1.) PAY-PER-CLICK (PPC) ADVERTISING IS TOO EXPENSIVE AND DOESN’T WORK
I learned an invaluable lesson long ago in marketing that IN THE END, THE BUSINESSES THAT CAN SPEND THE MOST TO ACQUIRE CUSTOMERS WILL WIN. Following this logic, PPC can be a highly expensive advertising option if you do not learn how to convert more of the traffic and produce more revenue from that traffic than your competition for these ads. In my experience, most PPC spenders have a bad experience with PPC simply because they failed to understand this simple truth. Paid ads from search are nothing more than demand fulfillment – people have a need and are actively looking for a solution. The problem is most businesses today continue to fail at better converting these leads than their competition – leading to poor ROI and the ultimate end of their PPC spending.
I still marvel at how over 50% of the PPC spending businesses still continue to send their paid traffic into their website pages when they should be using dedicated and optimized landing pages which can convert that traffic at 50-100% higher rates than websites alone – especially when they use targeted videos on those pages. Are your ads going into highly optimized landing pages? I also marvel how long it takes for companies to respond to web leads and how poorly they handle leads over the phone. Are web leads responded to in less than 5 minutes? And are calls received from leads answered in 3 rings or less and not sent to a voicemail at any time during the initial intake calls? If you are paying for lead traffic and answered “no” to any of these three questions, then your PPC is unsustainable because you are not winning at conversion which ultimately allows you to out-spend your competition and still be profitable.
As discussed, PPC ads are leads who already have needs and the sheer volume in search for many industries is simply undeniable. For this reason, most businesses who really know how to properly run PPC campaigns use it as a fire-hose to quickly bring in volumes of new business while also understanding that the ROI is typically low: in many cases only 2 to 1 or 2.5 to 1 at best in many industries. This ability to quickly turn this hose off and on when needed can be invaluable for many businesses since they see PPC as one part of a much larger marketing mix that when working together, can accommodate their ever-changing needs as they arise.
And if you sell products online, getting visibility in search engines like Google just became more problematic because alternative search, especially for more commoditized products, is growing faster outside of Google. For example, over 55% of product searches now take place on the world’s largest store: Amazon.com…compared to Google at only 28% and declining. Over half of American households now have an Amazon Prime membership meaning they receive products shipped for free from Amazon.com. Google does not. Care to guess who is wining this battle? And how will this impact buying paid search in the future on these alternative search portals?
Finally, for those businesses that complain about ranking in search, the easiest answer is to simply buy rank through PPC. Even if you are at the top of common organic search results, you are still losing in mobile visibility due to Google’s mobile search display which can bury organic listings below their own PPC and maps displays – far below the scroll. This is why paying for the top three listings (PPC) on mobile and the top map positions (local extensions) can make a lot of sense – especially since the majority and fastest growing area of Google search is now on mobile. PC searches, while declining to mobile, still suffer the same problem…
Most PC-based searches of any repeatable volume will commonly include both paid and maps displays which means that even being #1 organically for those searches commonly puts you in the 8th position “ranking” of displayed those results. You might know what that means for consumers but most consumers do not and largely convert based on visibility and convenience. And since the majority of mobile searches by 2020 will be voiced-based searches, Google will focus heavily on proximity-based results which will likely lead consumers back to Google’s own maps relative to the mobile location of the searcher at that time.
2.) FACEBOOK MARKETING DOESN’T WORK
Facebook is the new internet and with a 71% Facebook/Instagram population adoption rate in most US states and cities, the reach is simply undeniable. By nature we are social creatures and Facebook feeds this inherent addiction like no other. Facebook/Instagram is also the preferred medium of use on our smart phones which are with us everywhere, all the time. But with this rapid adoption has also come some growing pains at Facebook as well. Problems ranging from shared user profile information to ad load limitations now means that a great deal of your previous understanding of Facebook marketing 1.0 using free reach and followers has quickly become replaced with Facebooks ever-growing ad platform. In short, marketing on Facebook is no longer “free” but that does not mean it is not effective. In many ways, it is quite the opposite.
Facebook ads now allow you to target users based on detailed demographics and be able to more effectively retarget them with ad tracking pixels. This ability to retarget alone now allows you to turn your nameless, faceless website visitors from all of your traffic sources into relationships and conversions based on this ability to now track and continue to serve ads to them after they leave your website. In the past, this would require visitors to give up their email address which nearly nobody would freely do. But today, by simply stopping by your website, there is a 71% chance you can now track and stay in front of them after they leave.
