Online Marketing Strategies – EverEffect


Al Ries is Wrong, Part 2

Posted in Conversion by Thomas Heed on July 25, 2007

In my last post – on a dare to evaluate an Al Ries video – I launched into a rather lengthy rant about why the internet would lead to the eventual obsolescence of traditional TV. Leave it to one of my colleagues (thank you, Justin) to make my point much clearer: “It’s not about the convergence of technologies, but the convergence of mediums.”

The main thrust of the Ries Report video was not really about TV-PC convergence, but used it as an example of convergence hype gone awry. He mainly employed the concept of convergence to predict the failure of Apple’s iPhone. “All hype, all hot air, no sales in the long run.”

Let me explain. No, there’s no time. Let me sum up. Al Ries believes that divergence is good; convergence is bad.

To demonstrate divergence, Mr. Ries uses several examples, including telephones: first there were regular phones, then cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and cell phones. He forgot two cans with string stretched out between them …

Convergence? “Well, with all the hype, everyone in the world is running around trying to put two things together that don’t belong together.”

As examples of the dangers inherent in the urge to converge, Mr. Ries – and this was hilarious – runs down a list of convergence failures: a Refrigerator-TV, Radio-Binoculars, Radio-Toaster, Camera-Printer, a Hamburger Hotel (a personal favorite), and MP3 Sunglasses.

Mr. Ries compares Apple’s iPod (divergence) with the iPhone (convergence). The iPod is a divergence device because it was the first high-capacity MP3 player unlike the original, low-capacity, versions. He implies that the iPhone is just another cell phone, and is thus doomed to fail. And here is where – if we use his own thesis – he is wrong.

With the iPhone, Apple has created an interactive user experience that surpasses other smart (cell) phones. Its large, touch screen user interface and internet browsing feature represents true innovation (divergence). Every iPhone feature is a simple touch away, and its screen does not offer a menu bar or other confusing buttons.

If Apple’s iPhone fails – as Mr. Ries suggests – it will not be because it is a “convergence device,” but because of flaws in 1-3 of the 4 Ps (no one can argue with how Promotion has been handled):

  1. The Product does not live up to its hype, or it is not substantially different than other Smart Phones.
  2. The Price is too steep (Up to $599 is a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper).
  3. Placement becomes an issue due to the exclusivity deal with AT&T.

Despite all of its recent marketing coups, don’t forget some Apple blunders: the Apple Lisa (1983), or the more relevant point, their refusal to share the Apple operating system with generic (or other) PC manufacturers, which opened the door for Windows and the explosive Microsoft growth that nearly buried them! The AT&T deal could prove to be equally limiting to the product’s success.

In my opinion, the easy to use, interactive experience with fewer features make the iPhone a divergence device not, as Mr. Ries insists, a convergence one. Look for it to be a big hit.

Chief Digital Officer’s – A Whole New World

Posted in Measurable Results,Strategic Planning by Jim Brown on July 19, 2007

The increasing adoption of a new title, Chief Digital Officer, has signaled the dawn of a new day for marketing. No longer will the web be seen as ‘just another marketing channel.’ Companies will now be able to harness the full ability of interactive marketing.

It wasn’t long ago (okay, so it still happens today), when having a website and sending out a templated mass email was the extent of a company’s online campaign. A former colleague of mine coined the phrase, “make me a website clown!” (Thanks Todd) The fact is, having a website is not just a check in the box for a marketing plan. A website is more than an online brochure. A website has the opportunity to be a living, breathing, element, which can engage a user, and allow them to interact with us the way they choose. Say good-bye to one way communication.

As companies increase their knowledge of the web, they will expect more out of the money they are spending. They will expect strategic planning, effective execution, and most importantly – measurable results! Donald Trump once said, “Hope is not a strategy.” He couldn’t have been more right. It’s great to have a beautifully designed, rich media website, but what happens when visitors arrive and don’t do what you expect them to do? Or worse yet, what happens if no one ever finds your website?

