Scott and Chris have joined since our last newsletter.
Scott works with Tikhon in the email marketing side of the business. Scott comes from a background in IT, education, knowledgebases and analyst work. He has previous experience in email campaigns for fundraising, along with databases and web development.
Chris works with Abby in our web optimisation operation. He is Google Certified in both Google Analytics and Google AdWords and is working across a range of accounts already.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – By Greg McKeown
I loaded this book up on my Kindle two hours before stepping onto NZ 245 for a nine-hour flight to Bali. Little did I know that my 15 year old daughter would fall ill during the flight so Claire and I would spend most of the flight helping her. Not a lot was read until we were settled in our villa in Ubud.
Heading away on leave is never easy for me. It takes me a good three to four days to start to relax. Thankfully, this book was a real help in speeding things up. Here are a few points that stood out for me.
The lie that “you can do it all”.
The book starts by shattering the illusion that what you believe you can do is actually possible. “You can do it all” is the first that gets a serve. You can’t – and thinking you can is a trap that many, me included, fall into.
Greg expands on this with theory about the “trivial many” compared to the “vital few”. I think we all live in a world where it’s hard to determine which task fits in what group. It’s not helped with a task list that grows each day, every task seemingly as important as the next. Finding your “vital few” is a key message of the book.
This concept hit home for me while I was stressing about what was happening back at base. There I was, away from work in a timezone that didn’t make it easy for the team to contact me while a large volume of work was going through the studio.
So what was the tradeoff for my stress? Well, Claire and my two teenage daughters were experiencing a new culture following a challenging home renovation project that pushed us all to the max. When I was a kid, my father took our family on regular holidays, and a lot of my fondest memories are linked to these experiences.
When I looked at it this way, the tradeoff was well worth it.
If you don’t set your priorities, someone else will.
So who has priorities? I guarantee all who read this newsletter do – but who sets them? If you are not actively setting them then someone else is. Perhaps this is not necessarily the right way for you?
Sleep – protect the asset
I left Auckland absolutely knackered and with a chest infection that was starting to gain an edge. We were all tired and slept a lot over the next few days. By day six I was coming right and I felt fresher than I had in a while. I read a lot. The Kindle got a serious workout and the ideas started to flow again; ideas that would never have arrived if we had not taken the break.
I finished the book with my personal list of the vital few and some strategies to manage the rest. For me it was the right book arriving at the right time. Funny how this happens sometimes.
Each year we pick a charity for Christmas and make a sizable donation on behalf of our customers. This year we asked our customers for their help and based on their feedback we will be sending these three charities a donation of $500 each.
The Salvation Army
Cancer Research through the Cancer Society
Our offices close Friday 20th December at 4.00pm and will re-open January 6th at 9.00am.
Have a safe and relaxing Christmas
All the best
The team at Permission
In May this year, Google updated the Maps desktop version to make it easier to use. It also allows you to solve new problems like – which cafes are near my client’s office for a quick catch up? Or which of my friends has reviewed a Japanese restaurant in Auckland that will make my decision to pick one so much easier?
This is all good news for the “directionally challenged” like me. As I’m possibly one of the world’s worst navigators, Google Maps has been one of my all-time favourite applications.
The desktop addition of Google Maps was the precursor of all things mobile. It launched a whopping eight years ago, which is an eternity in Internet time when you realise that Facebook started the year prior. The “Street View” option found here is a particular favourite. Knowing what the outside of an office looks like can save precious time when struggling with Auckland’s cryptic street numbering system.
The mobile version is also a winner. I used to find it within the native mapping app on my iPhone until Apple replaced it with its own. Remember the disaster that was? (I just checked again and still Apple Maps tells me that Bondi Beach is just on the edge of Cornwall Park in Auckland.) Needless to say it was a quick rush back to Google when they launched their own iPhone app.
Changes to the desktop version
The core desktop part of Google Maps received a complete refresh in May. Thankfully what remained of the old version was the super-simple way to find where you want to go. However, Google tells us this is now achieved by using a mapping environment that’s more personalised than ever before. As you click, apparently Google learns.
As I write this, access to the new Google Maps is by invitation only. By the time this is published I expect everyone should be allowed in. Once you have access, the first obvious difference is the way in which it looks on the screen. Here’s a snapshot to follow:
Notice how the search box sits in the top left of the screen. It’s a place that works well. Just type away and see the map move before your eyes as it hones in on the location you are looking for.
Or, if you don’t know where you want to go BUT do know what you want, then you can use the map to help as it suggests a range of options nearby. For instance, type in “cafes near Jervois Road, Auckland” and ba-boom – cafes and their location are shown directly on the map.
All of this relies on businesses having previously registered their location with Google. This is not an obvious process to follow for most business owners – which is probably why I only see four cafes suggested for the full length of the latte-rich area of Ponsonby’s Jervois Road.
Anyway, once you find the place you want to visit it’s a piece of cake to learn how best to get there. Just pick where you are leaving from, “home” or “work” (both are configured settings) and Google will plot the best route for your pick of transport options – walking, driving or taking public transport.
The opportunity for business
The new opportunity for business owners is to advertise to a new set of potential customers – i.e. those who know what they want, but not where to find it. In this new version you now have two options available to achieve this task. The first involves placing your paid advertisement below the search box AND on the location of your business directly on the map – as bold as brass. Below is a snapshot of a business doing both.
The second option is a relatively plain alternative where your ad sits just below the search result. However, it isn’t that much more complex to do the first, so that’s our suggestion for those of you wanting to give it a try.
I’m picking that the “search within the map” interface is one that will catch on with many. It just seems to work well. This will drive traffic, which drives clicks, which should drive conversions.
The only thing that could spoil all this fun is the content that people see when they find the location they want and click to read more about it. Think of this as a mini Google website that you populate describing your business. Google calls it your Google Plus Local page. Born of Google’s social media tool, Google Plus, this naturally includes a space for people to place reviews. You cannot disable this feature, so it pays to regularly monitor what people are saying.
Other benefits for personal use
If you are a Google Plus user with a bunch of Google Plus friends, then these reviews become even more relevant. Now you can filter the results you see on the map by those reviewed by people in your “circles”. Or you can pick a rather nebulous category, “Top Reviewers”. See the screenshot below which shows how I can filter my options when searching for a Japanese Restaurant in Auckland.
Tips for getting started
If you’d like help with any of this, then give us a call at the office and one of our team will help you move forward. Happy Mapping!
Last month’s article on email marketing and the conference call on the same subject area achieved the desired result.Afew more customers have launched their first email marketing campaign and are now starting to reap some of the many rewards this strategy can produce.All good news.
Nevertheless, there are a few customers out there – we know who you are 🙂 – who are stubbornly refusing to move forward into the land of email.So for them I present these six online marketing myths all busted with an explanation on how an effective email marketing strategy can come to their aid.
Myth #1: Everyone visiting your website is ready to buy
A good e-commerce website will covert at 5% – leaving 95% able to visit and leave, hopefully to return at some time in the near future.Hope is nice but how about you replace this with a persuasive email subscription form to cajole them into joining your email newsletter list? A credible 15% may take you up on this option, moving your total conversion rate up to a very respectable 20%.But, more importantly, you can message them on a friendly frequency in the hope that this time they are more likely to buy than they were when they subscribed.
Myth #2: All prospects will say yes to your proposal
Similar to Myth #1 but more suited to those who sell face-to-face.Now I must admit that some timeshare salespeople of old may have come close to a 100% conversion rate but legislation has now sorted out that way of selling.So normal people selling normal products may close 25-50% and even 75% of sales but there will still be those that need to be nurtured after the presentation.That’s where a permission-compliant email newsletter can work its magic to move people along the buying process, gradually nudging them closer towards the line of commitment.
Myth #3: Your customers will remember you and your company
They won’t.There’s too much going on in their lives to make what you do that important for them.Somehow you need to drop effortlessly into their Inbox life every month or so and share something of interest.Email is easy for them to “consume”, simple for you to construct and a short click away from something that can sell. (Yes, that’s your “salesperson” website.)
