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Integrating Search with Other Marketing

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Search marketing is still "stand-alone," existing largely outside of the traditional marketing mix, but this must change, to address the needs of consumers who are increasingly turning to search to make all types of buying decisions.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, December 13-16, 2004, Chicago, IL.

Search is not yet a fundamental and inseparable component of traditional marketers' annual media plans. It is typically implemented later, separately. At the vast majority of companies, search is not yet being "integrated."

Search is certainly now the dominant component of the online marketing mix, but the majority of companies' total marketing budgets and the attention of the CMO are still offline. But search undoubtedly deserves significant and immediate attention. Why? Because the old, traditional marketing paradigms don't address search behavior—and so are inconsistent with how many consumers are researching and purchasing products and services today.

The "Integrating Search Into Other Marketing" panel addressed this paradox. Being the first session of the last day of the conference, and competing head-to-head with the ever-popular session on blogs taking place down the hall, the session drew less than 50 attendees. But those in attendance enjoyed the benefit of some enlightened observations and sound advice.

Laura Galante of Prime Visibility started off. According to Laura, search is an afterthought to traditional marketers despite of a growing mountain of evidence that its role in the consumers' research/purchasing process is increasing. In her presentation she cited some powerful research:

  • DoubleClick research shows that customers use search engines to research products 41% of the time, TV 9%, print ads 10%
  • B2C companies surveyed indicated website leads were 62% more profitable than other media
  • The Internet is the first choice of media for adults 18 to 54—more than TV—according to a 2004 OPA study

Galante presented a case study for her client, GiveAnything. Using an integrated online mix of SEM, email, and affiliate marketing, the campaign drove site traffic where 88% were new visitors, and 85% of them purchased on their first visit.

Following Galante was Andy Beal of KeywordRanking (and SearchEngineLowdown blog fame). Donning a furry, red and white Santa Claus hat appropriate to the season and the frigid Chicago weather outside, Beal presented hands-on examples of "closing the loop."

Comparing paid search advertising to direct mail, he observed that direct mail's cost-per-lead is $10 while search averages just 29 cents. He suggested that search can serve as an effective safety net. "It ensures that if that person doesn't react right away, you can capture them later on."

Beal recommended a three-phase approach to integrating search into your broader mix. In phase one, Beal suggests matching your traditional messaging with your SEM by ensuring search campaigns target the same words as offline advertising. Phase two involves coordinating future campaigns by developing a calendar of all offline campaigns so that you can launch search campaigns in advance of them.

"If a client is selling diamond engagement rings...for Valentine's Day, we'll start preparing the [search” campaign in the November, December time frame. If it's decorations for Christmas, prepare in August or September."

Lastly, Beal referred to phase three as "role reversal" - using data from your search campaigns to inform your offline traditional campaigns. He suggested targeting words in your traditional advertising that you know you already have a great online presence, or ones that you are going to want your audience to use when they search.

Chris Copeland from Outrider began his presentation by asking a tantalizing question: "How many people in the last 12 months have had to make an argument why there should be more investment in search and take away from some other investment?'

Hands sprang up. There was unity. Agreement. Frustration.

In making the case for integration Copeland offered that, "The [marketing” vehicles no longer work independently of each other but they do work together." He added that integration occurs because businesses see a need for having a consistent conversation with their audience while trying to leverage a multitude of opportunities that exist.

Why doesn't integration happen, Copeland asked?

  • First, marketers don't have time
  • They don't understand search (look at how many attendees attend the beginners track)
  • They don't want to share their budget
  • They won't share the spotlight

"Tell direct marketing that you've got a methodology that can potentially make them obsolete, and see how many of them hand you their wallet," he posed.

Best Western, an Outrider client, uses their status as the official hotel of NASCAR to build online revenue, buying NASCAR specific keywords and delivering the searcher to specific page that lists all the events. They click on the event that's interesting to them and they get the hotels in that specific geographic area.

Some of Copeland's most interesting points were around the miscommunication between search and traditional marketers.

"If you've ever spent time with TV buyers and planners, they don't use phrases like cost-per-click, they talk in 'gross ratings points,' they talk in 'eyeballs.'"

He suggested that to compensate, a lot of search people talk about branding metrics—something he discouraged. "We have to be careful not to make search into something that is not its core strength. I think you'll find a much more successful path to integration than trying to talk about brand awareness when there really aren't a lot of good vehicles right now to measure that as there are in offline."

Questions and Answers

Audience questions focused on marketers' specific challenges. A student loan marketer asked how to leverage search to support a successful direct mail campaign. Beal suggested using search to drive traffic to customized landing pages while Galante favored running ads on websites that matched the demographics of the audience that was being targeted with direct mail.

An entertaining exchange occurred between a consultant working for a pharmaceutical company who is struggling to educate his boss on the increasing importance of search. Moderator Danny Sullivan suggested he contact the engines for support:

"Call in Overture and Google to wine and dine him...he'll find it cool to have lunch with the sous chef from the Grateful Dead [at Google's campus”."

But the mantra for the panel might have been Galante's opening statement:

"The definition of traditional marketing needs to change. Consumer behavior has evolved and so must marketing."

Amen. I could not have said it better myself.

Fredrick Marckini is the CEO of iProspect.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Integrating Search and Offline Marketing discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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