I've been wanting to write for a while about digital ads and conversion rates because there seem to be so many assumptions without understanding how complex the answer is. Although, in short, you can simplify it by saying, "It depends." On the business. Its goals, revenue per conversion, etc.
But I came across this article today on The Myth of 2-3% Conversion that I thought was really well written, and still applicable despite having been written a lifetime ago in terms of digital marketing. In fact back in 2007.
More important than just touching on the myth of an "average" 2-3% conversion rate in paid ads, he goes on to talk about what might be right for a business. In the end, of course, it boils down to making more money from those ads than they cost. Enough, in fact, that you cover the ad costs, and all your business costs, and end up with profit. I mean, that is what business is for, yes?
That's 2 calls in 2 days, both from a company called Marketo. They used call centers to reach me during my business day, the first time inviting me to a webinar and the second time -- if I understood the caller correctly -- to invite me to some sort of event that was not a webinar.
Before I get further, let me mention the point of this blog post: to bring up the questions we ought to consider when we choose how to market. I don't have any hard data about whether we should cold call in this way, so I won't be answering the title question, but invite your opinion on it. Instead, I want to point out that this is a different approach to cold calling. And it falls in a fuzzy grey area of whether we should or shouldn't.
So these days we're surrounded by advertisements, and everyone's trying to break through the noise. And sometimes, as we all well know, businesses cross the line between shining their messages at us and actually interfering with our lives.
When we're driving down the road, we all know we'll see ads. In some ways, these interfere with our lives -- billboards have replaced trees, the screams of ads might drown out own our thoughts. But in a sense, we have tacitly agreed to have these ads here by choosing to live, perhaps, in or around a city and drive on paved roads, etc. We've chosen this as society, and those who want to avoid it might need to live in farm country.
We're also hit with ads across media like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and yes ... even social media. In these cases, we've agreed to accept these ads in exchange for benefits that are free or subsidized because of advertisers. So we might not love the ads, but they're worth our while. (And in the digital age, we can often "upgrade" something to remove this subsidy.)
But as far as I can tell, there's no social agreement that by buying a phone, we've given permission for others to call and sell us things. Now if the phone were given to us for free, in exchange for receiving one sales call a week, then we'd be agreeing to it and getting a benefit for it. Or if we were given discounted phone service for the same sort of thing, then this sort of calling would be legit -- especially if we were able to opt into topics of interest for those calls. (You can call me about books and digital products, but not about underwear and socks.)
This is basically what Amazon has done with their subsidized Kindles. Pay more for a Kindle without ads, or pay less for one with ads. (Though these ads are far less intrusive than a phone call that takes your time. Not to mention that cold calls have opened the door to scammers that have cost so many people so much.)
The point here is that, on some level, we at least agree to ads in most cases, and in some cases we even invite them. (Like when you sign up for someone's mailing list.) And it seems to me that, the more we can get someone to INVITE our communications, the more effectively we can carry on a conversation with them and ultimately grow our business.
In a similar way, the more we can give through our communications, the more we can engage and become a community with our audience, the more likely we are to break through the noise when it comes time to talk about our products and services. And so we don't need to resort to cold calling at least for this following.
In short, cold calls are out (they were never "in"), and invitation is in (it has always been "in").
But what happens when someone cold calls you to invite you to something? To give you something? This is what Marketo did twice in two days. Both times I was unhappy about having my work flow disturbed by a phone call for something I wasn't interested in. Both times I declined the invitation. But in both cases, I was being offered something for free, and they never asked if they could just pitch their product to me. I know that would have happened during the events, but hopefully in an educational way, in a way that showed me what I could accomplish ... and by the way (they would tell me), Marketo would be a great way to accomplish it.
To be honest, I'll feel more resistant to any exposure to Marketo in the future because of this interruption. But I can't help but feel that this is a far better approach to cold calling than a traditional sales pitch. And I'm curious what kind of results companies are having with this.
I still feel that there are other ways Marketo could reach me when I am most receptive. Ads that target keywords can invite me to a free webinar on a digital marketing topic any time I'm looking for keywords related to its topic. They could run video ads to hit me when I'm watching YouTube -- another place I've tacitly agreed to see short ads (that I can usually skip) to receive the benefits of YouTube. They could market to me on LinkedIn since I have terms related to "digital marketing" in my profile. They could be very targeted about reaching me in way that asked no time from me. Could Marketo get better results in this way? Could they keep from making me disappointed in their brand?
I'm genuinely against brands that cold call me. I will never hire you or buy from you if you cold call me. But I'm less against you if you "cold invite" me. And that's why I'm just annoyed with Marketo.
