Monday, November 24, 2008

Does your product make your customers feel good on the inside?

If someone interacts with your brand, does it make them feel like they are contributing to the greater good? Last month I got the pleasure to hear Will Marre talk at San Diego AD2's Cause Marketing Night. He said that a person is more likely to get involved with your brand if it aligns with one of their core values; therefore making them feel like they are doing something good for the environment, humanity, themselves, etc. Well the new Green Notebooks from Apple do just that. I might be a bit bias because I'm an Apple fanatic, but I don't hear Dell talking about how their laptops are fully recyclable and mercury free.

Look at it like this; if there are 2 products that are even all around, but one is aligned with good cause, which one do you think will sell? People aren't just buying a product or service, they are buying the story that comes with it. They want to be able to tell people that their laptop is made from recyclable materials, or the company that they bought their shirt from gave a percentage of that sale to breast cancer research.

Will Marre also talked about about how Reef created a line of products that are made from recyclable materials, and 1% of the sales go to nonprofits like SurfAid International They called this project Reef Redemption. I think the lesson here is that it's more than just giving to a charity, or sponsoring an event. It's about aligning your company with a non-profit or cause that makes sense for your company.

We need to start thinking about becoming more socially responsible and creating sustainable abundance like our friends at Apple and Reef.

View The New Macbook Ads

View the new Apple green Macbook ad

See the story behind the new Macbook

Sunday, November 23, 2008

4 SEM Tips to Help eCommerce Sites Boost ROI This Holiday Season

With the holiday season here once again a lot of you eCommerce companies are probably trying to figure out the most effective way to spend your marketing dollars. Well for those of you that are using paid search in your online marketing mix, rest assured you are in the right place. According to the 2008 Google Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, search will play a key role in helping consumers do research and make purchases this holiday season. The study stated that consumers started doing research way before Halloween and plan to do the majority of their shopping in early - mid December. If you are a eCommerce company who uses paid search to drive traffic to your site, then you are in the right place to engage consumers throughout the whole buying process. To help you succeed this holiday season I have put together a few tips that will help you maximize your search marketing campaigns, and hopefully increase your ROI. These tips will help you spend your budget effectively, research trends in search volume, write compelling ads, and close the deal with engaging landing pages.

Google Insights can help maximize your budget

Google has a cool tool called Google Insights for Search that allows you to compare search volume over a specific time period. This can be a useful way to figure out the optimal time to increase your spend on a specific keyword or ad group. If you sell computers you can look at the search volume for the keyword "computers" over various time periods to compare trends in search volume.

In the above example you can see that for the past 2 years there have been a major spike in search volume on Black Friday, and the day after Christmas. With that knowledge you can make sure that you have a high position & strong ads running on those days.

You can also make good use of your budget with dayparting and geo targeting. If you find that you get higher conversions midweek during the day then you might want to consider running hotter during those times and pulling back during times where you have lower conversions.

Group keywords according to the consumer's intent
When you group your keywords according to the consumer's intent you will be able to write ads that are aligned with that the consumer is looking for. If a consumer is searching on a research related term like "best computer gifts", you want to make sure your ad copy encourages them to click through to gather more information. Likewise if a user is searching on a purchase related term like "computer deals online", you want to make sure that your ad copy has a strong call to action that urges them to make a purchase.

Write compelling ads that offer value and savings

Just because consumers are cutting back doesn't mean that they are not buying. They are looking for the best possible deal. According to Google's holiday study 86% of the respondents said that they are more likely to take an offer if there was some sort of price discount or sale. Free shipping came in second with 75%. So consider testing as that offer price discounts, sales, free upgrades, or free shipping. Also a search on Google for your top performing keywords to see what type of ads your competitors are running. If you see that a majority of your competitors are running discount or percentage based ads you may want to try a different approach like No money down, or Interest free financing so that you stand out in the sea of online sales. Finally if you are running a sale on the last day run ads like "Final Day to Save" or "Last Day Act Now" to create a sense of urgency. We just recently ran a 48 hour sale for a client, and on the last day we saw a higher CTR on our urgent messaging. This also lead to higher conversion rates.

