Archive for Marketing

How Do You Know If You Have A Good Marketing Idea?

You don’t. All the research in the world will not tell you if its good or not. As soon as a good idea is given to the public to see it can quickly become a bad idea. The Apple 1984 commercial aired in 1984 during the super bowl and subsequently won many awards and became a signature representation of Apple Computers. At the next super bowl, Apple launched it’s next commercial, “Lemmings,” which turned out to be a huge failure that no one remembers. I’m sure everyone though it was a great idea just like they thought 1984 would be, but it took the implementation of the idea to find out. (It’s funny to see how there is no attribution to who made the commercial on the Lemmings Wikipedia page yet on the 1984 Wikipedia page, it only takes as long as the second sentence to find out who contributed to its creation.)

Great ideas and bad ideas are only great or bad in retrospect. Ideas when they are first conceived are neither, it takes implementation to decide.  So, the only way to know if your marketing idea is a good one is for people to see it. Yet the majority of advertising is subjected to hours of research, focus groups and reviews before anyone see it. That’s because there is a huge amount of uncertainty and money on the line.

The book The Lean Startup explains how startup business should treat uncertainty which I think can also be applied to dealing with the uncertainty of marketing: by advocating the creation of rapid prototypes designed to test market assumptions, and using customer feedback to evolve ideas much faster than via more traditional product development practices. I think the internet makes this a possibility for today’s advertisers. Create a prototype ad and measure its effectiveness on the web to specific targets before launching it more broadly.

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How To Measure Relevance In Online Marketing

Every message has an intended audience and advertising only works when the ones who see the ad are the one who were intended to. Most advertising is very irrelevant and that’s why people hate it, because it has nothing to do with them. Nobody complains about seeing relevant ads because they are helpful and add value, like Cindy Gallop says “Everyone hates advertising in general, but we love advertising in particular.”
That’s why getting your message to just the right person at just the right time is worth a lot of money – hence Google making billions on allowing advertisers to show their ads to just those people who are looking for it. But Google ads only work when someone knows to search for what you sell in the first place. There are a lot of other advertising mediums that don’t promote relevancy as much. Most innovation in online marketing is in trying to make ads more relevant. Two metrics that can be used to measure relevancy are conversion rate and click through rate.

Conversion rate measures the relevancy between a landing page and the ad promoting it. There is a certain level of expectation that someone has before when they click on an ad, and if that expectation isn’t met, or isn’t relevant, they leave and conversion rate goes down.

Click through rate measures the relevancy between an ad and its placement. Ads that are shown but don’t get clicked get low click through rates and signal irrelevancy.

Low conversion rate and low click through rate should be signs that you’re doing it wrong  - the right person is not seeing the right message. I think the majority of the effort spent on optimizing marketing should be focused on increasing relevance.

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What Gets Measured Gets Held To A Higher Standard

marketing accountability

As soon as a certain marketing tactic becomes more measurable it gets held to a higher standard. Most big advertisers don’t think twice when they spend millions of dollars on a TV ad because they have only fuzzy metrics to measure it against. Rarely is someone allowed to spend millions on Paid Search and not have to account for how much business it drove down to the last dollar.

Once Internet TV becomes a reality advertisers will know exactly how many people watched their ads and I think it will drastically change the way ads are created and targeted.

Just because its hard to measure doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Brand marketing is important without question. But sometimes direct response channels can be held to too high of a standard.

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The Definition Of Brand Is Purpose

A company’s ability to sustain long term growth and customer loyalty is usually attributed to the strength of a company’s brand. But defining what a brand is can be difficult. I think defining your brand as your company’s purpose helps pin point exactly what it is, and gives you a way to improve it.

A strong sense of purpose, the definitive statement about the difference they are trying to make in the world, is what helps brands and businesses succeed (I wrote an ebook about it).

It makes sense because a brand and a purpose share all the same qualities. They aren’t the product, the logo, packaging or trademarks and the neither the purpose or brand is another word for marketing. Brands and purpose are not tangible.

The purpose and brand reside inside the customers’ mind. They got into the customers mind through their experiences with your product, service, or organization. It is a feeling. People donʼt buy the product, they buy the way the buying process makes them feel. The way you feel when you buy is the brand, that brand is the purpose.

Branding is not solely a marketing function. It’s an organizational function. In one way or another, every person in your organization contributes to shaping your customers’ experiences with your brand — even if they don’t face the customer. The best way to unify every action towards customers is through purpose.  There are not enough rules and enough time in the day to explain to each employee what they should do in every possible circumstance with a customer. In this environment employees need to know purpose. With purpose they have a basis to know how to react to every customer question and how to know what they should do in every business circumstance.