Myth #4: Offers are only to be sent to those who are focused on buying a bargain
Walk around any Warehouse store and look at the people filling the aisles.There’s every demographic you can imagine.And all are there because they want to be where “Everyone gets a bargain”.So take care before dismissing that offers always bring in the wrong type of customer.Many a retail fortune has been made by those who understood the value of an offer to bring in the right type of customer, who then decides to purchase the right high-margin product.
Myth #5: People will bookmark your website URL
When was the last time you bookmarked a supplier’s website?Probably a long time ago.Your customers and prospects are the same.So you need to actively work on strategies to bring them back again and again.Yes, you can support Google’s growing fleet of jets by using the AdWords system but email marketing is a much more cost-effective strategy to bring them back.
Myth #6: Customers will decide when they are ready to buy and NOTHING you can do will influence when this occurs
Customers need convincing.And yes, it could start with deciding that it is time to buy something in your category and then work its way all the way down to the finer details of the sale such as the colour of the seat leather. Short, direct messages of persuasion sent via email can add some strength to your argument that moves them closer to you and not your competitors.
So there you have it.If you don’t already have email marketing as part of your online marketing mix then please write down the answer to these questions.
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get this thing started.
With the interest in this month’s coaching call, here’s an article on email marketing I wrote earlier that may help those looking to improve their efforts.
Another twelve months of email marketing lie ahead but should you carry on in January just as you ended in December? Planning for the year ahead is a great time to take stock of the last 12 months of email marketing statistics to determine what trends, if any, signify the need for an email marketing strategy review.
To start this process I suggest you tabulate the key email messaging statistics for last year’s campaigns including invalids, bounces, opens, clicks and unsubscribes. Firstly, let’s start with invalids and opens. Any trends you see in these two values should match any changes you have made in your data collection and management methods.
For instance, if you collected a large number of new email addresses through a trade show in June by asking prospects to write their details onto a card then, when you emailed them with July’s newsletter, both invalid and bounce percentages should have risen due to this quick but notoriously unreliable method of data collection. Likewise, if you started to collect permission for your email newsletter online by asking subscribers to fill in a form on which they confirmed their email address twice then your invalid and bounce rates should have been seen to slowly fall.
If the values of both invalids and bounces have remained relatively flat, with your bounce rate being below 2.5% and your invalid rate below 2% then all is fine. Your work here may be on finding new methods to re-activate those already in these two groups.
Managing the re-activation of bounced email addresses is not the easiest of tasks in which to achieve and as such is frequently missed. Perhaps this is the year that you instigate a process that helps to find these lost subscribers?
When tracking your open rates you may see a slow decline. Don’t be too concerned – as I mentioned on our coaching call this month, this is due to an increasing percentage of subscribers using email clients that suppress images by default. (The open rate statistic is gathered by tracking a subscriber’s ability to download an image that is specific to them but otherwise hidden in the email content.)
However, if the last 12 months’ figures show a falling open rate that is greater than a 5% change then your issues may lie with your content rather than any industry-wide issue and further investigation will be required. For those with a relatively consistent email list, e.g. a monthly newsletter, I would advise reviewing each email send with a view to splitting subscribers who have opened the message into two groups – new and existing subscribers. (New being those who see this month’s edition as their first.)
The data may show a disproportionate number of new subscribers opening the message compared with those already on the list. This reveals content that appeals the first few times it is received but then quickly wanes as editions continue to roll out. If there is no conclusive evidence based on splitting the open rate by the recency of subscription, try to look further into the make up of those opening across multiple editions to see if there is some sort of common ‘opener subscriber’ profile.
Conversely, for those not opening – are there any specific characteristics in this group, e.g. high value customers, low value customers? For some reason the communication is not continuing to resonate with a specific audience segment(s). If one of the common components of your ‘non-opener profile’ is the ISP they are using to collect their email through then you could be having issues with successful deliverability to this audience.
Check to ensure that you have a number of seed addresses for this ISP and run some of your own tests using the content of prior editions to see if this is the problem. For those newsletters that rely on a website to hold most of their content, click-through rates are strong gauges of content comprehension. These statistics are not artificially deflated by any outside technology trends and as such can be viewed as a true reflection on the success of your email communication methods.
A twelve-month review of what content generates the most click throughs will help to further cement your understanding of the content your email audience finds the most appealing. Likewise, the converse statistic will guide you on what not to include in your next edition. Falling click-through rates are a concern. As for falling open rates, it helps to find any common subscriber profiles among those doing more or less clicking.
To help you, some email dispatch tools automatically show the percentage of existing and new clickers as individual tools for each campaign. In this case editions that show an even split between new and old clickers reveal content that is appealing to both subscriber groups. Other tools just bundle your clickers into the one aggregate group for you to split out yourself.
I see the unsubscribe action as being somewhat like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff of inattention. Falling open and click-through rates are the precursor to people taking up this option. A high proportion of those not opening or clicking will have mentally unsubscribed to your communications well before they choose to click on your link to confirm their status.
That said, after plotting your twelve-month unsubscribe trend you should see a relatively steady set of unsubscribe figures – any sharp increases are strong cause for concern.
So there you go – just a few quick ways to ensure your email marketing efforts for 2012 are built on your learning from 2011 allowing for any tweaks, where required, to your overall communication strategy.
Google AdWords – Speed isn’t always your Friend
Google makes starting a new AdWords campaign a very easy task indeed. Within minutes you can gather together a selection of keywords, write an small text ad, load up your credit card details, and “baboom” – start sending them money and your website traffic. Most should achieve this in 30 minutes or less. At first this seems like good news for the time-starved executive. You are now advertising online on the country’s most visited search engine. Time to sit back, relax and just wait for the phone to ring or the email inbox to fill up with contact requests. Ideally both.
This must happen for a few. Otherwise, those happy images of satisfied customers Google portrays on its AdWords home page would be false. Nevertheless, the Google advertisers who walk through our doors for the first time rarely share stories of drowning under a torrent of leads as a result of their 20 minutes of campaign set-up.
A few turned up at Permission with different stories last month. Well established and successful business people who were spending hundreds of dollars a day with Google and were a) not seeing much benefit from it, and b) not sure if this was typical of the experience of others.
Fortunately, each of them had agreed to complete our initial online marketing review process and because of this we had the necessary time to take them through their AdWords account, pointing out the good and not so good parts. The bits that were great for them and Google and likewise the bits that were not so friendly to their wallet.
Now, I firmly believe that Google has the interests of the advertiser at heart when they designed their account set-up process. They had to allow for a time-starved user with limited attention and, based on the complexity involved, the process does a great job. So all the big things – like keywords, budgets and ads – decisions the advertiser HAS TO INCLUDE to get going are covered in an easy to understand way. Meanwhile, what seem to be relatively small things – like keyword match types, choice of advertising networks and optimal account structure – well, Gooogle decided that these are best done AFTER the account was live.
Unfortunately, it’s these AFTER bits that can make all the difference. Which was why I found myself and my client peering into a web browser at an AdWords campaign, picking over a campaign that had been removing thousands of dollars from his bank account each week and providing very, very little in return. Fortunately, we had this under control after a days work, but still, the money that was already spent was wasted.
So, in the interests of ensuring readers of this newsletter avoid such a situation, here are some of the fundamental AdWords Campaign Set-Up basics that apply to any campaign that is successful (for both Google and the advertiser).
Fundamental basic #1: Take control of your keywords
The underlying resource of any AdWords campaign is the keywords you chose to bid on. The Google Keyword tool is a free resource (just Google it) that will help you see which keywords attract the highest search volume for the regions you want to advertise within. So if you are an Auckland-based mortgage broker, after you have used this tool you may find that “Mortgage Brokers Auckland” is a keyword worth bidding on.
Google enables you to bid on this keyword in four different ways. These are called match types. There is broad match, modified broad match, phrase match and exact match. (For the sake of accuracy there’s a fifth type called negative match that I’ll cover later on.)
