DSL Marketing Myrlte Beach

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Conversions Are More Important Than Clicks

You built your website and are driving traffic to it. You wrote compelling copy and set up an analytics program to monitor traffic trends. Now it's time to sit back and reap the rewards of all your hard work, right?


Now it's time to analyze all those charts and graphs within your analytics program, and optimize your site for lifting conversion rates.

A conversion occurs when a user visits your site and takes the desired action (makes a purchase, subscribes to your service, submits a form, downloads an eBook, etc.). Your conversion rate is the percentage of your overall traffic that takes the desired action. The reason to optimize your conversions is to increase the percentage of users who do what you want them to.

Three years ago, conversion rate optimization was the new kid on the block; a few people were listening, and a few people were preaching, but most were more interested in how to get the click than how to convert them.

Last year, conversion rate optimization became the hot shot on the block with everyone discuss-ing it online, in conference rooms, and at marketing conferences around the world. Today, conversion rate optimization has arrived in all its glory, and is fast on its way to becoming the leading strategy for online marketing.

Old strategies should be tossed out the window like failed resolutions, and the focus should shift to creating a solid plan for moving users past the initial click toward conversion.

Online marketing is no longer an adjunct channel. In fact, for many businesses it is now the primary channel to their markets. As we move deeper into 2010 and beyond, it's time for management and the executive level of organizations to embrace conversion rate optimization, and send it into action in order to improve the bottom line for their organizations.

Along that same line, executives should be passing the hard results down through management and beyond. How your media and marketing is performing isn't something to hide under the table. Everyone should be focused on performance, and performance data should be distributed through the entire organization in order to keep innovative ideas pulsing through the bloodstream of the company.

If your executive team isn't focusing on conversion rate optimization, get them there. The great thing about conversion rate optimization is that it produces numbers -- really great numbers that are sure to make execs sit up and take notice. While individuals or teams can find small successes on their own, executive sponsorship can bring optimization onto the main stage.

If you are dealing with hesitant executives, pitch them the numbers. Show what the ROI could be through proof of concepts (lower cost per acquisition, increased revenue, and increased leads). Try running a pilot, or use an ROI calculator to model various conversion lifts. Present the execs with case studies and whitepapers that show what other companies have been able to achieve. Use your inside knowledge to tailor your pitch to hit exec hot spots and don't forget to tie conversions into the overall business objectives.

Finally, don't give up. This is the year of conversion rate optimization, and sooner or later your executive team will jump on board. When they do, be ready to hit the ground running with a solid plan.

Once everyone is on board, it's time to start thinking about the relationship between content and conversion.

In order to achieve significant ROI from online campaigns, marketers should be thinking about how to get users into the funnel and out the other end. Here are some great ways to increase your lift and become a conversion queen:

•Use campaign-specific landing pages.
•Echo the message of the ad on the initial landing page.
•Employ continuous testing for continuous conversion improvement.
These strategies will help you go outside the box. Keyword substitution, multipage experiences, and behavioral targeting can make your pages even more relevant.

Additionally, you should ensure that all of your pages are focused, and that the copy and headlines are well written. Your headline should be outcome-focused, not featured focused, because people are interested in the end result your widget will produce for them, not so much how it will do it.

You will also want to make sure your overall design matches the message. If you're promoting online class enrollment, don't use a picture of an in-person classroom -- it sends the wrong message.

The final note I'll leave you with is to remember to test, test, test. No one thing will work for everyone, so try everything at least once.

Ignoring conversion optimization best practices in today's personalized, online world would be committing marketing suicide. Just don't do it.

Anna Talerico is executive vice president, ion interactive.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is Direct Mail Really Dead?

With the contining advancement in online communcations and increasing postage costs, you are probably asking, along with everyone else...Is Direct Mail Really Dead?. Let's take a minute to debug two current myths about direct mail.

Myth #1 - Direct Mail is Dead.
According to an annual study from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), spending on direct mail marketing is exected to increase by more than $1 billion in 2010.

Myth #2 - People Hate Junk Mail.
According to the 2010 DMA Statistical Fact Book, 79% of households either read or skim junk mail advertising sent to their home.

That study is right in line with an International Communications Research survey commissioned by postal automation giant, Pitney Bowes. The survey found, despite the immense popularity, and widespread use of digital media, consumers still prefer mail over e-mail, as it relates to receiving new product announcements, as well as confidential business communications such as bank statements and other financial information.

Here's how the numbers breakdown: 73 percent of consumers prefer mail for receiving new product announcements or offers from companies they do business with, as compared to 18 percent for e-mail.

For important and confidential communications such as bills, bank statements and other financial information, a huge majority of respondents (86 percent)preferred mail as their communication method of choice, as compared with 10 percent for e-mail.

The survey also found that 31 percent of consumers are less likely to discard unopened mail - including new product announcements, coupons, brochures, catalogs, etc. - than they are to delete unsolicited e-mails (spam) regarding new product announcements (53.2 percent).

When consumers were asked what specific advantages they saw in junk mail versus unsolicited e-mail and telemarketing calls, 45.3 percent of respondents found mail to be less intrusive; (40.2) percent more convenient - can be saved and considered at leisure; (30.2) less high-pressured - lets you consider your decision; (22.7 percent)more descriptive - lets you picture the offer; and (12 percent)more persuasive - encourages you to respond.

So, the answer to the question - Is Direct Mail Really Dead?...No, it isn't. But with any good marketing initiative, it is important that it be executed properly for optimal results. If you are just getting into Direct Mail, you may want to consult with a professional first.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Display Ads Are Evolving

It's important to stay ahead of the game, no matter what marketing initiative you are imploring to reach your customers. And creativity is king...not just graphically being creative, but creative in your approach and use of available tools.

Jesse Thomas runs one of the most forward-thinking creative agencies around, but he’s not ready to pick out a headstone for display ads just yet. However, he did tell us that “the usual suspects” of banner ads and skyscrapers are definitely undergoing a change.

“Facebook’s ads have singlehandedly made ads social,” he wrote to us in an e-mail. “The idea of ‘liking’ an ad is genius… The idea of advertising a Page in Facebook via the Facebook ad engine and being able to access special advertising powers is nothing short of revolutionary. In a world of [expletive] Google text ads, Facebook’s social ads are a breath of fresh air. But we have a long way to go!”

And not all of Google’s ad-buy offerings are as excremental as Thomas thinks the text ads can be. “Google offered the ability to integrate the Facebook checkout (one-click purchase) option to their ads, and that was awesome at the time. You will see more of this in the future: Making ads better by integrating features from other parts of the platform that are no longer cool anymore.”

In other words, display can still be part of your ad buys and collateral, but you have to think creatively, target carefully, measure thoroughly and react accordingly. Use all the tools at your disposal to do so.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Not to Run an Online Promotion - Dunkin' Donuts-Style

Even the big guys miss the mark sometimes when setting up online promotions. Lesson learned? Always make sure you take into account what could happen if the promotion is HUGELY successful - keeping in mind how your promotion will affect the end-user. After all, it's their satisfaction that will keep them coming back for more!

How Not to Run an Online Promotion - Dunkin Donuts-Style

It is as instructive to look at how not to run a social media campaign as it is to study successful ones. The latest object lesson comes from Dunkin’ Donuts, which was promoting its free iced coffee day - a promotion that, done correctly, should have generated plenty of positive feedback from fans.

Instead, the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook wall was inundated with fans complaints who felt misled by the national promotion only to find that the offer was good at a few select locations, writes Inquisitr (via MarketingVOX). And even in those locations, some freebies were not available.

As one (former) fan wrote: “No free iced coffee in MA??? Are you kidding me? I just sent my mom to DD for the free iced coffee.” And another: “What happened to free iced coffee day? You advertised and everything…. you LIED.”

While the ad did clearly state, “In Participating Markets,” and the markets were listed, it was run nationally.

Reminiscent of Oprah Chicken

The campaign is similar to one that took place a year ago, though the Dunkin’ Donuts promotion was of a much smaller scale. Last May, Kentucky Fried Chicken partnered with Oprah Winfrey in a chicken giveaway that resulted in long lines and angry, turned-away customers.

KFC coupons were announced on Oprah’s talk show. Consumers could go to the KFC grilled chicken website to download a coupon for a free, two-piece Kentucky Grilled Chicken meal. But the combination of Oprah and free food proved to be too much for the website, which became overwhelmed by downloads, just as restaurants became overwhelmed by visitors and began turning them away - without their free chicken.

Source: MediaBuyerPlanner.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Social Network Ad Spending to Approach $1.7 Billion This Year

Social network advertising is getting renewed attention in 2010. The US’s gradual economic recovery, combined with marketers’ incessant focus on reaching consumers in social media, has led companies to make big increases in social network ad spending in the first half of 2010.

eMarketer estimates US advertisers will spend $1.68 billion on social networking sites this year, a more than 20% increase over 2009. Spending will rise even further by 2011 to more than $2 billion.

In December 2009, eMarketer forecast $1.3 billion in social network ad spending for 2010. Strong performance from online ad spending in general, and Facebook in particular, has resulted in the increased forecast.

