Friday, December 18, 2009

Integrated Marketing Summit

Last week I was a presenter at the Integrated Marketing Summit at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis. Thirty speakers came from across the US to present and attend seminars and discussions regarding integrated marketing. It was exciting to see so many people interested in learning more about the new dynamics of marketing. Shawn Elledge and Elizabeth Usovic, the organizers of the event, did an excellent job of gathering great speakers and putting together this event.

My presentation was on affordable tools regarding social media, Website conversion and lead management. I reviewed a few tools that would help marketers attract new leads to their Website, convert them into prospects and help manage the lead/prospect and sales process. You can download my presentation on the Integrated Marketing Summit Website.

Talking with various attendees, I found a wide range of knowledge level about these topics. There were the advanced marketers who are engaged in lead scoring and ranking software and doing some interesting things with integrating online and off line marketing tactics. Plus, there were also a number of novice online marketers who are just now getting into an integrated marketing approach.

The summit attendees seemed to me, to be more heavily attended by corporate marketers rather than agencies. I found this extremely interesting since many of the agencies involved with Internet development and strategy in St. Louis are lacking in some of the tools and strategy presented at the Summit.

Everyone seems keenly interested in social media topics. Presentations around social media had the biggest draw. That is not surprising since many are still trying to get their arms around the idea of social networking. Companies today are slowly realizing that the consumer is in charge of the brand. The ways of brand management from several years ago is changing and social media is a big part of the change.

However, social media is really just another attraction and communication tool. But what happens after the click in terms of lead management, customer relationship management, customer retention and leveraging customers. These topics, strategies and tactics are being overlooked again by many who are going after the next shinny object.

Overall, I thought the Summit was great. I don’t know anyone that can’t learn one more thing or look at what they’re doing in a different light. Just being around other great marketers was an energy and creative boost in itself. I plan on continual involvement with the Summit. For those who were not able to attend, be sure to watch for next year’s Summit. It promises to come back bigger and better in 2010.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Get More Out of your 2010 Marketing Budget

It’s that time of year again, next year’s budget. You’ve probably been working on next years budget already and wondering how you are going to squeeze more dollars for marketing to achieve your sales goals. In today’s environment marketing budgets are usually being slashed. However, there are ways you can stretch your media dollars.

First, take a look at what your competitors are spending. Research keywords that your competitors are paying for and track their spending over an extended period of time. This information could confirm your keyword spending direction. Spyfu Kombat is a paid keyword research service that lets you track historical keyword analyses. If keyword spending is major part of your budget this tool may come in handy for you.

It probably goes without saying, but if you can demonstrate the value of marketing dollars spent now it goes a long way when asking for more or validating why you should keep your current budget. Your agency should be helping you with ROI reports through out the year. If you don’t have a way to calculate your current ROI this should be the first thing you do.

Other valuable investments should be made in testing tools and content. These areas will get the best bang for your buck. These two areas are often over looked and under valued.

eMarketer’s October 29th article “Bad Campagin Worse than None at All” illustrates what happens when you have a bad campaign. The same is true for bad landing pages. Invest in either purchasing testing tools or starting with some free tools and learning how to effectively use them. If your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase testing tools start with Google Website Optimizer.

Good content is another great investment. How to articles and press releases with great content can give you long-term return. We are still getting traffic from articles and press releases we posted over three years ago. Invest in getting a professional writer to help generate great content.

Another investment with long-term return is email marketing. Continue to build your email list. Yes, having thousands of followers on Twitter is great, but the best impact we’ve seen is in email marketing. We’ve seen people on email list for several years who finally take action. This is especially true for companies with long sales cycles.

The trend has been lately that budgets from off-line marketing have been going into online marketing. We’ve seen the same thing. However, don’t give up on the off-line. Having a well integrated marketing approach is your best strategy. Using tools wisely, testing and the right measurements will get you the best marketing ROI in 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why being ranked high in Google may hurt your business.

Recently, I was at a networking event, and I ran into several people who were discussing Internet marketing. Some of the people were quite proud about how well their Website was ranked in Google. In further discussion I quickly learned that this seemingly positive accomplishment was actually hurting them and they didn’t even realize it.

Being highly ranked in Google, should be something to boast. However, as the conversation went on they revealed the actual phrases for which they were highly ranked. On learning the phrases, I immediately knew that their accomplishments were not only worthless, they were hurting the company.

One person was a small business owner who was a typical DIY “do it yourself”. If they can “save money” and do it your self they would. Typically, these people place little value on professionals of any type. That is, until they get into trouble. They will never see the difference between the product shot they took and the professional photographer’s beautiful photography. They see no difference between the DIY legal documents for trademarks compared to the experienced trademark attorney. They will always feel that they are ahead of the game for anything they can do themselves and not pay someone else to do.

