The Connection of Search and CRM: It's Time to Unleash Search's True Potential
By: Brad van Unen, Search Account Manager
In the early 19th century, John Wanamaker announced his marketing conundrum by stating: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
Ah, but look at us now, a hundred years later, and Search Marketers are only paying for clicks, not impressions. We've got conversion rate, cost per acquisition, bounce rate, interaction rate, time and pages spent per visit, remarketing and funnels. We're running queries and making pivot tables all day, every day, to tie everything together and bring it back to ROI.
We. Measure. Everything.
And we think we've solved Mr. Wanamaker's 19th-century dilemma. We think we know which half of our advertising spend is wasted: the half that didn't convert, or the half that bounced. And to a great extent, we're fooling ourselves. Why? Because we're so focused on measuring everything that we are limiting Search's potential to that which can be measured.
In effect, we are failing to see where Search really fits into the overall marketing ecosystem. Today, consumers use Search to research features & benefits, compare prices, read reviews and watch demonstration videos – usually without actually making a purchase through this channel. So, why are we only considering conversions as our ultimate goal?
The Basics: The Long Tail
We've known for years that long-tail keywords indicate a higher likelihood of purchase. The recent growth of Local has enhanced this. You will almost always get a higher conversion rate from "vietnamese restaurant oakland" than from "asian cuisine". Many companies have taken advantage of long-tail by structuring a set of campaigns around this model. The big-head terms get "learn more" messaging; the long-tails get "buy now."
Great – we've matched learn-vs-buy user intent with messaging that speaks to that intent, and we're getting both users on your site. So our job is done, correct? Of course not. This tactic is a very basic starting point for monitoring and measuring user intent within the search-to-visit ecosystem. But we're still treating Search as a silo. We're still not asking the bigger question: What drew the customer to even think about performing the search in the first place?
Connecting Search to CRM
Once we start thinking about influences on searcher activity, we evolve from tracking pure web behavior to a more holistic understanding of user intent. Market leaders need to look beyond first- or last-click, and bring earlier decisions into the picture. But how you might ask? By applying the same principles we use in our CRM efforts to Search.
One of the ultimate goals of establishing a powerful CRM system is to measure and act upon Lifetime Customer Value (LCV). Search Marketing can and should work toward that same goal. Of course, this is where things look fuzzy – at least initially. Thinking of Search in terms of LCV instead of cart value and conversion rate is a challenge – reporting on it is an even bigger challenge. But in the long run, the key to future online marketing success will be understanding how CRM and Search can work together to enhance customer value.
Let's review some of the ways that CRM and Search can support each other.
How CRM Helps Search:
- Better geo-targeting and segmentation: If your CRM database shows regional differences in purchase behavior and/or consumer needs, your Search strategy should reflect this. Region-based Search campaigns are often designed to tailor bids and budgets on a regional level, based on budget needs and regional competition. But, if you're not tailoring your messaging, landing page, and other user-experience elements based on regional differences seen in your CRM data, you're not reaching your true Search potential.
- Messaging created based on relationship needs: A robust CRM solution will have data that speaks to which messaging promotes the most desired actions. To some extent, Search should mirror these efforts. This also applies to calls to action and promotions.
- More sophisticated campaign management: By utilizing the two strategies above, we begin to see Search as part of a greater conversation, and not a one-time message leading to a one-time action. In return, LCV becomes the bottom-line measurement in Search reporting.
How Search helps CRM
- Better understanding of the purchase funnel: By identifying the different points and behaviors associated with Search behavior along the funnel, we can get a better understanding of our CRM data. A Search strategy can be broken into Awareness, Consideration, Acquisition, and Retention points. As you identify what works best at each of these points in Search, these learnings can be applied to your CRM strategies.
- Messaging created on Acquisition: Marketers can begin identifying Search ad copy that led to not only the most acquisitions, but the highest valued customers. This information can be used to better understand the needs of high-value customers and create a cohesive message across other channels based on those needs.
Taking Your First Steps toward the New Conundrum
Does this complicate our Search measurement tools? Of course it does. But it also frees Search from being a silo with a completely independent bottom line, and lets it join the larger conversation with the consumer. Google's ebook ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth goes into great detail on this subject. Traditionally, marketers have thought of the grocery-store aisle as the First Moment of Truth, and the first use of the product as the second. But the whole universe of online research, comparison shopping, and smartphone price checking has created something far more important: the "Zero" Moment of Truth. If your CRM and Search efforts aren't working together to influence the 70% of Americans who "now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase", you're not using either to their best potential.
Breaking free from "Search As A Silo" is never easy. But freeing Search from this constraint is a leap worth taking, even if it initially looks like a step back into Mr. Wanamaker's conundrum. This new thought process gives Search a bigger seat at the overall Marketing table. Reporting on Search efforts from an LCV perspective also keeps your efforts focused on the big picture. It can help you better speak to your company's overall long-term strategic efforts, and ensure reports fall in line with your company's overall goals, rather than in their own Search corner.