Facebook will receive half of all social network ad spending in the US while MySpace continues to diminish in importance. Twitter, which finally launched its ad business earlier this year, is incorporated into eMarketer’s forecast for the first time. While spending on the microblogging service will be low in 2010, the potential for 2011 and beyond could be dramatic if it proves that its “resonance” model of measuring advertising effectiveness works.

Spending on social network advertising will grow even more quickly elsewhere in the world. In 2010, eMarketer estimates just over half of social network ad spending worldwide will come from the US, but 2011 will bring a reversal in that proportion.

Another important development in the social network space is the role of online social games and applications. Advertising is not a primary revenue stream for game companies such as Zynga or Playdom, but their large audiences are drawing the interest of marketers. eMarketer expects such companies will attract $293 million in spending worldwide in 2011, up from $220 million in 2010.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

12 killer websites worth watching

Nowadays, websites are like opinions. Everyone has one, and we all like to critique each other's.

But defining what separates a stellar website from a stale one isn't as simple as it used to be. With the proliferation of social media, video, and other dynamic content, the fundamentals of a great site go well beyond navigation and graphics. Creativity isn't relegated to mere taglines and illustrations. Rather, creativity abounds in the fundamental experiences that digitally savvy companies create to engage their core audiences.

That said, tried-and-true website best practices still apply. Simplicity. Elegance. Ease of use. These principles still matter, and it's the sites that apply these concepts to truly innovative ideas that capture our attention online.

So who's doing it right? We asked our panel of digital specialists to take a critical look at the sites they love in order to illuminate some lessons you can apply to your own web design efforts.

Brand Name: AXE
Agency/Site Creator: Razorfish
URL: http://www.theaxeeffect.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
AXE is a brand that knows itself and its audience. And AXE is a brand that remains unafraid to push the limits of good taste. Just like its audience. Or at least that's how it appeared to me, somebody who knows the brand well and likes to believe he knows the audience. My gut says AXE "gets it." Juvenile. Immature. Overtly sexual. Risk takers. The brand has a smart planner with a lot of whack hiding somewhere. The brand understands the social media power plays and so makes excellent use of Facebook, Funny or Die, and original online content, as well as hilarious promotions and gimmicks like the amusing "Undie Run" philanthropic clothing drive program focused on the college market.

To verify my belief that the site would be found worthy by girl-crazed young men everywhere (and presumably some of the young ladies they desire), I asked a few post-college grads here to visit the site and report back. Their collective wisdom went something like this: "Looks cool but not too complicated. Damn easy to navigate. Hey, you can connect with Facebook. Smart. They didn't just throw up some music downloads over there."

The site's content is funny, refreshing, and directly connected to the brand. Reporting one of your friends as having WADD [Women's Attention Deficit Disorder: guilty of uninteresting behavior with girls] on Facebook? Pretty funny. Hair Action: when a girl moves in close, inhales deeply, and can't resist playing with her guy's hair? Awesome. And the site even has funny videos acting out examples of Hair Action and WADD. Check out the "Undie Run" campaign. Brilliant. Funny. Sexy. Philanthropic. Makes me wish I was in college again, just so I could participate. Great site, so much fun.

I cracked up when the AXE Hair Action application on Facebook asked me put on my headphones (great insight into their cube-dwelling and room-sharing target) to truly "get some Hair Action" in "3D Holographic Sound." Then the site "blindfolds" me and away we go. Hilarious and kudos for the brilliant sound design.

AXE delivers and doesn't pull any punches. It takes outrageous and clever chances to get attention, which is right for its target and still unusual enough in the online brand space (though certainly not online in general) that it made me stop and pay attention.

How would you improve this website?
I don't think you can "improve" a site experience like AXE. What you should do (and the brand is doing it well) is invest and invest in keeping it fresh, if you will. I would be looking for more user-generated content and even bolder work from partners like CollegeHumor.com to help keep the brand honest and bold.

The navigation looks great, but you really have to dig to find all the cool stuff. My site crew kept noting things they had found on the site (or off the site on Facebook and elsewhere), and without a link, I had a hard time finding clips, experiences, or specific areas I wanted to explore. However, I really enjoyed the process of discovery, as did the crew I enlisted for some perspective. In fact, I'm still telling them to stop goofing around on the site.

Brand Name: Levi's
Agency/Site Creator: Unknown
URL: http://store.levi.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
The Levi's store went "all-in" with Facebook to such an extreme that it calls its ecommerce site a "Friends Store" with the very social sub-head, "Like-minded shopping starts here." You can click to see what "everyone" likes or filter through the clutter and see only what your "friends" like by linking to your Facebook account.

I would pay (call me, I will pay) to see the results and learning from this retail site experience. Every Levi's jean style has "likes," comments, and reviews posted. The ubiquitous Facebook "like" icon is everywhere, so much so that I did a search to see if I missed a news alert announcing that Facebook had recently acquired Levi's.

The legendary jeans maker has more than 300,000 fans and such seamless (excuse the pun) integration with Facebook that I immediately felt a brand shift. Levi's is taking a unique and bold step forward in social retailing and crowd-sourced shopping. It joins Converse and others in arguing that one way to keep your brand mark relevant and brand followers happy is to let them dictate the terms of engagement. Using Facebook this way is a step in the right direction.

How would you improve this website?
I could make a compelling case that the Facebook integration here favors Facebook more than Levi's and that the target audience values individual expression so much that "like-minded shopping starts here" is completely wrong-headed. But it's a discussion I would relish, and I will keep the site bookmarked so I can keep checking in to see if it's working. Points to Levi's and its agency for moving forward fast and having the nerve to stake out a strong point of view in such a competitive retail space.

Lincoln Bjorkman is chief creative officer, North America, for Digitas.

Brand Name: Tupperware Brands
Agency/Site Creator: BGT Partners
URL: http://www.tupperwarebrands.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
It is always a challenge to take a 60-year-old iconic brand and reposition it for the modern consumer and workforce. Tupperware Brands recently overhauled its website to accurately represent corporate leadership and engage relevant audiences, including sales teams, investors, employment candidates, the media, and consumers.

People tend to have tunnel vision about Tupperware Brands and little awareness of its diversified products, global footprint, and commitment to the environment. The new site exposes its audience to a leading global company that is way beyond your mother's containers. The site now incorporates dynamic components to highlight Tupperware Brands' portfolio of products and streamlined content for enhanced navigation. Additionally, an ideation platform was developed for customers and the vast sales force to provide a direct channel for improving the company's products. Further, by creating the "Tupperware Sustainability" section, the site enables Tupperware Brands to showcase its commitment to the environment and to its customer base. In sum, Tupperware Brands did a comprehensive job of taking an iconic brand and modernizing it to represent the present-day company in the best possible way.

How would you improve this website?
The next step for Tupperware Brands' website would be to increase the social engagement of the audience by infusing the site with social content. This would include providing an aggregated view into all social channels and evolving the ideation platform to gather more audience interaction and connection. The final area to improve is the Careers section. For a company that relies on recruiting an exceptional sales force, it should enhance this portion of the website and showcase Tupperware Brands' unique lifestyle proposition. A more personal, shared experience online will engage this audience of job seekers and differentiate a position at Tupperware Brands from a typical job.

Brand Name: TED Conferences LLC
Agency/Site Creator: Unknown
URL: http://www.ted.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
Few sites have mastered rich-media content as well as TED.com. Starting from the homepage, information is simplistically displayed with an exacting mix of contextual and rich media. Information is paramount, and the organization is uniquely effective and intuitive. In fact, TED.com is one of the few sites to successfully use "adjectives" to filter through information. Further, content is displayed based on relevancy, and there is a strong hierarchy in terms of what is most viewed. People love to socialize and discuss TED, and the site does a solid job of incorporating social information in a clear and user-friendly manner. Overall, the creativity, idealism, and experience of being at a TED conference are all mirrored extraordinarily well in the TED.com site.

How would you improve this website?
It is hard to cut apart a site that does many things so well, but here's to nitpicking! The data feeds come in slowly on the homepage, and if you do not wait a moment, you will think that they cannot be opened. Social is extremely important to the conference; however, TED's social sites do not have prominence on the homepage and are below the "fold." TED's Facebook page has more than 385,000 fans -- making it one of the most popular conference pages in the world -- yet there is little information acknowledging these fans or "likes" on the site. Additionally, the TED Community page does not provide robust, live content from multiple social sources. However, these are all small details in a site that is designed extremely well.

David Clarke is founder and managing partner of BGT Partners.

Brand Name: Wrangler (Europe)
Agency/Site Creator: Kokokaka
URL: http://eu.wrangler.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
Too many websites become victims of the latest web technology, sacrificing the user experience for distracting and often complicated interfaces. The Wrangler Europe site is simple and refreshing, resisting the urge to use overcomplicated techniques and technology. Created with what seems to be simple video, green screen, and a vintage visual treatment, the Wrangler site expresses the lifestyle experience while showing off some of the apparel in a format not new to the web -- just done simply, modestly, and with restraint.

The Blue Bell site that Kokokaka also created, linked on the bottom left, is also impressive. Using similar techniques along with interactive video, you can drag and toss around the models in one of the most fun shopping experiences I've seen on the web.

