By: Mike Powell
Direct Marketing News - This is a question that has created a great deal of discussion—as well as a lot of confusion—among direct response agencies and advertisers. Some believe that the URL offers tremendous advantages over 800 numbers—lower cost, website resources, flexibility—not to mention that it represents the converging technology future. Some argue that 800 numbers are far superior because more people are comfortable responding through phone calls than via websites and that conversion rates are higher using phone than URLs.
In fact, both sides have valid positions, but this isn't an either/or question. DRTV advertisers should capitalize on both phone and web as response tools, but they should do so knowing the best ways to use both in a given spot and for a given offer. To that end, here are five principles that we've found beneficial when considering the 800 number/URL issue:
1. Prioritize your response tool. In every spot, one tool should be the primary focus while the other is the secondary focus. Giving the 800 number and the URL equal time tends to dampen the response, perhaps because it creates confusion in the minds of viewers—they're not sure if they should call or click, and that internal conflict delays their response and ultimately stops them from taking action.
2. Create a unique landing page for your URL. Don't just direct viewers to a general website; it will lack the “dedicated” features that convert clicks to sales. Instead, design a landing page that mirrors the look and feel of the commercial.
3. Feature the phone number and URL individually. Do so in the bottom bar of the spot. Rotate them rather than trying to fit both in the same space. Again, you don't want to create a conflict between the two response options.
4. Recognize that the old phone technology is superior to the new URL tool in certain circumstances. Phone calls will likely convert at a higher rate than the (user-controlled) web channel, and in situations that are complex, demand longer decision time, and provide greater upsell opportunity phone is generally a better option.
5. Include search as a metric when using a URL. You're likely to find an increase in searches generated by views of the commercial (product or company name, for instance) from people who may not have written down the URL but are interested in the offer.
Finally, keep in mind that new technologies will keep producing new response options. In a few cases, we've included text response tools as an option in spots. Admittedly, this is still a small slice of the pie, but invariably, it will be a growing slice. The key is to keep an open mind about all new response options and recognize the continued viability of the traditional one.
Mike Powell is the SVP/Executive Creative Director at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.
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