Online Marketing Strategies – EverEffect


Posted in online marketing by Thomas Heed on November 28, 2007

Every day, with frustration mounting, I read another article by an online video wonk touting the value of buying impressions. Stuff like –

  • Pre-roll Ads aren’t as pricey as you think they are
  • Simultaneous Viewings are the cat’s meow
  • Financial Services Company buys 85-million Impressions online

This is old school thinking so bad it could have come right out of those abandoned, decaying, one-room school houses that you can still stumble upon in rural America (circa 19th Century).

Offline (TV) is push, online should be pull; offline is intrusive advertising, online should be inclusive advertising; offline is about selling an impression; online should be about selling an interaction.

Mainstream folks will tell you that impressions indicate how many times someone saw your advertising. I prefer to modify that statement by saying impressions are how many times someone could have seen your advertising.

How many people in your target audience are in the bathroom, rummaging around in the fridge, or using their clicky-things to fast forward when your message is playing? How many people actually pay attention to your nifty pre- or mid-roll video online?

It’s the tree in the forest thing: if your video runs and nobody watches it, does it really make an impression?

Now, if I have a video on my website, and it’s user-initiated (think opt-in), then I know darn well that that visitor chose to interact further with my brand. Even better, I can measure my video’s effectiveness. Even, even better, if I use email to invite viewership, and I have properly segmented my list, I can glean all manner of accurate, detailed demographic info. Oh, and I can track conversions, or what we call Return on Interaction.

See, traditional TV and Agency pros want to sell you potential eyeballs, not actions.

Bottom line, stop trying to buy an impression, and start trying to make one.

How do you know if someone is interacting with your brand? Stay tuned.

Yellow Pages Suck

Posted in Measurable Results,multivariate testing,online marketing by Jim Brown on November 26, 2007

For years they were considered the ‘lifeline’ for businesses to reach potential customers. 10 to 15 years ago I would have considered that a true statement. (It could be because that was the last time I knew where my phone book was!) Today, it is just simply not inaccurate, and I would challenge anyone who thought otherwise.

Why? Every year the Yellow Pages rate card goes up 3-7%, yet less and less people actually USE them. The decline in use closely mirrors the adoption of broadband internet service. With that, a large portion of young adults and business buyers NEVER consult the Yellow Pages at all – and they are controlling an ever-expanding portion of the dollars spent! Now, if your target market is one of the two population groups that is not adopting broadband internet services (the lower social-economic segment and the over 50 segment) you should be just fine.

Need more specifics?

Ad Placement

Wouldn’t it be nice if every company’s name started with ‘A’ so they could ALL be at the front of the directory? Let’s take a look at a pretty popular Yellow Page category: Heating and Cooling!

After eight full page ads and just as many half page ads that are horribly designed, yet begging for attention, you finally get to the phone number listings themselves. There you will find 70 (seventy – not a typo) companies that start with the letter ‘A.’ A-Fast Heating, A Perfect Climate, A-Plus Heating, AAA Heating, Aaron’s Heating… you get the point. How in the world are you supposed to stand out? I guess you buy a bigger ad.

Multiple Category Listings

Let’s assume you were a general contractor. Right out of the gate we can put you in that category for a nominal fee. What happens if people aren’t looking for a ‘general contractor,’ but rather a painter. You provide painting services yet you will not be seen when that person is looking – unless of course you buy that category too. The next potential customer wants someone to do a little bit of drywall installation – you do that as well, but again you are only listed under general contractor. I guess you’ll be buying another category?

Now, your budget is not very big to begin with, so what happens when you spread that budget over the 14 categories that a potential customer MIGHT look for you under? Your listing is diminished to next to nothing, and you might as well not be in there at all.

Ad Modification and Spending

I recently spent an afternoon with a local business who spends $13,000/month on Yellow Page advertising. After I picked my jaw up off the floor and realized that equated to over $150,000/year I started to chuckle and asked if he would like to keep more of that in his pocket.