How would you improve this website?
My only two complaints: You can't buy the clothing online, and more importantly, if you're going to offer an experience that involves undressing models, there should absolutely be a female section.

Brand Name: WIRED iPad App
Agency/Site Creator: In collaboration with Adobe
URL: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wired-magazine/id373903654?mt=8

What is unusual and effective about this website?
The iPad was recently launched to thousands of skeptics calling it a larger iPhone. Most of the initial applications launched on the device proved the skeptics right -- they were simple reformats to a new interface and larger screen. WIRED is one of the first to completely embrace the technology of this device, prove its capabilities, and more importantly, redefine how people will consume print and media in the future. And specifically, from an advertising perspective, the hybrid between print and digital is a completely new and exciting platform to explore. The WIRED app really gave me a glimpse of things to come, and I'm excited.

How would you improve this website?
It's difficult to say what needs improving, but some of the things I am looking forward to seeing are: more integration between text and the web, such as being able to link to more information on topics or names; the evolution of photos and infographics to animation, video, and 3-D experiences; and the integration within social networking to share, comment, and create a more social experience than print currently offers.

Colin Jeffery is executive creative director at David&Goliath.

Brand Name: LaundryView
Client: Mac-Gray
Agency/Site Creator: AMP Agency
URL: http://www.laundryview.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
This MITX award-winning website is the perfect example of how to leverage advanced technology to create a solution that addresses the unique pain points of a business (equipment down time costs money) and its consumers (wasted time waiting for machines) at the same time. The application is the only one of its kind, uses the internet as a backbone, and relies on custom-engineered components to operate incorporating Flash and LAMP development.

LaundryView allows consumers to monitor the status of washers and dryers in connected laundry rooms from any computer with internet access. Students may also receive notification via email, PDA, or cellphone when their laundry is done or a machine becomes available. For Mac-Gray, LaundryView helps the company save and make money through improved machine uptime and increased laundry room usage. Each LaundryView machine tracks its own status and automatically sends out notification when it has failed. A text message is dispatched electronically to a service technician, and within minutes, the service request is added to the technician's to-do list. LaundryView also graphically displays the past two weeks' usage of a laundry room so students can avoid peak usage times, making them (and the laundry rooms) more efficient.

How would you improve this website?
Discussions are underway about two ways to improve the website. First, the team would like to extend this to other platforms such as the iPhone and/or Android, allowing for full functionality on a mobile platform. Second, we would like to incorporate an online user account, allowing parents of college students to "load" funds into a student's account, which is then available on their laundry card, eliminating the need for buckets of quarters. This will also help Mac-Gray reduce the staff required to collect from the machines and associated risk.

Brand Name: Mint.com
Agency/Site Creator: Mint Software Inc.
URL: http://www.mint.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
The site is effectively a one-stop dashboard for personal financial management. Centralized and secure access to timely, relevant, and personalized financial management information that can save you money is the unique value proposition of this site. The elegant and simple -- yet well conceived and functional -- user interface makes the site feel more like a desktop application than a browser-based web application. There is excellent use of AJAX/DHTML and Web 2.0 technologies. Intelligently designed icons and graphics make navigating and using the site very easy. The Flash/Flex based reporting tools are also easy to use yet very powerful for tracking personal income, spending, net worth, and transactions. Alerts and notification can be sent via email or to a mobile device. The iPhone/mobile application provides much of the same functionality "on the go," and the application interface is as intuitive as the website.

How would you improve this website?
This site could be improved in two ways. First, from a functionality and technology perspective, because the site is essentially read-only, it would be helpful to have direct links to the financial institutions' websites with single sign-on capabilities, where applicable, and some form of reconciliation. Second, from a marketing communication perspective, since the site is so powerful and offers so many features and benefits -- each of which is listed as its own tab on the homepage -- the unique value proposition (one tool to manage all your financial management needs) is lost. Fewer links on the homepage would likely help clear up this issue, with this content still accessible on the sub-directory pages.

Karen Macumber is SVP, media services, at AMP Agency, an Alloy Media + Marketing company.

Brand Name: Microsoft Kin
Agency: Razorfish
URL: http://www.kin.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
KIN.com introduces itself with a question, "Your phone is your life, right?" The branding is so immediately clear, you can almost hear its target audience answering with, "Duh." KIN finds that careful balance between innovation and just plain confusing site visitors. The standard navigation supports easily finding product info and drives visitors to the ecommerce site. Video is the central, focal point of the site -- a smart decision as video proves throughout the digital space to deepen user engagement.

Specific highlights include easy access to and from KIN.com and KIN social media properties. Its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages adhere to a consistent look and voice, allowing the user to experience the brand wherever the two meet. A great touch is found in the site's The Buzz section. Typically, this would be the press section of a site, but KIN pays attention to detail and features reviews from relevant publications, such as GeekSugar, Mashable, and Gizmodo.

How would you improve this website?
After such a positive assessment of KIN.com, what improvements could be addressed? One part that struck me is the prominence of the Verizon Wireless logo. The "Buy Now at Verizon Wireless" button at the top is an effective method of driving commerce, but two additional Verizon logos stand out like sore thumbs in the overall KIN user experience.

Brand Name: Stetson Hat Co.
Agency: Big Fuel Communications
URL: http://stetson.com/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
Stetson is an iconic American brand, and its website effectively highlights the company's traditions, history, and social identity. Its tagline, "Made of America," carries all the way through the execution and leveraged the fact that Stetson is a big part of American culture. The site dynamically pulls content from popular social networks to showcase how the brand is woven into the fabric of American lives. This content builds a quilt-like collage that tells the brand story told through its consumers' eyes. The site further brings to life the Stetson "Made of America" positioning by asking visitors to contribute their own stories, photos, and videos to the collage, allowing the brand to engage with consumers and provide them with a forum to share their stories and love of the brand. Additionally, site visitors have the opportunity to join the Stetson community and participate in contests and members-only promotions. Of course, the brand's entire line of products, a retail locator, "share" functionality, and links to all its social profiles are front and center too.

How would you improve this website?
The brand chose to wall-off much of the community-based features to drive registrations. Although I understand and appreciate the approach, I'm not a fan of walls (even digital ones) and believe that audiences need to see and experience the full breadth of content to drive participation. Other than tearing down the wall, I would just want to see more -- more photos, more videos, more people experiencing the brand and sharing their stories.

Avi Savar is CEO of Big Fuel Communications.

Brand Name: Cold War Kids
Production: Tool of North America
Flash Development: Jason Nickel
URL: http://www.coldwarkids.com/iveseenenough/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
It is a website disguised as an interactive video. It plays in a linear format but allows you to interact with it in a non-linear way. The user is given an opportunity to change the instruments and, by doing so, remix the song. I like the user interface, as it is simple in design and easy to control.

Sometimes new music releases are blown out with big label-funded websites. This is truly a fan-forward engagement coming from the CWK.com site. The Cold War Kids' single is delivered via microsite format and seeded using social networks, Twitter, and the band's email fan base. It can be interacted with and shared very easily. It makes great use of synched Flash video and a simple color palette with a subtle nod to the simplicity of rock-n-roll the way it used to be.

How would you improve this website?
I would like to see a "save remix" added to share feature. The load time is a bit long and might be improved if alpha channel .flv movies were used to keep the file sizes a bit lower by knocking out backgrounds in video files. Lastly, I would love to have more songs available to save and share. Overall, it's a simply cool idea with nice execution.

Brand Name: Digg Labs
Developed by: Barbarian Group
URL: http://labs.digg.com/365/

What is unusual and effective about this website?
The unusual factor is always in full effect when the Barbarian Group is developing. So props to firm for another fun and envelope-pushing interaction model. The site allows the user to celebrate Digg's past five years using six different visualization techniques. These formats range from 365-day format to real-time stacks with correlated Diggs, and it rounds out with simple pictures for those who are into the visual cues of Digg.

The strategy is to celebrate a great leader in the web's social news network development over the past five years. The use of innovative yet simple user interface models that get a user engaged stays true to the crowd-sourcing engine that put Digg on the map and has kept it there for the past five years. The ability to download the different interaction segments as screen savers for PC and Mac is brilliant and shows that the experience can continue to be real-time after you leave the site experience.

How would you improve this website?
I wouldn't try to improve it. I would just try to conjure up new and cool interaction models to add to the site over time. In a word -- I "Digg" this site.

Brian Unflat is creative director at White Horse.

Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow Luechtefeld at @loriluechtefeld. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

How to reap the rewards of print's demise

Article Highlights:

* It's impossible for humans to track every client demand and cancellation over time, creating a need for another solution
* In combination with other online metrics, revenue management systems help agencies and publishers maximize value and take advantage of demand
* Revenue management solutions give agencies and publishers real-time data to help extend or pull campaigns

When asked about how his ad agency relationship, an online publisher might respond, "Agency? What agency?"

That's an extreme example, but one that may make many publishers nod in agreement. Over the past few months, the digital content shift has changed the relationship between advertising agencies and online publishers. In the United States, online ad spending has just surpassed print. This means that publishers' sales houses and agencies must develop a new kind of relationship if they are to have one at all.