Here’s a tip for salespeople and service professionals, do not waste your time on the typical DIY. They will never pay you what you’re worth, nor will they appreciate what you do for them. To them, cheap is always better. Some of these people may be successful but they will not go beyond a certain point because they will not hire professionals for key areas. Until they see the value of professional work they will always be stuck at a given plateau.

This guy was no different. He was bragging about how his Website was ranked third in Google. He also bragged about how he did it himself with little effort. The phrase that it was ranked high in was his company name. To make it even more obvious to most marketers, his company name is his last name which is not a common name at all. It wasn’t the time, or the place, to inform this poor man in front of his colleagues, that his Website without much effort should be placed high for his company name. Or educate him on what search terms he should try to achieve high ranking. I suspect that my information on his site rankings would fall on deaf ears.

Next, he was proud of the fact that his site was ranked high for a few product names. But further discussion disclosed too that these names were irrelevant. They were not names people use to search for his product. They were more company specific names.

You might be thinking well at least this site is ranked high in something, so why would it hurt the company? It is hurting the company because this company owner will have a long learning curve on what is really important and why he should pay a professional to do his search engine optimization. This long learning curve is costing him money. What typical DIY people miss is the value of ROI, return on investment. They may understand that term on some level, but what they miss is that professionals, used in the right way, can catapult their company’s revenues and profits. For each dollar they spend with a professional they should see a minimum return of three dollars.

It might take months, even years, before he realizes that his company name and obscure in-house product names are not the search terms people use to find his products. Pride and ego may never allow this Website owner to hire truly professional marketers, but in time he may realize that he is not getting the results he needs. I have often seen people with this mindset then conclude that the Internet just doesn’t work for their industry or product.

The terms he should be ranked high on are the terms his customers use to find his products. He should not pay too much attention to the terms his company uses to describe the products. Industry terminology may be appropriate if you are trying to attract people who are inside your industry. You need to research the keywords and phrases your target audience is using. Plus, understand most people search for the problem they have rather than the solution. Understand your customers first and then develop, modify and optimize your Website accordingly.

Until you understand the terms your customers are using to find your products or service, I wouldn’t waste too much time trying to rank your site for terms you think are important. And if you run across someone who is the typical DIY marketer you can always try to inform them of best practices, but beware that they usually have to find out the hard way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Increasing Website Conversion – The Missing Step

Time and time again I see business owners, product managers, marketing directors or namely anyone responsible to the profit and loss of their product, division or company miss the boat when it comes to Website conversion. They either don’t know, forget or don’t understand the value of testing.

When I mention the word “testing” to some people I see their eyes roll back, or I get a blank stare. Some have an idea what testing is, but don’t want to spend the money. Others have no idea what I’m referring to and don’t want to admit it.

Let’s start with what testing means. First, of all it doesn’t mean that all your links, forms and functionality work. That’s a programmer’s view point on testing. What I mean about testing is testing your message, text, graphic and layout. What’s the point? Well, it can mean a huge difference in increasing Website conversion. If you’re not sure about the value of Website conversion read how a 1% increase in Website conversion could mean a 160% increase in profits. Without testing you are most likely losing a boat load of money.

Just about everything should be tested, but when talking about Web conversion and testing you are usually dealing with page elements such as your headline, call to action, page layout, price the offer, etc. There are two types of testing we usually conduct and I recommend both. We utilize A/B split testing and multi-variate testing with live target audience tests and Website traffic tests.

A/B split testing means that you are testing two different page elements or pages. Site visitors or testers see either version A or version B. Multi-variate testing means that you are testing, as the name implies, multiple variations. This test could include the header, call to actions, graphics, offers, etc. and these are tested all at once.

One of the fastest ways to get some immediate feedback on your page elements is by conducting a live test with your target audience. The live target audience test consists of testing several members of your target audience one at a time. This can be done in-person or online. We use to use this method exclusively for usability (how easy is the site to use) but with each test we found valuable marketing/conversion information. Unless we test strictly for usability, we refer to this test as live test.

With online or in-person testing you first develop a set of questions. These questions include how the target audience perceives elements of the landing page. With tools like GoToMeeting and Camtasia you can test and record the subject’s moves and voice. Unless you have sophisticated tools, with this method you lack seeing the person’s body language including their facial expressions. However, even without this information online tests can yield valuable information.

The second type of testing is using a tool like Google Website Optimizer. Of course there are expensive programs out there that will yield more information, but don’t over this free tool. Let’s say you think your home page, landing page or shopping cart page is not performing as well as you like. Perhaps your designer wants to use graphic A and you think you should use graphic B. Instead of long discussion about which one to use you let the audience decide. So you run both on your site. One half of your audience will see version A and the other half will see version B. You count which one had the most conversion and that one wins.