He told me two things that really stuck out during the conversation.

  1. His business is dead November 15 – March 15. It is season and no one is in need of his service during those months. Regardless, Yellow Pages will still bill him $52,000 during that time where his phone will not ring one single time. If you knew this about your business – wouldn’t it be nice to turn OFF your advertising during this time?

  2. He recently added a new service to his business and was waiting until the new Yellow Pages came out so he could start advertising! Who said print isn’t dead? It seems like the moment a piece of paper rolls off the printer, it is already out of date. Why in the world does this business have to wait until the next printing of the Yellow Pages to START advertising his new service? What if the new service is a bust? He can’t do any testing of less than a year with this advertising method.

Shouldn’t YOU be in control of when your ads are modified and how much you are spending? Wouldn’t it be nice to do so on a monthly basis – or even a daily basis?

Measurable Results

“50% of our marketing dollars are wasted every year, the problem is we don’t know which half!” Sound familiar? What about – “80% of my business comes from the Yellow Pages.” Heard that one too?

The fact of the matter is – if you are not measuring your marketing, you are wasting money. Unless you have a special 800 number for every category in the yellow pages you will have NO idea of what is working and what it not – and at this point we are ONLY talking about leads. What happens after the call? Did they close? If not – why? When will you follow back up with them? What if 2 weeks go by – do you remember where they came from or do you just chalk it up as ‘another Yellow Page lead?’

Still not convinced?

You are reading this online – if I were wrong, you’d be reading this in your Yellow Pages!

Wondering where I got a copy of the Yellow Pages? After visiting with my grandpa this Thanksgiving I asked to borrow his copy for this blog entry. I know he’ll need it back.

Quality, Not Size, Matters

Posted in Measurable Results by Thomas Heed on November 14, 2007

At my company, EverEffect, we believe that the success of email marketing hinges on execution in two critical areas:

  1. The Quality of your List, the Quality of your Offer, and the Quality of your Call to Action
  2. Getting the Right Message to the Right Audience at the Right Time

Let’s start with your list. In Email Marketing, the quantity of people on your list matters far less than the quality of people on your list.

Case in point – EverEffect has organized a full day conference focused on interactive marketing featuring speakers from eight other companies ( We sent out an invitation to our email list (205); we secured another list and sent the invitation to its subscribers as well (more than 3,900).

We urge our clients not to buy or rent lists themselves, but we did so ourselves for two reasons: 1) we wanted to expand our reach to a targeted audience of online marketing professionals; and, 2) we wanted to use the exercise as an experiment to prove our point. The results are a staggering endorsement for permission-based email.

205 Emails Sent
73.6% Opens
44.6% Click-Through Rate
60.6 CTR/Open Ratio

Brand X
3,939 Emails Sent
37.9% Opens
12.9% Click-Through Rate
34.0 CTR/Open Ratio

Now, the primary goal of this particular send was to have Subscribers view a video invitation to the conference. Here’s where the stats get extremely interesting. One in three EverEffect Subscribers viewed the video compared to 1 in 42 Subscribers for the much larger list!

Take another look at the numbers. The smaller list outperformed the larger one in every key performance metric: nearly 2-1 in Opens; almost 4-1 in CTR; and, 14-1 in Conversions!*

Okay, inquiring minds want to know why. It boils down to this: EverEffect’s subscriber list is permission-based; Brand X’s is pseudo-permission-based. The people on our list know who we are, and – hopefully- anticipate receiving email from us; people on the Brand X list do not have a relationship with us, and have little incentive to open an EverEffect message.

It’s pretty simple, we have less quantity (we work on that every day), and more quality than the “borrowed” list.

Yes, it takes longer, and requires more effort, to build a quality list, but the results are worth it.

You don’t need a Tsunami-sized list to make your splash!