For example, last year a major online publisher in France sold one of its banner ads by posting it on eBay. The publisher reported very positive results.

How can agencies play a role in this new game?
The changing digital space is nothing to smile about for many publishers or agencies, nor is the proliferation of free content. Agencies can support online publishers by finding new ways to quantify the value of ad space, integrate content with brands, and charge again for formerly free online content.

Revenue management (RM), including the concepts and software solutions, offers just that. RM originates in the travel industry. Anyone who has ever purchased a last-minute ticket to Paris in August or Denver over Christmas has felt the sting of this reality. The value of a seat changes depending on the time of travel, destination, and the number of days until takeoff. Airlines greatly increase their rates as a result of their RM, otherwise known as yield solutions.

How does this relate to media?
Seats are perishable, just as are spots, ads, or banners. Therefore, in the media business, RM solutions help businesses free up ad space and increase revenue for any media. Moreover, RM solutions can help publishers and advertising agencies negotiate more effectively, adding more value to both parties.

No human mind could possibly track all the demands and cancellations of every client over time. Even if you think you can, you often provide inflated discounts to certain clients while wrongly punishing others. RM systems record behavior, make projections, and offer pricing models based on constantly updated information. The result is that loyal clients will be rewarded and receive discounts based on actual versus perceived value.

For example, let's say Client A buys 10 percent of the available ad space early in a TV season, but always cancels 3 percent at the last minute. Let's say Client B will pay more and rarely cancels. Our solutions will warn the sales house not to accept the first offer of Client A in order to retain some of the ad space for B.

How can this apply to new technology?
The iPad, soon to be accompanied by various other fancy handheld ways of consuming the work of publishers, will force publishers to adapt quickly. The Economist has been successfully making the transformation; it remains a subscription-only publication and has the most subscribers of any online publication via the iPad. In fact, the magazine is willing to go 100 percent digital if that's what the world demands. At a media conference in 2009, The Economist announced its uncertainty about maintaining a print addition in five years. This means that all revenue will have to come from subscriptions and digital advertising. RM can help the magazine through digital channels as successfully as it can via print.

Apple's iPad and other devices may even provide better tracking information, making the system's recommendations that much more powerful. Advertisers will always want to be where there are eyeballs and credit cards, and these are both still everywhere. Loyal, affluent readers remain glued to The Economist. RM solutions can help online publishers quantify the value of their advertising across all media from banner ads to pay-per-click ads. Their ad space still has value and adding other metrics allows us to simply deepen the solution. All the demands for ad space are fed directly into the system, updating constantly and reallocating the ads to ensure that reach goals are met. In this sense, online media becomes more like television.

With more immediate feedback on readership -- similar to overnight ratings -- publishers and advertisers will be able to know if a given campaign reached the numbers assumed and if they reached their target number of clicks. They can manage the campaign live, extending it to reach optimum numbers or retracting if the ad flops. Advertisers and publishers can adjust in real time and agencies can help them do this with RM tools.

For agencies today, the majority of print planning relies on surveys conducted often no more than two times per year. TV advertisers and agencies, on the other hand, have benefitted from overnight ratings for many years. As a result, they can adjust campaigns throughout the season. Agencies and advertisers can now work similarly with online publishers. The information of demands and readership, along with other metrics available (such as click-throughs), can be reported, offering a better measurement of campaign success.

How many solutions are in the marketplace?
Currently, revenue management solutions are available from Telmar Worldwide and Mereo in France. There are also similar services available from RSG Media Systems, Rapt, Yield Solutions, and Fivia. While all good companies, these solutions cover only some media and therefore provide a less comprehensive solution for all media sales houses.

Overall, the RM solutions available on the marketplace have bridged the gap between advertising agencies and online publishers' sales houses. Now, media owners can benefit from knowing the true value of their media. Meanwhile, agencies and advertisers can now be rewarded for their loyalty and receive pricing proposals more in-line with the true value of the opportunity.

As the Indigo Girls often belted out, "Everything is different, but nothing has changed."

Stanley Federman is chairman and CEO of Telmar.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marketing to Changes in Consumer Behavior | It’s No Longer ‘One Size Fits All’

By Carol Verret

Fasten your seatbelts -- a lot has changed in consumer behavior in all market segments during the past 18 months! As Chris Anderson predicted in his article ‘The Long Tail’, consumers will fracture into ‘niches’ based upon their special interests and behavior. In this era of the customer in control, this becomes more pronounced as customers demand travel experiences tailored to the changes in their behaviors and desires as consumers.

Generic marketing approaches to a single undifferentiated list will see diminishing returns especially if it is based solely on rate. If hotels are finding that email blasts are getting persistently lower open rates, it is this ‘one size fits all’ mentality based on rate alone. If there is one lesson that the recovery in the luxury sector can teach all hotel marketers, it is that low rates are not the issue, it is the experience of a ‘value perception’ that the consumer is looking for.

“As of early March, the battered sector is reporting 7.2% more bookings for the upcoming second quarter in the top 25 markets vs. the April-June period in 2008, according to travel market research firm Rubicon. But rooms at Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont and Four Seasons are also dramatically cheaper. The luxury average daily rate is down 22% to $312 from $399 two years ago, Rubicon says.” (USA Today, 3/13/2010). If rates are still driving in the luxury sector at $312, there is a consumer that is willing to pay more for an experience than the recent ‘race to the bottom’ of rate cutting would suggest.

Mobile Marketing: Customers are receiving information differently than in the past. If hotel eblasts are not ‘mobile friendly’, they are often deleted as the mobile format is very different and HTML often does not appear well on smart phones. “Mobile users demand mobile sites that download fast, provide short and concise textual content with no fluff, minimalistic visual content, and navigation that is straight to the point.” (HeBS, Hotel Online, 08-09-09) Want to make your messages more mobile friendly?

* Reformat text -You should always offer a text option as an alternative to HTML for all readers. Mobile platforms will show 20 to 40 characters in 12 to 15 lines per screen,
* Rethink tracking URLs Same goes for URLs… your text version may need some hand-tweaking in order to render better on all platforms.
* Be brief. Messages over a certain size -- even as small as 12KB -- risk being cut off halfway through.

The Socially Conscious Consumer: From sustainability to devoting time to ‘doing good’ during both leisure travel and business meetings is a trend that is here to stay. This consumer also wants to do business with companies that are ‘doing good’. Many hotel companies are offering leisure and business groups the opportunity to ‘do good’ during their stays. Ritz Carlton and Rock Resorts offer leisure travelers options that allow them to participate in projects that are socially valuable or that contribute to the environment.

Several companies, including Sage Hospitality, offer discounts to acknowledge customers that give back to their communities. Resorts are offering socially conscious team building activities for groups, such as planting trees or other environmental projects.

User Generated Content will gain warp speed -- hotels will need to listen 24/7 to what the customer says about them on all channels and respond at the same speed. Customers are still using ‘search’ to locate and make decisions on properties. With the addition of Twitter comments and reviews to search results, the consumer can get immediate feedback and hotels need to respond quickly. This applies to the good things that the customer is saying as well as the issues they are having. Immediacy is a tool not only to resolve issues but to appeal to more customers. Tweetbeep is a Twitter app that tracks mentions of specific keyword on Twitter then emails it to you. In addition to the reputation management tools like Avalon Reports, Hotel Chatter, etc, Social Mention is a free tool that performs like Google Alerts but across all social media platforms. Trip Advisor is still the gold standard and also appears on search results as well as having a mobile app so the reviews are immediate, in the moment and instantly available to the consumer making a decision.

The ‘Customized’ Customer. People want to buy but don’t want to be sold – the consumer is clearly in control across all segments. The customer wants to customize their own experience from leisure to a business trip, individuals and groups. Those hotels that accommodate this trend gain not only gain loyalty but the potential for incremental revenue!

* Multiple choice leisure packages. Build your own packages can include choice of spa treatments, attraction tickets, room service meals, breakfast – imagination is the only thing required! This allows the guest to build their own experience based upon the ‘niche’ they prefer. A Las Vegas hotel package offered over Thanksgiving allowed guests to choose to have their Thanksgiving dinner catered to their room with several options for menu choices.

* Multiple Choice for Meeting Planners. Meeting planners are under a great deal of pressure to assure that their meetings are productive and cost effective. This is not going to change soon and may become the new normal. By allowing them options for their meetings they can ‘customize’ the meeting experience to fit their company’s expectations. One independent hotel offers meeting planners five choices of amenities such as upgraded breaks, free or discounted AV, etc. from which they can select three for their meeting. Another hotel offers a $1,000 voucher that the planner can use for any part of their stay or to upgrade breaks, meals, add on a reception, etc. The cost to the hotel – between $250 and $350 depending on the option chosen.

With the customer firmly in control for the foreseeable future, hotel revenue managers, marketers and sales professionals will have to deliver what the customer is looking for on their terms or risk being ‘deleted’!

Read more at Hospitality Net.Org

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

10 Best Interactive Marketing Practices - iMediaConnection


Multimedia provides different means of communication and multiple touch points for your audience. Clearly, it is not a single execution, but rather a strategy that reinforces and enhances the brand experience by using a wealth of media opportunities to make the brand message pervasive and easy to recall.

