Learn the path to success for building a sustainable pay per call business in the performance marketing industry.
– The Pay Per Call Path to Success
– Set Up an LLC or Corporation
– Why Affiliates Fail
– Establishing a Testing Budget
– Choosing Your First Campaign
– Become an Affiliate and Learn to Drive Traffic
– Expand Relationships and Load Balance Calls
– Establish Direct Buyer Relationships
– Create Self-Serve / Micro Buyer Networks
– Create Your Own Brands and Assets
– Expand and Test New Traffic Sources
– Leverage Affiliates to Scale
– Start Your Own Network Business
The Pay Per Call Path to Success
Let’s start to put everything we now know together and discuss Building Your Business. I’m going to cover what I believe to be the Easiest Path to Success in Pay Per Call, and this does not mean you have to follow it exactly. You need to do what’s right for you. There are all sorts of other things that you can do. This is just my thought process on how to go from start to finish, maybe over a year, to build your own Pay Per Call business.
First and foremost, whenever I have moved into any industry, I start as an affiliate so that I can understand how that industry operates. My suggestion is if you’re new to Pay Per Call, to begin by driving falls into networks as an affiliate using online advertising. That’s going to be your most comfortable and fastest route to potential success.
It’s going to open up a lot of doors and get you started into understanding all the concepts that you’re going to need to be successful in this space. Working with networks is also going to teach you a whole bunch of lessons on what not to do and what to look out for as well, and so you can start to build up your treasure chest of failures and use them to define your roadmap to figure out where you’re going to take your business. Like I said before; this map isn’t fixed. You should always be thinking about where you’re going to go and then react to what you learn.
Once you get started driving calls, you need to create multiple network relationships and then load balance those calls among multiple networks or multiple buyers if you’re able to find some direct buyers. You need your own call tracking software to do this. Most affiliates that are not using third party tracking software are never going to get beyond maybe $100, $200 a day in revenue because they have no control and no visibility over their traffic.
There are a couple of other courses out there that talk about Pay Per Call, and they very briefly gloss over third-party tracking and say you don’t need it as an affiliate because networks have their own platforms and that is just absolute crap. If you plan to build a business and Pay Per Call, get your own third-party call tracking (whether it’s Ringba or not). Otherwise, you’re going to have a much harder time moving forward in this business.
Once you have some traffic moving and you’re working with multiple networks and buyers to load balance your calls, you need to find direct call center buyers, direct buyers, as soon as humanly possible. That’s because networks are mostly just brokers and they’re taking a cut.
They’ve done all the business development work for you, so it’s easy to get started, but once you already have some traffic that you can use as negotiating power, you need to cut them out as soon as possible or move them down your routing plan so that they’re not prioritized.
I don’t think you should cannibalize your network relationships. That would not be smart, but as soon as you bring on some direct buyers that are paying you more money you simply deprioritize the networks in your tracking software so that they still receive calls if you don’t have capacity available at your direct buyers, but you’re optimized to get as much money per call as possible.
Next, I would then reduce my dependence on networks until they’re only my backup. I would find more direct buyers; I would find as many call centers as I possibly could to take that traffic and then only send calls to networks as a last resort. They’re great for grabbing up the traffic, or if they have exclusive campaigns, I’d love that. If a network has an agency of record and is exclusive on a campaign, that’s fine because you can’t get it anywhere else, then it’s real value. But if it’s just a brokered campaign and the network does not have the exclusive on it, I’m just going to go ahead and do everything I possibly can to cut them out so that I can get those higher payouts and then bid more for my traffic.
Networks may not like this advice, but I encourage networks to work harder to get exclusive campaigns and provide something that people can’t get elsewhere. That’s really how a network builds its competitive advantage. I would highly advise them to do more of that because then their affiliates can’t go anywhere else.
Once I’ve removed my dependence on networks, they’re my backup, I have a bunch of direct buyers in place, I’m going to run the same game, and I’m going to try and cut out the direct buyers as well and create my own network of self-serve buyers, and that way I become vertically integrated. If I’m generating the phone call and selling to a small insurance agency and then routing calls to hundreds of micro buyers, I’m going to get the highest margin per phone call I possibly can and then I’m going to create enterprise value so that I can eventually sell my company. That’s my game plan.
Once I start building my own self serve buyer networks, I’m going to create my own brand like 1-800-dentist, or whatever it is so that all my calls flow through my brand and I create something of value that people can remember. Then my network of buyers want to accept all those calls, but realistically, people are coming to me to do their comparison shopping. Those assets outside of the buyer network also generate enterprise value and are the key to long-term business success. It’s also something that takes a lot of work.
Once I have those assets and brands, that’s when I’m going to do TV, radio, print, and out of home advertising in specific markets to brand those campaigns and get into people’s heads. Once I have my own brand and assets to promote, and I understand the markets, and then I really have a handle on the verticals that I’m operating in, maybe I’ve selected three or five verticals that I’m going to focus on that are all sort of in the same family so that I can upsell to different people, I’m going to bring on affiliates of my own so that we don’t have to do all of the work on the traffic generation side and we can take advantage of all the pricing data we have to work with affiliate.
Affiliates are smart; they’re very bright. If I know that my team can generate a phone call for $10, I’m going to pay affiliates $8 and see what they can come up with. I’m going to get my cost of acquisition down while opening up an opportunity to scale and an opportunity for an affiliate to build a business. I’m going to provide the same opportunity that I effectively started with in step one.