When you set up your account for the first time, broad match is the default option. Remember the set-up process is all about speed. So the time taken to educate you on the other match options and then let you pick which suits is put in the AFTER bucket. This is a shame because the default option can cause a lot of problems.
You see, broad match allows Google to present your ad for terms like these:
Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Home Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Refinance Brokers
Reviews Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Brokers Auckland Business Set Up
Some of these are good, a few not so. The other three match types help you refine the way in which your keywords match against what the searcher types in. It starts with the highly refined exact match. Then it gradually becomes more flexible – as each match type is used – until you arrive at the last option, the broad match choice, which opens your keyword up to a mass of terms that may or may not suit your business.
To follow is an image from Google that helps to show you all this in a friendly graphic for the search term formal shoes.
Fundamental basic #2: Know your negatives
The fifth keyword match type is a negative match. This is for keywords that people may use within the phrases you want to bid on but by doing so automatically discount them from being valid search terms. So in the previous graphic from Google, perhaps you didn’t sell any black shoes, or your shoes were just for men. In these cases, the terms “black” and “women” would be in your list of negative keywords.
These types of keywords can be applied to your whole campaign or to just one Ad Group. So when we see a campaign that only uses broad match terms and has no negative keywords then there are problems ahead.
Fundamental basic #3: Don’t mix networks or regions
Google can place your advertising next to their search results and also on websites that host their advertising. One key difference between the two is that one audience is actively searching for what you offer, while the other is passively reading about it. These are two very different environments to advertise within.
Nevertheless, when setting up your account (again, in the interests of time) your Google AdWords campaign is set up to run in both. This is usually not the best option for those starting. Our recommendation is to always focus on searchers first and then, once you have figured out how to make this traffic stream work, begin work on convincing passive readers to click your ads. Trying to do both will muddy your results and make what is already a hard task even harder.
Fundamental basic #4: Carry on the conversation, deliver people to the optimal page
This brings me nicely into how the underlying structure of your account can either work for or against you. Think of it like the commonly used “house foundation” analogy – build on solid foundations and you improve your chances of future success. The foundation for an AdWords campaign is the ease with which it allows you to carry on the question raised by the searcher.
For instance, say they type in the keyword “black formal shoes male”. Just by chance they see your text ad that includes text like their keyword term. And, when they click on it, they are taken to the page on your website that presents them with your full range of black formal shoes for guys. So easy for them – a bit of work for you.
To achieve this experience your campaign needs to contain a lot of Ad Groups. An Ad Group is a Google term for a distinct collection of keywords and the text ads that work for them. Most new campaigns set up at speed have just the one. This will be filled with lots of keywords and perhaps only one or, if we are lucky, maybe two ads. When clicked, these will most likely take you to the home page.
If you run this type of campaign and the searcher types in “black formal shoes male” or even “brown formal shoes female” or possibly “white formal dance shoes male”, they are shown the one ad that talks generically about formal shoes. If they click this ad they will arrive on the home page of the website and have to find the right shoes for themselves. People rarely do.
Fundamental basic #5: Track how well your money is being spent
My final fundamental basic. The online marketing space is littered with opportunities to track and measure. The problem is usually the vast amount of data available, not the lack of it. The Google AdWords system is no different. And while, once again, setting up “conversion tracking” is something missing during the speedy sign-up process, it’s in your account waiting to be turned on.
Once engaged you will be able to see how much money you spent to achieve whatever conversion you want to measure. This could be newsletter sign-ups, e-commerce sales or contact requests – they can all be counted. Some of the data may make you smile, others may not – but at least you will know what does and doesn’t work.
So there you have it. Five fundamentals that are missed during any super speedy new account set-up. Yes, it will take you time to do all five BUT, once done, your account will work so much harder for you. Speed isn’t always your friend. Look here for more on our Google AdWords Campaign Management Services.
Practical Email Marketing – August 2011
For the last five years I have been involved as co-tutor for the Practical Email Marketing Course put on by the Marketing Association and the University of Auckland Shortcourses department. It’s always a fun two days. Fitting it all in is always a challenge. Amanda and I start the day with a proposed agenda packed full of content and what is really just a guide to how long each session should take.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take us long to get out of control and by our first coffee break we are always behind. How much behind depends on the amount and type of questions we get asked. This month’s session was no different. Most in the group were already email marketing and had come eager to find an edge in their market. So from the first 15 minutes onwards we were both peppered with a myriad of really smart questions.
As luck would have it we managed to cover all the content. And, based on the workshop presentations we had to judge, the large bulk of what was covered was quickly applied by each group. So what were some of the “edge sharpening” points for those who read this newsletter to also use in their email marketing?
Well here’s five. These comprise just a smidgen of the content covered in the full two-day course. (Contact the Marketing Association for a schedule to get the whole serving by joining us next time.)
Two factors that work in partnership – increasing message relevance and growing production difficulty.
“So what’s the one part of email marketing that has the greatest effect on the success of the campaign?” I asked the group at the start of day two when reviewing what we had covered during day one.
“Relevance” was the reply – followed by the clarifying statement “Being as relevant as you can”.
This is correct – email marketing that is relevant gets opened, gets clicked and gets results. The only issue is that achieving this comes at a cost – the most relevant campaigns are usually the hardest to build and take the longest to implement.
For example, say you are a men’s clothing retailer with a 10,000 customer email marketing list and within this you have three very different segments of buyers based on their spending amounts and product choices. The ideal option would be to run three alternative promotions with different creatives and offer types – each ideally matched to its customer segment. That’s the most relevant option. However, what happens in the majority of cases is that one offer is cast across the whole list. Frequently, the easy option is taken because it saves time, costs less and is easier to manage. But what some people fail to realise is that all this time-saving work at the campaign build end translates into more work later on.
Less relevant campaigns result in reduced conversion rates and therefore additional marketing is required to ensure future sales targets are met. Sorry, there are no short cuts to producing highly relevant email campaigns – they take hard work.
There is a fixed and limited amount of subscriber attention you have to work with.
Everyone would love their subscribers to pore over their email newsletters, having them read every word, click on every link and generally devour it with the same level of care that was taken preparing it. Well sorry – this just ain’t going to happen.
Firstly, people will skim over your copy, picking out the bits that capture their eye and convince them to read more. I always imagine them having a ticking stopwatch counting down while this is happening. For some that could be 5 seconds, others may spare you 15 seconds – but it’s not going to be minutes.
Design and create your campaigns with this in mind so your subscribers can read the main parts of your messages with or without the images turned on. Forcing them to take the time to open the images to replace red crosses with something of meaning just burns through valuable message-reading attention.
Make it easy to do the easy tasks.
One of the group commented on something that I thought was interesting. She had recently changed jobs so during her last few days of work she had to go through and update her email address in the newsletters she was subscribed to.
Some made this relatively straightforward task easy to achieve, others made it a nightmare – so hard in fact that, rather than change her details, she chose to unsubscribe and be done with them. Moving jobs is not an uncommon action, so how hard do you make updating an email address for your subscribers? Is there an “Update Your Details” link at the top of your message that takes people to a form where they can quickly advise you of the change?
Capitalise on those messages that are more expected than others.
There are very few email newsletters I expect to receive on a certain day at a certain time. The vast majority arrive with a surprise – some welcome, others not so. Nevertheless, there is one email campaign that every subscriber does expect to receive – the “welcome campaign”.
These are messages sent to you as a direct result of you subscribing. Perhaps you opted in by completing a form or by checking a box during the order process. Whatever the action, what you usually expect next is a response of sorts just so you know something did actually happen after you clicked “submit”.
It doesn’t have to be wordy to put you at ease. Just a short “Thanks for registering“ could be enough to reassure you that everything ended up in the right spot. Now, the smart email marketers will capitalise on this heightened attention and will not squander this with a short message. Oh no, they would supply a steady series of well written email messages that not only welcome the person onto the list but also introduce them “around” the website they have subscribed to and the places where the most juicy bits of content are found.