Close the deal with engaging landing pages

You did all that hard work to get the user to click your ad, you can't let them down by sending them all to the same product page with a million different offers. When it comes to paid search on size does not fit all. You need to take the time to create a specific landing page for each of your holiday ad groups that is relevant to the offer. The landing pages should be simple with not too many choices. If you leave it up to the consumer to figure out what to do you will fail. If your ad is offering 45% off & free shipping the landing page should reelect that. For your ad groups that are geared around product research consider a gift guide landing page. Finally spend time variations to see what converts best. Im a big fan of A/B testing. Test different call to actions, headlines, or imagery. When you find out what works best document it so that you can use for campaigns.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Making Decisions

I was sitting in a brainstorming meeting the other day, and the CEO of my company made an excellent point. He said, "A good decision is better than a bad decision, but a bad decision is better than no decision at all." We live in a society where we are discouraged from taking risks and making mistakes. We would rather make no decision than make the wrong one, so we end up wasting so much time looking for the best possible choice. Just think of how many opportunities you could be missing out on because you are spending more time trying to make a decision than choosing one and acting on it. Sure there is a chance you could be wrong, but a wrong decision doesn't have to be a bad thing. You just learn from it and correct it. I bad decision ends up being a bad thing when you notice it but fail to do something about it. A good example is our current mortgage situation, or the issue in Iraq. What if the Pilgrims sat around trying to figure out if it would be better to leave or stay, then we may not be here today.

So if you find yourself pondering over a decision, just put something down and try it out. If it doesn't work fix it, because a bad decision is better than no decision at all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Optimization can help you work smarter, not harder

This is an update to the My Reaction of the Boston MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit post.

MarketingSherpa just put out an article Seven Tactics to Improve Your Lead Gen: Top Takeaways from Sherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Summit ‘08 . I was quoted in tip #6. Optimization can help you work smarter, not harder, where I was talking about how we get together monthly to review results and see what can we test that will help move the needle.

These are some excellent takeaways, and I highly recommend reading all of them.

I also got kudos from my friends at ion interactive on my presentation in their blog entry titled Marketing Sherpa B2B Lead Gen Recap.

That's it for now; I'm headed home to catch the rest of the debate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

4 Important Lessons In Landing Page Optimization

For those of you that were unable to make it out to Boston to hear me speak at the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit; here is a segment of my presentation that a lot of people found very valuable, and for those that will be attending the San Fransisco version of the summit, consider this a sneak peak.

4 BIG takeaways/lessons that we learned from our paid search optimization program.

1. More Specific Landing Pages
When we first launched our paid search program we would send users to deep links within the site. This was a problem for many reasons:
  • Hard to convert: A deep link within a site is not geared towards getting a user to convert and therefore is filled with distractions. A user will end up not following the path that you want them to, and ultimately end up leaving the site and not converting at all.
  • Hard to track: Deep links made it difficult for us to accurately know which keywords and landing experiences were driving results.

Because of the challenges that we faced with sending users to deep links within the site we turned to landing pages.

We currently use ion interactive's LiveBall SaaS to easily create, test, & optimize our landing pages.

2. Match the experience to the search.
Now that we are using unique landing pages, we made sure that the pages were VERY relevant to the terms/intentions that the user was searching on. We also were able to keep the pages focused on conversion and distraction free.

3. Self-segmentation after the click
Our landing pages aren't the traditional pages that you may find in the space that have the standard headline, subhead, bullets, and form. We use multi-step landing page experiences that with start with a preconversion question. The question can be as simple as "What is your capacity size?" The user has 2 options to choose from, and based on their choice they are sent to a page that is relevant to their need. This simple question not only helps us provide a more relevant experience to the user, but it also helps us learn more about the user and what they are looking for. Finally it increases our odds of getting that user to convert even more.

Scott Brinker from ion recently posted an excellent article on this topic Why 2 clicks are better than 1.

4. Keep on testing
We were always testing. Monthly we would review the results from previous tests combined stats from google, and our omniture analytics; decide what's was working and what needed improvement. We used A/B tests to test elements like messages, images, and whole experiences to see what would move the needle. Our mantra was "Just Keep Testing."

Bonus: Analytics is key!
If it wasn't for the analytics that came with the LiveBall Software, and our implementation of Omniture SiteCatalyst we would just taking shots in the dark. They allowed us to easily measure the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that were key to moving the needle, and optimizing our campaign.

Just remember you don't need to have high-end analytics to be successful, you just need something that will allow you to measure the important KPIs for your business. If you don't have analytics, start with a solution like google analytics. It's free and easy to implement.

If I had to choose the 2 most important items from this list, I would have to say Testing & Analysis. In today's economy you cannot afford to not test, and optimize your landing pages. Also on the flip side testing without analytics is like taking a shots in the dark.

If you are going to the west coast version of the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit make sure you check out my session titled Optimizing SEM Strategies from Keyword to Conversion. It's on Monday Oct 27 at 11:15am. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Reaction of the Boston MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit

Since I have some time to kill before my flight back home I thought I would post my reaction to the Boston MarketingSherpa B-to-B Lead Gen Summit. Over all I thought it was a good summit. The case studies were insightful, there were the right number of "relevant" vendors, and there were plenty of chances to network with the attendees.

The one thing that I would change about the format is that I would make the summit on a track schedule and give the presenters 45 minutes instead of 30. I know the benefit of having all the presenters in one room is that you don't miss anyone. I just felt that 30 minutes wasn't enough time to really get into some of the topics, with ample time for Q&A. Also by having the summit on a track schedule you can omit the sessions that you are not interested in without feeling like a jerk when you walk out. We all know that there are those one or two session that don't peak your interest.

Here are some of my important takeaways from the summit.

People buy from people, not websites
Make sure that your website, landing page, email blast, etc has a human feel to it. Consider the users intention or motivation when your are creating these elements. At the end of the day people would rather buy from people. Your website is just a tool to pass along your message.

Change your thinking when it comes to lead gen.
Think of People rather than Process.
Think of Touches rather than Attempts.
Think of Relationships rather than Contacts.

There are 4 areas of the buyer cycle Invitation, Initiation, Intensification, & Consummation.

The key to moving a prospect through this process is to know what the prospect is thinking at the transition of each of these elements, and act accordingly. At the transition from Initiation and Intensification you are building trust. This is when the user is looking closely to character, and how effective you are.

Clarity trumps persuasion
In regards to landing pages, no matter how strong your call to action or offer is if your page is not easy to use and clear you are going to loose that user.

There should be a marketing funnel and a sales funnel
Leads should not go to sales till it has been worked through the marketing funnel. Some people may consider this the "nurturing" process. In this phase you are establishing trust, building thought leadership with the user. The fact is salespeople don't have time to deal with leads that are not ready to buy. Also by having a sales person call too early is an easy way to scare the lead.

70% of all leads are not "sales ready"
Because of this fact you need to make sure that you have a marketing funnel with processes in place to move the lead through the funnel. That way you only deliver high quality leads to sales.

Every company needs a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)
A ULD are the elements that make up a "sales ready" lead. With a ULD in place you will have no question on if the lead is "sales ready." Brian Carroll used the acronym BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

There should be a process in place on how to hand off a lead from marketing to sales
If you do not have such a process in place you there will be problems. You will have leads that fall through the cracks, and know one will know why. This process will also establish accountability.

People, Process, Technology....In that order
Once you know the people that you want, and the process to get them, then bring in the technology. Dennis Head quoted IDC, and said that "Technology alone is not going to move the needle, you need a defined process."