With Google Website Optimizer you can also test the headline, call to action, text, layout, price and other page elements. This test will help you put together a super page which can have tremendous effects upon your Website conversion.

Before you spend another dime on advertising you should have your marketing team test. Pay-per-click is getting more and more expensive and search engine optimization takes long and can be costly too. First test your page elements and then turn on the advertising. Test again and advertise more. With the increased conversion rate you’ll be making more money which you can invest in more traffic.

In testing there is one rule to follow: test everything and always be testing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Target Audiences Change

Before we undertake any project we first conduct research and analysis. Skipping this step means that you are basing your project on instinct rather than facts. One of the elements in this step is examining the target audience. Analyzing the target audience and clearly understanding who they are and why they buy is critical in the success of your marketing strategy.

In most cases we ask our client to describe their target audience. What separates us from most companies is that we don’t assume anything. Lately we found that several companies were going after the wrong target audience. Their sales where sluggish at best and the company’s marketing efforts had poor returns.

My previous post on the presentation by Aimee Davis of Solutia, is an excellent example of going after the wrong target audience. The post talked about branding but what made a huge difference in Aimee’s strategy is that they focused on a different target audience. Prior to Ms. Davis’ work at Solutia the target audience was the final consumer of the end product rather than the direct buyer of the material who then produces the final product. Changing the focus to the direct buyer plus changes in the brand strategy resulted in the best quarter ever at Solutia.

Recently, one of our clients hired us to completely re-vamp their entire marketing strategy. This company wanted to reach the top marketing person at large (45 plus million in sales) corporations. However, upon examining the situation including the product, the offer, and the buying cycle, we found that that while they may want to attract large corporations it was not their target. The target audience - on average- no longer had a need for their product. Our client has a great product and there clearly is a need for the product, but the need is within mid-size and smaller companies.

Over ten years ago the target audience to the larger firms worked. However, this audience’s needs were being met with new technology and new players. These changes did not register with the client and sales were slipping. They thought they were keeping up with the times because they added new selling techniques, a new Website and utilized new technology but they never re-examined the need of their target audience. They were getting a few sales and continually thought they didn’t have good sales people and/or their marketing “creative” wasn’t good enough.

Changing the focus from who they wanted the client to be to the target audience that really had a need for their product made all the difference. With a change in the target audience and tweaking the message and offer made a huge difference in the success of their marketing.

Target audiences change and keeping an eye on these changes can make a significant impact on your marketing dollar return on investment.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Branding from the Experts!

Last week I attended a wonderful presentation at the Business Marketing Association. The presenter was Aimee Davis, Global Marketing Communications Manager at Solutia. The topic was on branding and how in 2006, Solutia’s performance products division was suffering from brand confusion. Undeterred by these challenges, our speaker, Ms. Davis, helped bring these product brands under the branded house of Saflex, increasing brand recognition worldwide.

Aimee talked about how, with research, they discovered the problems associated to their brand which included: there was a lack of consistency and focus in market-facing activities, spreading their message across multiple brands with unclear relationships and promoting products and not a clearly defined “company” brand.

She then reminded us what a brand means and outline that a brand is:

• It’s what we stand for; it’s a promise!
• Must be aligned with business strategy.
• Helps position offerings in the minds of the market, customers and employees.
• It’s a company asset containing long-term equity.

And she outlined the benefits of a strong brand:
• Brand loyalty drives repeat business
• Creates preference > “premium pricing”
• Instant creditability with new product introductions
• Customers will be more loyal to you in a time of crisis
• People want to work for / work with brand leaders

To many professional marketers this outline is straight from brand strategy 101. However, what many marketers do is forget about the fundamentals and glance over the obvious. Going back to the fundamentals is essential in marketing. The first activity Solutia took was research. This is the least appreciated, often over looked activity in marketing. However, research is the lynch-pin to a successful marketing strategy. Without research a marketer is basing their activity on assumptions and guesses rather than facts.

Then Aimee outlined the common misconceptions about branding. Among the list is what I feel are the two most common misconceptions:

• Branding is simply a name and logo
• Brands take care of themselves.

I constantly see companies hire design firms to do their branding. And design firms boost of branding when all they really do is design a nice logo and letterhead. An “identity package” from a design firm is not branding. They never mention research or brand strategy they just keep posting logos and call it "branding". These companies are missing the boat. Now it is perfectly acceptable for a company to hire a design firm to design a logo and indentity materials after the research and brand strategy have been developed. But "indentity materials" without a true brand strategy is just a pretty design.

