December 1, 2008
Marketing in the World of the WebRetailers will eventually recover from the consumption tailspin that threatens this holiday season. But quite apart from the recession, there are other, profound changes underway in the retail sector. As the evidence mounts about the power of social networks to reconfigure individual behavior, the crucial question facing industry is: How to leverage this phenomenon into actual profits?
The second generation of Internet ("Web 2.0") companies such as MySpace, Facebook, Linked/In and YouTube exploded upon the scene three years ago. Today, MySpace and Facebook together have more users than the entire U.S. population; and the online community concept is already becoming a powerful tool for everything from creating customer loyalty, to assistance in product design, to a sounding board for company strategy.
Corporations from IBM to Toyota and Johnson & Johnson have been rushing to establish their own affiliated social networks and bind their customers ever more closely. There isn't a smart company today that isn't implementing some kind of online community, wiki or blog strategy.
But companies with millions of members of online communities are now asking: What next? How do we sell them products and services, or mobilize them into massive de facto R&D, manufacturing and sales departments? We have been studying the challenge and have concluded that very few of the traditional techniques of classical marketing (call them Marketing 1.0), or even of eCommerce (Marketing 2.0) will work in the world of social networks. A very different set of tools, concepts and practices is needed. Call it Marketing 3.0. Here are five:
- From loyalty to attention. Before you can win consumer loyalty, you have to capture and reward consumer attention. Old propositions -- network television's tired offer of 22 minutes of canned sitcoms in exchange for eight minutes of untargeted commercials -- won't cut it. Consumers are demanding a better deal.
Some brands are starting to flirt with better exchange rates: Virgin Mobile gives a minute of free phone time for every minute of advertising a customer accepts. Ryan Air recently announced it would offer $15 coach tickets from the U.S. to Europe, subsidized by passenger attention to advertising and in-flight sales pitches.
Smart marketers will of necessity become obsessed with customer attention in the way they once obsessed over customer loyalty. The shrewd brands will create elaborate attention-rewards programs, and incentives to break through the noise and make that critical initial connection.
- From crowds to clouds. Once you get that attention -- once you generate heavy traffic to your site, gather a large league of "friends" on MySpace, or spawn a dedicated following on Twitter -- how do you monetize the crowd?
Smart brands are turning their crowds into "clouds": organic, self-forming and often self-governing communities of interest. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Frito-Lay and Harley-Davidson use their clouds as feedback loops to get better faster by obtaining good, timely, often brutally honest customer insights. And the members of clouds can become true believers; they don't just watch your commercials, they make them.
Right now, few companies are emotionally equipped to wring the best benefits of a cloud, because the most valuable voices out there usually belong to the malcontents. In the old model, customer-service departments aimed to placate or jettison disgruntled customers. In the cloud model, the idea is to cultivate and reward them. That's not an easy transition.
- From places to spaces. Consumers are increasingly organizing themselves into new communities -- not just the big generic social communities, but myriad idiosyncratic slices of narrow, passionate interest (i.e., BlackPlanet, Inpowr and MomsCafe).
These new market spaces, or "meganiches," may seem small, even strange at first. But when they're efficiently targeted, they can be highly responsive, lucrative and loyal. Well-established meganiche Web sites include Gamefaq.com for video gamers, Dpreview.com for digital photography aficionados, and Howardchui.com dedicated to mobile phone zealots.
With this shift toward self-organization by consumers, national advertising campaigns as we know them will increasingly become a waste of time and money for many companies. The trick for brands is to cohabit social spaces with these consumers. Social media, and its verb form, "friending," requires entirely new forms of advertising: bottom up instead of top down, personal rather than public, and subtle rather than full frontal.
