May 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Selling on the web not such a hard case for Deployable Systems

Deployable Systems’ web sales went from zero to profitable in less than a year as the company found pay-per-click was the key to selling its ruggedized cases online.

Deployable Systems’ web site was producing virtually no sales a year ago and company executives were not sure the web would prove an effective way to sell their highly specialized product: ruggedized cases for sensitive equipment such as weapons, medical gear and computers. A year later, company president Michael Morin knows he can generate revenue online and that paid search is the way to produce orders for the products he sells.

Morin, who joined Deployable in January 2006, engaged search marketing firm Search Mojo last summer to boost traffic to the site. The firm first focused on organic search, optimizing the site for 10 key terms that customers were likely to search for, says Janet Miller, president and CEO of Search Mojo.

The brought Deployable from far back in the pack to the top 20 in some search results and the top 100 in others. But it wasn’t enough to produce orders. “That led us to do a pay-per-click campaign,” Morin says, “and that’s when the cash register started to open for business.”

For the six months from Nov. 1 through the end of April the pay-per-click campaign, which focused on Google, produced 1.43 million impressions for Deployable’s paid search ads, 26,315 click-throughs and 671 purchases. With Deployable spending about $6,000 per month on the campaign, Morin calculates the cost per sale as $56.50, “which we find very reasonable,” he says.

Miller says the best-performing keywords for Deployable are very specific terms such as “storm cases”, “military cases” and “ATA cases” which refer to cases certified by the airlines. She says Deployable typically pays about $2.50 for a highly desirable keyword like “storm cases.”

Creating landing pages tailored to specific search ads helped boost business, Miller says. For instance, a landing page that her firm created for Hardigg cases, a brand Deployable carries, boosted sales 30% in the first month. The page features four of the most popular Hardigg models, with a link to others, and copy aimed at customers searching for that manufacturer’s cases.

Miller says paid search works better than organic search for a company like Deployable for a number of reasons. Since Deployable had not had much traffic to its web site it was starting well behind both other resellers and the manufacturers like Hardigg that it represents, and it would take some time before the engines would see enough activity to move Deployable closer to the top. With keywords, Miller says, a company can get its ad on the first search results page immediately.

Another advantage is that advertisers can bid on keywords for only certain times of day. Deployable, which primarily sells to U.S. customers, can advertise during U.S. business hours, and not waste money advertising overnight, when its ads would more likely be seen by online users in Asia and Europe.

Overall, Morin says he has spent about $46,000 on the marketing campaign and generated $250,000 in sales. Given his profit margin and the commissions he pays sales representatives-he says half of the sales that come from the web are completed on the phone because of the custom nature of many orders-he expects the campaign to reach the break-even point in about a month. “Then,” he says, “every month it will be operating in the black, in less than a year.”

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