To many professional marketers this outline is straight from brand strategy 101. However, what many marketers do is forget about the fundamentals and glance over the obvious. Going back to the fundamentals is essential in marketing. Ms. Davis’ presentation confirmed that the fundamental brand strategy process is crucial in developing a strong brand.

Brand strategy is not just for large companies that can afford extensive research and brand strategy specialist. There are excellent professional marketers who not only have the education but have the experience who can help mid-size to small business owners develop, implement and maintain a highly valuable and profitable brand.

Ms. Davis’ presentation was outstanding. She walked us through the logic and strategy of developing a strong brand, implementing an internal and external strategy and concluded with the outcome. As a result of her work, Ms. Davis and the Solutia team have experience in 2Q09 the best quarter in the history of the company. Now that's a brand stratgy with straightforward results!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fast & Easy Focus Group Testing

There are several factors to consider when improving conversion of your marketing material. We often talk about Website conversion but any marketing material involves some type of conversion. Granted some conversion is harder to test and measure than others. One aspect of most marketing items includes graphics.

We advocate that you should test everything and test often. It’s not always easy to do. We did find a cool site that allows you to test your graphics. You can upload any jpg, gif or png. You can test the graphic or do a screen shot and test a landing page or print material.

The site is www.fivesecondtest.com and you can join for free and have others test your graphic. You can get a fast reality check which acts like a mini focus group.

You just upload your image and select if you want a classic test (someone views the graphic for 5 seconds and list five things they recall). Or your can do a click test (someone views the graphic, clicks on the first thing that catches their interest and then describe what they click on). It’s that easy.

You can email, the list or post them on Twitter or Facebook. You then view the responses. We’re experimenting with the program now and find it to be very interesting. Its worth trying.

We often test images to see which image we should use in a campaign, Web page, advertisement etc. Our test includes focus groups and online surveys. These test combined with fivesecondtest can give you valuable incite to your images.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Executives and Social Media

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are all extremely popular and companies are trying to get a handle on how to use them. There is an interesting article today in eMarketer about Executives and Social Media.

Apparently, according to research by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, 8 in 10 management, marketing and HR executives cited relationship and brand building as the primary benefits of social media. So, should you jump on the band wagon and implement a social media strategy and let all your employees tweet away? Not so fast. Reading on in the article you’ll see that a Sophos, a security software company, found that 50 to 60% of companies studied blocked access to social networking sites from the workplace. They sited productivity and security as the primary reasons. So if most companies are blocking social sites who are you reaching?

Like anything else you need to look at the situation and study it. Then develop a strategy for your company or organization. Social media is growing and will continue to do so. There are plenty of reasons why you should consider using LinkedIn and other sites. Like any other marketing tool always be testing. What works today for social media may not work tomorrow. There is definitely a marketing power of Twitter and other sites so explore, experiment, test.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Email Pet Peeves

One of my biggest email pet peeves is email signatures.

What’s an email signature? Did you ever notice that at the end of some emails you will see not only the email creator’s name, but their phone number, cell phone number, company name, logo, Web site address, etc. It’s amazing how easy this is to do and how many companies simply over look it.

Why is this so important? I’m out of the office a lot. I use my Blackberry to stay connected. I’ll receive an email from someone who wants an immediate reply. It would be SO EASY just to click on their phone number after their name. But do they bother to add their phone number? No. If they’re not in my system they are going to have to wait until I can get their phone number and call them back.

The interesting thing is that the same people who do NOT have an email signature with phone number OR even bother to type it in the email are the same ones that are annoyed that they don’t receive an immediate phone call. When I do return the call I politely tell them that I was out and mention that I could have quickly responded if they would have added their number to the message. The really annoying thing is they repeat the same old habits.

Having the company’s contact and Web site information makes it easy for the recipient to contact you or visit your site. This email signature should be standard for the entire company. Having everyone use the same font, style and format helps build your brand awareness. Adding your phone increases the response time with phone calls. At least with me anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ok so I didn't get back to work just yet. Added Plaxo to my Ping.fm and am not sure I want my Blog updated from this tool or not.
Now that I've gotten connected my 3 top social networking tools. I need to get to work. Back to PPC strategy overview for clients.
YES!! This worked!! Ping.fm updated Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and my Blog -- all with one tool!! @perrybelcher GREAT TIP!! THANKS!!
@perrybelcher Thanks for the ping.fm suggestion This may save me alot of time!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt You: Intellectual Property and the Internet

Recently, I attended an extremely interesting and valuable seminar held by the Business Marketing Association The seminar, titled Where the Internet and Intellectual Property Law Collide, was presented by Don Kelly, an intellectual property attorney with Gallop, Johnson and Neuman. As his title implies, Don specializes in, well, intellectual property—things such as trademarks, copyrights, and patents—and how those things apply to Internet marketing.

