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Billboards and plumber’s pants

Drive around long enough and you’ll see a billboard that says “If you’re looking, it’s working”.

I see the same slogan on electronic advertising displays, which can be found everywhere from restaurant restrooms and gyms to billboards.

Is it “working” when you accidentally glance at the back of a plumber’s pants when he’s on his knees with his head buried under your sink? Or when you stare at an auto accident?

A definition

“My ad is working” means “people take action as a result of the ad”. It does not mean “someone with a heartbeat saw the ad”.

“Working” doesn’t always equal spending money, but it does always mean taking action.

After you glance over at that auto accident, if you put on your seat belt…. that’s action. Cause and effect. Taking action.

That’s what “working” means when it comes to an ad.

“But, you can’t track billboard response”

Yes, you can.

I’ve yet to see a media whose usage cannot be tracked.

To be sure, you can’t track how many people read your ad on a billboard or in the newspaper, though you can estimate numbers based on drive-by traffic statistics published by governmental agencies (for billboards) and subscription + newsstand buys + online page views (for newspapers).

The number *reading* your ad isn’t the important number. Sure, if you have a general consumer product, you want to tell as many people as you can, but you don’t go to the bank with “eyeballs”, page views, newsstand copies or cars-per-day.

You go with sales revenue.

What you really want to be paying attention to is how many people took action as a result of your ad, no matter where it is.

You can absolutely track what happens if readers take action, but many businesses don’t. As a result, they’re operating on gut feel, guesswork or a seat of the pants idea of what their ads are doing.

Look at the advertising you’re doing. Are you tracking any of it? If not, how do you know which ads work and which don’t? How do you know which media work (for you) and which don’t? (or don’t work as well)

Just because an ad or media is “free” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking results.

Start tracking and you’ll start knowing what’s working and what isn’t.

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Creating the slot machine that never loses

Lobster Slot Machine - Las Vegas
Creative Commons License photo credit: dlr2008

I‘ve had a survey going on the site here for a while. It asks “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?”

25% of respondents have said “Making time to do the marketing”. That tells me that those folks still aren’t tracking the response they get to their marketing.

Why? If your marketing has been successful, then you know that it’s like a slot machine that doesn’t lose.

What I mean by that is that when your marketing is working, you can put $1.29 in and get $2.34 out (or whatever your number is).

So let me get this right… if your marketing efforts (overall) return $1.05 in PROFIT every time you spend $1.29, why wouldn’t your marketing be one of your highest priority tasks? In fact, why wouldn’t it be number one?

Are there other tasks you perform that have a greater return?

Tracking in circles

I realize this is a bit of a circular argument:

  • You: “I don’t spend much time on my marketing cuz I don’t know what works.”
  • Me: “If you start tracking, you will know. Once you know, you’ll understand what works, what doesn’t and it’ll become clear why your marketing is job #1 and how you can outspend your competition on it and still win.”

…and so on.

The only way to get to the point where you can play the slot machine that never loses is by *tracking the response to your marketing*.

I know, we’ve talked about this before. Tracking transforms your marketing from an expense into an investment with a known return.

PLEASE, please start paying specific attention to the performance of your marketing efforts.

Here’s a starting point to find posts at Business is Personal that will help you get started on tracking response:

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Are you wearing Old Spice this morning?

Old spice
Creative Commons License photo credit: blvesboy

There was lots of noise this week when those clever folks managing the Old Spice social media campaign started making dozens of videos for a couple of days.

Old Spice’s team responded to Twitter posts, to Facebook posts, blogs and more, whether the posts came from celebrities or not.

The quickly made videos were funny and appeared to gag YouTube for a bit (might’ve been a coincidence). At any rate, it was a clever campaign to get some buzz about the product.

The other shoe

But did anyone buy Old Spice as a result?

Remember, that’s presumably the goal of running an advertising campaign, regardless of the media used.

What concerns me about actions like this – even though I tell you to have fun in your marketing – is that when a global company like Proctor and Gamble uses social media like this, I’m guessing that someone, somewhere wants to see ROI.

If they don’t, then we’ll have a global corporation (and their ad agency, potentially) pronouncing that “social media doesnt work” to anyone who will listen.

Bottom line: They want to see Old Spice fly off the shelves.

Will P&G be able to tie increased sales (over what period) to this campaign and ONLY this campaign?

I just don’t know, but I doubt it.

Unlike the Will-It-Blend campaign, which demonstrated the toughness of Blendtec’s blenders (essential for the market they serve), this campaign only shows that P&G’s marketing firm is smart, clever and fast on their feet – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However…It doesn’t prove they know how to sell deodorant, body wash etc.