So, I asked myself this question: what will truly make these recommendations stick? What metaphor can I draw inspiration from that will encapsulate the ten best marketing practices and make them indelible in your memory?

Believe it or not, the answer that came to me is Bazooka bubble gum. If you have a piece handy, take it out and look at it. If not, then these virtual versions will have to do:

Bazooka Joe and engagement marketing

Interactive pundits say we've struck on a new kind of marketing, a means of communication that engages the audience with the brand. It's an original and unique advertising approach that immerses the customer with the brand, and it even lets the customer reshape and market it in his own unique way.

But is it so new? Surely, there must have been engagement marketing long before the internet. Something we can draw inspiration from, something that can guide us. And then it struck me, that moment of clarity, an epiphany.

Bazooka gum is the perfect metaphor for the ten best interactive marketing practices, all rolled into an engaging little cube.

Whoa slow down, don't start chewing just yet (virtually or otherwise). Take time to ponder the genius of it all.

Note the prominent logo positioned above the fold, no less.

The color palette is primary, unforgettable and easily recognizable.

And finally, check out the simple, user-friendly size, comparable to a 120x60 banner.

As you can see, Bazooka gum is a veritable poster child for a Dynamic Logic Study.

So let's get to those ten best practices.

Author Notes:
As National Executive Creative Director, Mike Yapp defines and drives the creative direction for all of Carat Fusion's campaigns. Through strategic thinking, fresh conceptualization and compelling graphical executions, Yapp consistently delivers great advertising for Carat's roster of leading brands like Adidas, Western Union, Macy's, RadioShack, Showtime, Miller Brewing Company and Ofoto. With more than 20 years experience in the magazine and internet publishing worlds, Yapp has earned numerous design awards. His background includes art direction for several computer-related magazines such as Mac User and PC Computing, and the development of websites for Ziff Davis and Wells Fargo. Among Yapp's awards are Clios, One-Show Gold Pencils, and most recently, an MSNEnny for "Best Branding Campaign of 2004." He was a Clio awards judge in 2003 and a Cannes Lion judge in 2002.

Multimedia provides different means of communication and multiple touch points for your audience. Clearly, it is not a single execution, but rather a strategy that reinforces and enhances the brand experience by using a wealth of media opportunities to make the brand message pervasive and easy to recall.

Take Bazooka gum for example, it uses two media effectively: the paper wrapper communicates the brand while the gum inside delivers on the brand experience.

But an even better example of the effective use of multiple mediums would be the global product launch campaign of the adidas_1 running shoe, "The world's first intelligent shoe." It used seven separate communication vehicles simultaneously -- outdoor, website, downloadable video player, traditional interactive ad units, rich-media video ad units, IM environments and email -- to create a record-setting sale of all the inventory in stock.

MSN homepage
MSN homepage MSN themepack
MSN themepack Outdoor
Screendragon Site
Site Webmail

In order to view each piece, simply click on them. The only exception is the downloadable, personalized desktop video player; for that you'll have to visit their website.

Opt-in communication vehicles provide an incentive for audience participation while respecting the privacy of the user. A successful opt-in execution entices the user to engage and encourages the user to share.

So you might ask, what does opt-in have to do with bubble gum? Not much, but you do have to decide if you're going to heed the siren song of sugar and unwrap that pack.

Opt-in is all about our volition in action. Take the "Veronica Mars" campaign for the UPN network. The interactive ads were coupled with commercial-break appeals to dial an SMS code on your cell to hear the latest gossip from Veronica herself. Once the teen audience opted-in they heard five separate messages from Veronica.

The three-pronged media approach worked. It was the perfect media mix for the teen demographic that chooses to opt-in by the thousands.

Opt-in Expanding Banner
Expanding Banner Voicemail

To view the interactive ad just click on it. If you want to hear the latest high school gossip click on the cell phone.

One of the most compelling aspects of the digital space is the ability to create unique user experiences. This is why I came to interactive advertising. It just seemed so cool that one person could look at the exact same website at the same time as another and each person have his or her own individual experience.

On a website, this has come to be expected. In an interactive ad it is what makes the space unique.

Likewise, everyone who unwraps a pack of Bazooka Joe expects a personalized experience. How you ask? Joe tells you your fortune. Yours and yours alone. (And if you are anything like me, then you're boasting about your fortune to someone else the moment you unwrap the gum.)

But how much better would it be if each piece of Bazooka gum could give you a new fortune over and over again?

Enter the O'Gradiator. Developed for the Nickelodeon Channel, the O'Gradiator rich media ad unit was designed to create buzz for the new cartoon show: "The O'Grady's."

The O'Grady's cartoon show is about a weird group of teenagers and their rather bizarre experiences in high school. It's all about the smart-ass comeback and the clever putdown. The goal was to deliver this experience in an ad. By typing in a question the user cues a random video clip that answers that question. Ask your own question get your own answer.


All good advertising tells a story. Online, the only thing restricting good storytelling is time.

So how do you tell a good story in eight seconds?

Bazooka Joe gets by, by telling a story in comic strip form using from one to four frames, with images and copy.

But to effectively tell how big Dolby Audio Technology is, Dolby related its story using only sound effects and animation.

Using the simple nuance of a man walking his dog, a user-initiated lightning storm begins and the two pause a moment to watch the fireworks. In the most simplistic fashion Dolby demonstrated just how big their audio technology is and delivered on the tagline, "Dolby Takes You There."

Dolby Takes You There
Dolby Takes You There

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

A compelling offer or promotion always lifts response in an interactive ad.

Bazooka Joe doesn't miss a beat. Bazooka gum always includes an offer with the comic.

As a twelve-year old boy, the sea monkey offer was a big hit for me, but not much for my mom. After dead sea monkeys stunk up my whole bedroom, the bubble gum offers were decidedly not an option anymore.

Then again, offers and promotions are the foremost strength of the direct response online advertising. Vonage successfully employed the space to increase subscriptions to their VOIP service from 3,000 to 500,000 subscribers in just 18 months. Capitalizing on the large format and extra file size of an interstitial, Vonage made it easy to display multiple offers and products in one elegant ad unit.

Interstitial The Voice of Reason
The Voice of Reason

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

Always try to employ microsites and larger ad units to pay off the brand experience. It deepens the engagement and extends the brand.

Remember Bazooka gum isn't all branding, comic strips and fortunes. There's a genuine immersive experience in every sugary square.

So go ahead, pop it in your mouth and enjoy the experience. Ah, sweet.

But if you think sugar is fun, check out the Golden Eye microsite created for EA's new James Bond game. The game pays off the whole premise of this new Bond game, "are you bad enough" to take on Bond. By creating a series of questions that challenge your manhood, the microsite let's you find out if you're the tough guy you think you are.

Game: Diabolical Assessment
Diabolical Assessment

To play the game just click on the image.

Whatever you create online should be intuitive and user-friendly. It is particularly difficult for a designer to see flaws in the usability of their creation, but that's when a good UI expert can be of supreme value.

As you placidly sit there masticating your bubble gum, please reflect on how easy it is.

Bazooka Joe knows that the most immersive experience should also be the easiest.

Take for example the "Land of the Dead" super banner. Everything about it smacks of usability.

Note the position of a super banner, at the top of the web page right below the address box. There is no need to flash "Roll over to see the video." It's already playing. And, as the user drags their mouse right over the banner after they have entered the URL, the video expands to reveal the full screen experience.

Expandable Banner
Expandable Banner Site

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

It's now taken for granted that clients demand accountability.

CPA, CPC, cost per ad nausea... effective interactive advertising is usually measured by dollars returned on investment.

Effective ROI is where you find it.

A stick of Bazooka gum still costs less than a tenth of a cent to make. At two cents a pack, that's a pretty good return on investment!

Online, the accepted means of getting the highest ROI is through search keywords and text links. But who would have ever thought it would exist in an IM window.

The adidas_1 product launch (I mentioned it back in Best Practice 1) included branded IM environments. ICQ, the popular instant messenger in Europe drew a 21 percent clickthrough rate, which contributed in driving half a million visitors to the adidas_1 website in the first week.

Instant Messenger
Instant Messenger

To view the MSN Messenger Theme Pack just click on it.

The most interesting trend in personalization and brand affinity is the ability for users to take part in brand advertising. Anyone with Flash, a digital video camera and video-editing software can create their own commercial in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes it's fun, like blowing a bubble from a square piece of gum.

But it can also have a darker side. It's still debatable whether Volkswagen planned the Polo Suicide Bomber commercial or not. We could be witnessing the power of a disgruntled creative director. But nevertheless, millions have viewed this commercial online, whether Volkswagen intended it or not.

Always try to take in account user manipulation of your brand.


To watch the video just click on it.

Back in high school, I once saw teenage girls share a piece of bubble gum.

As a teen I thought, ummm, tres provocative! As a parent I think, disgusting.

But as an internet advertiser, it's the Holy Grail.

The only trick to creating send-to-a-friend virality is to create something so fun -- or shocking or provocative -- that the user will adopt the experience as his own and send it to a friend for bragging rights.

