Dial R for Revenue

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ADOTAS – ring_smallOne of the easiest ways to boost the performance of an ad is also one of the simplest: include a phone number.

It might be surprising that doing something as apparently minor as dropping 10 digits and a couple of dashes into an ad makes such a difference in both ad performance and the customer experience. But there’s no doubt about it — the phone number is a veritable powerhouse. From tracking and optimizing to moving more high-end products and extending campaigns to offline sources, phone numbers open up a world of opportunity to the online advertiser.

On the most basic level, research shows that ads with phone numbers signal credibility to the consumer. In an instant, a potential buyer sees that the advertiser is real, tangible, and can be reached if necessary, raising their comfort level with entering into a business transaction. Taking it a step further, customers also gain the flexibility to choose how they interact with the company: by phone or online.

Even with all the tech tools at our disposal today, sometimes buyers need to talk things through. Perhaps they’re looking into guitar lessons, or trying to find the best local physician. It sends an important message when they discover they can pick up the phone and connect with someone live: We’re here, and we can help you.

Not surprisingly, calls convert at higher rates — and with higher average ticket prices — than clicks, thanks to the consultative sales skills of a trained agent. Clicks generally convert at 1% to 3%, while calls convert at a much more appealing 30% to 50% rate with 1.5 to 2 times the ticket price on average, thanks to the upsell and cross-sell capabilities of the call center agent.

When it comes to high-end products, the phone number wields even greater power. While most consumers feel comfortable buying a book online, many hesitate to click the “buy” button for big-ticket items like computers or complex services like insurance. More than 60% of shoppers do their research online, but purchase offline.

Take the guitar lesson example. Legacy Learning Systems provides instructional DVDs for music and the arts. Customers often want to speak with someone about the DVDs and talk through their options. When customers call, those calls convert. In fact, when they come through the company’s affiliate base, all calls that result in a commission are converting to sales.

Or, consider the physician example mentioned earlier. During the winter when health services are top-of-mind, advertiser Angie’s List gets an influx of calls from customers who want to know if the company includes the kind of doctor they need before they subscribe. Again, those calls convert.

But beyond the credibility and higher conversions lie the technical capabilities of the phone number. Today, advertisers can track calls like clicks to determine which ads are performing best and which are underperforming. This scalable tracking aspect makes it easy to extend campaigns offline, to TV, print, radio, mobile and direct mail, and to offer those channels to affiliate partners as well.

Taking the affiliate piece a bit further, offering pay-per-call services to publisher partners is performance marketing, which means real, trackable ROI. Advertisers can pay only for what they decide is a quality lead, and then take steps to encourage those leads.

For example, both Legacy Learning Systems and Angie’s List have seen certain publishers drive such high-quality traffic that both companies increased the commissions paid out to those publishers. What’s more, advertisers are finding that they can now use pay-per-call to push those same big-ticket items mentioned earlier through affiliate channels, springing forth a new revenue source.

No matter the application, phone numbers are tracking and optimizing heavyweights in an advertiser’s corner, with the additional benefit of improving customer perception and experience. It’s an easy way to ring up a higher return on your advertising investment.

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