In 2013, a study by WordStream found that the small and mid-sized businesses it studied were wasting 25 percent of their pay-per-click (PPC) budgets. An early-stage company that spends $2,000 a month on AdWords, for instance, will end up spending $6,000 in underperforming creative each year.
For mid-sized companies that spend $20,000 a month on AdWords, the wasted-opportunity bill translates to a $60,000 tab.
This is serious money: If businesses spend blindly on other undermanaged marketing channels as well, the overall cost may be catastrophic for their long-term success. So, don't let this be you: If you're a business owner or marketing-team manager eager to generate positive ROI from your company's marketing campaigns and creatives, consider these five easy-to-implement ideas.
1. Host creative contests.
In early 2015, Lay’s announced the kickoff of its third annual Do Us A Flavor contest. For the campaign, the potato chip company crowd-sourced ideas for its next best-selling flavors, appealing to people all around the world -- and promoting an activity that fans apparently went wild over. Consider Lay's disclosure in 2014 that it had received more than 14 million submissions during that year's competition, up from 3.8 million in 2013.
If the contest replays in 2016, the numbers can be expected to keep multiplying, along with the flavors suggested (2015's winning flavor was Southern Biscuits and Gravy-flavored Chips, if you're wondering).
The lesson here is that, instead of spending money on speculative research and development and costly customer focus groups, brands might consider investing in creative contests, which leverage the wisdom of the crowd to help their consumers decide the products and services they'll manufacture next.
Clearly, contests are a great strategy, because they generate strong brand engagement, which can translate into sales. While most businesses don’t have the $1 million Frito-Lay offered as prize money for Do Us a Flavor, smaller companies can still host $100 giveaways that hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of their customers will rave over.
2. Add a free offer with a purchase.
Customers can’t resist a free offer. In fact, a 2013 study from Harris Interactive found that free add-ons to customer orders dramatically increased repeat purchases and word-of-mouth referrals. Two findings from the report were:
- Consumers come back for more: "Almost 90 percent of free gift receivers indicate that they are at least somewhat likely to buy more frequently from an online retailer after receiving a free gift.”
- Shoppers react favorably to something extra: "Sixty-five percent of free gift receivers say they are at least somewhat likely to share their experience with others online, about half offline.”
Oddly enough, giving away product is good for business. Many times, the small cost of letting customers sample your goods translates into new sales and profit.
3. Prioritize intent-driven search-engine marketing
When I type “dress shirt” into Google, the first three results are from Men’s Wearhouse, Macy’s and Nordstrom. Everyone’s favorite search engine believes those to be the three most relevant brands for dress shirts, among 40,700,000 results. Another example: When I search “jeans,” I get American Eagle Outfitters, Levi’s and Lucky Brand, out of 321,000,000 potential results.
Unsurprisingly, global brands own the top rankings for highly competitive keywords. And while every business may dream of taking the top position within the search-engine results pages (SERPs) for in-demand keywords, doing so and maintaining those rankings is both a costly and risky endeavor. Instead, companies -- big and small -- should prioritize ranking for long-tail keywords (keywords specific to your product) that drive purchase intent.
A 2013 study by Adchemy’s Thi Thumasathit concluded, “While 26-to-40-character keywords generate significantly fewer impressions, they are much more efficient than head keywords. Specifically, 11-to-20 character keywords represented 62 percent of clicks and 62 percent of conversions (a 1-to-1 relationship); whereas, 26-to-35-character keywords represented 6 percent of clicks and 10 percent of conversions -- a 3-to-5 relationship.
"In other words," the study concluded, "the long tail keywords were -- ballpark -- about 66 percent more profitable than the head keywords (ignoring bids), supporting the notion that long-tail keywords are more profitable than head keywords.”
So, while your competitors focus their energies on earning and maintaining their rankings for head keywords, you can build a profitable business by outranking them on less common search queries.
4. Build micro-influencer relationships.
A common misconception among brands is that they need A-list celebrities to endorse them. This fantasy says that one red carpet appearance with a company's product will generate enough publicity to initiate a business-changing sales spike. But the truth is that companies will better utilize their marketing budgets by partnering with a handful of rising stars just beginning to build an audience.
A few years ago, Shoes of Prey took a chance on Blair Fowler, a 16-year-old beauty vlogger who endorsed the women's custom shoe company and hosted a giveaway on her YouTube channel. Within days, traffic to the site tripled, along with sales.
You, too, can harness the power of micro-influencers to leverage their influence and reach to grow your bottom line.
5. Invest in mobile-first marketing.
A recent report by Shopify found that 50.3 percent of all ecommerce traffic studied came from mobile devices; shoppers, the report found, were increasingly turning their attention toward smaller screens.
Your customers, too, practically live on their mobile devices. Unfortunately, most brands offer a miserable mobile shopping experience. Even on high-tech smartphones and tablets, many B2C sites are slow to load and tough to navigate. As a result, customers who want to place an online order postpone their purchase until they reach a desktop computer later, or abandon their shopping carts entirely.
To convert your mobile audience now and mitigate the risk of losing them forever, companies must build online experiences that look and feel better on mobile devices than on PCs and Macs.