Throw in a competitive component and it gets even more interesting.

Last Valentine's Day, 1-800-Flowers wanted to differentiate their brand from the rest of the order-flowers online companies. Aimed squarely at the male market, they developed a strategy of empathy and understanding. What male adult between the ages of 18 and 35 doesn't like to play video games? And when they do send flowers, they want to send the right signal: "I love you, but I don't necessarily want to get married."

Enter the Cupid Shoot Out interactive ad unit. While the user is busy keeping pesky cupids away from the bouquets, 1-880-Flowers is displaying new bouquet inventory at every level and building affinity with their audience.

Pass along was a forgone conclusion.


To play the game just click on it.

Next: Conclusions and Recap

As we blithely chew our gum, let's review where we've been.

For an interactive advertising campaign to be truly effective, or for that matter, chewing gum to be fun, it should at least contain one or a combination of the following elements:

* Use of multiple media
* An opportunity for the user to opt-in
* A means for personalization
* Story telling
* Include a compelling offer
* An immersive experience
* An intuitive and user-friendly experience
* A strategy for effective ROI
* An understanding that the user may manipulate the brand
* A provision for a "send to a friend" option -- a.k.a., virality

And remember (as I store my gum behind my ear) -- if you make it sticky, they'll always come back for more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Short Insight on Social Media

n 2009, marketers experimented with social media marketing. This year, the channel will grown in sophistication and become more closely aligned with strategy.

Brands will move beyond fan pages to offer customer services through social channels. Social media will become part of CRM.

“Nobody really wants to be my Facebook fan, unless they can use it for feedback and customer service,” said Mike Brzozowski, EVP of CRM at Draftfcb New York. “This year, brands will begin using this as a dedicated resource for strategic services, communicating directly with customers and rewarding customers who engage.”
More real-time offers will appear on Twitter and searchable social feeds. Also, more mobile social interaction means local marketers can create deals that are geo-targeted.

Courtesy of DM News.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Turn Your Employees Into Social Media Ambassadors

Brought to you by Steve McAbee

Brand management is a key concept that can significantly contribute to a company's success. One integral part of an effective plan is identifying and leveraging brand advocates, or ambassadors, who are passionate about a company's product or services. These consumers are familiar with the product, have used it, and actively recommend the company to friends and colleagues. Whereas a company markets to existing customers to sell more products, brand ambassadors attempt to relay their passion for the brand to new buyers.

Although branding is largely aimed at external audiences, it also has important internal implications. Employees have always been some of the most influential brand ambassadors, and now this group has truly stepped into the light thanks to the proliferation of social media. Social media enables a company to capitalize on an existing asset -- employees -- and make them active advocates who promote and demonstrate the key elements of the brand promise.

Employees now use social media outlets such as Twitter, blogs, and Facebook to continuously update their professional and personal networks on what is going on in their daily lives. Why not use their powerful voices to become agents of the brand? The thinking goes that if a company employs intelligent, happy, and satisfied people, then that adds to an overall competent workforce and positive reflection of the corporate brand.

To receive maximum benefit from these ambassadors, and ensure that employees showcase why they are your company's "biggest fans," it is important to maintain a balance between freedom of expression and an expectation of professionalism. Below are five tips on how companies can bring employee voices together to create a powerful, organic brand ambassador program.

1. Develop a social media policy
I would never suggest that employees be forced to blog, tweet, or chat about the company. The posts would appear both insincere and forced, and may lead to disgruntled employees.

Instead, employers should develop a social media policy that outlines corporate guidelines and principles of communicating in the online world. By providing structure instead of a steadfast direction on what to say, you'll give your employees the ability to speak with authenticity and a feeling of comfort when it comes to engaging online.

2. Offer training
The social media universe can be incredibly daunting to those who aren't familiar. For this reason, providing training for employees unsure of how to participate is an important part of developing effective ambassadors.

In order for employees to start a positive conversation that revolves around your brand, they first must know how to start the dialogue. One way to do this is to offer webinars or group trainings that can teach employees which social media tools are the most effective for their communication goals, and the appropriate way to communicate with their target audience. Examples can also be provided by employees who have appropriately participated in online discussions of the company or its products.

3. Provide employees with a centralized site
Giving employees an area where they can communicate both internally and externally easily opens doors of communication. Employees can engage by building off their colleague's participation and create a unified front. It also gives the company a single portal to communicate major initiatives and events, providing employees with the information to make accurate posts to social media sites.

Further, such a portal can provide a company with valuable insight into what employees think and feel about the brand and what keywords they use in discussions about the company, its products, and services. A centralized site can also be used to survey employees about their online habits and most-used channels to make dynamic changes and recommendations.

4. Lead by example
It's easier to reinforce a culture of openness and demonstrate appropriate engagement if management actively participates. Encourage high-level employees to set the example and provide them with information about cutting-edge tools and new trends so they can be passed down throughout the organization. With management involved, an organic internal conversation can begin, providing additional guidance and direction for employees who want to join the online discussion.

5. Reward influencers
While not all social media engagement needs to be insightful, industry-driven thought leadership, it is important to reward those who build influence. Reward them by providing them with what they want: valuable, exciting information about what is going on in the company.

Ask your employees for their insight into services, projects, or products. Show them you are listening, and that you are pleased and impressed by what they are saying. Some of your most influential ambassadors should have the opportunity to serve on a company task force or be recognized in internal communication materials, which can encourage others to join the discussion, adding more voices to the company's overall desired outcome.

Striking the perfect balance between strategic direction and organic thought from employees is crucial. Company ambassadors are there to help connect a brand with its audience and carry the conversation, not constantly push corporate-driven messaging. Additionally, brand ambassadors can listen and learn from ongoing conversations and then engage in them, forming bidirectional interactions. The result is a group of brand representatives who appear more like trusted friends, and less like corporate mouthpieces.

Steve McAbee is the president and founder of Wunderkind Public Relations.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

3 Must-Have Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

Brought to you by Eric Groves

Small businesses naturally gravitate to tools and strategies that quickly generate revenue without incurring significant costs. So it's no surprise that web-based marketing technologies have become a boon to small businesses because of their low cost and ease of use. Tools that are purpose-built for small businesses project a more professional image and deliver a richer set of management and monitoring capabilities than online tools targeted to consumers, which are often ad-supported and limited in function.

The essential small business marketing tools described below encourage stronger customer relationships and are easy to use and affordable, which makes them must-have tools in the small business marketer's toolkit.

Email marketing
Despite critics who have called email marketing's effectiveness into question, email marketing continually delivers the highest ROI for any marketing method. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing delivered $43.62 for every dollar spent in 2009.

What makes email marketing so effective? It's simple: permission and relevant content. This means that the recipient is looking forward to receiving messages and considers the content of the emails to be beneficial. For marketers, this translates into a pre-qualified list of prospects and returning customers. All you need to do to keep them is stay in touch with content that is compelling and useful.

Businesses can achieve several important goals with email marketing, but the most important are strong, lasting customer relationships. With email marketing, you can consistently communicate your expertise, your offerings, and your brand, thereby building trust and recognition. When the time comes for customers to make purchases, they'll naturally turn to the businesses they're familiar with and loyal to, and they're more likely to recommend those businesses to others.

Online surveys
The most successful small business owners understand that listening to their customers is critically important. Yet, it's not always practical to engage in one-on-one conversations to find out what every customer is thinking. That's where online surveys come in. Online survey tools allow you to easily request anonymous feedback from your customers at their convenience.

Whether conducted frequently, such as after a purchase, event, or customer service issue, or just once a year, surveys are an excellent way to glean valuable information about your customers' satisfaction, experience with your business, or feedback on your product. For example, a retailer might survey his customers to find out what product lines they'd like to see expanded. A consultant could survey customers to learn what marketing challenges are most important to them for 2010. In both cases, the survey results will help guide important business decisions that neither business owner may have determined without the help of the customer base.

Another benefit of online surveys is the opportunity for your customers to feel like they're a part of your business. In fact, asking customers about the best way to communicate with them -- either via email, Facebook, Twitter, or some other mode or combination -- is a great first step in gathering useful feedback. By opening up a two-way dialogue and inviting them to offer suggestions and constructive criticism, your customers feel that they're contributing to your success. Knowing that you took their advice or considered their feedback creates a sense of loyalty that will naturally lead to longer and stronger relationships.

Your social network of choice
Everywhere you turn these days, someone is talking about Facebook, retweeting Ashton Kutcher's latest comment, or asking you to connect on LinkedIn. While all the hype can seem a bit frivolous, the business benefits of social networks are very real. Countless small business owners have made valuable connections, including new customers, through their participation in social networks.

Participation is the key to success when it comes to social media. Much like email marketing, you must first offer real value before you can expect to get anything in return. Simply being there isn't going to place your brand at the center of the conversation. You first have to establish your credibility as a member of the community and a legitimate expert in your field.

Establish yourself as a resource by sharing your knowledge. This may mean linking to your blog posts, media coverage of your product or business, or your email newsletter. You can easily add value and show you "get it" by offering your thoughts and commenting on another's blog post or tweet, or by answering a question on LinkedIn Answers.

