How NetSimplicity optimized its demand generation at a ‘granular’ level

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Challenge: NetSimplicity, an office administration software company, needed to increase leads in order to keep its three new sales representatives busy and productive. Unfortunately, the marketing budget wasn’t there.

“We needed to increase leads by 60% for the additional salespeople without significantly increasing the demand-generation budget,” said John Stockton, senior director of marketing at NetSimplicity.

Stockton said he also needed to justify the effectiveness of marketing programs to upper management by proving the department’s campaigns resulted in real sales.

“You are constantly asked as a marketing professional what you are doing to drive measurable business results,” he said. “It’s not good enough to say, ‘I generated lots of leads or created X amount of Web traffic.’ You need to demonstrate that marketing delivered leads that resulted in sales and revenue to the company.”

Stockton said the company needed to optimize its demand-generation activities at a very granular level so that money could be shifted from low-performing activities to high-performing ones.

“We did direct mail, print ads, trade shows and banner ads,” in addition to search, Stockton said.

Solution: In conjunction with marketing automation software company Eloqua, NetSimplicity implemented lead source tracking for its pay-per-click ads, giving each ad a unique code and a referral source. The “source” was either Google, Yahoo, MSN or one of a few other search engines. The next level of detail it tracked was “advertising category.”

“We advertise in about 50 different categories,” Stockton said. For example, “room scheduling” is an ad category and “meeting scheduling” is another. “Within each of those ad categories, we’ll have 30 to 100 distinct keywords,” Stockton said. The code identifies which specific keywords a person is searching on.

All lead sources were assigned an ad code, which was tracked within the Eloqua system. All the information was in turn fed into NetSimplicity’s CRM system.

Now, NetSimplicity can perform a quarterly lead source analysis, looking at every opportunity generated for the quarter and determining where these leads originated.

For instance, Stockton discovered he was spending relatively too much on print given the actual demand it was generating.

Stockton adjusted the marketing mix, decreasing money spent on print advertising and direct mail and increasing paid search, SEO efforts and e-mail marketing.

“We were able to demonstrate a formula that every dollar we spent on pay-per-click generated a predictable amount of real sales potential,” Stockton said.

Stockton then looked at which categories and which individual keywords performed best. NetSimplicity manages about 2,000 keywords.

“We had an ad category called ‘calendaring’ that was much more general than ‘room scheduling,’ ” he said. “We were generating too much low-quality traffic to the Web site because people clicking on ads in that category weren’t necessarily interested in our product.”

Armed with that information, Stockton looked at the individual keywords within the calendaring category, finding that some keywords were better qualified than others. “You could see the ROI and see if they were more likely to turn into a sales opportunity,” he said. “Both at a category level and at the individual keyword level, we looked at which of those were producing genuine sales results and which weren’t.”

Results: NetSimplicity significantly cut spending on the low-quality categories and keywords, and shifted those dollars saved toward maximizing its positions on high-performing keywords. It added many new keywords and categories to the mix, and cut many that didn’t work well.

Stockton explained: “Once you can demonstrate that a person searching on ‘room booking software’ is a high-quality keyword and you can demonstrate that there is a measurable value to landing those clicks, then you can justify bidding more for those keywords to ensure you get the best ranking position, which gets you more clicks.”

Results of the tracking were impressive, Stockton said. “We increased leads 129%, and we increased sales 65% over a period of six quarters.

“We wished we’d done it earlier,” Stockton said, regarding the optimization project. “There are a lot of companies using search engine marketing who make the mistake in thinking that visitors and leads are a sufficient metric for judging their marketing efforts. Eloqua helped us start to measure what, in hindsight, seems pretty obvious. But we fell into the trap of spending money to generate lots of traffic and visitors filling out Web forms and spending that money, without knowing the quality of the results.”

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