Just because the industry is all abuzz about mobile video and rich media, doesn’t mean for a second we should forget to put the phone back up to our ears and listen. At least that’s the argument Tony Philip, CEO of mobile search and live entertainment company UpSnap would like to make. Between the deals his Davidson, NC-based company has inked with NASCAR In-car Audio and ESPN Radio, UpSNAP’s free 411 service, and a recent partnership with Pay Per Call company Ingenio, Philip’s also answering the calls of his consumers.
But this isn’t Philip’s first go ’round with mobile search and SMS, not by a long shot. According to our talks with the exec, he’s an old hand when it comes to all things mobile. And not only did he bring search to UpSNAP’s roster of features, he took the cost out of dialing 411 by offering the service for free, something the company touts as a first among firsts. As he put it, “My first real taste of mobile marketing came from working with companies like Mobile365 (previously Mobileway), Motricity, and Lycos Europe. With a background in internet search I recognized a need for similar services on mobile devices,” he says. “In a similar fashion to the Yellow pages model whereby merchants pay for the cost of listing their business and providing toll free number in order to attract customers, I felt that a similar model could be deployed on phone devices. As such I founded UpSNAP to deliver free 411 information to consumers and have merchants fund it through a Pay Per Call model.”
It was through a deal UpSNAP inked with San Francisco-based Ingenio earlier this month that has made this Pay Per Call model possible for UpSNAP 411 users.
So why did they decide to use the Pay Per Call service? Here’s what Philip has to say about the decision: “Pay Per Call is an efficient way to connect merchants with consumers. Ingenio brings world-class web-based PPC, while we bring a similar mobile based solution. Our model keeps the service free for consumers, which drives a lot of adoption and usage.”
He continues, “Merchants eager to extend their reach into the growing mobile channel find high value and ROI in the model since they do not pay until a customer calls them. They are also finding that when a customer does call they are usually in the midst of a buying decision and this allows them to speak with the customer at that purchase point,”
As for how UpSNAP’s dual appeal, Philip adds, “Consumers liked the idea because they were able to get 411 info for free as opposed to paying a couple dollars to their carriers. Merchants like it because they only paid for the service after a prospective customer actually called them, and they found that customers who did call were at the buying stage of the purchase process.”
But for this mobile search company, its features don’t stop at dialing for information; UpSNAP has also been building up its roster of audio content providers. “UpSNAP has evolved to not only deliver text-based information to mobile phones like jokes, horoscopes and of course free 411, but also now delivers audio-based entertainment like NASCAR In-Car audio, and ESPN radio,” he tells us. Add to that a gamut of content genres including podcasts, comedy, pickup lines, bible quotes, news, music and calorie counters, among some 150 additional radio channels.
With a free service, however, this regular conference speaker—he most recently made a stage appearance at last month’s San Francisco ad:tech—you have to wonder how he pays the rent. “The most common question I get is: How do you make money? This is really a core part of our value proposition to our partners,” he tells us. “We have a patent pending process that allows us to insert Pay Per Call into text messaging and WAP. This allows us to offer free content, like 411, Jokes, Horoscopes, etc. for free and support it with advertising, very similar to what Google does with Pay Per Click on the web.”
And while their search and SMS offerings have been adding up, UpSNAP’s continuing to work out deals for more and better content. As he tells us, they have plenty of other “interesting conversations in the works”.
No doubt, over the phone.