As SearchButton's VP Marketing Carol Shellhorn explains, "Site search is a commodity. You can get it anywhere." Shellhorn needed to communicate how the product's reporting features set it apart from the pack.
She says, "We're not unlike a lot of other companies out there 18-24 months ago. The goal was to reach critical mass, to go out there and get as many eyeballs as possible, to give products away and to make investors happy. We did that, and we did it very well. We did all the things that are no-nos today!" These no-nos included heavy advertising schedules in Industry Standard, Business 2.0 and Inc. magazine, featuring copy "all about the features."
Last year SearchButton relaunched itself, eliminating the free offering; improving infrastructure and customer service; and only marketing its services to a highly targeted group of businesses. Shelhorn says, "We're not targeting the Fortune 1000 webmasters anymore. Our customer is a mid-tier company for whom the Internet is essential to the success of their business. We've turned away business because it wasn't part of our core competency."
Shellhorn has transitioned, from broadcasting a message to the world at large, to a much more targeted marketing approach. She explains, "Our product is not industry specific. Anyone who has a Web site could benefit from it. However, when we looked at our customer database we saw natural groupings there -- healthcare, insurance, travel, financial. We interviewed customers within each one of those segments and extracted information from them about how our products are solving problems for them. They must have felt some sort of pain or we wouldn't be there.
"Then we went out to other like companies in their industry segment and leveraged that information with a targeted message. We explained how we've helped other companies just like them. It resonates very well. Imagine if I say I've helped your competitors do X, Y and Z and I can help you too. They listen to that."
Shellhorn continues, "It just gets back to the basic marketing principal. You don't tell prospects it's an all-in-one solution. You tell them it's a very targeted solution for them! This gives us a lot of credibility."
Searchbutton also targets its messages separately to marketers, content managers and webmasters. For example, Shellhorn says, "We don't say 'There's no IT expertise needed,' because webmasters like their jobs! So we tell them we supplement them instead of replacing them.
"Also what we're finding so far is if the message is correct, marketers will respond to an email. They are very busy professionals. We do a lot of transaction selling to them via email. On the other hand, we'll get IT's attention via email, but they don't respond that way. They want to have a personal conversation to ask about security and a lot of technical details."
Although you won't see space ads for Searchbutton in any magazines for the time being, Shellhorn is testing a mix of direct response media, including email newsletter sponsorships, direct mail, telemarketing and client referral programs. However, she does not plan to rent the broadcast email lists currently on the market because they don't appear to be targeted enough for her tough criteria.
Shellhorn says, "We are much more successful with many fewer, happier customers today!" Her highly targeted campaigns are pulling unusually high results, for example one direct mail package got a 3.2% response rate. Plus the company's average sales cycle has shortened dramatically from 90 days to 30-45 days.
Perhaps most interestingly, Shellhorn learned that higher pricing can make you much more successful, when she raised the product's minimum price point from $1,000 to $5,000 in October 2000. She explains, "I was stunned! People aren't flinching. It's the value that we deliver. In fact, before at $1,000 people were suspicious of it. They thought there must be some hook."
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