- From memes to bemes. In the Age of Broadcast, good advertising could occasionally manufacture memes of tremendous social impact. Think of "Where's the Beef?" or "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." If you can't recall an irresistible or effective turn of phrase of late, it's because it is exceedingly difficult to spread a meme in today's fragmented media environment. Marketing 3.0 is now the science of devising and managing directed business memes: call them bemes. Bemes are sent by members of social communities to each other and typically contain a reward or exclusive offer, which, when redeemed, also results in a reward coupon for the sender. This encourages members of social communities to propagate a "viral" ad. One well-documented beme was "The Subservient Chicken" from Burger King.
Brute force marketing won't work inside social networks. The best online marketing now takes place among people who know and trust each other. Consider how rumors work. Like a rumor, a beme is a bit of useful information that rewards each person who passes it along. Want to be a sensation? Create a beme that consumers willingly accept and share with others.
- From silos to simultaneity. Too many retailers today persist in believing that online shopping is merely a virtual extension of real world shopping. That is a big mistake.
Rather, online and offline need to coexist, and we need to rethink how they relate. For example, to their surprise, companies like BestBuy (which even encourages customers to shop the aisles but buy online from in-store kiosks) and Macy's are discovering that physical retailing is a perfect way to move units online. That is, the physical world has become the showroom for the virtual realm.
Retailers now must reimagine a world where consumers experience products in stores but ultimately buy them on the Web: Stores are for experiences, the network is for inventories. And what in turn prepares potential customers for what to look for in stores? Online communities.
All of this suggests that Marketing 3.0 is not only different from its predecessors, but actively undermines them. If your marketing program fails to adapt to this new world, it won't just become irrelevant -- it will actually work against you.
Mr. Hayes, a former vice president at HP and Applied Materials, is the author of "Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business" (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Mr. Malone, a columnist for ABCNews.com, is the author of the forthcoming book "The Future Arrived Yesterday."
November 5, 2008
Set an online-marketing budget that aids growthDuring tough economic times, budgeting your marketing dollars becomes a critical aspect of the planning process. And online marketing is playing an increasingly important role in the allocation of those marketing dollars.
Research shows that companies that maintain their marketing budgets during an economic downturn come out of it better than those that don’t. So the following tips are worth noting as you prepare your 2009 online-marketing budget.
1. Outline expected results. Link your company’s marketing initiatives, strategies and tactics to financial outcomes.
•Your online marketing plan will directly affect sales. Tactics may include paid search, search-engine optimization, online-media buying and e-mail marketing.
•You will engage your online audience and generate interest and demand that results in generating a lead. How will you engage visitors and get them to respond to your offer? Tactics may include paid search, search-engine optimization, online-media buying and e-mail marketing.
•Exposing your brand will result in greater recognition and adoption, resulting in greater engagement and, ultimately, more sales. Tactics may include paid search, online-media buying and social media.
2. Identify threats. Identifying any threats to your strategy should be highlighted but not magnified.
Threats can take root when your marketing tactics are not integrated, sales and marketing are not coordinated, and performance is not measured or evaluated.
So it is important to reinforce the following:
•An integrated plan. Show how complementary tactics yield even better results. For example, illustrate how combining search marketing and online media can yield higher returns when integrated successfully.
•Marketing support through the entire sales process. Ensure that all parts of the sales function are held accountable to their target conversion rates.
•Analytics. A unified measurement tool is vital to showing expected outcomes. For example, your Web analytics platform should be able to tell you how an opt-in e-mail marketing campaign directly affects sales on the Web site.
•Evaluation and testing. Allow room in your budget to evaluate your tactics and test new online marketing approaches. Set aside about 10% of your online-marketing budget to test new hypotheses and emerging tactics that may yield better results for your business.
OUTLINE THE RESULTS YOU EXPECT
•Show how your online marketing plan will directly affect sales.
•Show how you will engage your online audience and generate interest and demand that results in a sales lead.
•Show how exposing your brand will result in greater recognition of your company, ultimately resulting in more sales.
Eric Dudley is founder and president of WebsiteBiz, a Charlotte-based Internet marketing agency. He can be reached at (704) 338-1794 or www.WebsiteBiz.com.