Integration, or consistency of message is very important to a brand, to ensure that the visual identity of the brand is consistently expressed throughout all mediums. Focusing on purpose allows the company to not only focus on integration, but to create opportunities to deliver multiple dimensions of that purpose. The purpose unifies all interactions with the brand. Look at all the ways the customer interacts with the brand and find the highly influential areas like store environment, product design, customer service or environmental practices that affect how the brand is perceived and inject them with purpose.

Not only is your purpose and brand taught to customers at every touch point, purpose is increasingly important for brands to compete online due to online price transparency. Click through rate in a paid search ad has a lot more to do with a prospects understanding of a company’s brand and purpose than a great call to action. Search Engine Optimization grows when your brand is seen as the authoritative source. Customers who identify themselves with the purpose of the company will improve conversion rate faster than website optimization will.

Brand and Purpose In Online Marketing

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Paying For Marketing


#1 is when you talk directly to people who want to hear you.
#2 is taking #1 to scale by paying someone to carry your message for you, like advertising. Expensive, not always effective, but easy to scale.
#3 is when magazines and news outlets pick up your story because they think it matters. This is unpredictable but worth more because it comes off as unbiased.
#4 Is when, thanks to new technology and the democratization of distribution, people can pass your message to others, free, through blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Its costs little, very effective and scalable.
The tricky thing about #4 is that you can’t buy it like #2. And because it’s the most effective, companies try to make it work like #2, but it intrinsically doesn’t work like that, you can’t buy genuine desire to share. The only companies that are successful with #4 are the ones that make stuff worth talking about. If you really want to be successful in #4, don’t spend more money trying to turn it into #2, spend more money to change the product or service instead.

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The Product Is The Purpose eBook

Purpose is the most influential element in business success. I believe that the formula for business success can be found faster in injecting a business with purpose than any other way. In this eBook I explain how focusing on purpose will improve business effectiveness, employee retention, employee engagement, customer loyalty and increased sales. Download PDF below.

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Good Businesses Have A Sense Of Purpose

I’m reading Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod and he has a great quote in it from Director David Mackenzie, where he says, “A film is only as good as the reasons for making it.” Hugh explains, “What is true in Hollywood is also true for products and businesses. It’s not what you make, it’s what you believe in. That is what people respond to. That is where the enterprise lives or dies.”

A quote from Stephen Covey: “Management is going up the ladder as efficiently as possible, leadership is making sure the ladder is up against the right wall.” A lot of businesses go to work on improving inefficiencies and strengthening processes but without first focusing on their purpose, or what wall their leaning up against. Once that purpose is defined its important to let everyone know, as clearly as possible, which wall it is. Usually this purpose can be distilled into one sentence without any lame business jargon. Zappos declares to have the best customer service in the world. Wal-mart is the least expensive. Starbucks makes the worlds best coffee. It is the stake in the ground, line in the sand and banner in the sky that unapologetically declares the business’s purpose that everyone can rally behind and cause a movement. Again to quote Covey, “No management success can compensate for failure in leadership.” Working on the packaging, the logo or your Facebook page is like organizing deck chairs on the Titanic unless the customer has bought into the vision of the organization. For whatever problem a business has I think a sense of purpose will help overcome the problem faster than focusing on the problem itself.

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Good Marketing Will Cause An Identity Crisis And Then Identity Theft

When I was 19, before I left for college I worked at the Jolly Rancher factory in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (before it was closed down and shipped off to Canada) to save money for school. Like most recent high school graduates I wasn’t too motivated to do much and thought the $11.95 an hour sounded like a pretty sweet gig. Turns out working at the Jolly Rancher factory was the most mind numbing job I’d ever had. Watching candy go by on conveyor belts for 10 hours straight (I was working overtime to get paid time and a half) made me think I was going to go crazy. And then I realized that most of the people I was working with had been doing this for 10 to 20 to 30 years! It caused an identity crisis. Like a ton of bricks I realized that working in a factory was not me and from then on I was that much more incentivized to get an education.

