October 20, 2022
Case Study

Marketing Funnel: 3 quick case studies to help you increase conversion


There are three essential challenges in building an effective funnel – the channel, the messaging, and the website.

To help you overcome those challenges, in this article we bring you a quick case study that addresses each one.

Read on for examples from an affiliate product review website, backpack maker, and AI energy tool.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketing Funnel: 3 quick case studies to help you increase conversion

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

A marketing funnel is a customer journey. And like any journey – there can be pitfalls and roadblocks along the way.

To give you ideas for overcoming the pitfalls in that journey – whether its B2B or B2C, ecommerce or lead generation – today we bring you three specific examples from your peers to spur your own best ideas at different stages of the funnel:

  • Awareness – first up, an affiliate product review website that gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what it learned from spending $500,000 on 200 Google Ads, with an extensive list of what really worked (and what didn’t) in its search engine marketing.
  • Messaging – then, a backpack maker that found a non-digital place to discover its most effective message levers (while ringing up sales).
  • Conversion – finally, a startup AI tool in the energy industry that shifted from a “salesy” approach to a more transparent approach for its website (and its product).

We hope these case studies inspire your next great idea for your company’s funnel. And if you want some accountability while building that funnel, you might want to consider joining a MECLABS Super Funnel Research Cohort (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa). You can learn more about the cohorts in Marketer Vs Machine: We need to train the marketer to train the machine.

Quick Case Study #1: Affiliate product review website gets ROAS of 1.11 from SEM experimentation

Best Views Reviews (BVR) is a website that provides reviews of products and services. It earns revenue through Amazon affiliate sales. “In order to generate traffic and awareness for our website, we created 200 Google Ads with a budget of $500,000,” said Apurv Sibal, Vice President, Shorthills Tech (Best Views Reviews is a website developed by ShortHills Tech).

The ads had a click-through rate (CTR) of 40%, which resulted in millions of views. The return on ad spend (ROAS) was 1.11. But those are the averages. There was a significant amount of variability in ad performance within those averages. And I dove into the results with the team to see what you can learn from their experimentation, as the team tracked all performance to gain insight from their data. “Power BI dashboard combined SEO and SEM sales efforts that scoped an approximate tracking method,” said Ankit Kumar, SEM & Digital Marketing Engineer, ShortHills Tech.

Here are the key lessons the team shared about what worked well, and what did not.

Ads – what worked

1. Including recency in the headline – for example, “Voted Best This Oct 2022.”

2. Keyword insertion in headlines.

3. Google Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) helped to discover new search terms that Google responsive search ads (RSA) could not cover.

4. DSA created ads for product pages that were not possible in RSA.

5. Occasionally during sales or Amazon Prime Day, Google Performance Max created specific ad copy with the brand name mentioned in it.

6. Inclusion of sitelink, callout, structured snippet, and image extension improved ad strength and also allowed it to include the product brand name. That provided a good CTR of 8-10%.

Creative Sample #1: Examples of effective ads

Creative Sample #1: Examples of effective ads

Creative Sample #2: More examples of effective ads

Creative Sample #2: More examples of effective ads

Ads – What didn't work

1. Clickbait headlines didn’t work well. For example, “Our #1 Pick Will Surprise You” and “Don't Buy until you read this.”

2. DSA is rule-based, so sometimes co-related categories of lesser price got triggered. For example, for the toilet category, toilet paper got triggered. This was later fixed by manually choosing a bunch of selected links.

3. Pinning of headlines in RSA negatively impacted ad strength. This was done to have control over the ad appearance that expanded text ads (ETA) used to provide.

Ad Groups – What worked

1. Combination of manual and dynamic ad groups under one campaign. Initially, the dynamic ad group started with a brief run. When search terms were available, it was used as keywords in the manual ad group.

2. Including all match types of keywords into one ad group, since segmenting them on a match-type basis wasn’t beneficial.

3. Creating theme-based ad groups for specific categories where brand searches or a particular theme were available. For example, “Acer laptop” or “32 inch smart tv.”

4. Earlier, ETA provided control on ad appearance that wasn't possible in RSA. In numerous cases, it was witnessed that ETA had better CTR compared to RSA.

5. Regular search term review allowed discovery of new keywords and negative keywords that provided control over when the ad should appear. Navigational queries were negated using this effort.

Ad Groups – What didn’t work

1. Creating manual ad groups based on their match types – like the phrase, and exact math.

2. Allowing higher cost per acquisition (CPA) value for dynamic ad groups raised the conversion cost of the overall campaign. Then it was decided that its value will be kept equivalent or lesser than the manual ad group.

Budget and Bidding – What worked

1. Maximizing conversion with a CPA restriction worked better than another approach of smart bidding.

2. Earlier, when the option of running campaigns on manual/enhanced cost per click (CPC) was available it was preferred over smart bidding. The CPC value was decided between the range of $0.15 to $0.22. Post-learning completion it was migrated to smart bidding. This allowed controlling CPC better.

3. Two metrics – search lost due to budget and search lost due to bid – gave the team insights both on budget and bid controls. The current level of ad return allowed the team to make changes in these levers to manage the competition.

4. Generally the campaign starts with $5 daily and after observing the ROAS level from the Power BI report, an alteration in the budget is decided – scaling up (raise the budget and then increase the bid) or scaling down (lower bid and then the budget).

Budget and Bidding – What didn't work

1. Scale-up of the campaign budget above a certain threshold (generally $20+) lowers the ROAS of the campaign below 30%, thereby making it difficult to operate at a higher budget.

2. Controlling CPC at a certain level negatively impacts the impression lost due to the bid. This lowers the conversion rate and also doesn't spend the entire budget allocated to it.

