Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Money is made in recessions

I have heard the saying and advice that "money is made during a recession" a few different times during my life, but wasn't really sure what it meant. Now going through one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory and having my own business I get to see first hand what that advice means and how it works.

During a recession unemployment rises and incomes fall. Simple economics. Normally this isn't an issue if the average person or business isn't over extended or have too much debt. A family that lives within their means for example can usually survive a short time with one spouse out of work. Businesses are the same way. However what is making this economy particularly bad for both is that as a nation we are way over extended on debt and that goes for both businesses and individuals. With home and stock values falling and unemployment running very high people have to sell things to make ends meet. Bargains are out there.

I know it seems somehow dirty to "take advantage" of people who are desperate, but you need to look at the other side of the coin. This person or business that is selling something needs cash now - not stuff - and while they can't sell whatever it is they are selling for as much cash as they may want, getting no money for it is probably worse. Their economic circumstances actually get better by being able to sell something for cash and you get a good deal. This is happening with houses, stocks, and other things.

So where I am going with this. Well, one thing that also happens during a downturn is that businesses pull back on spending for advertising and marketing. They view it as an expense not an investment; first mistake. During this period
all business do the same thing. Those companies that continue to invest in marketing actually get noticed more because so few businesses are continuing to spend that there is less competition against your marketing efforts. In addition, companies that continue to market during a recession can often buy services and ad space cheaper and get a bigger bang for their dollar because they get a larger voice as it is called in the industry. With less competition from other ads the chances their ads are noticed increases.

Those businesses that continue to invest in their growth will not only get a better deal, but also increase their market share. There are still customers with money out there, your job is to find them. Marketing during a downturn helps you do that. Hiding in the hills and hoping for the best is exactly what all of your competitors are also doing. Do you want to be like them or would you rather be prospering? If you chose the later than copying their strategy logically isn't the best idea.

I will repeat how I started this post money is made in recessions. If you invest now you will gain market share, get more for your money, find good deals on both services and ad space and when the economy does turn around you will be flush with cash and new business. Poke your head in the sand and hope for a brighter day tomorrow and you will come out of this with less cash, less market share and weaker business.

Some of the best investments you can make right now is Internet marketing. Also a well written direct response marketing package or online promotion written by an experienced direct response copywriter can have a wonderful return on your investment. If I can help anyone do that please give me a call.

If you happen to be in the Toledo Area there is a fantastic advertising and marketing conference coming up on October 9th, 2009. We have a fantastic speaker, Mark LeBlanc, as the keynote speaker as well as various break out sessions where yours truly will be speaking and presenting on Internet marketing. If you would like to learn more check out the web site for the event.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Matt Cutts Discusses Google Use of Meta Tags

Here is a new video by Matt Cutts on how Google uses meta tags in search results...

I have had my doubts for a while now that meta keywords tag was used much, if at all, by Google. I know many SEO consultants shared the same opinion. Here is Matt confirming that Google doesn't use this particular meta tag in their search criteria. Over the years I have heard a lot of uninformed SEO "gurus" talk about the all powerful keyword meta tag. I hope this video finally puts to rest this tired myth.

However what I find most interesting about this video is not Matt's confirmation about the meta keyword tag usage, but how Google DOES use the meta description tag. If you put a meta description tag in there Google may use part or all of that to display a description of your web site. I have also known this for a few years and advocate that people write persuasive, direct response, type descriptions. Please note, I didn't say keyword filled-barely readable-pile of crap description. I have read in other places how you should "keyword stuff" your meta description tag. However please notice HOW Matt mentioned Google uses this tag. He didn't say it was used in search criteria, but he did say it might be used entirely or partly as your site description. I think this is an important point so I don't want to lose anyone here. Now to be fair he also didn't say that is wasn't used either, but either way I think there is a better way to use the meta description tag.

Why do I care so much about this tag being used as part of the description for the site? Direct response advertising. The goal of any pay to click ad and search result is to get a real live person to click on your ad or search result. Your only chance to do that well is with a description that entices people that THIS is the web site they are really searching for. I read the descriptions all the time before clicking on the search results and it amazes me how many of them aren't included in a site or terribly written. Remember based on what Matt is saying a user will read this because of where Google displays it and then determine if that description is really enticing enough or persuasive enough to get them to click on the link and actually visit the site. This is where a good direct response copywriter can be his or her weight in gold.