Facebook marketing is also different because the ads you run on Facebook need to be engaging and not interruptions – otherwise people will simply skip them in their newsfeeds. For this reason alone, the content that works best on Facebook is not the content you see and skip on your TV – despite the fact that 74% of the video ads businesses continue to wrongly run on Facebook are simply re-runs of their existing TV ads. These ads need to be audience and platform specific in order to be effective.
Finally, Facebook ads should not be confused with other forms of direct-response marketing. Although they can be highly effective for direct response in some instances, most are ads that need to be run in a marketing-series framework over a period of time to better build higher levels of familiarity, trust, and conversions with an audience over an extended period of time measured in months and not days and weeks.
3.) WEBSITE SEO IS ALL ABOUT RANKING
Far too many people now confuse ranking for visibility! Google is now very different than it was ten years ago and so are consumers. Search is no longer linear and most conversions involve 6-8 contact points before a conversion ever takes place. Mobile, which is where the majority of search now takes place, is also very different and in many ways and Google has stacked the deck in their own favor. And until the federal government designates Google as a public utility, avoiding and denying this reality does little good.
When it comes to ranking, search is now on multiple devices, taking place in multiple places, and coming from different people with different search histories and locations – all of which and more goes into their own “rank” they then see when they search. Google knows this which is why the only consistent rank that can trump all of this is through their own PPC advertising. On-page and off-site SEO is still important but has become highly technical and complicated and the brains you hire to try to outsmart Google will be going up against some of the top PHD’s in the nation so good luck. You can still win some of these battles but not with average tactics and most small businesses simply lack the resources, knowledge, and expertise to do this effectively over time. But just because you may not always rank doesn’t mean you cannot be visible.
To illustrate my point, I recently analyzed two client’s data from the same industry. Both spent heavily in order the obtain higher levels of “ranking” from largely the same sources yet only one had a high Return-On-Investment (ROI) while the other was barely breaking even on their overall marketing investment. The primary different between the two ultimately came down to visibility and how consumers responded to and converted as a result of it. Both had high rankings but only one had high visibility and results.
Being visible today means being visible on multiple devices, in multiple ways, producing many different results all along today’s consumer journey. Consumer search now varies in different ways along the new consumer journey thanks largely to digital and mobile. Just because consumers may now initially find you in search (paid or organic) no longer means that they now trust you enough to become a customer. In most cases, this is simply the beginning of the buyer’s journey and in my own findings leads them down a path of 6-8 points of consideration before the conversion takes place. So how did I come up with this number?
I recently worked with large marketing spender in multiple markets that claimed that his success was due to his TV ads. His logic was that since this is what people mentioned most often when asked how they heard of him, he naturally deduced that TV was the answer. What I found out however was something else. I had a chance to interview close to 100 of his clients and instead of asking them for one answer as to how they heard of him, I instead listed all of the ways he is visible (both online and offline) and then asked each client to check a box next to each that they could recall (remember) when considering hiring this business. And what was the average number of boxes checked? 6-8. And which ones did they check more than once when I asked them what was the most important to them in choosing this business over the alternatives? I will give you a hint: it was not his TV ads.
In the end, this all comes down to trust and when consumers today are not already familiar with a business, they will make themselves familiar on their own. For example, people today are bombarded by over four thousand marketing messages a day – a nearly 700% increase over the past 40 years and providing people with far more information then they can and will respond to. As a result, we become more responsive to those things that are most familiar to us since familiarity leads to trust – even in the worst scenarios. This is why we continue to elect people we despise and McDonald’s sells billions upon billions of hamburgers that most people rate as the worst (but most consistent) of their options. This is also why you see million dollar ads during the Super Bowl for products and services that are already known to you. And this is also why being highly and consistently visible throughout all mediums and all potential buyers paths all of the time is so critical.
So just remember that rank is not a substitute for visibility and the more visible you are throughout all of the most common buyer journeys your customers can take, the more successful you can become. If you don’t already know all of the places of consideration your buyers take throughout this journey, then ranking alone will fail to produce the results that business really want to achieve.
4.) ONLINE REVIEWS ARE RIGGED, MEANINGLESS, AND TOO HARD TO RECEIVE
As discussed above, consumers today are bombarded with too much marketing information to consciously process. Additionally, we no longer live in communities like Walnut Grove from Little House on the Prairie where we could all go to Mr. Oslen at Olsen’s Mercantile and get a trusted answer to our questions. Instead, we increasingly live ever growing and larger cities where trust commonly ends on your street’s edge in a city of millions of people. So who do you go to when you need a trusted advisor? Well, today over 84% of consumers indicate that they go online and trust online reviews and suggestions provided by nameless, faceless people. Isn’t technology great! Well, as much as you may hate this new reality, is it simply that for most consumers today: REALITY!
