Tele-Direct Call Centers is set to launch a new division and its fifth on-demand software application to help small businesses choose advertisements and track the results of their ad campaigns online.
The online advertising platform, Instant Ad Expert, is set to launch May 28 for chiropractors, and the company hopes to expand the service to between 10 and 15 additional industries, from auto dealers to dentists, this year. The platform eventually would serve 40 industries, Tele-Direct chief executive officer Tom Coshow said.
Tele-Direct licensed market research firm Claritas Inc. to research who is most likely to use the services of a chiropractor. The research was then used by companies to create pre-packaged advertising in different formats, including direct mail, online banners and radio spots.
Chiropractors and other advertisers will view or hear ads online and select the ones they want to purchase. Calls from each ad's unique 800 number will be routed to Tele-Direct Call Centers, where customer service representatives log lead results electronically.
"The doctor has to do nothing but sit back and book the appointments," said Jim Bonfield, who heads Instant Ad Expert for Tele-Direct.
The Instant Ad Expert software also enables chiropractors to see online, in real time, which leads are the most effective, Bonfield said. The system computes cost per lead and compares ad types.
"So at any given moment, they can know what's working for them and what's not," he said.
The historic average cost per lead will be listed with each ad for sale so advertisers know how well each ad has been working.
"For the first time, small businesses will be able to view and buy ads based on their historic cost-per-lead performance," Coshow said.
Prior to joining Tele-Direct as senior vice president in charge of Instant Ad Expert, Bonfield ran Sacramento Internet marketing firm EyeBallFarm, which grew to the "upper six figures" in annual revenue by helping companies gain greater visibility on the Web. EyeBallFarm is no longer in operation as Bonfield concentrates full time on Instant Ad Expert.
Tele-Direct does not make money on ads posted on InstantAdExpert.com. Instead, Tele-Direct charges advertisers $7 for each lead the company processes, or each time a caller is converted into a customer. The system provides an incentive for Tele-Direct to help make the ad campaigns work.
The company has 15 media partners, and is in "serious negotiations" with eight more, all of which are national in scope, Bonfield said.
Tele-Direct also is in talks with SpotRunner.com to add television spots to the site. SpotRunner.com has a similar concept for cable TV, he said.
Companies with ads on InstantAdExpert.com include WebbMason Inc., a direct mail company in New Jersey; Clear Channel Communications Inc. of San Antonio; and Seattle-based AdReady Inc., which was formed in June 2006 by Aaron Finn, a former executive of Classmates Online Inc.
"The Instant Ad Expert thing is very unique," said Jeff Holden, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel Radio in Sacramento. "We're not aware of it being done anywhere else in the country right now."
Holden said the platform has good potential. If an advertiser were to buy ads on Google, he said, they could only select a geographic area, not a radio station.
Clear Channel has a half-dozen radio spots available on the site for chiropractors.
"It allows the advertiser a very inexpensive way to connect to a variety of different media," Holden said.
Tele-Direct did $4 million in revenue in 2007, and expects to top $5 million this year. The company employs 220, up from 78 in 2006 and 150 last year.
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May 2008 - Sacramento Business Journal - by Melanie Turner Staff writer
Dennis McCoy | Sacramento Business Journal
Jim Bonfield operates the Instant Ad Expert division for Tele-Direct Call Centers.
April 2007 - Sacramento Business Journal
by Melanie Turner Staff Writer
The founder and "head farmer" of Sacramento Internet marketing firm EyeBallFarm says search engine marketing has become a must-have, no-frills way for businesses to make the phones ring.
Jim Bonfield's startup has hit six figures in annual revenue primarily by helping companies gain greater visibility on the Web.
Although Bonfield declined to be specific about sales, he said the company is profitable, and it appears revenue will be up 40 percent this year over last year.
EyeBallFarm is mostly a one-man operation, though Bonfield taps a team of about eight programmers and designers for project work.
Before launching the company two years ago, Bonfield was The Sacramento Bee's online business development manager for nearly six years.
Bonfield's online background, he said, gives him an edge over some competitors because most business executives need help cutting through the "geek speak" to understand how techniques in online advertising can generate more revenue.
The catchy name EyeBallFarm refers to the idea that more viewers for Web sites and ads translates into more revenue. The McClatchy Co. chief executive officer Gary Pruitt inspired the name, Bonfield said.
"During one of our meetings ... he mused out loud that he wished we could grow more eyeballs, as in more online page views for our Web sites," Bonfield said. "Naturally, I wished for an eyeball farm."
Bonfield's firm offers search engine marketing, search engine optimization and other Internet marketing techniques such as podcasting and video blogging.
Like many in the industry, Bonfield said, EyeBallFarm charges a flat fee to run an ad campaign, which involves creating ads, managing the campaign and reporting on its progress. Clients pay extra for services such as search engine marketing.
Most local advertisers budget between $2,500 and $6,000 per month for EyeBallFarm's services, he said. Some local clients spend as little as $800 to $1,000 a month, while some large advertisers spend more than $2,000 a day.
