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Meet A Landy Award Winner: How SearchMarketers.com Won Overall Small Business SEM Initiative For Its Surf Air Campaign

The Search Engine Land Awards - #TheLandys

The Landy award for best Best Overall SEM Initiative (Small Business) went to SearchMarketers.com earlier this month in recognition of the agency’s campaign for California-based start-up Surf Air, which operates a membership-only fleet of private planes serving business travelers in California.

Justin Hart, vice president of member acquisition at Surf Air, explained that part of the marketing challenge for SearchMarketers.com was the fact that Surf Air doesn’t market through other sellers like a traditional airline. “Because we don’t sell tickets, we don’t have the built-in feeder system that commercial airlines rely on — we don’t list our flights on Orbitz or Kayak and the like — we have to create our own marketing channels.”

Paid search was the foundation of the campaign, which also incorporated retargeting, look-a-like targeting, paid social and display campaigns to drive traffic to a custom microsite.

The campaign targeted prospective members within 50 miles of Surf Air destination airports in California and Nevada. SearchMarketers.com used location, household income and psychographic data to refine the audience targeting and zoom in on qualified prospects.

In just over a month, the campaign increased Surf Air’s active membership roster by more than 25 percent at a double-digit ROAS.

“SearchMarketers.com helped us get in front of a very targeted market — frequent business travelers in California who fly between the specific cities that we serve,” said Hart. “­­Our paid channel is now bursting at the seams with thousands of prospects every month and our SEO has tremendously benefited from the ancillary traffic as well. Our membership has grown from 400 members when SearchMarketers.com first joined us in 2014 to 2200 members today. It’s a tremendous success for this revolutionary way to fly.”

The SearchMarketers.com team shared some details about the campaign after their big win:

Taking A Microtargeting Cue From Political Campaigns

Granular targeting efforts didn’t put a chokehold on scale and kept the campaign efficient.

“Among a few learnings from the Surf Air campaign, what surprised us most was our ability to achieve scale and exceed client lead volume targets whilst applying microtargets. SearchMarketers.com gained insight into communities neighboring Surf Air destinations across the West Coast, identifying areas by demographic and income-based data that best fit Surf Air’s target personas, and targeting users by IP address that resided in these markets.

“The goal with this approach was to filter out potentially unqualified prospects and build as cost-efficient of a Search channel as possible. The result was an extensive selection of targets comprising ZIP codes, targeted radius around points of interest and layered bidding increments. Just as a political campaign may microtarget prospective voters, we proved that the same approach can be applied to private aviation in Search as well.”

Persona-Driven Data Layering Helped Surface Needles In The Haystack.

SearchMarketers.com started with understanding the target customer to inform the location, keyword and other targeting for the campaign.

“As the foundation of our campaigns, SearchMarketers.com firstly learned about Surf Air’s target user personas and set out to identify potential targets around destinations by demographic and income-based data to target such individuals. Secondly, SearchMarketers.com set up local campaigns excluding potentially less relevant communities, thus helping in lead qualification and immediately establishing cost efficiency.

“This approach was most effective in setting up two coinciding campaigns targeting northern and southern areas of Los Angeles County for Surf Air’s Burbank and Hawthorne destinations, respectively. As Los Angeles County consists of over 10 million residents over 5,000 square miles, more work was needed to understand how best to build our micro-targets to reach a luxury travel consumer.”

On top of an extensive set of micro-targets for each Search campaign, SearchMarketers.com developed a broad range of relevant commercial travel and private aviation search keyphrases. The combination of a relevantly targeted prospect and creative that posed Surf Air as a locally convenient alternative to the detested annoyances of commercial travel — especially at the region’s notorious LAX airport — proved to be a success as CTRs trended resoundingly high and acquisition costs were kept to a minimum.”

Client Collaboration And Key Technology Integrations Helped Propel Success.

In addition to having built a search-focused acquisition marketing campaign from scratch, SearchMarketers.com included key technology integrations to underpin the campaign efforts. A custom integration with Kenshoo helped power and inform search campaign management. The team used Marchex call analytics and SalesForce for backend sales integration.

A solid connection between client and agency from beginning to end helped ensure SearchMarketers.com had the information and feedback they needed to drive a successful effort. “We received constant support from our client, Justin Hart, along every step of the way, most notably in providing vital feedback for a custom microsite, defining our target markets and coordinating unique, route-focused messaging between destinations.

Congratulations to SearchMarketers.com and SurfAir on the win.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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