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Nov 16, 2011
Case Study

Customer Feedback: How a failed PPC campaign led to an improved product

SUMMARY: Not every marketing campaign succeeds. But, even a "failed" campaign can provide benefits and learnings, as long as you are willing to take the time and effort to look for them.

Today’s case study looks at a Software-as-a-Service company that killed a PPC ad campaign after only two weeks, due to dramatically poor performance. At the same time, the campaign led to a company-initiated dialogue with its customers that ended with an improved product. Find out how this marketing failure ended up as a "win" for the company.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Marketing efforts can provide benefits beyond the main goal of the campaign. Even "losing" efforts can provide insight into your customers, help clarify your value proposition, and even contribute to product development.

Impact Dialing, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)company that uses cloud computing and VoIP technology for high-volume calling, began as a side project in September 2010. It officially launched as a full-time business this past May, launched its website in June, and began its first pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign in July.

Michael Kaiser-Nyman, CEO and founder, Impact Dialing, said the company’s business mostly comes from the political industry, and 90% of its clients come from very informal word-of-mouth and outbound networking marketing along with referrals.

The PPC campaign was an attempt to gain more traction with companies.

Kaiser-Nyman explained, "There are far more small businesses and call centers than there are political campaigns, and those types of businesses operate year round."

He added the PPC effort was part of the initial push as a full-time company because political clients were cyclical and not long-term. He understood for Impact Dialing to remain viable, it needed to find a market outside the political space.

Read on to find out why Impact Dialing killed the PPC effort merely two weeks into the campaign, and what the company learned from this marketing "failure," and its customers, that served to improve its product.


Impact Dialing’s software can be used in many ways, including:
  • Fundraising

  • Polling

  • Outbound sales

  • Marketing

Because Kaiser-Nyman founded the company armed with a solid Rolodex full of political leads, the PPC effort was created to find customers among call centers and small businesses looking for a volume calling solution.

Step #1. Choose keywords for the PPC campaign

When the website was being built, Kaiser-Nyman engaged in a great deal of keyword research for SEO purposes, brainstorming lists of keywords related to Impact Dialing’s service, such as:
  • Predictive dialer

  • Auto-dialer

  • Power dialer

  • Auto calls

After running the complete list through a keyword tool, Kaiser-Nyman was presented with hundreds of additional suggestions.

He ran exact matches to find out how people were actually searching for those keywords. Kaiser-Nyman said the results surprised him because keywords he thought were good to target received only about a dozen searches each month, where other keywords he thought less strong received thousands of monthly searches.

Impact Dialing divided the high-performing keywords into two groups: keywords to use solely for SEO purposes, and keywords that would be competitive for PPC efforts.

Before the PPC campaign began, Kaiser-Nyman brought in a consultant who helped uncover some additional "medium" tail keywords to use.

"Some of the really high volume keywords were pretty expensive, " Kaiser-Nyman said. "There were some that were $20 or $30 per click, and so we took those out. But even some of the ones that were $15 a click we left in, but we capped our maximum bid."

Step #2. Coordinate ads with landing pages

Once keywords were chosen, the PPC effort entailed each keyword being placed in two different ad versions that emphasized:
  • Ease of use

  • Low cost

For example, the ads based on the keyword "power dialer" came in two versions:
Easy to Use Power Dialer
Easy to Use Power Dialer with
Fanatical Support. Try it Free!
Inexpensive Power Dialer
No Set Up Fees. No Minimums.
No Contracts. Try it Free!

"Our hypothesis was that people would be attracted to the fact that we were easy to use, or the fact that they could get up and running with very little financial risk," Kaiser-Nyman explained.

The ads for each targeted keyword would go to landing pages created specifically for those keywords. Kaiser-Nyman said the pages served double-duty on the Impact Dialing website as landing pages for the PPC effort, and for SEO purposes on the website for the desired keywords.

Step #3. Monitor and react to website interaction

After the campaign began, Kaiser-Nyman said he noticed two disturbing trends.

First, many visitors were simply bouncing from the site.

