CreativeWorks Marketing

Impressions vs. Leads: Where Does The Real Value Lie?

1As the owner of a strategic marketing agency, clients often ask me how many leads were generated from a campaign. My answer is often the same; what was the objective of the campaign? Was the campaign launched to generate leads or impressions?

But wait; can you have a lead without ever having made an impression?

If you are a smaller, unknown brand then generating leads can be challenging, but which comes first, the chicken (lead) or the egg (impression)? Although your marketing strategy should determine the objectives of a campaign, if you don’t have one, consider that there is a huge value in an impression.

In the spirit of “any PR is good PR”, impressions measure the number of times your ad was seen, which we consider to be brand building (a part of any solid marketing strategy). If someone sees your ad and, although they may not be your target market, they mention your ad to someone else they know who is in your desired target market, then voila, you have a lead! Now you must ask yourself how many viable leads resulted from that single impression.

Of course at the end of the day, marketing must measure engagement in hard metrics (like clicks, and conversion rates), but it is equally important to remember quality is more important than quantity and the path to that lead is often not as direct as you might think!

The engagement cycle takes many forms, starting with an impression that may result in a lead. In your online campaigns, which do you feel came first – the chicken or the egg? Share your thoughts in our comment section below.

Think Strategically for Proven Results

Want proven results from your marketing- who doesn’t? To really reap the benefits of your marketing activities, you’ll need to have both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.

Strategic marketing

Marketing Plan

The marketing plan, also sometimes referred to as a tactical plan, comes as a result of having a clearly defined strategy. With your strategy in hand, you can then create a plan that targets your audience with activities that resonate with them. e.g. If you want to target teens, you wouldn’t place an ad in a print publication as this demographic is engaged through online media. The marketing plan outlines the details of the tactics (roads) you will take to attract new business. It is a practical application of your marketing strategy, which includes details of what marketing activities you need to implement (online, website, advertising, videos, radio, etc.) to support the strategy in getting your business where you want it to go.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy is your road map – the holy grail, if you will. It is shaped by your overall business goals and strong market research and includes a definition of your business, a description of your products or services, a profile of your target audiences or clients, and a definition of your company’s role in relation to the competition. The marketing strategy is essentially a document that outlines who you are, why you are unique, and what value you bring to your targeted audience.

As a strategic marketing expert, I can assure you that creating a marketing strategy is essential if you want proven results. I’ve outlined below a few of the preliminary questions you need to consider when engaging a marketing expert/agency or working with your internal team.

  1. What do you think is your unique selling proposition versus the competition?
  2. Why is this unique selling proposition compelling to your audience?
  3. Who is your target audience?
  4. Have you done any client surveys?
  5. Who are your key competitors?
  6. Have you conducted any market or competitive research?
  7. Is your pricing inline with your competitors or at parity?
  8. What is the ROI for all of your marketing tactics to date?
  9. Is your business trying to lead or follow industry pricing?

If you are serious about your marketing and want proven results, then stop buying and implementing adhoc solutions that are not tied to a strategy.

You Need to be Found: Google Adwords

Google-Magnifying-Glass1

Today’s economy is challenging for many businesses, but it’s an even bigger challenge for the SMB owner, who is forced to use increasingly smaller marketing budgets to increase brand recognition and drive sales through lead generation tactics. One such lead gen tactic is Google AdWords. You’ve seen those ads that appear on the side of the page every time you search for something on Google. Businesses bid for this online advertising through Google AdWords. All you have to do is create an ad, and choose specific search keywords which you would like to target, and, voila! Your ads might appear on Google, next to the search results. The idea is that people interested in your product/service can simply click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about your company.

Sounds simple, right? Well, from a conceptual standpoint, it is. In practice, however, we have found that for many of our small business clients, using Google AdWords is more of a science. Finding the “right” balance of key words, with the words used in the ad, together with the right bid amount takes many, many hours of ad monitoring, key word adjustment, ads revisions, as well as working to increase ad click-through rates and daily budgets.

Google AdWords is generally thought of as an ideal advertising “add-on” for small businesses with limited budgets, but even if you know what you’re doing, depending on your industry and keywords, it can be an expensive venture, and therefore needs to be closely monitored (in fact, hourly monitoring is best!).

