Online Marketing Strategies – EverEffect

We Owe It to Each Other

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on August 31, 2007

Now – more than ever – it’s time that interactive marketing firms band together to promote the entire industry. Our biggest challenge is not each other, but growing competition from the ignorant seeking to take indecent advantage of companies seeking real solutions in the online space.

Albert Einstein once remarked, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Individuals and companies alike could achieve much more by striving to embody this idea.

What keeps me up at night?

  • A Digital Agency offering “E-Solutions” to prospects. This same agency – selling advice to others – has not revised its own site in nearly two years, and worse, it is not optimized for organic or paid Search. When this was mentioned to the owner, he responded, “I don’t care.”
  • The CEO of a PR Agency writing about Social Media, including a laundry list of popular sites, and touting MySpace as the place to be even as Facebook is poised to surpass it in use and relevance.
  • A group of web developers pushing Second (I call it After) Life on anyone who will listen, despite the fact that only one percent of marketers list such a tactic as desirable.
  • A video production company insisting that the mere presence of videos on a website enhance visitor engagement, regardless of their content, because “they’re entertaining.”
  • An article by another PR Pro touting blogs as a must do, but failing to explain the critical role they can play in driving website traffic.

The problem is that these people are selling stuff, they are not selling solutions.

The approach of such companies, to paraphrase Billy Crystal’s Fernando, seems to be, “It is much better to look good than be good, and darling, your site looks marvelous.”

This attitude makes it exponentially harder for all of us to help companies in real need.

Last week, one of my partners attended a half-day seminar on online strategies. In attendance, a couple hundred local business people eager for insight. The idea of the event sounded pretty good until the speakers started preaching about topics they had never practiced. Afterwards, my partner felt like searching for Ipecac to purge the poison he had just ingested. (Two hundred + people getting bad advice all at once should sicken us all!).

Making stuff to put on the web, especially if they’re neither aligned with corporate objectives nor tied to measurable goals, is not enough. Contrary to Woody Allen’s famous assertion, 80% of success is (not) just showing up (online). No company (client) benefits in the interactive world (wide web) without the full integration of strategy, content, and analytics.

My company recently passed on a significant opportunity. Could we have handled the project? Sure. But providing the solution would have required a significant investment in development time for us and at great expense for the other company. We knew of another firm that had a solution already in place, and at a much lower price point. We referred the prospect to that company … one of our competitors. Why? We would rather gain a prospect’s trust than lose a potential advocate for the industry as a whole.

Whenever someone manages to sell a half-baked scheme everyone bears the full brunt of its inevitable failure. When someone sells a service for the sake of their own — and not their client’s — success, they devalue our entire industry.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, seek help before you seek someone else’s business. If you do know your business, speak out. Be forceful. Be relentless. Help the uninitiated understand the power of interactive marketing. There’s enough business out there for all of us if we just work in concert. If we strive to elevate the industry as one, we shall all soar together.

Who Killed the Internet?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jim Brown on August 26, 2007

“It has stopped evolving. Your Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago,” said Billionaire Mark Cuban, author of BlogMaverick.

Stopped Evolving???

Mark, four years ago when I started reading your blog, I had to check your website once a week to see if you had updated it. Today, I open up my RSS reader, and all the information I choose to receive is sitting there waiting for me. That alone is a pretty big change in my Internet experience. For a guy who made his money selling to Yahoo – I’d have thought you’d put a little more brain power into your blogging.

The Internet is not dead, and by no means is it boring. The Internet as a platform is replacing the need for traditional mediums such as TV, Radio, Newspapers, and even Billboards. For a platform that has only been commercially available for 13 years, I’d say that is an astounding accomplishment. The Internet allows for the constant evolution of engagement and interactivity.

When is the last time you actually engaged with your TV? Research companies would love for you to believe that the average American spends roughly 26 hours per week in front of the tube. Get real! The TV is a passive medium. Like the radio of old, it is more than less background noise while you eat dinner, talk on the phone, play with your kids, etc.

The internet is changing the way we live. Artificial intelligence, in the realm of personal preferences allows us to see what we want, when we want it, and most importantly – HOW we want it. The Internet is beginning to understand and remember what we do. Some may think this is “Big Brother-esque,” but ultimately it is simplifying our lives.

As cities start becoming blanketed with free or public wi-fi, our “always on” culture will become more and more dependent upon the Internet and its ever expanding advancements.

Mark, you recently posted an entry about how you had forgotten how to write. Could it be that you have forgotten how to use the Internet?

It’s Fourth and Long for Big 10 Network

Posted in Uncategorized by Thomas Heed on August 23, 2007

The Big Ten Network is set to kick-off soon, but few fans will be able to receive it. Why? Because no major cable company wants to carry the freshman network, at least not as part of its basic package.

“The cable companies are playing their favorites, and abusing their power,” scream conference officials.

