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PC Recycler builds latest online campaigns with new tool, tests

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The disposal of electronics components is getting attention lately—and not the good kind. Television news programs such as ABC’s “20/20” have broadcast exposes about so-called “e-recyclers” that, far from helping the worldwide environment, simply ship high-tech waste from the U.S. overseas, where it can be broken down as scrap that can—and does—leach toxic chemicals into the soil and water.

Not every e-recycler is doing the wrong thing, of course.

Most, like Jeremy Farber, founder and CEO of PC Recycler, are disposing of electronics in environmentally responsible ways.

While PC Recycler customers such as the U.S. government and Coca-Cola Co. understand this, other prospects may not, Farber said. That is why the Chantilly, Va.-based company takes its marketing program so seriously, and why it stepped back last summer to examine its entire marketing program to see if it was meeting objectives.

“We spent the summer looking at analytics to see what was working and what wasn’t,” Farber said. Unfortunately, in doing so Farber realized that the systems the company had couldn’t provide the level of granularity it needed.

“With the e-mail system we were using, we could get open and click-through rates, but we didn’t know what happened once the person got to the Web site,” Farber said. “We also weren’t getting good [pay-per-click] information. We only had basic Google Analytics, which is free and very basic. We were at a point where we were spending real money on advertising—our budget was $7,000 to $10,000 per month—but we weren’t sure we were really getting the best results.”

In September, ahead of a planned November rollout of a new Web site and e-mail rebranding effort, PC Recycler moved its marketing program over to Lyris HQ (formerly known as EmailLabs), which integrates e-mail, search and content management.

Almost immediately, e-recycler was able to design and send better e-mails, using Lyris HQ’s content management feature to drop content into e-mails, Farber said. The result was better-received e-mails. While open rates have remained the same, click-through rates have almost doubled, Farber said, adding, “The design is better. We’re adding more content and more links.”

In addition, PC Recycler can now do A/B testing to figure out why people aren’t clicking on specific links.

For example, in February it experimented with its e-mail subject lines. “We changed what was a descriptive subject line like ‘PC Recyclers: Shredding Hard Drives,’ to ‘PC Recycler’s February Newsletter.’ Farber said. In this case, change was a bad idea. “Our open rates went way down. People are inundated with newsletters, and they don’t just want another newsletter.”

Nevertheless, Farber said the subject-line test was a valuable learning experience. “No one opened that message, and we were able to see the change in engagement and go back to the old subject lines fairly quickly,” he said.

Around this time, the company also started working on growing its opt-in e-mail list of 5,500 names. Its new goal: 200 to 300 opt-ins per month.

Paid and organic search, as well as e-mail addresses collected by the company’s sales force, are key to attaining this goal, Farber said.

One big change with paid search was the creation of specialized landing pages based on vertical segments. “Google AdWords is the biggest lead generator for us, which is why we’re pushing that budget up 30% to 40% over the last year,” he said.

These landing pages are also being crawled by the search engines, which improves organic search, too.

“We’re really starting to draw conclusions about what we should do,” Farber said. “One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that marketing evolves on a monthly basis, and you’re never really done. You’ve always got to be constantly testing and experimenting to get ahead.”

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