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Jan 22, 2009
Case Study

Interdepartmental Campaign Takes Optimization to the Max – Prospects Soar

SUMMARY: Your marketing team applies best practices in optimization across the board. But what happens when they feel they’ve reached the point of optimal optimization?

Find out how trying something they have never tried before – working side by side with one another on an interdepartmental marketing campaign – can have a dramatic impact on all channels.
CHALLENGE

The marketing team at E-LOAN faced 2008 with the sagging state of the mortgage industry weighing them down. Each team member also felt like they had completely optimized their search, lead-generation and customer-retention channels.

E-LOAN has always been “rigorous in terms of analytics, optimizing, testing,” says Siara Nazir, Director, Online/Offline Customer Retention. “We know the curve in terms of testing new technologies and pushing the envelope to get more volume in.”

The direct-loan company also relies heavily on mortgage applications. In very challenging times, therefore, she says, the marketers knew they had to come up with strategies that hit harder than those in the past.

The team decided that they should look at a tactic they’ve never tried before: an interdepartmental campaign with a unified message distributed simultaneously across all of E-LOAN’s channels.

CAMPAIGN

The team began by recognizing that the campaign could get a natural boost from the Federal Reserve Board’s interest rate cuts. This immediately created better rates for consumer loans.

For the first time, they also shared the results of their own testing and optimization.

The eight steps they took:

Step #1. Unify the message

The marketing team launched the campaign with the same message: “Fed Cut Rates Again!” It was simultaneously distributed across their Web, search and email channels.

Step #2. Expand/contract core message depending on channel

Each channel has an audience with a different attention span – search copy, for instance, requires less copy then email. So, the E-LOAN team kept the core message the same but added bullets for channels that allowed more explanation.

“I think that would be one of the strongest tips I can provide: Give me your core message in four words or less and then give me your three bullets for the contracted version and three bullets for the expanded version,” Nazir says.

Here are the bullets for paid search:
o Take advantage now
o Low fixed rates
o Easy application

Here are the bullets for email:
o Don’t miss this window of opportunity
o Take advantage of the lowest interest rates in two years
o As interest rates drop with the Fed cut, E-LOAN can immediately pass the savings along to you since we’re a direct lender. This can result in lower monthly payments and a lower interest rate for you.

Step #3. Share optimization tips across channels

Nazir called the sharing of optimization tips the “next evolution in marketing” at E-LOAN – where the Web, search, and email departments historically worked in their own separate silos. They didn’t share best practices.

The cross-pollination of ideas started right after the decision was made to come together around a single message. For example, the E-LOAN team recognized that both search and email have a limit on text characters. For email, it’s in the subject line; for search, it’s just a smaller medium to get a message through.

The team also recognized that the search department had discovered that certain keywords worked better in limited character settings.

“So we were able to take that and apply it to our subject line,” Nazir says. “It’s kind of like a natural extension of optimization.”

Step #4. Test for channel mix

Their optimal channel mix included Web, search, and email. They discovered that mix by testing between campaigns.

They compared sets of metrics three times: two weeks before the campaign, during the campaign, and two weeks after the campaign. E-LOAN’s in-house analytics department sectioned off traffic coming from different channels to determine the mix that produced the greatest lift in conversions during the campaign.

TIP: Make sure you have a control group for measurement of Web traffic and clickthroughs. You can then compare how well the different mixes work between and during campaigns.

Step #5. Make sure all creative is aligned

Aligning creative was a critical step, Nazir says. If the creative for email and the website had a different look and feel in terms of font, color, and spacing, the consumer might not have associated the two with each other. This could have led to confusion and mistrust of the brand and messaging.

Step #6. Launch all at the same time

E-LOAN used to tailor a campaign around particular messaging sent out based on this schedule:
-Email would go out first to the proper segment of the in-house mailing list.
-Website would update within an hour, a day, or two days.
-Search marketers would update a campaign with new messaging last.

“But we never had our [email] messaging coincide to the minute with search and the website,” Nazir says. “Nothing has ever been as exact as we have done it this year.”

Nazir believes that timing the release of the email message to the minute of updating the website and search was critical to the campaign’s success.

Step #7. Measure the results

At E-LOAN, all campaign metrics are measured no more than two weeks past the end of a campaign. That’s when they have 90% to 95% of the total responses they’re going to get, Nazir says.

To determine the overall increase in leads and conversions, the E-LOAN team imbedded unique codes in campaign materials. The codes were linked to the data warehouse – where the analytics department analyzed results.

Step #8. Continue to optimize

Optimizing never ends at E-LOAN. Since the first Fed rate cut in January 2008, the team has optimized two more times – in March and April. Optimization in April included emailing the unified message to in-house and rented lists.

“We are just very much in the mode of testing and optimizing to see if we can get a better list,” Nazir says. “So we felt like an outside email partner was the most natural extension of what we were already doing.”


RESULTS


The campaign’s success compared to past campaigns became apparent about two weeks after the first rate cut.

o Responses and loan applications from the Web and search channels increased by double digits. (The company did not want to release exact figures.)
o Email leads more than doubled (122%).
o The website received a record number of unique visitors.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from E-LOAN’s Fed Cut Rates campaigns:
http://marketingsherpa.com/cs/eloan/study.html


Responsys – the email partner that E-LOAN used to help with the rented email mailing:
http://www.responsys.com/


E-LOAN:
http://www.eloan.com/


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