Facebook Corrals User Comments in AdsOne year ago, Facebook made waves from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley with a splashy event to launch its ad platform with Beacon and Social Ads. Facebook Ads would revolutionize the advertising business, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time, by allowing marketers to “be a part of the conversation.”
Today, Facebook is working to convince marketers of the value of its ad offerings. Tim Kendall, director of monetization at Facebook, spoke with eMarketer about how the company is doing so, and how advertisers are using social networks now.
“I think that advertisers are getting increasingly sophisticated about this notion that social networking is a new medium, that if you approach it [as] you have approached traditional Internet advertising on a traditional publisher, you won’t be successful,” Mr. Kendall said. “If you approach it with the lens of, ‘How do I interrupt the user in their flow through my site?’ it’s not going to work.”
The Engagement Ad product is one of Facebook’s ad offerings that is geared toward engaging the user with a particular product or service of the advertiser. One type is a video commenting ad through which the user can comment on a product or service.
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“The commenting function is something that you see happening all over the site in noncommercial ways,” Mr. Kendall said. “Writing on someone’s wall is just another flavor of commenting, so we’re basically drafting off that activity that’s happening millions of times a day across the site and putting that into an advertising product so that users can engage with commercial content in the same way they engage with noncommercial content.
“If I see that ad unit after some of my friends have already commented on it, [those comments] actually show up inside the ad,” Mr. Kendall continued.
Dreamworks Pictures tested the concept for the film “Tropic Thunder.” The filmmaker was pleased not just about the commenting feature, but about being able to see the specific comments, Mr. Kendall said.
Another recent campaign was for MTV, promoting its Video Music Awards, with a video commenting trailer.
“There were people commenting about Kanye West and Britney Spears, who were both featured in the ad creative,” Mr. Kendall said. “That level of engagement was absolutely the goal of the ad product, so it’s cool to see that happening on the user side, and advertisers valuing that.”
July 24, 2008
Published: July 24 2008News of Adobe's decision to work with Google and Yahoo to make Flash searchable spread like wildfire. But so far, agencies aren't sure what this change really means.
When John Romano, a senior web developer for marketing firm Capstrat, sits down to build a website for a client, he worries about a lot of things. But one concern foremost in his mind is whether anyone will see the cutting-edge work his team is tasked with creating. While Romano's work is the kind clients pay handily for and users love, it's not the sort of content that is search engine friendly. But that will soon change, as the two leading search engines and Adobe, which makes the tools Romano uses, have joined forces to help make his work more accessible by indexing the web for rich media files.
For Romano, and many like him, the problem can be summed up in a word: Flash. Adobe's powerful multimedia tool has become the instrument of choice for interactive agencies eager to deliver fully immersive online experiences that do more than simply hurl text at today's fickle users.
But while 98 percent of internet-connected desktops have Flash Player installed, few users are likely to find a website rich in Flash.
"Getting Google [and other search engines] to connect users with specific Flash content has been a real problem," Romano confesses, "and it's been something the industry has been struggling with for years."
Since the beginning, search engines have been fixated on text, rather than images or other forms of reach media. The result has been that pages heavy in images and rich media don't rise to the top of the natural search results, even when they are more relevant than their text-based counterparts. To counteract this problem, digital agencies have employed an array of cumbersome solutions to help users find the more dazzling sites employed by major brand clients.
But the solutions -- a patchwork of proprietary fixes designed to boost SEO efforts for Flash-heavy sites -- have been far from ideal. Often developers find themselves duplicating efforts in both Flash and HTML, which can be both expensive and time consuming. The announcement earlier this month from Adobe, Google and Yahoo could change all that. At least, that's the plan. But as is often the case, a barrage of questions followed from the agencies charged with leveraging the latest technology development on behalf of their clients.
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So how much does Flash weigh?
Mention the words "SEO" and "change" and you're bound to get the attention of a lot people working in interactive. Little wonder. Being found is the name of the game for anyone working on the web. But the decision to begin indexing Flash has raised the web's constant question: what does this mean for my business?