Behaviour-based email sequences or “triggers” like these welcome messages can produce some amazing uplifts in open and click-through rates when compared with normal campaigns. If you are on any North American email lists you would have recently experienced a definite increase in these types of messages coming your way. Yes, they take a bit longer to develop and deploy – but like my earlier note on improving your relevance being something that comes with increased workload – all this extra effort has some subsequent rewards.
Extract your email traffic from your normal direct and referring domain website traffic.
Knowing how big any email marketing rewards will be depends on your ability to identify and measure the effectiveness of all this extra website traffic. So where does your email traffic show up in your web analytics reports?
For those who don’t properly “tag” their links it can either be found in the “direct traffic” or “referring domains” area. Both of these contain lots of other bits of traffic, which really makes it impossible to isolate which visits are from your last email campaign.
Fortunately, Google has a tool that makes it relatively easy to fix this and edit all your website links contained in your email messages so that when they are clicked they are tracked and shown as separate campaigns in your reports. Visit http://bit.ly/oQlqG7 to find out more.
Yes, it takes some extra time to add the extra parts to each link but once it is done you have a reliable way to see how much better or poorer your email traffic is when compared with the other streams of traffic that your website gets.
It should be better – conversion rates on their own should be at least 1.5 or 2 times better. Otherwise, your email messaging is doing a very poor job of “warming up” your prospects.
So there you have it. Just five simple points that could be worth reviewing with your own email marketing during the months ahead. When used properly it can be a powerful part of any online marketing strategy.
I have a friend who has been going through a rough patch these last few months. Nothing financial, nothing tragic, just a general and overriding feeling of not being the happy type of guy he once was. Fortunately, by sharing this change with a few close friends, he found himself referred to an elderly, grey-haired guy at a beachside residence just out of Auckland.
Anyway, last week, over a few beers, my mate shared with me a recent insight the “greyer one” had proffered during his latest session. It would seem life comes with the biggest illusion of them all –namely the belief that we can affect some control over the experiences that come our way. So our health changes, with little regard for our plans; family members do what they want; and then, for those in business, there’s more lack of control than many of us are willing to accept.
But it’s not all bad news. Well, not totally. You see, the grey-haired man from the sea told my mate that all is not totally lost – there was one thing he could control and that was the way he reacted to everything that came his way. Now this person is a bit of a control freak anyway, so being told this news didn’t go down too well. But after some solid debating between himself and his aged advisor he gradually accepted the logic supporting it. And once he had, he admitted to feeling that he had moved one step further away from where he was and, consequently, one step closer to where he wanted to get back to.
All this is good news for him but not so good news for those of us tasked with managing a business. Knowing that we will never really have complete control over our operation is not something most of us want to accept. The appeal of achieving this state of total control sounds so inviting. Just imagine what it would be like. Revenue lines would climb upwards, perfectly mirroring the inclines of our budget graphs, staff would do exactly as their job description said they should and, last but not least, customers would send us a steady stream of the exact type of work we wrote about receiving 12 months prior in the marketing section of our business plans.
But of course it doesn’t work like this. It could be said that all these documents, when viewed in the wrong light, just support the fallacy that they can on their own magically control the business. The true reality is that all they represent are guide posts to help us steer our resources in the correct direction to help us better manage the uncontrolled nature of business. But they are not alone. There are other tactics we can employ to help us along the way.
It would be fair to say that marketing a business contains more ‘un-controllable’ aspects than most. Changing markets and fickle customer needs are just two big problems that should make only the very optimistic among us (some would say foolhardy) think they had complete control over their marketing outcomes. Nevertheless, there is a marketing task that, once completed, will help you capture a smidgen more control over the marketing outcomes you desire, and that’s running an active email marketing strategy.
From my 12 years’ experience in online marketing, I can confidently state that the vast majority of businesses would benefit from adding email marketing to their communications plans. However, of the prospects that come our way, it’s the minority that has something underway. And, I am sorry to say, that when I look through the list of our customers I only see a few who are actively using email in any part of their business.
So what’s wrong?
Well, to help me answer that big question I’ll call on an experience I had only the other week. I was meeting with a business owner who was an email marketing non-practitioner. Over coffee, she was doing a very good job of recounting each and every reason why she hadn’t begun email marketing – even after I had told her to do so a few months prior. Her list was a comprehensive one so I thought I would work through them here – with my answers included – just in case your situation is similar to hers (yes, Rebecca, John, Ray, Claire, Chris, Joanne and Sneha – this part is for you).
To start, she hit with me with the classic, “I don’t know what to write.” She had a consulting business so I told her to take a deep breath, calm down and write some simple stories of the work she had done – protecting people’s privacy along the way. Nothing too involved, nothing too complicated and probably less than 1000 words to start with. She could then finish this with either an offer or some call to action at the end to wrap things up. Short, simple and something that shouldn’t take her days to produce.
Next up I had, “But I don’t know when to send it.” I told her to keep clear of Monday at 9:00am and Friday at 4:30pm and between these to pick a time that best suited her. And yes, when she started out her list would probably be so small that she could possibly hand deliver each edition. But I told her not to worry about this, just to focus on getting that first edition out and about.
“But what should it look like? It needs to look professional.” Well yes, but it doesn’t need to be a work of art either. For instance, when I first started my own printed newsletter I bravely asked for feedback from a few close by clients and was told by one that it reminded him of something his local PTA would send him. Ouch!! For the next edition, I had our designer Ben take control of the look and layout and things improved markedly. But at least I was underway.
I also mentioned to her not to worry about the software she may need to make it all happen. There are more email marketing tools out there now for a list of her size than she would ever hope to imagine. And, fortunately, these tools don’t need a tech guru to drive them for low send volumes and so there was no need to worry about the costs – they are very affordable. Using an existing template with her logo and the finished content shouldn’t cause too much of a headache. It may be a bit minimalist in style but it would look OK to get going with.
“But who should I send it to?” My very short answer – anyone who has given you permission to. If you want to be really clever you could have two different sends, one for your customers and the other for your prospects. But please don’t let clever get in the way of you sending something out.
Take a leaf out of Google’s book and give yourself permission to put the development of your own email marketing strategy into a Beta stage of development. Google’s email client, Gmail, was in Beta for five years and now has over 193 million users monthly. Now personally, I think that five years is a bit long for most but do allow yourself at least the first year to be a work in progress. Try not to be too hard on yourself with those first few editions. Yes, you will look back and possibly cringe but at least you will be able to look back.
And while at this stage you can capitalize on your freshly learned insights by optimizing your efforts further. For example, you could improve your subscription rates – say, by asking more people to join and / or offering more benefits for membership. Or you could improve your production methods, which might include you scheduling one morning a month to sit down and write the darn thing in one go. Maybe use a small notebook (either electronic or physical) during the month to collect items of interest to make the production process even faster (my Evernote account does this for me).
All going well, after a few editions you will start to experience some positive changes to balance out all the extra work you’ve put in. Perhaps a client who hasn’t called for a while may do so after being prompted by reading a recent article. Or it could be that a prospect decides to buy sooner than you would expect – again because they have read and liked what you recently wrote. And perhaps even you will start to look at your business and the solutions you provide in a completely different light all because you have to write about it each month.
When you boil it all down to the underlying basics, email marketing is really just an easy way for you to communicate via email with your customers and prospects. It’s nothing more. And starting a short conversation with them each month, every month, on a subject that interests both you and them is quite handy, and a smart thing to control.
So once that first edition is out and about just do two more things. First – get a coffee, sit back and give yourself a “pat on the back” for a job well done. And secondly, send me a copy to have a look at – don’t worry I’ll be gentle – the fact that you have reached this first edition milestone is the real achievement.
Within every Great Online Marketer there is a McDonald’s Restaurateur Waiting to Get Out
It still amazes me how a bunch of pimply adolescents can successfully run a bustling burger store whether it is in Tokyo, Los Angeles or Masterton. Orders are correctly filled, fries are properly cooked and only a small proportion of the patrons are poisoned in the process! It’s a testament to the strength of the business system that supports McDonalds’s, which ensures that all this happens while a maelstrom of hormones are rushing through the place as fast as cars arrive in the drive through.
