Two trends have made Barbara Basney's job a lot harder over the past few years.
As Director of Marketing Communications Xerox Office Printing Business, Basney is in charge of gathering hundreds of thousands of fresh sales leads for the company's marketing database. In the past she relied on classic offline tactics, but the costs per lead were spiraling.
"Direct mail isn't cheap, trade shows aren't cheap," she says.
At the same time, Xerox's marketplace has broadened. Instead of marketing just to clearly defined niches, Basney now has to gather sales leads of home office users, small businesses, and mid-sized businesses across America. Basically everyone except the Fortune 1000.
Xerox had tested online marketing in the past for branding campaigns. Basney wanted to try something entirely different, straightforward lead generation.
She figured online lead generation is only worth investing in if your cost per lead is much lower than tried-and-true campaigns, and if those leads were high quality.
Account execs at Basney's agency, Y&R's online arm The Digital Edge, were utterly convinced they could do it. She was more cautious. OK, she told them, let us test with a limited budget to start.CAMPAIGN
Basney got the most from her test campaign budget in two ways:
1. Clearly communicated budget and goals
Although online marketing offers a huge range of metrics, from the start Basney narrowed her focus. "There were only three goals - we agreed up front on the cost per completed form [lead generated], cost per completed form against media, and then the total number of fill-outs we'd get for the year."
She adds, "It isn't about click throughs. I really don't care about that. It isn't about media CPM. It's about cost per fill-out. That's what we watch."
Basney also made sure her agency understood exactly what she meant by the word 'cost.' "The thing I care about most is everybody has to deliver against the 'all up' -- the all-in cost. That means I don't just care about the cost of the media. I care about what we're paying for hosting fees, for creative, for the prize, for shipping; every single payment we're using to support this program. Sometimes you're not getting dollars to work really hard if the agency and the client aren't worried about tracking the same metrics."
Last, but not least, she asked for a daily status report during the campaign itself. It is just one page long, so everyone can track those three critical goals at a glance.
2. Testing three very different offers
Basney wanted to learn as much as possible from the initial campaign in order to have data that would determine future campaigns. Aside from media selection (see below), offer is the most important variable to test in any direct response campaign. The team came up with three tests, all launched the same day:
a. Sweeps offer
"It's really touting the carrot, what you can win," explains Basney. The creative featured a skier going downhill, a brief message about Xerox's printer, and an 'Enter to w^in a trip to the Winter 2002 Olympics' link.
b. Product info
"A black and white banner says someone in your office is making you look bad. Then it switches to color - it's your black and white printer," describes Basney. "It's much more about products and benefits. No skiing."
c. Interactive game
This banner told visitors "Have more fun than you've ever had, play Phaser Blast!"
All three offers were executed in a wide variety of online ad styles, including text links, skyscraper banners, buttons, and pop-ups. Also, all three shared similar colors, and linked to the same micro-site landing page, which featured graphics from all of them.
(The exception was the game. Initially clicks went directly to the game and ended up at the micro-site afterwards. When results showed too few players made it all the way through the game to the site, the creative team switched the link to go directly to the micro-site which then contained a link to the game in the corner.)
At the micro-site, visitors were asked to fill out a form that asked a variety of questions to determine their propensity and time frame for buying color printers. (Link to sample below.)
Next the team selected their initial media buy. Basney's chief concerns were that the buys fed leads cost effectively (as determined on a cost-per-lead basis not overall CPM), and that the buys be as targeted as possible to businesspeople who would be truly interested in her products.
She explains, "We're dangling a big carrot [the Olympics trip.] That's ok to me as long as I know people filling out the form are truly part of the target. You don't want garbage in your database."
Interestingly, she did not care if the leads were hot, warm or cold. Xerox's own follow-up programs and the programs of its VARs (value added resellers) require leads at a variety of stages in the sales cycle. "Maybe a VAR is interested in getting a someone who's interested in buying but hasn't decided what they're buying yet. Sales lead heat has to be optimized for each person's business."
To make sure the highest possible number of leads matched her target demographic, Basney asked media buyers to not only choose sites carefully, but also to choose exactly where her ads would appear on those sites.
In almost every case she avoided both run of site and prominent home page placement. She also limited pop-up appearances to two per visitors per site per month.
"We want to put it deep in the site, we don't want to be too far up. You're using that natural page succession to be your filter," she explains. If a visitor has bothered to click several pages into the site, they may be more likely to be a seeking serious business advice.
The team tested about 15 sites at a time, and always asked that a wide variety of media such as links, email newsletter ads, and banners, be included in the buy.
The campaign launched in August 2001 and continued through April 2002. Basney *wasn't* expecting outrageously wonderful results.
"To be really honest," she explains, "when Y&R presented metrics [expectations], I said, 'That's great,' but when I was presenting internally, I'd say to people as an aside, 'There's no way we'll attain this. They're being way too aggressive. They're trying to please us too much. I don't think there's a chance in hell we'll hit this goal.'"
Boy was she wrong. "We blew the doors off the goal" says Basney in amazement. "They not only met goals, they exceeded them. It's something I would have never believed possible."
From August-November, Xerox collected 96,000 sales leads from the campaign, exceeding its goal of 82,000 leads by 17%. From January-April the campaign generated an additional 200,000 leads, this time beating goal by 11%.
In both cases, the cost per lead was less than 50% of what it would have cost using Xerox's traditional offline methods such as trade shows and direct mail.
The offer tests revealed:
- Although the game was a definite success in terms of the number of people who played it, and the amount of time they spent playing it (thus interacting with the brand and presumably being educated about it), it was by far the loser in terms of sales lead generation, perhaps because it distracted people from the form.
- Stunningly, the sweeps offer and the product info creative produced almost identically successful end results. Basney was dumbfounded. "They were neck and neck. I have no idea why."
Were the leads any good?
All leads were placed into Xerox's main marketing database, and then selected for regular campaigns, both mail and email (with permission-only) based on their specific demographic and stage of sales cycle. Which means that they were mixed in with leads from many other sources.
However, Basney carefully had them tagged as Web-generated leads, and followed their response rates to each campaign "almost as though they were another list."
She reports that web-generated leads definitely respond about the same for Xerox as leads from other sources, even when the follow-up campaign is direct mail instead of email. "We're extremely pleased with what we're seeing."
In addition, although Basney was not concerned with initial sales lead "heat" for reasons mentioned above, she says, "around 20% of Web leads were 'Hot'" which matches her offline-generated leads percent of heat.
Currently, Xerox is in the midst of repeating the campaign with a new offer. This time Basney's goal is to collect a total of half a million leads before the end of 2002. So far she says, "We're kicking butt." Useful Links Related to this Article:
Samples of Xerox campaign creative:
Micro-site for current campaign: