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Not a week has passed recently without news or data releases in the emerging area of call monetization. That includes yesterday’s Invoca announcement. Mobile search-driven call volume is exploding. And that works out because Local Commerce Monitor™ data indicate that businesses want the phone to ring.

Yesterday we released a new white paper on the topic. Sponsored by, this free paper takes a look at the call monetization opportunity specifically with SMBs. Much of the activity and adoption so far has been large brands but the opportunity is being brought down-market to SMBs.

The executive summary is below and you can download the full paper for free here. We won’t be slowing down on this topic any time soon, including our conference next month in Atlanta, and a larger BIA/Kelsey research report on call monetization that will publish in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Executive Summary

The U.S. small business (SMB) advertising opportunity is huge. According to BIA/Kelsey, $89 billion is spent annually on advertising by SMBs. This is evolving quickly with location-aware media such as mobile, and the commercially-geared user intent that comes with it.

This opportunity is counterbalanced by significant challenges however. Though large, the SMB segment is characterized by a fragmented customer base that has low technical sophistication. Simplicity and clear ROI are vital to sell to and retain their business.

In addition, SMBs generally have small budgets and little time to manage or monitor marketing campaigns. For all of these reasons, the sophisticated and more complex digital marketing products sold to larger enterprise and national brands don’t often work for SMBs.

This has led to difficult advertiser acquisition and high churn for SMB-focused digital marketing products. For example, search — once positioned as the “performance-based” Holy Grail for SMBs — has proven to be too complex for most SMBs to handle on their own.

That’s compounded by the fact that most local commerce takes place offline, but is increasingly influenced online. The gap between online and offline however causes a lack of clear causality between clicks/impressions and conversions, thus lowering perceived ROI.

As a result, we’ve seen a movement towards more tangible and simple lead sources such as foot traffic and phone calls. BIA Kelsey data indicate this is especially true in high-value local verticals such as auto and home services, which close most business by phone.

The smartphone revolution has further boosted the trend towards calls as a lead source. The device’s inherent capabilities (native dialer) and common use case for high-immediacy local search make it seamless for ready-to-buy consumers to call local merchants.

Therefore, SMBs that can effectively get in front of consumers with the right messaging and calls to action (e.g., call a business) can achieve high ROI on ad spend and drive high quality leads. Companies that can help them get there are likewise well positioned.

This is only half the battle though. Also needed are effective tracking and analytics to empirically communicate ROI. Developers are building tools to help advertisers attribute campaign effectiveness and optimize and iterate campaigns and operations accordingly.
Phone Calls Are the New Click: The True SMB Marketing Opportunity

The state of call tracking and analytics continues to develop in lots of ways including location targeted ad placements, call recording, keyword tracking and sentiment analysis. These will be ripe areas for development as call monetization continues to evolve.

This report examines opportunities in call monetization for SMBs, and agents operating on their behalf. What’s being done today? What are best practices? What’s still missing? And where will value be unlocked in the coming months? The phone call is the new click.

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