Don’s topic provided me and the other seminar attendees with some insights that I’m sure will help us—and our clients—steer clear of potential legal trouble related to Internet marketing efforts. As you might imagine, there were a lot of questions—way to many to cover in this short blog. So, I thought I’d share a couple of those that seemed to garner the most interest, along with a paraphrased or high-level answer:

Q: What are the laws pertaining to videos, audio, and other information I pull from other sites to use on my site or blog?

A: A lot of companies and bloggers are posting videos created by artists and companies other than themselves. Even though these videos have been taken from the Internet, they are OK to use as long as you do not claim the work is yours, i.e., acknowledge the creator, and that the purpose is to teach and inform, i.e., this is an example.

Q: Can an employee or contractor who performed work for me, for which they were paid, claim it as there own?

A: If someone works for you as an employee or contract worker they cannot claim work they’ve done for you as their own—in most cases. They should not be using these creations in any manner, on or off-line unless they have written and signed permission to do so. Unfortunately, we all know there are people who are deceitful, desperate or just plain ignorant and will use this work and portray it as their own. In many cases since it reflects so poorly on them, these companies usually stop these practices. In other situations they only stop when forced to do so in court.
One company was more or less being extorted from their graphical design company for extra payment and rights over a logo. The design company felt that they “owned” the trademark they designed for another company. Here’s the law: unless they have a document relinquishing rights and clearly saying, in writing, that they own the trademark, they do not. The company that hired the design company owns the trademark. It appears that in this case the design company may soon be faced with some legal problems. If they’re smart they’ll stop using it – immediately.

Q: Do I need to include a physical address on all of my marketing oriented emails?

A: You are required to include a physical address on all general solicitation emails you send—especially if you acquired the email address to whom you are sending from a third party. You don’t have to have it of course if you are just corresponding to a client, friend, associate, etc. with whom you have an existing business or personal relationship. However, as a matter of best practice, I suggest as a company you should have a standard email signature (see our article on this subject).

Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go deeper into some of the other areas. Nearly everyone I talked with left wanting more. I know I still have many questions pertaining to Google Adwords, email, and some trademark questions. So, due to overwhelming response, ePlus Marketing will be sponsoring another event on this topic in the near future.

If you’re registered for our newsletter you will receive a notice of this presentation. If you’re not on our newsletter list, you might want to sign up now. In addition to being advised and invited to this event, we’ll provide you with all sorts of other tidbits of useful information..

Monday, March 30, 2009

Video Marketing Increasing - Tips on B2B Videos

Great article today in eMarketer on Video Marketing. The article talks about how online video marketing and advertising is increasing, except in B2B. They concluded that the biggest factor in B2B video marketing is the lack of audio in the office.

I’m sure you’ve seen all types of videos online. To me, the most annoying ones are the ones that pop-up automatically and can’t be turned off. Last week I was on several conference calls and during the conversion we were going to various Websites. One conversation in particular was regarding vendor selection. A particular vendor had a pop-up person.

At first glance having the person pop-up with audio looked interesting. The more interesting ones are when the person appears to be walking in from behind your Web page. It seemed clever to have someone tell you about the Website and company so you don’t have to read. However, during the second visit they become absolutely annoying, especially when you can’t turn them off.

That’s what happened to us during the conference call. In fact, what ended up happening is that we had to leave the site completely and in doing so the vendor dropped off our list. Of course, that’s the worse case scenario and I’ve seen reports where these pop-up people actually increase ROI – but wait, now that I think about it, the reports are always from the video producer – mmmm. We’ll have to do more research on this and get back to you.

Back to the video for B2B marketers. The pop-up audio people or “talking head” videos are not the only method used in when utilizing video. However, the article to us pointed out the obvious. You need subtitles on B2B videos. We’re producing videos for our clients and while the best version of the video is with the voice over, a viewer will be able to get the main points of the video without the sound.

In the article, they state that videos with subtitles were watched 91% to completion, compared with 66% to completion for those without subtitles. While we didn’t have the research to back us up we know how annoying unexpected sound can be in the office. It happens in our office too many times and takes everyone else off task. Plus, we know that many businesses do not have audio available to workers at the office. Its great to have the research data back-up our conclusions. Of course, many graphic artist do not prefer to have text obstruct their work, but just like a Website you must blend form and function with results driven marketing wining every time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Viral Marketing - Do the unexpected

We've been doing some video marketing for a few of our clients, and we're looking into a viral marketing campagin. Recently, I found a BLOG that was talking about how in viral marketing, one tip is doing something unexpected. They used that concept in this video as an example.

