Through years of research Dr. Randine Lewis discovered ways to treat infertility with traditional Chinese medicine.
First she used the knowledge to have a child of her own. Next she wanted to help other women. Her techniques required quite a bit of patient education and some hands-on help to work properly.
In addition to writing a book (which was scheduled to be published by Little, Brown in January 2004) she also decided to hold a series of retreats for women to take where she could explain the concepts in person and work with patients personally. The price tag was $10,500 for three separate week-long retreats held over a period of three months.
While this may sound high to some, it's low compared to what traditional-medicine clinics charged.
However, unlike regular clinics, Dr Lewis didn't have much of a marketing budget or referral support from other doctors. She decided to rely on Web marketing alone as her sole method of outreach, aside from Little, Brown's book publicity.
Can you sell a $10,500 retreat online to women who've never heard of you before? CAMPAIGN
Dr Lewis' first stab at a Web site, featured three 3-minute videos of herself talking about the program and not much other content.
"Basically it was nice for me to visit -- wow there I am, this is what I have to offer. Then came the realization that nobody's going to see this but me. It was self-gratification -- not helping with my business."
Still, she worked away at buzz marketing, including handing out flyers at speaking gigs, adding the site URL to her business cards and email SIG. But after four months, only one woman had signed up for the retreat, and that patient hadn't come via the Web at all.
The first retreat was just five weeks away -- could a site redesign save the day? Dr Lewis contracted a redesign firm with solid search marketing experience. The team's five-step process included.
Step #1. Keyword research
Dr Lewis came up with a list of medical terms women who'd been diagnosed as infertile might search under. Then the team researched using tools such as wordtracker.com and Overture/Google keyword tools to discover more related words.
Key: They found most women tended to search for the term "infertility" while almost nobody searched for the term "fertility." This was very frustrating to Dr Lewis because she was marketing the opposite. It took some persuading for her to understand you can't market a paradigm shift by using terms no one searches for (yet).
Step #2. Add loads of text content
Next the team developed lots of textual content to serve both search engine robots looking for pages to rank as well as human visitors searching for information. Women in general tend to read more than men do, so this worked well for the target audience. New content included:
-> Q&A -> Links to related medical reports (with great keywords in their names) -> Specific treatment pages focused on each major cause of infertility -> Results and retreat info
The site that had been about four pages deep now grew to 30 pages and ultimately to around 50.
Step #3. Increase potential conversion activities
The first site had only offered a link to send an email. The revamped site offered multiple conversion activities, including an email newsletter sign-up form, a classic contact us form, a retreat registration form and links to buy Dr Lewis' book at Amazon and BN.com.
Step #4. Feature the book cover more and the video less
If you've got a book, flaunt it. People tend to trust book authors as "recognized" experts. So the team moved the book to the home page and, as noted above, allowed visitors to click to Amazon or BN.com to buy it.
Why not just sell the book directly? Although Dr Lewis certainly could have, the very fact that a book is carried at an "official" bookstore makes it feel more credible. The bookstore links say, in essence, "this is not self-published." (Side note: In actuality you can get a self-published book listed in Amazon, but few consumers know this.)
In the meantime, the video first dwindled to just a small part of the home page, and then Dr Lewis finally asked that it be taken off the site altogether.
"It got to the point where it wasn't necessary on this fabulous site," she explains. "People don't go online to watch TV. They're searching for information. The video requires you to sit and watch. You're stuck. When I see a video on any site now, I go right past it. I don't have time for this."
Step #5. Launch with PPC campaign
Although the site was built to be search engine friendly, the team assumed it would take up to six months for search engines to notice and rank it for all important terms. So they launched with a PPC search ad campaign.
After an initial round of testing, typical ad copy incorporated the search term into the headline, which then read, "You're not infertile; you're imbalanced. Fertility Retreats can help you www.FertilityRetreats.com." (See below for link to before-and-after site screenshots.)
Since the new site launched 20 months ago, hundreds of women have taken Dr Lewis' Retreats. The company has expanded to London, and Dr Lewis has had to hire several assistants.
At the start of each retreat she does some quick market research asking attendees how they first heard about the retreats. Roughly 30% say they saw the book in a brick and mortar bookstore and then went online for more information. The other 70% say they discovered the Web site when they were using search.
Although Little, Brown had Dr Lewis do a typical round of author PR (mainly morning drivetime radio show guest spots and a few newspaper interviews), she says not one attendee has ever mentioned finding out about her in those venues.
In the meantime, the hardcover sold a respectable 25,000 copies (the average nonfiction title is lucky to break 5,000) and a paperback edition has just come out. The book's Amazon page boasts 27 reader reviews and with an overall score of 4 1/2 stars.
During the site's first five months only 6.5% of total traffic came from search engine organic listings (free listings), so PPC traffic was critical. This traffic converted in some way (signing up on a contact form, clicking to Amazon, etc.) at a rate of 13.9%.
Within six months of the site's launch enough organic and direct traffic was coming in that Dr Lewis' staff was overloaded, so they turned off the PPC campaign until they could hire more support staff. Now 30.5% of traffic comes from organic rankings.
Conversions from the organic rankings are slightly lower than PPC at 11.3% overall. However, most clinics are selling out, so the team is happy. Conversion details:
1.1% Subscribe to email newsletter; 2.9% Visit the Retreat Registration page; 3.1% click to buy the book at an online bookstore; 4.2% Use the Contact Us form.
Removing the video from the site entirely has not affected conversions.
Final note: Although almost no one was searching for the term "fertility" back when this campaign started in January 2004, popular culture has shifted perhaps due in part to Dr Lewis' new-found fame. Now it's one of the top 15 terms that consumers use to find the site every month. Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Fertility Retreats http://www.marketingsherpa.com/fertility/study.html
Anvil Media Inc -- the search marketing firm Fertility Retreats relied on for SEO and PPC campaigns http://www.anvilmediainc.com
eROI -- Fertility Retreats' Web design and hosting firm http://www.eroidelivers.com/
Fertility Retreats http://www.fertilityretreats.com