The adage “you have to spend money in order to make money” has proven true for Eric Harrington, the COO of cloud-based customer service software provider Muroc Systems.
The company, which debuted in January 2009, sells its software-as-a-service (via teamsupport.com) to other technology vendors as well as in other vertical markets that have a need for customer support. When Harrington decided to try a paid ad strategy he elected to concentrate on Google Inc.'s AdWords program. His journey has taken him from a worldwide, always-on strategy to one that's highly targeted and, he said, highly effective.
Harrington, who oversees a marketing team of two, started with the basics, coming up with about 250 words and phrases that included variations of the phrase “customer support software.” He said he made sure the words and phrases he used aligned with the copy on his company's website as well as such other marketing collateral as banners. When he rolled out his first campaign, it ran 24/7 worldwide and matched phrases broadly. In short order, he realized that strategy wasn't working.
“We burned through money until we realized that we needed to switch to exact keyword matching,” Harrington said. “Because we were focusing on [customer support software], someone could type in "magicJack support' or some other variant of customer support terminology and find themselves clicking through to our site. We were definitely getting a lot of random people who were not interested in what we were selling.”
As soon as he swapped broad for exact search, Harrington said, his clicks went down 25% to 30% but conversion actually increased by 75%. “It was massive, and [exact search] is such a simple setting,” Harrington said. Over time, he also reduced the number of keywords and phrases he was buying, trimming his inventory down to 60. This was part of a learning curve that Harrington said everyone should experience. “By having all those keywords, it helped us narrow our spend down to only those words and phrases that were doing well,” he said.
Around the same time, Harrington said he realized that he needed to pay better attention to his customers' buying and browsing patterns so he could find the most profitable days and times to run his campaign. “We started looking at bounce rates and figured out that the majority of customers who converted were from a small number of countries,” he said. After analyzing click, bounce and conversion rates, Harrington narrowed his campaign to five countries: the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland and the U.K.
Soon after, he also altered the times the campaign was live, limiting it to 6 a.m.-to 10-p.m. local time and blacking it out during the lunch hour in each country. “We thought, how likely is it that someone is going to be searching for teamsupport.com when they could be getting something to eat? We also paused the campaign overnight and reduced our overall budget over the weekend for the same reasons,” Harrington said. Again, his overall spending shrank while conversions increased.
Today, Harrington continues to tweak his AdWords program several times a week, and recently started an SEO project that he hopes will also improve his paid search results. In the end, he said, it was worth the growing pains to have a program that actually works. “You're going to burn through some cash until you know where you need to go,” he said.