Understanding Web Advertising

More money is wasted on advertising then any other business function. That is not to say businesses shouldn’t advertise but rather people should understand how advertising works. There are many ways to characterize ads but for our purposes let’s make it simple and separate advertising into two distinct approaches: saturation and emotional.

One of the things I’ve learned over a long career is that business folk invariably take their lead from the wrong sources. Small and medium size businesses look to the mega corporations to learn their tricks and adopt their attitudes when they have little in common – advertising being no exception. Since our clients are mostly medium or small size companies we try to help put some of these issues into perspective.

If you’re big enough and have the money available there are all kinds of marketing initiatives you can invest in, but if you have a limited marketing budget you need to be smart about how and on what you spend your advertising dollars. And the most effective and cost efficient place to spend those dollars is on your website. Yes you need to attract people to your site but if once they arrive they find it lacks intriguing, engaging content then you’ve wasted your money. So what tactical approach should you take to deliver your marketing message?

Saturation Advertising

The first approach is saturation advertising like you see on television. Anyone who has spent an evening sitting in front of the TV set is familiar with what I am talking about: the constant repetition of the same commercials over and over until the ads become an unwelcome irritation. The fact is no matter what you do to avoid commercials they eventually seep into your head. Even fast forwarding through commercials on a recorded program has an effect. Saturation advertising depends on repetition not quality, which is why some of the worst and/or stupidest commercials can still be effective.

There are some great commercials on television that do engage the audience with an entertaining, memorable, marketing message that enhances the brand and generates leads, but when push comes to shove, television advertising is all about repetition not quality.

Does Saturation Advertising Work?

Does saturation advertising work? The short answer is yes it does, at least for a television audience it does. Most people believe that it works on others but not on them, a phenomenon, psychologists call the Third Party Effect. The fact is, repeating something automatically makes it appear more believable.

The majority of people will respond that they don’t pay attention to commercials, but inattention does not protect you from the influence of repeated messaging. In fact bad commercials work better if the audience isn’t really paying attention, and fail when the audience is actually listening carefully. Careful attention brings to light all a message’s conceptual, technical and performance issues.

Will Saturation Advertising Work For You?

But saturation advertising is expensive because it relies on huge media buys in order to get the required number of repetitions needed to worm its way into an audience’s collective consciousness. It’s a messaging tactic that depends on deep pockets and that rules it out for most companies. Advertising that depends on constant repetition just won’t work on the Web unless it’s merely to supplement an existing extensive integrated television and print campaign.

Just as an aside, the music industry uses the same tactic. The constant repetition of a song even of inferior quality but with minimum rhythmic value and a repetitive catchy chorus can become a hit if heard often enough on the radio or on television in a music video. And like most saturation advertising it’s controlled by whoever has the most money available to purchase audience access. The same holds true for political advertising. Politicians can get away with the most incredible nonsense if they raised enough money to drown-out their opposition.

The Web is a different communication environment compared to television. Where television and the Web converge is with programming: your website is not an advertisement, or at least it shouldn’t be if you want it to be effective; your website is the equivalent of the program not the commercial, and that is why the key to success is the ability to turn advertising into content, and content into a memorable experience. You need to engage your audience with the same kind of techniques and messaging that is used in the programs you watch and not in the commercials you try to ignore.

If You Don’t Establish Your Brand, You Won’t Have a Meaningful, Memorable Message

If you can’t saturate the market with your brand then you have to find a better, more cost effective way to influence your audience. I use the word brand instead of product or service because that is where you have to start – you have to think ‘brand’ not product/service. What we’re talking about here is advertising intended to promote and grow your company within the context of a long term marketing strategy rather than a promotional ad intended to let your audience know about a particular sale or promotional event. Companies that stick exclusively to a promotional format are basically teaching their customers to only purchase goods and services when there’s a sale, and that’s a tough way to make money on a long-term basis.

