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Using Pay-Per-Call Advertising

With internet pay-per-call advertising, you can ring up additional sales by inviting potential customers to pick up the phone.

Driving online shoppers to your website isn't always best; your company might connect better with prospects over the phone. Instead of paying for ads or clicks, you can now buy one-on-one conversations.

Through pay-per-call advertising you can promote a phone number instead of, or in addition to, your URL. Many people would skip surfing your website to buy right now. A flat tire, a toothache or a lost cell phone needs immediate resolution. People pressured for time could be searching the web impatiently for a restaurant or a florist. An ad displaying a phone number is a shining beacon.

FindWhat.comand Citysearchare leading the way with internet pay-per-call advertising. advertisers can choose up to five keyword categories and one geo-targeting option: national, regional, state, city or ZIP code. It costs $10 per year for the listing, a minimum per-call bid price of $2, plus 10 cents per minute for calls over 10 minutes. There's a bid price because, just as with its pay-per-click program, advertisers outbid each other to secure better listing positions.

Citysearch charges a flat fee of $2 to $12 per call received, depending on the category. Advertisers can choose an unlimited number of categories and either a national or local campaign. The listing positions are ranked based on several factors, such as the advertisers' distance to city or ZIP code searches done by users.

When pay-per-call prices are the same as pay-per-click prices for competitive keywords, calls are actually cheaper because a call is a lead while a click is just traffic. But don't open your phone lines until you can make each call count. Train your phone personnel to complete specific actions, such as collecting contact information, processing orders, upselling orders or cross-selling related items, and offering freebies to nonbuyers. Pay-per-call isn't just about getting the immediate sale. Use it to increase your per-order revenue and grow your lead database.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Sedaowns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

This story appears in the June 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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