Telmetrics: PPCall Taking Off Among SMBs

Canadian call measurement firm Telmetrics said this morning that the company is seeing PPCall take off in mobile and among small business advertisers: “In comparing Q1 2012 to Q1 2011, Telmetrics is tracking 348 percent more pay per call ads.”

I spoke to Telmetrics’ Bill Dinan late last week. He told me that where PPCall had once been the almost exclusive domain of national advertisers, growth and adoption among SMBs is now outpacing it. Dinan explained that PPCall is growing in mobile (across the board) but that “the local channel has now reached a tipping point.” By “local” he means SMBs.

My inference here is that PPCall is being sold to SMBs and this is mostly not a function of SMB demand or self-service. However Dinan and I discussed how SMBs “get” calls and their value.

Dinan observed that PPCall has not taken off to the same degree online. While marketers are widely using call tracking/measurement for analytics or attribution purposes for online ads, they’re not generally favoring the PPCall business model. Dinan speculated this was largely because calls are the currency of print advertising and mobile, while the click is still king online.

Another interesting piece of data released by Telmetrics is call-duration information. The company said that mobile calls, on average, are the longest followed by print yellow pages:

  • Mobile: 3.5 minutes per call
  • Print YP: 2.8 minutes per call
  • IYP: 2.7 minutes per call
  • Paid search: 2.2 minutes per cal

Telmetrics takes the position that call duration is a proxy for lead quality. This makes sense: mobile users tend to have greater and more immediate needs than online users. By the same token this data also thus argues that print YP leads are of better quality than paid search.

Do you agree?

The argument that print leads are of higher quality than online ads is one that has not been widely used by directory publishers, to my knowledge. How successful do you think it would be in combating the “print is dead” meme?

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7 Responses to “Telmetrics: PPCall Taking Off Among SMBs”

  1. Louis Gagnon says at

    The relatively low adoption of PPCall online is, in my opinion, related to the the fact that when one pays for each call she receives, one wants to ENSURE call quality. The subjective debates that follows makes the model costly and the customer experience more confrontational than what most vendors would wish.

    Yodle has found that call duration is an perfect proxy for quality. We are working on new proxies such as the level of interaction in the conversation (more sophisticated measure) which proves to be a much stronger predictor.

    A better model is a Pay-Per-Quality-Call model. It may come as quality measures, at scale, improves over time and as the unit economics work itself out.

  2. Greg says at


    I think you’re right about call scrutiny that comes with charging. Yext did an analysis of call transcripts to try and charge only for “qualified” calls. That process is also imperfect. What I understand is that when call recordings are available advertisers are less likely to challenge individual calls.

    So a combination of call duration and call recording, plus one other safeguard . . . perhaps

  3. Louis Gagnon says at

    Making the recording available is definitely the right thing to do but I doubt that it helps with the subjective interpretation problem of an SMB that questions the value for money. In the end, it comes back to sales expectation setting and CPA issues for the vendor. The more time you spend defining what quality means upfront and how you will measure it, the lower the sales velocity and higher the CPA. In other words, there is a high price to pay to set that upfront expectation right (or after if you do not) and that is why the model never really took off in my opinion.

  4. Greg says at


    So is this then mainly a question of sales training? Do you see demand coming from SMBs or do you think that PPCall is being “sold” to them?

  5. Louis Gagnon says at

    It is less about the training itself than it is about the costly disruption of that upfront discussion to the sales economics. Opening discussions on subjective concepts like quality has a net negative impact on CVRs and CPAs. In other words, you lose more sales due to prospect confusion, doubt and disagreement than you gain due to the attractiveness of the Pay-for-Performance model.

    We see a huge demand for ROI and for vendor accountability but no demand for PPcall specifically. Nothing wrong with those who do sell it – I just doubt that they will be able to do it profitably – at scale… Of course, that could change when a technological breakthrough takes the subjectivity aspect of quality out of the equation.

  6. Greg Sterling says at


    Very interesting . . . no demand. I think calls will always be subjective unless PPCall is tied to something even more tangible like store visits or sales.

  7. Louis Gagnon says at


    When we can track visits to store , we will probably see the emergence of a PPVisit model. When we track the sales, it will be a PPRev or PPCust model.

    In terms of PPCall objectification – we may, in the future, be able to charge for any call that discussed pricing for relevant services as an example… Sophisticated text mining required…

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