We all know how popular the Google AdWords program is and we all know how expensive it can get in order to gain access to the keywords that trigger your ad placement. The Google system is basically relying on the same principle as television advertising: big audiences and lots of placements equals lots of leads.

The problem in addition to the continual expense is that even if you attract a large initial audience, that audience will not stick around long enough to get your brand story if that story is not at least as interesting and entertaining as the television programs they watch. And even if that audience manages to stick around a while, if your site isn’t interesting enough, they will never come back and that reduces your chances of being remembered. Unlike television where the audience is captive to the commercials, a Web audience is not. Unlike television where the experience is generally a compromised group decision, Web viewing is not.

For most Web-based businesses their website is their best and potentially most effective advertising venue, but people only go to websites that interest them, and they will leave in an instant if a website doesn’t engage, inform, and entertain them.

Emotional Advertising

“People forget what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.” – Warren Beatty

Everyone likes to think of him or herself as a rational, intelligent human being, but in truth, we are all motivated by the same hardwired emotional triggers. Our brains are marvelous, malleable organs that absorb information without us even knowing it; they process information, massage it, and produce instinctive responses to external stimuli. Our survival and dominance as a species depends on this ability. Our brains are not cameras that just record input; they are interpretive instruments that produce gut-instinct. As a consequence, successful long-term marketing strategies depend on an emotional brand association with basic Maslowian needs.

No matter who you are or what you do your competitors will undercut your price, add new and better features, or come up with superior alternative solutions. The business world is littered with the corpses of once proud companies that owned their market until someone came along with something better, or cheaper, or just different. No one wants a Polaroid camera when digital cameras are all the rage. Once proud Kodak has been humbled and downsized considerably because they saw themselves as a film company and cameras as merely a way to sell more film rather than tools of human creativity. Products and services come and go, but brands are forever, and brands are defined by their emotional appeal.

Coming up with the right brand message can be tricky. We know the motivational triggers that people respond to, so the objective is to find the right trigger for your company’s strategic vision and to frame it in terms that your target audience will accept. Knowing that your audience sees itself as rationally motivated is not an impediment to emotional motivational triggering. It is all a matter of framing the brand and providing the right context and subtext in your advertising and messaging initiatives, and most importantly on your website.

A Final Word

A company without emotional subtext is a company without soul, and it’s one that will eventually be superseded by those who understand the importance of brand and how emotional advertising works.

A Great Tip For Advertising Success – Go Deeper With That Ubiquitous Drill-Bit Story!

Let’s get right to it! Here’s the TIPPPS: “No one wants a hole!

Now let me explain what that TIPPPS means by sharing with you an excerpt from my Milk & Cookies for Success book. It’s entitled Daniel’s “Drill-bit” Story.

It was an unusually cold, no, frigid day at the end of March (2000), with freezing rain and gusty winds. A really miserable day, a day to stay home. But I had told my wife the previous Wednesday that I’d fix the kitchen sink, “… next Saturday, come Hell or high water. Promise.” I should have added, “… but not if the water is coming down as freezing rain, making driving conditions hellish.” But I didn’t, so there I was at the store buying an elbow for the pipe.

I met Norman there, my neighbor of three houses down. He was on his way to the till carrying a special drill bit (the kind you need to make a one-inch hole). So in jest I shared with him the “drill bit story” we hear all the time in marketing seminars (a pet-peeve of mine):

“… every year, people buy 100,000 quarter-inch drill bits. But no one wants a drill bit. What they really want is a 1/4 inch hole. So sell them the results, the benefits, not the specs.”

“Hell no!” he replied. “I would not have risked my life driving in this sh— for a one-inch hole. Are you nuts? But I need to make a bunch of those holes to finish this big birdhouse I’m building for my son Tim. He has to take it to his Boys Scouts meeting Monday. Gotta finish it today so we can wax it tomorrow.”

