Last quarter, Russian search marketing published a number of Yandex.Direct success stories that display how various types of businesses find success in Russia through Yandex advertising.  Each story highlights not only the success for these companies but their business development and advertising methods.

For a full picture on the spectrum of successful businesses in Russia and tips on working with Yandex account managers, check out this Yandex success story on Renaissance Insurance.  Yandex sat down with Kseniya Koshkina, head of advertising at Renaissance Insurance, to discuss her take on Yandex advertising.

Tell us about how your business is set up.

We offer practically all services: from personal car, property, and health insurance—including travel insurance—to corporate liability insurance. More than half of our portfolio comes from car insurance. At the same time, we use all sales channels. We have a large agent and partner network and our company has its own channel for directly selling our products online and through our call center.

The direct sales channel appeared on the Russian market relatively recently. In September 2008, we were one of the first to start selling insurance services online. Thanks to this, we gained market leadership and continue to actively develop our direct sales channel. It is primarily directed at buyers who want to understand a product on their own and select the best set of options that help them save money at the same time. We get a clear picture of our clients’ needs, which allows us to introduce necessary options and provide informed decisions.

Where is Renaissance focusing their marketing efforts?

All of our activities are focused on direct sales. They interest us most of all because we don’t pay commission to partners, which means that we can allocate more funds to advertising and marketing. We kill two birds with one stone here: we encourage direct sales and increase brand awareness; thus, increasing sales in other channels.

What tools do you use to attract “direct” clients?

When we decided to focus on direct sales, our main task was to promote our website. We primarily used offline channels to do this: television, press, radio, and outdoor advertising. By doing so, we were able to pull away from our competitors, let people know about our site, and drive visitors to it. This turned out to be a successful decision.

For five years now we have been checking to see how much money each advertising channel brings our business on a daily basis. During this time, we have drastically revised our approach. Initially we primarily used offline channels and placed less emphasis on the internet; now, our business’s main driving forces now are the internet and television.

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When did you start using Yandex.Direct? What difficulties did you face at the beginning?

We started actively using Direct in 2008 when I came to Renaissance Insurance.  At that point, it was already understood that Direct is a very effective tool. But the agency that we worked with at that time didn’t understand very well how to use if effectively.  We, therefore, had to figure out for ourselves how Direct was set up in order to fully understand what we were spending money on. We stopped using the agency’s services and started actively working with our account manager at Yandex. This really helped us to understand the nuances of setting up ad campaigns.

In literally two months we put together the system for working with Direct that we still use to this day. We started with only one ad and ten queries. Now we have thirty ad campaigns and thousands of ads.

How is your ad placement currently set up in Direct?

Our employees and a special department at the Maxus advertising agency handle contextual advertising. We started our partnership with Maxus after we got the hang of working with Direct. This department can, in many ways, already be considered part of our team because they just understand what our business needs to do so well. We also regularly meet with and consult our account manager at Yandex. He helps us resolve difficult tasks and reminds us of important nuances. So, we have people from three sides working simultaneously.

How do you analyze the effectiveness of your advertising and allocate budgets among channels?

Our work is based on a constant systematic analysis of media placement results. We also regularly share information with the agency about the number of calculations and applications clients make on our site and through the call center. By comparing this information with data on advertising placements, we track its influence on the business’ key indicators. Thanks to this close cooperation, we always know how much money we spent on each campaign, how many clicks we received, how many policies clients calculated, and how much each one cost.  Our analysts, together with the agency’s team, developed an econometric model that determines each advertising channel’s contribution to our sales using historical data. For example, the model suggested that more than 60% of clients that visited our site directly and made an order, actually found out about us thanks to contextual advertising.

Currently, this model is our primary planning tool. It tells how much advertising [space] we need to buy—in Direct, for instance—in order to reach a new level of sales. And this is why advertising online is so convenient and advantageous: you can measure everything and instantly apply it to the business.

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What tools do you use to analyze your traffic?

First of all, we use our CRM system. The necessary information is instantly displayed in it, like, for example, the amount of money and applications collected. Openstat analytics are integrated into it to track the chain of conversions.

In addition to our CRM system, we also use free web analytic services. Yandex.Metrica, for example, helps us to better understand how our visitors behave on every stage of the sales funnel. Metrica’s Report wizard became an important link in our analytic chain. With its help, we receive a lot of data in a view that’s clearer than what our CRM system presents. Recently, Metrica helped us to see that an ad campaign in one city was really affecting overall knowledge of the brand: we noticed a sharp growth of certain search queries.

Do you have any special techniques that make working with Yandex.Direct more effective?

We try to experiment with conducting ad campaigns in Direct and approach it creatively. To give you an example, we selected groups of users that search for insurance online and determined each group’s needs; i.e. people who are insuring themselves for the first time, experienced drivers, etc. We create our own list of queries for each group and put together separate ads.

We have ad campaigns for wide search queries. There are also special campaigns by car brands and individual regional campaigns. We constructed a specific strategy for each one: in some cases, it’s important for us to reach premium placement. In others, it’s important to pay less to get the same result.

If you had to give a simple analogy, Yandex.Direct is like..?

Direct is like a boomerang. The better you understand the conditions and parameters before launching it, the further and surer it will fly.

What advice can you give those who are just starting to use Yandex.Direct?

The most important advice I can give is don’t be afraid of numbers; learn to love them. Spend the time to dig into them, compare, analyze, believe and don’t believe them. It’s really interesting math! Plus, it’s only thanks to an accurate calculation that the boomerang comes back to you.