cut_costsAs an Inbound Marketing Agency, we work with a variety of clients on a number of different marketing challenges. One of our clients is a business owner who wanted to reduce his costs for pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising.

He was spending 10% of his monthly revenue on PPC in an effort to drive visitors to his website’s homepage in hopes that visitors would call for a quote.

The return on investment clearly wasn’t there — his cost per lead was 5x higher than the pest control industry’s average of $100!

Also, he didn’t have anyone devoted full-time to managing marketing. As a result, the owner thought the problem was how much he was spending on PPC. In reality, the problem was not having a cohesive marketing plan in place to attract, capture and convert his ideal customer personas.

We took over his marketing and created a customized inbound marketing plan to help cut his costs. So let’s talk about three inbound marketing tactics we used to reduce cost per lead by 95%.

Tactic 1: Optimize PPC

A lot of companies use PPC to promote products or services, which can be a beneficial tool when utilized correctly. Some folks simply pick generic keywords when developing a PPC strategy. This is a good start, but you’ll really see a better return on your PPC investment if you also consider organic keyword strategies in your campaigns. How so? Here are three quick tips:

1) Negative Keywords

First is the use of negative keywords.  After running Adwords, you may start to see the same keyword bringing in irrelevant clicks.  

By creating negative keywords, you are telling Google not to show your ads when this term is part of the search query.  You start saving money by removing irrelevant clicks that will never convert.

2) Modified Broad Match

Swap the default broad match with modified broad match. This is another great way to reduce unwanted clicks. Google is set up to match the keywords you pick with the greatest amount of search queries possible. So, they allow for different synonyms to show your ad when they think it’s relevant.  

This can help to find more relevant keywords, but it may also cost you in the long run due to clicks that will never convert. With modified broad search, you add a plus sign to any keyword and that makes sure the specific keyword chosen is always in the search query.  

So for example, if your keywords are "plastic cups" without the plus sign, you could be advertising on pages for glass cups; but if your keywords are plastic+ cups+, then you wouldn’t be found under "glass cups" but instead "dishwasher safe plastic cups" or "microwavable plastic cups."


3) User Context

User context is another thing to focus on when creating ads. The idea behind this tactic is delivering your ad to the right place at the right time.  The variables you can alter are location, time of search and device.

  • Time of Search:  If you are trying to get leads to call you, but you’re only open from 8am-5pm, then why would you set advertisements to run during off hours?
  • Device: Think about your audience and what they are looking up your business on.  Is it their computer or their phone? You can adjust the amount you bid for your ad depending on the device being used.
  • Location: This is an easy one. If your geographic reach is only Nebraska, then don’t run ads in New York.  Simple as that.


Having this information for our client allowed us to reduce spend on non-performing campaigns and ads and invest and improve in the ones that were performing. We were able to take control of the PPC campaigns to optimize investment levels and actually reduce overall spending.

Tactic 2: Adopt Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a method of using technology, data, and context to provide automated email communication to your prospects. Your prospects' response to this communication can then be used to automatically score or grade them based on the likelihood they will become a customer.

Marketing automation increases marketing ROI because it helps take the guesswork out of qualifying leads. Once your lead scoring system is in place, sales doesn’t have to spend as much time following up with bad leads, which means they can close more deals in less time.

We created lead nurturing campaigns for our client to keep leads engaged and aware of their services because the business has a lot of seasonality. Automated email communication to your prospects helps increase marketing ROI because it allows you to continue to nurture leads with regular communication until they’re ready to buy. Because the communication is designed beforehand and automated, you can continue well-targeted communication while minimizing labor hours.

Tactic 3: Implement Closed Loop Reporting

Because our client had such a small team and no CRM integration, they couldn’t report customer conversions accurately or in a timely fashion. To ensure we had captured every conversion in the data analysis, we listened to every inbound sales call.

As a result, we identified and labeled sales qualified leads (SQLs) as soon as they became new customers in HubSpot without creating any additional work for our client’s team. With this information now added into HubSpot, we could see precisely which campaigns, ads, and keywords were driving the SQLs and customer conversions.

The very best way to increase marketing ROI starts with understanding where your money is going and where it’s coming from. “Closing the loop” simply means creating a communication link between sales and marketing.

Sales needs to inform marketing of who has given the company money, and how much money they gave. Marketing can then verify which new customers are the result of marketing efforts. If marketing has been keeping track of spending, marketing will be able to calculate the return on investment the new customers brought in.

When you can calculate the ROI of your marketing efforts, you can gain insight into which strategies, tactics, or campaigns were the most effective (and which ones were least effective). With that knowledge, you can double down your efforts on what works and abandon what doesn’t work.

The Bottom Line

We were able to optimize our client’s marketing investment across both types of lead generation campaigns so that the total average cost per lead for our client was a mere $31 - a 95 % reduction from where we started at $600!

Inbound marketing can work to maximize your marketing investment. It takes having a clear plan, using a proven methodology, systematically implementing the right strategies and constantly monitoring / tweaking performance.

Using the right tools that let you implement those strategies quickly and easily, so you can track and analyze results is crucial to achieving the results you’re looking for. And above all, you need people who understand the different marketing strategies, how they work together, are responsible for implementing your plan and can get the work done. Knowing what to do is only half the battle. Getting it done, and done well, is the other.


Originally published Jan 22, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


Inbound Marketing Lead Nurturing Marketing Automation