Don’t fall into that trap, no matter how clever you are.

REQUIRE that your marketing campaigns return a trackable ROI, no matter what the media.

Update: This morning’s article in Fast Company (online, of course) discusses a little of the behind-the-scenes for these videos as well as addressing the question I discussed here today – translating all of this into sales:

One of the questions that keeps coming up is people saying, “Ok, this is great, but will it make me buy more Old Spice?” If you look at the comments that are publicly saying, “I’m going to go and try Old Spice after this, I’m going to wear more Old Spice,” the groundswell of people saying that they are going to consume more Old Spice, I don’t know whether that is true or not, if people are actually going to go to the pharmacy and buy Old Spice, but I bet a whole load of them are going to go into the aisle and take the top off an Old Spice and smell it.

Update: Mashable comes up with some hard numbers related to the videos…but no sales info.

I’m still following this. We’ll see if they have devised a means of bringing this home to the cash register.

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You and the NY Times, bucking for change of another kind

From the Oct 28, 2008 issue of the New York Times, an excerpt from the column “The Media Equation”:

Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paperâ??s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.

Things change. In every business.

Businesses faced with such situations typically have two choices: Adjust or lose the opportunity to do so.

Oh, I guess there might be a third: denial.

The NY Times figured this out a while back. Even the denial part.

To their credit, they’re still changing and adjusting how they provide content – a process of change they’d better get used to.

One example: They created the NY Times Reader, a nice Windows-based program that was created to display the Times in its original format on your screen, complete with high quality font display, 7 days of issues available to read with no requirement to be connected to the net once the news is initially downloaded.

But not all things are bright and shiny in the Land of Change: Another quote from the same column illustrates a collision of new and old thinking, and a teaspoon of Dont-Quite-Get-It-Yet:

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industryâ??s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

Is that just the slightest hint that they are still in a bit of denial about the price of newspaper print advertising out of whack with the value provided?

It’s NOT about how many people see the ad

It’s about who sees it, and further, who responds to it. That’s what advertisers should be paying for. One price to display to just the right audience. Another price if they respond.

Why another price if they respond? A great ad in front of the right audience at the right time will elicit a good response and generate more than enough revenue to make the ad worthwhile.

If this isn’t clear, consider this: If I see a feminine hygiene commercial 42 times (or 42,000 times), is it likely that I will ever respond? Ladies, you could easily find a parallel from the male world that you’d never respond to.

So why bother displaying the ad?

Why doesn’t the NY Times offer the option to never see ads, in exchange for paying more to read it? Or maybe I just don’t have time for ads on weekdays, so the Sunday Times still shows ads to me. Different fee.

It’s 2008. My paper should react to me and my needs. I might not mind ads if they were targeted at my needs, based on demographics and psychographics, among other things.

These ideas are troublesome for a print publication. Revolutionary to the newspaper business perhaps, but easy for a digital publication to deliver.

With all that in mind…

What kind of information should you be looking at for improved delivery? Sales info. Customer support info. How to info. Company news. Info for employees. Info for business partners. Training.

How are you and your business prepared – and continuing to prepare – for the speed that information delivery is changing?

Two choices. Adjust, or become the next $1 magazine like TV Guide. Not a $1 for one issue – $1 for the entire magazine.

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5 strategies to bailout your Main Street business without Federal help

While the news is littered with discussion, arguments and political posturing about the U.S. Government bailout of the financial industry, there’s no meaningful discussion about more than 27 million Main Street businesses that never get that kind of help.

So, being the nice guy that I am:), I’ve assembled 5 strategies to help you weather the storm swirling in Washington and New York, without spending a cent of taxpayer money:

  1. Measure twice, cut once
  3. Dot those i’s, cross those t’s
  4. Help them thrive
  5. No more secrets

Let’s talk about each of these.

Measure twice, cut once

Be brutal about getting rid of unnecessary overhead. I’m talking about the kind of stuff you don’t need and never needed, NOT the kind of overhead that you can tie to revenue and profit.

For example, I’m not talking about laying off quality staff members. Instead, I’m looking directly at those expenses that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Ever wonder how a big company can cut 25,000 employees and still manage to not only stay in business, but continues to deliver their products and services? Did they ever really need those 25,000 people?

Look at your waste. What gets thrown away? Can manufacturing waste be reused or resold? Can it be used to serve another purpose? Look at every consumable with a critical eye, not just for elimination, but for re-use or replacement by a more efficient product, commodity or service.