“We are underwhelmed by the prospect of carrying an overpriced niche channel,” a clever cable industry spokesman would say if such a person existed.

As legendary announcer Keith Jackson often exclaimed, “Fum…ble! Whoa Boy!”

My response to all this, is why waste your time with cable, Big Ten Network? Leave cable on the sidelines.

The Big Ten Network coulda been something, Charley. They coulda been a contenda.

The game plan all along should have been to launch as the first major online sports network. All the necessary pieces are in place. The Big Ten Network’s partner is Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own a minor online player called MySpace. DirecTV, also owned by Murdoch, will carry the network. AT&T’s U-Verse, the internet video provider, is on board as well. Oh, and AT&T just happens to have a little partnership going with Apple and its iPhone.

Satellite, internet, mobile… hmmm.

It’s not too late (okay, maybe it is) to make halftime adjustments. Here then, are my Big 10 (+ Penn State) Reasons the Network should be online:

Number 10 Cable limits exposure to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. Yawn. Online provides easy access to millions more Big Ten alumni who now live and work all over the world.

Number 09 Most people won’t want to see an increase in their cable bills just to have access to this network, but many fans would probably drop a buck or two a month for an online subscription.

Number 08 An online network creates a dual revenue stream for its partners (Subscriber-based and ad-driven) just as cable would.

Number 07 CBS proved the viability of such a model with its delivery of NCAA March Madness broadcasts via streaming video. Only insufficient server capacity kept this initiative from becoming a true blockbuster.

Number 06 More Bucky Badger and less Brent Musburger!

Number 05 This “niche” network provides advertisers and marketers with an unsurpassed, rich media-powered playground for true interactivity.

Number 04 Online merchandising @ virtual versions of the conference’s campus bookstores, Booster Clubs, Fan Forums, online video games featuring Big 10 sports and teams (Hey, Michigan doesn’t have to lose to Ohio State in football every year anymore if you’re handling the joystick), and other possibilities too numerous to name here.

Number 03 Ability to track viewer behavior gives new meaning to “time out for a measurement,” and accountability means something to more than just coaches with losing records.

Number 02 Every geek can now claim that he had a cheerleader in his room – On Demand!

And the Number One, Big 10 (+ Penn State) Reason that the Network should be online… Imagine the Social Media possibilities. They could launch as!

The Human Factor

Posted in keyword search,Pay Per Click by Thomas Heed on August 16, 2007

I recently attended an Interactive Marketing Blowout; a day-long series of seminars featuring some of the industry’s best and brightest as presenters / speakers. Much of the focus was on technology and how it is transforming the marketing world. There was very little mention of the human factor.

Overheard during a break in the action, “One of my clients wanted a Pay-Per-Click campaign. If you’re using the right software, it’s no big deal. It only took me five minutes to set the whole thing up.”

One small step for the Adman, one giant loss for his client!

True, software programs facilitate building a keyword list, evaluating Advertiser competition, estimating search volume, and predicting Page Ranking while considering Cost-Per-Click. More data is available, but generally, that’s as far as it goes.

Here’s why The Human Factor matters.

In preparation for an upcoming PPC Campaign, my firm spent five days, not five minutes, performing due diligence. We spent the first 60 minutes with the software tools (Google; Yahoo! Search), and the rest conducting our own searches – word-by-word, site-by-site, link-by-link – on the web. We knew that there was keyword competition, but not who those competitors were. If we had stopped after an hour, we would not have discovered the following:

1) The names of our client’s competitors who were using PPC, what words or terms they were buying, and where. Valuable competitive intelligence.

2) An additional 60 high-performing, product-specific keywords being used on the web, which we used to build out our target list.

3) Bids on some of the most desirable, highly-contested Keywords had not been placed by our client’s competitors, but by vertical-specific associations, directories, and so forth. This insight was leveraged to beef up our Link Back Strategy.

4) Six (previously unknown) new competitors and one that had ceased operations.

5) Several online “Malls” offering competitors’ products and not our client’s. Obviously, this creates additional strategic / tactical opportunities.

6)One competitor is using our client’s brand as a Keyword. Very smart, and an actionable insight, which suggests tactical moves to remedy this.

7) Two Vertical Search opportunities – alternative engines with superior Keyword search volumes and no competition – promising in terms of driving traffic at a reduced CPC.

8) Two vertical-specific Forums, each with more than 15,000 active members, which allowed us to present our client with several more options: pursue Link Back; participate as a knowledge leader; advertise; or, all three?

I could go on and on (I usually do). Of course, we gathered a great deal more data, and we’ll use all of it going forward. Bottom line, we would not have such information if we had ignored The Human Factor in a technology-dominated equation.

The Lion and The Fox

Posted in Analytics,Measurable Results by Thomas Heed on August 8, 2007

Once upon a time, there lived a hungry Lion who found it tough to acquire new customers (to eat). Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit, he decided to advertise. He spent tens of thousands of dollars on a direct mail campaign, sending coupons to his neighbors inviting them to take advantage of a Free Lunch.