Once you've committed to a particular mode of communication, be consistent in using it. Frequency of communications is always a challenge for busy small businesses owners, but a regular effort to communicate will help deliver your message most effectively. Eventually, your audience will begin to anticipate your outreach and even look forward to your next tweet, post, update, or newsletter.

Low cost, high return
Today's small businesses face an ongoing battle for mindshare among their target consumers. These low cost, high return marketing tools provide small businesses with the advantage they need to cut through the noise and get their messages heard without breaking their budget.

Eric Groves is senior vice president of global market development for Constant Contact Inc.

Monday, February 1, 2010

8 Ways to Improve Your Click-Through Rate

Brought to you by Andrew Stern

Although there are a lot of different metrics surrounding online display advertising, it seems that click-through rates (CTRs) have become the one metric that defines an advertising campaign. Every advertiser has a different end goal, but the true test of whether a campaign ends up as a success or a failure oftentimes depends on the percentage of people who actually click on a banner creative. It goes without saying that the higher number of visitors that you can get to your site, the greater the chance of them converting.

In general, web users have become numb to the way that advertising reaches them online. When banner ads first appeared on the scene, it was considered common to have CTRs above 5 percent, while 2-3 percent was thought to be average.

With all the banners that have flooded the web in recent years, most display advertising campaigns now generally fall into a CTR average of just 0.2 to 0.3 percent. That means only two to three consumers out of every 1,000 who see your banner ad click through to your website.

There is good news, however. With the following eight strategies, you can easily and intelligently increase the CTRs for your display advertising campaigns.

1. Set goals and expectations with your advertiser prior to launching a campaign
The most important things to keep in mind are the advertiser and the specific goals of the campaign. Remember the old adage: The customer is always right. By being honest up front you can save yourself a lot of trouble, and most likely keep the advertiser around for a longer period of time if the campaign does not perform initially.

Many advertisers do not know what a good click-through rate is, and some do not have realistic goals for a campaign. By clearing up uncertainties from the start and setting realistic and attainable goals, you are setting yourself up for success. You also need to identify clear CPA goals, ensure that top quality graphics and copy are used, and that the landing pages have a direct call to action.

2. Know your target audience and be specific in your web placements
Targeting is half the battle for a quality CTR. After you've established clear goals for the campaign, figuring out the proper audience for the campaign is vital to achieving an above-average CTR. It's not that web users hate advertisements -- they just hate advertisements that are not relevant to them. For too many years, useless ads have been put in front of them, and they are tired of it. Does a man shopping for a new car really want beauty skin care products? Or does a woman shopping for new clothes need a pill to increase her libido?

With targeting, not only can you reach the type of customer your advertiser is after, but you can also design creative that is specific to a certain demographic, which will thereby improve results. Targeted ads outperform run-of-network campaigns two to one.

A few additional points to note: When targeting an ad campaign, run small tests on multiple sites and networks to get a clear view of what works and what doesn't. Some ad content works well with certain sites, and some works better across an entire network.

3. Create an interesting banner
Basic, static banners that only change when you refresh a page do not work anymore. We have to be more creative now and give web users something that is visually stimulating. Animated banners stimulate the eyes and can provide a needed escape from that dreaded research paper or old TPS report. Expandable and rich media graphical banners can perform up to 400 percent better than a standard static banner. The more interactive it is, the better.

I do not mean the old whack-a-mole or "shoot the president" interactivity, but a way for the user to really see the service and product you are offering within the framework of that particular ad size. The first action does not necessarily need to be a click. It could be rotating a product, pulling a lever, or pushing a button -- all of which provide a second step into the product advertised.

Video banners also work very well and can outperform a typical television spot at a fraction of the cost. It is essential, however, not to overinflate the actual value of the product or mislead the user in any way with super-creative banners. If you get a 5 percent click-through rate but fail to sell a product, the advertiser is still going to be displeased.

4. Ad units and site placement
In many ways, the old saying that "everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten" rings true with this tip. Colors, size, and shape can all drastically affect your CTR. Colors are a good way to create a buzz, but also a good way to drive away a customer.

Many think that bright and vibrant colors are an easy way to get clicks, but this isn't necessarily the case. It is now fairly common on insertion orders to see "no shaking or flashing creative," as this drives away customers and associates a publisher's website with cheap and low brow content. By selecting colors, styles, and fonts that blend in to the website but still stand out, you assist in the overall aesthetic of the web page and also increase CTRs. These are generally referred to as "chameleon ads."

There are many different ad units available now, but most still stick with the five standard IAB sizes (468x60, 120x600, 160x600, 728x90, and 300x250). While using any of these five sizes might get you more coverage across more websites, this might not always translate to greater results. Mix it up, and try something different. Unique-looking sizes and shapes get attention because most users have learned to ignore the shapes and sizes on a page that they have, over the years, associated with "advertisements."

Lastly, where the ad is being placed on the site is a very important step to gaining clicks. Many people glance over a site without scrolling all the way down or to the sides. These ads that appear within the initial frame of the website are called "above the fold" advertising. The poorest performing ads are on the footers and corners of the page, while ads toward the top, middle, and near sides do much better.

5. Advertising lingo is more important than ever
While online advertising has shifted many an ad budget away from billboards, print, and television due to lower costs and a more attentive user base, it is important to retain some of the basic elements these advertising media have had in place for years.

Human beings react instinctually and emotionally. Having engaging ad copy that appeals to a user's gut rather than that person's mind is as important as anything else. Call-to-action words such as "free trial," "click here now," "limited time only," or "bonus gift" really assist in grabbing a person's attention and closing the sale.

While you don't want to appear as a guy on a soapbox selling snake oil, you do want to impress upon your potential client that your offer is a good one, that the user will benefit from it, and, most importantly, that it won't be around forever. You can try a variety of ad copy to see what works best for each particular campaign. There are lists of call-to-action words available online.

6. Use a variety of different creative
It is important to come up with more than one set of banners for each specific campaign. This is referred to as an "A/B split." By using a variety of designs, you can get a feeling for what is causing people to click on the ads.

You will be amazed at the dramatic differences in CTR that one color over another or one word instead of another can have. By having some options, you can try out different colors, designs, ad units, animations, and so on across a large number of websites. After two to three days, you can determine what is generating the highest CTR. Experiment often, but only test a few elements at a time so that you know what is causing the different results and always have a baseline "control" ad to compare against.

7. Outsource creative work
Depending on the size of the campaign, and also the size of your company, it might be a good idea to outsource some of the creative work. Professional graphic designers can offer specialized elements or even new technologies that your internal team may have overlooked or not even known about to begin with.

With all the latest gadgetry, programs, and special effects, it is essential to keep banners simple, yet enticing. When all else fails, always follow the KISS protocol (keep it simple stupid). If banner ads are too large (over 30KB), you will lose coverage on slower PCs because the ads take too long to load. Additionally, many publishers will compress your vibrantly rich (yet very large sized) creative to fit their ad serving specs, in effect washing out your ad so that it no longer stands apart.

8. Analyze reports daily
It is important to analyze the campaign on a daily basis for three reasons. For starters, advertisers like to know that their money is going to a good cause (generally their pockets). Even if the CTR isn't what it should be, you can let them know that you are optimizing their creative, targeting, and site list to improve performance. A day-by-day increase in CTR can give you the breathing room to show your client that you will meet campaign goals quickly.

Secondly, you need the data to determine which of your experiments are working and which need to be discarded. After a few days you will have enough information to identify what is working and allocate budget in the appropriate areas. If not, more experimentation is needed.

Finally, you need to ensure that your client's minimum daily click requirements are being met. Nothing will get your phone to ring faster than an advertiser who isn't getting traffic to its site.

If you follow these eight steps to optimize your banner campaigns, you will see a significant boost in CTRs and hopefully an increase in client renewals and referrals.

Andrew Stern is president, Seed Corn Advertising, where co-author Zachary Dyler is director of business development.

Friday, January 29, 2010

3 Metrics for Evaluating Site Performance

Brought to you by Jason Prescott

As CEO of several vertical search engines and directories, I often overhear conversations between my customers and salespeople that tell me marketers are constantly making the wrong decisions after installing Google Analytics because they don't know what to do with the data. Analytics is a vital component for success in the B2B business world, yet this tool is greatly misunderstood.

When asked, "Doesn't every marketer understand the importance of analytics?" Google's Avanish Kaushik told Search Engine Land: "Numbers are hard to come by on this, but in my humble experience, a tiny fraction of people who should use data productively access it, and a tiny fraction of that actually ends up using data effectively. We, as a universe, have a long way to go."

Many small businesses are rushing into analytics without knowing how to use the software. They have no benchmarks and absolutely no understanding of the metrics provided and what they mean. A lot of the problems are due to poorly constructed websites. While many marketers blame the search provider for poor traffic and low conversions, the key is going back to their website to find out why users aren't converting. Perhaps these consumers are converting in other ways and the marketer just doesn't know it; the consumers could be making phone calls, bookmarking and coming back a few weeks later, requesting a catalog, or visiting a trade show and forgetting to mention where they first heard about the site.