I was standing in line behind Norman. A minute had passed when he turned around and said, “I should spend more time with Tim, I know. I like doing stuff for my boy. Makes me feel good. I’ll take the whole weekend if I have to, but he’s gonna have the nicest birdhouse of anybody there.”

Another minute went by, and he turned around again to add, “And it’ll get Marcie off my case. Man, she’s been nagging me about this for weeks. Peace in the household once again. Then I can get back to working on the dune buggy. And that’s gonna make me really happy!”

When I got to my car, I couldn’t wait to write down the whole conversation and the enlightenment it had given me. The drill bit was just a tool. But so was the one-inch hole, just an intermediary goal, in a sense, a tool to get the next goal. Which was to finish the birdhouse, again a tool. What Norman was REALLY out there getting that morning was stuff for himself; pride and self-satisfaction from a job well done, feeling of importance vis-à-vis his son, and peace in the household. All of those would bring the one and only result that mattered to Norman; it’d make him happy, or at least happier. That was the end result, the ultimate goal he was after. Everything else was either a tool or an intermediary goal-a means to an end. It was all about WIII-FM-What Is In It For ME?

Keep that in mind the next time you hear the drill-bit story. It’s not about the bit for sure, but it’s not about the hole either. No one wants a hole. It’s about the benefit the hole will provide. It’s always about BENEFITS! So dig a little deeper, and see if you can figure out what your product or service REALLY provides for your customers or clients.

BENEFITS: That’s THE recipe for getting “on first base” by design – and not by accident – with your readers, listeners, viewers, visitors, etc. Coincidentally (!?!?), BENEFITS are also an important ingredient for turning “first base” into what I call “Firm-Base” – from where EVERYTHING is possible!

I wish you ALL the personal and professional success you desire and deserve. (Just remember that…What you “desire” is a function of your ambition, what you “deserve” is a function of your ACTIONS…Are the two aligned?)

Daniel G. St-Jean, BB, IMA, AMA, FBMI, SEM
(BizzBooster, Internet Marketing Advisor, Article-Marketing Alchemist,
Firm-Base Marketing(TM) Instructor, Successerenity(TM) Exponent & Mentor)

How Effective Is Your Advertisement?

There are many functions within a business and each function should have a positive effect on the bottom line of any company, but the advertisements that your marketing department place are the ‘front-line’ in the war to get prospects to your website – so how do you determine how efficient your advertisements are?

Do you simply look at the number of sales and enquiries or do you look deeper and try to evaluate why people have come.

Of course, to determine how effective our advertising is we should look at a number of things…

Media type – this can have a big effect on where you should be placing your advertising bucks next time, for example…you may have received a ton of prospects from Campaign #1, but very few closing deals, yet Campaign #2 brought in fewer but more targeted prospects and a higher closing ratio as it was a different medium

Your budget – do you need to spend $100,000′s to get great results? If you are a very large corporation you may need to, however if you think smart, there are literally hundreds of marketing weapons that cost very little but can bring in massive results. At the end of the day, your advertisement needs to make a profit

What was your objective – did the advertisement do what you wanted it to do? If it was to increase brand awareness, then you need to factor in surveyed results to see if awareness in your target market has increased. If you wanted a direct response, then was this response acted on?

Consistency – was this advert part of a series or a one-off? If it was part of a series – how much better has it performed than the previous ‘control’. Are you consistently improving? Your target market – is your target market responding to your advertising or do you need to adjust the demographics…

It’s useful to plan a meeting (regular if the campaign runs over a long period of time) to go through the data that you have collected for each account and measure the performance of the advertisement. You should begin to see a clearer view as to how efficient or not your advertising and marketing spend is.

As with all advertising and marketing…you should always test, test, test!

Ensure that you have a benchmark for your advertisements. In other words, define all the areas that you need to address (headline, sub-head, body etc…) and be sure that the copy is effective for your demographic. Once the advertisement has been placed, ensure that the important information (as highlighted previously) has been recorded and then alter a single aspect of the copy for the next advertising campaign you run.