Of course, burgers are not the only products that survive on the strength of a great system. Car manufacturing has its own wonder system. For instance, Toyota is a worldwide practitioner of Kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement). Each year tens of thousands of small improvements are made to their manufacturing process as a result of small changes being made under the Kaizen system. Some claim this is the main reason why they are the most profitable car manufacturer on the planet.
Great systems can produce great things, so how can we harness this theory for our own online marketing efforts?
Well, I think that Online Lead Generation is a sitter for a system or two. The obvious one would be the Kaizen approach to gradual improvement, but to make this work you need to have a complete system to start with. This is where a large proportion of lead-generation websites are lacking.
Each month we manage dozens of lead-generation websites on behalf of clients. Each site we look after has its own system of turning new website visitors into sales leads. Some of these lead-generation systems follow a path similar to one that others selling products of the same level of complexity have used before.
The rest use a process that is as unique to them as the markets they work within. Nevertheless, each has its own lead-generation methodology to follow that is built to attract, persuade and then nurture their online prospects.
Once a winning system such as this is established then our work follows the standard Kaizen formula of continuous improvement. Analytics tools tell us where any improvements can be found, while our testing tools allow us to deploy and monitor the success of any changes that are required. However, while any improvements to Toyota’s production line will be assessed in terms of reduced defects, the elimination of waste or the speeding up of production, our changes are aligned to just two goals – improving our customer’s lead quality and quantity.
This work of continuous improvement would fail miserably is there wasn’t a complete system to work with or, even worse, no system in place at all. Fortunately, not many new customers arrive at Permission with no system; however, most marketers have issues in developing a complete system. Yes, they will have a website and some idea of what they want it to do but, no, they haven’t fully documented the complete ‘system’ the website needs to follow to help them achieve their goals.
For instance, I had a call a few weeks ago from a business manager who wanted some advice on how to use their website to sell their mortgage broking services (currently not a market for the faint hearted.) But, while demand may be down, this is still a rather cluttered market of similar service offerings. Just Google “Mortgage Broker”, look at the AdWords ads and see what I mean – they all look very similar.
When I first spoke with them, they commented on how they saw their website’s role in their lead-generation system as taking just two steps. Step one involved it receiving paid traffic from Google AdWords, and step two encompassed the site accepting this traffic and convincing the prospect to pick up the phone and call them. From here the steps went offline – they accepted the call, booked an appointment and then visited the prospect to sell their services. A phone ringing was a sign that the website part of the system was working. Needless to say, things were quiet around the office.
We started optimizing the website process by breaking it down into more measureable and manageable steps. Installing Google Analytics on the website helped us here. Using this tool, we could see what AdWords keywords delivered website visitors who stayed long enough to read any content on the site (there was a reasonable proportion that left within 3 seconds – for the moment these were paused).
Then, from all those who stayed on the site long enough, we tracked those who visited the actual appointment request page. Finally, we looked at the behaviours of those who actually completed the form: where they looked on the page, how long they spent reading, and the problems they were experiencing in filling in their details.
By now our system was looking like this. Step one, attract people who are searching for certain keywords in Google; step two, entice them to a specific page on the website; step three, have them stay long enough to read the copy on the web page; and step four, convince them to fill in the form and request an appointment.
So, where there had been two steps we now had four, and we had a clearer understanding of what needed to be done at each step to achieve improvements. From here, the whole system will get better and better. From what we have seen, the more detail you can add to the steps your website needs to achieve, the easier it is to work on any changes you want to apply. For instance, some of our clients have over a dozen steps to their online lead-generation system, each of which we monitor and manage for them on their website.
And that’s why every part of your McDonald hamburger’s life is fully documented and learnt BEFORE anyone anywhere turns on a hob or fryer to create your next Big Mac. It’s not step one, turn on hob; step two, deliver finished burger. I would imagine there are probably twenty or more steps to be completed before the job is done and your hamburger is ready.
So why not spend some time today to break down your online lead-generation system into at least twice as many steps as you have now? Then you should begin to see how this makes your own Kaizen experience of continuous website improvement an easier job. Or failing that, call us on 09 929 9130 and we can talk you through some of our proven lead-generation systems that may suit your needs.
The Popcorn in Your Google AdWords Account
The price of movie theatre popcorn continues to defy any recessionary trend if my recent Christmas holiday family visit was anything to go by. Last year, I remember reading how that, while these concessions account for only about 20% of a theatre’s gross revenues, they represent some 40% of a theatre’s profits. Apparently, while ticket revenues must be shared with movie distributors, 100% of concession revenue goes straight into an exhibitor’s coffers. Hidden inside those big buckets of mostly air is quite an important economic result for every movie theatre you visit.
Movie theatres are not the only places where seemingly small details of the service, like popcorn, can make a disproportionate difference to the success of the enterprise. Google AdWords has its own batch of hidden economic treasures too. And like movie popcorn, they are frequently missed as one small part of the full solution, when in reality they are responsible for a sizable part of the service’s revenue (for Google that is, not you).
One of these details is the option Google gives you to use broad match keyword terms in your keyword list. It’s their default setting and, not surprisingly really, it provides them with the most control over your final ad spend.
Broad match keyword bidding done badly can remove any reasonable chance of making your Google AdWords spend pay its way. However, conversely, when managed properly it can be the one factor that ensures your campaign succeeds while your competitor’s sucks money day after day. It all comes down to how much control you let Google have over how your broad match keywords are used.
So, let’s cover some background details first before I dive in and provide you with the knowledge on how to make broad match bidding work to your advantage.
But first, let’s have a quick refresher on how ‘broad match’ bidding works. Google allows you to choose three ways to bid on your keywords: broad match, phrase match and exact match. It’s easier if I cover these in reverse order, so here’s some explanation on each.
Exact match is what it says – you bid on [flowers] (with the hard brackets around the keyword in your keyword list) and only those people who type in this exact term will see your ad. Exact match bidding works when you know ‘exactly’ what people are going to type in. Naturally, this is a hard strategy to use on its own – guessing all those keywords can be a real challenge when you are starting out.
Phrase match makes things a bit easier. This is where you bid on a term like “flowers auckland” (now with quote marks around it to denote this match option). This lets your keyword show for terms that include this exact word BUT with additional words either side of the phrase. For instance, cheap flowers auckland, or flowers auckland delivery Epsom.
Broad match takes phrase match and expands it in two ways. First, it allows other search keywords to be placed between any multi bid keyword. For instance, say you are bidding on the multi keyword phrase – wedding flowers – then you will also have your ad presented for these terms: wedding spring flowers and wedding without flowers options.
That should be all quite logical and nothing too scary to worry about. Now here’s the ‘popcorn’ bit. By choosing the broad match option you also allow Google to extend the term using synonyms it thinks are appropriate. It’s a function called ‘expanded broad match’ and can be a problem when you use terms that have many synonyms that you don’t want your ad to show for. For instance, say you are bidding on the single broad match keyword of flowers, you could also have your ad shown for the terms roses, plants, florist, tulips, carnations and even orchids. Now, you may only provide cut flowers and never purchase orchids, which means the last option would be incorrect and would bring the wrong traffic to your page. (That is after someone had spent your money by clicking on your ad after searching for this term.)
Google’s take on using expanded broad match keywords is that they are helping you by showing your ad for keywords that they think are relevant. My take is that this type of matching is not what broad match was originally meant to do and, while it has been around for a few months now, I recommend all those using broad match to be aware of it and take steps to limit its capability to generate costly wasted clicks.
So, how do you find out if this type of matching is causing you a problem? The first step is to find out how much ‘expansion’ is happening with your own broad match terms, and then limit this by deploying the fourth keyword match type – negative match.
Hidden within your Google AdWords Report section is a report called ‘search query performance’ (see the picture below).
This will reveal the exact search terms people typed in before they clicked your AdWords ad. By running this report you will see all the terms that were entered compared with their original broad match keyword. For instance, the broad match term could have been “Auckland florist” and they may have typed in “Auckland business for sale florist”.