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned about Google Adwords for small business that I’d recommend to any small business considering investing in this advertising program.

  1. Before you create your ad, spend some time reviewing your web analytics to see what terms people are using to find you online at this point. Google Analytics offers this type of information.
  2. In combination with the keyword tool Google Ad Words provides, create a list of targeted keywords (narrow these down to focus on a specific service/product and your targeted audience).
  3. Create two very targeted ads. Always create two ads, so you can see which one is doing better, and simply replace it as the campaign evolves.
  4. Decide on your maximum monthly budget (I suggest being able to spend at least $100 a month).
  5. Direct the ad to link to a specific page on your site. Or, if you have the budget, create a landing page on your site specifically for this ad. For services, this page needs to have the ability to capture lead gen via a form or download. For products, this page needs to have a special offer.
  6. Launch the campaign, and monitor it hourly. Keep a close eye not just on your cost-per-click (CPC), and the Average CPC (how much you are paying on average per click), but also the first page bid estimate (which tells you how much you need to spend to be on the first page).  These three areas will help you to decide which terms you may want to pause, and which ones you might want to increase your bid rate on.
  7. You’ll need to make sure that you have metrics on your website to track the number of people that are actually coming to the linked page via Google.
  8. Run the ad campaign for a month (if funds permit), and generate a report at the end of each week to capture the CPC, which key terms did well, increase in traffic to your site via the ad, how many leads were generated (or products sold), and note if there is a pattern emerging. For example, you might notice that there are lots of clicks on Thursday and Friday mornings, and it tapers off over the weekend, and early in the week.  You can then decide to put more money towards your CPC on Thursday and Fridays.

I have tried to capture the basics to help create and launch your Google AdWord campaign, but it’s worth noting that this tool has a huge number of functions. There are other options to consider, including impression vs. clicks; how to increase your quality score; what is the advantage of display networks vs. search; what are filters and ad extensions; and how should you determine your campaign settings and so much more.

With such a deep online advertising tool with a multitude of variables you can see why, if used correctly, Google AdWords has the potential to increase your ROI. It does, however, require considerable thought, time and effort to make it work for your business.

Have you used Google AdWords in your small business? If so, have you found it helpful? Has it increased your ROI? Do you have any questions about how to set up a Google AdWords campaign? Please share your questions and comments below.

Who Needs Integrity in Marketing?

cheating_rectAs part of my business development strategy, I help business owners understand the WHY as well as the HOW behind their marketing, as I have seen, time and time again, many businesses hoodwinked by self-proclaimed marketing experts promising results from a carbon-copied set of tactics. As a business owner, I want my peers to know what questions to ask!

I have dedicated my business and this blog specifically to helping medium-sized business owners because they often fall prey to unscrupulous companies looking to make a quick buck. I feel that these growing organizations, the backbone of our Canadian economy, are being taken advantage of by an unregulated industry that is just as likely to sell websites as it is to sell iPods or mugs. They approach the small to mid-sized business owner with flashy razzle-dazzle and some even “talk the talk”, hitting them up for thousands of dollars in website design and site management with no intent to actually help the client.

Like most of us, unless you know what you are looking for, you don’t know what you don’t know. As such, I have outlined a few questions that will hopefully protect you, the small to mid-sized business owner, against web designers or web programmers calling themselves marketers.  If you need help in deciphering the legitimate companies from the charlatans, consult a real marketing consultant to help guide you.

When a business owner wonders why their brochures or flyers, e-newsletters or e-blasts are not working for them, or says that they really want to create a new website or add QR codes to their business cards – as a marketing professional – I have to put on the brakes and ask them why they want to do so.

