GoTo Hedging Bets On B2B Campaign

In a time when portal plays are being downgraded amid worries about online
advertising spending, GoTo, Inc., is busy getting the word out about its
next iteration — as a B2B marketing services provider.

The effort — and GoTo’s new business — comes as financial analysts have
been expressing serious concerns about portal’s viabilities as ad-supported
plays. In December alone, five covering brokers downgraded the industry’s
heavyweight and bellwether, Yahoo!. Last week, shares of YHOO hit an
all-time low of $25.06.

With analysts’ concerns lingering about the effectiveness of online
advertising — and about the staying power of Internet content pure-plays at
all — GoTo is betting big to make sure 2001 won’t be a rehash of the
previous year’s fortunes.

The firm is investing a sizable chunk of time, effort and cash into an
advertising and direct marketing campaign aimed at promoting the company’s
new direction away from banner ad-supported content.

Like Yahoo! and Excite, the company began life as a search
engine-turned-portal. But GoTo has a distinct difference — the site offers
paid placement in its search engine returns.

That differentiator, and the marketing services that an outsourced
pay-for-placement engine offers affiliated companies — turned out to be one
of the company’s biggest assets. During the past year, executives noticed
that a majority of the site’s search engine users were being driven from
partnered sites — America Online, Ask Jeeves, and others.

GoTo also hasn’t been growing as fast as some of its competitors. As of
Jupiter Media Metrix’s last numbers (from November), GoTo’s monthly unique
traffic had grown only 7.4 percent from last year, as opposed to 24.2
percent for Yahoo! and 50.1 percent for Excite.

Those facts, coupled with the across-the-board downswing in advertising
revenues, led GoTo to plan a move into the B2B space, by partnering with
other Web sites to offer its search engine return position-placement
services.

And through its campaign, which lasts until March, GoTo hopes to position
itself to the portals as a B2B marketing solutions provider, rather than a
competitor — and is investing heavily in the effort.

An internal marketing plan obtained by Internet Advertising Report
lays out the various segments of a six-month-long advertising and marketing
campaign geared to bolster GoTo.com’s affiliate program.

Elements of the campaign kicked off earlier this season with regionally
targeted print advertising in business publications including the
Industry Standard, Business 2.0, Smart Business, and
others. Those ads focus on GoTo as a way to help companies see significant
ROI on their marketing dollars.

But one of the prime constituents of its program, which focuses primarily
on New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, were some fairly plucky direct
mail pieces.

“Broad-targeted reach, print ads will set the foundation, but because
we’re dealing with a fairly small number of key decision-makers within
potential Internet companies, we have a very big direct marketing campaign
where we go right at those,” said Al Callier, director of affiliate channel
marketing for the company.

“We put a lot of effort into positioning ourselves as a premier business
partner in the Internet space, as opposed to a competitor … to better
communicate to our prospective business partners what we are, and to
position ourselves as a key provider of Web revenue,” Callier said. “We see
ourselves as one of the leading business partners for Web sites to drive
revenue and monetize traffic properly. The campaign sets the foundation for
our business development and sales force to establish partnerships against
that objective.”

From early September to mid-October, GoTo shipped two-foot-tall,
remote-controlled toy robots to potential clients, at an approximate retail
val

ue $200. Messaging to the effect of “GoTo: Powering Results” accompanied
the logo-covered, missile-firing robot.

“We had people calling us just to say ‘Wow, I hadn’t thought about GoTo,”
Callier said. “To be innovative really separates you from the pack, and it
really helped us a great deal.”

While some marketers are busy trimming knickknacks and tchotchkes from
their marketing budgets, GoTo not only embraces them, but is making them the
cornerstone of its marketing effort.

“The kind of people we’re trying to reach, it’s not unusual for them to
receive a lot of marketing offers and giveaways. Their inboxes are full of
them, many of which don’t break through the clutter, and are just discarded.
So we put in extra effort into our direct marketing campaign,” said GoTo’s
John Gentry, who heads the company’s affiliate business.

“You receive a large, intrusive package that demands your attention and
makes you think about GoTo a littler differently than other companies that
might do ordinary direct marketing efforts,” he added. “People love it —
they get a big kick out of it. It makes really clear where we are in the
market place, and keeps us top of mind with people.”

The robot effort reprised a 1999 concept, in which GoTo mailed blimps to
potential leads. For that work, “we literally created a downscale version”
of a blimp,” Callier said.

“It’s pretty big, in a big yellow box, and talked about GoTo’s ability to
create ‘rising Web revenues’ … if you think about the relation between
helium and rising, that’s the symbolism captured,” he added. The blimp “was
another high-impact direct tactic that had another great response from our
key targets.”

GoTo is also sending cover-wrapped, complimentary six-month subscriptions
to select e-business publications to selected leads, in addition to
sponsoring events and trade shows in the three markets, including an
Industry Standard rooftop shindig in Manhattan.

“We had a very relevant tactics for [the Standard party]: we gave out
branded GoTo boxer shorts,” Callier said. The messaging on the sorts read,
“GoTo Covers your Bottom Line.”

“Our goal was to break though the clutter, to different GoTo, to get
their attention, to motivate them and break the ice for our sales force to
engage them,” Callier said.

“When we had talks with them a year ago … they didn’t know where we
stood,” Gentry said. Now, “we are solely based on being a provider of Web
functionality … and [marketing this change] been the focus of Al and his
team.

GoTo wouldn’t comment on the users or revenue it’s seeing from the effort
this far, but Gentry said that the company’s campaign “has had a positive
impact” since it began.

“We think the results will speak for themselves,” he added.

Whether the effort will pay off for the company is in the air, but for
GoTo — hedging its bets on its new business as a marketing solutions
provider — its success is crucial to its continued survival in 2001, and
beyond.

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