One’s sense of identity is a huge motivator for change, and brands are constantly trying to get people to buy their stuff for the first time, or persuade them to buy their stuff instead of their competitor’s stuff. A major factor in opening the mind to change is the realization that you are no longer the person you wish to be and discovering the person you do want to be.
I recently finished reading the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath (a good read) where they point to research by James March who says:

When people make choices they tend to rely on one of two basic models of decision making: the consequences model or the identity model. The consequences model assumes that when we have a decision to make, we weigh the costs and benefits of our options and make the choice that maximizes our satisfaction. In the identity model of decision making, we essentially ask ourselves three questions: Who am I? What sort of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation? Notice what’s missing: any calculation of costs and benefits.

Bad marketing uses rational, analytical incentives. When I say bad I mean it will train your customers to be eager to switch brands to save a buck.

Good marketing will cause an identity crisis: “I do not want to be the kind of mother who always nags her kids.” “I want to be a person my colleges can depend on, not a procrastinator.” “I want to be a size 8 again–size 16 is just not me.”

And then what happens next is identity theft, (because of this brand’s product or service I see myself as): “I’m the kind of mother that nurtures her kids to be amazing people.” “I’m the kind of dedicated professional that makes things happen.” “I’m the kind of person who cares about their outer beauty and inner beauty”.

Once you cause the identity crisis and identity theft you move onto earning and cultivating attention on top of a movement. People don’t want to connect with brands, they want to connect with other people. So brands need to seek out groups (people who have committed the same identity theft) that want to be connected and work to become the connecting the point. Brand marketing can facilitate that. So…

How do customers use your product to tell the world (and themselves) about who they are and their point of view? How can you give the audience ways to connect through the brand?

Sorry for the lack of “data driven-ness” in the last couple posts, this is stuff I’ve been thinking about lately and wanted to get it written down.

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The Growing Problem With Advertising Agencies

There are many people who blame doctor’s fee-for-service compensation models as one of the reasons of increasing health care costs; costs which are pushing the country towards bankruptcy. The problem is that doctors are incentivized to do more than is actually needed, since the more care they provide, the more money they get. In addition, expensive procedures earn them even more money which drive costs higher still.

Are advertising agency’s incentives also poorly structured in a way that is causing unhappy clients and poor results? Paying a percentage of the total media cost to the agency can incentivize agencies to choose media that is more expensive rather than effective. Paying an hourly fee means the agency is rewarded for the amount of time spent on the work, not the quality of the work. And just like a doctors expensive procedures, agencies like to pick big expensive ideas to wow their clients even if it’s not the best fit for their needs.

In a recent article in Businessweek, John Windsor of Victors & Spoils explained where he sees the current state of advertising:
“Advertising is all about relationships, and at the heart of the client/agency relationship is trust. That trust has been eroded by a lack of transparency and, often, resistance to change. Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time with the chief marketing officers of Fortune 500 companies. The theme is consistent. They tell me stories of being charged $10,000 per second of video editing for clips to go on YouTube, $1,000 for a single foamcore presentation board, and $25,000 for event banners; an unwillingness to collaborate; and myriad indirect charges for parties and travel.

Somewhere along the way, the big-agency business became a lifestyle. But clients, who want the best creative work, don’t want to pay for it anymore. And they’re figuring out that they don’t have to. Smart agencies need to adapt their business models and fast, or they won’t have the opportunity to rebuild these relationships.”

I get the feeling that agency compensation models are outdated and the majority of agency/client relationships are steeped in an “us versus them” mentality rather than a trust mentality like John talks about. How to fix this? What about pay-per-performance? Or an agency could be treated more like an in-house marketing department where they are paid a set amount and expected to reach a certain level of results. I think an agency should leave the client better off than they were before, not just in terms of increased marketing share, but in terms of organization of company goals and direction, higher level of education and understanding of the market and better ability to take care of themselves. These ideas aren’t without their problems but eventually someone is going to figure out the right mix and make a lot of money adding value to the client, not just ideas and spent money.

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Web Analytics Framework Example

Inspired by Avinash’s last post on ensuring a clear line of site with web metrics, I took a stab at creating a web analytics framework for a medium sized eCommerce site. This theoretical site is using the following marketing channels: paid search (brand and non-brand keywords), comparison shopping engines, affiliates, email, display advertising and social media (Facebook and Twitter).

I tried to figure out where each of those channels would fit into the what matters most diagram from Avinash’s post (I know I’m missing some so I left an empty space below each segment for additional ideas), and then those channel’s strategies, KPI’s and KPI Targets.

Click to Enlarge

I really enjoyed this exercise and get how effective this would be for any organization to get everyone on the same page. It gives the people at the top an accurate idea of what the site is really worth and it gives the analysts a direction to start doing segmented analysis to discover problems to fix what directly affect net income.

Download the Web Analytics Framework.

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