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.