I'm still laughing at this one.

video

I found that John West has a series of ads that are all unexpected and have a similar theme "enduring the worst to bring you the best". A series of ads with a smiliar theme is another tip in viral marketing.

This one is the funniest John West video I've found. Its worth sharing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Increasing Website ROI

The last couple of posts have been regarding ROI and how to measure it. Once you know how to measure ROI how do you increase it? The simple answering is testing. Testing means different things to different people. Ask a programmer and their definition of testing involves clicking on links and testing the functional aspects of a site. Others, mostly non-marketing professionals, will assume testing is having the client view the Website or page and approve it. However, testing to a marketing professional involves much more than the functional aspect of the site.

Testing involves usability test, A/B split and multivariate testing. For best results you should be using a combination of all three. One of the most common misconceptions about testing is that is expensive. Our answer, is how expensive is it to NOT to test? If you want to put some numbers with this answer find out what your conversation ratio is and determine how much profits will increase by increasing your conversion rate.

We’re going to look at usability testing. First, let’s explain what it is. Usability testing means that you observer how a test subject uses your site. This can be as scientific and high tech as some of the labs we’ve used with two-way mirrors, several observers, multiple cameras and software recording every mouse move and keystroke. Or the test can be extremely low tech by simply observing the testing.

If you’ve been in marketing for sometime, I’m sure you’ve been involved with focus groups. This is somewhat similar. In focus groups you gather in a sample of your target audience and they use and discuss the product. In usability testing you gather a sample of your target audience and ask them to complete several timed tasks on your Website.

Each task it timed and recorded. Since the site owner should not be present at the test it is best to record the session. Designers and programmers also benefit greatly from viewing the testing as well. Many times sites are developed and designed based on our own preferences. You many notice that designers get stuck in “template” mode. The designs are appealing but they all begin to all look very similar. Participating in usability test is one way to stretch the designer’s creativity and sharpen their skills.

Each usability test we’ve done have always uncovered at least one “gold nugget” that made the testing worth doing. Usually there are several areas on a Web project that can be improved as a result of usability testing. The reason is simply. If your target audience can easily use your site the likely hood of them taking action increases.

One of the misconceptions about usability testing is that it uncovers problems with navigation or ease of site use. However, much more than those areas should be tested. One of the first questions we ask the subject is “what is this site about” or “what service/product does this company offer”. Then note how long it takes the subject to answer the question. These questions have nothing to do with design or navigation but rather content. If the subject is unable to quickly say what the site is about how can the site be successful?

A common mistake in usability testing is that the tester fails to test the test. Never conduct a test without first testing the test yourself. The test developer and tester should BOTH take the test.

I’ve often been asked from new clients how do they know if their current site has been given a usability test. Since I know this important phase of development is skipped by most developers (many are totally unaware of the process) I know can safely say their site was not tested. My response is that if the developer never mentioned it then it safe to say that it was not tested. There is cost involved in testing and no one is going to do extra work and not get paid for it.

How important is usability testing? Well the answer goes back to the earlier topic about how expensive is testing. If you know that a 1% increase in your conversion ratio will yield 300% in gross profits – then you can easily how important testing can be

Friday, March 13, 2009

ROI for Lead Generation Websites

On the last post we discussed return on investment (ROI) in general, for marketing projects. We’ve been asked how to measure ROI for lead generation (lead gen) Websites. The thinking here is the ecommerce Websites can easily be measured because someone is purchasing something and the cost and profit are clear. With lead gen sites it can’t be done because someone is not purchasing something online.

Lead gen sites and projects can be measured but you need extra information. First, you need to know the number of leads that Website (or all Internet activities) produces. Many people jus look at the leads from “Contact Us” forms but that’s not looking at the entire picture.

So, what else can you look at regarding leads from the Internet? Any other activity on the Internet can produce a lead. If you have PPC campaigns going on you can trace leads to landing pages which should have a form on it. In addition, you can have a service that offers a variety of phone numbers that all go into your main phone line but are traced back to the PPC campaign ad (we offer such a program). Leads from article marketing, videos, Web conferences, BLOGs, etc can all produce leads. How to trace it back is a topic for another post or White paper.

If you want to measure just one project such as your PPC campaign then you just count the leads from that activity. If you want to know overall how your entire Internet marketing strategy is working you need to track all of your activity.

Now that you are tracing all you leads, the next thing you need to know is how many on average, are qualified leads? Of course this number is going to go up and down each month. With each campaign you should test and monitor it for targeted leads. After a few months you should have an average number for qualified leads.

