A CMO’s View: How The Bouqs Company uses performance marketing to stand out from competitors
CMO Jarred Goldberg shares how his online flower company uses performance marketing to compete against the bigger e-commerce sites.
As CMO for The Bouqs Company, Jarred Goldberg has been managing customer retention, acquisition, business development, creative and design for the e-commerce flower website since joining the company last December.
“The things I’m focused on this year are specifically around continuing our hyper-growth and building out our brand messaging — and what that looks like in the future,” says Goldberg.
Goldberg says performance marketing — which he defines as any marketing strategy based on a tangible outcome, whether that be a CPA (cost-per-acquisition) or CPO (cost-per-order) — takes on a “halo effect” over his brand’s offerings and helps him distinguish The Bouqs Company from the competition.
Last year, just as Goldberg took over as CMO, the brand ran a holiday performance marketing campaign called the “12 Days of Bouqs” that included a media plan involving a number of channels, from search, social and email to PR, blog posts and TV.
The ads involved 12 specific bouquets for every day of the campaign, with seasonal stories tied to each featured bouquet and “short duration incentives” to purchase the flowers right away.
The brand reports the campaign resulted in a 133 percent year-over-year lift in its holiday-themed sales during the three weeks leading up to Christmas. It performed so well that The Bouqs Company is planning on expanding on the concept this holiday season — setting up new media plans, partners and content.
For today’s CMO’s View column, Goldberg talks with Marketing Land about the role performance marketing plays in his overall strategy, as well as the analytics he uses to gauge a campaign’s success, and why his brand has to be “scrappy” when it comes to its performance marketing strategies.
1. Start with the expected outcome in mind. Develop campaign ideas with the end result in mind. Know what KPIs you’re trying to impact, and which partners and media channels can best support those efforts.
2. If possible, use Lifetime Value as a guiding principle to set terms by channel, partner or media.
3. Use historical and real-time data to formulate pivots in your campaign, test new ideas, create feedback loops with both partners and creative to explore new concepts or to go bigger.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, how do you define performance marketing, and where does it fit within your brand’s overall marketing strategy?
Jarred Goldberg: I would say performance marketing really encompasses all marketing strategies — particularly for brands like us — where we compensate based on a material acquisition outcome. This can include those affiliate marketing payouts of a CPA (cost-per-acquisition), CPO (cost-per-order) or cost-per-install campaigns with predetermined compensatory terms.
I would not characterize performance marketing along the same lines as performance advertising, which is a little bit different. I would say performance marketing really focuses on some of the more non-direct advertising tactics like strategic partnerships, or even referral traffic can also be a kind of performance-based marketing.
AG: How do you differentiate between performance marketing and performance advertising?
JG: I would say for performance marketing, I closely align that with a material outcome — looking at the acquisition that comes through a CPA or prearranged relationship.
When we get into performance marketing, we’re really talking about how we are aligning both our brand and the potential outcome; who we work with from a strategic standpoint is just as important as the ultimate outcome of the campaign.
In performance advertising, you’re talking about outcomes that are less driven off of other marketing activities. When I think of performance-based advertising, those are undetermined outcomes that are driven through segmentation or some of the efforts you might have around media buying.
AG: As an e-commerce brand, how do you employ performance marketing to lift your key metrics?
JG: For companies like us, we’re in a hyper-growth mode, but we’re also in an established niche. I would say this is probably a close comparison for most other e-commerce companies as well. You’ve got to be a bit scrappy, as the data is not as rich as [for] some of our incumbent players.
For our brand and the performance strategies we have, we want to try and closely align those with this opportunistic mindset. I think for us, when I look at performance marketing, I look at it as this halo effect over our overall unique value proposition that sets us apart and aligns closely with what our brand strategy is.
Being in the flower space, we have a transparent pricing model. We have a supply chain where we control the sourcing of our flowers that are direct-to-consumer — and so, through that, some of our value propositions that we’re able to push through our marketing messaging on to the consumer.
I think that those are really very closely aligned initiatives. I would say, as other e-commerce brands are similar to ours or in different niches, it behooves them to understand what their key brand value propositions are, and then how they’re using their marketing to effectively communicate that to the end consumer. If you can marry those two goals together, that’s where you’re going to see the ideal outcome.
AG: Do you have a “peak season” for performance marketing campaigns?
JG: We have a heavy seasonal nature to our flower-buying experience. It tends to be very top-heavy in the first half of the year and less so over the summer, and then follows the traditional retail model, or buying model, from a consumer standpoint.