3. Target ROAS approach of bidding didn't work.

Campaign Structure – What worked

1. Search campaigns approach with a category URL has worked for the team.

2. Running DSA to discover potential new categories for the current month.

3. Location targeting for a seasonal category – for example, targeting a beach area for stand-up paddle board allowed the team to run ads for that product throughout the year.

4. Dynamic search campaigns using a bunch of URLs having an average price greater than $60 allowed the team to cover more categories in less time. The team especially used this format during a sales period.

5. Disabling ad rotation that allowed more coverage to ETA. Earlier it was observed that due to system preference RSA was getting more impressions even if ETA in that category performed better.

Campaign Structure – What didn't work

1. Formats like remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), Performance Max, and Display marketing haven't performed well.

2. Google search network partner was discontinued because it brought clicks that used to convert at a lower rate.

3. Using the default location setting showed outside the United States. It was switched to the option “target people regularly in target location.”

Landing Pages – Changes were a wash

The changes to the landing pages did not result in lessons that were as clear as the ad changes. While the team was able to increase conversion rate (click to Amazon), they could not increase sales (purchase on Amazon), so the changes were essentially a wash.

Creative Sample #3: Original landing page

Creative Sample #3: Original landing page

Creative Sample #4: Mostly content-free landing page that increased conversion rate but not sales

Creative Sample #4: Mostly content-free landing page that increased conversion rate but not sales

“Our conversion rate has improved for these campaigns from around 40% to 50%. But there is no impact on sales,” said Anurag Gupta, Microsoft Dynamic & SEM Engineer, ShortHills Tech.

Quick Case Study #2: Backpack maker leverages face-to-face marketing, nets $28,000 in sales from two events while discovering effective messaging

Cyberbackpack calls its backpacks “futuristic” and “cool.” So, you might think this next case study would be about the latest, cutting-edge digital marketing tactics.

And yet…

“The tactic that has so far worked best for my business is attending electric vehicle live events and meetups, most particularly Tesla community events,” said Riz Nwosu, Founder, Cyberbackpack.

Prior to attending their first live events, Nwosu always thought they were a waste of money. Spending money to get a 10x10 booth and having to ship or transport all your equipment and inventory to the location just seemed like a tall order and unappealing to him. After all, the company was selling just fine on its website.

“However, the organizer of the Tesla Takeover event, one of the largest Tesla owners and aftermarket industry events in the US, convinced me to attend (for a small booth fee of course),” Nwosu said. He decided to attend and give it a try, not expecting much from it. “Boy was I wrong,” he said.

This was a one-day, seven-hour event and by the time the event was over, he had clocked over $20,000 worth of sales. At one point, a line began to form because Nwosu was the only one taking orders as he had not anticipated this level of demand.

It should be noted that Nwosu didn’t find this success from participating in a random event. His backpack was inspired by the Tesla Cybertruck, so this was an event that was likely to have many attendees in his ideal customer set.

Creative Sample #5: Backpack maker at Tesla Club SoCal

Creative Sample #5: Backpack maker at Tesla Club SoCal

“Wanting to prove this was not an anomaly, I attended another EV-related live event and although it was not Tesla-specific, we clocked in about $8,000 in sales, leading me to realize that people appreciate being able to make a purchase face-to-face,” Nwosu said.

Creative Sample #6: Event booth

Creative Sample #6: Event booth

Now, this is obviously a sales tactic that does not scale. However, it is very important for any business to do things that don't scale because getting good at things that don't scale makes business operators like Nwosu excel at the things that do scale, he says.

“For example, being at live Tesla events allowed me to take note of the demographics and psychographics of my ideal customers, which allowed me to better target them online,” Nwosu said.

So, his advice is to find the IRL version of your ideal customer and the events that they are most likely to attend. Then go meet them in person and practice selling directly to them. You will realize the call-to-action words that work best and how to better message your product or service's value proposition.

Quick Case Study #3: Shift from salesy approach to transparency doubles conversation rate for energy procurement tool

Imperium is a proprietary machine-learning AI platform that helps with energy procurement. It is a little over two years old and is on its way to $10 million in annual revenue.

The startup’s original website was focused on keywords, in-depth analysis of its complicated model, and many “call to action” buttons. 

“After seeing low-single-digit conversation rates from our website, we decided to rethink the website and overall messaging from the top down,” said Arthur Kaplan, Partner and Chief Sales Officer, Imperium Predictive Analytics.

This transparency was used on two levels. First, on the company’s website. For example, most of the website’s buttons now simply say Learn More instead of Click Here, Buy Now, Next Steps, etc.

They also built out more information on the website. Originally, the team just had a homepage, about us, and contact us page. They added the follow pages to the site and the nav – services, industries, press, and policy (about energy policy).

Creative Sample #7: From the AI energy tool’s homepage

Creative Sample #7: From the AI energy tool’s homepage

“By focusing on transparency and education, the client understands that we truly are on their side and looking out for their best interests. Not only did our web traffic go up by over 20%, but our conversations more than doubled. Sounds too simple, but the right answer usually is,” Kaplan said.

They also leveraged transparency in the product itself…

Creative Sample #8: AI energy tool’s dashboard

Creative Sample #8: AI energy tool’s dashboard

“The actual visual representation of the value created, and the true simple 100% transparency aspect intrigued clients to begin considering our proprietary model,” Kaplan said. As a result, when the team speaks to clients, they convert 80%+ of them to Imperium’s model.

Related resources

Marketing 101: What is funnel creation?

Marketing Funnel: Examples of how marketers try to perfect the customer journey in their SEO, printed content, and landing page

Marketing-Sales Funnel Optimization: 3 questions to ask as you kickoff 2012

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions