Pilot projects are a great way to dip a toe into SEM, whether it be a particular product pushed in local Paid Search or even a topic-specific section of a website for SEO. The problem with them is they’re small scale and produce small-scale results. So how should a middle manager communicate the value of SEM both to launch the pilot and then extrapolate the data measured into a scalable recommendation?
Here are some quick ideas:
- Outline all the values of the Pilot Project from a “data collection and learnings” perspective for future online marketing. Most pilots promise a reasonable ROI, but one popular objection is, “why bother for XX conversions?” Try and help higher ups understand that an initial and small-scale project can give value beyond the conversions and ROI of that particular campaign. These types of projects can show, among other things:
- Effective ad messaging
- Effective copy
- Brand vs. non brand promotion results
- Sales cycle for phrases, engines, products or regions
- Baseline CTR or Conversions for startup budgets
- Help them understand the industry reach and growth. Websites like eMarketer, Forrester, and SEMPO regularly update statistics on SEM industry growth and marketer satisfaction with different online channels. Don’t assume your boss knows the power of online marketing. Even if he/she does, chances are they checked the stats 2 years ago and will be amazed at the new number of companies investing happily in all the mediums available online. Also, never underestimate the power of taking a quick look at competitor initiatives to let higher-ups know about who is a step ahead in the online market.
- Sell, but don’t oversell, the conversions. Sometimes, a pilot is a home run and you look like a hero. Sometimes it’s a complete flop and you hope no one remembers the recommendation. But most times, it’s somewhere in the middle, which is why it’s essential that the data collected from the project be given a dollar value in and of itself. That is why it is also wise to put the scale of the project in perspective. Most under-perform on expectations because the volume was too low or the competition was too high for effective impact in the channel. That’s why you have to help others understand how a one-adgroup Google pilot project can be built upon in Google, MSN, Yahoo, Superpages, Content Networks, Local campaigns, etc. to garner the kind of volume and ROI needed to add value to an overall marketing campaign.
- Say these things with visuals. If you don’t have time to do it, request the PPT from the vendor, but understand that if the pilot is very small, you may be charged for research. However, it never hurts to ask if it’s something their sales department would do pro-bobo since it’s bringing in business.
- Finally, consider letting your vendor pitch the project. Execs may not like the idea of being subjected to vendors for a pilot pitch, but having the business developer call in for a 10 minute webinar can make your life easier and make you look good. Chances are they can explain the USPs more efficiently and answer any questions or objections that occur.