Targeting Return Customers With PPC

In the world of pay per click marketing, we often focus on new customer acquisition. Much thought has been put into the buying cycle, and reaching customers who are in the research, comparison, and purchase phases. But there’s another type of customer that often gets overlooked in PPC campaigns – the returning customer.

Business research shows that acquiring a new customer can cost five to ten times more than retaining an existing one. This is especially true in pay per click, where we are constantly concerned with ROI and cost per conversion. Fortunately, return customer traffic can be really cheap if you know what you’re doing.

The best way to enable return customers is to run a “branding” campaign based on your company name and brand name keywords. There is some controversy in the PPC world regarding whether or not you should bid on your own brand name keywords. Some people think it’s a waste of money, since you’ll probably get organic results anyway. However, I think that it’s a good idea for a number of reasons. First, you may not be ranking well on your own brand search terms, especially if your company or web presence is relatively new. Adding company-related PPC keywords to your campaigns guarantees coverage. Second, having more results show up for your company on search engine results pages is never a bad thing. Even if you have multiple listings in both organic and paid search, you can dominate the SERP so that customers are certain that you’re the best option. Third, running a branding PPC campaign can help protect you if competitors are running a PPC campaign using those keywords. This is not explicitly banned by the search engines, but you can get them taken down if you register a complaint. However, running your own branding campaign offers insurance while you wait on the conflict to be resolved. And lastly, brand keywords tend to have really low bids due to the lack of competition. It’s the last niche to get ten, twenty, or thirty cent CPC keywords, so your actual traffic costs will probably be pretty minimal.

Having a strong PPC presence for your brand terms will help you bring back people who bought from you before, but might not remember your website. You’ve probably done this before – you don’t remember a URL, so you just search for a company name. Wouldn’t you want to make sure that those people are sure to find your website? Tailor your text ads with words like “official site” and other phrases that show searchers exactly where they need to go.

Finally, you can entice return customers with coupons and special offers. You can add in a coupon code to your text ads in your branding campaign, or bid on keywords like “{company name} coupons” or “{company name} promo code”. In this economic climate, everyone is looking for a deal. Plus, if customers have a special coupon code, they may feel obligated to use it. This could be especially effective if you add in a specific expiration deadline – it’s a great way to push sales in a flagging month.

Since CPC costs for brand name terms are so low, it couldn’t hurt to run a test campaign to see how it goes. I’m sure you’ll find that your cost per conversion is much lower than the rest of your campaigns and your conversion rates will be really good. And, most importantly, you’ll be showing your return customers that you know they are there, and that you value their business.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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