Remember it won't do you a bit of good to have a top ten listing if nobody ever clicks on your search link or very few people do. However if you have a very well written description that utilizes good copywriting and persuasive and direct response oriented language and strategy you might boost the number of people that do click on it. More clicks equals for conversions. The bottom line is improved sales. Don't blow the description meta tag by listening to a half brained, uninformed "SEO consultant" that doesn't know how it is used and tells you to dump a bunch of keywords in there that don't make a lot of sense to a user actually reading the description.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Twitter to Allow Advertising

I came across this news announcement this morning about Twitter changing their policies and now allowing advertising. You can read the news release here. I think this is an interesting development for a few reasons. First, some of the most successful advertising on the web has been content based, which means that the the advertiser generally tries to match up ads with the content that is most closely associated with it.

As people read content or search for specific items they are served up ads that relate to what they are reading or searching for in many cases. Most people probably look at this as yet another source of information or products related to what they are doing at the moment. However I am not sure how that would work on Twitter. With so many tweets going on about different topics and different people chiming in at any given time I think it may be more difficult to serve up ads that are relative to the conversation at any given time. In my opinion that may depress the response of those ads. Of course as a direct marketer I never know the answer to these types of questions without actually testing it, but it certainly seems logical that this is a distinct possibility.

In the release Sean Corcoran, analyst at Forrester, said "You can combine research and public relations and CRM and direct marketing in one place, both quantitatively and qualitatively, which is very strong," I agree with this up to his comment about direct marketing. Direct marketing is a very different animal than PR. At the moment I am not sure how he is making the leap that this move by Twitter incorporates direct marketing. In fact, I think that it is the direct marketing element that may be missing from the equation as stated above.

However the concept of linking CRM and PR together is extremely intriguing. Typical CRM data comes from touches with a customer as a the result of delivering a product or service to a customer from departments like sales, marketing, shipping, accounting, etc., but typically not PR. I happen to be of the school of thought that social media is revolutionizing the way we learn about customer wants and needs to be able to gather that information and somehow integrate it into CRM gives a much more full picture of a customer than marketers may have had before.

It will be interesting to see how this change in Twitter actually turns out and what the benefits ultimately become.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If you are one of the people out there experiencing a bit of hard luck right now and need a job then this is a must attend event. Our topic this month is focusing on helping people use social media to land a great job.

Remember most jobs are filled by referral from knowing people who can help you discover open positions and get interviews. Social media will help you take that natural networking process to a new level and help you land that next great job. Program registration is from 7:30 to 8:00 with the program starting promptly at 8:00 to 9:00. The cost is $20 at the door or $15 if you register online at...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Internet Marketing Consulting for Free

I came across this great video on Alan Weiss's blog. It is hillarious and unfortunately way too real for people in my field of Internet marketing and I am sure Alan posted it because of how true it is in all consulting fields.

If you happen to be one of the clients in this video let me ask if this looks any different from our side of the table.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Toledo Social Media Breakfast 4 - July 10th, 2009

We didn't want to crash everyone's Freedom day celebration known as 4th of July weekend, so we have moved the Social Media Breakfast this month to the Friday after the 4th; therefore the event will be on July 10th this month same place (Elks Lodge in Sylvania Ohio) and at the same time (7:30 to 8:00 is registration. program starts at 8:00) and the same price ($15.00 advanced registration or $20 at the door) Now onto the important stuff, content. This month we chose to put together a program for how to use social media marketing for non-profits.

Let's face it some of the hardest working people are the tireless employees and volunteers of non-profit organizations. This economy stinks right now, which makes these wonderful people have to work even harder to keep from losing ground.
We decided that we would focus one entire breakfast on their unique needs for marketing and communication by showing them how to use social media to communicate with their constituency, volunteers, donors, and the community.

These groups have such a great message to tell we hope that coming to our breakfast will help them learn how to tell it better and it in a different channel.
This session would be a great learning experience for employees of non-profits, volunteers, and board members. If you fall into any of these categories you should take a morning and come and learn. You will walk away with a unique perspective of how to use this amazing communication channel to tell the world your story.

When: July 10th

Time: 8:00 A.M.

Where: Elks Lodge on Holland Sylvania in Sylvania

Cost: $15 advanced registration
$20 at the door.

See you there!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Google Study Shows Execs Are Viewing Web

A few years back there was a survey that came out that cited how many CEO had never accessed the Internet. We have come a long way since those days. B2B magazine came out with this study by Google showing that C-level execs are indeed viewing the web and using it for research.

If these execs are using the web first hand what are they finding when they come to YOUR site? Do they find a web site that is a template or has all kinds of poorly written copy with lots of misspellings in it? Worse do you have a web site up or is it something you "will get around to"?

Most small and medium sized business owners would kill to have 10 minutes to speak directly to a C-level executive. Entire sales books have been written on how to circumvent the "gate keeper" and get those precious few minutes with the C-level executive. When you do actually get in front of them you are pushing your message at them and hoping to interest them enough to ask you for more information or a meeting to discuss it further. Unfortunately pushing your message at anyone is not the best way to get them to remember or take action. How would you like to change that psychology?

According to this study a web site now meets all of these things and more...
  1. Direct Communication: According to this study there is no gate keeper the executive is willing to go and read this stuff themselves. They are not delegating it and they aren't being tricked into going. They are doing it willingly.

  2. Different Psychology: When you reach an exec the old fashioned way by scheming past his gate keeper you are pushing your message at him or her. With web site they are pulling the message to them... totally different psychology and mind set to have your potential buyer in. They are actively involved by clicking and reading their way through your site. They are taking in your message as opposed to trying to repel your message in the old paradigm.
However all of these benefits are lost if you have a poor web site or worse no web site at all. Having a poor web presence is like meeting this executive face to face and being dressed in sweat pants and a dirty T-shirt. Not having a web site is like standing this executive up for a meeting you had scheduled. Most people would never consider doing the either of these so why would you have a web site or no web site that does exactly that?

Assume this exec comes to your site and it is clean and neat as well as being well written. The exec is not immedately offended by the appearance or the copy which means you are starting off on the right track. Now problem two surfaces, what are you doing on the site to get the executive to take action and become a qualified lead?

Most sites do a very poor job at moving the visitors to their web site from casual browser to active prospect. Without your visitor making this critical shift you aren't building leads which isn't going to help your business grow. There are many ways to help your visitors make this shift which I will talk about in a future post.

If you would like to speak to an Internet marketing consultant that understands all of this and can help you and your company take that next step please give me a call today. I will be happy to give you a free no obligation consultation to discuss your project and marketing needs. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blogging - The Marketing Advantage

Toledo's premier Social Media Breakfast number 3 is coming up on June 5th at 8:00 A.M. You don't want to miss this one! Dave Rigotti will be showing the group how to use blogging to blast your marketing efforts through the roof! Here are just a few things he will be covering...

  • Should I blog?
  • How do I get started?
  • What should I write about?
  • How do I integrate a blog into my current marketing efforts?
  • How do I maximize effectiveness?
  • How do I measure effectiveness?
  • What are some resources for getting started?
Act now and there is a bonus....

Each event has been pulling in 60-70 entrepreneurs, small business owners, and business leaders, which makes it a fantastic networking event as well. Still not convinced, then let me throw in an awesome breakfast. Our caterer puts out a spread that is to die for!

You get all of this for the low, low price of $15 bucks if you register ahead of time at....

If however you are a procrastinator it will end up costing you an extra $5 bucks for a total of $20 bucks at the door... still an incredible deal. However we want to save you a buck or two as the old AT&T commercials used to say so register now at...

I promise you it will be well worth your time and you will learn a lot of great stuff about using your blog to boost your marketing efforts. Dave has been running some very successful blogs for a couple of years now so he is the person you want to be listening to. I know I have convinced everyone reading this to attend so sign up today and I guarantee...

It won't wibble, wobble, shake, break, rust, bust, collect dust, or go out on a Saturday night!

Man, I watch way too many infomercials :)

Also want to point out our sponsor this month is...

PWG Marketing...

Toledo's Small Business Coach

Check him out today!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is Social Media Marketing a Scam?

I came across this article in PC World today where Robert Strohmeyer is writing about all the charlatans that have showed up on the social media marketing scene as consultants. I believe Robert has several valid points in his article, but I also believe he is being a bit short-sighted as well.

On the positive side I believe he is absolutely correct that suddenly a ton of "consultants" have come to the party and all of them seem to have the "secret" to utilizing this new tool called social media. Unfortunately this has been the case since time immemorial anytime a new technology or phenomenom hits that suddenly there is a ton of people claiming to understand the secrets and are the ONLY consultants who can show you how to cash in.

Also on the unfortunate side is a willing group of people who are dying to learn the "secret" or risk being left behind that they pay some of these clowns a lot of money for bad or useless advice. It is an unfortunate side effect of any new marketing medium being born. However he goes on to say that people go to social media to avoid being marketed to and that any marketing done there will have negligible benefits. Really? I would ask exactly how he is defining marketing and how it is being performed.

Over this post and future posts I will offer a few alternative points of view on this issue. As a real life Internet marketing consultant and not just someone between jobs at the moment I have to look at all of these tools and try to see how they can be used to better market your organization. Here is one suggestion that comes to mind right away...

Market Research. Doing research is a critical piece of marketing for any company big or small. Unfortunately most marketing research is extremely expensive to do and for small businesses it simply is not in the budget. For large companies they simply would not consider any research that isn't done by a large well credentialed market research firm, at least in most cases.

However social media allows someone to be the fly on the wall as the saying goes. It allows both small and large business marketers alike a chance to listen in to the marketplace and see what your potential customers are saying. Listen enough and you are likely to find out what they want and don't want in products and services and probably how to sell to them as well. Admittedly uncovering this information in the midst of all the other conversations going on isn't going to be easy or straight forward, but it can be done. Also unlike formalized market research where customers are filling out surveys or participating in some type of focus group the information you will get from social media is more raw and some would argue more real. People are more relaxed in the social media spectrum then sitting in some room with a focus group. Because there is a certain sense of anomonity in some social media situations people sometimes feel more willing to open up and share feeling, thoughts, and ideas. The point is that this market intelligence is out there if you are willing to go and look for it.

Market research through the social media spectrum is also not just a waiting game and hoping that someone will talk about your product or service. There are whole communities out there that make up your target market. Join this community and offer value, i.e. read that to not mean sales messages. Talk and share. Once people trust you then you can probably ask some specific questions and get some answers from people. In short social media is a conversation starter and there is nothing wrong if some of that conversation is about a business, product, or service.

There is also ways to use social media to get new customers and retain old customers. Real, measurable, and significant ways to do this. I will share those in a future blog post. To give you a taste, remember what I said at the beginning of the post, it is how you are doing the marketing not that you are doing it. I believe this is where Robert has gone astray in his article, but I give him credit for making several valid points and pointing out that yes indeed there are lots of charlatans out there; but just because this might be true doesn't mean that social media can't be a valid and useful marketing channel. Stay tuned for some future posts on this issue.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NY Times on Pay to Click Fraud

Here is a story I came across done by the NY Times on pay to click fraud. They were one of the papers that did an extensive write up about this a few years ago. Here are my past comments on pay to click fraud To catch some readers up essentially what click fraud is is advertisers paying money for pay to click advertising where the people clicking on the ads are getting financially compensated and therefore are not really potential customers.

How does this situation occur?

In short I can set up a web site and choose to sign up for Google Ad Sense where I display ads that are paid for by other people on my site. When a visitor to my site clicks on one of those ads I get paid a small fee by Google for delivering the person that clicked on the ad. Now in an honest world people set up good content and advertisers support that content development with ads. People that are interested read, watch, or listen to the content and support the advertisers by clicking on the ads. Everybody is happy, sort of.

The problem occurs when one person really wants to cheat the system. They put Google Ad Sense on their web site and use either automated software or worse a large network of individuals to go to their web site and click on those ads. Every click earns them some coin. Google and Yahoo as well as other advertising providers have forensic departments and ways of supposedly figuring out which clicks are fraudulent and which ones are not. I won't spend a lot of time discussing the massive effort this must take or the obvious mistakes that must occur. I think most of my readers are smart enough to figure out the obvious problems in supposedly catching all the fraudulent clicks.

