Lenovo boots up integrated search platform

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Challenge: Since its landmark acquisition of IBM’s Personal Computing division in May 2005, Chinese company Lenovo has become a leader in the global PC market, with approximately $13 billion in annual revenue. The manufacturer, with operations in Beijing and Raleigh, N.C., sells products directly, through resellers, and via its teleweb business, which marries direct and telesales online.

But 18 months ago, the company’s search strategy was minimal.

“We really had very little search presence,” said Gary Milner, global interactive marketing manager at Lenovo, adding that the total search budget was in the tens of thousands of dollars globally. Not only was its budget small, the company didn’t have a good idea of what was working and what wasn’t because it lacked comprehensive search marketing performance reports.

Milner said his main goal is to be in the right place to market to customers, whether the relationship is direct or indirect, and that search is one of the best ways to reach disparate constituents.

“We recognized that, strategically, it was an important area for us to grow out our business and make sure we’re there for our channel business,” Milner said. “[Search marketing] has grown from a cottage industry for us and has become mission critical for our business.”

Solution: Lenovo brought in SEMDirector as its global agency for search. SEMDirector set out a plan that included building out keywords, creating advertising copy for the ads, localizing that information for different companies, grouping keywords into ad groups and getting everything set up properly in order to track ROI.

SEMDirector also works with such companies as Omniture, WebTrends and DoubleClick, integrating paid search campaign measurement tools, marketing analytics and automated paid search optimization tools with SEMDirector’s software platform. This lets clients like Lenovo automate the process of monitoring search campaign performance on a single platform.

Lenovo deployed this integrated search platform in the U.S. and has since rolled it out to Australia, Canada and Europe; Japan is about to go live.

The search strategy for each geography has the same objective but slightly different nuances. In North America, Lenovo pursued leads directly, while in Europe, it mostly passes leads to its partners.

“We are still scaling search in some countries and geographies, and we’re still learning,” Milner said. “But the strategy of having a consistent resource that understands what works and what doesn’t, and applies that to different marketplaces, has brought us to a whole new level.”

Results: Lenovo went from a few hundred keywords in its initial plan to more than 15,000 keywords today. Its search budget is 100 times bigger now—“in the millions of dollars,” Milner said. This has been a sound investment, he said, given that search now drives about $12 billion to $13 billion in revenue for Lenovo.

And at least 20% of its traffic now comes from search, Milner said.

“The saying ‘If you build it, they will come’ doesn’t apply to Web sites,” he said. “You have to have a balanced approach to building a Web site and building the traffic that comes to it, and search is a major part of that.”

Lenovo’s next step will be to improve its Web. “We’re not just looking at the search word, but how we improve the customer experience using some of the tools we’ve got to improve that,” Milner said.

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