In the preceding chapters, you've laid the groundwork for your proposal, but you need to put it all together. Your proposal contains two business casesone for your overall search marketing program and one specifically for your first search marketing campaign. This way, you explain why search marketing is important strategically, for many campaigns, but also focus on a tangible, practical first effort. Your proposal must also include a detailed plan of tasks on a time line to execute the first campaign, but we start with the business cases.
The Business Case for Your Search Marketing Program
A business case serves two primary purposes. First, it is an unbiased and objective analysis of projected costs required to achieve expected benefits. The second objective is to convince your decision makers to accept your recommendations. In short, your business case ought to persuade you before you use it to persuade others. Too often, business cases get a bad name because they are cobbled together as a pretext for doing something that does not actually have much value. Search marketing has a great deal of valueyou do not need a sham business case. You can build a case to convince even the most tight-fisted bean counter.
In Chapter 7, we discussed the revenue opportunity for your first search marketing campaign, and in Chapter 8 we calculated the cost, both for your first campaign and your overall search program. Here, we put them together to show the payback of search marketingthe payback of pursuing search marketing across the full scope of the search marketing program that you chose in Chapter 8. We look at the bigger picture, going beyond your first campaign. How can you project the revenue opportunity of your search marketing program across your program's entire scope? We first return to your calculations from Chapter 7 for the revenue opportunity and expand it to the entire program. Then we revisit your costs based on the work you did in Chapter 8.
Your Search Marketing Program's Revenue Opportunity
If you followed the logic to determine the revenue opportunity for mounting a search marketing campaign, you might be wondering how we can estimate the revenue opportunity for your entire search marketing program. What if you embarked on a search marketing program across all your products? How much incremental revenue could you drive? There is no precise way to answer these questions. No matter what we do, we will be making some assumptions. But we can come up with ballpark figures that give you a glimpse into your search marketing potential.
Returning to our fictitious firm, Snap Electronics, we recall that they chose as their search marketing program scope their entire U.S. product line. To estimate the total search marketing potential for Snap's site, we can extrapolate from our first campaign.
Table 7-15 from Chapter 7 projected the number of additional organic search referrals Snap could achieve with a well-executed search marketing campaign for digital cameras. Because Snap's scope emphasizes organic marketing over its 78 product lines within the United States, we can examine our projections for Snap's first campaign and then apply them across the entire scope. Table 7-15 shows that the referrals to the digital camera area of Snap's site total just 10,734 each month, but are projected to rise to 28,082 referrals, a 162 percent increase. We can apply this same percentage increase to Snap's overall U.S. search referralsthe referrals associated with any keyword, not just those related to digital camerasto estimate the traffic increase possible for Snap's entire search marketing program. In Snap's case, its Web metrics facility showed 52,634 organic search referrals for its U.S. site last month. Multiplying by 162 percent yields an opportunity for 137,901 organic search referralsan increase of 85,267 each month across Snap's whole U.S. site.
But we need to estimate our paid referrals, too. Because paid placement is an experiment, Snap decided to limit its spending to $300,000, just twice the cost of the first campaign for digital cameras. It stands to reason that we should double the added referrals for that first paid placement campaign as our best estimate for the overall impact of paid placement. If $150,000 brings 13,374 added referrals for digital cameras, spending $300,000 might bring twice as many: 26,748.
To estimate the overall added referrals for our search marketing program, we can total the organic search projection (85,267) and the paid search one (26,748) to produce 112,015 added referrals per month.
As we did with digital cameras, we can calculate the revenue impact of the entire Snap search marketing program for all U.S. products, as shown in Figure 9-1. We had used the site-wide conversion rate of 2 percent in Chapter 7, so that remains the same, but we now use the average transaction price of all U.S. sales on the site, which rises to $493. It is $13 million in incremental revenue a year!
Although no one can predict the exact numbers with pinpoint accuracy, clearly Snap has a lot to gain from a search marketing program across the U.S. product line. As you work through your organization's opportunity, you might find a similarly exciting prospect in your own backyard.
Your Search Marketing Program's Costs
You saw in Chapter 8 that, as tough as it is to project revenue opportunity, it might be even harder to figure out what it all will cost. Nonetheless, we can use the estimates we calculated in the preceding chapter to project our costs over the next several years.
In your situation, you might make different (and more complex) assumptions, but in our Snap case study, we keep it very simple. The organic search costs we estimated ($390,000) can be assumed to be incurred in the first year. That is probably an unrealistic expectation, because most companies would make their investment over a period of years, but spending money earlier is the most pessimistic business case, so we do it that way.
The organic search costs are a one-time costafter the technology and the pages are cleaned up, your central search team and your improved standards and processes will keep them clean. But the other costs are annual, and need to be reflected in each year's cost projection. You can review Tables 8-5 and 8-6 in Chapter 8 to refresh your memory for the cost calculations both for the first campaign and the overall search marketing program.