Now that you know how many qualified leads your project is producing, you need to know your average close ratio. As a sales manager or marketing director you should know the sales ratio for each sales rep and overall for the company or division. In some cases Internet leads are only distributed to a select group of sales reps so you just want to know that group’s close ratio and not the entire company’s sales ratio.

Now that you have these numbers you can determine your ROI.

Here’s an example. Let’s say all your Internet marketing projects cost $110,000.00. Your average sales price is $50,000.00. Your Internet activities produce on average, 200 leads per month. Of those 200 leads let’s be very conservative and say only 20% of them are really qualified leads (Someone ready, willing and able to purchase is going to be our standard or definition of qualified lead. You definition may be different.) That means the site is producing on average per month 40 qualified prospects.

Now, let’s say these qualified prospects are funneled to the sales reps and their close ratio is 20%. That means that 8 of the 40 prospects will convert into a sale each month. That means the Internet is producing $400,000.00 in sales per month ($50,000.00 avg. sales price X 8 avg. sales per month). Now take the $400,000.00 per month and multiple by 12 to get your yearly revenue which will be $4,800,000.00 in revenue.

However $4,800,000.00 is only revenue and you want ROI. As a business owner I want to know my gross net profit. So let’s subtract out your expenses and the expenses of the Internet project and you’ll have your ROI. Also, keep in mind that ROI is not just for one year so you need to look at the cost compared to the return over a given time frame.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Increasing your Internet ROI

Last Thursday I was asked to be on a panel discussion at the BMA luncheon meeting talking about how to increase ROI from your Website. It was a great presentation and I had a lot of fun doing it. Members from the association said that it was one of the best events that they had in some time. I’m still getting emails and calls from the luncheon asking for additional information, so I thought we would address some topics on our BLOG.

First, let’s talk about what ROI actually means. It seems like lately it’s a term that a lot of people are tossing around lately without knowing the definition. Many people just use the term to mean a generally that their projects or Website is successful. But measuring success is critical.

This is an area that separates a lot of marketing professionals, especially those involved with Internet marketing. We discuss this issue with our clients and they’re well aware of ROI and what it means. Also, keep in mind if you’re talking to a financial person the term and calculation is a bit different compared to marketers.

ROI is Return on Investment. It is the return over time that you will receive on your initial investment.

We tell our clients that they should expect a 3:1 ROI ratio with our projects. What does that mean? It means that for every dollar they spend with us that they receive three dollars in return in profit. Most receive a return much higher than that. However, that means AFTER they get their initial investment back. You also have to keep in mind that the investment should yield profit over time.

For what ever project you undertake you need to look at the return to see if it’s worth doing or if you would be better off investing the money is another way.

Some of the discussion talked about ROI on an ecommerce site VS a lead generation sites. You can and should measure ROI for both types of Web projects. Our next post will discuss how to measure ROI for a lead generation Website.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Twitter Mania for Business

I’ve just started Twittering a few weeks ago and I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of it. So far my experience has been positive. However, I’m constantly researching and testing how this tool could be used for business. Here’s what I know so far.

Can be a powerful networking tool if used correctly.
Businesses need to setup training and policies for employees to Twitter during work hours.
Once a strategy and process is place business should embrace the program.

What to Tweet about:
• Targeted questions or real business problems are very useful. I’ve stated “what I’m working on” and when it was problem solving activity, I found that others will offer suggestions and join the Tweets.
• I don’t care to hear what you had for lunch or that you’re hungry for ice-cream. To me, it just jams up the Tweets. Plus, if all you have to do is tell me what you’re eating and mention your products, I’m most likely going to stop following you.
• Tweets on issues that can be fully explained on a BLOG are great. Link it back to a BLOG or article.
• Ask people questions and engage them in conversion.
• Ask people for help with business problems. Offer solutions to others.
• Become a resource for people. Don’t bloviate (isn’t that a great word – guess who I learned that word from).
• Share information about your company but don’t over do it.


When to Tweet:

Set aside a couple of times a day to Tweet. But if you find that you’re spending too much time Tweeting and not enough time producing – stop it!

That’s all for now on Twitter for business. I’ll be taking notes and dong a bit more research before I put together an article on Twitter for business. Right now it’s always fun to investigate a new Internet tool. I just have to make sure I don’t get lost in Twitter land.

Oh, yes, one more thing. Check out this great page with 140+ Twitter Tools Twittermania

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Invited to Speak at St. Louis BMA Luncheon

I've just been invited to speak at the BMA luncheon meeting this Thursday. It's a panel discussion on ROI (return on investment). Ellen Sherberg, Publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal is moderator of the discussion. The group will discuss ways to improve your marketing ROI.

I constantly tell my clients we are NOT a Web company. We're a marketing company here to get you results. If you want a Web company there are plenty in town and I give them a list.