*In fairness, even the rental list outperformed advertising/marketing industry averages for Opens (37.9% vs. 24.6%) and CTR (12.9% vs. 2.8%). Source:

A Site for Sore I

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on October 25, 2007

“No, honey, the kids and I were thinking more about something with a salty breeze than the Bonneville Salt Flats.” My wife smiled, and sent me back to the computer in search of the perfect, affordable vacation getaway for our cabin-feverish, landlocked family.

“(We) offer luxurious, oceanfront vacation rentals; great rates online!” the ad copy virtually screamed at me.

The bait was meant to tempt, and I was hooked. I bit on the lure like an aggressive brook trout, and was reeled into a hospitality company’s website that ended up being, well … less than hospitable. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Landed on the Home Page, which scrolled on forever. The company absolutely had to feature all fifteen locations, 350 properties, and eight resorts that they manage, complete with text and photos. Didn’t they?
  2. Prominently featured were locations in Arizona. I may be wrong, but there is no oceanfront property – luxurious or otherwise – in Phoenix or Tucson. Maybe these folks went to the Lex Luthor School of Real Estate. Otisburg … Otisburg?
  3. The site was designed to appeal to a number of target audiences, including Travel Agents, Real Estate Agents, Owner Agents, Time Share Owners, Vacationers (Families and Singles), and Current Clients.
  4. I was lured to the site to check out great deals on vacation rentals, not evaluate investment opportunities.
  5. View Our Video. Okay. But instead of letting me view their promotional video from the site, the company insisted that I pay to own their advertisement on DVD. Only $15.95, including S&H. If I’m interested enough to learn more about their properties, don’t make me shell out real dollars American for the privilege! Let me see it for FREE. Maybe I’ll even Forward to a Friend or six …
  6. Visitors are asked to Add to Cart before receiving any information on pricing. I’m thinking they have some real (cart) abandonment issues.
  7. The company has a number of Catalogs. None are available for download. Why make visitors order a catalog and then send via snail mail? Most, like me, would want to see the information immediately rather than wait days or weeks to receive it.

To recap: I was enticed to the site under false pretenses; there was an overwhelming amount of content, and a huge amount of it was irrelevant to me personally; the content that I was interested in was hard to find, and the company wanted me to wait to receive it, or worse, pay them to get it.

This fish got away. How many other visitors does this site fail to catch (convert)?

Does your website keep the promises your online campaigns make? If not, you could overly frustrate someone by creating an experience that is a site for a sore I!

Fantasy Analytics (Part 2)

Posted in Analytics by Thomas Heed on October 10, 2007

Employers worry about the impact of Fantasy Football on their bottom lines. One estimate, published in The Baltimore Business Journal, places national productivity losses at $1.1-billion a week due to fantasy football play at work.

The reason is that Fantasy Football is fun, and work is well … work. It doesn’t have to be that way. A slight alteration in the way you view web analytics can change your whole outlook.

The Draft
Keywords and phrases are your players. Your goal is to pick high-performers who can consistently rack up points for you, and then put your starting lineup in the best position to win (using SEO).

Fantasy Football Team Owners might use a Lineup Analyzer; you’ll rely on other tools to assess the demand for your players and the corresponding competition for them.

The Strategy
Most websites and online campaigns lose because they are of poor quality, they do not support company objectives, or they are not aligned with company strategy. The trick is to insure that your site is optimized for receptions (traffic) and completions (conversions).

The Standings
Conduct routine searches to see where your team (company) ranks in the Search Engine Report Pages (SERPs). Winning starts with knowing where you stand. This is the analytic equivalent of reviewing Fantasy Football scouting reports.

An extra point, SERPs also reveal which of your competitors are relying solely on organic search, and which ones are leveraging paid. Use this information to create a balanced attack (ratio of paid vs. organic) and keep costs down. It’s all about creating favorable matchups.

Tracking and Measurement
Fantasy football gurus spend an enormous amount of time tracking and analyzing live scores, trade opportunities, line-ups, injury and progress reports, etc.

