Search and Retain: The Search/E-Mail Combo

  |  March 10, 2005   |  Comments

Search can help with customer acquisition. But you need a conversion and retention strategy, too.

That dang left rear tire on my car continues to give me problems. It is brand new and keeps losing air ever so slowly. Slow enough for me not to get it fixed, but fast enough for me to be annoyed about refilling it with air every week or so.

It seems I’m in denial about the tire’s leak. I find myself reasoning it’s just an illusion, the tire doesn’t really have a leak. I’m reasonably intelligent yet feel I’m living in a dream when it comes to this leak.

Search Denial

When talking about building customer acquisition strategies, I’m probably blaspheming when I rain on the search parade. Who can argue with the power of a Google IPO and the search engine rollout on virtually every Internet portal? A new industry has grown up around optimizing search strategies and execution. Hundreds of companies promise marketers untold fortunes should they adopt a new method or scheme of leveraging key words.

Recently, over 1,700 people jammed into Search Engine Strategies in New York to learn how to leverage search engines’ power from the experts. Paying participants learned the inner workings of building more effective search strategies. Don’t get me wrong, I like magic. However, you must always pay close attention at magic shows.

Senior marketing officials espousing the virtue of search with giddy delight has become commonplace. They roll out great presentations and case studies showing incredible metrics and return on investment (ROI) to validate their strategies. They proclaim so many new customers realized so much incremental revenue and profit through search optimization strategies.

Riddle me this: How many companies do you believe are doing as good a job retaining those search-driven customers as they are in being at the right place, at the right time, when the searcher has a need? How do you calculate the lifetime value of a customer who comes through a search engine versus any other medium?

Do you know if people who find your site through your paid ads on SERPs (define) are actually already in your customer database? One marketer I asked indicated over 50 percent of searchers are already in his database. Sheepishly, he admitted it probably would be more efficient to email those customers than to constantly reacquire them on a CPC (define) basis.

I’ve conducted more than enough searches over the past year. I’m probably in the top 10 percent of folks in this country who spend more money on the Internet channel than any other. Despite all the e-commerce and new sites I’ve found through search, only ChristmasDepot.com did anything to learn more about me (I’m a lunatic around the holidays about lights on my house; Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold has nothing on me). ChristmasDepot sends me a reminder that Christmas is coming. Thank goodness for that. I probably would’ve forgotten otherwise.

The Search/E-Mail Concept

Search without retention is more than foolish; it costs your company lots of money, with returns that aren’t quantifiable. You keep filling that tire with air, but without a retention strategy profits and potential customer relationships keep leaking out. Under pressure to continue moving and growing, you keep going back to the gas station to fill that tire. Your search engine friends aren’t going out of their way to help you fix the problem. They make a lot of cash from your frequent fill-ups.

It takes a little time and money to fix the problem. Examine how you handle customers who find your products and services via search engines. You could post a message on your site that reads something like:

Welcome to our company. We’re glad you found us. Here’s the product you’ve been searching for. We have a wide assortment of products to fit your unique needs. If you’d like to learn more about these products, please give us your email address.

Attempt to get more information on your targeted customer now. What do you have to lose? If you really want to go to the head of the class, include messages requesting an email address throughout the transactional process. Inform visitors of all the value-added services and support they’ll receive as e-customers.

Another tip: With an email address and a transaction, you have the basis to build a relationship. You’ve convinced the searcher to become a customer and provide an email address. Now, use the data from this first transaction to thank the new customer in a relevant way. For example:

Thanks, Al, for shopping with us. We hope you are enjoying the new product you purchased. No need to search anymore, we have everything you’ll need to support your new purchase. Thanks for your patronage.

Search is part of the game, not the entire game. It provides an opportunity to fix the customer acquisition problem. Done properly, the method can deliver qualified prospects to your doorstep, cost effectively and efficiently. Yet you need a conversion and retention strategy. Otherwise, you’ll keep returning to the pump to fill that tire.

Not me, though. I got the tire fixed last weekend. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Until next time,

Al D.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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