How To: Use Google Adwords to Maximize Your Direct Mail ROI

by Frank on February 12, 2010

If you’re a local business, direct mail is probably both necessary and a little scary (because of the cost).  We’ve all heard the story: you pay to develop a postcard, you pay for bulk-rate postage, and you let it rip.  Thousands of advertisements go out – and you sit back and wait for the phone to ring.  And sometimes it rings.  But a lot of other times, it doesn’t.  And if it doesn’t, you’re still out the cash on a campaign that apparently nobody noticed.

What if you could determine with a high degree of certainty what your success rate would be before you pulled the trigger on your direct mail campaign?  Here’s one way to do it.

1) Set up a Google Adwords account and create a locally-targeted campaign for the area you’re going to be sending your postcards to.  It’s relatively quick and easy.  Some things to pay attention to:

  • Make sure you DON’T bid for #1 placement, since this will skew your results upward (you’ll get some clicks just because you’re #1, regardless of your ad text)
  • Pay special attention to your keywords, and think like your customer.  Use the keyword tool to come up with keyword ideas and see what words your customers use to describe what you’re offering
  • Use only “exact match” type.  This will provide you with better data (which specific search terms produced specific results) and it will keep your costs down

2) Create your ad.  Create a test of what you plan to run on your postcard.  Write an eye-catching headline.  Write good, benefits-heavy ad text with a clear call to action.  For example:
3) Create a second ad using a slight variation of headline or ad text.  For example, maybe make the headline “Free Microchip” in this second variant.  Then run them against each other to see which one gets more clicks.

4) Create a landing page specifically for the ad campaign.  Use a lot of the same text that will show up in your ads, and make sure to include a clear call to action (i.e. “register now,” “make an appointment online now,” “buy now,” etc.).  Even though this is just a test of potential mailer text and in this case, you’re most concerned with click-through-rate (CTR), a) you ultimately want customers, not tire-kickers, so the conversion rate does matter, and b) if you do the testing right, the test itself should have a nice ROI, as well.

5) Rinse and Repeat.  Run as many tests as possible, paying close attention to which headlines and ad text generate the best CTR.  Once you feel like you’ve got a clear winner (shoot for at least a 5% CTR), then you know what to put on your postcard, with a reasonable expectation of success.

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