If properly set up, you can track scores (sales), gauge player execution (non- or underperforming keywords and phrases) to inform lineup changes, and progress reports (ROI), and all in real-time!

While some employers are launching an all-out blitz on fantasy football activities in the workplace, some HR consultants are suggesting that it brings employees together and even boosts careers. Somehow, I think CEOs – while they may be into Fantasy Football as much as you are – care more about the ROI on your marketing budget than the networking opportunities you might be generating by spending so much of your time on a make-believe game.

Real Life
Just spending a half an hour a day evaluating your online advertising and marketing initiatives can make all the difference between whether you’re operating a cost or a profit center.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

Success online requires the use of analytics. It’s a matter of discipline. It’s a matter of will. And hopefully, I’ve proved it can be a matter of fun as well.

Fantasy Analytics (Part 1)

Posted in Analytics by Thomas Heed on October 4, 2007

Back in mid-August, The Indianapolis Business Journal ran a story about Fantasy Football Leagues and employer fears about their impact on productivity. Among the interesting stats:

  • 37 million Americans spend about an hour a week at work managing their make-believe teams
  • Employers lose up to $1.1 billion a week in lower productivity

The article included lots of information and advice on what employers can do to reduce Fantasy Football-related distraction infractions. A personal favorite, a warning about how allowing FF in the workplace could leave companies vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.

A comment about web and email monitoring by employers caught my eye as well: “Eighty percent of companies already electronically monitor their employees in some way.” So, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck isn’t the only one cheating by stealing signals from the competition! If your boss has a team and it’s doing better than yours every week, find out what spy tool he or she is using to monitor your moves.

I found the furor over fantasy mostly amusing until about ten days ago when I accompanied my partners on a sales call. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a web site overhaul. “What should we do? Where should we start?”

Our prospect’s ice breaker, the first half of the meeting, was talking about – you guessed it – fantasy football. Thirty minutes of line-up analyzers, waiver wire and trade challenges, injury reports, sleepers and snoozers. One person in the conference room admitted that they spent five or six hours a week working on their imaginary team.

I finally asked, “How much time do you spend on web analytics every week?”


Translation: I spend five hours a week analyzing fantasy football results; I don’t spend five minutes a week analyzing the results of my online advertising and marketing programs.

Analytics is not for everyone. I know that. Yet I couldn’t help wondering why someone would spend so much time and money on fantasy football but never dream of spending equal amounts of time and money on their own business. Again, we’re talking about 5-6 hours per week.

Bottom line: fantasy is fun, reality isn’t.

But in reality, if you’re not in the analytics game, you can bet that your competition is, and they’re throwing you for a loss.

In Part 2, learn how to make web analytics as fun as fantasy football. It may not lead you to fame, but it could make you a fortune.

Aesop on Marketing

Posted in online marketing by Thomas Heed on October 2, 2007

You probably don’t know this, but Aesop, apart from making his mark as a fabulist, was one of history’s first online marketing gurus. As proof, I offer the following case study:

Once upon a time, a boy thrust his hand into a pitcher full of peanuts. He grasped as many as he could possibly hold, but when he tried to pull his hand out of the pitcher, he was prevented from doing so by its narrow neck. Unwilling to lose the nuts, and yet unable to withdraw his hand, the boy burst into tears and bitterly lamented his disappointment. A bystander said to him, “Be satisfied with half the quantity, and you will readily draw out your hand.”

The moral of the story: do not attempt too much at once.

How does this fable apply to online marketing? Well, let’s say you’re part of a large law practice. Imagine that your website is the jar, and your business is the boy.

Your firm specializes in corporate law, including Mergers & Acquisitions, Tax Law, Environmental Law, Labor Relations, SEC Compliance, Patent Law, and so forth. Like the boy, you want to grab as much business out of the jar as you possibly can. The jar’s narrow neck is the fact that your prospects don’t need your expertise in every area, but are seeking solutions to specific legal problems.

What should you do? Do not attempt too much at once.