When is the last time you asked a neighbor or friend how to unclog a toilet? Or how about remedies for that rash you are getting somewhere were, well, you didn’t have a rash before? Is this something you want to ask those who are trusted and close to you who might know or would you rather turn to the hundreds of millions of other people online who are more likely to know an answer to your problem without thinking less of you for asking? And why wait for an answer that could take hours, days, and even weeks to answer then you could have all you need to make more informed decisions within minutes on Google or Amazon.com? This is why online reviews are so important and no matter what your opinion is of them, most other people now trust them which is all that matters.
The other objection I sometimes here is that it is simply too hard to get reviews. In sales, we know that 91% of consumers indicate that they will provide referrals yet only 11% of people will ask for them. So unless you don’t have any customers, you are simply not asking for reviews. To make this process easier, it also helps to know WHEN to ask for reviews and HOW to best ask for them. The best time to ask for reviews are when your customers are happiest with you and therefore most willing to help you tell others- but only if your ask. Next, you need to make it easy for them to provide you with reviews on the platforms that are most important to you. Today, these commonly include places like Google, Facebook, Yelp!, and other industry-specific sites that are most visible within your industry and/or when people search you by name. The good news is that many of these platforms have made it easier for you to receive new reviews from your customers. So how can you make that happen?
First, if your customers come into your business, most will now have smart phones with them so ask them to provide you with reviews at that time on their devices. Also help them to easily navigate to your review sites on their phones and don’t assume they know how to do it…they don’t. Finally, provide quick links to easily access and provide reviews on these sites from your website, emails, etc. and ALWAYS ASK! For if you don’t the answer is always no.
5.) VIDEO IS TOO EXPENSIVE AND DIFFICULT TO PRODUCE
Video is exploding in use for one simple reason: People on mobile don’t want to read your web content anymore – they prefer to watch videos. The early days of videos involved placing them on your website to increase conversions and help stop the shopping-around process. Today, videos are now the primary and most consumed form of content on social, mobile, etc. Because of this, video can now be used in your paid ads, on websites, on landing pages, in press releases, in search engines, etc. In short, video is now the preferred content for consumers that produces the highest conversion rate, even higher than text, so you can no longer afford not to use video in your marketing mix. And one video is no longer the answer: you need multiple videos to help match each of your marketing needs.
For example, I recently analyzed data for a large marketing client who spends money across the board on nearly all major marketing mediums. When I analyzed his website data, I found that his best performing website pages had video on them. His best performing landing pages which had video on them out performed those without video by nearly 3 to 1. His video ads significantly increased his returning visitor rates on his digital assets and his mobile conversion rates increased significantly after video was deployed on his mobile website. Calculated together, his ROI from his investment in his videos was the highest ROI for all of his marketing by a factor of nearly 7 to 1.
Still think quality and professional video is too expensive?
6.) NOBODY READS E-NEWSLETTERS ANYMORE
Most people are flooded with SPAM emails these days so naturally we then assume that email marketing is no longer a viable alternative. The problem with that thinking is the vast majority of people now start their days by reading their emails and continue this process throughout the day – thanks largely to mobile. To help combat this, an increasingly number of SPAM blockers are being deployed and the Federal Government even passed CAN-SPAM legislation to help reduce the number of unwanted emails we receive. So how can emails still be an effective form of marketing?
There is a good reason why many of the things you can access or download for FREE online require an email address. Good email marketing today will have open rates around 15-30% and click-through rates in the 1-3% range of depending on your lists and the quality of your emails. Really good emails and lists can have higher opens in the 30-50% range with click-through rates in the 9-13% range. These numbers may seem small but depending on what you sell, they can be invaluable and here are a few reasons why:
- Emails cost you practically NOTHING to easily send and stay in front of your sales prospects. In many cases, these simple yet effective reminders that you are still around at a time when they are ready to buy can make the ROI from email marketing so effective. In sales, timing can be everything and your emails, if sent frequently over time, can significantly help your odds of timing the close.
- Emails can also show your sales people who are actually warm leads simply by how they react to your emails. In addition to clicks and opens, the ability to see how many times each recipient will click and open your emails will tell you exactly who to follow-up with to help close more business. For your salespeople, this ability to help identify “warm leads” on a regular basis is like gold – especially if they hate cold calling…which most closing sales reps do.