Gone are the days of the tech-savvy IT guy in the corner of the office directing the vision and functionality of a website. It requires a broader understanding of all aspects of a company from sales and marketing, to operations and includes IT. It’s time to challenge the old habits of a company and bring together the entities that formerly worked in silos.

Al Ries is Wrong, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Thomas Heed on July 17, 2007

An industry peer recently insisted that I view an Al Ries video on the subject of Convergence (http://riesreport.com/index.php?video_id=16), and dared me to dispute his contention that high-tech convergence does not work, and never will.

Before I start, let me first go on record stipulating that Al Ries is one of my personal heroes. In the video, his examples and opinions are funny, insightful, provocative, and in many instances – wrong.

“TV / PC convergence will never happen!” I watched Mr. Ries assert with conviction. In a sense, this is true. The PC will not converge with TV, but disinter mediate it. TV, as we know it, eventually disappears, and the PC becomes TV. Think of the computer as the modern day equivalent of the Model T and Broadcast & Cable TV as the horse and buggy. You get the picture.

Broadcast and Cable TV networks are distribution systems, and TV sets are merely receivers. Broadband, when it reaches its true potential, renders both moot, because it combines (converges) content with distribution. The internet becomes the distribution system, and the PC, in whatever iteration – desktop, laptop, wireless, or hand-held – becomes the receiver. What about screen size? Right now, I can plug my computer in to any flat-panel monitor in the house and watch streaming video on a big screen.

So, TV / PC convergence will never happen? It’s already happening. Need proof?

More than a million visitors watched streaming video of March Madness round one b-ball games on their computers during the first two days of this year’s NCAA Division I Tournament, and these numbers would have been far higher with greater delivery capacity.

I can visit AOL’s in2TV and watch episodes of classic favorites like I Spy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Gilligan’s Island, all for FREE, and in Gateway 24″ Widescreen, Digital splendor!
Sony is now offering mini TV episodes on MySpace. The so-called “Minisode Network,” cuts down sitcoms, dramas, and talk shows into 3-5 three-to-five minute chunks (a sad commentary on the state of episodic TV when one can truncate a sixty-minute show into five minutes without viewers missing anything).

Production companies routinely post TV pilots on the web in an effort to generate enough viewer interest to get them placed on network schedules. I ask, “Who needs the networks?
Later, I discovered that TV Guide has a new online video feature, “What to watch on the web,
” and they boast that they have listings for 13,881 shows. After checking it out, I found thousands of shows on the web that I’d love to watch and will never have the time to. Brilliant!

When confronted with these findings, my peer grudgingly admitted that he never watches Sports Center highlights on cable’s ESPN, but watches them religiously at ESPN.com. Absolutely loves the videos and hates the pre-roll ads (hasn’t bothered to watch the last 50!). As an aside, and to recap: never watches on TV; never misses online; and, is immune to the push of pre-roll. My peer is not alone. A staggering percentage of internet video viewers either detest pre-roll ads or dismiss them altogether. Anyone in traditional advertising paying attention? Didn’t think so.

In the end, viewers are loyal to shows (content) not networks (distribution). Do I really need TV networks once image quality, image size, and interactive features catch up to my desire for what I want, how I want it, and when I want it via the web? As long as I can find the content, I don’t care how it gets to me.

Here’s how it might work: a production company posts a new webisode on the internet. A fan of the show, I have subscribed to their RSS feed, which alerts me when the new (original) content is available for viewing, and I check it out at my convenience. Interactivity allows me to pause the show at any time to pursue an interest I might have in a featured product. For instance, I could click on the car a character is driving to see a promotional video of the vehicle in action, or browse through a web-based version of the model’s catalog. I might even make an impulse buy, if I have enough dough and need a new car. And then, it’s back to the irregular, unscheduled webcast.

This scenario won’t play out overnight, but it is coming. Once distribution capacity reaches critical mass, the advertising / marketing community figures out a viable business model, and others develop simplified, menu-driven search, TV goes away.