  1. One story, one message. Aesop wrote dozens of fables, but sold them one at a time. If you offer lots of products or services do not attempt to sell them all at once in the same place. Devise a separate campaign for each offering and make sure that you’re relevant messaging gets to the right audience. Direct web visitors to those areas of your site that speak directly to their desires or needs. Traditional media sells to the lowest common denominator; online you cannot afford to.
  2. Don’t grab for too much all at once. Let’s say you’re advertising a weekend sale for women’s shoes. Aesop would never have publicized a URL directing his target audience to a Home Page featuring all manner of women’s clothing; the fabulous fabulist would have included a link directing interested parties right to a landing page featuring “funky, functional footwear for women.” Don’t overtly try to sell anything other than what has already got your audience’s attention (cross-selling and up selling are another topic). Think of it as the online version of “Would you like fries with that?”
  3. Tell a good story, and set yourself apart from the pack. Your unique story – or the manner in which you tell it – is a key differentiator. Lots of people wrote fables, and yet most of us can only name Aesop as the definitive master of this age-old craft. Tell a great story, and people will be drawn to your product or service. Best of all, they will remember you!

Focus on one initiative at a time and optimize it for success. Getting people to your website is hard work; driving them away is easy when you attempt to do too much.

Post Office For Sale

Posted in Uncategorized by Jim Brown on September 20, 2007

Type “Email Marketing” into your favorite search engine and tell me what comes up. Chances are [okay fine, I’ve already done this and know for a fact] you will be bombarded with a million Email Service Providers (ESPs). Constant Contact spends a ton in online advertising so I’m pretty sure they came up number one for you. Who else did you see? Jango Mail, MyEmma, SilverPop, ExactTarget, CampaignerPro, Vertical Response… shall I continue?

Are these really “Email Marketing” companies? The answer is – No. When is the last time you bought a post office? Jim, that is a ridiculous question? Is it? Think about it for a second. Let’s say you are going to deploy a direct mail campaign. What are your steps? You have to define your audience, write your copy, design your piece, stuff it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it, and drop it in the mail. Did I mention buying a post office? Of course not. The post office can help you by providing the stamps and envelopes, but the rest is up to you.

To me, ESPs are nothing more than post offices. They provide stamps (costs of each email sent) and envelopes (delivery mechanism for your message). You still have to… define your audience, write your copy, and design your piece. Don’t be fooled by their templates, because like most things that are free – they stink. Why does this matter? For the most part all of the ESPs are the same. Some have more bells and whistles than the others, but none are responsible for your success.

Spend your money where it can have he most impact – in the strategy and creative development. It’s not the envelope that sells, it’s what is IN that envelope and the REASON for why you sent it. Once you completely grasp that concept you will truly be doing “Email Marketing.”

Mind Your P’s

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on September 19, 2007

By now, everyone on the planet is aware that a substantial price drop has rubbed some of the shine off of Apple’s iPhone. In my July 25 post, I wrote that if the iPhone failed, it would not be because it is a convergence device (as Al Ries contends), but because of flaws in 1-3 of the 4 Ps.

I’m going to revisit what I considered the iPhone’s potential drawbacks with updated commentary.

  1. “The Product does not live up to its hype, or it is not substantially different than other Smart Phones.”

    A beautiful, breakthrough device, the iPhone has a major drawback: it cannot run on AT&T’s fastest cellular data network, which means it is far slower than offerings from competitors Verizon and Sprint. Worse, initial models cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

    The speed issue is a huge competitive disadvantage, and a clear barrier to switching phones.

    Not insuring that the phone can operate at maximum capability is something like selling a Triple Crown winner for dog food – pennies on the pound – instead of raking in millions on stud fees.

  2. “The Price is too steep (up to $599 is a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper).”

    Shortly after the $200 price cut, Steve Jobs wrote, “We can’t wait to get this revolutionary product into the hands of even more customers this holiday season.”

