Whether you're trying to get consumers to fill out a mortgage application online, apply for a new credit card, or use any other multi-step registration form online, the results can be agonizingly low.
Tens of millions of ad impressions can boil down to a handful of completed applications.
For Online Marketing Specialist Karim Gargum, of the UK online trading firm Finspreads, the job was even tougher that normal.
"The market we deal with is highly regulated," he explains. We have strict instructions to include risk warnings on any offline/online ad we display as well as similar risk warnings on landing pages.
"We're not allowed to promote one of the main reasons people turn to online trading, the potential for profits. We're also prohibited from using certain calls to action. For example, we cannot say 'open an account', we have to say 'apply for an account.' It's frustrating because we are forced to beat around the bush a lot of the time, this impacts our clickthrough and conversion rates."
To make things even harder, Finspreads had aggressive competitors often advertising on the exact same media online and off. The ad "noise" could be deafening.
Nevertheless, this spring Finspreads was scheduled to launch a newly revamped trading platform. And the marketing team had to go out and get loads of new accounts for it.CAMPAIGN
Despite the speed of online trading, Finspreads marketing steering committee carefully took five months from November 2005 to March 2006 to plan every aspect of the campaign prior to launch.
Execs for every type of marketing -- including online, offline, Web site, and PR -- were on the committee. Together as a true team, they took five steps to launch the new service.
Step #1. Thoroughly define the target market
"It's very hard to fight the tendency to want to appeal to as many people as possible," Gargum says. The steering committee coped by defining their potential market into three groups:
Group A. consumers from the best demographic to consider online trading as an option - typically wealthier men 25-45 living in or fairly near to urban areas, especially in the south of England.
Group B. Consumers from the above group who traded online elsewhere.
Group C. Consumers from the group above who had online spread betting experience -- the specific type of activity the revamped platform allowed.
Next, they unanimously agreed to focus all efforts on *only* on Group C. Hopefully no ad dollar would be wasted trying to impress the hardest-to-convert audiences.
"There's no point in trying to educate people about the actual product and then why we are the best," explains Gargum. "We wanted people who were already roughly familiar with the service so we could say, 'Our product has made a giant leap forward, come check out the great new features.'"
Step #2. Design creative
The committee as a whole brainstormed the creative aspect of the campaign -- so Web people and offline ad experts alike were equally involved in defining all copy and graphics.
Copy focused on the pain points that prospects almost certainly had felt with similar services in the past. Typical copy:
"Auto-rollover -- You don't have to call the dealing desk anymore, with one click of your mouse your positions in futures contracts can automatically roll over at expiry."
Some graphics were highly related -- such as thumbnail computer screen showing "tick charts" which many traders find irresistible.
But given that the ads were to appear only in highly focused media featuring competing ads with similar graphics, the team decided to use a cut-through-the-clutter creative element as well: an F16. Hence the campaign tagline, "Experience the power of exceptional trading control".
The team did worry that "given the current climate with the war, this image might not be the smartest move." However, once committed, they decided to make ads as high impact as possible. So they tested their first-ever expandable Flash video ads for online. (Link to sample below.)
"On these busy Web sites, you have to be quite powerful to get attention," notes Gargum. However, the team decided against adding audio to the ads. "Our prospective clients are usually at work where they don't want a jet engine sound coming out of their desktops."
Step #3. Post landing pages
Gargum and the online team wound up creating 48 different landing pages for the campaign. Why so many?
Gargum knew the best conversions for search clicks nearly always feature landing page creative tailored to the search term. So, he asked the SEM team to closely examine the current paid ad program. They had been running 30 campaign groups, each with dozens or even hundreds of keywords. Now, he asked them to cut the worst performing terms, which at the same time *expanding* the number of groups to more than 40.
That way, each group was more niche in interest, and could have a more focused landing page dedicated to it. (Link to samples below.)
The "keep it simple, make it clear" landing pages featured:
- Large typeface and short copy
- Above the fold for 800x600 resolution design
- "Big chunky button"
Further pages in the process (conversion required four steps including detailed questions on age, phone number, and income) were also as 'cleaned up' as possible. The legalese on the immediate next page was a little scary-looking, but Gargum hoped the prior landing page was compelling enough to keep prospects plowing through.
Step #4. Staggered media buys
The team decided against a giant multimedia launch. Instead, first they launched PR and print ads in highly targeted media. They hoped these efforts would soften the ground, raise awareness to boost clickthroughs on the online ads that were to follow.
Step #5. Measure, measure, measure
Helped by the unique landing pages and a great CRM system, the team measured every aspect of the campaign and meet regularly post-launch to watch a series of previously-agreed on goalposts.
These included total ad impressions, rollovers (when trackable), clickthroughs, unusual search activity, and conversions. However, Gargum admits, "I don't really care about clickthrough rates. I just care how many
people opened accounts."
"We boosted new account openings per month by 200%" says Gargum. "So far it's a very successful campaign."
Although the expandable Flash video banners cost more to run on media sites, "it was definitely worth it." These had 15% interaction rates -- these are page viewers who rolled their mouse over the ad. On average these interactions lasted for 23 seconds, which meant most viewers "messed around with the ad for eight seconds" after the 15 second video ended.
The ad had an overall .13% average clickthrough (that's percent of total pageviews to clicks.) However, that rate varied by the number of times an individual visitor had seen the ad before. "Maybe 60% of clicks were on the first or second impression. Then results went straight down fir three-four; but started picking up again for times five-six. It tapered off after that."
Search marketing ad clickthroughs ranged from 2.5-5.2% "which was quite high for us." However, Gargum noticed something interesting, "The amount of overall search traffic to our site rose about 25% with people searching for our brand name. It's got to be press, and word of mouth."
Conversion rates for overall clicks -- conversion meaning a click that went through the entire application process -- ranged widely depending on media source. "The average conversion was 2.84%, but 20% of new customers came from one particular Web site that converted at 8.5%."
The landing pages were outstandingly successful with an average 22% clickthough rate to page two of the process. (Note: That's more than double the typical B-to-C rate for clicks driven by third party media.) Of that 22%, 15.9% made it all the way through the application, including required fields for personal contact and financial information.
"Planning was the key factor in this campaign, and we feel it has paid off," notes Gargum.Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from Finspreads launch campaign (online and off) http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/finspreads/study.html
HyperTextHero - The Web designer who created the landing pages:
Eyeblaster - the rich media tech company that hosted and tracked the video ads: