Making Pay-Per-Click Pay

MAKING PAY-PER-CLICK PAY
790 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

For large and small business alike, pay-per-click advertising can be a nimble marketing instrument with high ROI. It can also be a huge waste of money. A few tricks make all the difference. This week, we’re talking to Mark Shead, President of Xeric Corporation about capitalizing on pay-per-click’s flexibility, feedback and focus.

First, let’s have an overview of how Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads work. PPCs are advertisements that are tied to certain keywords and phrases. For instance, a company that makes a seasickness patch might display a banner ad above a blogger’s tirade about a horrible cruise. Many PPCs are linked to Internet searches. If you’ve ever seen “sponsored links” at the top of search engine results, you’ve seen a PPC. And if you’ve ever clicked on one of those links, you just made that search engine some money, because (you guessed it), the advertiser pays per click. The order of appearance is determined by auction, where the highest bidder would appear first, followed by the second, and so on (but remember, they only pay that amount when and if the ad is clicked on.)

FLEXIBILITY
Pay-per-click sounds intimidating to many people who haven’t investigated it, so they’re often surprised to find that PPC is remarkably responsive and a great bargain. In the realm of marketing, there are sculptures skillfully chiseled in stone, like your brand identity. There are masterpiece paintings, that aren’t quite as hardy as a sculpture, but also take time to craft: an ad campaign, perhaps. Then there are your 2 year-old’s scribbles, created in seconds, prolific in number, and at best, destined for a few weeks on the fridge. PPC, then, is the refrigerator scribble of the marketing world.

There are several reasons it’s so flexible. First, it’s cheap. I mean, really, really cheap. You can test an ad on the web for a few days for, say, between $1 and $5 per day, then scrap it or change it, and throw it back on the “cyber-fridge door” to see how the new version does.

FEEDBACK
How do you decide whether or not to keep a certain “ad-scribble”? Feedback, of course. I’m not talking about the “No, really, I did like your ad, honey,” comments that your supportive spouse gives you. I’m talking analytics: hard data, numbers, statistics, facts and trends. OK, breathe. You don’t have to do this part. The nice techies at your search engine company will have an analytics package that will tell you things like how many people are clicking on your ad, how many clickers reach your predetermined goal (usually a sale, but perhaps the completion of a form or subscription to a newsletter). This allows you to test keywords and phrases to find the ones that maximize profits for you.

Interestingly enough, Mark points out that you don’t have to understand the trends, just use them. “The Analytics find patterns you can’t explain, but can use,” he says. You might find out that one phrase “crimson feather boas” works better than another, “red boas.” You may never know about all the snake lovers who clicked on your site with dreams of red-spotted constrictors, only to find your precious plumes, but it doesn’t matter, because now you know which phrase connects you to your customers.

FOCUS
You know that I’m a great proponent of targeting your audience, but PPC takes this to new levels. When you think keywords, Mark recommends brainstorming with the thoughts “If I were looking for this product, how would I describe it?” and “If I had a problem, and I didn’t know that this product was the solution, what would I search for?” Be specific, because the more you narrow your keyword phrases, the more on target you are (and therefore a higher sales to click ratio).

Focus on narrow slivers of internet users, but choose several of those slivers. For instance, if you sell super glue, you might want to attach an ad to the phrases “super glue” “adhesive” and “Cyanoacrylate.” But Mark points out that you also might want an ad with the key words “teacup” “broken” and “fix.” And for the CSI lovers out there, “super glue fuming,” “criminal investigation” and “latent fingerprints.”

You can focus PPC ads by geography, too, so your concert is only advertised to computers operating in your region, your grocery store only to your city, and your babysitting service to your subdivision. And you can limit when the ads run, so your nightclub ad only shows up on the first Thursday and Friday of each month (after people just got paid and are planning their weekend) to the hippest neighborhoods in the city. Talk about targeting!

So get out there and stick something on Google’s refrigerator door!

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Is Your Publicist Worth It?

IS YOUR PUBLICIST WORTH IT?
679 words – Less than 3 minutes to read

Everybody knows that a good P.R. specialist can generate exposure for your company that’s more cost-effective, authoritative and even seven times more credible. But what do P.R. specialists do for you, and how do you know if yours is a seedy spin-doctor or a professional who’s integral to your team? I sat down with Susan Morrow, publicist extraordinaire and my partner for 8 years to uncover the mysteries of the P.R. world. I want to know why she thinks she can do that better than the business itself. I mean, aren’t insiders better able to relay that story than an outsider? Not necessarily, says she. There are benefits to having an outsider tell the tale. There are several strengths a good P.R. specialist will bring to the table: they communicate your story, know the people and know the industry.

COMMUNICATE YOUR STORY
“Every company has a story to tell.” I’m on the phone with Susan, whose voice–despite the long day and the late hour–speeds up with enthusiasm. “My job is to communicate that story.” While it’s true that many publicists don’t follow the client’s marketing strategy in their work (who hasn’t heard of the clichéd uneasy relationship between publicity and marketing), the best ones do. P.R., according to Susan, should function as one piece of the reputation-making whole. She says that without the roadmap of a marketing strategy, P.R. efforts are often inconsistent and lacking in credibility. Make sure your publicist works with your strategy, or find someone who will.