MACTAROMI – Measure All Campaigns To Accelerate Return on Marketing Investment

Yeah, that acronym is a little cheesy:)

While some will suggest that you cut your marketing expenses during tight markets, I simply can’t agree with this advice. Do you really want to disappear off the radar of those who are still buying? I don’t think so.

If you are measuring your marketing response and know where the best ROI for your marketing dollar comes from, you should be spending as much as you can to keep bringing customers to your door. Of course, this assumes positive ROI from those marketing campaigns.

It isn’t just about which marketing effort generates the most responses, but also the return on your advertising dollar. The right combination will have you happily filling out deposit slips while your competitors wonder where their customers went.

Still, some are sorely tempted to cut all costs, including marketing. If you’re going to do so, knowing which efforts produce the worst results could result in two thought processes: Cut that campaign, or figure out why it isn’t working and correct the problem.

On the other hand, if you don’t know which marketing efforts actually work because you aren’t measuring their response, how would you know what to cut? You could easily cut your most effective campaign.

This is a great time to start measuring if you aren’t doing so.

Dot those i’s, cross those t’s

Ever notice that people perform long needed home repairs or improvements right before they sell a home, or that they wait until in the middle of winter to fix a draft under the basement door? Contractors could tell you plenty of these stories.

In tight times, the last thing you need is to have leaks of any kind, particularly revenue pouring down a storm drain.

Make sure there aren’t any gaps in the movement of paper around your office. One lost piece of paper might lose your next million dollar customer (could be a referral you miss out on…)

Create checklists to make sure that no ball gets dropped and permanently incorporate the lists into your workflow.

Make sure leads are getting called back, scripts (If you have them) are being followed, sources of leads are being recorded and that return calls, emails and faxes are being made on time.

If you don’t have a “What’s next?“, find or create one. If you have one, make sure everyone is well aware of it and selling it.

Monitor every delivery and installation and follow up to make sure the customer was thrilled.

Ask for referrals as part of every single sale. “If you have a friend who needs our kind of help, we’d be honored if you’d recommend us. Here’s a card for 5 of your friends.”

Every time another business does something to annoy you, write it down and dig around in your business to make sure you aren’t doing the same thing. Then fix it. Today.

Do the simple, obvious things that you know you should always be doing, but didn’t because there was always plenty of business. These things might just be the difference you need – and they might just turn out to be the boost that catapults you into that next growth phase.

Help them thrive

Both your staff and your clients can use all the help they can get.

For your staff, look for those that are struggling. Don’t wait for them to pull themselves out of a sales slump. Help them. Buddy them up with a salesperson who is doing well these days, even if you have to pay the successful buddy an extra point or two of commission as a thanks. The more success encountered by the least successful salesperson, the better things will be for everyone.

For your clients, look at these 5 things for their business (and don’t stop there if you have ideas). How can you help them become more efficient? How can your products and services make them a leaner, stronger, higher productivity business? It might just be a piece of advice that came from a success that you had in your business. The last thing you want is the failure (or even a downturn) for your customer.

For your prospects, do the same thing. Maybe they’re buying $12k worth of stuff from someone else every year, but that might change if you’re the one offering them some help to assure their success. A great way to do this is by sending them your client newsletter, which shouldn’t really be a sales piece.

No more secrets

No matter what your state of mind about the current economic news, you simply have to recognize that news of rough economic times might concern your staff far more than it concerns you.

If you’re doing a good job of taking care of business, you might still be pretty confident of hitting your numbers and continuing to grow. Losing the business, or laying off people might be the farther thing from your mind.

However, you are not your staff.

They might be petrified about the news. They might have friends or family members who just got laid off. Do you really want them focused on the latest gloom and doom on CNN (much less the local gossip), worrying about how they’ll feed their kids if you lay them off, or would you prefer they watched the tight tolerances in your manufacturing shop because they know things are OK in your business?

Put yourself in their place: Wouldn’t be nice to know that sales were flowing in steadily and that making payroll is not a touch and go situation?

Ask your staff what they would do to improve productivity and cut unnecessary costs, making sure to let them know that you are working hard to make the company a stronger employer and that their help is essential to that process.

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Olympic ads: Measurable ROI = $0?

As we’ve discussed here before, unmeasurable advertising is useless. But don’t feel like you have to believe me. In today’s guest post, read why Denny Hatch also doesn’t think much of traditional entertaining TV ads.

As we’ve discussed here before, awards and cuteness aren’t the goal of your marketing.

Results is the only real measure of successful marketing.

Sales. New clients. New leads.

Not warm fuzzies.