The technology revolution has extended far beyond gadgets, hardware, and equipment, and well into the ways companies find and keep customers.
Yodle.com has emerged in recent years as an online marketing service that attracts, refers, connects, and tracks clients with chauffeured transportation companies throughout America’s 25 largest metropolitan markets. So far, about 300 limousine companies have signed on to Yodle, a 21st century version of the Yellow Pages.
Yodle works by using keywords to place advertisements on search engine results. It then directs consumers who, for example, search for “limousine,” “wedding,” and “Chicago,” to local limousine company websites.
Yodle also customizes web pages and online marketing to each client, and can analyze in real time the number of hits and customer calls. That enables clients to reap the marketplace potential of online searchers who look for limousine services via the major Internet search engines.
Yodle’s CEO, Court Cunningham, recently explained to LCT how the service works and how its online formula is shaking up traditional advertising and marketing efforts.
LCT: How did Yodle come about?
CUNNINGHAM: The founder, Nathaniel Stevens (a student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business), has parents who owned car dealerships in New Haven, Conn. He was a summer marketing intern (in 2005) working for Dad, getting leads from traditional lead generation companies. But people were complaining the service wasn’t effective. The traditional model is one where the consumer says yes, then that lead is sold to five to seven different vendors competing with other merchants and business. So Nathaniel started to advertise on Google, Yahoo, and MSN, and as he built up leads, he needed to track clicks and calls so he could know whether certain campaigns perform better than others in driving calls.
Now we buy media across dozens of sites across the web, host sites, track clicks and calls, and allow merchants to score their calls so we can know if certain campaigns are driving more phone calls. We then can refer that back into your media strategies.
LCT: How did Yodle get into the limousine market?
CUNNINGHAM: We have been opportunistic by going after new segments and local networks. Somewhere along the way limousines came into the mix. They did well and they are now one of our top 10 segments in terms of customers out of 50 core segments. Limousines are close to 10% of our total customer base.
LCT: How is a website optimized to turn online visits into offline calls?
CUNNINGHAM: We have an editorial review guide that gives 25 things we look for that help improve performance to turn clicks into calls. If you don’t pass, we require you to use one of our sites that convert at a very high rate from clicks to calls. Some of it is basic stuff; you have your phone number in large font, list areas of service, have visual appeal, testimonials, clear descriptions of services. . . It’s a long list of things, but when you read through them, most of them make sense. You would be amazed how many people don’t think about it and they only have two of the 25.
We have tripled the conversion rate for sites that were once failing. We work with your site and recommend you use our site. People waste money on horrible sites. If you use our best practices, your site converts at rate three times higher than those that don’t.
LCT: What do you mean when you say everything Google does is self-service and horizontal, while everything Yodle does is full-service and vertical?
CUNNINGHAM: Your average small business owner is overwhelmed and inundated. You have to manage health care, payroll; there is too much to manage. Most of them are not marketing experts. Most don’t want a self-service such as Google. They want an agency that does the work and spends their money, and then generates reports to see if it is generating value for the money they are spending. There are customers who want a self-service solution, but 95% of the market wants a full service solution to push the buttons and dials for them. We learn best practices over time, and those best practices yield the depth through vertical data, such as optimization, segmenting, and research.
LCT: How much does the average limousine business spend and what is its expected return on investment?
CUNNINGHAM: The average spending across all clients is $900 per month. Limousine companies are about $1,200. We tailor campaigns to meet your needs and a wide range of budgets. It depends on the objectives of the client. You can generate anywhere from a two-times return to a six-times return on an investment. A number of things can drive that difference and performance. We require an up-front three-month contract; then we take it month to month. It takes tweaking and some time to do optimization. Unlike the Yellow Pages, it is impressionable and measurable. You can see if business is generated, and know whether it works or not. You know every click: Did it turn into a call or turn into business? We don’t have contracts. When information is that clear, the results speak for themselves.
LCT: How would this approach help a limousine company struggling through a recession?
CUNNINGHAM: I would say in a recession you only want to spend marketing dollars that are measurable. If you can spend money through Yodle, even if it’s just a 2x return, you want to keep doing that. Increase your budget to offset your regular customer base. Increase measurable marketing in a recession.
LCT: What is estimated ad cost per netted client versus that of other forms of ads?
CUNNINGHAM: We see around $15 per new client. Instead of spray and pay advertising, if the price works, you can put money where you can measure it.
How Yodle Works – Step by Step
Sets up advertising campaigns: Selects the right keywords. Writes ad copy. Manages bids and budget. Tracks and interprets results.
Offers ClickRank: If a business already advertises on search engines, Yodle can help improve results through its proprietary bidding tool. It continually evaluates how much a business should bid for keywords, and how clicks convert to calls. At times, it doesn’t pay to appear high up in the search engine rankings. ClickRank instead performs the cost-benefit analysis for a business, making sure it spends money in a targeted, value-enhanced way. Yodle also offers an advertising assessment to determine how results can be improved.
Advertises across a network of sites: Yodle leverages its robust media buying platform and network of high-profile sites, such as Google, MSN, Yahoo!, and Ask.com, to make sure client ads show up in the right place, at the right time.
Brings leads that generate greater profits: Traffic from search engine advertising and other online sources is proven to be much more qualified than any other form of advertising. That’s because the people who are searching are motivated to find a business. Yodle estimates that every $1 invested in online advertising with Yodle returns an $8 profit.
Designs professional websites: When someone clicks with a client’s ad, Yodle sends them to a personalized Yodle adverSite that looks and feels like the client’s business, conveys credibility and quality, and targets the right prospects by communicating the right messages.
Maximizes web performance: Yodle adverSites are rigorously tested, refined and proven, across hundreds of service industries, to generate 2x the average website response rate. Every adverSite builds on strategies for converting more prospects into customers by allowing them to learn enough about a client’s services to want to inquire; download coupons and special offers; get quotes and request feedback; make appointments, reservations or bookings; and contact a business directly by phone or email. The adverSites also are built to ensure that sites get listed in the natural rankings of the most popular search engines.
Posts updated reports: Yodle provides minute-by-minute reporting on every aspect of a client’s online advertising — from which advertisements are attracting the most prospects, to how well a website is turning them into calls — all via an easy-to-use interface that can be accessed 24/7.
Records real feedback: Whenever a prospect places a call from a client’s website, Yodle offers the option of recording the entire conversation. That way a client can evaluate the quality of inquiries, including how a receptionist handles calls or if a prospective customer hangs up before leaving a message.
Optimizes ongoing campaigns: Yodle helps clients interpret results through a dedicated account manager, and suggests and implements refinements that improve performance, such as bidding more for better keywords or cutting ineffective advertisements.