zapdata, an online purveyor of highly targeted B-to-B sales leads and postal mailing lists, needed a way to get the word out about their services. Direct mail, show booths and permission-based fax marketing were working well, but, as VP Business Development Tom Gaither explains, "We're establishing a brand here and we are seeking hand raisers -- people coming to us seeking our services. To do that you need to mix online and offline marketing. It's not an either/or. It's the right mix."
True to his roots in direct response marketing, Gaither did an enormous amount of testing -- including testing media type, media outlet, creative and offer.
Banners - For the past year zapdata has tested everything from run-of-network on some of the major online ad networks such as Flycast to highly targeted media buys such as a banner on a particular section of SalesGuy.com or Hoovers.com. Initially the creative was, well, creative. Gaither explains, "We entertained people through antics. You clicked on the banner to try to find Elvis and went to a splash page where you searched for him. Then you clicked through to our home page." Later the Company switched to more straightforward messages in its banners, revolving around the theme of "Get new customers through great sales leads."
Opt-in Email Blasts - Gaither says, "We tried everybody. YesMail, Postmaster Direct, etc. We also did a lot of testing with the Wall Street Journal and other general business lists."
Newsletter Sponsorships - zapdata tested running ads in a variety of opt-in business email newsletters.
Search Engine Optimization - zapdata's optimization tactics took two forms. They used the services of optimization consultancy Defining Presence to optimize the zapdata site so it showed up in the top 10-20 results. Gaither says, "You need to make sure your site is attractive to search engine spiders that index sites, but does not misrepresent what the site's about. The reason why optimization is so hard is because of that dilemma. You want to make sure search engines fully appreciate what you have while on the other hand you don't want to trick them with something you're not."
zapdata also tested paid listings, buying a high listing for the term "sales leads" with both GoTo network and Lycos.
Offers - Gaither tested offers with and without free sales lead giveaways. He also tested the number of sales leads given to respondents from a low of 25 free leads to a high of 200.
Search engine optimization out powered every other tactic. Gaither says, "The search engine leads conversion to purchasing from us is probably 50% higher than what we see on average from other sources. And the average transaction from them is 10 times bigger! It stands to reason, people who are actively looking must have a problem. You're not selling them as much as helping them to find your solution."
Other winning tactics were the second version, straightforward banners. Gaither says, "The people who hit our site through that messaging are 100% aware of what we are, the value they can get. We find their conversion to registering and then to becoming a customer is much higher." By changing from Elvis to a more straight-forward message, zapdata's click through rates rose to around .5%. Gaither notes, "10% of visitors from banners will actually register for their free names and 10% of registrants will end up purchasing. I can't reveal how many then repurchase but it's very high."
Email newsletter ads were also a clear winner. Gaither says, "I think when you ride along in a newsletter that's trusted, it's like getting third party referral." Next year Gaither intends to test integrating newsletter ads with banner campaigns on their sites.
Free offers in all cases out pulled no premium. But surprisingly the amount offered for free didn't seem to affect results. Gaither says, "People want to put their toe in to find out if it works. A small number of free leads is now our control offer."
What didn't work? Blast email to opt-in lists was a disappointment. Gaither says, "For acquisition purposes it didn't work for us. We're after B-to-B sales and marketing executives and a certain selectivity is required such as SIC codes and functional job areas. The level of targeting of the lists available was not good enough for us. It's easy, it's fast, it's cheap. But we never overcame the inability to target the message to the right person at the right company."
Gaither also recommends against run-of-network banner buys, saying, "We found, just like in B-to-B direct marketing, targeting really matters. Our best media buys have been on very targeted sites. So, as opposed to going broad and very low cost, we've gone very targeted and been willing to pay more for impressions. That's kept our click throughs high."
NEXT: Next week, we'll bring you a follow-up Case Study revealing how zapdata keeps repurchase rates high and growing strong.
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