However like email spam the main issue here is economics. There is a financial motivation for people to set up sites, display ads, and find ways to generate clicks both legitimately and fraudulently. The one power on the planet I have utmost respect for is the power of economics. As long as their is economic gain to be had people will find a way to subvert and move around almost any type of blockade or system created to stop them from doing said activity. Simply put no matter what Google or Yahoo do they will never stop click fraud because the financial incentive is there to subvert any protections they put in place.

However one option not explored is to remove the financial incentive. If advertisers weren't paid by the click or Ad Sense didn't exist then the only money to be made would be by Google or Yahoo themselves and it becomes pretty simple to figure out who benefits then.

The issue however is a complex one because some people completely support their web businesses on ad revenue. These individuals provide excellent in demand content that people will read, watch, etc. and then support the advertisers. I am not suggesting this model go away I am simply saying that as long as dishonest individuals have an economic incentive to perform or encourage click fraud this will be a problem.

Right now Google has a methodology in place to track the quality of landing pages and ads. Poor ads and landing pages will pay more money for advertising and ultimately could find their ads disabled if they are too poor. Perhaps a model that evaluates the content on web sites where people will display ads is a good idea. I realize this is subjective and who gets to decide the standards, but we have all seen "web sites" that are simply parked domains loaded up with advertising links. This type of thing is not good content.

There is a distinct probability that those sites are major sources of click fraud because their isn't really any content of value on said site. It is simply taking advantage of a domain name and maybe the owner is perpetrating fraud by using automated software to go to the domain and generate clicks or writes a virus that infects computers to go generate these clicks. The hardest to detect is when the domain owner sets up a willing network of individuals to go and click on these ads. This last scenario looks like a real people doing a legitimate click through.

Therefore, I am suggesting two key things. One, as long as economic interest is there to perform click fraud it will always occur and the only way to completely stop the fraud is remove the economic interest. The second key take away is that a good first step to removing the economic motivation, at least, partially, is to judge content. Quality content providers get ads and poor or non-existent content does not. How one judges content and what is quality is an argument for another day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Social Media Breakfast Toledo Number 2

If you missed the first Social Media Breakfast in Toledo on May 1st, than you missed an amazing event! We had an incredible turn out and delivered some really good information to small business owners on how to ride the Social Media Wave to help them market better and become more successful. If you missed that event I encourage to NOT miss number 2 which is in two days!

Techrigy Founder/President Aaron Newman will discuss the social media platforms and monitoring tools available; brand names, trends and other examples of what can be monitored; ways to measure and analyze your results and related topics.

Social Media Breakfast-Toledo #2 is 7:30-9:30 a.m., May 1, at Toledo Elks Lodge #53, 3520 Holland-Sylvania Road, Toledo. Registration by or on 5 p.m., April 29 is $15, and $20 afterwards. To pre-register, visit Seating is limited to the first 100 registrants.

Nearly 80 people attended the inaugural Social Media Breakfast-Toledo April 3. Those who cannot attend the May 1 event can watch it stream online live at

The train is leaving the station, question is will you be on it. Register here

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What was old is now new

Here is another column by Karen Gedney about the principles of online copywriting being really about the old school of copywriting. I couldn't agree more. Karen is right on the mark talking about how too many online "copywriters" are suddenly discovering how effective some of the old school techniques of direct response copywriting are in an online world.

I recently read a quote by Jeffrey Gitomer...

"If you want to read something new then read something from 100 years ago"

Excellent observation. It seems for too many years individuals involved in the advancement of technology and the Internet kept arguing that the Internet changed all the rules. Please don't misunderstand me; the Internet has broken a lot of traditional long standing rules, but some rules have never changed. What has not changed is business principles about what it takes to run an effective business, i.e. finding good sources of products, high customer service, sharp marketing, good business development, strong sales, etc. is what it takes to run any business on the web or off.

In the same vein is direct response copywriting principles. The principles of good copywriting are based on human psychology. Those principles of what motivates people to take action hasn't changed in hundreds or even thousands of years. Copywriters from yester-year understood this and simply applied those techniques to the new medium. Modern copywriters who didn't have this understanding about history have made the mistake of believing that the new economy and medium of the Internet has changed the principles of copywriting. Not so.

