When U.S. Cellular needed a way to test the message for a print campaign, the carrier turned toward search. That's what Jill Balis, executive vice president and managing director of SMG Search. Chicago, told OMMA Global 2010 conference attendees in San Francisco Wednesday.
Evidently, U.S. Cellular tested six paid-search campaigns to determine the one targeted message that would reap the biggest rewards and conversions. "The messaging is limited because you have 70 characters, so it won't be exactly the same message, but you can see specific calls to action that might work better than others," Balis explains.
Marketers might also want to consider other types of studies and focus groups before settling on the messaging, but "it's a cheap tool to determine the correct direction," Balis says.
What role does search play when considering the overall media mix? Balis, who found a love for search while at Orbitz, now runs SMG's search business supporting clients such as Wal-Mart and General Motors.
Balis says about 80% of online sessions begin with search and 67% of searchers are driven to search from an offline channel, followed by 37% from television, 30% from newspapers, and 20% from in-store point of purchase. Search accelerates consumers down the purchase funnel, from creating to capturing demand.
Local mobile search continues to grow, too. Google has seen mobile search traffic rise by five times in the past two years. The traffic has not cannibalized computer-based search, Google Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra told investors and analysts during a Webcast earlier this week.
It's not just about driving people to content on Web sites, but using the information to better understand what consumers want and need. Balis suggests identifying consumer needs by tapping into search. It can keep information flowing through the marketing strategy and purchase funnel.
Aside from connecting consumers with brand and content, Balis suggests making traditional media work harder by capturing demand, accelerating consumers down the funnel and identifying consumer needs to inform marketing strategy. She says search also can become an easy way to manage a brand's reputation and provide a quick method to test specific messages.
Balis says it's important not to forget to differentiate key performance indicators (KPIs), depending on the company's marketing objectives. This means ensuring that the KPIs align with the company's marketing objectives. Balis suggests qualifying leads and building predictions models that identify the number of customers that might convert into purchases. When considering loyalty metrics, it may mean considering the lifetime value of building a forum or community where consumers can interact.
Sometimes marketers may consider conversions and look at the return on advertising spend to determine if the campaign will deliver a return, but this metric might not factor in the margins that some products are more profitable than others. Balis suggests looking at the margin rather than the revenue.