Mr. Ries covers a lot of ground while discussing his 22 Disputable Laws of Convergence and Divergence.* In upcoming blogs, find out why I believe Mr. Ries has confused convergence with synergy and divergence with innovation; and, why he is mistaken about the future of Apple’s iPhone. Hint: one of the iPhone’s key features is an innovation that – by Mr. Ries’ definition – makes it a divergence device and not a convergence device as he insists.

Stay Tuned.

*My apologies … couldn’t resist.

Are You Local?

Posted in SEO by Jim Brown on July 9, 2007

There has been a lot of chatter lately about ‘local search’ in pay per click advertising and search engine optimization. It seems some people are confused about the differences between geographical local targeting and keyword local targeting.

For educational purposes, lets create a company that we will be attempting to market online. Let’s say we have a landscaping company in Wichita, Kansas, called Premier Lawns. Now, how would we start an online marketing campaign for Premier Lawns? Unless they were a franchise with several locations spread out over many cities, chances are they can only provide their service within a 100 mile radius. That being said, it doesn’t make any sense for them to advertise to anyone outside of that area, or does it?

This is where we begin Geographical Local Targeting. Parameters can be set to tell Google (or your preferred search engine) to only display paid ads within a geographical vicinity of Wichita, Kansas. So, if we were bidding for such phrases as ‘Lawn Care,’ ‘Landscaping,’ ‘Lawn Maintenance,’ etc, only searches that were physically located within a 100 mile radius of Wichita would see, and thus, be able to click on our ads.

That concept is pretty handy for paid search advertising with such broad phrases, but what about optimizing their site to be listed organically? If you type in a vast phrase like landscaping (go ahead… try) you will find many articles from about.com,hdtv.com, wikipedia .com, etc, etc etc. This presents the need for Keyword Local Targeting. We have already determined that the people who can actually use the services of Premier Lawns are going to be located near Wichita, so why not put the city in the search queries? ‘Wichita Lawn Care,’ ‘Wichita Landscaping,’ ‘Wichita Lawn Maintenance,’ … you get the point. This brings local relevance to the broad search phrases making the results more desirable.

How else does this concept fit? Let’s assume you live in Austin, Texas, no where close to Wichita. However, who is to say you might not own a second home there or maybe a rental property? You might find yourself needing lawn care while you are away from the home. In that instance, Premier Lawns could be of valuable service to you. If they limited their online campaign to only geographical local targeting, there would be only a slim chance of you ever knowing about them. But, by adding in the city name to the search query, Premier Lawns makes themselves accessible to potential customers outside of their geographical limits.

A Click Too Far

Posted in Conversion by Thomas Heed on July 9, 2007

“We get (fill in the blank) visitors to our website every month, but our conversions are horrible.” When I hear this, my very first question is always, “When your customers are ready to buy, are you primed to sell?”

A careful investigation of the site in question often reveals that the answer is, “No.”

Recent case in point – my sons absolutely adore dinosaurs. Friends told them that a local museum was showing a 3D Dinosaur documentary in its theater, and the boys requested, begged, pleaded, beseeched, and implored that my wife and I take them to see it. So, I set out to buy us tickets online.

Credit Card in hand, I wound up at a cool-looking site that soon had me hot under the collar. Clicked on Trailer (nothing like a sneak peek to get everyone excited), and received an invitation to try an interactive quiz. Neat feature; not what I asked for. Clicked Enter, and found myself presented with six different options to choose from (two of which were broken links), and still no Trailer. At this point, I was empathizing with the dinosaurs; I might go extinct before finding what I was looking for.

Next, I tried to buy tickets, and kept receiving prompts to do anything but. Believe me, I could go on and on and on, but you wouldn’t be able to take it anymore than I could. I abandoned the ticket-buying try.

If you’re not getting the conversions you think you should, ask yourself a few simple questions. What kind of experience have you created for the User? How easy is it for the User to navigate through the site or, if you’re selling something, how easy have you made it for them to buy? Does everything on your site even work?

In my museum example, everything was just too hard. Poor navigation, broken links, information labeled one thing on the home page and something else on the sub-page(s), and finally, when I did find what I was looking for and wished to act on it, I was asked to take A Click Too Far.