"It all comes down to return on investment," what each client wants to achieve, and what audience they're aiming for, he said.
Search agencies work in two ways. Some focus exclusively on putting up paid search ads on Google and other search engines. And increasingly, traditional marketing agencies have a search component to them.
"In a lot of ways it is guaranteed advertising," he said.
With search engine optimization, Bonfield works to make sure a company's Web site is more likely to appear on the first page after a search result.
He said Google uses a search engine "spider," or algorithm that tries to replicate human judgment. The spider "crawls through" the pages of Web sites to place a value on each site based on how well the site's content matches what a person is likely searching for.
"It's looking for which Web site offers the most information on that topic," Bonfield said.
It's his job to make sure customers' Web sites are deep enough in content to end up high on the list of search results, he said. In other words, they're the best sites for what they're trying to be.
No company can guarantee top search engine optimization results, he said.
"If someone guarantees you that they're probably using black-hat search engine optimization," or techniques like "keyword stuffing" to trick the search engine into thinking it's a high-quality site, he said.
"This is a huge hazard for smaller businesses," he said. "You can fool the engines for a while but when you get caught you are running the risk of being removed from their search results entirely."
And the higher ranking a Web site can achieve, the less a business will need to spend on advertising, Bonfield said.
Local businesses tend to ignore search engine marketing and optimization because they don't understand how much control they have over their Web site ranking and online advertising placement, he said.
"It's only been in the last couple of years that local search engine marketing has taken root," he said.
Businesses of all sizes are increasingly realizing people are turning to search engines to look for products and services, said Sapna Satagopan, an associate analyst with JupiterResearch in San Francisco.
She said large and small businesses can benefit from online advertising, but it's the small businesses that are less likely to know how to go about getting greater visibility on the Web.
Said Bonfield: "The same tactics that big players like Raley's or Pebble Beach might employ, that same level of technology is available to small businesses, which is a really empowering thing.
"The only thing that's different is that they're targeting their clicks to a local audience, which oftentimes means that the clicks are much, much less expensive," he said.
Making the most of your site
Larry Baker, owner of Golf USA of Roseville, hired EyeBallFarm to create a Web site and get ads posted on Google for his retail shop. "The number of hits on my Web site went up dramatically," Baker said.
Jeff Tarbell, president and founder of ATM Mortgage Corp. in Sacramento, said his site was "effectively blind" to people conducting Internet searches for Northern California mortgage lenders.
ATM Mortgage was more commonly recognized -- incorrectly -- by search engines as a snow ski shop or a radio show. Search engines picked up miscellaneous information on his site, such as a contest for ski passes and reference to Tarbell's radio show.
"It didn't pick up the meat and bones of the Web site," he said.
Until Bonfield revamped the site, that is.
"He helped us make it more visible to the natural searches," he said. "Our activity picked up quite a bit."
Since then, Tarbell said he "messed up" the work Bonfield did. He hired a designer to make the site more interactive and attractive, and now it's no longer easily recognized by search engines, he said.
"We dropped off after we made our site look pretty," he said.
Tarbell declined to say how much he spent on EyeBallFarm's services, but he said the expense was well worth it.
"For as much money as we spend marketing in radio, television and print, by comparison the numbers were minuscule," Tarbell said.
"If you just dragged one deal in the door a month you would hit a home run."
How to get your search engine ad noticed
A search engine marketing campaign involves:
• Creating a list of search terms customers are likely to use when searching for a business' services
• Creating several ads that will appear on the search results page should anyone use those search terms
• Putting together a pay-per-click budget
• Submitting bids for certain search terms on behalf of clients to Google or another search engine. Advertisers submit bids to compete for top positions on the search results page. The higher the bid, the closer to the top of the page the ad appears. In other words, the more an advertiser is willing to spend per click, the more visible the ad.
Advertisers only pay when someone clicks on the ad. The money advertisers spend per click goes to Google, or some other search engine, not to the search engine marketing firm. Some advertisers pay less than $1 per click. Others pay more than $13 per click. When the pay-per-click budget is spent each day, the ad goes away until the next 24-hour period.
Beginning last June, Bonfield took on Sacramento advertising firm MeringCarson as one of his customers. He runs search engine ad campaigns for some of MeringCarson's big-name clients such as Pebble Beach Resorts and the California Travel and Tourism Commission.
MeringCarson has since created an interactive division, partnering with Bonfield so he could do search engine marketing campaigns for the firm full time.
These days he's working 60-hour weeks while he continues to do business with his local EyeBallFarm customers.
Search engine marketing is the art of getting the best visibility -- and return on investment -- for ads that appear, for example, on Google Inc.'s "Sponsored Links" spaces at the top and right side of search results pages.
First, Bonfield creates a list of search terms customers are likely to use when searching for one of his client's services. He then creates several ads that will appear on the search results page should anyone use those search terms.
EyeBallFarm charges a flat fee to guarantee his clients' ads appear on the first search page.
Unlike traditional forms of advertising, customers only pay when someone clicks on the ad, he said.