Search’s Role in DM Campaigns

From the Internet’s onset, a line has separated direct and digital marketers, often creating siloed offline and online approaches. Yet the very definition of direct marketing – sending personal, relevant messages to elicit a direct response – begs for an integrated, online/offline environment in order to identify and engage customers in whatever medium they choose to use.

Search, in particular, should have a key role in all direct marketing because it is essentially self-defined targeting.

We know that marketers still need and rely on offline methods to reach customers. For that reason, multichannel approaches are becoming the norm for DM campaigns.

Some marketers, however, still don’t incorporate how people use Web browsers and search engines into their direct marketing, or address their need to research online, and therefore miss opportunities.

What is it about search? Visitors target themselves by the search terms they use to find what they want online. They may start by searching broad terms, but most realize quickly that adding terms to their queries delivers better results. When a visitor arrives at a site that matches a query, he or she is more likely to enter ready to do business.

Most direct marketing points prospects to a telephone number or a landing page Web address. Many people inadvertently search for the Web address rather than entering it into their browser’s address bar, or type it incorrectly and end up searching for the company anyway. One way to determine whether this is happening is to examine a site’s referring search terms through Web analytics programs and see how many people search for the site using the actual Web address.

All direct marketers should perform this due diligence and ensure that their company, product or service is the one that appears if someone searches for their domain or landing page. A temporary landing page is unlikely to appear in natural search results, but the company’s main Web site should.

Paying to play. Paid listings on search engines also play an important role in direct marketing. Best practices prescribe that marketers using offline campaigns should buy the keywords that describe their campaigns and their domains.

Some recent television campaigns have even told audiences to search on Google for a specific term to capture visitors. A word to the wise, however: Make every effort to buy the No. 1 position of those keywords and keep it throughout the campaign. Competitors may bid for the same words, with text in their ads that may include differentiators in order to entice and capture visitors that your marketing investment has generated.

The research trend. In a July 2005 report from Hostway Inc. and TNS, nearly 70 percent of online users indicated that they visit the Web to obtain information about products and services once a week or more. Clearly, people who receive catalogs or direct mail also may research online before calling a telephone number or visiting a landing page. These same rules apply.

Additionally, ensure that prospects see the brand (as well as key products and services) when they perform their research. This assures them that they are considering the right company and may capture them earlier in the decision-making process. Since these researchers may visit the company’s home page, provide links from the home page to current campaign landing pages.

Paid and natural search should be important aspects of all DM campaigns. Customers and prospects use them to find what they need every day. Apply these tactics to attract and engage prospects at a crucial point in their decision-making process.

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