After a little research in our billing system, we discovered that our online direct sales retention rate of about 65 percent — local, regional and national — was slightly higher than the newspaper retention rate.
Of course, local clients have the highest rate, followed by regional and then national. In addition, clients who have spent the largest amount of money in special-short term campaigns tend to have lower rates.
They want a big blast that wipes out most of their budget, then wait a while until trying again.
Likewise, customers who were poorly sold — over-valued contracts, high CPMs, weak placement, bad client service, high-pressure closes, etc. — not surprisingly were unlikely to return.
Traditional media sales managers may rightly point out that they have quite a few transient customers.
Online sales managers also may point out that they have quite a few new clients who have never advertised online before, have had bad experiences, don’t understand the environment, etc., and are highly likely to bail out.
Either way, the selling effort for online has possibly reached another benchmark in becoming a stable and legitimate sales channel.
If the retention rate is good, the sales management and staff are doing something right, and the clients must be fairly pleased with the results.
A few simple steps help deliver better retention rates.
1) Maintain Clear Expectations
Better retention starts with setting clear expectations about what the customer will receive for their campaign.
In a typical CPM campaign, they will receive X number of impressions over Y period of time. They will pay Z dollars per thousand impressions.
The impressions must be on a highly visible part of the page where people are likely to see it, click on it or pick up a phone and call. (Put a client phone number in the ad whenever possible. Web advertising response is more than just clicks.)
The creative should emphasize the brand. All advertising, including online, is about branding and response.
A client who focuses too much on the number of clicks will end up disappointed. Steer them toward the branding part of the equation and ensure they grasp both sides of the equation.
2) Track Results Regularly
An online ad campaign is not something that should be launched and forgotten, especially if the campaign runs weeks or even months.
There are no guarantees that the ad will have the right creative or appear on the right pages. If the campaign isn’t delivering results, change the creative and inform the client.
Another possible problem is when site traffic takes a dip and not enough inventory is available to fulfill the campaign goal.
A campaign that runs weeks or months should be tracked and adjusted (if necessary) at least weekly.
Campaigns that run over a period of days should be tracked daily.
Happy account executives have good news to report to their clients. Unhappy AEs have to report that a campaign fell short or that it didn’t generate any clicks.
Tracking regularly increases the odds of success.
3) Stay in Touch with the Client
A campaign with poor clicks or call generation might just not be working because of the creative.
Maybe the AE knew the creative was bad but was reluctant to say anthing because the client insisted on it.
When everything else seems to be working, it benefits both the AE and client to have a conversion about a problem well before the end of a campaign to see if it can be solved.
Likewise, an AE will find that contacting a client mid-campaign with good news about performance will reduce client doubt and lay the groundwork for a renewal at the end of the current campaign.
4) Consider a Client Bonus
Maybe the campaign turns out to be disappointment after changing the creative to boost results.
The risk now is that the client will go away, never to come back. Even worse, maybe the client goes to the competition.
One simple, no-cost tactic to make the client feel better about the situation is giving him or her some bonus impressions.
Bonus impressions don’t cost a dime if the alternative is unsold inventory filled by house ads or low-paying remnant ads.
The extra impressions might deliver more clicks or calls while making the client feel better about the results. If a bonus retains the client, so much the better. If the client still leaves, nothing is lost.
Another option is trying to re-sign the client at a lower rate. To keep the offer consistent with the rate card, the lower rate might include non-guaranteed impressions.