Your Search Marketing Program's Business Case
We can construct a business case for the Snap Electronics search marketing program based on the revenue we calculated in Figure 9-1. To keep things simple, we round off the revenue number and assume it to be constant over all five years. Obviously that is also unrealistic, because you would likely see a gradual rise in revenue from a slow start, but it makes the example simpler to understand. Table 9-1 consolidates our work from these previous two chapters to show the estimated profit over five years from Snap's search marketing program.
Even in a company as large as Snap Electronics, $61 million over five years is a big deal. So big a deal, in fact, that they reduced their numbers drastically before they showed this business case to their executives. They reasoned that search marketing was a great idea even if they were wildly off in their calculations, so they wanted to be careful not to overpromise the benefits and risk early disappointment.
This book is not devoted to developing business cases, so there are certainly many more sophisticated methods to use. Check with your finance folks to see whether they have a methodology that they like. Whatever method you use, the payback for your search marketing program is likely to be very positive. And that is the point of this exercise. Estimate what search marketing can do for your organization, and then make the decision to get started.
Your First Search Marketing Campaign's Business Case
The business case for your overall search marketing program shows why search marketing should be strategic to your organization, but you need to have a more tactical proposal. Few businesses would lay out sizable cash in the first year for a totally unproven idea. Therefore, your proposal also needs to make a strong case for your first search marketing campaign.
In Chapter 7, we calculated Snap's revenue opportunity for its digital camera campaign in Figure 7-6, and we carry those revenue projections into our business case in Table 9-2 (along with the costs we estimated in Table 8-5 in Chapter 8).
As with the overall program business case, we round off the overly precise revenue projection we calculated in Chapter 7. The reason you round off is that you want the precision of the estimate to show the precision of the modelour model is not precise enough to estimate anything down to the dollar, so why show a number that makes the model look more precise than it is? How much would you trust a man who sticks his hand into a cold stream and announces "49.2 degrees"? Being overly precise takes away attention from the real message to your executives: "Search marketing is a big opportunityeven though our numbers are estimates and might be very far off, you can still see the right decision to make."
That wraps up the business case sections, but you need to create a more complete proposal for your search marketing program. As we continue assembling our proposal, we need to explain exactly what we will do to deliver on the business case for the first campaign.
The Plan for Your First Search Marketing Campaign
What tasks will you undertake? When will they happen? You will not have a persuasive proposal without a plan. You need to show, task by task, who will take the actions required to deliver the value promised in your business case. You also need to show the time line for each action. Every search marketing campaign needs a plan with several phases:
Snap Electronics put together the plan shown in Figure 9-2 to explain the campaign for its digital camera product line. You can see that each phase of the project takes a month or two to executeyour project plan might be shorter or longer, depending on what you want to do, the pace of your organization, and how thoroughly you persuade your extended team and your executives (which we cover later). Each phase in the plan lists the major tasks that must be accomplished, the group that leads each one, and the others that must assist that task's completion. The central search team leads many tasks, but your extended search team must lead some, too (especially in the implementation phase). You might want to produce a more exhaustive chart that shows all the tasks in each phase, but for brevity we showed just the major ones to give you the idea.
Figure 9-2. Snap's first campaign time line. A simple visual that shows what needs to be done can explain the campaign in one glance.
This chart is very important in explaining your plan. Your executives and your extended team will each want to know exactly what you plan to do. They will want to know what your timeframe is and who will perform each task. When you speak to the extended team, each group will scan this chart looking for its name. The copywriters will see that they are leading a task in the implementation phase, which will make them nervous. It is important that you explain how you will help and why they ultimately need to own the task. When they understand why search marketing is important and that you are deferring to their ownership of the content, they will understand why they must lead the optimizing content for organic search marketing.
The checkpoint line on Figure 9-2 is also very important. Your plan must include a checkpoint for evaluating successgive yourself enough room in the schedule not just to complete the actions, but for them to show results. You should not expect to have everything "done"you will find it is never done. There is always one more tweak to improve the clickthrough rate, and another competitor that leapfrogged you to the #1 spot last week. Implementation never ends, but you must periodically assess your success, both to fuel continuous improvement in your first campaign, and to justify investment in future campaigns in your overall program. So, pick a date on which you will show the results that you promised in your campaign's business case (or at least a strong step toward those results). Chapter 15, "Make Search Marketing Operational," shows many ways of continually measuring and improving.
After you have pulled together your campaign's plan, recognize that this is really just a first draft for your plan. To get agreement from others, you will undoubtedly need to make some changes. Now is the time for you to start "shopping your plan around" to the rest of your organization to get the go-ahead to execute it. Remember Dwight Eisenhower's famous quote, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." You have now done all the planning that you can do by yourself. Your real planning starts when you explain your plan to others and hear their suggested changes. As much as you might persuade them to follow your plan, you also need to be flexible about modifying your plan to suit them.