What do you think? Are you open to cold invitations? Have you tried them in your business and have they worked well for you? Have you had any negative reactions to it that hurt your business?
Dish Network is currently running a series of ads featuring identical products at different price points. And -- whether it's real or acted -- they show people utterly confused by the options. "What's different about this one? Why does it cost more?" they wonder.
And Dish's point is that they aren't different ... and why would you pay more for the same thing?
While humorous and noticeable enough to talk about (they obviously got my attention), I'm noticing it for the wrong reason. To me this ad campaign is saying, "We're the same as our competition, but we cost a little less." And this is the classic race to the bottom -- who can charge less for the same thing?
Building a brand is about differentiating yourself from the competition, whether because of features or customer service or the sheer "feel good" that comes from your message. Building a brand is what allows you to keep operating with reasonable profit margins. Racing to the bottom is an ongoing task of better buying, increased efficiencies, and a ravenous need for volume. These are two very different models ... although usually combined to some degree, and the question is one of emphasis / balance.
In any case, I thought it interesting that Dish's campaign was so clearly talking about how they were the same; and while many people will no doubt respond to the savings, I felt like this campaign was distinctly shooting their own brand in the foot.
As it turns out (click this link to see), the campaign is actually not at all about being the same for less, even though the images and videos use that message. So again, humor aside, I feel that this sends decidedly confusing signals.
In fact, they're offering you a good deal for 12 months, just like anyone will to acquire a new customer. After that, their monthly price is almost identical! (Less than a 3% difference with Dish a tiny bit lower on the packages they've compared.) But if you visit that page, you'll see that they've emphasized a TON of benefits to having Dish over having DirecTv.
Now this isn't to say that Dish is better or that DirecTv wouldn't have its own benefits to tout. This is only pointing out that the front end commercials getting you to visit Dish were saying almost exactly the opposite thing as the end result. Wow.
Meanwhile, maybe an even more interesting point in all of this is that they're bragging on a 290 channel package vs. a 225 channel package in an age when everything is moving toward personalization and people want to be able to pay for only what they want, and not a bunch of extras. Who wants to pay $50/month for a package of channels they'll never watch just to get access to a sports package that they'll actually watch? But that is how the old guard works for now.
At least Dish came out with Sling, offering people a much smaller package of channels without the need for a Dish at all -- just an internet connection. This seems clearly the way of the future, but until more people drop the big packages and move to Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and the like, Dish and company will keep squeezing out profits from over selling while they can. We vote with our wallets.
Call me crazy, but I suspect there are ways to monetize personalized packages in a way that would yield them more money, and the first companies to aggressively pursue that avenue may be the gargantuans of tomorrow. Will that be Dish? DirecTv? Or someone else?
If you're a small business that relies on "free" traffic from good search engine rankings, hopefully you've heard about Google's upcoming "Mobile-Friendly" algorithm update. Supposedly beginning on April 21, sites that are not mobile friendly will not do well in Google search results on mobile devices.
As far as I can tell, desktop searches will not be affected for now. But people are now searching as much on their mobile devices as they are on desktops, and this trend is only growing. This is no doubt especially true for local businesses when people are on the road trying to find a local restaurant or any solution to a problem at hand.
I opened this year with a blog on the need for having a mobile friend site, and this drives home the point. If you're not ready for mobile traffic, you won't be getting much from Google. So have you developed a mobile friendly site?
Being ready means either having a responsive site (once that automatically adjusts to a device), or a separate mobile site, optimized for mobile devices, which automatically shows up on those devices (in place of the main website). If you don't have this kind of solution in place, you can no longer afford to wait on making it happen. And if you need a hand, I hope you'll get in touch.
Of course another way to make your business mobile friendly is by having a smart phone app, which doesn't have to be expensive and can let you reach customers on a regular basis with simple "push notifications."
Digital marketing is a phenomenal opportunity for businesses to market on budget and in a way they can measure. And going mobile is a central part of doing this today. So how are you going mobile? And what questions do you have about doing so?
I'm super excited to be able to offer something I'll bet few (if any) online are willing to offer.
I've been writing press release for years, and now I'm able to include distribution equal to the largest services online ... at half the cost. AND ... for local businesses, I guarantee results.
Yes, this is still perfect for ANY size business, because I reach all the major media along with bloggers, the Associated Press, and the news section of the major search engines. It's truly inclusive. The biggest online service charges $369 for this, and they do NOT include writing.