Depending on your goals, you also have the opportunity to open up a network at this point. You have a self-serve buyer network, you have a bunch of direct buyers, maybe at this point you’ve negotiated some exclusives of your own, and then you can open that up in the network business model. Though I would say that the network business model is a grueling model, you’re mostly just a broker so if you have not created some competitive advantage like your own properties, your own brands, agency of record or exclusive back end buyers, that you’re going to have a rough go as a network and you’re not necessarily adding a whole bunch of value, you’re just trying to skim profit off the top by connecting people.
As you build your business and you know everybody in the space and you understand where everyone fits in, and all the hundreds or thousands of players and connections that you can make over the period of years, then it may be very, is easy to start connecting those people blindly in a network model and it’s something for you to consider, though there’s a whole bunch of risk associated with that. If I were doing this, I probably wouldn’t open up a network of my own. I would secure exclusive deals and build my own buyer network so that people have to come to me if they want to promote my offers. That’s a little bit different than a network model. It’s essentially vertically integrating the entire business and controlling it.
Set Up an LLC or Corporation
If you’re an affiliate, you need to set up an LLC or a corporation. You need to do this to shield yourself of personal liability, and to mitigate your tax liability, optimize your taxes. There’s a reason people always complain that wealthy people use corporations, so they don’t have to pay taxes. Well, that’s how the system works. You need to understand how it works so that you can also minimize your tax liability and legal liability for whatever you’re doing.
Now, I’d like to preface that I am not a lawyer and so if you have questions about this, you need to contact a lawyer or an accountant to figure out precisely what you want to do. But, I would highly recommend that if you’re new and you don’t have any experience, and you’re a single affiliate, and you don’t have a team, that you can go out and open one of these things on the internet on the actual state’s website. You don’t necessarily need to pay someone to do this. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can use LegalZoom, and it’s cheap.
Realistically speaking for a Wyoming company, I think it’s like $150 with a resident agent to open up your own Corporation. The reason I suggest these three states are real simple. Wyoming has no state income tax for corporations. They don’t have any filing requirements, so you only need to worry about your federal taxes. They also allow nominee signers, which is one of the last bastions of anonymity in the United States when it comes to corporations.
Nevada, same thing, no corporate income tax. Easy to set up, not a lot of filing requirements. It’s just super, super easy. You can get a registered agent, so you don’t need to live in these places to open up companies there. Then last on the list is Delaware. They have meager corporate taxes, but there have been so many major companies that have incorporated in Delaware, they have a lot of case law that’s established. What I mean by that is, they’ve had a lot of corporate lawsuits, so they have a lot of rules in place, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room. It’s straightforward to follow those rules, and that’s why public companies and a lot of big companies incorporate there.
Realistically speaking, you only need to go to the State of Wyoming or State of Nevada’s website, open up your company, use a registered agent, then you have a business. You have an address you can use for your email or whatever, and you can take money into a corporate account then so you can file corporate income tax and write off a lot of the expenses for your company like your advertising and your legal services, your accounting and whatever. Again, you’re only about $150 in if you do this yourself. I’ve done this in all three states myself. It’s not a complicated process. It only takes a few minutes, and you can be set up in a couple of minutes.
If you don’t want to go through the state’s website and you need a registered agent, google Wyoming or Nevada registered agents. Those people can set up companies for you rather cheaply too. This is a super cheap process. You don’t need a lawyer to do it, but if you want to learn about this process, call a lawyer. They’ll usually give you a free consultation, and you can find out what their services are. They’ll give you some pointers and tips to try and sell you on them, and you can learn just by calling them.
Once you have your company established, you’re going to go to the IRS website and get an EIN online, and that’s an Employment Identification Number. You need that to open a bank account, to run payroll, to do anything, file your taxes, whatever. As soon as you get your company, go online and get your EIN. That’s not a complicated process. If you say that you’re an advertising consultant, they don’t ask any other questions, and you can download your EIN online.
Let’s make sure that an affiliate is advertising consulting effectively. If you’re going to do anything else, you need to classify it correctly, but there’s a step-by-step process that you follow on their website, it is super easy. You get a PDF and your EIN, and you’re good to go. Now you’re going to print out your Articles of Incorporation, you’re going to print out your EIN using actual paper, and then you’re going to go to a bank. That can be Chase, Wells Fargo, whatever.
Make sure you go to a bank that’s a major national brand. Not one of these small regional credit unions, because a lot of these small local credit unions don’t have a swift code and that means you can’t accept a wire transfer from an International Bank. I’ve seen this before where people in the affiliate space used a local credit union because it’s convenient and cheap, but then they can’t accept wire transfers from around the world and so you can’t go work with Pay Per Call networks that are located outside the United States. It becomes a giant pain.
After you open the bank account at the same time, get a corporate debit card. This corporate debit card is for buying traffic or buying domain names, or whatever you’re going to use the company for. A big, big, big important word of advice here is to keep your personal and corporate expenses separate. That means if it can’t be classified as a corporate expense, and I will note I’m not an accountant, you should talk to one, don’t use your corporate debit card for it. Keep your personal life and your business life separate.
A lot of new business people make this mistake. They intermingle everything, and then they’re unable to keep track of what they’re doing, what their liabilities are, what their profit and losses, all that good stuff. Within affiliate business, it’s straightforward, spend less money than you make, and so you want to run a cash business, a cash accounting business. That means that money in minus money out is your profit. You can run some expenses in there, of course, corporate ones but do not run all your personal expenses through there; otherwise you can’t keep track of everything.
Find a cheap accountant. Accountants are not a big deal. They’re not that expensive; you’re going to want one. If you’re brand new and you’re just starting, you don’t need to talk to one immediately but you probably should speak with one pretty soon, especially if you’re going to open a corporation because you have a limited amount of time to decide whether it’s going to be a C corp or an S corp. I’m not going to dive into that. You need to talk to your accountant about that. Or if you want to keep everything just super easy, you can go LLC, and it’s effortless to file your taxes at the end of the year because it goes on to your personal taxes and you can use TurboTax or something.
