In a world where many of last year's vaunted B-to-B exchange sites are going belly-up, Liquidation.com "The Complete Solution for Business Surplus" is still going strong. We contacted the Company's Director of Online Marketing, Asad Haroon to learn how he's successfully driven highly targeted business traffic to the site. His answers are interesting reading for all B-to-B marketers out there, whether your company is offline or on, because Haroon's tested almost everything under the sun!
Q: How have you driven targeted business traffic to Liquidation.com?
Haroon: We have used every tactic known in the online space to bring in targeted people. Our buyer-side audience is in certain verticals -- apparel, consumer goods, construction, etc. On the seller-side it's people who have surplus problems -- manufacturers, retailers and some wholesalers. We've been very successful with very focused targeted campaigns to them.
Q: Many B-to-B marketers' first line of attack is search engine optimization. We assume you went that route?
Haroon: Yes, we know a lot of business buyers out there use major search engines to find places where they can buy surplus. We have been testing many different types of keywords, looking at performance, and then optimizing.
We've done keyword buys on most of the major search engines -- Altavista, LookSmart, GoTo, NBCi, Lycos, Google, Go.com and About.com. Altavista is focused on a lot of B-to-B -side users, and GoTo reaches a lot of B-to-B . The B-to-B Yellow Pages uses GoTo.com in its search box.
Our agency QFactor managed most of the keyword campaigns for us. They negotiated good rates and managed campaign optimization. They were very focused on monitoring keywords and trying many different creatives.
Q: What kinds of banner campaigns have you tested?
Haroon: Mainly HTML versus GIF animated. Many of our banners have a search box where users can search for a keyword, or pull down an HTML menu of the different verticals. Every time we do a new concept for a banner we do it in all sizes and try them in a lot of placements to see what works. Just because a banner is bigger doesn't mean you'll get a bigger performance.
There's no magic in terms of any type of creative that's going to work better. The key is to monitor and test. Certain sizes have done better in some cases at the bottom and in other cases elsewhere. It requires a lot of diligence; that's where a media agency comes in because they have the bandwidth to do that.
Q: Have you tested small buttons?
Haroon: I think the buttons are the cheapest way to get a lot of branding done, but not in terms of click through performance. They are a cost effective way to get branding exposure.
Q: What about getting your site listed in online directories such as Thomas Register?
Haroon: Yes, we're listed in Thomas Register, MyExports.com (which is part of the US Chamber of Commerce)... there are a lot of online directories out there. We've done a lot of those listings. In most cases they're free so that's a no brainer. In some cases we've tried premium listings where you pay to get listed up front or on top with a small banner. There is definitely a difference in terms of click throughs. Premium listings on places like AuctionWatch have given us better results.
Directories are one of those things where you really want to make sure you find every available one there is and get listed. It's just so basic. There are a lot of people out there using B-to-B directories.
I haven't seen a comprehensive list of them out there, but just use a search engine and type in "Business Directory" and that will give you a whole slew of them. And, then a whole lot of directories link to each other.
Q: Email newsletter sponsorships and ads are the hot thing right now in online advertising. How have you tested them?
Haroon: We've done a lot of newsletter promotions, both HTML and text ads. It really didn't get us the results we thought it would. In terms of banners, newsletter ads are better. But I still think it's more of a branding tool than an acquisition one.
Q: How about site sponsorships -- as opposed to banners?
Haroon: Yes, you'll get some customer acquisition. We've gone into premium sites like Line56.com where bigger profile CIOs and CTOs hang out. We benefit by association by placing our ad with premium publications.
Q: What's your experience been like with broadcast email campaigns?
Haroon: Email marketing has been hugely successful. Overall we've had our best acquisition through email.
Our strategy is to test a lot of things out, do small buys in a lot of different things and then do major buys on the winners. We tested lists from B-to-B Now, YesMail, Cahners, PostMaster Direct, Thomas Register, etc. We've done both HTML and text and tried different selects. With Thomas Register we selected people who both purchase on the Internet and on behalf of their company. We've done job function and four-digit SIC code selects with Cahners -- they are the most comprehensive in terms of selects. Thomas Register was probably the best in terms of click through and acquisition.
We learned a lot testing offers. For example free shipping didn't get a good response compared to a heavily discounted offering. Buyers want a deal, they're looking for value. For the sellers, in our case, it's not a matter of making the most money. Surplus is not a big part of anybody's business. It's more like a problem solving kind of message.
Q: Have you tested affiliate marketing?
Haroon: We have both a standard affiliate level targeted at smaller sites, and a very high level offering fully integrated solution to "Super Affiliates." We use BeFree. They have major initiatives to find standard affiliates; and, they also have some programs for the higher level, so we're in the loop getting leads from them. We've also submitted our program description to about 70 different affiliate directories; and used email marketing; and business development efforts for targeted sites.
Super affiliates get a surplus store on their site. They actually own the customer. There's front end and back end integration. You can't do better than that -- expand your site and only pay based on performance!
Q: How do you convert site visitors into buyers?
Haroon: Getting people is just part of the challenge. Getting them to register and to transact is what matters. Our goal has been to convert about 5% of traffic. In some cases we've achieved that target.
We're making the registration option very visible on our home page and throughout the site -- all the places we think people will be visiting on their first visit. The other key is our email marketing and some of our banner campaigns have people land on the registration page. If you click on a banner that says, "Register Now," you're landing on the registration page.
Q: How do you keep customers and registered members coming back to your site once they've found it?
Haroon: We send a weekly email newsletter to our opt-in customer base. It's text. We thought about HTML but we don't think the audience is really that interested in HTML. Simpler text email messages highlight what we're doing and then they click through and come to our site.
We also have a new posting alert where buyers can come in and tell us which categories they're interested in and whether you want to be alerted daily or weekly. (About half choose daily and half weekly now.) That's obviously very targeted -- that's where the power of the Internet comes in!
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