Secondly, visitors were creating accounts, setting up the product, but not converting into paying customers. Here’s how the sign-up process was supposed to work:

The website included a self-service tool where visitors could click a button, enter their email address, and create a password to open an account and make a purchase to immediately begin interacting with the product.

After registration, visitors were sent to a follow-up page.

Kaiser-Nyman stated, "It didn’t take me very long to realize I needed to figure out more of what was going on in the minds of our leads."

In response to this, changes were made to the sign-up process to give Kaiser-Nyman more information about his potential customers.

Name and phone number fields were added to the registration form, although visitors could still create a working account without talking to a person. More importantly, Kaiser-Nyman would now receive an email every time someone created an account, and he would actually call leads to find out what they thought about Impact Dialing’s product.

A chat widget was installed on the website to allow for interaction with website visitors, as well.

Both of these changes gave Kaiser-Nyman the information he needed to understand why the PPC effort wasn’t successful.

After actually getting feedback from potential customers through speaking with them on the phone and participating in website chats, Kaiser-Nyman learned they liked the system, but the commercial clients he was seeking with the ad campaign wanted features the product didn’t offer.

"We didn’t realize how important [those features] were to our customers," he explained. "It wasn’t that we had set up the campaign wrong, it wasn’t that our landing pages were bad, and it wasn’t that our ad copy was bad. It was just that our product wasn’t quite ready for the market that we were looking at."

Step #4. Kill the underperforming ad campaign

Because the target market of the PPC campaign -- commercial users of volume dialing products -- weren’t finding the features they desired with Impact Dialing, the results of the campaign were very disappointing.

So disappointing that Kaiser-Nyman killed the entire effort a mere two weeks into the campaign.

"I knew from my gut that we were better off not spending any additional money because I had already learned the biggest lesson that we needed to learn," said Kaiser-Nyman. "And that was there were a few things that we needed to build, feature-wise."

Step #5. Apply new learning to improve the product

After stopping the PPC effort, Impact Dialing focused its attention on acquiring more business in the political industry, and fortunately for the company, that cyclical space was on the upswing this past summer and fall.

The additional business allowed Kaiser-Nyman to build the product team and hire additional developers who began upgrading Impact Dialing’s product to include the features Kaiser-Nyman learned its potential commercial customers wanted to see.

The company also took this time to continue learning from its customers through the website chat feature and actually speaking with prospects.


The most important result is that the short-lived PPC campaign exposed an area where Impact Dialing needed to improve its product, to appeal to a major market segment for the company.

Kaiser-Nyman was also quickly proactive in realizing the disappointing results meant he needed to actually listen to prospects and find out why they were stopping short of becoming paying customers.

"It wasn’t a matter of optimizing our websites. It wasn’t a matter of picking out the exact right ads, and it wasn’t a matter of setting up the campaign just right," he said. "It was a matter of figuring out what was going through our customer’s head."

Here are the metrics of the two-week ad campaign:
  • Total clicks -- 263

  • Clickthrough rate of campaign -- 1.53%

  • Landing page bounce rate from ad visitors -- 48.86%

  • Conversion rate to create account -- 6.08%

  • Conversion to paying customer -- 0.0076%

  • Cost-per-acquisition -- $862

Now that the new features desired by the commercial market segment are part of Impact Dialing’s product, Kaiser-Nyman said he is prepared to launch a new PPC campaign and expects better results this time around.

He added that instead of ramping up a huge amount of up-front spending, or immediately testing his campaign components, his focus is going to remain on listening to his customers.

"Our pain point is understanding who is our customer, why they are interested in our solutions, and what we can do to improve our offering," Kaiser-Nyman stated.

Useful links related to this article

1. PPC ad versions
2. Customized landing page
3. Registration follow-up
4. Website registration form

Impact Dialing

Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy

PPC Campaign: Marketer learns from unsuccessful campaign to deliver 75% increase in sales

Customer-centric Marketing: Tap into your culture to differentiate from the competition

Customer Relations: Bringing power back to Marketing during the B2B buying process

Converting PPC Traffic: How clarifying value generated 99.4% more conversions on a PPC landing page

What is B2B?: Discovering what the customer wants by understanding your Buyer’s Funnel

See Also:

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