As always with lawyers and accountants, comparison shop them. Maybe that doesn’t seem like something you would do. I know a lot of people don’t do it, but it’s the same as going to Amazon and comparison shopping anything. You need to go and call a bunch of these people and find the ones that one, you seem to like, two that have great reviews and three have low rates. It’s that simple. Cheap and easy for competent legal advice and good accounting advice is possible. Don’t overpay, don’t worry about brands, find people that seem intelligent and are easy to work with.
Why Affiliates Fail
I’ve been in the industry for a long time – my entire professional career. It’s over like 15 years at this point, and so I’ve seen a lot of affiliates fail, and I’ve been a party to some of these things. We all make mistakes, but you need to grow up effectively. Most affiliates are in and out within six months, and that means affiliates that make a bunch of money too. My litmus test is at Affiliate Summit if I need an affiliate that has one hell of an ego, we’ll find out if they’re there next year and most of them are not because it’s like a six-month revolving door.
Affiliates will find one campaign that works, and they’ll make a little bit of money, they’ll spend all of it and then they don’t show up again. This is why I love this picture, because it’s true, the broke billionaire. The affiliate that’s all dressed and Louis and Gucci and covered in diamonds and whatever and talking about all the money they have, probably is not doing nearly as well as they seem because it’s clear at that point that they don’t have financial discipline. Whereas billionaires, you see them in T-shirts and jeans and whatever, because they don’t care. None of that matters. Don’t worry about those things.
In business, you need to not worry about your material items. You need to worry about financial discipline so that you can grow your business. It’s much easier to build a business if you have a giant pile of cash than it is to grow your business if you have a bunch of bling and no money. Because if you need to hire someone, or you have a campaign turn, and it’s no longer profitable, or you lose a bunch of money testing, well, it’s tough to pay Google with Gucci sunglasses, they only take cash. So please, save as much money as you possibly can.
Once you get started, you need to build credit. If you have no credit or some credit, or you ruined your credit, I don’t care. If you need credit repair, let me know. I know some great guys out in Jersey that’ll help you out, but you need to build your credit. The first thing you need to do to do that is to get an American Express card or a Chase Ink card. These are great. The reason I suggest these cards is because you get points. You get points that you can then spend on airfare, hotel rooms, whatever so that you can go to trade shows much easier.
If you get that AmEx or your Ink, do not use it to buy things you don’t need, only use it to pay your traffic bills or things that you know you can pay off. Do not accrue a credit card balance that carries interest. You need to pay off 100% of your balance every month. That’s why I love American Express; it is a charge card for the most part. That means you have to pay off your full statement balance every month; you can even run at a deficit. If you’re worried about credit, get the AmEx and not the Ink because the Ink is a credit card and the AmEx is a charge card. You have to pay it off so you can hold yourself accountable.
These things are really, really, really important. You’re going to need them because if you find a campaign that works and you need to scale it, and you can only run so much money over your corporate debit card because you don’t have that much cash, well, you pay your AmEx once a month. You’re essentially getting yourself credit that you can use to buy media and clicks so you can scale your campaigns without needing to get a loan and that’s effectively what you’re going to do with it.
You’re going to use it as credit to buy your traffic because networks and buyers may only pay you every two weeks or once a month, and so it gives you the ability to buy all the traffic you need to grow your business. You need to pay close attention to your statistics because if you’re spending more money than you’re making, you got a problem, you’re still going to have to pay off your AmEx.
A lot of affiliates also do not pick a specific vertical and focus their energy. They’re trying to run a bunch of campaigns so they can figure out what one works. I am a big proponent of becoming a master at something which takes an immense amount of time and resource and focus. If I were going to get into Pay Per Call, I would pick a couple of verticals that are very similar to each other and have a similar audience. For instance, if I was going to do medical supplements insurance, which is an older audience, I would pick other types of insurance like final expense insurance and other types of campaigns that apply to older people so that I can reuse my audience over, and over, and over again, and upsell them and monetize them on different things.
You want to pick complimentary verticals and focus on it like if you’re going to do home services, there’s a whole bunch of complimentary ones. The type of marketing that you need to do to generate those calls is substantially similar, and so you can use the tactics you learn to grow a business in those complementary verticals. Also, you need to invest in relationships and events. A lot of affiliates don’t go to trade shows; they don’t go to masterminds, they don’t go to meetups. You need to do that. You need to invest in yourself.
If you’re trying to work with a company that’s located in Atlanta, and you’re in Seattle and you hit up that rep and say, “Hey look, I’d love to come out to Atlanta, take you out to launch, build a relationship, meet you in person so that we can grow business together,” they’re going to be very open to that because almost no one does it. Then when you meet them in person, you’re virtually guaranteeing your ability to do business with them because of the relationship’s created.
They’re going to take a risk on you simply because you put in the effort to shake their hand and say hello. A lot of people don’t do this, but it is incredibly effective at growing a business because a lot of people don’t do it. That’s why these points are essential; that’s why saving your money is critical. Sometimes you got to show up to make something happen, and most people won’t do it. It’s a giant open door for you.
Also, if you ask affiliates to send you their plan and their goals, they probably can’t. Their plan’s like, “Well, I need to hustle some money. I’m going to try and make some campaigns work.” That’s not a plan. A plan is, “I’m going to test X, Y, and Z on Monday, X, Y, and Z on Tuesday. I’m going to try and make these three campaigns work, and I’m going to dedicate my all to it over the next two weeks, and then I’m going to review the results and see if this is the vertical I should be focusing on.”
