Reducing cost per acquisition by 71.5% during lockdown


Improve International provides recognised training for veterinary professionals, helping them sharpen the skills and knowledge they need in practice. 

Pre-pandemic, these courses were offered on a face-to-face basis. During the pandemic, however, they had to pivot to a distance learning model to keep the business viable — and this meant using targeted advertising to raise awareness of the new online courses.  

Usually, Improve International ran their marketing campaigns internally. However, owing to the gravity of the situation, they decided to work with an agency. So, we had our objective: promote three remote courses over three months, testing copy, creative, landing pages, and channels to bring the cost per acquisition (CPA) down to profitable levels. 

Challenge accepted.


Because these courses require significant investment (upwards of £12,000), it was vital that we quickly established trust and credibility with our ads across Google Ads and Facebook. 

Therefore, our strategy comprised several split tests to find the right message for Improve International’s audience. We created a bank of headlines and descriptions to understand what delivered the best clickthrough rates (CTR). We also created a bank of imagery to test ads across Google’s Display Network and Facebook. 

At the same time, we set about targeting these ads to a very select group of people. Improve International’s courses are only for vets who’ve been practising for over a year. You can’t target for that, so we had to get creative. 

Starting with a broader audience, we refined by age, gender, interests and more, overlaying multiple targeting options until we found vets with the right mix of credentials and interest. 

This allowed us to uncover the most engaged audience for the campaign, both in terms of CTR and conversions. Speaking of which…


Building the audience and developing the message was only part of the puzzle. Importantly, we had to get these eager-to-learn-from-afar vets into Improve International’s sales funnel — and so our attention turned to their landing pages. 

Previously, users were taken to a top-level overview of the courses. From there, they could navigate to a more detailed page about a specific course. 

However, we pointed out that this extra step could disengage ad visitors. If they clicked on an ad about Feline Practice, that’s what we had to give them. 

We began heat mapping the individual landing pages to understand how visitors were engaging with the content. This led to multiple changes to the structure and design of the pages.

For example, we discovered that the key features of the course were getting plenty of attention, but they were hidden away below the fold. We brought these higher up the page to make them more prominent.  

We also made a simple yet effective tweak, swapping the colour of the Book Now and Register Interest buttons. Asking someone to part with thousands of pounds on their first visit is a hard sell at the best of times, and so we wanted to draw the user’s eye to the Register button first.

Finally, if there’s one thing you should know about Zest, it’s that we never rest on our laurels. While we were tasked with managing paid ads (and things were ticking along nicely), we knew through experience there could be game-changing insights hidden across other channels. 

By monitoring Improve International’s analytics, we made a fundamental discovery: organic traffic was converting via Bing. And if it was converting organically, chances are traffic from Bing Ads would convert, too. (Spoiler alert: it did.) 

Our testing had shown that an older, higher-income audience offered the best chance of results, and Bing’s audience fit the bill. So, we added targeted Bing Ads to our mix and quickly achieved a much lower cost-per-click (CPC) than Google Ads. 

And although Bing has a significantly smaller audience than Google, it more than played its part in the campaign’s overall success.


At the start of the campaign, Improve International set a CPA target based on profitability.  

  • Month One: We were 66.8% over our CPA target. Undeterred, we knew we’d learned plenty to take into the next month.
  • Month Two: By refining the message and tweaking the landing page designs, we delivered 19.6% under the CPA target.
  • Month Three: Yet more improvements, including the introduction of Bing, meant we ended the campaign a healthy 52.4% under the CPA target.

Overall, we delivered a 71.5% reduction in CPA from the first to the third (and final) month. 

This short-term campaign allowed Improve International to bring a new and successful advertising framework back in-house — and meant they didn’t have to push pause (or should that be paws?) on their business during the pandemic. 


Reduction in CPA

Launch distance learning courses during pandemic

“From the first onboarding meeting, it was clear that Zest were the digital experts! They gave guidance and a fantastic support service with detailed monthly reports, which have grown our learning immensely. As a result, we’ve been able to meet the sales targets we set for the launch of these new products whilst gaining valuable knowledge about how to best promote within the various digital platforms.”

Gaynor Moreton, Marketing Manager, Improve International


Reduction in CPA

Launch distance learning courses during pandemic

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