Now, you may have a florist business but you may not want to put it up for sale so any terms that relate to this are incorrect and don’t need to fire up your ad. Hence, you are best to make the term “business for sale” a negative keyword (you do this by placing a negative sign before it, i.e. “-business for sale”, and adding it to your keyword list.) Your negative keywords can be at either an Ad Group or Campaign level.
Here’s an example of the power of spending time working on this process. The image to the right shows a snapshot of results for a Google AdWords campaign we took over a few months ago. This is for a business that sells only part of a range of a widely used product. They were bidding on a lot of broad match terms with hardly any negative keywords. Each month they ended up buying traffic for searchers looking for the part of the range they didn’t stock. What’s more, the synonym match algorithm was causing problems. It was a bit of a costly mess.
Note how after adding a long list of relevant negative keywords we were able to drop the impression count by 88.5%, increase the click through rate of the ads by 250%, and slash the spend in half by ensuring the ads were only shown for product keywords the company actually stocks.
So there you have it. It pays to be aware of how Google treats the broad keywords you have in your account. Why not run the search query report today and see what it turns up? You may be unpleasantly surprised.
Making Sense of Google Adsense
Tapping into a steady, reliable stream of visitor traffic is usually the first goal when optimising a website. The Google AdWords advertising system is usually up for this job. Once set up properly, it will faithfully divert those searching for products like yours to the right pages of your website. All you have to do is add four lines of advertising text next to the search results displayed in Google.
However, sometimes you need alternatives to Google’s search advertising. For instance, you may have exhausted all the search traffic you can find. Or perhaps the opposite is true, and you just can’t get the search advertising system to perform. This could well motivate you enough to start looking into Google’s other advertising option – its content placement solution.
With the content network your adverts are displayed on websites rather than next to search results. Website owners who participate in the Google Adsense system allow Google to place its content advertising on their website. For this they receive a cut of the advertising fees charged to advertisers whose ads they host. Needless to say, there are thousands of websites participating.
For those new to content advertising it’s important to realise that it’s a completely different advertising ‘beast’ to manage compared with its larger search cousin. Strategies that worked well with search advertising could well bomb with content advertising. When dealing with an advertising engine that can suck up as much budget as you give it – with possibly limited returns – it pays to understand what these differences are before you start parting with your hard-earned money.
To help out here’s a list of five of the most common questions I’m asked about Google’s content advertising system, and their respective answers. These should fill any knowledge gaps you may have. Just knowing answers to a few questions could save you a fair chunk of time and money in your advertising endeavours.
Question 1: What’s the core difference in the types of prospects this network delivers?
Think of search advertising as a tool to locate prospects who are in the early stages of their quest for information whereas content advertising attracts those further down their path of research. For instance, aprospect just starting out may type into the Google search engine the term ’employment law advice’ and be presented with a list of results that lead to all manner of websites.
As they work through this list they may come across a forum on the exact subject area they are interested in. The publisher of this forum could be using Google’s Adsense system to display content advertising to support the ongoing costs of running the site. Therefore, somewhere near a forum post your prospect reads, they could also come across your content ad. Thankfully this includes copy that appeals, prompting them to click further and arrive on your website.
The terms ‘come across’ and ‘stumble upon’ may help you build a picture of the state of mind your prospect is in when they see your content advertising. It’s a much more passive experience than searchers viewing search ads.
Question 2: How should I set up my Google campaigns for this type of advertising?
It’s best to set up a separate campaign to manage your content advertising. The stark differences in the type of prospects you attract with content campaigns and the unique ways in which the campaign needs to be set up make it too hard to run a campaign that mixes both content and search advertising together. Be aware also that, when setting up any new campaign, Google turns on both content and search advertising by default, so please ensure you de-select one or the other, depending on what you want your campaign to do.
Question 3: How are my content ads matched to the web pages that display them?
There are two ways Google achieves this. The first is by matching your chosen keywords against any content found on the advertiser’s web page. This is very similar to the search network; however, it’s a few levels up in smartness.
For example, unlike search advertising, where if you bid on the term ‘java’ your ad will be shown to both those seeking coffee AND the similarly named programming language, with content advertising your ‘java’ driven coffee bean advert is only shown on website pages talking about coffee.
The other way to pick where your content ads are shown is by selecting the exact website and web page you want your ad to be seen on. For instance, the Google advertising engine will display a category-driven list of websites (sport, business, health – there are a lot of options) for you to pick and choose where you want your ad displayed. This process can be quite granular and allows you to specify an exact web page for your ad to show on any site you choose.
Question 4 – What types of ads can I use?
Google’s content advertising allows you to break free of the text-only options that limit the search advertising network. And, while text is still an option, you can also place image ads (of varying sizes) and even flash and video ads within the content network. However, more sites support text advertising than images, and if images are supported at all then sometimes only a few sizes are available.
That said, if you can use images on a site you want to advertise on, I suggest you give it a go. All this extra space to tell your compelling story can make a large difference in your click-through rates when compared with a text alternative.
Question 5: How can I track the sales and leads that I get from my content advertising?
Google’s regular conversion tracking tools, which are so handy with search advertising, are fortunately also supported in the content network. These allow you to track sales or leads and see which website was responsible for each event, even down to the web page the prospect was on when they clicked your ad.
While this is the last question on the list, setting up your conversion events is likely to be the first task you complete when setting up any content campaign. Being unable to fine tune your advertising because you haven’t set up this part of the system is one sure way to waste a lot of time and money with any paid advertising network.
Bonus Question: How much does all this cost?
Unlike search advertising, where the only model is cost per click, content advertising provides two options – cost per click and cost per impression. The cost per click pricing model is very similar to search advertising, so no further explanation is required here. Cost per impression pricing, however, can work against you if not set up properly, so requires some further comment.
An impression is a unique page load your prospect makes on any page your content ad is presented. So, if after 1000 page loads your ad is clicked 100 times, and you pay $2.00 per 1000 page loads, then your cost per click is $2.00/100 = 2 cents – a click cost so low that you may struggle to improve on this with search advertising.
So far so good. However, if your ad is placed so far down the page that it is not seen each time the page is loaded and the site is very busy, then the story is quite different. For instance, from 10,000 page loads you may only achieve 10 clicks, and at $2.00 per 1000 page loads, your click cost is now $20/10 = $2.00 – a cost you could well better with search advertising.
Hence, purchasing your content advertising on a cost per impression basis needs some careful consideration. Remember that throughout all this, a click cost of $2.00 from your content campaign could be fine if those clicks go on to provide a 50% conversion rate on your landing page – leaving you with a very attractive cost per lead.
So there you have it, six snapshots to introduce you to the content advertising network and go some way to explain the differences between it and its much larger search advertising cousin. In some lead generation cases, traffic from this network is the only traffic that generates leads, while others successfully use a mix of both content and search advertising.
Why not give it a try and see how you fare or, failing that, ask the team at Permission to help you out?
Five Example Frameworks to Solve Your Newsletter Content Problems
You need to create another email newsletter and are struggling with what to write. No need to worry, you are not alone. Creating an ongoing stream of original content that will appeal to your subscribers and achieve the outcome you want is one of the hardest jobs for an online marketer. However, sometimes just knowing the framework your content should fit within can be all you need to get going.
Here are five content frameworks to use in this way. Each will guide you on the type of content to create for the specific type of prospect/customer email audience. It’s by no means a complete list, but should cover a good share of the common publishing options.
Framework 1: Member-Based Organisations and their Members
This group is the easiest to produce content for. They are usually hungry to receive all the news you can provide and the problems lay more with how to present it in an easily digestible form. That said, I have witnessed publishers go overboard with an audience like this and cram their newsletter with content that is loosely linked to the members’ needs, just to fill space. The end result – falling email click throughs and lagging message open rates. Relevance still matters, even for an audience hungry for more.