Follow your plan, put it in a timeline, and then reassess. If your goal’s to be a millionaire, that’s a crappy goal. If your goal is to make $1 million through Pay Per Call by focusing on the finance verticals over the next 12 months, that’s a much better goal. Now you have a timeline, you have focus, you know what you’re going to do and at the end of 12 months if you didn’t do your million bucks, well, you have to take responsibility for it.
The biggest thing I see with people in goals is they don’t put timelines on it and therefore, they’re just destined to fail because there’s no point in time where they’re forced to hold themselves accountable. Make sure you put timelines on your goals because then you have to keep yourself responsible and at least admit yes or no, you either succeeded or you failed. This was one of the most important things about being successful and accomplishing your dreams, is setting actionable goals that have a timeline.
Write out your plan, put timelines on it, figure out what you want to accomplish, and then follow it and reassess at those milestones. I highly recommend that you’re setting daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals and annual goals all at the same time so that you’re always working towards them and reassessing and holding yourself accountable. That’s going to make you grow as a person, and that’s going to help you build a business, and most affiliates are not doing this.
Establishing a Testing Budget
You’re going to need to establish a testing budget. The most important thing I want you to get out of this lesson is, you’re probably going to lose money, you should get comfortable with losing money, and you should assume you’re going to lose money. Let’s run through these approximate minimum budgets right now. If you’re going to be a broker and you’re going to broker calls from one company to another, theoretically if you can develop a relationship with them and get someone to issue you credit, you can start with zero dollars effectively.
That’s assuming that you have a couple of bucks to license some software like Ringba to facilitate that brokering, so it’s not actually zero, but it’s essentially zero. If you’re going to be an affiliate, there are a few ways that you can creatively generate call traffic. I’m not going to mention them in this video, but if you can find places to post or where people congregate, or you can manually hit people up, you can generate call traffic without any money, though it’s tough to do and it’s typically not scalable. It is possible, but it’s not usually scalable.
If you’re going to start online, and you’re going to use Google Ads or Facebook Ads, you’re going to need about $500. That’s the absolute bare minimum if you have some background in these spaces. If you don’t know anything about Pay Per Call and you only have $50 to try and figure it out, you’re going to have a really hard time doing that, so save your money and then work harder. Realistically with $500, you probably can test one traffic source. It probably should be Google Ads, and you’re going to move slowly.
Now, if you’re going to buy media and get good at it, you have to realize that your time becomes more valuable than the money. For instance, if I were going to test a campaign on Google or Facebook, my minimum budget would be like $1,000 for a single campaign. I would probably create 100 different ads, and I would try and burn that money as fast as possible to see what users are reacting to. Then I would throw another $1,000 at a completely different set of ad sets, and then another $1,000, and another $1,000. For me to learn a campaign, I’m probably going to light $3,000 on fire. I’m going to spend $5,000 optimizing; maybe I’m profitable at that point. I’m realistically going to throw $10,000 at a campaign.
Assuming you’re going to test some out of home advertising, you’re going to need about $2,500 bucks to do that, and you’re probably going to light a good portion of that on fire to get started. Realistically, you don’t want to test out of home unless you have $2,500 that you’re willing to flush down the toilet. Keep in mind that when I say burn or flush down the toilet, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get any revenue back on it, and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to learn something that changes your business. That’s why I’m so willing to spend the money on media to figure it out because I’ll learn something that will change my business.
I’ll probably make some of that money back and so will you, but you should assume that you’re just going to lose all of it. Assume that you’re just going to lose all of it because then you can make financial decisions you can live with. You should not take your life savings and plow it into buying traffic so that tomorrow you have no money and you’re screwed; you should set your risk tolerance in accordance with your capital. If you’re an affiliate coming over to Pay Per Call from another vertical, you’re going to have more capital, you’re going to understand how this works, and you’re going to realize that you’re going to lose some money.
If you’re brand new to this and you need to figure it out, you probably want to start slower and not move into these more complicated mediums like out of home print, radio, and TV. Because you’re just going to lose a bunch of money and you may or may not learn something from it because you’re not sophisticated enough to do so yet. If you’re new, stick to brokering, being an affiliate, buying traffic, buying media and until you get bigger, you want to stay out of these other spaces. The first time I ran a TV ad, I ended up losing 100% of my investments. That was just an abysmal, absolute failure. It was hilarious, it was a lot of fun, and we went on at that point, this was many years ago to build a successful TV commercial, but the first one we put out there was just a failure, and you should expect that.
With print, you can go in lower because you can buy classified ads or smaller ads. It may not be enough at those really low prices to get you any real results or understanding of how to scale it, but you can do that at a smaller scale. If you’ve bought print media before or you’ve worked with newspapers previously, you could start there; I recommend at least $1,000 because you’re going to have to figure it out and it’s not going to go very quickly. Out of home, print, radio, and TV aren’t going to go very quickly because you have to negotiate, get insertion orders, create your materials, all that good stuff to move a campaign forward.
How do you determine how much money you’re going to need? You need to understand what your target cost per caller is. If your campaign pays out $25, then your target cost per caller should probably be $15, and I’m just pulling this out of thin air. That would give you a healthy margin and a healthy amount of money to buy clicks, somewhere in the middle. The easiest way to do this is to review campaign payouts with the networks, negotiate always, and then multiply whatever payout you’re getting by 3X to get a potential online spend per source.
If you start an AdWords campaign and you’re getting paid $10, and you buy $30 worth of clicks, and you get zero phone calls, you’re doing something wrong. 300% of your payout should be the upper bounds of the limit for you to learn something. Iff you spend $30 and you get one phone call, that means you need to optimize. But if you spend $30 and get zero, something is wrong, or you’re approaching it the entirely wrong way. This is just a simple rule of thumb. If your payout’s $100 and you spend $300, and you get nothing, you’re really in the wrong spot.
