Employment classifieds are one of the most insanely competitive online services to sell to businesses today.
Seems like everyone's scrambling for a cut of the $1.3 billion industry -- from newspaper sites, trade associations, B-to-B online publishers, regional sites and, of course, the name-brand Web pure plays.
To grow mindshare in the past, Monster North America's advertising (NSDQ: MNST) included everything from Super Bowl ads to running millions of dollars of ads on Internet portals and top-visited sites. "We took a very aggressive online marketing approach," says General Manager Rathin Sinha.
Having achieved critical mass in terms of job seeker traffic, Monster's corporate team decided in 2004 to launch more targeted campaigns at the prospects who pay the bills -- mainly HR executives from mid-sized companies buying thousands of dollars worth of listings per year directly online.
But, it's one thing to build traffic for a free site for the general Web population and quite a different to appeal to that small, select group of business buyers.
Sinha realized his marketing team had to throw out everything they thought they already knew about Web advertising and offers … and start from scratch. B-to-B would be an entirely new beast.CAMPAIGN
Over the past two years, the team tested every aspect of their online presence as it relates to attracting new business prospects, converting clicks to paid accounts … and ensuring business client loyalty long-term despite overwhelming competition.
These extensive, ongoing tests included:
#1. Online media buying.
Sinha's team divided their B-to-B media buying targets into two groups:
A. HR executives
Monster targeted HR-specific sites for this niche. However, because everyone in HR is fairly well aware of the brand, the campaigns were considered more of an ongoing reminder and loyalty purchase -- fending off competition -- rather than a new prospect outreach tool. So creative and success measurement varied based on these goals.
B. Non-HR-specific business execs with hiring requirements
Plenty of execs, from Presidents to department managers, in mid-sized firms place ads themselves rather than going through an HR expert or they instruct an assistant on where they want ads placed on their behalf.
However, few of them ever surf HR sites. And while they might be familiar with Monster's general consumer ads, the brand might not spring to mind when these execs had their employer hat on.
So the team tested ads on a variety of mainly B-to-B news and information Web sites. These included salary research sites, business newspapers online and stock market info sites.
The team tracked conversions from clickthroughs and viewthroughs (people who saw an ad but didn't click on it) using a two-week cookie to determine success.
The offer in ad creative was also tested by type of site (news vs. stock picks, etc.) The team's goal was to match the psychology of the executive as he or she surfed the Internet.
After all, a company president researching salary ranges for a potential hire is in a very different mind frame from the same president reading local business news online.
Tested offers ranged from:
- General info about Monster (for the truly newbie population)
- $50-$100 discounts on immediate job postings
- "Monster Companion", a downloadable desktop application that enabled employers to more easily manage their accounts (surf responses and resumes, etc.)
#3. Landing pages
The team also aggressively tested landing pages -- trying out ideas other B-to-B marketers should swipe. Each test was based on an idea about the psychology of the prospect at the moment of landing. Examples:
- Altering landing page offers for re-clickers (people who clicked through in the past but never converted). For example, the discount might be higher to push them over the edge this time. Note: this is fairly easy to do with cookies.
- Revamping the main home page Monster.com to be more appealing to prospects who had viewed ads in the past two weeks but never clicked through.
Would these viewthroughs prefer a home page that balanced its content with equal weight given to employers vs. job seekers? Or would they be OK with a home page that focused nearly 100% on job seekers, leaving only a tiny box in the upper right corner with small links for employers to post jobs or sign in. (Link below to samples of both home page styles tested.)
- Multivariate testing the landing page for the toughest offer of all, the downloadable desktop application.
(It's easier to get a one-time commitment to buy based on a discount than it is to convince a business executive to download software. Why? Partly it's the fear drilled into execs’ heads by their IT departments over the years; but also a download implies a commitment to an extended relationship rather than a one-shot-what-the-heck job posting.)
The multivariate test included (see link below to pictures of the old control and new winner):
o Headlines -- "Try Monster Companion" vs. "Download Monster Companion"
o Subheads -- "Get exclusive offers, important news and direct access to Monster" vs. "Get convenient desktop access to the Web's leading job site!"
o Page layout -- vertical vs. horizontal
o Download button copy, location and graphic design
o Disclaimer copy -- large-type, long-winded reassuring copy about privacy and "this is not spyware" vs. tiny "Privacy Statement"-type hotlinks.
Lastly, once a prospect converted to purchasing a job posting, the team also tested adding cross-sells into the purchase funnel itself as the executive checked out. "If someone is buying a job posting -- and at the point of purchase we tell them you can supplement this by buying a resume database," explains Sinha.
Monster North America's revenues from employer-posted listings grew by more than 200% in two years. (In comparison, US overall ecommerce revenues including online services grew 51% in the past two years.)
What worked the best? "The biggest learning is that there is no big learning. It has to be continual testing," notes Sinha. That said, he did share some specific test results with MarketingSherpa, including:
#1. Best offer varied by the type of site the prospect was surfing when he or she saw the ad.
On sites targeting people who already knew Monster.com, such as true HR sites, it worked best to give a special offer on something they could purchase right away. Those who clicked were directed to a specially created landing page. Sinha found that an offer of $50 off worked well on those sites.
On non HR-related sites (Weather.com, Marketwatch.com, etc.), Sinha found general info ad creative worked best. "They don't want to buy right then.” The best landing page for these ads was Hiring.Monster.com, a general information home page specifically for employers.
When the ad to these non-HR-surfers was discount-based rather than informational, that discount needed to be higher than it was on HR sites. "When people are only in a half mood for buying, they might need $100 off."
#2. For general home page tests to convert viewthroughs,
Sinha found that having the employers’ box in the top right corner worked best.
"Despite having that smaller amount of real estate, our customers mostly are very used to expecting it on the right-hand corner." So the page featuring 1/3 content targeting employers directly was dumped in favor of a home page focusing nearly 100% on job seekers instead.
#3. The re-clicker tests proved their worth. Changing the offer on the landing page for people who saw but did not convert in the past "has been very successful."
#4. The multivariate tests for the download offer proved a great investment -- the final winning page had a 35.8% higher conversion rate (i.e. people clicking the download button) than the initial control page had had.
Key lessons learned were:
o Headlines -- "Download Monster Companion" won, proving the word "download" has some magic even for non IT execs.
o Subheads -- However, the benefit-oriented subhead ("Get exclusive offers, important news and direct access to Monster") won out over the more download-oriented subhead test ("Get convenient desktop access to the Web's leading job site!")
o Page layout -- Vertical design won our over horizontal. Unlike print designs, turned out that prospects online prefer to read in order top to bottom rather than in three column chunks going across the page.
o Download button copy, location, and graphic design: Clear and simple design wins the day. A big fat 3-D style "Go!" button placed both in the top right and bottom middle of the landing page outpulled other ideas tested.
o Disclaimer copy -- turns out mid-size company execs are not remotely as worried about spyware as perhaps their IT departments would like them to be. The large, long reassuring copy about privacy etc was *not* the winner.
Prospects were more reassured by small hotlinks they could click for more privacy information. Few clicked, but the hotlinks by the placement on the page, did the job. (Note: We've found this to be absolutely true for email privacy announcements on opt-in forms as well.)Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples including multivariate test before-and-after screenshots:
Offermatica, the testing and optimization service Monster uses:
Atlas, an ad serving vendor Monster uses
Note: Rathin Sinha spoke at November's AD:TECH in New York. For information about future shows, visit
Monster's home site for employers -- HiringMonster.com
Monster North America