Members want to keep in touch, whether by a newsletter containing four articles or nine, it doesn’t really matter. Therefore, try not to fall into the trap of grabbing content from anywhere just to make up the article numbers. It is better to keep the newsletter short and relevant than risk abusing the email attention you have.
Getting members to subscribe to your list should also be a simple task. A large percentage will want to remain updated – it’s usually just their choice of delivery formats that determines whether they pick your email option. However, if you only provide an email version, you should be assured of a large percentage on your list.
Framework 2: Knowledge Service Providers – Prospect Audience
You will notice that I have split the next two industry segments into half again, with separate commentary for prospects and customers. Each group has their own needs and if you combine them into one list you risk sending them content that that tries to appeal to both, but ends up alienating all.
Lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers and even website marketing consultants would fit neatly within this Knowledge Service Providers category. All of them survive on the value of their knowledge. Proving this level of competency to their prospects is the first goal for their content. Case studies and testimonials are the common subject areas used to build the required level of trust and credibility during the early stages of the prospect nurturing process. Selling comes later, and will only work once this early stage has been adequately achieved.
The frequency at which your messages are delivered during these stages needs careful consideration too. A monthly publication cycle could well be too long a gap for those first few trust-building messages to do their work. Greater effect could be achieved with a much shorter delivery cycle. Then, once complete, your message content can subtly shift to guide your prospect into taking the first simple steps towards becoming a new customer.
For this industry category, the best strategy is usually to use great content as bait to entice prospects to join your email list. A general ‘subscribe to my newsletter’ just won’t cut it with an audience with expectationsof receiving valuable knowledge. Therefore, free reports, white papers and tip sheets that offer quick snapshots of intellectual value tend to do the best job of attracting prospects onto the list.
Framework 3: Knowledge Service Providers – Customer Audience
For most knowledge workers, creating newsletter content for a customer communication is not an issue. They know a lot of valuable ‘stuff’ and are usually keen to tell this to all those who will listen. However, the issue here is how to best use this content to achieve its ideal eventual goal of generating more customer work.
Because of this, content is best presented as detailed but not necessarily complete. Perhaps you could provide an overview of a complex subject area, with the subtle hint that those interested in knowing more will require a further engagement. The content needs to provide the customer value, but it doesn’t have to tell the complete story.
Like the members mentioned in the first framework, customers of knowledge suppliers are usually very keen to remain in touch and as such show a strong likelihood to join a regular newsletter list. Email is the normal format but it isn’t always the best option.
Those capable of churning out a few thousand words a month and who are willing to go through the extra expense and time of physical publication can be rewarded with an improved customer response to their printed newsletter compared to an email alternative, because of the higher perceived value of the printed version.
Framework 4: General Product Providers – Customer Audience
Accommodation providers, home furnishing shops, printers and cafes all fall into this category. Really, it includes any business that provides a product or service that is so functional in its use that it creates a minimal amount of material for newsletter content. There’s only so much you can write about an apartment, a toaster or a latte!
In these situations, the regular newsletters that succeed tend to move their focus away from the product itself and onto the people who deliver it. By doing so, they naturally focus on the ‘packaging’ that surrounds their generic product that sustains their market differentiation.
So, my wife loves the email newsletter that comes from La Cigale, a French-style Market in Parnell, not because of the occasional comments it includes on the recently arrived products, but because of the page or so describing the highlights of the owners’ recent buying trip to France.
I take great pleasure in reading a reasonably frequent email newsletter from a travel agent in Auckland, not because of the flight deals that it contains (I always assume that when I need them they are going to be competitive anyway), but because of the few humorous words he begins each edition with on such disparate subjects as managing teenagers at home.
These two newsletters don’t have a large commitment in terms of copy, a few hundred words at best. But they are enough to lighten up what is normally a boring ‘business talk only’ domain that fills most newsletters and introduce you to the people behind the products.
Enticing customers of general products onto your email list can be hard. Some businesses try the assumptive close method and just start sending editions once a new customer email address hits their database. With the history of a prior business transaction, they are within the realms of the New Zealand Anti-Spam Legislation to do this. But it’s not the best method. Ideally, you want a conscious opt-in to come from your customer. To achieve this, you need to ‘sell’ the subscription. This can be offers, latest deals, any content really that you can promote that makes joining a logical step for those customers you approach.
Framework 5: General Product Providers – Prospect Audience
I have left the hardest group till last – prospects of general products. This is where email newsletters can unravel into an ugly mess on the floor.
So, to recap – the scenario is that you offer a general style product, and your unique difference may well not be the product itself (others could offer very similar versions elsewhere) but is more likely your professional staff or the superior service you provide. These things are experienced only when people actually purchase from your team – something your prospects have yet to witness. To them you are just a purveyor of sameness. Somehow you need to communicate this difference – and this is usually a task that email struggles with.
Email is a medium that needs consent to work, and consent is given when there is perceived value to be had. As mentioned before, value that is experienced by consuming products or services is hard to communicate to people who have not yet consumed them. That’s why, even if you paid me, I wouldn’t opt into a newsletter from an apartment complex in Wellington if I haven’t stayed there. Or a printer in Auckland I hadn’t bought from, or a homeware shop in Dunedin I hadn’t shopped in. I’m not alone either – the stats I see prove this point.
However, there is a way around this, but it takes some extra effort, which means most business owners in this space will avoid it. Somehow you need to morph your obvious areas of differentiation from consumption into non-consumption areas. For example, your apartment complex could be promoted as one that has the needs of the mountain biker who is new to Wellington in mind. Situated close to the trails, they could offer a regular newsletter updating people on the latest news, including great weekend accommodation deals.
Or the printer could become New Zealand’s pre-eminent source of presentation folders, with hundreds on offer, all supported with a monthly newsletter on sales advice about how to make your sales presentation work – once it arrives in one of their professional folders.
See what is happening? The general product provider is becoming a knowledge provider that just happens to offer a general product at the same time. It’s a sure fire way to use effective communication to distance yourself from those suffering from poor differentiation by non-consuming prospects.
I trust you can use one of these five frameworks to help kick-start your next piece of content publication work. Some require less work to implement than others, depending on the needs of your audience and the product/service you offer. Whichever group you fit into, get stuck into the work ahead and start sending the right copy to the right audience and you will be amazed at the results you can achieve.
Last week a prospective new customer came through to our offices to chat about an email campaign they wanted to run. Nothing new here – it happens all the time – the only issue was that they wanted the campaign to help them launch their software business.
They had built the product themselves, already had over 100 customers, and were keen to push ahead to grow this even more in the local market before targeting those overseas.
Someone somewhere had convinced him that email marketing was the cheapest way to grow a business. And, as the product delivered most of its benefits online, it seemed a simple task to send a list of prospects a message showing them the product in all its glory.
Apparently they knew of someone who could get them a list of prospects that filled their ideal customer profile so all they wanted from us was an email template and some technology to send the lead generation message on its way. I was asked how I would go about setting up such a campaign, the technology I would use and when I could start with a draft design. I took a deep breath before delivering my answer.
Email marketing can do some great things but unfortunately making the first contact in a lead generation process is not one of them. Firstly, being an illegal practice makes it a bit of a non-starter, but even so the process never worked before the Act came into force.
People need to be convinced and sold to when approached about a product they know nothing about. The scant few seconds of attention an email message attracts makes this process extremely difficult – if not impossible – to achieve.
There was stunned silence as I told the customer the news. I filled the gap with another suggestion, talking him through the classic lead generation process that people follow with this type of problem to solve. Firstly, the product was complex enough to need a good few minutes of the prospect’s time. The actual demonstration of what it did could be done in a few minutes – the real time would be taken up explaining how it was different from the other competing products and the new benefits users could now receive that they were missing out on by continuing to use the better known competitor.
To do all this justice we needed to get a document of sorts into the hands of a prospect. Someone had to author a few words that touched on the key points in a way that would entice this audience to part with their personal details in order to receive it. It needed to include content written with the prospect in mind rather than a thinly disguised sales document. Once produced this document would be presented on the website for prospects to receive. At this point I was given the site URL and shown what content was already there – things were not going too well – the copy needed work.
