Market Where Audiences Are Listening

Every marketer has a favorite tragicomic tale to tell of a campaign so misguided that all you can do is shake your head and smile. David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com, recounts one particularly disastrous foray into direct mail. The three-stage mailing tried to generate leads using a sweepstakes draw. After sending out tens of thousands of postcards, the company ended up with just two entries, at a cost of $15,000 per lead. Adding insult to injury, the campaign was paid for with borrowed money.

“We worked with a well-respected direct marketing company, we knew it was the right audience, but the hurdles we put in place for [recipients] to respond to this campaign were enormous,” Ciccarelli says. “We were asking them to go from the real world to digital, and we realized that print was just not the right channel for us.”

Learning how to make better marketing investments has helped Voices.com significantly reallocate its marketing spend—and discover surprising inelasticity in the demand for a retention campaign. But success was more than a matter of choosing a different channel. The company needed a better understanding of how it attracts and retains customers on both sides of the transaction. Voices.com is a marketplace for voiceovers, narrations, and voice acting. Voice talent pays a monthly or yearly subscription to participate in the marketplace, while agencies, brands, and independent buyers pay a percentage fee on each project they commission with a performer. 

Talking the talk

Voices.com worked with the Canadian Technology Accelerator program to develop a comprehensive go-to-market strategy, and started to take a more serious look at its marketing spend. The top of the funnel is seeded with content marketing to the tune of at least one new item every day, and a search-heavy focus on being top of mind wherever professional voicework is being discussed or discovered.

Once obtained, leads are tracked by source in detail, including search, email, or partnership source. Once entered, leads are scored according to activity over a rolling 30-day window, including pages visited, duration of visit, and email interactions, as well as profile data integrated from third-party sources.

Detailed conversion attribution has made it easier to focus spending more effectively. Voices.com now spends 70% of its marketing budget on search, with the remaining 30% equally split between social, mobile, and retargeting media. “As much as that looks overweighted on search, we discovered through revenue attribution and by speaking with customers that social is not an acquisition channel for us; it’s a retention channel,” he says.

Voices.com pulled back on YouTube ads when, despite high view counts, cost-per-acquisition turned out to be hundreds of dollars. High cost-per-click on platforms like LinkedIn also caused a heavier shift to search. “You need to know what you’re willing to pay per acquisition, have a mechanism to determine it, and track whether the leads coming in through each channel are resulting in sales or not,” he says.

Containing costs

A refined focus on results and attribution also helps Voices.com contain spending while chasing client-side buyers. “The average job through our platform pays $500, so with a 10% margin we break even if we spend $50 to acquire a new signup,” he says.

Succeeding with clients also depends on a smooth, timely handoff from marketing to sales. Buyer-side prospects typically get a call from an account representative within five minutes of registration. “Speed is a competitive advantage, and I want to make sure prospects are speaking with someone who can answer questions as quickly as possible,” Ciccarelli says. “Like being offered something at the checkout in a grocery store, we know they’re in the buying mode, and have done at least 50 to 60 percent of their research.”

On the talent side, Voices.com scored big when it experimented with offer levels. In the past the company ran a promotion once a year offering a monthly trial subscription, typically $50, for just $1. The intention was to get a foot in the door and convert new users to an annual subscription. The company mixed up the formula, running a perennial triggered campaign that offers a month subscription for $9.95.

Talent-side customers found the new offer equally compelling, despite being 10 times as expensive as the annual deal. Both offers have a 5% conversion rate over time, providing greater short-term promotional revenue. “It’s remarkable how consistent the conversion rate is,” Ciccarelli says.

Voices.com makes out even better over time. Long-term retention rates for talent who come in on the $9.95 offer are actually higher than on the $1 version. “The barrier,” he says, “is getting people to take a credit card out of their wallet or purse.”

Voices.com aims to be a digital disruptor, changing the way professional voicework is commissioned and delivered. So, continually tracking and improving its targeted marketing efforts—with the channels and prospects that matter most—help keep the marketplace growing and thriving. “We need to focus on people who have reached the tipping point when their existing provider is no longer good enough,” Ciccarelli says, “and be there with the four or five touches they may need to make a change.”

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