According to Google and Adobe, developers using Flash won't need to make any retroactive changes, and they won't need to do any special work to make their files accessible to the search engine spiders. But finding the Flash content is only the beginning, according to Ivan Todorov, CEO of BLITZ, an interactive agency that has worked with clients ranging from FX Networks to Lincoln.
"In the long-term, we think this will have a huge impact for the future of interactive," Todorov says. "But right now, the primary concern is how Flash will be weighed by the search engines."
Unfortunately for Todorov, that question isn't one Google or Yahoo is likely to answer because it would mean sharing proprietary information related to their algorithms. While Todorov and others say they would like to be part of that conversation -- presumably to argue for giving Flash maximum value -- agencies are likely to be kept in the dark where SEO is concerned.
But according to Tom Barclay, senior manager, Flash Player at Adobe, all parties fully expect the Flash developer community as well as SEO experts to develop best practices for optimizing rich media content under the umbrella of an Adobe/Google/Yahoo collaboration.
"Existing Shockwave Flash (SWF) content is now searchable using Google search and, in the future, Yahoo search, dramatically improving the relevance of rich internet applications and rich media experiences that run in Adobe Flash Player," Barclay explains. "As with HTML content, best practices will emerge over time for creating SWF content that is more optimized for search engine rankings."
But in the meantime, Andrew Lovasz, director of search marketing at Moxie Interactive, says the change is likely to reorder natural search results where smaller operations were benefiting because their competitors were relying almost exclusively on Flash.
"This is definitely going to raise the barrier to entry," Lovasz says, pointing out that big brands that are more likely to have Flash-heavy sites can expect to see a rise in their natural search results.
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The devil in the details
While searchable Flash raises the immediate and obvious question of "weighting" rich media as a content category, the truth of the matter is that the search engine ranking debate will always rage, whether the topic relates to text, Flash, video, audio or any other format. But behind the question of how all this newly ranked content will be integrated into natural search results, agencies will still have to grapple with the mechanics of developing for Flash.
"The headline was really nice to hear," says Cheryl Haas, VP Fleishman-Hillard. "Hearing that Google, Yahoo and Adobe are all working together is a great start, but I think we're still a long way off."
What looks like the proverbial flip of the switch -- Adobe's decision to partner with the two leading search engines -- in reality raises a slew of technical questions.
According to Lovasz, and many others, Yahoo, Google and Adobe have been long on excitement, but short on actionable details.
But Haas' concerns may highlight a larger problem for Adobe and its search engine partners. While agencies have uniformly praised the news, many have expressed concern that the Flash developer community remains largely in the dark regarding the establishment of best practices for building the Flash sites of tomorrow.
For its part, Google admits that there is no established best practices guide that is endorsed by all three companies. However, Google has its own online resource for developers, as does Adobe.
But a lack of communication -- perceived or real -- could slow the development of a Flash-friendly web, Romano says, and points out that it will be up to the armies of disconnected developers to figure out the mechanics of this latest tool.
"Our technical people have punched a lot of holes in this, and that's not surprising given the fact that matching Google's technology with Adobe isn't easy," Romano explains. "This is only the beginning of the solution, and it is likely going to take years to solve because it will require developers to ultimately build Flash sites differently."
But that doesn't mean that Adobe is operating independently of all developers. Stephen Jackson, CEO of Smashing Ideas, the largest independent developer of Flash in the U.S., says Adobe works hard to communicate changes with a core group of companies that use its products.
"I think a lot of the disconnect here is that there are millions of Flash users out there," Jackson says. "So working with all of them makes it rather hard to conduct business."
What will this mean for interactive?
Across the board, agencies do seem to agree that the decision by Yahoo, Google and Adobe to work together will be a good thing for the interactive advertising business. But just how good is hard to say.
