05 Apr Succeeding online without a Web site
Conducting business online has been a struggle for businesses that don’t adapt easily to an environment driven by online transactions and corporate branding.
Local businesses such as restaurants and stores find themselves outfunded, outstaffed and outmarketed online by larger competitors.
Professional service organizations such as lawyers, physicians, and consultants struggle to adapt “personal touch” driven sales processes to the Internet.
Commission-driven sales organizations such as auto dealers find it difficult to integrate the Internet into their sales process.
For these organizations, the Internet had a hard time competing with the phone book when it comes to attracting the marketing dollars of many business. This is because customer leads that arrive by phone are easier for small businesses to identify, manage, and turn into sales than a visit to their web site.
However, with recent trends in local searches, 2005 could be the year for local businesses to grow their bottom line online.
Search engines have started spending millions of dollars to ensure consumers can find local businesses and services on the web. Google’s new local search, makes it possible for consumers to create a turnkey list of local plumbers, with a map that includes all locations simply by entering the keyword “plumber” and their local zip code.
While Google’s local search already includes many local businesses from directories as a national courtesy, it is still good to make sure your business is listed. Local businesses need to submit and verify their information on these local listings.
The advent of local search has Yellow Pages, Verizon, and virtually every offline telephone directory scrambling to adapt to the inevitable future of local search. It has also allowed innovative companies to adapt offline sales processes to the Internet.
Pay per call
In April 2005 AOL begins offering Pay per call advertising to local businesses. This means that when AOL users conduct local searches, they will be able to do more than trigger a listing or map of local vendors. They will also be able to trigger a phone call using technology provided by Ingenio.
When an AOL visitor conducts a local search, Ingenio will provide listings for local pay-per-call merchants in increasing bid order. Each listing includes a unique toll-free phone number for contacting a merchant.
Marc Barach, chief marketing officer for Ingenio, said pay-per-call advertising fills the gap for local businesses who have felt left behind by the Internet. “There is 15 billion dollars being spent in yellow pages advertising today all based around receiving calls,” Barach said. “Obviously those are not pay-per-calls because you pay a fixed rate at the beginning of the year, but that shows that there certainly is a market.”
Dave Landa, vice president of sales and marketing for ZiffLeads, agrees with Barach. His company provides pay per call services that include a “click to call” interface where users click a hyperlink and are immediately called at a phone number they enter by the selected vendor.
“The pay-per-call model makes sense for anyone who does not have an e-commercial commodity.” Landa said. “This means any services that is provided offline and any product that requires any sort of consultation. It just makes more sense for people to be on the telephone to make a sale.”
In the end, the effectiveness of a Pay per call campaign depends on the quality of the salesperson answering the phone and on the way the campaign is set up.
Managing an effective pay-per-call campaign requires less than managing a Web site.
Descriptions: Pay-per-call campaigns require businesses to create two descriptions, a two-sentence summary listing and a 1000-character detail listing. Businesses should take the extra time it takes to write a very good description of their business.?
Categories: Businesses select the categories they appear in. Companies that offer a wide range of services need to select their categories carefully. A good strategy is to implement categories in phases to determine whether the results of a category are attracting and closing the right leads.?
Distance: Businesses who participate in pay per call campaigns determine the radius they serve. Selecting the right distance is important. If the radius is too large, you’ll receive more calls that are unlikely to turn into sales. If the radius is set too small, you may be missing out on potential sales.
Pricing: Businesses determine what they are willing to pay for a call. Since 90 percent of calls will go to the highest bidders in your local area, its important to set a price that attracts the appropriate number of calls. Depending on the geographical area and category, prices range from $2 to more than $50. When considering the higher end of this range, determine the lifetime value of a customer. Will closing the sale result in a single transaction, or an ongoing relationship with a local customer??
Plan: Know the plan for the pay per call service you’re using. Some pay per call vendors charge for every incoming call (even if the the result is a busy signal). Others will only charge for calls that are completed.
Although industry data is limited, pay-per-call proponents estimate that the closing rate for an effective pay per call campaign can be anywhere from 40 to 60 percent. By comparison, an effective pay-per-click campaign might have a closing rate of 1 to 2 percent.
“The quality of someone who calls is so much higher than someone who clicks because it puts that much more burden on the consumer,” Barach said. “We see pay per call as an innovative product extension that’s going to attract a different segment of the market. This is not about trying to wipe out pay-per-click, because that won’t happen.”
It’s just opening up the gates to get more and more businesses online sooner.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.