All of the above added up to a poor User experience and a lost conversion. I had been ready to buy, but the website had not been primed to sell.

Will this be Carry-out or Delivery?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jim Brown on July 2, 2007

Pizza delivery is a multi-million dollar industry. So, why is it that they are so bad at sending relevant offers and promotions to their customers? They are notorious for sending coupons and product promotions through snail mail as well as Sunday newspaper advertisements.

Let’s take a look at a few of these blunders:

  • The Mailbox – Once a safe haven for personal correspondences the traditional mailbox has become overrun with untargeted and unsolicited junk from ‘direct-mail’ marketing companies. Nearly all junk mail falls into two categories, either unread and trashed, or stacked in a pile and forgotten about.
  • The Newspaper – The percentage of a pizza companies target audience that subscribes to, purchases, and/or reads a traditional print newspaper is approaching zero.
  • Competition – Let’s assume for a second that the previous two challenges were not true. As one goes to their mailbox or opens up the Sunday newspaper, the amount of competition for ad space of pizza purchases is amazing.

What can be done?

  • Targeting – Most people have a ‘usual.’ Pizza companies should take the buying patterns and tendencies of their customers into consideration when sending promotions. (i.e. Customer A in Indianapolis, Indiana buys three medium one topping pizzas almost every Sunday at 12:30pm – Consider sending an email Saturday night or early Sunday morning with a savings promotion for that customer or even offer them an alternative to their ‘usual.’
  • Acquiring – Other than the customers who never go outside of their ‘usual,’ the internet can be a great way to acquire new customers. Chances are, when a customer wants pizza they have already thrown away the junk mail where a pizza company sent their last ad. Therefore, make those same ads available online through PPC ads, paying online for the customers who WANT to see your promotion.
  • Make it Convenient – If a customer is sent an email promotion, or clicks on a PPC ad, and WANTS to buy, they should not have to change their mode of operation. Don’t make them pick up the phone, allow them to interact in the same means they found you.

There is a huge opportunity for local pizza companies to compete with the big chains online. It is not a matter of if – but when?

The Battle of Perception

Posted in Uncategorized by Thomas Heed on July 2, 2007

Al Ries and Jack Trout once wrote that “Marketing is not a battle of products; it’s a battle of perceptions.”

A client or prospect’s perception is your reality. Thus, you must sometimes find creative ways to alter their view of the world in order to help them realize their desired goals (and your own). To demonstrate how effective this technique can prove to be, I offer the following:

During his march through the near east, Alexander the Great came upon a mountain stronghold known as the Soghdian Rock.

The rock itself was sheer-faced and – so its defenders believed – impregnable.

At a prelim parley, Alexander offered the occupants safe conduct if they would surrender their fortress.

The negotiators laughed rudely, and asked whether Alexander’s men could fly, adding that they would surrender to winged soldiers, “as no other sort of person could cause us the least anxiety.”

Alexander at once combed through his entire army for experienced mountaineers and found some 300. He called for volunteers to scale the sheer rock face (the defenders only guarded the one direct route to the fortress). He offered vast rewards for the first 12 men up.

Every man volunteered for the perilous operation. They made the ascent by night, an extra hazard, and 30 of them plummeted to their deaths.

At dawn, a flutter of white flags broke out from the summit above the fortress. Alexander sent a herald to tell the defenders that if they looked up, they would see that he had found his winged men.

The Soghdians were so taken aback by this theatrical rearrangement of reality that they surrendered instantly, even though they outnumbered the mountaineers by 30,000 to less than 300 and the rest of Alexander’s men still had no path to the summit.

What’s this story have to do with marketing? Plenty. It is not about a battle of products (Army vs. Army); it is about a battle of perceptions (My Army is better than your Army). Alexander sealed the deal because he was able to create the perception that his men could accomplish the impossible (fly to the mountaintop), and not the reality (no one saw them do it) that led to victory.

Listen to your customers and prospects. Understand what it will take from their point of view to win them over. It may mean altering your own path, but in some cases, they are simply waiting for you to show them your winged men to convince them that it’s time to close the deal.