The Anti-Charlatan Questions to ask:

  1. How did they hear you needed a new site – e.g. solicitation via email or online?
  2. How well-written was the email or letter of solicitation? Did it provide you with links to projects they have done?
  3. Ask to have a meeting with them at their office. This will give you some indication if they have a legitimate business.  If they work from home, then they should be comfortable telling you that.
  4. When you meet with them, do they spend most of the meeting talking about what they can do for you, or on finding out more about your company and your challenges and needs?  If it’s all about them, you might expect your site project to be as well.
  5. Did they claim to be a web designer or marketer? Can they substantiate their claims of experience and practice?
  6. Do they have examples of their work? You need to know exactly what their involvement was in the development of the site. Did they design the site?  Did they design it using a website template (e.g. WordPress), or are they custom sites?  Note:  A template is a sort of prototype that they would simply modify by adding your content and pictures. The amount of design is very limited, and these sites all look very similar, but this is the least expensive option. A WordPress site also offers templates, but can be customized (although the WordPress icon in the URL will be visible to your audience).  A custom site is developed from scratch by a true designer, and this is usually the most expensive option.
  7. Ask them about the project process – do they create a critical path, a site map, with timelines clearly stated, etc.?
  8. Do they have writers who can write the content for the site? Is the content written from an SEO perspective or is it straight copy?
  9. What kind of SEO provision is outlined in the project?
  10. Do they write the programming for the sites? You are looking for them to tell you PHP, Java scripting, etc.
  11. Do they provide you with a Content Management System (CMS) so you can manage the site in-house?
  12. Ask them if they create wireframe designs.  If yes, ask them to show you an example.  If no, ask them why. The answer should speak to their expertise.
  13. What types of quality control measures are in place?
  14. Do they have references you can call?  Look through their work samples, and choose ones you’d like to talk to. Make sure it is a senior person at the company, not a reference for a junior employee.
  15. How will you be able to measure the ROI of the site?  You are looking for them to tell you that they use Google Analytics or other site measurement metrics. You’ll need to discuss if they will be providing on-going site measurement and recommendations.  If they are not marketers, I strongly recommend you work with a marketing agency or consultant for increased site value.

As a marketer and business owner, integrity is more than simply a word – it is something live by, to follow and believe in. Integrity is one of the most vital assets I bring to the table for my clients.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories in the comments, so that others may learn from your experiences.

Emotional Branding – Why your Business Needs it!

Dove

Making an emotional connection with your audience should be a year-round priority for your business, as consumers and clients (both B2B and B2C) make most of their buying decisions based on emotions. As I pursue business development opportunities, I aim to provide my potential clients with a brand that resonates with their audiences, and this often involves developing messaging that evokes emotion and impact.

Last year, I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth reiterating with you: Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It’s one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It’s essentially the summation of everything your brand is about. Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you’ve outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

An emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts. That’s why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There’s no emotion in that and it’s emotions that differentiate a brand. Your brand’s positioning is the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning. Let’s take a look at a few big brands and what they’ve done for positioning. The tagline can often be a big hint:

  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”
  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • Dove: “You are more beautiful than you think” – featured in photo above in ad called, “Real Beauty Sketches”

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand’s positioning. Here’s how they might be translated into positioning statements:

  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.
  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • Dove: Makes you see what other people see when they look at you.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your small business. Here are a few tips to creating a positioning statement for your company:

  1. Think about the emotional benefit that you offer your customer.
  2. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you.
  3. Try to capture that emotion in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options.
  4. If you have a team, run the ideas by them and do a little brainstorming. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.
  5. If you need help with any of these, have a marketing agency facilitate this process, their expertise will help you.

Do you feel your brand makes an emotional connection with your customers? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Why Stop-and-Start Marketing does not work

start stop

 

 

We’re just over halfway through the summer – how has business been? If summer is a slow time for your business or industry, you might be looking for ways to shave some costs before the boom September hits. Take my advice from this previously posted piece, and ensure that you don’t compromise branding in the name of saving a couple of bucks.

All businesses see fluctuations in their revenues. And it is understandable that when faced with “cash flow” issues, many businesses owners look to cut what they deem to be “unnecessary expenditures”. However, I can tell you from my many years of marketing experience that marketing is an integral part of your business, and stopping marketing activities can have a dramatic impact on your business.

