Yesterday I sent a results report to a client for a pay-per-click (PPC) search lead generation campaign that my team managed. It showed a performance that was five times higher, in terms of cost-per-lead, than a traditional direct mail campaign. That’s pretty cool. But as I sent the report, I was reminded of this recent report from eMarketer:
It shows how a majority of marketers favor direct mail for lead generation versus search marketing. Scott Brinker was rightly puzzled by this, in a recent post. I agree with Scott that a chief reason for this strong preference for direct mail over search engine marketing (34% versus 8%), when it comes to customer acquisition, is the difficulty many marketers face in getting search prospects to convert.
Indeed, if the lead acquisition campaign my team was leading was instead a customer acquisition campaign, the results would likely have been closer to a dead heat with direct mail in terms of ROI.
But what does that mean? Just that we’re not trying hard enough. As marketers, I feel we cannot allow so many opportunities for conversion to click away from landing pages. There are many tested techniques for improving conversions (new offers, testimonials, guarantees, Web 2.0 landing page design). There are also spectacular new tools to do multivariate testing of these techniques.
Let’s take direct mail for what it should be. It is (usually) the customer acquisition benchmark. Now let’s shift more resources online, but apply them where it really counts: To create campaigns that actually surpass the mail in delivering a strong ROI.
A recent survey has shed light on what one breed of marketing professionals are perceiving as good bets in terms of measurable return on investment (ROI). The tactic leading the pack is email, sent to an internal — or “house” — list. This is hardly surprising, since it is a relatively low-cost way to announce new products and deals to customers and prospects. What is more interested is seeing how both organic search marketing (i.e., search engine optimization) and pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing are viewed by these same executives compared to other tactics. Here is the full run-down:
Considering the search-centric executives surveyed (these were 3,186 “in-house search marketers or agency executives,” as reported in eMarketer.com‘s ROI for Select Marketing Tactics according to US Search Marketers), it’s not surprising both are regarded highly. Both are deemed as “Good” investments in respect to the return they typically provide by one out of every three respondents, and another third (34% total) considered one of these two tactics “Strongest” in terms of ROI.
This would be a glowing assessment of search when compared with other tactics, if only PPC weren’t also deemed as “highly variable” by 28% of respondents. Considering how much control one has on the risks and rewards of PPC, this makes me wonder if that measurement isn’t the voice of a minority who either hasn’t conducted a PPC campaign or hasn’t done it properly.
The booby prize goes to online advertising (“banners, etc.”), deemed “Low Value” by 43% of the group. With opinions of online ads being this negative, is it any wonder ad networks are scrambling to sweeten the kitty with more behaviorally-focused targeting?
How often do you come across an account of the same new, breakthrough idea from two different sources within 24 hours? That happened to me this weekend, and even if I had just seen it once I would have found the idea extraordinary. First, I read how Offermatica provides a content management solution that helps with multivariate testing of offers and copy. From what is learned, customized content can be delivered in real-time, based on behaviors. Offermatica CEO Matt Roche describes a novel application of this tool in a MediaPost blog interview:
[With the client site, MusicFriend.com] when someone comes to the home page [from a search engine] we know nothing about them, so they get the home page. What if we repeat the keyword that they searched on to get there, just show similar information? That increased the conversions. We repeat your keyword so you have a connection. Then we install affinity targeting that says when you go to the drums section and come back to the home page it will show you more drum offers. It increased the conversion rate in double digits on all the categories where we did category affinity.
The emphasis was my own. Double digit conversions?!? What a great trick.
Then I read Todd Friesen’s piece describing the same technique, in the July, 2007, print edition of Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA — and yes, it’s also a MediaPost publication). Phrased a different way, it suggests the same brilliant strategy:
… Did you ever notice how most brand traffic lands on your home page? Even product terms that contain branded verbiage often get a home page ranking ahead of a product page. Most home pages are pretty generic and usually run creative speaking to a straight brand message or weekly deal. How do you refine that on the fly to positively impact conversion? With a good multivariate tool, it’s relatively simple.
Some tools have the ability to recognize a search engine referral and identify the search term to define the creative displayed in the marketing modules on the home page. SEO managers then populate the “hero image” with a product related to the search and then load the complimentary products into the secondary marketing modules.
It is standard practice to do something like this with pay-per-click ads. We create customized landing pages that repeat the keyword phrase used in the search. This idea extends that landing page mentality to organic search results.
There is conjecture that the radio was invented in several places around the world at the same time. I suspect there will be similar arguments as to whom originated this simple and elegant way to improve the user experience for people arriving from search engines. All I can say is, I’ll glad I learned about it at all, so I can begin testing it with some of my clients.
Any readers who are already using this technique?
Marketing Technology Musings and Tips by Jeff Larche