But I'm offering writing PLUS this distribution for just $249. Oh, and true to mccardellwrite style, that includes unlimited revisions to the press release because I'm not happy until you're satisfied that it's just how you want it.
Yet I'm taking this a step further for local businesses. If you're a local business, you've got to know the value of someone searching for your business type along with your city name. That's a targeted, local prospect. I guarantee a minimum of THREE first page results on Google within days of distributing your press release (and I'll show you those results).
For details, please visit my press release page. Questions? Please contact me.
It's a new year. Not just any new year. It's 2015.
That's right, 15 years have passed since we entered "the future" -- the year 2000. Back then, Google had just been born (and could be gamed like crazy), most websites looked like children had built them (and that was sometimes true), and probably most businesses thought that sites were unnecessary. After all ... they still had the Yellow Pages.
Today, most businesses know that websites are completely necessary, and many are coming to understand that mobile websites are important too. Either you need a separate mobile site (easier to read on a small mobile screen), or you need an "adaptive" site -- something that automatically adjusts itself to every screen.
And really, you need more than just a website. You need one that: 1) gets traffic; and 2) converts traffic. So ... have you covered all your bases?
The world is honestly going digital, and unless you're in some sort of unusual niche where these realities don't apply, the question is whether you've invested in the continuation of your business. If you're not going digital, if you're not investing a serious portion of your marketing budget into online options (which are FAR more measurable than direct mail, TV or radio ads, etc.), there's a good bet you're leaving money on the table or even putting your business at risk.
So are you ready to make a digital marketing resolution? It's 2015, and it's time to know that digital plays a massive role in the successful future of your business and to invest in line with that fact. What digital marketing resolutions will you make? Are you just getting a business online for the first time? Do you need a mobile solution? Do you need to add e-commerce, or to start running (and tracking) paid ads? Do you need more people finding you through natural search engine results?
What do YOU want to accomplish online in 2015? So much can be done, and you may be surprised at how much you can get online compared with what you can get through old media solutions.
If you want to start developing your digital marketing efforts this year, please contact me and let's talk. One of my favorite things is helping business owners or marketing managers avoid getting oversold or overcharged by others. Obviously I'm encouraging everyone to spend on digital marketing, but only to spend where it makes sense and in ways that can be measured. This is critical to seeing, long-term, that you've made a good choice and that you can continue spending with a positive return on investment.
If you're already growing online, if you're already developing what you need to in our digital world, fantastic. Then it's just time to celebrate a new year and the prosperity ahead. Wishing you the best!
Just a quick notice about my latest article, this time on Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on Google Adwords and Bing Ads. If you're running your own PPC campaigns (or overseeing an agency and need a little knowledge to better keep an eye on them), these tips can be really important.
This is a long article, in an effort to get you some meaningful information.
PPC Advertising Tips
I've posted my latest digital marketing article on LinkedIn. If you're at all interested in understanding the basics of search engine optimization (and getting some specific tips for success), I encourage you to check it out:
SEO in 2 Words
SEO, like any aspect of marketing, is not a one-time thing, and it isn't something that stands alone. And in many ways it's a complex topic. But it's easy to understand conceptually, and I think this basic understanding can help to steer any business and help to make better online decisions.
Given that I didn't post them here, I thought I ought to link to my latest marketing articles on LinkedIn. Each one is pretty in-depth, and I hope you find them all good reads:
Marketing Starts Inside You
(A frequent theme that I've showcased on this blog in the past as well.)
What Zombies Can Teach You about Marketing
Tony Gwynn Style Marketing
Marketing the Empire: Darth Vader Looks at Options
Many businesses seem to believe that marketing starts with their efforts to find leads for sales. Well this is true in one sense, but only if those efforts begin long before a project is even conceived. Because all marketing starts inside each and every one of us.
I always discuss marketing as relationships, and the first relationship you have with anyone is the relationship you have with yourself. That relationship determines your entire worldview and how you will consequently interact with the world. And your interactions with the world -- your relationships with anything outside you -- are all marketing touch points.
This is why self-development is such an important part of sales. If we mature with wisdom, we learn more and more about needs like listening, and for inviting rather than pushing (you cannot change people, but you can have them discover a need or want inside themselves). But if our internal relationship involves fear, self-doubt, or a lack of self love, we'll project that on the world with cynicism, neediness, and a desperateness to close sales. Things that inevitably push people and sales away from us.
So the next time you're thinking about marketing your business, remember that the answers are holistic -- it involves you, your people, company culture and communications; it involves the past, present, and future of what you're doing; and of course, from all these, it involves the relationships you build with potential and actual customers.