Click-to-Call an argument for your CFO

Have you ever tried to squeeze a plumber into an online shopping cart? Unlikely. The fact is that most small to medium size businesses using the Web are not shopping carts. They sell services and products that just don't work that way--like landscape design, consulting, and acupuncture.

So when SMBs are asked what they want most from a Web site, they're more than likely to answer: more phone calls. This makes sense. In the non-shopping cart world, sales are made--or at least initiated--with a phone call. It's worth wondering, then, if small businesses are getting maximum value from their Web marketing dollars.

This was once a simpler question to answer. Once upon a time, all you needed for online presence was a website. That was easy enough. Then it had to be better than competitors' sites. So you built a better one. As websites became more sophisticated, the focus shifted to driving traffic, and then invariably to pushing only the right visitors your way.

And now, businesses are looking more carefully at how effective all of this is at converting their online spend to revenue. But what's missing here? Have we forgotten that even before the Web, any sale started with the phone ringing?

Ironically, relatively few SMB sites have metrics telling them whether, and how many, site hits turn into phone calls--let alone intelligence like which keywords deliver the most calls. But if Web spend is intended to generate leads that are converted offline, how can you effectively measure Internet marketing ROI without this information?

Consider this. A good website should perform like a good salesperson--and it's relatively easy to figure out if salespeople are bringing in more than they cost. And equally easy to see what kind of business is coming in. Shouldn't it be the same for a website?

The abundance of metrics provided by Internet marketing solutions report how many visitors came to your site, how long they spent, what pages they came from, and what search terms they used. But if you convert visitors to customers offline, these pieces of intelligence don't necessarily tell you if your website is a good salesperson, just breaking even, or underperforming.

Here's where Web telephony changes the rules. Capabilities like click-to-call marry age-old phone calls with Web marketing. Instead of simply listing a phone number on a site, click-to-call turns any image on any page into a phone call trigger call to action.

Because the phone call trigger is now a click, it can be measured like any other. When sites visitors click the call icon, that action is captured. Now you can see how many visitors called--and exactly which page they called from--in the same way you can see how many pages they looked at.

So is Web telephony the Holy Grail for improving your Web economics? Debatable, like anything else. Yet converting more visitors to callers does reduce per unit cost of leads and in turn, overall customer acquisition cost. And knowing which keywords drive the best phone calls will add intelligence to your keyword bidding, optimizing your spend--something worth consideration in the face of accelerating keyword inflation.

The bottom line: There's more to click-to-call than meets the eye. Yes, it generates more calls and builds a better experience for site visitors. But it's the role click-to-call plays in building a better Web ROI that makes it so valuable. Properly deployed, it's a game changer. Tell your CFO about it.

Is Google good for Small and Medium Sized Business (SMB)?

Only if it gets them a phone call. Why? Because the majority of SMBs will never have a website with a shopping cart. Not because they're behind the times, but because they aren't selling things that can go in a shopping cart. Think about plumbers, lawyers and chiropractors. Now, think about that phone call.

Twenty years ago, when you needed a plumber, let's say in Chicago, you looked in the Yellow Pages. The number of listings was manageable and they were all local. You picked one, called and spoke with a human being. You made the deal at the moment when you wanted a plumber. The Yellow Pages were designed for making phone calls. Google isn't.

Googling "plumbers Chicago," returns an overwhelming mess of listings, including some for Tucson plumbers with "Chicago" somewhere on their website. You can only see one page at a time, making it hard to compare or return to a prior listing that seemed interesting. If you do settle on one, you'll probably have to navigate through the website for a phone number. And when you finally call, it's likely you have to navigate another menu. In the meantime, your wife got the neighbor to fix the toilet and one Chicago plumber missed a job.

It's simple human nature. We buy from people we feel connected to. Just browsing a web site we don't feel connected. Even using a pop-up text chat box, we don't feel connected. However, talking on the telephone we feel connected. The more human contact we have with a business the more likely we will buy their product or service. Googling "plumbers" is about as impersonal as you can get. The personal relationship is what drives sales more than any other factor. In fact, 75 percent of sales are closed in person and on phone calls, against an anemically small segment for Web site, e-mail, and chat orders, all of which create instant distance between seller and buyer.

It's not magic: the more callers, the more business.

Adding click-to-call to a website brings back the Yellow Pages Effect, bypassing that sales-chilling period of time between needing something and calling to order it. Click-to-call marries the intimacy and immediacy of the phone to the flexibility of the Web so business can have the power of both.

If click-to-call is so valuable, why aren't more SMBs using it? The answer until recently was cost.

Just a few of years ago, click-to-call was only available with costly interactive voice response (IVR) systems. Costing thousands of dollars and requiring highly specialized technicians, complex custom programming, and costly infrastructure upgrades, IVR systems were out of reach for all but the largest companies.

Today, the model of delivering business applications and services over the Internet, SaaS (Software as a Service) and mature VoIP technology (Voice over Internet Protocol) can bring advanced IVR capabilities to any business with a website. It's Communications as a Service and, if you think about it, it's what the phone company has been doing for over a century. In this model, service providers invest in the infrastructure and specialized skills ( shielding customers from the underlying complexity. All customers need to know is how to use the phone and a browser. Payment is as-you-go ( the same as your home phone.

And now that it's simple and affordable, the benefits are huge. Click-to-call gives businesses a measurable market advantage, according to industry analyst iMedia Connection*:

  • A 22 to 25 percent reduction in website abandonment from website pages with click-to-call services
  • As much as a 100 percent increase in transaction conversions from click-to-call users versus toll-free callers
  • 88 percent of click-to-call users say they are more likely to contact a company that offers a click-to-call service than one that does not.

Not only does click-to-call make it easier for customers to call while the impulse to buy is hot, it also makes sure their calls are answered and directed to the right place.

For example, a car dealer can route callers needing repairs to the service department and callers inquiring about fleet purchases to the sales department. You can also integrate click-to-call into email campaigns. However you use click-to-call, you always know exactly where a call is coming from. The bottom line: People buy from people. Even more so, from people they know. Thus phone calls build the relationships that build sales. And while Google is surely here to stay, click-to-call will make it better by connecting the SMB to their prospects the old fashioned way. By phone. Just like the Yellow Pages did.

Irv Shapiro


Ifbyphone, Inc.