May 22, 2006

Initial Test Results From Pay Per Phone Call Search Ads

SUMMARY: For the past year, pay per call search ads have been hyped like crazy in the press and at conferences on search. But is anyone actually having success in pay per call?

Check out MarketingSherpa's interview with a real-life marketer in the pay-per-call trenches.
While exciting in theory, pay-per-phone-call (PPPC) campaigns, have several obstacles to overcome -- from the misfortune of paying for responses that turn out to be telemarketers (instead of prospects) to the overall low volume of response compared to similar pay-per-click search campaigns.

Plus, PPPC can be expensive: the cost per incoming call starts at a minimum of $2 per call and goes up from there.

However, companies with a conversion process requiring phone conversations may find PPPC worth testing. 

One such marketer, Nathan Belcher, VP Operations StaffingMedical USA, told MarketingSherpa his PPPC campaign is "dramatically outperforming" his traditional pay-per-click campaign. Belcher, who began a PPPC campaign recruiting registered nurses in early 2005, says his conversions across his current pay-per-call provider network are averaging 3.3% compared to other search engine PPC conversions at .66%.

Of course, the overall number of calls is fewer than the number of clicks.  Still, PPPC generates far more qualified leads.

Basics: How Pay Per Phone Call works

So far, Belcher is testing PPPC on a pay-per-call provider network that includes AOL and InfoSpace, bidding on words and phrases such as "travel nurse." (Note: MarketingSherpa has anecdotal evidence from sources such as 'New England Journal of Medicine' that healthcare professionals tend to be heavier AOL users than one might expect.) 

Because Belcher is currently the top (and sometimes only) bidder for PPPC for these types of phrases, his ad is the only phone ad to appear at this time. The ad appears to be a regular sponsored link but includes an icon of a telephone next to a phone number to show that it is a phone ad rather than a clickable ad. The text reads:

--StaffingMedical USA

Best RN Travel Jobs In The USA! New Positions Paying Over $40/hour!

Serving Your Area.

[phone icon] 866-XXX-XXXX Call Locally

When users click the text ad, a small window opens that includes the company's logo and a short amount of text (about 75 words). The ad itself contains only a phone number for response (no links to a Web site and no email address, obviously, because tracking and payment for the ad is based on phone calls).

The 866 number goes to a cell phone that Belcher keeps with him at all times, and he answers every call. He receives about 30 calls per week, and about two-thirds of them are qualified leads. Of those, about one becomes a client.

Two tips on running a PPPC campaign

Belcher is not surprised that the campaign works so well, but he has also found that the following helps optimize results:


Tip #1. Keep copy simple (but not too simple)

Belcher didn't want leads to decide for themselves that they weren't interested until they had a chance to speak to someone. On the other hand, he wanted to ensure that leads were qualified.

Writing the short text was a balancing act.

He knew he needed to include was the word "RN" (because he only takes registered nurses), so he reiterated the word a couple of times. He also made certain to include the phrase "travel assignments" so potential leads would know the company did not work with local, per diem jobs.  And he included specific salary details (pay is important to travel nurses) as well as the fact that the assignments were available in all 50 states (also a key point).

The resulting text reads:

--Serving Your Area


Best RN Travel Jobs In The USA!

New Positions Paying Over $40/hour!

Additional Details:

StaffingMedical USA places RN's on 8 and 13 week travel assignments in All 50 States!

Our Unique Marketing approach will virtually guarantee you a position Anywhere in the USA!

We offer a great benefit package and the Best Pay in the Industry!

Ask us about our $2000 Referral Bonus Program!

Your next travel assignment is just a phone call away...Call Us Today!

Tip #2.  Train call center staff on relationship-based selling

Talking to a live person will sell a company that is based on relationships far better than a Web site. When you're communicating over the phone, a person can get an idea of what the relationship might be like, were they to move forward with the company.

(Note: This may make it risky for relationship-based businesses to use a call center for answering calls, unless the representatives are extremely well trained in conveying the relationship aspect of the company.)

Top three PPPC lessons learned

Here are the three lessons Belcher shared that he wishes he had known before his PPPC campaign started.

Lesson #1. 15-second calls still count

At first, Belcher thought that he didn't pay for calls that lasted less than 15 seconds, so he made it a point to qualify leads immediately. He would ask whether the caller was an RN. If they weren't, he'd say, "I can't work with you," and terminate the call.

However, he recently took a closer look at his records and discovered that he is charged for all calls, whether he is off the phone in less than 15 seconds or not.

He receives a report at the end of every day, showing all calls that have come in to the 866 number. Technically, a company could simply hang up within the 15 seconds and then call the customer back, he says.

On the rare occasions that a lead calls and gets voicemail, Belcher always calls them back. Sometimes it's a wrong number, but often he reaches someone who simply didn't want to leave a message. Because he is still charged for those calls, reaching out to those people is important.

It also is important, he has found, after the initial contact to follow up with all leads on a weekly or monthly basis (depending on how soon they are hoping to begin a new contract).

Lesson #2. Volume varies by day of week

While calls trickle in throughout the week, Belcher thinks he gets the most calls on Mondays. There has been no pattern to the time of day during which he receives the most calls.

Lesson #3. Dominating the keyword niche is important

Currently, Belcher has an almost exclusive deal with his pay-per-call network provider in his niche. He wouldn't be willing to pay too much more per click than what he's currently paying. But, he's sure that once his keywords get more competitive, results and costs will vary.

Useful links related to this article:

Past MarketingSherpa blog item: "Reality-Check from Pay-Per-Call Search Marketing Trenches (Attack of the Telemarketers)"

Ingenio Inc., StaffingMedical USA's pay per call vendor:

StaffingMedical USA:

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