What seems unlikely to some is the idea that improved search optimization for Flash will lead to more Flash development. As Haas put it: "You won't see people building in Flash just for the sake of having Flash; there has to be a reason."
But improvements in Flash should have an indirectly positive effect on the overall industry, according to Jackson, who says that getting cutting edge content in front of more users -- especially from a Google or Yahoo query -- should help drive impressions and clickthroughs.
"It all depends on impressions and clickthroughs," Jackson says. "If this makes that happen, then you'll see more advertisers increasing their online budgets."
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Michael Estrin is deputy editor at iMediaConnection.
May 12, 2008
Search engine for online display adsCara Wood
May 05, 2008
Breaking from the standard models of online ad network and ad exchange, The Ad Database — a search engine that compiles online ad opportunities by cost, ad size, demographics and location — has recently launched.
Founder Dan Simmons explained that his goal is to provide a simple view of the ad inventory for marketers.
“I think the principal benefit will be for small and midsize businesses who are not yet savvy about online advertising,” he said. “[They can] get a feel for the online ad landscape without having to sign up or commit to an ad network without even knowing who their pubs were.”
The company does not serve or host ads and does not have a direct monetization model yet. “Longer-term, we'd like to find a niche for either ad agency media buyers or especially small businesses who like our no-frills approach.” Simmons explained.
The Ad Database is free for publishers to list information and for advertisers to search among — it currently has more than 1,000 publisher sites indexed including TheStreet.com, Wired and Ziff Davis.
Simmons and his team are compiling the database themselves based on publically available media kits, however publishers can enter and maintain their own information online via a self-serve back-end area.
“There are hundreds of ad networks out there that compete [with what we do], but many of them do not expressly list who their publishers are up front,” Simmons said.
April 25, 2008
Less Than Half of Advertisers Use Online Display Ads for BrandingMarketing Sherpa, in it's inaugural Online Advertising Handbook with 2008 Benchmarks, using both primary and secondary research, reports that less than half of advertisers use online display ads for branding purposes, despite overall increase in branding effectiveness of online ads, low click rates getting lower, and 80% of all clicks coming from the same 20% of all Internet users.
According to the report, to choose an advertising strategy that will affect ROI, not clicks, marketers surveyed said the two tests they ran that were most likely to "significantly increase ROI" were online ad effectiveness studies and online focus groups.
The included eyetracking study shows that most individuals don‘t see most ads served to them -- especially ads served below the fold. And, says the Executive Summary, media delivery reports rarely include information on whether, or what percentage of, a media buy was served above or below the fold. According to the included chart of placement results, just being above the fold makes a significant difference.
The study notes that advertisers rate the ability to use behavioral and contextual targeting to be important as key ROI drivers, and quotes InsightExpress research, showing that targeting is a key driver of effectiveness and that ads are more effective in 2007 than they were previously. The summary concludes that the key takeaway for advertisers is that the context in which an ad is served is just as important as the ad itself.
The study explores the multitude of factors that go into getting frequency right, including actual results from an InsightExpress ad effectiveness case study, and and exposure research from Doubleclick.
If a campaign is served without frequency capping, enabled by ad server technology, says the report, it will be distributed according to natural web page consumption patterns. What this means for frequency is that heavy consumers will eat up the majority of the impressions and get too many ads, while the rest of the site‘s audience will be underserved and often see too few ads
Special reports on the impact of rich media, online video and online advertising and brand include summaries from:
Unicast, showing how rich media increases key brand and interaction measures
InsightExpress, providing essential metrics around branding and online advertising
ManiaTV, suggesting how online video and advertising within it creates powerful brand moments and increases the understanding of marketing messages.