For us, growing our email list [impacts] our ability to drive sales in the future. As we look at some of the campaigns that we typically launch around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day — which are proverbial “Super Bowls” of flower-buying on an annualized basis — we really look at trying to align both the company’s overall goals — and expectations for growth — along with the campaigns that we have launching around Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
Specifically, for Mother’s Day, we were able to dive into a lot of our search and search metrics. Search has been one of our key drivers, and one of our largest channels of acquisition. This year, we were able to actually rebuild our entire search strategy and separate out both brand and non-brand in a more closely aligned way than we had previously.
This gave us an opportunity to expand the keyword search, as well as our ad copy. We did [a] significant amount of ad copy testing that previously, as a young company, we had never done. This was a huge one for us — particularly around Mother’s Day.
AG: What is your process for determining keywords for your search campaigns?
JG: I would say for us, really doing [a] deep dive from a metric standpoint on keyword and keyword expansion, we’ve found a couple of things.
Number one, really diving in, and taking a deep-dive into long-tail keywords. Again, we’re [a] young and scrappy company, so we can’t afford, from a budget standpoint, to bid on really high or broad keywords. We really have to get very analytical with finding opportunity, and finding these kind of nuggets of untapped potential. That’s where we really had to expand both branded, as well as unbranded, keyword search.
I would say that’s one area we have to constantly be diligent around — trying to find these different opportunities where we can monetize traffic because we can’t afford to go bid on flowers — because it’s just too expensive with some of the incumbent players who are maybe less focused on metrics but more focused on the brand they’re pushing through keyword search.
AG: What role do metrics play in your performance marketing planning? How often do you look at your data, and what are you tracking?
JG: For us, we discuss metrics on a daily basis. We do weekly roll-ups, as well, and measure campaign performance week over week and year over year.
We also have these seasonality peaks and valleys that are a little bit different than most traditional retail. We look at those metrics even closer on a daily basis because the metrics can change so quickly.
[One] of the KPIs that we look at [is] registration. We look at cost per new buyer. We also look at cost [per] order. We also look at total clicks coming to the site, how engaged the audience is by channel — those are some of the key drivers we look at from a metric standpoint.
AG: What types of marketing technology are you using to monitor campaigns?
JG: We use Google Analytics as our go-to. We have steered clear of most any other martech around some of the attribution players and other platforms.
I actually have found there’s quite a bit of data and insight you can tease out with some of our large partners, like Facebook [and] Google — which have a really rich data set. We also dig very deep into our own database, and we look at a lot of the commonalities between lifetime value and channel performance.
As we look to allocate money and investments into the future, we very much pay attention to the channels where we’re getting a higher percentage of high-value customers, an engaged audience, and ultimately, those that are driving a low cost-per-acquisition for us.
AG: What red flags do you look for to avoid poor-performing channels when it comes to your performance marketing?
JG: There’s definitely a vetting process that any e-commerce, or really any company, needs to go through to determine the right partner.
For me, what’s really important is aligning affiliates that closely align with your brand strategy. They should elevate your brand. I think they should be on-brand, and I also think that they should be where your audience is, or where your audience is expected to be. I think that those are three key elements as it comes down to determining partnerships and strategic alignment.
I think some of the red flags that are obvious are when we do very extensive on-boarding process, typically they like to be very aggressive with running traffic. We’d like to see a more measured approach that’s methodical and strategic.
There are some red flags you can see just based on quality of traffic, the aggressiveness of their sales — those are some of the red flags that are pretty obvious.
AG: What have been some of your biggest performance marketing challenges?
JG: The first one of them, I just mentioned, is seasonality. We’re in a highly seasonal business niche that is rather top-heavy on the first half of the year — where flowers have a high relevancy. It starts to taper off over the summer — so aligning your marketing budget and brand strategy with that seasonal kind of feeding frenzy is critical to everything we do on a daily basis.
We also see into the year during holiday season, or traditional holiday season, if you will — Christmas and New Year’s — where we see a lot of gift-giving is another opportunity for us to expand our product offering and tap into a more nontraditional kind of gifting opportunity. We have to be really cognizant of where those opportunities present themselves and then be top of mind for our audience to monetize that.
[Another challenge is that] we have very large, very well-established … flower competitors in the niche who have much more vast resources than we do. We’ve got to be really very careful with every dollar we spend and where we spend it. Even the testing and the insight we tease out on a daily basis — we’ve got to be much more meticulous, and smart, with our investment dollars.
And then just internal resources. We have a team that we’ve addressed hiring where our gaps are. Some of our competitors can hire at will; for us, we really need to match talent with our needs, and our gaps, and address where we’re heading into the future.
Then there’s questions around do you hire internally or do you try and outsource? And, do you try and push that talent to established companies that maybe have a more refined understanding of the complex problems? So those are some of the questions that we have to answer on a daily basis, around taking some of those insights and drawing them out internally, as opposed to pushing them out to a company to expedite growth.