Monday, March 22, 2010

How Social Media marketing Is Like Internet Marketing...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been booming in popularity and "buzz." Plenty of self-proclaimed Social Media "gurus" have been trumpeting how great SM is from the highest online mountaintops.

Don't get me wrong - SM is a great way to increase your online network, and connect with more people. But I'm not convinced that it's the be-all/end-all when it comes to business marketing today. The buzz with SM marketing closely resembles the earlier days of Internet marketing.

Here's how: Internet marketers really didn't have a well-thought out plan or business model as to how the Internet could help grow their business (selling more of their core product or service) in the longer run. What they did figure out how to do was sell info-products and services about... How to make tons of cash from Internet marketing!

Fast foward to today: Social Media is all the rage, and SM gurus are coming out of the woodwork. They claim all you need is a WordPress website and a Facebook fan page, and you'll be on the glorious road to riches. And they have for sale... info-products on how to do Social Media marketing - imagine that!

Now - I'm not criticizing everyone involved with SM or Internet marketing. People like Frank Kern, John Carlton, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero and Stephen Pierce have some great stuff available, and they truly want to help people increase their income online. And there are other good online marketers out there.

Successful (and profitable) Social Media marketing is kind of like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster: I've heard great stories about them, but I haven't seen very many people make a ton of money from SM marketing. I'll be glad to be proven wrong - but until I see the proof in the pudding, I'm sticking with proven fundamentals of online marketing, such as:

- Building a Qualified List
- Developing a Relationship With That List
- Selling More Products/Services To That List

Pretty simple, but very effective if done correctly. And I'll stick with these boring, basic fundamentals to help my clients increase sales and profits.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Question That Branding Gurus Hope You Never Ask...

You've probably heard the phrase "branding" when it comes to advertising, or how you should "build your brand" to increase sales in your business. I grew up on a farm and ranch in Kansas - there the word "branding" meant searing a hot iron to the hindquarter of a steer to prove ownership.

Being a direct-response copywriter (and a natural-born contrarian), I'm always skeptical when masses of people gravitate towards the "next big thing." And I'm even more skeptical when the gurus can't (or won't) explain how this fancy-schmancy branding campaign works to bring in bucketfuls of cash.

Let me explain the difference between branding or image-type advertising, and direct-response marketing.

The branding theory goes something like this: Put your company name, logo or tag line out there enough times and eventually you'll get enough name recognition from customers who will recognize your company's "brand" - and eventually buy your product or service.

The flaw in this theory is you have thousands of other companies doing the same thing, trying to get that "brand recognition." Consumers see an average of 3,700 marketing messages per day through traditional and "new" (Social) media.

To increase that name recognition, you'll have to spend a lot of money - all for the sake of "putting your name out there." And not with the goal of actually making sales. That sounds like an expensive - and not necessarily profitable - proposition to me. Good for the ad agency or consultant, not so good for the biz owner.

Direct-response (DR) marketing is designed to get a specific response - opting into an e-mail list, or preferably making a sale. Most DR ads aren't real pretty or fancy, and normally don't include a company logo. They're usually composed of words in short or longer-copy sales letters online or in print.

And if done correctly, you can track and account for every single penny you invest in marketing your business. You'll know what works - and more importantly, which ads or campaigns aren't working - to make sales and profits.

In the past, ad agencies loved brand/image-type marketing because they dealt with clients with big ad budgets - and they didn't worry that much about results. If the client asked how well the campaign was working, they could always tell them: "Hey, it takes time to get your name and image out there... just give the campaign a few more months to work its magic."

Today, 99% of small business owners don't have that luxury to wait and hope that a branding campaign will work. If any agency or consultant recommends using branding-type advertising for your business, ask him or her this one question. I guarantee it'll stop 'em dead in their tracks:

"How will I know if this branding campaign is really producing results for my business?"

You'll probably have an uneasy pause in the conversation, a few seconds of stunned silence... and they'll mumble something about brand recognition. If they can't - or won't - give you a good answer, you politely end the conversation.

Direct-response marketing allows you to measure, adjust and control ads and campaigns and shows you the exact Return on Investment for your marketing dollars. Always test ads and campaigns on a small scale before rolling them out on a big scale.

When done correctly, DR marketing will beat the branding approach almost every time. Nothing is perfect or foolproof, but I like using marketing approaches that are proven and time-tested. Not the latest "bright, shiny object" that may or may not work.