You need to decide what traffic sources you’re going to work with. The easiest way to do that is to research other people’s campaigns. Do a little spy work: use advanced Google search operators, or look at what ads your competitors are running using the Facebook Ad Library. Facebook and Google have essentially made their entire platform an ad-spying tool. You can search around for what you want to promote, and the answers of how to do it are given to you. It’s not rocket science.
You’re going to then research your keyword cost-per-click, or your social cost-per-click, your cost-per-click in general so that you understand how much it’s going to cost you per click. Now if it’s $80 a click and your payout’s $30, you should not run that campaign. But, if your payout’s $10 and it seems like clicks are going for 50 cents to $2, well, you probably can figure out how to make that work. It’s all just simple math, and if you do your research up front, it’s not that complicated.
Create a Google Ads account, go to your keyword planner, and then start googling keywords that are relevant to the offers you want to run. When you see an ad that looks like a Pay Per Call ad on your phone, type that keyword into the keyword planner, and then you will see the average price for that keyword. Then you can go, “Okay, well if my conversion rate to a call is 60% or 70% and 50% of people stay on the phone more than a minute and 30 seconds,” you can reverse engineer the math to see if you have a fair shot of actually creating a campaign.
Talk to your account managers at networks or your buyers and find out what percentage of calls from that specific traffic source converts into a payout event. If it’s Google, they’re going to have this data for you because Google is the largest source of traffic for everything, and so the likelihood that they have an affiliate already running this campaign on Google is high. They can give you some of the math you need or some of the information you need to do the math so that you can do your campaign research.
Choosing Your First Campaign
Now we need to choose our first campaign. How exactly do we do that? Well, first and foremost, you need to find out what’s available, what has capacity, and what’s popular. The easiest way to do that is to make sure that you’re in all the Pay Per Call Communities (LinkedIn, Facebook, Skype groups), and your a member of the Pay Per Callers Forum. You figure out what people are buying, what they require. If someone needs something, they’re going to be more likely to work with you than trying to figure out a way to add a few more calls to their potential available capacity.
You also need to figure out what offers are the highest volume. If there’s a micro niche somewhere like I don’t know, porch slab installation in Pittsburgh, that might be a great campaign because there’s no competition, but there’s no volume either so that you’re not going to have an easy time really building that campaign because there’s no one to look at. There’s no one to get your competitive intelligence from. That’s why I would take a look at the highest volume offers because they’re going to be the easiest to find running out there, the easiest understand.
You may not want to run the highest volume offers, you may want to find some mid-level offers that have plenty of capacity but aren’t as saturated, but you want to understand what the highest volume offers are so that you know where the most significant volume of potential revenue is. I know people that are doing $100 a day, $1,000 a day, $10,000 a day, $100,000 a day in Pay Per Call on a single offer. We have clients that are doing all of those. I know for a fact that Pay Per Call volume can be huge, it’s just a matter of figuring out where the volume is and then creating competitive advantage in that space.
What matters is what you know, and you want to do what you know already so that you can speak the language and you can figure out opportunities. If you don’t know anything about insurance except that it’s a massive industry, your learning curve is a lot steeper and so if you have no money and no industry knowledge, well, that’s not necessarily a great place to start.
You should also know what your other demographics are, what the intent of that person is, are they trying to get a lower rate or is their sink flooding and their house is sinking? You need to understand what the customers want, and then you need to understand the geographic area of these campaigns right. Is it the Pittsburgh slab installation, or is it a nationwide insurance campaign? Is it only regional coverage or whatever? Is it international? Can you take it all over the world? You need to understand what areas you’re going to target and what areas this works in so that you know whether you have an understanding of the campaign or not? Is it going to be scalable? Are you going to have to learn another campaign and manage multiple? You need to do your research and know your stuff?
Become an Affiliate and Learn to Drive Traffic
We’ve picked our verticals, now we got to go out and find our first network, and we got to get them to accept us. This isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world. I talked about this in some other lessons, but you need to be transparent, you need to be willing to show them your landing pages, you need to be ready to show them who you are, you need to create an online presence. You need to use your real name; I don’t care if you’re foreign or not.
If you’re foreign, it’s even more important, to be honest, and then you need to apply to these networks. You need to find the people on LinkedIn; you need to start conversations, meet them at trade shows, whatever you got to do to create a relationship. It’s not going to be as simple as just applying and then expecting that they’re going to work with you, so know upfront that you’re going to have to do work. Pay Per Call is exclusionary, not inclusionary, and the reason for that is compliance is far more complicated. It’s much more vital for them to go for quality, not quantity so if you’re new, a lot of networks will work with you, a lot of them won’t, don’t be offended, but you’re going to have to put some work in to get accepted.
I would test three to five offers based on account manager feedback. I’m going to try to get accepted to a few networks at the same time because if I find a campaign that works, I’m going to immediately want to start load balancing my traffic to figure out the back end conversion rates to see how much money I’m getting. Just because the network pays you more money per call that converts doesn’t necessarily mean you will make more money per call. You need multiple networks to load balanced against to figure out who the best is and who has the best buyers.
If you use Ringba, we’ll show you the ones that have all the technological problems, errors, and capacity issues. Our competitors don’t do that. We try to illuminate where the issues are so you can figure out how to make more money. I highly recommend you work with us. Once I’ve talked to the account managers, and they give me three to five offers, I’m going to focus on a specific traffic type.
I’m going to see if they provide Call-Only Landers. I don’t want to have to create my own landers; I want to focus on generating the calls. You want to ask them if they have these things so you can get start running their campaign as soon as possible. By the way, we’ve already created a massive pack of Pay Per Call Landing Page Templates that you can download for free to customize for your own campaigns.
Networks don’t do that, they don’t have landing page packs they give out, but we do, and you can have them. You can use them with whatever networks you want, modify them, we don’t care. No strings attached. If you have to make your own from scratch, get feedback, show it to the groups, ask them for feedback. People will give you feedback and then you can make your stuff better. Run your ad copy by other marketers too. You’re not outing anything by showing your first couple of ads to people.
Get feedback from professional marketers. I can’t express this enough, most people that go into our groups and talk they’re like, “I can’t make Pay Per Call work, what do I do?” No one responds to them because those people suck. They’re simply not trying hard enough. If you take your ads and expose them to the community though and say, “Hey guys, how can I improve this?” New people are going to see what you’re doing, you can inspire them, and veterans will help you.
Ask people for help, tips, and suggestions, but show them the material and give them the information that allows them to provide you with feedback. I’m not making any money, but I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing doesn’t give me a lot of clay to mold. But if you were like, “Hey Adam, let me show you my Facebook campaign, my landing pages, and my statistics,” I’m like, “Well hot damn, let’s build a campaign together.” This is true; if you talk to some Ringba clients, they’ll tell you exactly that, “I hit up Adam, I showed him my Facebook ads, I showed him my landing page, I walk him through my flow. He took a look at my Ringba account and then bam, I got like five different actionable items I can change that’ll increase my conversion rate.” Happy to do it, but very few people are so glad to show what they’re working on so that we can give advice. Just don’t be so uptight about it, it’s ridiculous.
Now me personally, as I said, I love to work. It’s fascinating to me. This is the most amusing thing I could do is create advertisements for me. So, I’m going to create hundreds or thousands of combinations. You’d better believe if I’m running a social campaign, and I’m testing thousands of combinations to figure out what works. That’s usually the difference between a successful affiliate and someone who fails, is their willingness to experiment.
300% of your payout is effectively your minimum budget per campaign or per keyword; you have to accept that. If you can’t get to 300% of the payout, you’re probably not going to succeed. Divide your budget among multiple offers and traffic sources as we talked about to reduce your risk. If you got a $1,000 budget, I’m going to be running that in $20, $50 blocks so that I have a lot of chances to get some traction, and then I’m going to reinvest whatever I make into more testing.
When you’re new, you absolutely need to listen to 100% of your calls as an affiliate (no exceptions!). You need to listen to your calls to understand consumer intent. That way you can modify your marketing to get quality up and stay ahead of any compliance issues. You can even have them playing in the background while you work. What you are going to is see that people are calling and they’re like, “Hey, how do I apply for this job?” You’re like, “Job? This is a medical device campaign.” Then you’re like, “Oh crap, I need to go rethink my negative keywords,” or, “I need to rethink my advertising campaign.”
As your business expands and you start finding wins, hire a virtual assistant, maybe hire some media buyers and begin building a team around what you’re doing so that you can expand your business.
Expand Relationships and Load Balance Calls
Now, once we have active campaigns that are running and stable and we’re generating calls, maybe 30 calls a day, 50, 100 calls a day, more, I’m going to spend my time expanding relationships immediately and load balancing my calls, quickly. I’m going to want to be working with every single buyer and every single network humanly possible to find out who’s brokering what to who, cut people out of the equation and add more buyers into my routing plan so I can see which buyers make me the most money and to expand my capacity.
What you’ll learn very quickly is a lot of offers get brokered in the Pay Per Call space, and you can navigate your way through to the direct buyer and the exclusive relationship and get your payouts up. Direct buyers would instead work with direct affiliates than networks 100% of the time. As a direct affiliate, you have a competitive advantage because networks have a bunch of affiliates and can blend crappy traffic with good traffic to the same buyer and not expose which publishers is sending which and so being a direct affiliate, you can go directly to the buyer. They have more control over it, and they’re much happier to work with a direct affiliate than a network.
You by nature of how the business works as an affiliate have a competitive advantage. If you can get directly to the buyer and you have a history in that campaign of delivering quality calls, you have recording examples you can show them; you have quality assurance checklists you can show them, they’re going to be happy to work with you. Search the groups, forums, websites everywhere, find that works with complimentary offers, apply and negotiate the hell out of those campaigns, and then add them to your load balancing routing plans.
You’re going to use duplicate call routing in Ringba to make more money. If you sold a call to a network and it paid you, or maybe even not depending on how they have it configured, and that call goes back to the same network, you don’t get paid twice or perhaps even once. But, if you use Ringba, you can route all your duplicate calls to different networks and get paid twice for the same caller. Get it? This is why load balancing your own tracking platform is so important. It’s a profit center for you. It’s not overhead; it’s a profit center.
A lot of our clients on duplicate call routing alone turn a profit and pay for Ringba and so you need this to grow your business. You’re going to review your results, compare conversion rates across networks, not just pay out. Pay out does not necessarily mean you make more money. And then, you’re going to use that information to negotiate more, and then you’re going to negotiate some more, you’re going to watch my lesson on negotiation, and then you’re going to negotiate some more, and then you keep negotiating. You never stop negotiating in this business, or people will eat your margins up.
You also need to again, listen to all your calls. This time though as you understand that your calls are quality and that you’ve weeded all the nonsense out of them, you’re listening for buyer behavior so that you can optimize the other side of your business. You have to do both. You got to maximize the callers and the buyers. Most affiliates in this space aren’t worried about optimizing the quality of their calls or their buyers, they’re just trying to make a quick buck, and that is not an effective way to do this. You want to learn everything you can so you can optimize both sides. That’s how you build a real and big business in this space; you got to do the work.