Conversion attribution
From my observations, few marketers bother to define and track a conversion or a user. Even fewer recognize the attribution problem in SEM. In a B2B world, not all conversions come from the first click because many products are complex and have longer sales cycles. Some users may need telephone assistance, while others put a product or service on their "to do" list.

Additionally, marketers can use multiple media in an ad campaign. As a result, it's hard to attribute conversions directly to online search advertising.

Due to the sophistication of search algorithms, paid search is complex to begin with, and understanding analytics data is difficult as well. Kaushik has an excellent post on Occam's Razor about conversion attribution that can give you a better understanding of your SEM campaign performance. He covers the following five points in this post:

- Identifying keyword "arbitrage" opportunities
- Focusing on "what's changed"
- Analyzing visual impression share and computing lost revenue
- Embracing the ROI distribution report
- Zeroing in on the actual user search query (and match type)

Tip: If you're new to analytics, don't rely on sites like Compete or Alexa because they don't count incoming paid traffic to websites due to their own unique user-defined criteria. To make a decision based solely on the reporting metrics of an independent analysis system without transparent rating measurements would be foolish.

Three simple metrics to better site performance

It's important to know your site goals and how to determine whether or not you are achieving them. Analytics is the foundation for your online business strategy and can make the difference between success and failure. Below are three tips that can help you improve your site performance.

1. Identify your site goals. Specify how many conversions you want per week or month. Get a baseline by monitoring with Google Analytics. Then, if you aren't meeting your goal, find out why users aren't converting by studying your conversion funnel. Many times, minor adjustments are all you need to guide users to the "submit order" button. For most sites in the B2B world, it could be a sign-up or registration form and not necessarily an order form. Also, Google Analytics allows for benchmarks to be set. If conversions are low, it could likely be the user interface on your website.

2. Know the difference between hits, visits, and conversions.

- Hits: Defined as a server request for an item on a specific webpage (e.g., image, animation, download). When a browser opens a page in your site, you can get many hits, but they don't translate into traffic or conversions.
- Visits: Defined as a user landing on a page in your site or navigating to other pages before exiting and counting as one visit. This metric is useful because you know how many visitors go to your site and how many items were requested by the server from each page. The "new visitors" and "returning visitors" metrics help you analyze how much new business you are attracting and compare it to repeat customers.
- Conversions: Defined as the number of visitors to your site who completed a pre-defined goal or action (such as a purchase, download, or registration). This is your most important metric.

3. Monitor page views and time spent on site. Visits can be further examined to help you learn more about visitor behavior. Monitor how many page views a consumer had during a visit and the time spent on those pages. Generally, you want users to visit more pages on your site and stay as long as possible. Analytics can tell you which pages are more popular and which need work to gain popularity.

Monitoring these metrics can tell you a lot about what your site visitors are doing so you can fine tune your site with changes that will increase visitors, page views, and time spent on site. This will translate into more visitors and conversions.

When it comes to analytics, there is no silver bullet, but knowing what metrics to focus on and which to ignore can help you make simple changes to your site that can have a big impact on conversions. Set your site goals, determine whether or not you are achieving them, and then take the necessary steps to improve your site's performance. At the end of day, tribal knowledge of your landscape can be a great indicator. You can also be observant of what others do in your industry, and implement what works for them.

If you see your competition advertising on a website that you know is actively engaged in your industry (because you see that company at trade shows, in print media, or sponsoring media events), then chances are, the same website will be a solid play for your ads, so give them a shot.

In any type of advertising, it is frequency and consistency that matter. Most people, especially B2B customers, will not respond to an ad unless they've seen it many times over. Keep promoting your brand, maintain your site with fresh content and image changes, use internal monitoring mechanisms other than analytics, and you'll be well on your way to success.

Jason Prescott is CEO of TopTenWholesale.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where Twitter Drops the Marketing Ball

Brought to you by Bryce Marshall

Many marketers misunderstand the distinction between the micro-blogging social media service Twitter and opt-in SMS marketing. The most common misconception is that Twitter is a viable alternative for opt-in text message marketing. Or, at least, the benefits of "free" far outweigh the potential benefits of any SMS marketing initiative with hard costs.

This misconception has the unfortunate consequence of making it tough to sell the CMO on why a comprehensive SMS marketing program is justified. Here are some arguments to break through the Twitter-vs.-SMS misconception and help justify investment in an opt-in SMS marketing program.

Twitter is not mobile marketing
Many marketers operate under a fundamental misconception about Twitter, confusing the 140-character text limit for tweets as being the hallmark of mobile or SMS marketing. Sure, the 140-character limit on tweets is there in part to ensure they can be created and delivered as SMS messages. But this does not mean that tweets are SMS.

Some Twitter users have tweets delivered as SMS messages, but many do not. The 140-character limit for tweets simply ensures the content is always small bites of information, quickly digested, and very disposable. This does not necessarily mean the content is consumed through SMS. In most circumstances tweeting does not qualify as mobile marketing either in the technical sense of being accessed on a mobile device or in the spirit of mobile marketing, which is designed to leverage timeliness and location to define a unique and valuable interaction.

Free isn't "free"
Yes, SMS marketing will probably require a budget to cover transmission fees and perhaps other short code, technology, or services costs. Compared with the free Twitter service even a modest SMS budget can seem like a bitter pill to swallow. However, considering the resources, time, and materials necessary to promote a Twitter account, it is easy to realize there are costs in play no matter what. To obtain a critical mass of followers and achieve any semblance of mass-marketing, investments have to be made. To leverage Twitter to its strengths for maintaining more personal dialogs, well-educated personnel need not just monitor the Twitter presence, but actively engage. Getting value out of the free Twitter service is an investment in itself.

You can't take it with you
Two-way communications through Twitter are excellent, and the application -- when used well -- really does foster legitimate interactions. Those interactions supply profound insights into a consumer base. However, this intelligence is locked away in Twitter. Simply, Twitter followers do not represent a database in any valuable sense outside of Twitter. It is impossible to compile, package, and export knowledge gathered there in a concrete sense. It is impossible to make those insights portable and actionable in meaningful ways across other digital or offline channels, because those consumer attributes are not in a database.

Now, think about the organizational value of data that can be mined through smart, two-way SMS marketing programs; for instance, discovering where SMS program subscribers live or shop, based on a zip code volunteered in exchange for more relevant offers and information. Or, a subscriber may share demographic information when participating in a mobile poll and receive an instant coupon in exchange. Or, understanding which subscribers are converting in-store or online based on unique coupon codes and tying that insight back to a database profile. These are all valuable pieces of knowledge -- database optimization -- that simply cannot be managed with, or extracted from, Twitter.

Twitter is not database or direct digital marketing
Twitter is not database marketing, and please do not let anyone argue that it is. As noted above, Twitter followers do not represent a marketing database in any viable way, not like the proprietary opt-in database of profiles built with savvy SMS marketing. Additionally, Twitter does not support the scalable application of message relevance and personalization for direct digital marketing on a mass scale.

Twitter followers are fans, and perhaps even loyalists, but they are not individually addressable in a scalable way. Marketers are unable to gather additional data points such as a location, product preference, or purchase history and then layer these attributes to create more comprehensive follower profiles. Marketers cannot segment and target tweets based on these attributes, as is possible with SMS marketing. Marketers cannot personalize tweets in any scalable way.

Marketers cannot insert dynamic text in a tweet, or have the user click through to a personalized mobile web page with a targeted offer, or generate a unique barcode for in-store redemption, or track an individual user's preferences, activity, and behavior. These capabilities are the domain of intelligent database and direct digital marketing and can only be achieved with opt-in SMS programs.

Twitter is a 5/8" socket wrench
Twitter is a single, specialized tool. While it can accomplish some excellent tasks when used well, it falls short as a comprehensive online communications tool at critical mass. In comparison, well-designed opt-in SMS marketing programs provide not just offers or notifications of sales events, but also can automate valuable services, such as providing information on store locations and driving directions, execute delivery and shipping status alerts, provide reminders on bank balances, send alerts when out-of-stock items are now in-stock, or help online shoppers get in-store help with a purchase decision. All of these services -- and more -- are provided through a comprehensive SMS marketing approach that delivers extraordinary value and brand experiences for customers.

So what is that 5/8" socket wrench -- Twitter -- good for? Twitter delivers very real marketing value in these ways:

- Establishes brand key terms and positioning points with hash tags, tapping into the power of trending topics and searches
- Builds a network of advocates who help distribute a message across their social network through one-click retweets
- Develops and hones a brand personality through the highly social, dialog-based nature of the application
- Exceeds expectations with customers by managing fantastic customer support programs that could never be replicated through SMS alone.

Twitter is a microblogging service that delivers real marketing value to organizations, if they are willing to invest education and resources to the management of interactive relationships with their customers. Twitter is a marketing phenomenon unto itself and does not need -- or deserve -- to be muddled in with the definitions of mobile or direct digital marketing. Twitter will be a strong and valuable complement to work in the digital channels, not a replacement.

Bryce Marshall is the director of strategic services for Knotice. You can check out their blog at http://lunchpail.knotice.com/.