Those are a few of top themes from the summit; if I get some time over the next couple of days I will post some more. I would love to hear what your thoughts are on these topics, so if you have an opinion or something to add please leave a comment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Microblogging can be used for more than just recapping your actions

For the longest time I wanted to know what was the big deal with microblogging sites like twitter. Do your friends and colleagues really want to know what you are doing at every moment of your life. Since I like to think of myself as a Web 2.0 enthusiast I decided to give it a try. Soon after I created an account I got bored with it. Even though I was able to update my account from my phone it was still a very tedious experience from me. Plus I really didn't see the benefit of being on twitter, because everyone was doing the same thing. Sure it gave me a bit more insight into the lives of my friends, and it allowed me to pimp my blog. It was still too overwhelming at times. It was almost like watching 100 different reality shows at once.

Well recently my opinion of twitter has changed. I realized that I was seeing the concept of microblogging from the wrong angle. Twitter allows people to give commentary in a way that they could have never before. I am noticing that people are starting to use hashtags as a way to group a collection of related topics so they form one mass conversation. Last week at OMS was my first time getting involved with using hashtags. I wanted to try it out for 2 reasons: 1. To see what the big deal with hashtags was about. 2. To see if using twitter was a good way to take notes. I was really impressed to find out that twitter makes an excellent note taking tool. Now if I want to review them all I have to do is search on the OMS hashtag #OMSSD08 and I get a transcript of whole day. It includes my notes along with everyone else who participated. This also gives me info on sessions that I didn't get to sit in on. Using hashtags is also a benefit to the organizers of the event, because they get instant feedback on how the conference is going.

I also feel that Twitter is making watching TV an interactive experience. Twitter allows everyone to become participants of the event, and give their commentary on the program. I used twitter as a tool while I watched the last 2 presidential debates. It made something that would be normally "dullsville" a rather enjoyable experience. Along with giving my own feed back I got to hear in real time what other people thought of the debate. If you are interested do a search on #tweetdebate or #vpdebate to view the commentary. Social Media Analyst Jeremiah Owyang also did a recap on the #tweetdebate experiment if you care to take a look.

The online news site, Current is taking this phenomenon to a new level by allowing people to "Hack the Debate." If you post tweets with the #current hashtag they will overlay it on their broadcast of the debate in real time. I'm curious to see how this concept will evolve over the next couple of months, or even the next year. If you have any ideas leave a comment and let me know.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Now that the wedding is behind me time to get back to blogging

Wow it really has been a while since my last post, but I have an excuse. For those who don't know me personally I got married to my sweetheart of 6 years on Aug 16th up in Malibu. So for those of you who are already married, you know what it's like when it's "crunch" time. And for those of you who are about to get married hang in there cause it's worth it!

I have to say the last 6-8 weeks before the wedding was the most stressful time of my life. There were so many little details that we had to take care of. Making sure the rooms were booked, getting gifts for the bridal party, planning the rehearsal dinner, making sure Courtney (my wife) was sane. So with all of that, and all the stuff going on at work there was no time for blogging.

I have to say even though it seemed like it came and gone in a flash, the wedding was a big hit. Everyone had a good time, and there were no major train wrecks. That is all thanks to Courtney, she did most of the planning. I just tried to be as supportive as possible and not get in the way. =oD

After the wedding we spent a week in Hawaii on the big island to un-plug and relax. Someone told me that my honeymoon would be the best vacation of my life, and they were right! After a year of planning a week in paradise it the perfect way to unwind.

So now that my second job of wedding planner support is over I can get back to the business of online marketing. Before I took my hiatus I was planning to write a 3 part series on analytics, but I just attended the Online Marketing Summit, and my head is swarming with ideas so I might have to change it up a bit.