The section of your copy that you choose could be any part, but start with the more identifiable parts such as the heading or sub-header of your advertising. Whatever it is, run the ad and then check the performance and the efficiency of each campaign.

If the original control version performs better, then keep it. Should the existing advertisement continue to outperform the changed version, then stay with it and develop a new option…

Look at your advertisements as tools for your business. adverts that you place and inevitably pay for should never be implemented and then ignored – far too much of your cash-flow will have been expended for potentially no return. Make them work by determining the efficiency of your advertising and you will make the profit. Determine the overall efficiency by how much profit you are making, then keep and improve the best adverts and bin the poor performers.

Copyright (c) 2008 Michael Hemmins

Local Online Advertising – How to Crush Your Competition

Now’s Your Chance to Beat Your Local Competition Online

In a 2009 VistaPrint study of small businesses, it was discovered that 46% of small businesses don’t even have a website for their business. And, to make matter worse, a Discover Small Business Watch survey found that 45% of the entrepreneurs interviewed didn’t think they needed a website either.

This is a huge window of opportunity for local businesses that truly catch the vision for online advertising! For years, advertising locally meant putting an ad in the local paper or phone book. If you had the money, you might produce a radio or TV commercial or program. But now, you can quickly an easily reach your target audience at little or no cost…and you can get a head start on the 45% of your competitors that don’t see a need for it.

Paid versus Free/Low-cost Advertising

There are two broad categories of advertising. Whether you’re talking about offline, traditional ads or online ads, your choices are free and paid. The difference is in the online world, free advertising can be as good as or even better than paid ads. The drawback in the past was that free online advertising took longer to take effect. There was no way to begin advertising this week and see a result next week. But that’s changed. And you don’t have to be an internet marketing expert to take advantage of it.

You should think of local online advertising as a funnel…just like your offline advertising efforts. The point is to be in as many places as possible and to provide your potential customers the information they’re looking for so you can begin building a relationship with them. Once they know who you are, you can continue building the relationship to the point they decide you’re the best company to meet their needs.

Maximizing Your Leverage

To be most effective, your free or low-cost online advertising funnel be based around your own web site augmented by thorough, complete profiles in each of the local search engines.

To have an effective local search listing, you need to go into Google Places, Yahoo! Local, and Bing Local and make sure the information they have for you is correct. If they don’t have you in their listings already, you can easily add your information. You’ll want to make these profiles as accurate and complete as possible. That way your customers will be able to get most of their questions answered even if you don’t have your own web site to drive them to.

In addition, you should go back to check your local listings in all the search engines periodically to make sure they stay correct. They have a tendency to change over time because Google and the other search engines find what they call ‘citations’ for your business all over the internet…and sometimes those citations are wrong. In other cases, one of your competitors might be trying to highjack your listing. By periodically checking the profiles, you can catch both of these situations easily.

You Site Can Be a Lead Generating Machine!

If you have a website, you need to turn it into a direct response, lead generating machine. If you don’t have a website online right now, you need to get one quickly or your online advertising will suffer. The biggest mistake most small businesses make regarding their website it trying to make it pretty rather than functional.

When it comes to websites, functional means it’s useful for your customers and effective for you. Customers need to be able to get information about you, your business, and your products or services. But you also need to give them specific, relevant, timely information that helps them solve problems in their lives and not just info about you or your products/services. Keep the site’s focus on the customer and their problems, not your business or products.

Functional for you means you need it to generate and collect leads so you can follow up with them. The easiest way to do this is to make sure each page on your site has a single goal. Before you write each page, you need to decide what it is you want your customers to do after they read that page. And then maintain that focus as you write.

By making your website the central focus of your online marketing efforts and supplementing it with a thorough local search campaign, you’ll be on the first page of Google quickly and (relatively) easily; without worrying very much about search engine optimization.