Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Closing the Loop on Paid Search

Guest post from Elle Woulfe, Senior Marketing Programs Manager at Eloqua. Elle is one of the people responsible for our own internal use of Eloqua to optimize our marketing, and in this post, she looks at how we approach our investments in paid search marketing.


Paid search ranks high on the list of marketing tactics for most B2B companies, but many marketers lack the ability to close the loop on search generated inquiries. Tying clicks to revenue in order to understand the business impact of SEM allows you to optimize spend and improve ROI.

Like most technology companies, Eloqua depends on both paid and natural search to find those buyers in the early stages of researching marketing automation vendors. We use a disciplined system of testing and optimization throughout our search program to produce the best results. But knowing which keywords generated the most inquires isn’t enough. We rely on Eloqua to track SEM leads from first click to close, generating a complete view of the revenue impact and the ROI of our search program.

For paid search, we treat each landing page and its associated keywords, as a campaign. When a visitor searches Google for a term related to marketing automation, like “lead scoring,” and clicks on one of our paid search terms, they land on an Eloqua landing page with a relevant offer for that term. When a user completes the form on the search landing page they are associated with that campaign in Eloqua. Now we can easily track the impact that search has on our sales funnel, but before that happens - our standard lead management process kicks in.

Clean Data Makes Happy Marketers

Eloqua’s automated data cleansing, lead scoring and routing processes are initiated once a prospect submits a form. In order to use our data for segmentation and targeting, lead scoring and analysis, we need an accurate dataset. When a contact enters our database it first goes through the contact washing machine. In this process, contact data is normalized and appended and the contact is associated to an account where possible. The contact is then scored based on fit and behavior and finally, this new data is synced to our CRM system, updating the relevant fields to give sales an accurate picture of prospect activity.

The contact’s most recent search term, as well as any other activities the prospect has taken is displayed in the CRM system so sales as a real-time view into prospect activity and interest.

How We Close the Loop

• A contact is associated to a search campaign when they complete the form. Now, as they engage with other Eloqua assets or campaigns, those interactions are associated to the contact as well, providing a complete picture of all the marketing activities that influence them.

• Eloqua campaign reporting automatically pulls opportunity, lead rank and revenue information associated to the contact and captured in our CRM back into Eloqua so we have a single view of search marketing success metrics and the impact of search influenced leads on the sales funnel.

• If a deal closes with the account our search lead is associated to, the search campaign is tracked as having influenced the prospect. The total deal size is automatically divided by all the campaigns that touched all the contacts associated to the account and the search campaign gets its cut. If multiple people at the account were influenced by search campaigns, all of those touch points are counted as influencing campaigns and get their fair share.

• In the event that our search campaign was the last touch point before a sales opportunity was opened with the account – the search campaign becomes the lead source directly attributed to that deal.

Picking the Winners

By setting up campaigns for each search landing page, we can easily see how each page is performing in terms of the number of inquires generated and follow the trail to see the impact on revenue. With the data pulled in from CRM, we can also see what stage of the funnel each lead is at and can quantify the impact each landing page (and associated keywords) have had on revenue generated. This holistic approach to tracking our search marketing performance makes it easy to pick the winners of our search campaign and calculate the return on our investment in paid search.