With Fintech, Some Leads Are Better than Others: A Paid Search Perspective

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Shouldn’t all leads captured get the same attention? Ask a salesperson that and they’ll likely tilt their head trying to figure out if you’re making some sort of joke. People whose primary responsibility is selling know that some leads have more potential than others. It’s a simple truth they would never feel the need to explain. So why don’t marketing and advertising teams get this?

Time and time again, I’ve seen marketers (both agency and client-side) driving leads via paid search without prioritizing post-capture, or at least looking more deeply into their quality and potential. This focus on quantity rather than quality won’t drive the best return on marketing dollars. It’s important to identify and define the value of leads, and adjust the efforts involved in going after them.

So if all leads aren’t equal, how do you run paid advertising to drive the highest ROI? The quality of a lead will change across verticals, placements, audiences, locations, and also over time. A valuable lead today might be worth less a month from now. But it’s also important that these refinements come later.

Cast A Wide Net

A fintech paid search campaign should start out broad. This means building out campaigns around non-brand and competitor verticals that initially may seem prohibitively expensive or inefficient from a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) standpoint. But don’t overthink this. Instead, determine a window of time to allow yourself to see what works and what doesn’t. You’re likely to find things you didn’t expect, and, as a bonus, you’ll get a more detailed picture of the overall competitive landscape.

At envisionit, this has been part of our approach. A fintech client of ours in the payments space watched their steady growth stall and turned to us to help them get back on track. Their goal was to maximize return, and their current paid search campaign strategy wasn’t aligned to achieve this. They were seeing high conversion numbers, but they weren’t seeing greater ROI. So, we had to take a deeper dive into the numbers to determine why.

For this fintech client, capturing a lead (in this case, a new merchant) was just the start of the process. After the lead came through they had to pass through a stringent legal application process, then set up an account and ultimately start driving transaction value. This value takes a while to realize, sometimes 2 to 3 months, but it’s the key to driving high returns. Being able to better identify and predict which conversions were likely to drive high transactional revenues quickly was our focus.

Gather Data

This might be the most important step in running a successful fintech campaign. You won’t know where the real opportunities lie until you test; whether it’s across social, display, or paid search. Testing and gathering data provides a lot more value than simply identifying the relative CPA for each campaign. In some cases, you may learn enough to actually change the way you define a lead or at least how much you value it. Beyond that, you get answers. What are competitors doing? How competitive is each space? Is the quality of lead affected by a particular variable (location, time, vertical, etc.)? What messaging works best, and where? Answers to these questions are what drive a successful campaign.

Some Advice: Be careful when tying in historical data during this process. It may seem like a good way to speed up the process or lower the budget, but proceed with caution. Comparing or combining this with a new test or launch will rarely give you an “apples to apples” look. It is certainly not irrelevant but think of it as another tool in your toolbox. SEM, Social, and Display marketplaces change quickly. Change over time needs to be accounted for.

Identify Opportunity

By casting a wide net, we found opportunities we didn’t expect in areas that hadn’t previously been tested. The next step was identifying conversions that drive high transactional value, which took longer to validate and required a deeper analysis of the data. Once we were able to identify the shared qualities or traits of these conversions, we knew what were looking for. And we continued refining and defining these traits.

Look Beyond the Super Lead

Lifetime value was our next hurdle. We were looking for a lead that would drive significant value, consistently, over the long haul. These leads were worth a lot. And if there was a high probability that a specific lead would turn out to drive consistent value over the long run, every stakeholder involved was willing to pay more to get it.

We couldn’t spend all of our time on these “super leads” though, and needed to put efforts, as well as ad dollars, towards different tiers of leads. Fintech search campaigns can be tricky this way. A super lead is fantastic, but there are other leads also worth going after that are cheaper to acquire. Also, the fintech space is increasingly competitive, but there’s no consistency with those competitors. They seem to come and go and opportunities open and close frequently. There are those unyielding new competitors launching creative and aggressive campaigns that suddenly fizzle out. For our client’s campaign, this is one of the main reasons we saw such volatility in CPA. Check those Auction Insights reports folks! This is where you learn to roll with the punches. It’s easy to overreact when you see you’re not getting as much mileage from your investment, but if you know exactly why this is happening and the traits you value most, you can respond appropriately.

Learn and Adapt

Keep adapting, learning and zeroing in on what works. The dynamic landscape shifts quickly, so you can’t just keep doing the same thing; there’s no set it and forget it. Continuous, iterative small changes go a long way in the world of paid search, but especially for fintech. It’s similar to compound interest in that the value these incremental changes brings grows exponentially and before you know it, you’re onto something really transformative.