If you were not able to attend the summit, you missed a good summit. The information was fresh, the speakers were very knowledgeable on their subject matter, and above all it was a good place to network and learn. There was some really good takeaways; one of my favorites was on the topic of social media. In the final keynote: Big Brands, Big Plans I asked if there was a measurable way to measure ROI in social media. The collective response was that with social media it shouldn't just be about ROI it should be about engaging with your users. If you get your users more engaged in your brand eventually the sale will happen. Also another good point is that social media doesn't have to just be about blogging, or being on facebook. If you have a product letting your customers rate the product and give feedback is a form if social media. Finally one of the panelist said "Don't just jump in to social media just to check something off of a list. You should use social media in a way that is aligned with your overall marketing strategy." If you want to check out some more good points from OMS check out my twitter feed. If you were at OMS please feel free to comment with your feedback.

So stay tuned because over the next few weeks Im going to be posting some good topics on analytics and paid search.

Also if you are going to the MarketingSherpa B-to-B Demand Gen Summit in Boston or San Francisco let me know. I will be co-presenting with ion interactive on the topic of Optimizing SEM Strategies from Keyword to Conversion. We will be talking about our success with increasing our paid search conversion rates. The whole summit looks to be a promising event, so if you have the extra time and money I encourage you to come out.

So I'll leave you with a couple of pics from my wedding & honeymoon, Enjoy!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Use Google Local to Provide added Value to Your Customers....

...and help with Search Engine Visibility.

I don't know if you are aware of this, but a top 10 listing in google is not what it used to be. Because of customized search, local, news, and image results organic results are showing up lower and lower on the page. Catfish recently wrote an article titled Why a Top 10 Listing in Google Continues to Mean Less in SEO that goes into more detail on the topic. So you are probably thinking, well what can I do to improve visibility. The answer is that it takes a combination paid, local, & organic search campaigns to remain visible on search engines these days. As a business owner you can take advantage of Google Local to assist with your local ranking. Setting up a Google Local listing is easy to do, and I will give you a basic overview to help your setup your listing.

Claim Your Business
If you have an established business most likely you are already listed on Google Local. Google pulls business listings from various different sources to populate their local directory. The first step in creating your local listing account is to claim your business. If you find your company's listing in the Google Local directory you can click on the "Add or edit your business link"

If you are unable to find your listing you can add your company to the directory by going to You will need a Google account to add or claim your business listing.

Once you are logged into the system click the "Add a new listing" link. (If you claim your company from an existing listing you will skip this step)

Add Your Basic Contact Information
Populate the form with your company's basic contact information, and make sure you use a keyword rich description.

Include a keyword rich phrase along with your company name. This can help your SEO, and provide more info to potential customers. Note:Don't go overboard with this, because you run the risk of confusing your customers, and being penalized by Google for keyword stacking.

Give Value to Your Customers
After you provide your basic information you have the option of adding even more information to give value your customers. By doing this you can stand out from your competitors. You can add your office hours, payment options, photos, and YouTube videos. You can even add categories that your company fit into to help Google place you into their directory.

Validate Your Listing
Once you finish your listing Google will mail a postcard to the address that you provided with a pin number. You will use to the pin validate and activate your listing.

Adding a Google Local listing will help improve your local search visibility, but it's not a silver bullet for success. Your local listing along with constant paid and organic optimization will improve your chances driving targeted traffic to your website, and business location.

Monday, June 23, 2008

You cannot fake social media

I was watching a really good video the other day titled Social Media Mistakes of Five Big Marketers. It is a segment from Joseph Jaffe's speech at the Association of National Advertisers' Integrated Marketing Conference. Jaffe explains some blunders that some major corporations make when it comes to social media. I think the biggest nugget that I took from that segment was the idea of "No Faking." I know this may seem simple, but some big corporations are still not getting it. They think they can treat social media just like any other media; make something up so it looks "social media~ish. The problem is that it stands out like a sore thumb, and your users will hate you for it.

If I could pass anything along it would be this: Don't be afraid about losing control, and just go with the flow. People are going to say what they want to say and it may not all be good. I feel that it's better to have these negative remarks it in an arena where you have a chance to fix the problem right away; rather than hearing it second hand.

You need to be honest with yourself. If you don't think you can handle this level of translucency then social media is not right for you. In a case like this Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing you can do.