About 16 years ago, I had to write about advertising technology for a year, for a short-lived section of a marketing magazine. It was the worst job I’d ever had as a journalist; made me want to go back to covering the chemical industry, which was a much easier field to understand.
I did not then, nor do I now, understand how any of it works. I no more comprehend the technology behind ad-serving, measurement, targeting, and anything involving the words “on the fly,” “optimization,” “predictive” and “analytical” than I do the solution to Fermat’s last theorem.
But I did hear an interesting case study last week that brings home the value of this ... stuff (to quote Meryl Streep in this lecture that, within the context of this column, should probably be delivered to me right about now.) The home improvement category makes the big bucks on selling custom products built to spec. For consumers, the fit and finish has a big emotional vector — these are products a person has to live with, after all. That means potentially a long, fraught journey with a lot of exit doors for shoppers getting pitches from competitive brands.
So targeting, CRM, and a consistent brand presence across devices? It’s necessary; and if you imagine you’re fly fishing and the data means you’re catching trout, maybe it can be fun. The company here is 3 Day Blinds, a SoCal-based, vertically integrated operation that goes from window treatment manufacturing down to individual, in-home design, consulting, and installation. There are no stores, no showrooms, no bricks, no mortar, and probably no windows, unless it’s the virtual kind.
Adele Nasr, the Irvine, Calif.-based company’s director of marketing, says 3 Day blinds has a small marketing budget relative to some other companies, and therefore has had to think creatively about targeting its prospects efficiently and with consistency, all to accomplish the low-tech thing salespeople have been doing forever: getting people to “sign on the line which is dotted.”
“Everything we do online is about getting more appointments — it's all about the actions we gain,” she says. The key? Linking advertising technology to its database of leads and email data. “Many marketing departments run in silos, and I was also doing that with email and display. But we have been thinking about how to be more sophisticated to create a cohesive message across devices.”
She says the company brought in ad tech firm Turn a couple of years ago, and then marketing automation company Marketo to segment its customer base toward refining its message based on where a prospect is in the window-treatment-mulling process. “First, we looked at people in our database who are considered leads, but who haven't booked an appointment or purchased; those who booked and cancelled; those who have purchased in the past; and people who have made an appointment with no purchase. We took these four buckets out of the gate and looked at how to take that to display and make a consistent and cohesive message.”
She says the company “built campaigns on these segments with ads matching messages and offers. That let us create a consistent journey so what customers see in their inbox is same as what they see in a banner online. We had hoped it would increase engagement and it did.”
That makes sense, as does the KPI — appointments. I didn’t ask her this, but my guess is that in this category people who make an appointment are serious. Having someone come into your home means having to clean the place up first. Here are the official numbers: the company reported a 140% lift in click-throughs, and leads per click went up 850%, with a 80% reduction in cost per action (appointments with design consultants.) Finally, the company saw a 140% increase in appointments derived from leads with a fifth of the acquisition cost.
Nasr points out that the company isn't leaving traditional marketing behind. “We have heavy digital — from paid search to display ads, to affiliate," she says. "Offline we do local TV and radio, with personalities and lots of direct mail and print. Everything has to drive appointments and ROI. But I don't have a brand awareness budget, so we have to come out of the gate swinging.”