What's the difference? Well if you're focusing on design you're going to get great design. If you're focusing on results you're going to get results. Why not focus on both you say? Well, you do want great design but if from the bottom up you don't start with understanding a return on investment how do you expect to get a return.

First thing to consider is the organization that is in charge of your projects. Look at their background and accomplishments. Case in point I have a BSBA-Marketing and MBA. Plus, our clients see a minimum of 3:1. For every dollar they spend with us they get three in return.

Our best example is how we took a Website from $8,0000.00 in gross profits a month to $900,000.00 in gross profits a month. Yes, that blows out of the water the 3:1 but return but not everyone is going to achieve the same results.

After Thursday we'll be posting more on ROI and how to increase it.

To read more about the event go to our news story on the BMA and increasing ROI panel discussion.

If you're in town, I hope to see you there!

PPC - Keyword Strategy for High Organic Results

In managing PPC programs over the years we have always been careful not to include words or phrases where the product or company already ranks high. I have to say I really don’t understand this strategy at all.

If you are ranked on the first page on “widgets” for example, why would you include the word “widgets” in your PPC? Especially considering research and testing clearly shows that organic search results are clicked first and have a higher ROI. Why would you reduce your budget by including keywords that your site already ranks high?

I keep seeing this over and over again and we refuse to have our clients budgets reduced in this manner. Unless someone can explain their strategy I’m going to continue thinking it’s a waste of money.

Along the same line, why do companies purchase their name in a PPC campaign? Unless their site isn’t ranked well with their company name I see this as a waste as well. Just recently I searched in Google for Salesforce. We use Salesforce for our company and many of our clients, but I wanted to see what competitors are purchasing the name “Salesforce” in their PPC campaign.

The first link was a from a PPC campaign – from Salesforce. Guess what the first organic result is when you search for Salesforce. Yep, it’s Salesforce. And Salesforce had the second organic listing as well. I don’t get it. They must have money to burn. It looks like Oracle and other CRM companies are also purchasing “Salesforce” so I guess I get their logic. But when your company has the first two organic results I guess you want to really make sure that your site is found.

I did click on the PPC result for Salesforce because I figured it had to be that they purchased their own name in a PPC campaign because they have a killer landing page. They do have a landing page but it’s my favorite – one option only landing page. (See post for 2/28) They did have their logo hot linked in to their home page which is nicer than most “one option” landing page, but still only one option – complete the form to view a demo or try Salesforce for free for 30 days. What if I didn’t know anything about Salesforce? Why would I want to waste my time watching a demo or trying it for free until I know that the program is a good solution for my situation? It may not be what I want.

I suspect that Salesforce is testing their landing pages and PPC campaigns but I am extremely curious to find out the ROI on just purchasing their name. I would love to see the comparison between conversion rates on the PPC listing compared to the organic listing. It would be interesting.

Monday, March 02, 2009

PPC Campaign Tools

Currently we’re researching tools to manage multiple PPC campaigns. If you’re working with multiple clients who have multiple campaigns and several people in your organization who are managing the campaigns you need efficient tools to help.

As a manager, I need the ability to review my employee’s PPC campaigns and it’s extremely time consuming to go into each group campaign for an overall review. Google offers some nice tools, but we’re not always just using Google. Next, add in international campaigns with country specific search engines and you can see how complicated the problem really can be.

Right now we’re researching various tools. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment. We’ve gotten some great advice from our Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking friends, but we’re opening our research for additional comments, suggestions and advice. Yes, we’ll even consider a shameless plug for your PPC tools. (But don’t over do it.) ;)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Landing Pages with only One Option

Did you ever search for something and click one of the links that were using a PPC campaign? Then, when you land on the page it seems to match what the ad stated so you start reading. The page wants you to take the action THEY want you to take. However, it’s not the action YOU want to take. So you begin to look around the page to find out more information before you take their suggested action, but there is no other action offered to you. They’ve completely striped out ALL navigation, the logo isn’t hot linked to the home page and the footer doesn’t have any links back the site either. You’re trapped. You’re only out is to delete the URL down to the root and only leave www.whateversite.com. Some sites have even gone as far as putting their landing pages on a one page site. YUK!! You’re trapped.

If you’re really interested you could perhaps Google the name of the company but why bother. Instead you leave and never return.

Why are people doing this? Does their split test really show that strategy increases their conversion rate? If I’m annoyed with these tactics other people have to be as well. I hate to waste ad dollars to test, but I might have to just to satisfy my own curiosity. What do you think? Do you like the landing pages that give you only one action to perform and no other links to their site? Except perhaps when it comes to elections, I don’t think people are lemmings and follow directions blindly. We’re conducting more research on this topic and I’ll keep you updated