One of the best books ever written about copywriting in my humble opinion is Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. This book was orginally written around 1923 and has gone through multiple revisions, to update the examples but not change the techniques. The principles of what works has not changed in almost 100 years. If you want to become an effective direct response copywriter then go back and study history first.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dirty Secrets of Internet Based Copywriting

I read this article in Brandweek that had an interview with copywriter Karen Gedney. I wasn't sure where the article was going based on the title, but she is dead on the mark with her observations.

I completely agree with Karen's positions on items, but I think the best dirty secret of online copywriting is...

Online direct response copywriting is the same as the old offline direct response copywriting.

Karen does an excellent job in the article of pointing this out with actual examples. The media is different, but the techniques and strategies one uses to motivate a person to do something are not any different. There are definately some tweaks you must adapt to in terms of technology limitations and media differences, but at the end of the day the way you motivate someone online with "online direct marketing copywriting" is the way you have always motivated them from a copywriting and direct response point of view.

All the people that have come out and published books about online copywriting are simply taking old ideas and re-packaging them. That is not innovation. Now if you decide you need someone that can do both direct response copywriting and SEO copywriting, now you may have something and need someone with a different skill set. You need a skilled direct response marketing and SEO copywriter. That combined skill set is not shared by all good direct response copywriters.

There are some extremely good direct response copywriters out there, but they don't necessarily have the SEO skills to give a company the double bang they do often need in an online environment. However if you don't require the SEO angle on your copy, perhaps because it is an email marketing campaign or you use other advertising like pay to click ads to drive traffic then hiring the best direct response copywriter you can find regardless of their SEO skills makes great sense.

The bottomline is just don't get sucked into the belief that online copywriting outside of the exception I noted above is somehow different to the point that you can't use a good copywriter, even one that doesn't advertise being an "online copywriter" a good direct response copywriter regardless of his/her background in online promotions is worth their weight in gold.

Friday, April 03, 2009

First Toledo Social Media Breakfast - Total Success!

The first Social Media Breakfast Toledo was a stellar success! We had 79 people attend and 67 who watched the live stream online. The tweets and other positive comments starting rolling in almost immediately. Everyone had a great time and said they would be coming back for the next one which is on May 1st, at the Elks Lodge #53. Hope to see you there!

Our Panel of Speakers, from the left...

Victoria Kamm
Dave Rigotti
Allen Mireles
Damian Rintelmann

Here I am facilitating the panel...

Here are some of the attendees...

Don't miss the event next month; we have a great speaker you won't want to miss...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Patrick Giammarco, owner of PWG Marketing has put together a team of marketing and PR professionals to organize and plan Social Media Breakfast events in Toledo. “I came across Social Media Breakfast just before the holidays and made it a 2009 goal to start the event in the Glass City,” says Patrick Giammarco.

The Social Media Breakfast was founded by Bryan Person in August 2007 as an event where social media experts and newbies alike come together to eat, meet, share, and learn. “Things have progressed rather quickly. I started a discussion thread on the Ad Club of Toledo LinkedIn group and, within a couple of hours, had three people express interest in helping to plan SMB events in northwest Ohio. Today, the planning committee consists of nine other people,” says Patrick Giammarco. “We’ve been meeting for about a month and are pleased to announce the inaugural Social Media Breakfast Toledo will be held April 3, 2009.”

Social Media Breakfast Toledo planning committee:

  • Julie Cantu
  • Kevin Cesarz
  • Janeile Cudjoe
  • Mike Driehorst
  • Patrick Giammarco
  • Victoria Kamm
  • Tim Langhorst
  • Allen Mireles
  • Steve Robison
  • Michael Temple

About Social Media Breakfast Toledo Social Media Breakfast Toledo is a place where people of all levels of social media knowledge can come together to meet, share & learn how to utilize social media to connect & profit. Marketers, PR pros, entrepreneurs, bloggers, podcasters, new-media fanatics, and online social networkers are all welcome to attend.

Only 200 seats available! Register now for the Social Media Breakfast Toledo premier event April 3, 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Web Analytics vs. Business Know How

I read a recent article published by a company from Australia. You can read the article here. The author raises the issue that digital marketing campaigns are becoming more useful through tracking because of the improved analytics programs that are now available.

