Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why It's Not Enough To Be A ________ Marketing Expert

Nowadays it seems like there are plenty of "social marketing experts" for hire. The explicit (or implied) promise is that if you get enough posts, likes and tweets, these modern-day wizards will magically solve your business problems.

This reminds me of the late 90s boom, and the promises I heard back then. Phrases like:

"It's a new era in business.... just get enough 'clicks' and 'eyeballs' to your website, and the profits will take care of themselves."

That advice didn't work real well for a lot of companies. Such as Contentville... Flooz..., and other victims in the boneyard.

Clicks and eyeballs weren't enough to keep them in business. They still needed old-fashioned things like sales and cash flow.

A book was written about this graveyard by Phillip Kaplan titled F'd Companies. It chronicles the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) of multiple companies with no product... experience... or realistic business model. Just hot air, blue sky and empty promises.

Todays 'tweets' and likes' seem to be the equivalent of the late 90s 'clicks' and 'eyeballs.' I'm not sold on the idea that if your Fan page is popular enough, you'll convert enough folks to purchase your product or service. Or that you can effectively communicate your marketing message in 140 characters or less.

I realize that you can write a short tweet or post that can get someone to a website or landing page. Social Media can be part of a sound marketing strategy, but it's not the be-all / end-all to your business challenges.

The biggest whopper I've heard from the Social Media Kool-Aid drinkers comes from the Head Twits themselves, Ev Williams and Biz Stone. Speaking last month to the "Tech Crunch Disrupt" conference, they had the chutzpah to tell capitalists in attendance to 'Stop stressing about how your business will make money. The money will come."

Ah yes, the Field of Dreams approach to business. Brilliant!

This quote is the leader in the clubhouse for the biggest load of BS I've heard in 2012. It's terrible advice, defies business fundamentals and common sense.

Why do I bring up the F'd Companies book and the Twitter quote? Because technology and good intentions aren't enough aren't enough to be successful in business. You have to put in enough consistent effort, and make sure that effort is guided by a sound business plan and fundamentals.

It's not enough to be a Facebook / Twitter / Other Social Media Outlet marketing expert... you have to know the fundamentals of good marketing to be considered an expert - or at the very least competent.

Preferably if you've learned those fundamentals from folks like Claude Hopkins and his book Scientific Advertising... John Caples and David Ogilvy, to name a few. Or more modern-day marketing wizards, such as Jay Abraham, Ted Nicholas, Gary Bencivenga, or John Carlton.

You really need to know the market you're selling to... what product or service(s) said market really wants... and what will motivate them to buy said product or service. If you hire a marketing consultant or copywriter to increase sales and cash flow, they darn well better know these three things - or else you're probably throwing your money away.

The moral of this story? I'll say it again: It's not enough to be a __________ marketing expert, and it's not the medium (or media) that make the difference... it's the rock-solid, time-tested marketing fundamentals put into action.

They've worked for all kinds of companies for over 100 years, and they can work for yours too. Give 'em a try. If done correctly, I think you'll like the results you see.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why Groupon Should Have Listened To Claude Hopkins...

It looks like the honeymoon is over for Groupon, judging by this recent article at The stock price has dropped from over $31/share down to $5.36 and no profits to speak of. Instead, Groupon has an annual net loss of 27 cents a share. Just like the over-hyped stocks of the late 90s, this Social Media darling has had plenty of hype and hot air... but nothing in the way of earnings, or a good business model.

You may be asking: "Why should Groupon have listened to Claude Hopkins... who the heck was he... and why was/is he so important when it comes to marketing and business?"

Claude was one of the great advertising pioneers of the early 20th Century. He believed that advertising existed only to sell something, and the results should be measurable and justify the results it produced. (That sounds familiar... I wonder who else has been talking about that?)... but I digress.

Hopkins wrote the classic marketing book Scientific Advertising in 1923. What Claude said back then about advertising still applies today. If you're serious about marketing or business, you should read this book. I'm reading it for the fifth time, learning (and re-learning) solid marketing fundamentals.

Groupon's execs should have read what Claude wrote to avoid the problems they face today.

What are these problems? Lack of long-term, repeat customers that result from Groupon and "daily deal" advertising... small-business clients selling goods and services at a discount... then paying Groupon steep commissions - usually 50% of the already-discounted sales price.

Groupon's business model assumes that a company will sell a discounted "sample" of its product or service.... then customers will gladly pay full price on future buys. That doesn't make sense to me, and it didn't make sense to Claude.

Here's what he says in Chapter 13 - The Use of Samples:

"For the same reason some advertisers say, 'You buy one package, we will buy the other (Ed: Buy one, get one free).' Or they make a coupon good for part of the purchase price. Any keyed returns will clearly prove that such offers do not pay. Before a prospect is converted, it is approximately as hard to get half price for your article as to get the full price for it. 

As Claude Hopkins reminds us, it's difficult (if not impossible) to pull this marketing feat off.

It's a great lesson for business owners, investors and marketers alike. Before you start-up or invest in any new or existing business, make sure it has a good long-term sustainable business model... and competent, experienced management.

Or if you consider hiring a marketing consultant or copywriter, ask them if they know who Claude Hopkins is. I can almost guarantee you that many of today's "social media experts" don't have a clue who Mr. Hopkins was... and why his words of wisdom are still so important today.

