Pumped For Pay Per Call: Ingenuity At Ingenio

    December 7, 2005

I had an interesting conversation with Marc Barach, Chief Marketing Officer of San Francisco based Ingenio. Ingenio’s business is pay per call: a subject I’d heard of, but not something I had any kind of real understanding of. I know a little more about it now though and it’s actually quite slick.

Editor’s Note: The next frontier in the “Pay Per” format of advertising is “Pay Per Call.” Stop in at WebProWorld’s SES: Chicago forum and tell us your thoughts on the direction of this venture.

We all know about pay per click and pay per performance marketing. You bid on or buy for a flat fee, a term or link and you pay every time your potential customer takes an action. It’s a fairly established model; companies like Google for example, are making a couple of dollars with it and have been for a few years.

To this point, ppc marketing has been more or less limited to businesses with an online presence. Having worked online for several years now I have a tendency to think that just about everybody has a web site now. However, the fact of the matter is, businesses without a website still outnumber their online counterparts by almost 3 to 1.

Plenty of these offline entities would be more than happy to take advantage of Internet marketing initiatives like ppc programs if it didn’t require they develop a web presence and all of the baggage that goes along with it.

There are some companies, like TrueLocal for example, that are trying to reach out to these untapped masses and facilitate their entry into online marketing by simplifying the process and requiring little more than the business fill out a form and create a profile.

Pay per call however, is a whole other ballgame. Pay per call uses the phone, something almost every business holds near and dear to their bottom line and have been using for years.

With Ingenio’s pay per call program, businesses are able to bid on results and have their phone number display in the listing. For the advertiser, the process is very similar to placing themselves in a traditional yellow page style phone book directory, so there is a certain level of familiarity to the concept even among the least tech savvy of advertisers.

Once the advertiser is listed, they are able to choose options like having their listing display only during business hours. That helps to insure the advertisers are able to take full advantage of their results and maximize their program’s effectiveness.

Like Google and other ppc programs, advertisers are able to also able to taste test the concept with very modest investments. Given the cost of traditional paper book phone directory advertising, I would think this concept would be extremely attractive.

It will be very interesting to me to see how this technology develops over the course of the next few years. Will traditional telecoms move to develop their own programs entirely or will they look to partner with companies like Ingenio? Ingenio has distribution arrangements already with AOL Search, AOL Yellow Pages and announced just today a deal with InfoSpace. They are of the opinion that the traditional telecoms will work cooperatively with them as opposed to entering into a competitive situation.

How about Google? Google also has some call technology in use. GoogleTalk is basically a VOIP application dressed up as an instant messenger. They also have features on some listings that display a little green phone icon. When you click it, you’re prompted for your phone number and once entered Google will play matchmaker, call both your number and the company in the listing and step aside.

It’s all pretty cool stuff I think. It will be interesting to see how the non-traditional businesses respond to this as an advertising medium as time goes on. Will the phone book eventually go the way of the dodo? What direction will the traditional telecom giants go? Is pay per call just another tech fad flash in the pan or does it have legs for the long haul? Break out your crystal ball and let me know how you think it’ll go.

Mike is a manager at iEntry. He has been with iEntry since 2000.