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Total-Accountability Marketing

By Tom LaPaze

Ahh…the good old days of gut decisions.

Technology and today’s tighter marketing budgets have contributed to the current focus: total-accountability marketing. The detailed tracking that companies such as Avenue A, DoubleClick, Matchlogic and others provide is becoming a must. And with the recent rumblings such as “the death of the banner” — as well as the litigation threats to e-mail solicitations — marketing professionals are faced with a dilemma…

Just how do I spend my budget wisely? Here’s some advice:

A portion of the budget should be reserved for “measurement” — be it via awareness studies, back-end analysis or the “big daddy” of accountability … the relational marketing database.

A good example is one of our clients, Guru.com. They are an online resource for self-employed professionals looking for new projects, advice, etc. With each online campaign, we set registration goals for both “gurus” and “hirers” (potential employers), as well as awareness goals. And a portion of the budget is used to measure this, which explains why marketing for Guru.com has become three to four times more effective over the past year.

If your goals are too broad, then your creative and execution become scattered and less effective. Whatever the creative is, you’re able to measure its effectiveness (as well as targeting, pricing and offer-related issues).

If you want to generate leads, make sure that response mechanisms are prominent and easy to complete. To increase site visitations from a print ad or broadcast spot, make sure your URL is short, or at least memorable. Don’t assume that a potential prospect is going to want to type in an address like “www.thebestfaucetintheworld.com” even if it is “on brand.” All advertising, regardless of medium, should be integrated within the objectives and executed as such. Of course, the more integrated, the more successful.

Early online marketers were hesitant to “turn off” prospective customers by asking too much too soon. This theory has held true to an extent, but now more and more users are expecting — even demanding — interchange between themselves and their interests. As marketers, we need to embrace this dialogue and have the ability to measure how communication affects relationships and ultimately impacts revenue.

Using data to measure banners and online links, such as search engines, is now commonplace. But offline marketing – print ads, radio and TV – can be tracked, measured and analyzed, as well. Tracking these mediums is a little more difficult, but by using specific URLs for each marketing channel, promotional “bridge” pages, and online research companies like lightspeedpanel.com, marketers can determine the actual or perceived effectiveness of their campaigns.

It also helps to watch for spikes in click-through or conversion rates in banners or e-mails that are influenced, at least in part, by offline activities. For a not-for-profit website that focuses on international family planning issues, FamilyPlanet.org, DDB monitored how a spread in The New York Times Magazine increased banner activity the following week. And with Guru.com, we were able to determine how a radio spot and an affiliate program contributed to a huge daily spike in total registrations from online activity. For the Guru.com radio ad, branding was not the sole objective. Goals included lead generation. Because at the end of the day, marketing has to prove to be effective.

No one is perfect and no marketing plan is optimal the first time. With interactive tools now available to track awareness, click-through, cost-per-click, conversion events and more, marketers can make adjustments to creative, media plans and executions. And they can do it fast. Holland America, the premium cruise line, had hunt.DDBdirect create an e-mail campaign to create interest in the launch of a new ship. But there was indecision about which version of copy would work best. Budget and timing were tight. Using e-mail as the medium allowed us to test a sample group, adjust, and then rollout to the larger group of prospects within two days.

If there is learning to be had online, that learning should not stop there. Often the speed of real data found online can assist in offline activities. Simple message testing in e-mail may point the team in the right direction when creating advertising taglines, public relations messages and direct mail copy.

And that holds true for awareness-based objectives. For FamilyPlanet.org, we quickly learned that banner ads containing visuals of the environmental impact of overpopulation were more effective than e-mail with the same but text-based message. In this case, a picture truly was worth a thousand words. These results will help justify the need for TV over radio advertising in the offline setting. For other clients, particularly business-to-business companies, e-mail can be far more effective than print ads or banners.

And that is the point. Now that things are more measurable and these measurements are easier to come by, often completed in real-time, there is less of a need for “gut marketing.” While I admit that instinct still plays a part in advertising, we can design integrated campaigns so that they’re measurable. Online can only do so much; offline can only do so much. Smart, accountable use of both will lead us all to good days ahead.

Who Is Tom LaPaze?

Tom LaPaze has been directing online efforts for his clients for five years, making him slightly ancient by Internet standards. He serves as VP/Director of new technologies at hunt.DDBdirect, the direct and online marketing arm of DDB, the second-largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the third-largest worldwide. hunt.DDBdirect has managed over 100 online campaigns and over 30 million emails in 2000 for clients as varied as Microsoft, Guru.com, Amtrak and Tektronix.

Prior to entering the online arena, Tom was an Account Supervisor for the formerly named Hunt Marketing Group, a direct- response agency in Seattle. He has also worked for KIRO radio, Manus Direct and Moore Business Communications.