Yes, it explained all that the product could do in fine, accurate detail complimented with beautiful screen shots and screeds of text but there was something important lacking – benefits. The pages were packed with features – all the things the product did, but devoid of benefits – what the product could do for prospects.
Luckily there were some big differences in the types and amounts of benefits this product offered compared with others on the market so there was a lot of material to work with – it just wasn’t there. But even if we packed in all the benefits available, we were still lacking another important ingredient – emotion.
People buy for emotional reasons and justify their purchase using rational means. I don’t know how many times I have read this sentence or words like it in copywriting books but it was only when I saw with my own eyes the strong lift in response rate due solely to a more emotionally driven copy being used that I realised the statement was true.
Again the product had some great content to work with. It was used by people to solve a problem that had a whole raft of emotions wrapped around it. Fear, ego, pride – they were all there ready to be subtly leveraged to get the sales message across to convince people to either download the report or ask for an online demonstration.
Once I get going I tend to babble on a bit and the silence remained when I stopped at the ‘then you just need to find prospect traffic’ bit.
What had started out to be a simple email send was now a complex list of new tasks. Coffee helped to settle things down, as did a whiteboard that could print out the final process we scribbled together when mapping out what needed to be done, and by whom.
There’s no getting away from it, online lead generation is a complex process to set up. Fortunately, I was sitting across the table from a prospect who was: a) willing to listen while I gave some rather frank feedback on what he had achieved so far; b) keen to put the hard work in to move ahead; and c) pleasantly comforted by the Permission 100% money-back service guarantee. All the hard work is worth it once you have an offer that really resonates with your prospect audience. As an example, we received this testimonial from one of our lead generation clients a few weeks back.
€œThere have been times when we haven’t been able to cope with the amount of online sales leads Permission has generated for us.€ Graeme Norton, Select Cleaning, Auckland Area Manager.
Contact us today if you are interested in using this service yourself.
Once you install even the most basic of website analytics tools it will not be long before you are overwhelmed by the number of reports on offer and promptly underwhelmed by the amount of actionable information you now have at your fingertips.
However, one simple statistic that can have you reaching for your content management system to start making changes is the humble bounce rate – expressed as both an aggregate value over your website and as an individual value for each of the web pages.
A ‘bounce’ is calculated when a visitor comes to a page on your site, looks at it for a nominal small amount of time (a few seconds at most) and then leaves. It’s like you walking into a shop, looking around and immediately deciding, based on what you could see, that the shop wasn’t for you and promptly leaving – all within a few moments of arriving.
The statistic is shown as a percentage point. An aggregate bounce rate for a whole site should be between 20% and 40%. Some pages you would expect to have high bounce rates – ‘contact us’ pages, the ‘thank you’ pages from forms (in these cases people have completed their task and are ready to naturally move onto another site). Other pages with high values are revealing deeper problems that need attention.
To help you get to grips with this handy statistic I have come up with a brief overview of just four cases in which to put your bounce rate values to work.
Firstly, check the bounce rate on the web pages that greet your first time visitors. Search engines are re-defining the entrance points onto your website. The latest statistics I have reveal that over 70% of Internet traffic starts at a search engine. So while you may want everyone to start at the home page, there’s a good chance their visit could begin with the webpage that the search engine determines best matches their keyword search.
By checking which pages carry the most site entrance traffic you can avoid the common mistake of optimising the navigation and bounce rate of your home page (incorrectly thinking it is the page that carries the bulk of your inbound traffic) when the majority of your search engine traffic could be arriving at a poorly optimised product page deeper within your site.
Next, sort your high traffic pages by bounce rate – focusing on those with the higher percentages first. If there is no strong reason why people should be leaving (contact form or thank you page) then go to work on the content the page carries and the navigation options people can access.
Finally, if you are buying Google Adwords traffic for your site and you have Adwords properly configured to integrate with your website analytics tools then you can track the bounce rate of this traffic as a total and for each individual keyword you are bidding on.
Keywords that show a high bounce rate are either being delivered to the wrong pages on your sites or they are delivering prospects to your site who are looking for something else. Your choices are either to re-work your content or review why you are bidding on the term in the first place.
Each and every day people ‘bounce off’ your website and its pages because they are not happy with what they’ve found. You can’t please everyone but knowing the percentage of visitors that are willing to stay longer and where on your site they are more prone to bounce goes some way to ensuring you own an effective website.
In this month’s coaching update I took the group through a great tool from Google (which is, of course, free) that makes the task of testing web pages a breeze. You can now set up a test between two web pages in minutes. Your question is – what should I test, and probably more importantly, why should I embark on a testing program anyway?
So, like most people who only have a limited amount of time to spend on their website, it helps to appreciate the core commercial benefits a successful testing plan can produce before allocating some valuable time to it. The table that follows helps explain these benefits. I have borrowed this from a recent Google presentation I sat in on. It covers what they call the multiplication effect of testing by showing how someone who is using AdWords (Google’s paid advertising option) to generate a lead flow could choose between three options when considering creating more customers: they could increase their advertising spend, raise their conversion rates by 50% or, the best of the three, do both.
|Raise Spend 50%
|Raise Conversion Rate 50%
So, by choosing the third option (remember this was a Google presentation so increasing the ad spend was always going to be part of the solution) this marketer is able to increase sales by more than 2-fold (from 200 to 450 customers) while only increasing their ad spend by 50%. Not bad for just taking a conversion rate up by a mere 1%.
The news on testing is even better with lead-generation websites. Here, unlike a shopping site where achieving a 1% increase in conversion requires a reasonable amount of work, with lead generation you can easily push rates upwards by 5-7% without breaking into too much of a sweat. It all comes down to the level of convincing/persuasion you need to apply. Persuading someone to fill in a form to retrieve a free report is a lot easier than asking them to part with their money and buy something from you for the first time.
So we can now see that testing makes good commercial sense – the question still remains, what should I test?
Well, for lead-generation websites the three ingredients that make up the ’conversion cocktail’ are: a) the headline; b) the image used in the header; and c) the first piece of copy below the headline. When all three are in sync then good conversions follow.
So, we recommend you get the whiteboard out and start brainstorming some options. If the discussion becomes a bit heated over what version is best, then just hand the decision over to your web visitors and let them choose. Your creative folk may have a convincing argument on why their image should be used at the top of the landing page instead of the ’boring’ one that is currently there – just test the two and see which one works the best.
This brings me onto to the types of testing you can use. The header image test example I spoke about before would be set up as a simple A/B split test. This is where the web page traffic is evenly split between the two examples. Multiple versions can be tested against each other (A,B,C,D,E, e.t.c) but to start we suggest you go with a couple of obviously different pages to see what happens.This last point is quite important. One way to decide if the difference is obvious to your visitors is to print each of them out, hold them at arm’s length and see if you can spot the difference.
The next step up from A/B testing is multivariate testing. This is where you test more than one change at a time on a single page. You may want to test three headlines, four images and two different copy introductions. I recommend you head into this territory once you have cut your teeth on its simpler cousin. It’s a bit harder to set up and requires a lot more traffic for the test to run.
The number of conversion actions each of your tests achieves will determine which one is the winner. For lead-generation websites, these conversions are usually represented by prospects successfully submitting a form to receive some sort of report. However, the success of E-commerce websites will be gauged by sales. This last point could be cause for concern. For example, most tests will require about 30 conversions per option before you can start to reliably predict a winner. If you have two options of a shopping cart page running on an e-commerce website that only produces 20 sales a month, you could be waiting three months for your test to run. This is obviously too long. One way to get around this is to test actions that lead towards a conversion action rather than the conversion action itself. For instance, you could test the state at which a person either registers or logs into their account to start a transaction. There will be a lot more visitors doing this than completing sales, and by driving more people successfully through this stage it can only help build your final sales volume.
So there you have it. I hope these few words have gone some way to convince you to allocate some of your ‘website time’ to putting in place a testing program to drive your conversion rates upwards.