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Feb 07, 2001
How To

Test Results from the 5th Biggest B-to-B Online Advertiser: Network Solutions

SUMMARY: As one of the top five B-to-B online advertisers of 2000, Internet domain registration firm Network Solutions spent millions on banners. We contacted General Manager Steve Lorenc to hear what Network Solutions had learned from this experience -- and how he thought it might apply to other B-to-B marketers online.
Q: What have you learned from the huge amount of banner testing Network Solutions has done over the past year?

Lorenc: We've found certain properties work better than others. It's interesting, you can pick any large portal (and each has multiple properties) and it really takes some time to go in and tune your creative to learn on a given portal which properties work well with which type of banners during what time of day.

There's a lot of experimenting and tuning that goes into our banner success.

Q: How does time of day affect banner results?

Lorenc: On the Web people buy 24 hours a day, but if you look at what time of day it is around the world the traffic patterns begin to make sense.

It's obviously no big surprise that times during the week do better and weekends are a little slower. Some properties do well on the weekends though. We adjust inventory accordingly. Typically the middle of the week always pulls better than early Monday morning or late Friday afternoon. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

We always see a slow down in the latter part of December and around Thanksgiving. Most holidays tend to look more like a weekend. So we won't traffic as many banners and we'll try to pick those sites where people go cruising after-work hours.

Q: What have you learned from creative test results?

Lorenc: We find the more interactive banners -- banners you can actually do things in -- have a better click through rate than just text banners. Our successful banners allow people to do name searches in them. So you actually type in the domain name you're looking for and it starts the buying process. If that name's available, it drops you right into the purchase flow. These pull significantly better than other non-HTML banners.

We have experimented with multimedia banners, ones with flashing things. We still play around with those. The jury's out. They are pretty expensive to run and expensive to develop. A lot of properties can't take them and users have trouble with browsers, depending on the age of their browser.

We're always looking at what creative provides the greatest return, and we'll still experiment through 2001.

Q: Which media buys have worked best for you when you try to reach businesspeople?

Lorenc: We typically go with the big portals, and then we experiment with verticals. We'll pick different places to experiment, but generally we find the big portals -- once we get those tuned -- can be fairly good at returning on investment. However, like everybody else we've seen a slowly degrading trend in online marketing over the past year or two.

Q: Have you tried any integrated campaigns using multiple media channels?

Lorenc: That's definitely one of the things we do. We don't do anything in a vacuum. Everything has to work together, so we don't do anything online only.

We'll use certain direct mail pieces or other creative pieces to drive traffic to a site where it's tuned to that particular campaign. For example, we'll do a direct mailing to lawyers and we'll drive them to a Web site that talks to them as a lawyer. It begins the dialog and provides a more interactive means of targeting who you want to get to.

Historically marketers have sent bland direct mail pieces that appeal to a lot of people. However with online you can be a little more targeted. It's not uncommon for some of our direct mail campaigns to have a dozen different sites put up driving people based on which mailing list they were on!

Q: What have you found makes a campaign's landing page successful?

Lorenc: KISS -- Keep It Simple Stupid. Remember you're just starting the sales process. They went to the site to learn more. Keep it basic, try to answer all the basic questions you think they'll have so you can get them to the next stage of the purchase.

If they are confused, or they read it and think 'This isn't me', then you've lost them and they won't come back again.

In particular when you are advertising more vertically, make sure you really understand your target and how to relate to them in a fairly simple, straight-forward way. The more difficult you make it, the more likely it is that you'll lose them.

To appeal to small business owners, the more complex and high-tech you make it look, the more chance they won't make it through. When they start looking at your site, they are thinking, 'Oh can I do this quickly?' Then they'll start the purchase flow. If it looks like it will take all night, then they start thinking, "How badly do I really need this?' and you start seeing greater drop-out rates.

Q: What about appealing to big business people?

Lorenc: It's a whole different sales model. You're not necessarily selling them, you're offering them more educational sites -- places to go and share information with the peers to find out how it worked for them, places to download white papers. All the things a larger company needs to make a purchasing decision.

You're also complementing a direct sales force. They need more sales tools such as demonstrations, online tutorials, etc. Historically sales people worked with big binders -- here's the white paper, here's my demo disk, here's my requirements sheet. There's a whole stack of collateral they leave behind with the client. Now they can go out and click on the Web site instead and it's interactive.
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