    The iPhone was priced too high from the start. Other cell phones usually come cheap or for free because carriers have long subsidized the cost when customers sign up for their services.

    Charging extra for things like Ring Tones created bad buzz as well.

  3. Placement becomes an issue due to the exclusivity deal with AT&T.”

    There is a double-whammy here. Unless you’re in an area where AT&T (nee Cingular) has excellent coverage, an iPhone purchase is somewhat moot. Further, many Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or other customers will not immediately switch because they are loathe to eat the remaining balances on long-term contracts with their existing providers. Thus, exclusivity becomes a self-inflicted wound to sales by limiting the potential customer base.

  4. “No one can argue with how Promotion has been handled.”

    No one could argue with the pre-launch pub, but Apple has botched their post-price cut PR blitz. The high price, greed gamble, has backfired. Media reports no longer hype how cool the phone is. All the talk now is about “sluggish sales” or the phone’s other potential shortcomings. And, while Steve Jobs’ response to early adoption anger was fairly honest (we want to sell more iPhones), the manner in which he did it has left Apple vulnerable to stepped up assertions of corporate arrogance.

Any product or service – no matter how cool – will ultimately fail when the strategic or tactical approach to the Four Ps is flawed. In the case of the iPhone, gaps in geographical coverage and speed (customer solution), high initial price (customer cost), AT&T Exclusivity (lack of convenience), and poor post-launch PR (communication) bode ill unless immediately addressed. The iPhone can still become the monster success almost everyone envisioned prior to its introduction, but not until Apple realizes that it must do a better job of considering customer need before its own.

iCulpa is iBad

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on September 11, 2007

Monday’s announcement by Apple® that it has sold its one millionth iPhone ™ is good news and bad news. The good news is that they sold their one millionth iPhone. The bad news is they now have their one millionth angry early adopter!

Last week, in an open letter, Apple® CEO Steve Jobs responded to customers “upset” about the company dropping the phone’s price by $200 two months after it went on sale. After explaining the company’s rationale for such a move – and in an attempt to assuage angry buyers – Jobs offered up a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store.

It reminds me of a moment in Caddyshack when Carl the Greenskeeper (Bill Murray) shares a story about his experience caddying for the Dalai Lama: “So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something for the effort?’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Apple just stiffed their loyal, early adopters, oh, uh, there won’t be any money, and it’s beyond the company’s power to grant total consciousness. Instead, they’re offering their customers in-store or online credits. So they’ve got that goin’ for them, which is nice. Or is it?

Mr. Jobs wrote, iPhone is so far ahead of the competition, and now it will be affordable by even more customers. It benefits both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone ‘tent.’ We strongly believe the $399 price will help us do just that this holiday season.

In reality, what Apple has is a $200-million oops on their hands. I may be wrong, but I believe that people who paid the original $599 price tag could care less how many new customers will buy at the more affordable price or what a great deal others will be getting during the holidays!

Read between the Open Letter lines, and you might conclude (as I have) –

  • Betting on the power of their brand, Apple gambled on a higher-than-otherwise-justified price, and lost.
  • Apple and AT&T (their exclusive iPhone partner) must more than double average daily iPhone sales to hit their published goal of 4.5-million units sold by year-end. Their best chance to accomplish this is to slash prices and try to cash in on upcoming holiday gifting.
  • Mr. Jobs wrote that there is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cutoff date and misses the new price or the operating system or the new whatever. The problem with this statement is that the iPhone is two months old and there is no new operating system or new whatever, just a new sense of urgency to sell more iPhones.
  • Apple’s This is life in the technology lane, we’re slashing the price, so what, get over it attitude may provide a short-term shot-in-the-arm for iPhone sales, but create a long-term hangover by reinforcing the Apple is arrogant perception held by many or damaging its brand equity by eroding trust in the company and its motives.

This pricing issue, and the Steve Jobs response to it (borderline contempt), may – deservedly so – come to be regarded as a huge blunder. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

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