Establish Direct Buyer Relationships
After I have load balanced all these calls and I’m working with multiple networks, and I started working with direct buyers, I’m going to create my own contracts and IOs, and I’m going to make sure that all the information I need is in those IOs to protect myself. We talk about that in some other lessons. You want your own, you want them branded, and you want them professional so that buyers take you seriously and they understand that you’re on top of your game.
If you show up to a direct buyer and you’re like, “Well, I don’t have a contract. I’m just an affiliate,” blah, blah, blah, you don’t look right. You want to go to the direct buyer and say, “You want to work with me, here’s my contract. I’m on top of my stuff. Here’s how we do quality assurance. Here’s how we’re running our business. I know I’m young or I know we only have a couple of employees here, but we’re motivated to be good at what we do and grow our business.” People will appreciate that they’ll take you seriously and they’ll more often than not be willing to work with you even if you’re small, also if you’re a solo affiliate.
Create a pitch PowerPoint for call centers. What I would do is, I would create a pitch PowerPoint for call centers that are doing outbound on why inbound is so much better and Pay Per Call should be the future of their business. Then once you show them the power of Pay Per Call, you got yourself a direct buyer and a long term relationship. I would be finding direct call center buyers as soon as humanly possible so that I can get my margins up and scale my business.
I’m going to seek them out on forums; I’m going to seek them out in groups, at trade shows, I’m going to cold dial call centers. I’m even going to search the campaign’s I’m working on, pick up the phone and call the ads from my competitors and get the call centers on the phone, and then tell them I need to speak to their marketing department. I’m going to do that cold call myself. I’m going to try and navigate my way through their sales funnel so that I can sell them calls.
Maybe I’m going to make friends with the rep, level with them. Be like, “Hey, I know you make a commission. I apologize for taking up your time, but we have high-quality phone calls, and I’d like to sell them to your call center, and hopefully, that makes you more money. Can you put me in contact with your marketing people? I’m very serious about this.” If they hang up on me, I’m going to call them back again. I’m going to keep calling until I get to their marketing department so that I can establish these direct relationships.
I’m going to visit the call centers. Yes, in person visits. I’m going to get on a plane or get in the car, whatever I got to do. If you can afford a plane ticket and you need the direct buyer, it’ll likely double your revenue; I’m going to get in my car, drive nine hours, I’ll sleep in the car, I don’t care. I’m going to show up, I’m going to get dressed professionally, and I’m going to negotiate myself a deal. I’m going to build that relationship so I can grow my business. Showing up is sometimes half the battle.
Then once I have a bunch of direct relationships, once I’ve turned this into a process, I’m going to hire advertiser business development people to handle and manage this for me. But, all my most important relationships, I’m going to make sure I’m communicating with on at least a somewhat regular basis to protect the future of my business.
Create Self-Serve / Micro Buyer Networks
Once I have my traffic, and I’m load balancing my calls to a bunch of networks and direct buyers, and I’m building my business, I’m going to create my own self-serve micro buyer network. That effectively means that I’m going to find people in my industry that want my phone calls, that are the actual end user of them. If I’m selling calls to a center that’s then warm-transferring those calls to the direct buyer, I’m effectively going around them and creating my own direct buyer network. This is how you get the most money per call period.
You find the insurance office, the Allstate representative that has three sales people and wants phone calls; you hire them. They’re licensed to buy the calls and sell the insurance, and if they had more phone calls, they could probably hire more reps. It’s a lot more work to do it this way, but once you got them, your margins are way higher, and that means you can outbid everybody for the traffic and when you can outfit everybody for the traffic and no one can compete with you. That should be what your end goal is and creating a buyer network is how you do it.
I’m going to start with a few of them, I’m going to figure out this game myself, we do a whole lesson on this, and then I’m going to add them into my routing plan. Maybe I’m only selling them a couple calls a day. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it, that means I need to increase my coverage. I’m going to use the networks and brokers and my direct big call center buyers and transfer call center buyers to handle all my overflow from the direct buyer network as I build it. I’m essentially just slowly rising by building these networks of call buyers in a repeatable process. I’m going to create that repeatable process, and then I’m going to hire business development people or even a call center that I have a relationship with to do this for me and to onboard people so that I can get much more money out of these phone calls.
Create Your Own Brands and Assets
I’m going to start creating individual sites for each vertical that I’m in. I’m only going to use .coms because I don’t care who tells you. Otherwise, .coms are the only domain names that matter. I’m not going to use hyphens because those are dumb and people can’t remember. I’m not going to use puns, and I’m not going to use numbers in the name of my brand because it doesn’t work, people don’t remember them. I always use bustaname.com. It’s how we found our domain name; it was available for $9. You can find some great domain names by using a combination of words and just again, putting in a bunch of work to do it.
I’m going to create some excellent content for those brands and those verticals. I’m going to find writers; I’m going to outsource this process. I’m going to create a social media following; I’m going to create a real brand. Then I’m going to invest in link building an SEO, and then I’m going to drive traffic landing pages for my campaigns on these domains to further penetrate the market with these brands so people can use them. I’m also going to buy drop domains and comment them into blogs. I’m going to look at archive.org to recreate the content on drop domains, and I’m going to create a network of websites in a space so that I can dominate search results and mind share in that space and funnel traffic up to my own brands.
When I have my own brand, then I can do my TV, my radio, my out of home, my print, I can start to dominate geographic areas and build something that has enterprise value. Furthermore, I’m going to start once I have some money assuming I started from scratch, I’m going to start looking at Flippa, and I’m going to start cold calling blogs and other sites that get a bunch of traffic that need polish and that I can acquire. You can buy sites, fold them into your business model, use them to generate cold traffic that’s super high quality to your direct buyers, and now we’re vertically integrated.
We own the whole path, the traffic, the buyer network; now we can get acquired for some serious money and then retire, live on a yacht, do whatever you’re going to do. In my case, I would maybe sell it and then do it again because I don’t know what else I would do with my time, and this is what I love to do. You need to figure out what’s right for you, but this is essentially the end game stuff.
Expand and Test New Traffic Sources
Once you have your own brand, maybe you’re building blogs, you got your network, and you’re expanding on everything in here the whole time, you’re going to start transitioning to new traffic sources. This may happen earlier in your progression or later. It all depends on the capacity you have and the type of success you’re seeing. If it’s working on Google, it’s probably going to work on Bing, and if it’s working on Google, you can make it work with domain and top contextual traffic. People like “Pop ups for calls? Adam, you’re crazy, that doesn’t work.”
Well, people tell me all the time that pops don’t work on things; social doesn’t work on things, alternative mediums don’t work. That means they haven’t figured it out yet, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. If you have a giant list of keywords that work in search, well guess what, you can take that list of keywords and pop it into contextual traffic sources, and then most likely make the campaign’s work by modifying your landing page. That is how you do it.
You’re going to fail at first. A lot of people are going to say stuff doesn’t work. Well, they’re the ones that aren’t making any money with it. I already know all this stuff works for Pay Per Call, most people just haven’t figured it out yet. If you’re going to do Facebook, great, then you move to Instagram, Snap, convert your native campaigns over, find more complimentary traffic sources. If it’s working on social, it’s going to work on intent based marketing like native. Then if you’re targeting a dense geographic region or you have regional campaigns, you hit them on radio, TV, out of home, print and drive more traffic into your brand, so you expand, expand, expand, expand.
Leverage Affiliates to Scale
Once you understand all of the metrics, you have all of the buyers, you know all of the numbers, you can bring on your own affiliates to scale your own business. This may work for you; it may not. This is an entirely different way of going about things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just requires learning. You create a list of your offers, whatever you built, whatever buyer networks you have, and your offers are effectively your business development assets that you’ve converted into a routing plan, and you post those in groups, on forums, you promote them on content sites. You tell people you need more phone calls and insurance or whatever you’re doing.
You hire some affiliate managers, you hire a quality assurance team so that you can stay on top of your affiliates, and you implement in accounting and billing solution so that you can pay these people. There’s a bunch of them out there; it’s not complicated. And then, you always start slow with new affiliates to prevent issues. We have a whole lesson on working with affiliates, but as your business grows, you don’t have to do it all yourself.
You can build a team around it, and if you’ve used Ringba to create your own network of buyers through load balancing calls, you now have your own offer. This is why networks typically will tell you, “Oh, you don’t need your own tracking,” because then you can build your own offers and build your own business. You need to free yourself from that mindset and use the tools that were created so you can make money. It’s why we’re doing this.
Start Your Own Network Business
If you decide you want to once you have your own buyers and your own affiliates for specific campaigns, you can start your own network business and broker campaigns to. I would not do this. I don’t like the network business model. I want to add value, so I don’t recommend it. If you don’t have your own competitive advantage, it’s hard to run a network. You’re effectively a bank, and it’s lots of spinning plates, just like being an affiliate on crack.
If you’re going to start a network, you need to think this through. I highly recommend calling it an agency instead of a network. An affiliate network has a negative connotation to it, so does the Pay Per Call network in most cases to a brand. The network says “I’m a broker.” Big brands don’t really like that. It’s not the network’s fault, it’s just the ecosystem at time of filming and so if you’re going to open it, call it an agency. That simple thing’s going to help you out. Treat it more like an agency and branded companies, companies that invest in their brand will feel more comfortable working with you.
Then, since you started as an affiliate and you have your own media buying division, you have an internal traffic narrative. A lot of brands and a lot of big buyers do not want to work with people who only have affiliate traffic. They want to see that you have your own traffic because then you control everything and there’s no shadiness, and then they know at least you understand how to generate the calls, the intent to the consumer, how the back end of the campaign works, etc.
You should exhibit at trade shows. A lot of Pay Per Call networks exhibit at one or two trade shows; I don’t understand this. There are a couple of networks that exhibit at like all of them, and they’re experiencing rapid growth, and kudos to them because exhibiting at a trade show is essential. You got to work it; it’s a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of cost to it frankly, but you can build a whole business off of it. We do it, we spend a ton of money at trade shows every year for Ringba, but it’s essential to our growth.
Now, you should also sponsor events. I don’t know why more networks do this; maybe they don’t see it. It’s harder to track the ROI, but if you want to show yourself as a pillar of the community, you should sponsor events. It shows goodwill; people know who you are. When people know who you are, they’re willing to take your phone call. They’re ready to at least talk to you. It gives you the opportunity. Then you want to build an affiliate audience? How do you do that? You teach people how to run campaigns and start a business in this space. I’m eating my own dog food here, but it’s true.
You leverage your own hard work into growth. If you’re going to do a network, you need to focus a ton of time on QA. I don’t think a single network puts in enough work on QA anywhere and I think that’s a detriment to their business. It’s not overhead. It’s a profit center when done correctly. Lastly, this is the most important part, be careful with payment terms. If you pay too quickly, you will get frauded, and you will be holding the bag.
Pay new affiliates slowly; make sure you get paid before you pay people, make sure your payment terms are in line with the amount of capital you have to lose. I’m not going to run you through a whole lesson on this, maybe we’ll do it another day, but I highly recommend you focus on the rest of this lesson instead of starting a network business. I think being a broker isn’t the best use of your time, and it’s also not how you sell your business for a nice multiple.