For example, in the article he gives a case of a person that goes to a web site via a pay to click ad, but doesn't buy. He later returns via a direct mail campaign and finally submits a form showing interest. His argument is that the person was not really a lead until he submitted the form, but most analytics programs would have targeted him from pay to click ad. What part of the campaign was responsible for making him a customer?

First, in advertising it often times takes multiple touches before someone will buy. Therefore, simply saying that the last item is what turned them into a customer is really incorrect. It might and most likely was a combination of multiple advertising messages. Unfortunately determining that is a business decision, not an analytics decision.

The point is that in any direct marketing analytics is very important, but how you interpret those analytics is what gives you real decision making information. Not everyone will use the same criteria to interpret something.

The author also seems to suggest that there is technology that is available to track a person from beginning to end. How exactly would someone do that if you are doing both offline and online marketing? The methods for tracking a unique person on a web site are flawed at best. I know hard core analytics gurus will argue with me on this point, but it is true. There is no definitive way to determine that a specific person with identifiable concrete information about their identity visited your web site through a certain channel and then later returned through another channel that isn't even online, unless they fill out some type of form or request some type of report or something, but that isn't analytics telling you that. CRM systems can get close on some of this if you have the rigtht business systems in place, but again the interpretation of analytics is an excercise in business decision making.

I agree with the author to a point that their are technologies available that will help track a prospect from beginning to end, but how you interpret data, what specific technologies you use, and whole host of other variables will determine the true effectiveness. Thankfully I believe we are still a very long way from replacing all people with analytics programs and computerized decision making software. For now anyway analytics is a tool and should be used, but don't put too much stock in it. It is simply one more piece to a very technical puzzle of direct marketing.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Is Direct Mail Dead?

I saw a recent report in Ad Week that was discussing the decline and eventual death of direct mail. You can read the story here. I found the arguments that the writer made accurate, but it made me wonder if there is still a role for direct mail in our digital world.

The article says that the economic circumstances are certainly adding to the issues and that direct mail may bounce back somewhat after the economy improves. It said most marketing managers were focused on digital channels to get their message out because it was lower cost.

A few questions...
  1. Is it really a lower cost?
  2. Is it as effective?
  3. Is there a role for direct mail in this digital world?
Let's start with the first question, is it really lower cost. From the perspective of having to print and pay for postage, yes it is certainly cheaper. However, in direct mail you used to always be able to purchase lists and hence always had someone you could mail to. With email marketing you must develop a list. I know there are services out there that allow you to use their lists, but this has a ton of disadvantages which I will discuss in a future post. Therefore, when you factor in the cost of developing a list, paying for copywriting, and set up, as well as distribution it is far from "free" or even cost effective. Is is cheaper than direct mail, yes, probably, but I wouldn't call it low cost. Now since we know you have actual hard costs and those aren't probably as low as we believe they should be we come to the next question.

Is it effective? Because everyone today wants to get into the digital marketing game everyone has some type of newsletter or promotional email mailing. Many of us subscribe to those. Add this email on top of the tons of messages you normally get everyday and if you are like most people you have waaaay more email than you can reasonably keep up with. Now keep in mind this is the email you said you actually wanted. What about the email that comes that you don't care about? The point is that we all get so much email and our attention is focused in so many directions that I am not sure email marketing is always super effective, at least most email the way it is currently executed.

Before someone writes to me and says "hey, you are an email marketing guy" don't misunderstand me. I believe email marketing can be very effective, but it must be done very well, be branded, have superb copy, and be very well executed with a great list. We are simply too short on time to react to email that isn't well put together. Therefore, to summarize you need the following...

Now the last question, is there a role for direct mail? As people move to digital from direct mail there will be more opportunity to have your mail you do send stand out more. Because people will be getting less mail the mail that does come will probably get more attention, seems logical, right? Well, I would use direct mail to drive people to my web site where I would then use excellent copywriting to get them to take action. I will argue that my direct mail coming in a less crowded space and being augmented by my online marketing efforts will actually outperform a pure digital marketing campaign. Someday I will find someone to pick up this challenge and we can see who is right. In the meantime this is a strategy I am not ready to toss to the curb just yet and my clients will still be getting the benefit of it.