They know the ins and outs... likes and pokes... tweets and re-tweets of Facebook and Twitter... but I'm not convinced they truly know the "old-school" fundamentals of good marketing - which (if applied correctly) always work in any type of market or advertising medium.

That's what I'll cover in my next blog post, which talks about the difference between the medium and the marketing... and why it's so important for your business.

Until next time...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Can You Spend Brand Awareness?

This is an odd question to ask, but it's relevant when it comes to marketing. Why is that, you ask?

Because it ties into the seemingly never-ending debate between the merits of ad agency "branding" (or image)-type marketing... and old-fashioned direct-response marketing. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know that my bias is towards the latter.

The reason I thought of this question was because of a meeting I had with two local radio hosts. I met with them to see how I could increase the effectiveness of their advertisers' radio ads. The better response they get from their ads... the more sales and money they would make... and that would increase the chances they would stick with this radio show as a longer-term advertiser.

Makes perfect sense, right? Well.... not exactly.

As I explained the difference between direct-response and branding-type marketing, it was obvious that one of the hosts wasn't sold on it. He starts asking question after question about "if" direct-response marketing was effective... and the one question that he asked (that I wish I had this answer for at the time) was:

"Well, what about brand awareness in marketing?" 

My natural instinct was to give a smart-ass answer and say: "Well, what about it?" But that wouldn't have done much good to avoid an argument.

Let me take a step back and explain this marketing theory.

Ad agency folks love to talk about "brand awareness" because they tell their clients that the more you get your name in the marketplace... the more people will be aware of your brand... and eventually this will lead to more sales and cash flow. But - these "creative gurus" will tell you - this will take time for their creative genius to work its magic, and get the results you want.

Never mind the fact that you can't track how well the ads or campaign are working. Just trust them, keep giving them your money... and eventually it should work out alright. And the more time it takes to "get your name out there," the more money you're paying for unaccountable marketing.

Let's get back to the topic: "Can You Spend Brand Awareness?"

Go to a Starbucks and order your favorite beverage, then ask the clerk if you can pay for it in brand awareness. He or she will look at you like you're crazy, and rightfully so.

Obviously you can't spend brand awareness to buy the material things you want in this life. So why should your marketing be focused on something that's difficult (if not impossible) to measure... and is useless to buy the things you want?

I like marketing that you can measure, monitor and adjust, and will bring in US dollars... fungolas... Federal Reserve Notes - and lots of them. When done correctly, that's what direct-response marketing will do for any business.

Forget about being cool or creative, unless it increases your sales and positive cash flow. If an ad agency or or marketing consultant talks about brand awareness instead of results, snap your wallet shut and end the meeting. Then find a marketing professional who believes in accountable, results-oriented marketing - and not some half-baked yuppie fantasy.

You'll save time, energy and frustration, and have more business success.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Rely On SEO To Make More Money Online

Almost every business owner I talk to wants to have their business on the first page or #1 on Google search results. SEO does make a difference, but it isn't the "magic bullet" that will solve your online marketing problems.

Good SEO practices will help get traffic to your website, but if you don't have good copy and follow-up (via auto-responder e-mails), it won't help you that much. To paraphrase an old saying: "You can lead a prospect to your website, but you can't make them opt-in." 

When you look at improving the results from your website, look at increasing the conversion rate first - before you increase the amount of traffic. It's best to test changes in marketing on a small scale, make sure they're working to increase conversion... then roll them out on a bigger scale (i.e., sending more traffic to your website).

If you get these steps backwards, you will be leaving a LOT of money on the table if your conversion rate sucks. Here are a few quick tips on how you can grow your e-mail list, increase your conversion rates and make more money from your business website:

1. Make sure your website or landing page solves a painful problem for your prospect. Everybody is looking on the Internet for a solution to their problem - not to read how great your company is, how long you've been in business, or if it's "family-owned and operated." Hate to burst your bubble about that, but it's true - it's human nature that we all look for things that will benefit us.

Make sure that the focus of your marketing and copy is on the prospect and his problem. Doing this alone should drastically improve your online marketing results.

2. Offer valuable free information (or "opt-in bait") in exchange for someone giving you their name and e-mail address. Good marketing is content or education-based. As you've probably discovered, people are becoming more selective about how (and with who) they spend their hard-earned dollars. That's a trend that started with the real estate and stock market collapses of 2008, and I don't see it changing any time soon.

The good news is that if you take time to provide quality information, and build trust and credibility with your prospect, he'll be more likely to buy. This will take more time and effort on your part, but if done correctly it will be worth it. And many of your competitors probably won't do this.

3. Have a good series of auto-responder e-mails to follow up with, once someone has opted-in to your list. A common (and true) saying in sales and marketing is: "The fortune is in the follow-up." And it couldn't be more true today. When you write auto-responder e-mails that are fun, interesting and useful, this will let prospects get to know, like and trust you... which ultimately will lead to more sales.

Remember, always test these changes with small amounts of website traffic (to make sure they work) before you roll them out on a bigger scale with larger amounts of traffic. You'll have more sales, better results, and more peace of mind as a business owner.