Commentary

SMBs: Is Your Ad Spend A Waste Of Budget?

New business is the lifeblood of all industries. Consumers are fickle and distracted, now more than ever -- so when it comes to buying ads, whether it’s online or on a park bench, where on earth do you start?

During the past few years, several new platforms have emerged that enable SMBs to connect with prospects and hopefully convert them into paying customers. This presents a significant challenge. Not only does it seem that you need to be everywhere at the same time, you also need to understand how and if your marketing spend is actually generating any new customers.

There was a time when Twitter and Facebook pretty much had you covered. But now we have content creation and distribution platforms, specialist mobile apps, picture and video-sharing platforms, messaging platforms, disappearing ink -- you name it. There is a seemingly endless list of vital media vying for our advertising dollars. And if choosing platforms is tricky on its own, going live with the ad is really just the beginning.

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At this point, what many businesses forget is that while ad platforms themselves are numerous and vexing, more often than not, conversion still boils down to the telephone call. Across industries, data overwhelmingly suggests that inbound calls have higher intent and a higher value per sale than most online response mechanisms. Therefore, SMBs simply cannot afford to overlook the telephone -- along with all of the potentially actionable metadata that phone calls can provide, such as which ad the caller is responding to, the call’s geographic region, whether the customer is new or returning and much more.

That said, questions that SMBs should ask before activating any marketing campaign include whether or not they understand how people are calling their business, during what time of day customers are more likely to call or even why they’re calling in the first place. This type of information is indispensable when it comes to allocating marketing budgets across all of the different available platforms. Call analytics also help SMBs better distribute internal resources to maximize the value of every inbound inquiry.

For example, our recent property-industry data shows that more than 10% of people make phone inquiries on a Saturday. However, many businesses are closed on the weekends, meaning they could be missing out on potential new business. The same data showed more than 10% of calls arrive between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., whereas only 2% arrive between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every single business, but these kinds of trends provide valuable insight into how modern consumers behave. They are typically very busy during the day and only take time after work or on the weekend to make calls to various vendors.

In addition to the above points, many search-based advertising campaigns drive continuous sales via the phone. Given the fact that a consumer who sees an ad, and follows up by calling a number is highly likely to save that number in their smartphone, they are also highly likely to use that same number, and that same business for future transactions. We have seen that if the number advertised is retained by the company, a single click can drive up to eight calls a year from the same budget. That means a much higher return on investment for your marketing dollar when it is attributed correctly -- and very importantly, when that number is not rotated out to another company. 

The phone number is a part of a company’s digital identity -- and similar to a company URL, it should be kept with the company, not rotated out to other potential competitors. In search, and indeed in print media, we have seen many ads driving calls years later due to the stickiness of the number called.

The upshot is this: long before SMBs set up procedures to measure advertising outcomes, they need to make sure they are equipped to measure real-time action. This gives them the extraordinary power to change under-performing campaigns before they become a money pit.

 

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