Back in the day, we used phones for everything! We dialed 411 to find someone’s contact information, called shops to inquire about store hours, and bought items from a catalog over the phone to have them shipped to our homes.
Enter the digital age. As internet access became widespread, we marketers became consumed with connecting with our audiences and prospects digitally. We assumed this was the way of the future and the way in which people wanted to connect. We forgot about the phone (at least the actual phone part of the phone), although calls still came in.
We’re now seeing that phone calls are some of the hottest (and most overlooked) leads around! When I was at SMX West 2015 back in March, I was inspired by a session called, “Converting The Mobile SEM Visitor.” In this article, I’ll share with you several insights I got from the session.
Let’s start with why businesses should be focusing on the phone.
Online advertising not only encourages online sales but also leads to phone calls and offline store visits that lead to sales. In other words, digital ads often contribute to phone calls in ways that aren’t easily measured, and thus not properly attributed.
For example, let’s say that for every online sale your ad triggers, there are two sales that occur by phone. This means that approximately 66% of your online-inspired sales are overlooked by your digital marketers.
In our (anecdotal) experience, we’ve noticed that clients keep adding more staff to their call centers as their paid search marketing campaigns grow. PPC success may not be the only factor leading to staffing increases, but it certainly does contribute.
The engagement that occurs via phone call is bottom of the funnel. When people call a store, they’re super interested in your product or service. People have gone past the consideration phase and have expressed specific interest in your product or service.
Unfortunately, leads via online forms can fall through the cracks. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review showed that only 37% of companies responded to online leads within an hour of receiving them. Further, 24% of companies took longer than 24 hours to respond to an online lead — and a full 23% never responded at all.
This, despite the following finding (emphases added):
Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later — and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.
Every minute counts in the online world!
Often forgotten, a phone call is generally the easiest and most efficient way to drive connection/contact.
With a landing page, prospects need to fill out a form and wait for a salesperson to call back. With mobile devices, it’s even more difficult to type on a small screen and provide info requested. And God help your company if you have a form with a ton of non-optional fields.
So, how do we get the most from our phone calls? Here are several tips:
Think about bypassing the landing page altogether and go right for the call. An example of this is to include phone numbers right in ad copy.
A new, really good way to do this is to include phone numbers in the headline of your ad text with call-only campaigns. Other options are click-to-call (organic), location extensions (have a phone number), and call extensions.
Local numbers tend to convert better than 1-800 numbers. We work with a nationally-known retailer with many store locations, and we’ve found that campaigns with geographic-specific area codes performed better than the 800 numbers.
People seem to feel comfortable knowing a company has boots on the ground and that there’s a local store location (even if there isn’t one).
Small changes to the customer call experience can lead to big improvements. Simple changes — like not having a complicated automatic answering system with a lot of different options and not keeping folks on hold for a long time — can be miraculous in terms of your bottom line.
For example, we’ve seen significant improvements in the bottom line (2X is not uncommon with the same number of sales people) by reducing hold times from 2 minutes to 1 minute.
This sounds difficult, but it isn’t. Start by hiring one person to see if having someone answer the phone makes a difference. In many verticals, we’ve seen part-time phone employees quickly become full-time ones as a result of this strategy.
Examples of businesses in which this works well are home services like HVAC repair/replacement, repair centers, contractors, etc.
Schedule your ads for when folks are in your office to answer the phone. Believe it or not, this is often overlooked — and so, the phone rings and rings, with nobody in the office to take the call. Make sure you’re driving calls when there are folks at your business to answer calls.
Note: When driving phone calls, call quality can be an issue. Be as specific as possible in ad copy, and spell out your value propositions on your landing page to increase lead quality.
Good luck driving PPC phone calls!