- Email marketing is much easier to setup and manage these days. My favorite system is MailChimp which can also directly integrated to many CRM systems. They also allow you to easily create sign-up forms that can be placed on your website, web pages, blog posts, landing pages, emails, etc.
- Finally, getting new email lists is easier then you may thing. Websites like UpWork.com allow you to farm out this work to virtually anybody world-wide and often at a fraction of the costs of doing it locally. Many of these people have experience using multiple systems and sources in building email marketing lists and will commonly do it for very little money.
7.) TV, BILLBOARD, AND RADIO ADVERTISING ARE DEAD
Broadcast TV viewership is down 10% YOY over the past few years. Broadcast radio is now being overtaken by Sirius and music/audio/podcasts on demand. Billboards will always exist as long as we continue to sit in traffic but will people recall them while their attention spans continue to decline and we are bombarded with increasing numbers of marketing ads? Many people claim that these more traditional forms of marketing are now largely ineffective and dead. The trends certainly support this assertion long-term but does that mean that are not viable anymore? Well, like many things in marketing, it depends.
Businesses are historically slow in reacting to the evolutions in marketing. As we moved from radio to TV, from yellow pages to websites, and SEO written text to video and mobile etc. businesses have always lagged in their marketing transitions to newer mediums. To make matters worse, the recent adoption to social and mobile has resulted in tens of billions of dollars in the gap between the time we spend on mobile and how much marketing money has adjusted to it. Clearly people still watch TV, listen to radio, and see billboards but HOW they now see them and the impacts they are having is clearly changing. But no matter HOW these changes take place, the principles of marketing still apply.
Marketing can be broken down into two buckets: demand fulfillment (largely through search) and demand creation (largely through brand building). Many marketing mediums in use today have varying degrees of each bucket in them which can make it challenging for many businesses to know what they are spending on and how to measure the results – TV, radio, and billboards are no different. The only difference is that billboards are sold largely on scarcity (or limited inventory) while TV and radio now have a tougher sale to make to advertisers because people are consuming less radio and TV and traditional TV advertising is producing diminishing results. In the perfect world, this decline in demand would equate to a decline supply – leading to lower costs. The larger ad buyers know this which allows them to continue to negotiate ad buys at better rates than those who lack this capacity to buy in bulk and drive down their ad costs. This was always the game in this business which is why only a handful of businesses with such ad buying power could afford to consistently continue to buy and drive down their costs while pricing most of the smaller to medium sized competitors out of that market. Now that digital provides a much lower cost entry point, this gap only continues to grow. Which leads me to something that seems lost on many…
Brand building takes time and can pay off in today’s multi-attribution marketing models but only if it is used to support all marketing efforts and is not based on the old-school notion of direct attribution marketing which no longer works like it used to. Case in point; I have a client who has run a healthy dose of TV and radio ads over the past decade. Ten years ago, I could tell him when his TV ads ran because I would see a spike in his website analytics and contacts when they did. Today, you can barely tell a difference for the same ad buys. Ten years ago he considered his TV and radio ads to be largely direct-response based but today he sees them largely as a brand play in order to increase his brand recall rates and conversion rates from all of his marketing – not just his TV, radio, and billboard ads.
Following his multi-attribution marketing model, he now knows that by balancing his spend from his brand building and his demand fulfillment, he can get a higher ROI and conversion rates from his demand fulfillment ads when he has enough brand building frequency for people to recall his brand when they are in need of his products and services. This is why you will commonly see higher click-through rates in paid ads from all sources to these businesses simply because consumers gravitate to what is more familiar to them and familiarity builds trust. But this strategy requires and ingredient that most people fail at in marketing: Patience.
If you are new to a market, it can commonly take 12 months or more to “warm-up” a market to a point of optimal brand recall and when conversion rates will hit a point of apogee and maximum profitability. The question then becomes do you have the budget and patience to run these ads in a market with enough frequency and reach for 12 or more months in order to achieve this branding objective? Ironically this is a similar conversation I now have with customers about social media ad spending which relies heavily on brand building as well. The only difference is the CPM costs on TV, radio and billboards still commonly dwarfs the costs of social and digital to accomplish the same objective. But if your desired client avatar can be reached through a traditional DMA broadcast model as effectively as a more targeted digital approach, then TV, Radio, and Billboards can still be an effective option – especially if you can buy better than your competition.