5 Things To Consider Before Launching A Pay Per Call Campaign


The general concept of Pay Per Call Advertising is pretty simple. You employ a marketing company to generate incoming sales calls for your call center and you pay them on a per call basis. Typically, you’re given a predetermined amount of time to qualify the consumer before a call becomes billable (eg: 60 second duration) and the advertiser themselves will use an IVR (interactive voice recording) to filter out unqualified callers before they reach your sales agents.

Due to the simplicity of this relatively risk-free model, Pay Per Call deals are often thrown together quickly and launched just as fast. However, an alarmingly high number of Pay Per Call campaigns fail for that very reason. Sure, it may be easy to get started with Pay Per Call, but it’s just as easy to fail if you don’t take the time to strategize and make some key considerations first.

So, if you’re looking to test the waters with Pay Per Call Advertising, make sure that you are doing your part to prepare your company for long-term success. Here are 5 key things you should consider or do in advance of launching a pay per call campaign:

  1. Understand that your marketing partner needs to make money too.

This may seem obvious, but many companies fail to do the research necessary to determine whether or not the payout they are offering to The Marketer can actually work. For example, if you are looking to pay $15 per qualified call and the average cost per click for keywords in your vertical is $10, The Marketer would need a 100% conversion rate from click to paid call in order to turn a profit. In this example, you are setting yourself up for a very short-lived campaign. Even worse, if you are working with an affiliate network, you could be encouraging potential fraud since affiliates may push the limits in an attempt to find a way to make the offer profitable.

Before proposing a payout, consider the type of traffic you are asking for (ie. Search, Social, Display..etc) and have a general idea of the costs associated with that traffic type. There are several tools out there that can help you with this process. For search traffic, having a Google Adwords account will give you easy access to information such as suggested bid prices for keywords that consumers are using to find your services. It is always a good idea to be as knowledgeable as possible of the costs associated with online media buying. It could prevent you from wasting time launching an offer that has no chance of succeeding and will also protect you from overpaying.

However, you should leave the execution of your online advertising strategy to the experts. Not only will you benefit from their experience, you’ll also limit your risk since you’ll only be paying out when you receive a qualified call. Remember, with Pay Per Call Advertising, it is The Marketer that takes on the bulk of the risk because the cost of media continually fluctuates while your payout per call remains fixed.

  1. Determine what “success” means and communicate that to The Marketer.

 Regardless of the cost per call that you agree upon, you are banking on X percent of those calls to convert into sales. At the end of the day, you’re going to ask yourself “how much is it costing me to obtain a new customer?” and the answer to that question will dictate success or failure.

It’s important that you clearly communicate your target metric to The Marketer in advance of launching your Pay Per Call campaign. Both parties need to be shooting for the same goal and understand what will happen if they hit or miss that target. Marketers are constantly tweaking campaigns based on many variables such as cost, ad positioning and volume, so if you haven’t given them something to shoot for, you cannot expect them to be able to optimize properly.

Keeping the target CPA (cost per acquisition) to yourself is never a good idea. Many companies make this mistake because they fear that if The Marketer exceeds expectations, they will in-turn ask for more money. The truth is, if you have set your CPA target properly and you find yourself in this situation, you should want to pay your partner more money. Why? Because the volume of calls you receive is closely tied to the payout that you can afford. So assuming that you want to scale a good thing, getting more volume at a price that meets your target CPA is usually more desirable than lower volume with inflated margins. Of course, before you agree to a payout increase, you should clearly communicate your volume expectations to The Marketer and discuss how the results will impact the campaign moving forward.

  1. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Sure, statements like this one may sound cliché but in the world of online marketing, it is most certainly true. It is very rare for a campaign to launch and immediately be successful for both parties.

Typically, during the first week of a campaign being “live”, The Marketer will lose several hundred dollars gathering data in an attempt to find out what works and what doesn’t. This is especially true of search campaigns, considering that Google’s “Searched Terms” report does not even populate until a certain amount of data has been gathered. This report ultimately tells The Marketer what consumers were actually typing into their search browser when they found the advertisement. This information is invaluable because it allows The Marketer to negative match terms and phrases that may not be relevant to the offer and potentially discover “diamond in the rough” terms as well.

