My conclusion is that conversions are driven by events, not advertising. The role of Adwords isn’t to make a sale. Adwords acts as a conduit for the transaction when the searcher has been driven to action by an event. Now, let’s look at some facts to see if you agree with how I got there.
Recently a client had their industry mentioned on Oprah and the traffic and leads exploded. We have another client that does snow removal and snow storms drive their business, not advertising. Advertising has a role in the process but it is the event that creates the demand. The event is followed by the interaction with the advertisement which can lead to the conversion. It is a chain of events and advertising is not the creator of the demand, but rather the conduit of the demand.
People shift into procurement mode because some event moved them to action and it is very rare that the event is advertising. Most businesses ask a new customer “How did you find us?” but they rarely ask the real question of “What caused you to start looking?” We look to measure performance of advertising based on responses, but in reality it is the events experienced by the person that puts them into procurement mode.
The Event Circle of Influence
Events come in many forms; some are widely shared while others are within a much smaller circle of influence. At one end of this spectrum would be an event like September 11th which was a shared event with most of the population of the world, while a smaller event might be a snow storm in rural Wisconsin. When we look at events in the market we have to consider the circle of influence and adapt our advertising strategy to accommodate this reality. A snow storm in Wisconsin does not create demand for Snow Removal in New York.
The Oprah Effect is an event created by Oprah mentioning a product or service on her show. Recently we had a client that experienced the Oprah Effect and the lead generation was incredible. There was no change in the keywords or ads but there was no mistaking the lead generation impact. The event did impact the bids because competitors are smart and they quickly realized that the demand was going to be responsive so they bid up the positioning in a big way and we had to react to that. It was a thrilling ride while it lasted, but events do not age well.
Another client sees this frequently but at a much smaller scale. They will have zero response from a specific part of the country followed by a flood of leads. Our guess is that there is a local event that causes people to think about issues related to their business. These events create demand that morphs into searches and ads that people click on to get to the landing page where the sales lead is created. The ad did not create the event but it was part of the pipeline that allowed the lead to flow to the business.
Another real world example is a client in the moving industry. We are always looking to create more leads with less money, but in reality Adwords is not causing people to need moving services. There are lots of reasons to need a mover but none of them are created by Adwords text ads with 95 letters and spaces. Change of job, spouse reassignment, foreclosure, and many other personal events are what drive this business and create the traffic. Some advertising can create an event but that ability varies by format and I think it fair to say that an Adwords Text Ad is about as weak as you can get in this area.
The next logical question is can you create events for your business and the answer is yes, but creating events is not like running an advertisement. In advertising, we pay for the placement so we have some degree of control over it but events are different. First, they require much more creativity and in most cases they require the involvement and engagement of other people. Developing events is way beyond the scope of this article, but the reality is you can create events. We talk with clients about this all the time because you need to have your advertising in sync with your event initiatives to get the entire marketing ecosystem working together.
People are the sum of their experiences and we are all driven by events in different ways. What motivates one person can and does leave others unimpressed. The key to your Adwords strategy is to recognize the events that drive your business and make sure you are in position to be found when the prospect is moved to action by the event.