The Genghis Kahn school of marketing, made famous in the 1980s by Larry Ellison, has as its principle maxim the notion that it’s not enough that one succeeds, one’s opponents must also fail. A look under the covers at one of Microsoft’s latest additions to its CRM Online product has a little of that old Genghis Kahn “zero sum” game plan, and the zero with the target on its forehead is good old Google.
Here’s what Microsoft and its CRM team are up to. Coming to CRM Online this fall – and for the low low price of “free”, no less – is a new feature that lets Microsoft CRM customers track the success of their search word-based web marketing campaigns. The concept is simple: capture the leads as generated by your favorite search engine, and then analyze how those leads translate into actual sales for your company. In the process you get to see whether the money you’re paying to Google for your marketing campaign – to pick on the company most likely to hate this idea – is actually worth anything in terms of genuine results.
I have to admit I love this idea, and wish there were some way to do this on a much broader base, because the bottom line is that Henry Ford’s old adage about advertising – half of what I spend is wasted, and if I knew what half it was I’d get rid of it – is very much alive and well in the online world.
The problem is simple – the metrics that are typically used by search engines and marketplaces to measure their own value to their advertisers, like clicks and page views, really only report on the most basic of behaviors: someone came to the site and did something. Did that interaction actually result in any business being generated? Hard to tell, because there’s really no way to connect browsing behavior to an actual sale in most B2B and B2C environments.
But if your campaign is launched from the same CRM system that is tracking completed orders, you suddenly have a roundtrip view of your campaign’s success – or failure – that’s about as accurate as you can get. And, over time, you have a pretty accurate picture of how well that search engine you pay your big marketing bucks to is actually performing, in dollars and cents.
But wait, there’s more. Much more. Supposing you are a big enterprise software vendor –take Microsoft, for instance – in a do-or-die struggle against a big Web search vendor – Google, if you will – and you had a hosted service that tracked search engine success for a large number of customers. Imagine if you – Microsoft – aggregated your customers’ success rate in using their – Google’s – search engine, and then published the results. Wouldn’t it be interesting to show exactly how successful – or, as I am inclined to believe, shockingly unsuccessful – Google Ad Words are in generating real business for a broad range of customers?
Damn right it would be interesting. Game changing, I would add. Because suddenly the myth of Ad Word advertising would be faced with the reality of sales, and, well, I think the results would be sobering for anyone who thinks Google is invincible and a welcome revelation for anyone who thinks there’s more to marketing than Google Ad Words.
Will Microsoft actually collect and publish this data? I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me. But in my heart of hearts I just know that those shy quiet milktoasts up there in Redmond would never do anything like publish success and failure rates for their competitors. That would be too… aggressive. I’m sure they’d much rather just let the mythology of Google Ad Words continue to eat their market perception lunch every day.