A good example of this in practice is the 2008 financial crisis. Many businesses were faced with huge revenue challenges, and although some decided to stop their marketing and withdraw from their consumers’ radars, there were those that looked at it as an opportunity to “market smarter”. They continued to invest in their marketing, and not only survived the crisis – they actually thrived. Fueled by a strong marketing presence, these companies pushed forward with bolder strategies, and thereby gained a competitive advantage.

The reason that marketing is so important to businesses is that marketing is your main lifeline to customers and sales. Without it, you can’t be sure that customers know who you are, and what you are selling.

I’d like to share with you a few tips to consider, if you are ever in a situation where you are contemplating stopping or “pausing” your marketing activities:

  • Sync your business operations to be in line with your marketing strategy, so that if you have a “weak” month, you can pick up sales leads and revenues via another avenue.   For example, if you know that August is traditionally a bad “cash flow” month for your business, plan to combat that with a campaign running in July and August. Your marketing strategy plays a key role in your success.
  • Stop the marketing activities that are using non-measurable tactics, and replace them with other more measurable marketing practices.
  • Focus your advertising campaigns on lead generation instead of simply brand recognition.
  • Leverage social media strategies to increase engagement, audience and potential leads.
  • Find more ways to connect with your customers, so that you will be “top of mind” when they are making a buying decision.

I understand why, when faced with a crisis or dip in revenues, companies look to cut marketing budgets. But, simply stated, as “marketing” encompasses everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers, your marketing really needs to be continuous.

With markets becoming more competitive, it is more important that you get ahead of your competitors – by any means necessary.  That should start with a great marketing strategy, and continue with “smart”, measurable tactics that attract customers to your business.

Have you ever contemplated stopping your marketing?  What impact did this have on your business?  Please share your experiences on the importance of continuous marketing in the comments below.

The Advertising Essentials for SMBs

Winner

More so than with a larger enterprise,  when you are a small-to-medium sized business, every customer counts. Business-owners often hear about the next “cool” thing in advertising and marketing, and immediately want to try it to see if it will bring customers through their door, with little thought to cost and overall fit within their marketing strategy.

I decided to highlight a previous blog post, compiling a list of best practices when it comes to choosing the advertising that best fits with your budget and your business’ overall goals.

As a SMB owner, once you’ve decided you want to advertise the challenge is making a choice about which type of advertising is best for your business. From online adverting to print ads, flyers, banner ads, radio and TV spots, the amount of selection seems endless.

We all know that to gain customers for your product or service you’ll have to invest in some advertising. One of the most important things for a product/company is to be seen and recognized by its target audience.  Advertising is the main avenue marketers use to attract customers to your specific brand, but it can also be the most expensive, so choosing the right type of advertising will be key to your success.

Here are a few tips to I’d like you to consider before investing in your advertising this year.

  1. As advertising can be costly, consult your marketing strategy to align your advertising goals with your overall marketing strategy.
  2. Consider your audience before choosing the type of advertising. E.g. if you are a tattoo service targeting a younger audience, then an ad in the newspaper (which older people are more likely to read) would not be a good investment of your advertising dollars.
  3. Keep the goal in mind.  In consultation with your strategy, be clear on what you want to achieve with this advertising.  Some may advertise to increase brand recognition or to actually drive sales.  Be as specific as possible about what you hope to achieve through advertising. E.g. increase sales by 10% in product “x”.
  4. Timing. Decide the frequency and duration.  Advertising is won and lost based on how many times it is seen or heard by your audience, so think about how often you will run an ad and, if it’s a radio ad, how long will the spot be.
  5. Use a mix of different methods.  Unless you know your audience is using a certain type of media 100% of the time, versification is also important. Think of a radio ad you may have heard and then read that ad in the newspaper or trade publication, and then possibly seen the exact same ad in a local bus shelter.  Increasing your audience’s exposure to your brand directly correlates to their buying decisions.
  6. Make sure you have measurement in place to track your advertising. You’ll need to track it so you can determine what the ROI is and if it met your goals.

If you want to grow your customer base you have to advertise, but before you spend one dime, be sure you choose advertising that helps you to effectively reach your target market and attract new customers.

Have you considered advertising your company? Have you included advertising in your marketing strategy?  What kind of success have you had with your advertising? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.