Sunday, November 27, 2005

Follow-Through is Critical to Online Marketing Efforts

In Web marketing, just as in hitting a golf ball, swinging a baseball bat or kicking a football, the importance of follow-through can’t be overstated. In sports, failing to complete the motion means a shorter drive, hit or kick – in other words, you won’t achieve the desired result. The same holds true for marketing. Launching a campaign or activity without the proper follow-through can mean poor results and/or unnecessary cost.

For example, one company I spoke with had spent a considerable sum of money on a search engine optimization (SEO) project for their site – but never bothered to monitor the change in their search engine positioning. When a (smart) consultant followed up with them later, he investigated and discovered that their search position had barely budged. Had the company known this sooner, they may have been able to get extra work or a partial refund from the SEO firm, depending on contract terms. They would have at least known that their investment hadn’t really paid off.

Another company developed an extensive set of keywords and launched a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. However, they monitored the program only at the very highest level: total pay-per-click (PPC) spending, and total click-throughs. They did no keyword optimization, no bid optimization, and worst of all, no conversion tracking. So, they essentially knew how much they were spending and how many clicks they got, but had no idea which keywords were drawing well or poorly, how effective their headlines and copy were, or even whether any of the traffic actually converted to paying customers.

Finally, there is the all-too-common example of Avery. I’ve written about this office products company’s Web site before here, and that analysis still holds true – the company does have an excellent site overall, one that is feature-rich and does a lot of things right. However, they fall down in an area that is common, particularly for large-company sites: their “Contact Us” information is extremely limited, giving site visitors no way to contact individual departments within the company, much less individual employees. And their follow-up is, as is again all too common, virtually non-existent. Companies invest in Web sites in order to drive business.

Putting together a great Web site and then not responding to your site visitors is like opening a restaurant and then ignoring all of those people sitting at your tables. What’s the point?

The bottom line is, as one of my former colleagues was fond of saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Online marketing can be a powerful tool for promoting your business, if done right. Don’t launch a campaign of any kind without measurement built in first. Monitor and measure your results so you can adjust variables (such as copy, headlines, keywords and bids) to maximize your response and optimize your spending. Make it easy for prospects to contact you, and if one raises their hand, by all means contact them – not through an auto-responder but through a real live employee of your company – as quickly as possible.

*****

Terms: online marketing campaigns, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, search engine positioning, auto-responders, SEM

The Web marketing resource portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Talk to a Customer

Marketing professionals too often get caught up in communicating with "markets" to remember that a market is an abstract construct. "Markets" don't buy anything -- people, that is customers, do.

It's a great exercise for marketers to occasionally talk to a real customer. Ask the sales representative in charge of the account first: in some companies, this is required, and in any case it's good practice. You'll need to assure the sales rep that you are not checking up on them; you are rahter trying to determine how well your department is doing in helping them to be more effective. No one likes someone looking over their shoulder. Everyone likes help.

Ask a customer three key questions:

- How well does our company seem to understand your problems?

- What do we do really well?

- Where could we improve?

The purpose of the first question is to determine how well your marketing literature is hitting the mark, and to find out if you are really speaking your customer's language. You may be promoting feaure A of your product, when feature C is what customers really care about.

The second question is open-ended: you are trying to determine, broadly, what your company does well. This is what to promote. Your customer has just told you your value proposition -- not what you think your value proposition is, but what your customers percieve.

The third question is more focused -- you are looking for an answer specifically related to communication. How well are you getting your message out to customers? Are you advertising in the right trade magazines? Is your Web site effective? If your customers are telling you to lower your price, well -- why wouldn't they? That's mildly interesting, but not in the least helpful. Drill down to get to answers that tell you specifically how you can communicate to your customers and prospects more effectively.

It's amazing what you can learn when you connect with actual flesh-and-blood customers, rather than thinking in terms of abstract markets.

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Terms: customer communications, Web site marketing, market research

The Web marketing resource portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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