Tim McAtee, Senior Analyst MarketingSherpa, concludes that "...proof from our survey (shows ) that qualitative research... affect(ing) the insights going into ad creation can actually be more effective from an ROI standpoint than improving tracking or A/B testing... (In addition, with) branding dashboards that incorporate both brand metrics projected from survey sample data with observed, tracked metrics like impressions and clicks, it's possible for marketers to get a fuller picture of what's actually happening with an online campaign... "
April 16, 2008
McModify Mobile Search To Reach the MassesADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Mobile search advertising is a medium that the industry’s been buzzing about for a few years and while it’s not truly mainstream yet, we are crossing an exciting new media frontier … and it’s important for marketers to both understand the new terrain and navigate it with care.
Search advertising is different on a mobile phone. Mobile search is used for instantly actionable search queries as opposed to the in-depth research and comparison behavior seen on the Internet. People use mobile search to find things they need immediately – directions, company information, movie locations and times, etc. In most cases, the major difference between Internet and mobile search is that consumers don’t look across the entire Web. And most corporate Web sites are not prepared to receive this traffic, due to their use of technologies that are not currently resident on mobile phones, such as Flash, Java and advanced HTML scripts.
What will make mobile marketing mainstream? Mass-market adoption will occur with the decreasing cost and increasing market penetration of Smartphones along with corporate and media Web sites’ ability to accept and translate a mobile search inquiry and re-direct it to a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) site.
If you’re interested in testing the waters and starting a mobile campaign, here are four important tips that can help you on your way:
• Understand your target audience: Mobile carriers and providers are very different. Carriers are a direct reflection of their audiences. Some are broad and reach multiple audiences and others are very targeted. After you identify your target audience, make sure to find a carrier that reaches your end user.
• Find the right technology: If you don’t have a mobile Web site, there are options like click-to-call, that don’t require a mobile site.
• Research keywords: As with Internet search, keyword research is important and must be done.
• Embrace analytics: In order to monitor performance of your mobile campaign, use tracking URLs. With tracking URLs, a unique mobile pixel is used rather than the standard pixel. There isn’t a common, cross-platform technology standard across all carriers; therefore, common ad currency definitions do not exist across all vendors. Specific tracking information can be sought at the carrier level, but it won’t translate outside of the wall across all opportunities.
Although most of us are still learning about mobile, there’s one thing we can be sure of: the mobile handset is the one thing you’d almost never leave home without. Which means your audience is always within reach.
March 28, 2008
SEM SoarsADOTAS - SEM spending exceeded estimates in 2007 and, based on survey responses by marketers and agencies, the search marketing industry will continue its growth in the same manner according to findings of the 2007 State of the Market survey by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), released today at the SES conference.
The survey cannot project the result of a shortage of search inventory (searches) caused by a major economic downturn. Search marketing spending is however, increasing at the detriment of print magazine advertising, website development and other marketing functions.
The survey by Radar Research was completed by 867 search engine advertisers and SEM agencies and administered via IntelliSurvey, Inc.
Key findings included:
The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up significantly from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
Marketers are finding more search dollars by poaching budget from print magazine spending, website development, direct mail and other marketing programs.
Paid placement captures 87.4% of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5%; paid inclusion, .07%, and technology investment, 1.4%.
Google AdWords remains the most popular search advertising program, but both Google and Yahoo sponsored search spending has decreased from a year ago.
Jeffrey Pruitt, SEMPO president and EVP corporate partnerships for iCrossing stated “The spending statistics show search engine marketing continues to prove its worth in the larger marketing arena. However, in light of the concerns about the overall economy, it’s important to note some of this spending is the result of shifting marketing dollars from other offline and online marketing endeavors.”
The estimates in North American SEM spending increased from $18.6 billion to $25.2 billion. Many factors have created these assumptions including increased costs of keywords and PPC campaigns, advertiser demand, and greater consumer participation in search and increased interest in targeting, such as behavioral and demographic targeting of searchers, amongst others.
Gordon Hotchkiss, SEMPO chairman and president of Enquiro Search Solutions, Inc. added of the findings “While CPC price inflation has slowed, marketers are finally beginning to recognize the value of search, and we expect search prices will hold and may even continue to move upward based on survey data.”