It is during this initial stage that companies tend to make knee-jerk decisions and end up pausing campaigns, unaware that if they could just be a little more patient, the campaign may have been hugely successful. Instead, it is often their competitors who benefit because The Marketer will surely close another deal in the same vertical and leverage the information gathered during your testing stage to make their new buyer’s campaign a success.

That is not to say that the buyer is entirely at fault when a campaign meets an early demise. Usually the underlying problem begins with The Marketer setting false expectations (or none at all). They tend to say what they think The Advertiser wants to hear in order to secure the deal. A good marketing partner will explain to you that the first week of testing may be a little rocky but the information gathered is imperative to the long term success of your campaign.

The bottom line is that you never want to give up too early in the process, before any real optimization efforts have taken effect. Remember, nothing worth having comes easily. And yes, that was another cliché.

  1. Pay close attention to call center performance & consumer experience.

A successful Pay Per Call campaign depends on more than just the advertising itself. Often companies will get so caught up with the advertising side of things that they forget how important other factors are to the end result, such as consumer experience and call center performance.

Start by looking closely at the consumer experience. A common mistake is IVR duplication, where The Marketer asks a set of filtering questions on their end and the Advertiser asks those same questions again via their own IVR. It sounds like common sense but you would be surprised at how many campaigns fail simply because consumers are hanging up out of frustration from answering questions multiple times. Keep in mind that most Pay Per Call campaigns target consumers on their mobile devices; so extensive IVR’s with several required key presses are not convenient for your audience.

If the IVR is being hosted on The Marketer’s end, you should insist that they use a “Professional IVR”. In other words, a real human voice rather than a robotic one. This will result in higher consumer confidence as well as a higher conversion rates.

Perhaps the biggest variable in the success of a Pay Per Call campaign is the performance of your call center. Let’s face it; managing a call center is no easy task. Many companies are dealing with hundreds of sales agents with varying degrees of competency. Some might be great sales people. Others may act more like order takers. Therefore, the same way that The Marketer optimizes their traffic to meet your metrics, you must optimize your sales agents to best handle the calls that you are receiving. This means spot-checking call recordings, explaining to your agents how traffic is being generated and rewarding top performers. Marketers are delivering sales leads, not sales. It is up to your sales team to close the deal.

Another key factor to monitor closely is the average hold time in your call center. Consumers that are responding to an advertisement expect to be connected to a live agent quickly and when that doesn’t happen, the drop off can be dramatic. This is especially true in cases where a campaign is time sensitive causing large spikes in volume such as tax season or insurance Open Enrollment periods. It is imperative that you plan around these spikes, either by staffing up or asking The Marketer to curtail volume. Otherwise, you can end up doing real damage to your brand and will motivate prospective customers to call your competition. Not to mention the fact that you could end up paying for calls that never end up speaking with a sales agent. 

  1. Have a direct line to the actual traffic source.

As the previous points have insinuated, communication between your company and The Marketer is crucial to the success of your Pay Per Call campaign. Therefore, you should expect direct access to the person or persons who are generating your phone calls and demand weekly or bi-weekly performance review meetings, at least during the early stages of campaign launch.

Having this direct access will allow you and your distribution partner to optimize much faster than you would be able to if you were working with a company that does not control their traffic. For example, an affiliate network with hundreds or thousands of publishers may very well have the best of intentions but despite what they may tell you, they cannot possibly control their traffic. Why? Because they are not the ones buying the media. This means that you will always have to wait for them to reach out to their affiliate first in order to make adjustments or optimizations. You will also have to trust that the publisher is acting in good faith and not simply trying to earn their commission promised by the network.

A distribution partner with in-house media buying capabilities is always your best bet when your goal is to put together a long-term successful and scalable Pay Per Call campaign.