Like most b-to-b marketers, Don Nanneman, VP of Marketing for business process management software company Savvion, cut back dramatically on traditional tactics during the recession. But, as the economy became much healthier, his budget didn't.
"The investment we're putting into marketing as a percentage is substantially less than what we were doing in the 1990s. We got used to spending so little money on marketing in the past four years that just a minor increase is painfully hard to get from management."
On March 1, 2004, Nanneman gave his department a six-month goal -- to tweak, test and measure tactics so he could create a killer presentation during 2005 budget planning meetings scheduled for October.
How could the team convince management to put more faith (and dollars) into marketing?CAMPAIGN
The team didn't have any extra budget for testing. This meant Nanneman wasn't about to approve a test investment that was too risky -- either too big a chunk of overall budget or too unproven within the industry.
Rather, he ruthlessly applied best practices in four specific areas...
Step #1. Vastly expand search ad impressions & clicks (but not costs)
"We'd been dabbling in Google ads for two years, and I thought we were doing pretty good," says Nanneman. He'd been running the program himself on the side (which a surprisingly high number of business marketers do).
Now he decided to see if a focused specialist could do any better on the exact same budget -- minus their salary. The specialist used three tactics:
o Aggressive results tracking
Nanneman had been tracking costs and resulting overall site traffic, but hadn't had the time or resources to dig deeper. Now seven key metrics were tracked by keyword group:
- total impressions (how many times the ad was viewed) - total clicks - cost per click - total new prospect registrants - conversion rate visitors-to-registrants - cost per lead
o Expanded keyword research
Keyword volume can equal lower average cost per click (because you're not focusing solely on most obvious, competitive terms). Some super-niche terms may only get a handful of clicks per month, but if you have hundreds or thousands of niche campaigns running, it all adds up. The team brainstormed three sets of terms:
- Obvious terms relating to the product and technology.
- Words that prospects in various industries (automotive, financial services, etc.) might use to describe a problem the technology could solve for them even though they may not know the specific technology exists.
- Terms Savvion definitely did not want to be advertising under with broad-match ad bids (ie. negative matches). For example "modeling" could apply to business process management modeling... or to the Ford Modeling Agency. o Going beyond Google
Google gets the lion's share of business searches. But, it also gets the lion's share of b-to-b search revenue, so costs can be very high for popular terms. Nanneman approved expanding the campaign to Overture and Business.com to see if their cost per click for his terms would be lower while maintaining prospect quality.
Many b-to-b marketers testing campaigns beyond Google fail because they simply transfer the copy. Luckily, Nanneman's staff knew better and adjusted copy for each engine's style. Here are examples of copy for the keyword "BPM Software Suite."
-> Google ad copy -- more salesy, pushing the click:
Looking for BPM Process Management? Integrate & Automate with Savvion www.savvion.com
-> Overture ad copy -- more factual, pushing trust & features:
Enterprise BPM Solutions from Savvion BPM software from Savvion helps streamline your enterprise business processes. From sales to strategy, trust Savvion. www.savvion.com
-> Business.com ad copy -- very factual description of company:
Savvion: Enterprise Business Process Management Solutions: Provides enterprise-class BPM and workflow software suites to integrate, automate and manage business processes based on rules and report analysis. www.savvion.com
As a result of Savvion's extensive keyword, copy and search engine testing, the proportion of expenditure for each search engine changed dramatically. Google's share of Savvion's budget dwindled from almost 100% down to 32%. Overture gained 61% and Business.com received 7% of the budget.
Step #2. Start a/b testing landing pages
Initially, the clicks went to the request for information form page on Savvion's Web site. "Throwing a form at them, 'Here tell us who you are,' doesn't work very well," notes Nanneman.
To replace the bald form, they tested two different approaches. One was a landing page with loads of educational content and an offer. The second was a much shorter, boiled down version.
