April 10, 2006
Blog Entry

Reality-Check from Pay-Per-Call Search Marketing Trenches (Attack of the Telemarketers)

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

Although everyone in search marketing is excited about the possibility of Pay Per Call (where you run a search ad but instead of clicking on a link, consumers pick up the phone and call), as with all new ad fads, the reality doesn't quite match the hype … yet.

Here's a letter I received the other day from Sherpa reader Mike Merten on his test campaign results.

"Dear Anne, The business I advertise with Verizon pppc is Internet marketing services and the campaign is national. Verizon has a decent pppc system, but I'd have to honestly say that about 80% of the calls I get are telemarketers -- often several calls the same day from different people within a company working on the same campaign.

My own personal joke is that I now know what new telemarketing campaigns are kicking off nationally -- I just go by the nine or ten calls I get from the same company (different representatives). I think that when people had to use print directories to do telemarketing, they at least had a sheet that they could cross out names on. Not so with the online generation I guess. Out of the 15% to 20% or so calls that are "good," I did very recently land a very good account and have other work I've got a good chance of getting. The system does work, but it's just that you have to deal with so many telemarketers and really stay on top of the calls you'll mistakenly be billed for. One of my other clients quit the pay per phone call campaign I had set up for them after several months. Their marketing guy said that the pay per phone call results paralleled pay per click results generally. We used just about ALL the pppc providers, and the results: 170 calls or so, 11 qualified leads, 1 sale. But they use a call center and plenty of the calls were hang-ups they were charged for -- again probably telemarketers!

Telemarketers -- the spam of pay per phone call. One thing that I learned is that the I'll get one customer/client out of 10 phone calls mentality does not apply to pay per phone call, at least if your campaign runs national. Local might be different story and better. The incoming call problems you'll have to deal with if you have one of these pppc accounts are that. (1) You have 15 seconds in which to decide if somebody's a telemarketer or not. If they don't come right out and say it (or if they have a strong foreign accident, kind of roll out the words or plain simply deny it's a sales call), you'll go over the threshhold and get charged ($12.70 a call in my case). The problem with this is that you might erroneously blow a good call, which actually happened to me (the guy called back). (2) Expect to deal with representatives from the same company calling you thinking that maybe they're the first one to do so. One mouth doesn't know who the 10 others are calling, and the telemarketing campaign may be national. (3) Expect to have to take good notes, because you may get five to six calls in a day's time. (4) Expect to have to review your weekly/monthly record of calls, determine all the calls that are baloney and then have to talk to Verizon's people possibly several times to get things straight. Even then they'll only give you a break if the calls hover around their 15 second threshold. Anyway I hope the above comments give a few people some insight into how these programs REALLY work. I've been doing mine for a month and a half and am still hoping."

Thanks for that insightful note Mike!

By the way, if you, like Mike, are considering testing the so-called "tier B" search networks such as Pay Per Call hoping to get clicks outside of the bigboys, check out the special report MarketingSherpa did on the subject last fall. Here's a link:

Tier B Search Marketing: Pay-Per-Call, Local, Shopping Engines, & the Minor League Search Networks http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3113 (Open access until April 17th)

And also -- if you have a real-life story to share about *any* marketing tactic you're testing (offline or on), be sure to let me know at feedback(at)marketingsherpa(dot)com.

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