Local Internet Marketing: Even a Caveman Can Do It!ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — An endless supply of articles already exists that pontificate about various aspects of local Internet marketing. Unfortunately, they are all written by Internet professionals for Internet professionals. There is little effort made to educate local businesses on the benefits of marketing online.
Local businesses realize their customers are going online in greater numbers to search for local products and services. However, there is considerable confusion and frustration on the part of local businesses on how to reach customers on the Net. They don’t know where to start, or whom to turn to. They often end up working with an incompetent Web designer — who knows little to nothing about marketing or the business itself – who builds an ineffectual Web presence, and/or they pay for online marketing services that deliver poor results. This can be attributed to the fact that most local businesses do not have even the most basic understanding of Internet marketing and how it can be applied to their business.
Overcoming the Fear and Loathing
In talking with local businesses, I’ve become aware how little they know about the business side of the Internet. For example, few realize that sponsored links on the search results are interactive advertisements. They have no idea how organic search pages are determined. Most importantly, they do not know how to build a customer conversion Web site. This dearth of knowledge is what’s holding back the “Next Wave” of Internet marketing.
However … these businesses are eager to learn, they just need a little help. Whenever I meet with individual business owners to discuss how the Internet can benefit their business they’re thrilled. When you explain how the technology can generate new customers in a cost-effective manner and also maximize the lifetime value of existing customers, trust me — you get their attention. In most cases, before you begin your spiel, they already know that their ROI on offline advertising — like the Yellow Pages — is not all that impressive.
Even a Caveman Can Do It!
The fact is, local Internet marketing is not rocket science. At the local level, it really is not that difficult and the cost can be relatively inexpensive. Small local firms can get started on the Net with a minimal investment.
Here are some examples:
Local businesses can create their own Web presence with a site builder. These do-it-yourself site builders have come a long way in recent years. Their features and functionality rival the capabilities of small web design firms, and they cost as little as $15 per month.
A local business can start getting traffic to their site within an hour through pay-per-click marketing services like AdWords. Creating an AdWords account is not that complicated, especially if you use the Starter Edition.
E-mail marketing, at even the most basic level, can impact a local business. By starting a dialogue with potential prospects, they can increase their conversion rate. By keeping existing local customers informed, they can increase their lifetime value.
Of course, a no-brainer is getting a free listing on the local versions of major search engines. When I explain to local business owners that they can have a business listing on Google, Yahoo and MSN, even if they do not have a Web site, they’re often surprised. When I go on to say that they can add photos, a business description, hours of operation, payment options, directions, a map locator and a promotional coupon all for free – they’re flabbergasted.
Now it may sound like I’m suggesting that there is no need for Internet professionals at the local level. That is hardly the case. Once local firms come to realize the impact of the Internet on their business, they will begin to invest more online. They will require professional services to manage their growing Web presence, Internet advertising, SEO and e-mail marketing.
But until they comprehend how the Internet can positively impact their business, they will remain on the sidelines.
Register.com Launches SEM Tool for Small BusinessesADOTAS — SEM gotcha down? Need solutions, stat? Register.com, a Web service provider for the little guys, has launched a new product, auspiciously named Guaranteed Leads. The service as touted as a one-stop-shop to help businesses execute easy, effective Search Engine Marketing campaigns on big search engines, including Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Register.com says it stands out from the pack by focusing on the needs, budgets and resources of small business customers. Guaranteed Leads does all the dirty work associated with SEM campaigns, i.e. managing keyword selections, administering multiple search engine accounts, creating ad copy and tracking results of email and phone calls.
“Large companies already know the power of Search Engine Marketing but for years, the cost and complexity of this type of advertising has put it out of reach for most smaller businesses,” said Larry Kutscher, chief executive officer of Register.com. “Guaranteed Leads brings the power of SEM to small businesses, giving them the ability to execute, evaluate and adjust their paid search advertising campaigns to ensure more traffic to their Web sites and ultimately increasing their customer base and revenue.