By Chris Consorte – Posted on November 18, 2007

While all things e-marketing work well, they’re just part of the many ways you can get your phones to ring–and convert prospects to sales.

When it comes to sales, nothing is better–in my humble opinion, that is–than a good old- fashioned inbound phone call. Let me explain.

I’m a big fan of the automation process: e-commerce sales, e-lead generation and even e-customer service. While over 50% of my own business revenue is based on all things “e,” I still can’t resist those prospects that call in over the phone looking to get more information. Why? Because my sales team has a 50% chance of converting them to a client.

Over the years, I’ve tried many advertising tactics to grow my business. In fact, almost all of these tactics I tried on my own business before I went ahead and proposed that tactic to any of my clients. My rationale was, and still is, if it works for my business then it’ll work for my client’s business. Yet it all comes down to objectives–that is, what is it that I want from prospects and clients.

At one point in my business, all I cared about was conversion to an e-commerce sale. (We used to be in the event marketing business.) Shortly after, all I cared about was generating prospect leads online for later follow-up by sales (to give us time to research the prospect as we were more in the consulting phase of our business). Now, I’d pay just about any price for inbound prospect phone calls.

“Paying just about any price” is a strong statement, but I’ve actually paid what I consider just about any price in the past. I’ve tried marketing tactics that have cost me a hefty sum–only to get a small quantity of inbound prospect calls–thereby driving my cost-per-call through the roof. On the flip side, I’ve also tried marketing tactics that have cost me very little–and have driven tons of inbound phone calls. In this case, my cost-per-call went down significantly.

Many of our clients believed in the past that television or radio is out of reach for them, in terms of cost, but yet their products or services are perfect for this audience. We’ve helped them produce digital television spots for as little as $1,000 and have purchased them 30-second spots for as little as $10 each. Basically, they’re on-air in two weeks time at a total budget of $2,000, and they’re testing TV. For radio, we’ve gotten clients on-air for as little as $5 per 30-second spot and they’re on the radio testing for as little as $1,000. The secret–buying remnant and direct-response time only–and they’re getting many inbound phone calls to justify the money spent.

The same holds true for direct mail, where the client occasionally feels it’s going to be too costly based on the minimums of testing 5,000 pieces or much more at a time. These days, with digital printing, clients are able to test drop as few as 500 pieces– perhaps for $300 or so–and see if direct mail is for them…and if it’ll make their phone ring.

I’ve seen offline media (radio, TV, direct mail, print advertising) as well as online media (opt-in e-mail, online ads, search optimization) work very well for driving inbound phone calls. If you’re watching your metrics–or cost-per-call–and measuring to make sure your objectives are being met (ultimately, sales conversion) then the sky is the limit in terms of how many inbound calls you can drive into your telecenter, sales team or customer service department.

Not sure if you’ve got the budget or the skills to embark on testing an all-out campaign? Try services like Ingenio ( or CitySearch ( and they’ll drive the inbound calls to you directly. Just simply set-up a campaign online, including a description of your industry and the prospects you’re looking to attract, how much you’ll be willing to pay per call and how many calls you would like to buy–and it’s that simple. You can even set a geographic territory limit so that you don’t get inbound calls outside of the areas you service!

So there you have it. If you want inbound prospect calls–you CAN buy them. Again, in my own humble opinion, I believe that inbound phone calls is going to be how advertising is quantified going forward. Furthermore, paying for or buying targeted prospect phone calls is likely the future of direct response marketing–because it’s one of the best ways for advertisers to track conversion from prospect to client.


Chris Consorte has spent his entire career working on various marketing and new media projects on both the agency and client-side of business. Chris is also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine.

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