When it comes to search, everything that's old is new again

By Tom Kuthy, VP, Marketing & Business Development
Abbreviated version appeared in DMNews

When I was a marketing cub in the consumer packaged goods industry back in the mid 1980’s, I remember going to a seminar hosted by the promotions and marketing services staff of my company, put on for the benefit of the brand mangers. The topic was research the company had done on how to increase redemption rates for Free Standing Coupon Inserts (or “Fiskies” in CPG speak).

Since there is a fixed cost component to placing the coupons in the newspapers, if the coupon redeems at a higher rate, the fixed cost would be amortized over more redemptions and therefore the cost per redemption would be lower and the vehicle would be more efficient. Greater efficiency increased the ROI of the vehicle.

Here are a few of the principles that we were taught to decrease Cost Per Redemption:

  1. Place the coupon in the corner of the ad so it is easy to cut out.
  2. Communicate the savings offer in the headline.
  3. Make the coupon itself the size of a dollar bill.
  4. Place the savings amount in the corners of the coupon, like a dollar bill.

As I have been out of the packaged goods space since the late 1990’s, it has been quite a while since I have thought about those principles. However, last week as I was writing the response to an RFP question about conversion rates for a large potential client, they all came flooding back as I realized how directly they parallel the approach Search marketing firms like ours take to maximizing conversion rates:

  1. Maximizing conversion rates improves the efficiency of Search just as maximizing redemption rates improves the efficiency of couponing
  2. There are specific tactics that can be taken on landing pages that will lead to an increase in conversion rate, just as the above tactics proved effective for coupons
  3. Across the dozens of clients and thousands of tests that Resolution Media runs each year, we can distill the key principles that maximize conversion rates and disseminate that information to our staff and clients

The Search marketing industry has only been around for about ten years. We are young enough as a channel to believe we are truly pioneers in marketing. (In fact, at Resolution Media, our conference room names are “The Lewis Room” and “The Clark Room.”) However, as the above example shows, some approaches are tried and true and can be applied to any new media that may come along.

As a classically-trained marketer, I have a vantage point on Search that most of the younger practitioners do not share. Accordingly, I’m reminded every day that the principles of classical marketing can be leveraged to make search into an even more powerful platform than it already is. I look forward to sharing more examples with you in future columns.


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