asks a query on your website, a text message will be sent to your mobile phone. You can get back to them quickly, turning a potential client into a satisfied one.