The team expected the former to win because so many visitors were now coming from search marketing ads related to problems they needed to solve. Roughly 80% of these visitors had never heard of Savvion, and a large number had very little background knowledge about business process management software.
After a winning landing page style was declared, the team used it to construct additional landing pages for industry-specific campaigns.
Step #3. Launch a lead pre-qualification department
If you make sales very happy, the word trickles upwards. Nanneman decided to turn down the valve that delivered leads to sales from hundreds per month to perhaps a dozen per month. This dozen would be highly qualified people who definitely wanted to meet with a Savvion rep. In fact, often Nanneman's team would hand over that lead with a date and time for the meeting.
First, incoming leads were manually filtered by a marketer. "We don't put every inquiry and Web query into the contact system."
Next, a team of inside sales reps used research and telemarketing and a 15-item checklist to sift through these "suspects" and pluck forth the best leads. Fewer than 10% of suspects would make it through this round of filtering.
Finally, the remaining leads were handed to Sales, including contact records for that lead, such as which search term the lead had originally discovered Savvion while using. Step #4. "Loop Back" prospects for incubation
Because the marketing team had controlled the lead so far down the sales pipeline, the reporting they were able to put into place was remarkable. Plus, tracking close rates wasn't that hard with so few final leads to manage.
Nanneman set up two "loop back" procedures for leads that needed further incubation. Sales leads that didn't close were sent back to the inside sales team for more attention. Suspects that failed inside Sales' 15-item checklist were sent further back to get general emailed educational efforts.
Step #5. Defend your strategy to upper management
In October, Nanneman pulled together results data to create a bravura presentation to upper management showcasing Marketing's success. Key slides included:
- An alphabetical list of the impressive company names of the leads his team had handed to Sales.
- The overall number of impressions Savvion had gotten as part of the search marketing campaign, essentially free brand advertising to everyone who didn't click but might remember the name later.
- A process diagram showing each stage of the lead-flow cycle.
- Before-and-after comparison chart showing how costs had gone down and results had gone up for each stage of the lead generation process, on cost control measures.
The last chart almost proved to be Nanneman's undoing. When management saw how much money he'd been able to save while expanding reach and improving sales, their initial reaction was to ask for more of the same in 2005 -- more cost cutting that is.
Luckily he was able to talk them out of it. Plus, he used the data to build his case for keeping tactical focus.
"There was a lot of input from field sales that trade shows were becoming popular again. And as always happens with annual budget meetings, traditional marketing program ideas came out of the woodwork -- 'Hey, let's do a city-by-city series of seminars!'"
Nanneman's search marketing data was the most outstanding. By hiring a focused specialist, Savvion...
- Cut overall costs by 44% due to cheaper keywords.
- Increased keywords from 115 to more than 15,000 -- "You're throwing a much bigger net at the same pool of fish."
- Increased monthly clicks by 17%.
The shorter, less content-laden landing page surprised the team by being the winner hands down. (We're less surprised -- prospects just don't read a lot in small type on a marketing page.)
Coupled with more targeted keyword advertising, the new landing pages get 107% more conversions than the old landing page.
So the resulting cost per final lead has sunk by 77%. Problem-related terms proved a big winner. "Once you start describing what your product does and problems it solves, you get out of IT and start talking to line of business people." Example: one major automotive customer used the term "capacity change planning" to describe their problem. The term BPM (i.e. Business Process Management) probably never would cross his mind... even though that's the solution he ended up purchasing.
"This past year has been such an eye-opener for me," says Nanneman.
Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from Savvion's landing page A/B test (winner and loser): http://www.marketingsherpa.com/savvion/study.html
Search Engine PPC Marketing - The consultancy Savvion uses to handle all paid search campaigns, including keyword research: http://www.searchengineppc.com
EmailLabs - The email services provider Savvion uses for emailed incubation campaigns: http://www.emaillabs.com
SalesForce - The contact management system Savvion uses to handle and track qualified leads to sales: http://www.salesforce.com