A few animals responded to the offer (about one percent), and came to visit the Lion in his den. Upon their arrival, the King of Beasts promptly devoured them.

An observant Fox quickly discovered the Lion’s trick, but kept his distance.

“Come on in for a bite,” said Mr. Lion.

“No thank you,” replied Mr. Fox. “I see a few footprints entering your establishment, but I don’t see any coming out.”

The Fox liked the Lion’s idea, but thought it needed to be fleshed out a little. He hired an Interactive Marketing Agency, and the nice people there helped him develop a strategic approach for lead generation and presented him with some killer creative to make it work.

First, the Fox threw a Jungle Block Party, and used the event to warn other animals about the Lion’s ploy. Once he had the trust of his fellow animals, it was easy for Mr. Fox to amass a huge, permission-based list of Subscribers for his email Nutritional Guide.

Next, Mr. Fox segmented his new list and emailed relevant messages to his Subscribers: Rabbits received an offer for free carrots; Squirrels an offer for free acorns; and, the local Bullfrog population an offer for free flies.

The response was overwhelming, nearly four times the weighted animal industry average! Animals — including a number of cranes lured by an offer of free minnows — flocked to Mr. Fox’s den where they received their free goodies, and were then (post-fattening up) eaten by the sly marketing exec.

Mr. Fox soon had more food than he could handle.

Fortunately, Mr. Fox’s advisors had helped him develop a post-send strategy to monetize the results of his campaign, which included the creation of a Diner’s Club for other Foxes. Membership fees alone more than covered the expense of his email initiative.

And the Lion? Mr. Fox’s warning, and the cost of his Direct Mail campaign, soon left Mr. Lion with no cash and no carrion. Word on the savannahs is that Mr. Lion was forced to accept a gig with an American Zoo to make ends meet.

The moral of our story? It takes a solid strategy to outfox your competition.

Sherlock Holmes: The Case for Web Analytics

Posted in Analytics,Measurable Results by Thomas Heed on August 2, 2007

Virtually everyone has a website these days, but to many, how to maintain a healthy site that generates growing returns remains a mystery. Why? Let’s face it – it’s a crime how many businesses still do not employ analytics to measure program performance, influence website enhancements, or drive profitability.

You may have a cool site, but if you’re failing to turn traffic into conversions, you need to do some real detective work.

Want to improve your website’s ROI? Consider hiring an online detective (web analytics expert). Someone who can uncover the clues behind your lack of conversions; someone who understands how to solve your problems by turning enigmatic information into real solutions. Consider hiring someone like … Sherlock Holmes.

Had Holmes been created today, instead of 1881, he would have been a web analytics guy and not a Deductive Detective. I offer the following quotes as proof positive:

Web Analytics is the Ultimate Brain Game

Holmes: “I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for?”

Holmes: “What is the use of powers, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is commonplace … “

If Holmes considered crime commonplace, no other field today would offer him the continuous challenge afforded by web analytics. Talk about brain-work! And heck, the constant, daily demands of this discipline would even curb his desire for cocaine as an alternative to boredom!

Web Analytics Play a Critical Role in Strategic Planning

Holmes: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”

Holmes: “Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay.”

Holmes clearly recognized that real insights in the strategic planning process derive from Analytics. Value is created when the right information gets to the right people at the right time so they can make the right decisions to create the right outcomes.

Some Practice Web Analytics Better Than Others

Holmes: “Watson, you see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. “

Holmes: “There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically.”

In other words, lots of people can run reports, but there are too few analysts who know what to make of the metrics. It takes talent, imagination, and creativity to read between the lines and decipher where the actionable insights lie hidden within the stats. Holmes would be singular; that one in fifty.

You Can Analyze Too Many Things

Holmes: “It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise, your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.”

Web Analytics is difficult: too much data; too many reports; not enough deep knowledge; too few real experts; and, not enough time. True, there are dozens of stats that one can analyze, but Holmes would only consider those metrics of vital, not incidental, importance. The result would be real improvements in ROI for his clients.

Holmes Was a Master Communicator

Holmes: “I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one ‘Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos’. In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash.”

A monograph on tobacco would be ill-advised in this day and age, but what if Holmes were to focus on SEO and Pay-Per-Click? Imagine the White Papers he could write or the PowerPoint presentations he could create (all with nifty graphs, charts, and illustrations).

The Big Finish

Being a Web Analyst is like being a detective: it is hard, painstaking work that requires real commitment (recommend daily); those who practice it must be able to look at the same facts as others, but often arrive at different conclusions (insight); and, they must be able to recognize, and focus on, only the most critical, relevant information (what often appears trivial to the uninitiated) in order to provide solutions to problems that often seem impossible to overcome (measurable results; ROI). Sherlock Holmes would have been perfect for the job!