KNOW THE PEOPLE
Many companies (and press release “farms”, for that matter) create a press release and send it to every news outlet they can think of. These companies often purchase huge contact lists and send reams of faxes and buckets of emails indiscriminately. The problem? It just doesn’t work. Faxes end up in the trash with the others from thousands of other companies doing the exact same thing and most of the emails end up in journalists’ spam folders. And those contact lists? Most are obsolete, incorrect and overpriced. If a P.R. specialist recommends these “buckshot” approaches, she isn’t worth the money you’re paying her.

It turns out that the old maxim is true. It really is who you know. Susan explains why. To get any attention, your pitch has to be targeted to an interested party. It might take you days of researching to find the name of a journalist who once wrote on the topic, then to find an angle they might be interested in, then to get them to take your call, then to find out that they’ve moved to sports or obituaries or a different organization altogether. You’re back at square one—rinse and repeat. A publicist worth her salt knows the best publications for your story, has a rolodex big enough to anchor the QE2, and is a couple of phone calls away from just the right journalist. If your publicist is a stellar one, she has long-nurtured relationships with many journalists who trust her and her leads. And because she’s a third-party (not you), the information she gives the journalist is automatically more trustworthy than if you pitched it yourself.

THEY KNOW THE INDUSTRY
News outlets exists in a strange world. Their demand for stories is constant, but supply is overabundant one week and slow the next. They appreciate story ideas, but refuse to be a pawn. They prefer a proven, dependable source over one they’ve never worked with. They don’t have time for under-prepared or unprofessional pitches. They use jargon and key words, and need to see the hook up front. They can use your story, but only if the angle is right. Navigating all these (and more) unwritten rules can be baffling. To get your money’s worth, find a P.R. specialist who is a veteran industry-insider who already knows how to play the game, speak the language, and supply stories that meet the journalist’s demands.

If you find your publicist is failing to delivering any of these advantages, its time to move on.

The Power of Promotional Products

THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS
650 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

Companies invest almost $17 billion every year in promotional products, and with good reason. Used correctly, promotional products are seen 10 times as often as a billboard, have triple the recall rate of banner ads, get increased referrals and result in sales over half the time. Unfortunately, most companies misuse this advertising ingredient and waste both their money and the tool’s potential.

The key to harnessing the power of promotional products lies in communicating the right message to the right people through the right product. Many companies use a shotgun approach to promotional products. They large quantities of items and distribute them liberally at tradeshows, parades, and in the course of daily business.

Donna Bender, president of the Donna Bender Company and recent guest on my radio program the Marketing Point, says this approach squanders the potential of the medium. Ms. Bender worked for brand giants like Eddie Bauer, Laura Ashley and Salvatore Ferragamo before starting her own promotional product company. She was dedicated to the idea that promotional products used properly result in improved relationships and ultimately, an impact to a company’s bottom line. And what constitutes proper use? Three points: Brand Consistency, Targeted Audience and Value.

BRAND CONSISTENCY
If you’re a Marketing Chef regular, you know this point: Every marketing tactic you use should come out of a unified marketing strategy (in Marketing Chef parlance, your Marketing Recipe.) Promotional items must follow the rules of consistency just like any other advertising ingredient. As Ms Bender says, what makes a successfully branded company is that “everything they do, and everything they give out speaks exactly to who they are.”

Your promotional items need to fit your brand, whether that brand is based on dependable security or youthful energy. A company known for refined luxury giving away cheap refrigerator magnates, or a hip clothing company presenting staid leather-bound planners would not only be ineffective. It would actually undermine those company’s respective brands. Therefore, when using promotional product, find items that reinforce your message.

TARGETED AUDIENCE
In using promotional products, more coverage is not necessarily better. Gaining name recognition with the wrong audience is a waste of your effort and budget. Just like your other advertising efforts, the promotional product’s audience should be closely targeted.

Most often, the target will be the decision maker within your niche market. However, promotional products can be creative ways to get past roadblocks, through what Bender calls, “Romancing the Gatekeeper.” A useful gift to an overworked (and normally overlooked) admin might just result in years of good feelings, and more concretely, in getting appointments that your competitors can’t get.

VALUE
Narrowing your audience has another benefit: the ability to give more valued gifts. While it’s true that a gold pen set costs more than a cheap ballpoint, you actually make a bigger impact with a smaller quantity of highly valued gifts. Rather than spending your budget on unwanted trinkets for people with little ing potential, you can invest in your relationship with a few top clients or prospects.

The longer, more often, and more prominently the recipient sees and uses your gift, the more he or she thinks good thoughts about you. With a little thought, you can put something truly appreciated on the desk or in the home of a person who can influence your business for years to come. That appreciation becomes tangible—the value the recipient places on your gift can translate directly to loyalty, to a sense of reciprocity, and ultimately, to sales.

So rather than spending your promotional product budget on inexpensive items that you can distribute widely, invest in the relationships that matter by giving items they’ll keep, use and see for years to come. Finding a gift that’s consistent with your brand and that will be appreciated by your targeted audience is the key to unlocking the power of promotional products.

POSTSCRIPT For more on promotional products email me at
info@TheMarketingChef.com. You can also call The Marketing Chef at 972.444.9310 (direct), or toll free (US) 877.252.2995.