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Creative Discipline: Starting Your Startup
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By Sean Ellis

Google allows you to place a tracking pixel on your post-purchase or registration confirmation page that closes the loop from the initial click to reaching the final objective. With this information, you can track the cost of generating the lead or purchase. It is important to test different messaging in both your advertisement and on your website to optimize conversion rates. Some campaigns that initially fail to generate a positive ROI will do so after they have been optimized. Go back to your customer research: for what solution are they looking? What exactly is their challenge? What keywords might they use when searching? Does your landing page continue to drive them to the final objective?

Aside from search engines, customers can also discover your product or service through directories or even online yellow pages. Tracking is essential beyond Adwords, so you will need to implement an online tracking system or coupon codes for directory advertising.

You should allocate your budget first to those places that offer the fastest positive return on your investments. Ideally, your entire budget could be spent reaching people who are actively seeking your type of solution. However, for some product categories, this group is relatively small. To achieve your growth objectives you will need to reach a more impulsive buying group.

With the tracking already available from Google Adwords—and since you are only paying for clicks—I recommend that you activate the Google Adwords content match as a first step toward impulse advertising. Use the same testing process for measuring and optimizing return on investment (ROI) as you do for search-based initiatives.

Banner Ads: Banner ads offer a great opportunity to have a higher profile approach to advertising, but can be difficult to execute cost effectively. However, if you have the right tracking in place, you can quickly eliminate the options that do not model out profitably and then double or triple down on the ones that do. Be sure to always start with the smallest banner buys possible and then scale up or down depending on the results.

The more you target banner ads, the more of a premium you are going to pay. The efficacy of this depends heavily on the type of product you are selling. If you are selling something that has mass appeal, then you do not want to spend a lot of money on targeting specific customers. But if you have a niche product then paying something extra for targeting can be worth it.

Testing both approaches will reveal the most cost effective method of acquiring your target users. Beyond online advertising, radio is also often a good option worth pursuing. Again, offer a coupon code or other incentive to get customers to reveal their source when they respond to your advertising.

GiveIt Away: If you are looking for unique ways to “hook” potential customers, it oftentimes pays to give away your product - or some version of it - for free. This may sound suspect, but without a doubt works. Citing my experience at both Uproar and LogMeIn, having a version of your product or service you can afford to give away has proven extremely effective in generating an enthusiastic user base. The key is to only give away what you can afford to.

At Uproar, for instance, site visitors were offered a chance to win money by participating in free online games. It also offered free gaming content to partner websites, which helped generate registered users. The result? Uproar acquired over 30,000 partners and 20 million registered users.

At LogMeIn, we offer a free version of our Web-based remote PC access tool, something for which our competitors charge $20 a month. By combining this free offer, and using it to acquire active and impulse seekers using the marketing process described above, the company achieved the elusive traction that all marketers desire: over 2 million registered users along with rapid revenue growth across our full suite of paid remote access, support and backup products.

Gaining traction requires a disciplined process of customer acquisition combined with creative offers and positioning.

And, of course, a little luck never hurts.

Sean Ellis is Vice President of Marketing For LogMeIn.
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