What Constitutes Good Online Marketing?
This is a question that is rarely asked by business owners but really should be. Many are being fooled into spending their hard earned money on snake oil because they are either unaware or too intimidated to ask the right questions. In too many cases “marketing service providers” are offering the wrong evidence of potential success, wowing businesses with buzzword knowledge, rising traffic charts, and large volumes of visitor data on their platform, when in fact such statistics are actually meaningless.
So let’s cut through the technical language and the industry jargon to break it down for understanding sake.
If a marketing firm can get you 200 new visitors a month, would you be impressed? What if a marketing firm could get you 10,000 new visitors a month? I mean, wow, that does sound pretty good. Better yet, what if a marketing firm said that they can get you 40,000 visitors a month? Now we’re talking! Sign me up, right?
Wrong! Stop the press! Wait. Remember the blood, sweat and tears you put into making last year’s profit? Well don’t be so willing to part with that hard earned income for mere snake oil. Traffic is not sales or profit. Let me say that again.
Traffic is not sales or profit. Especially their traffic.
Let me prove it by posing a hypothetical, but often all too real, scenario that raises the important questions to ask.
All of the business-savvy individuals have dramatically shifted their wide eyes from the number of visits, to the number of actual sales. In other words, the perspective really changes when you look at the opportunity through this adjusted lens, doesn’t it? Now, I admit I have over emphasized the data to make my point, but in reality there are way too many marketing and advertising companies also over emphasizing visit data to sell a solution to a business. Right back at you, snake oil salesmen.
The reality is that many firms are giving you the wrong evidence of success, or rather, potential success. Instead of letting them take the lead, business owners need to begin asking the hard questions that demand the real answers. Here are some suggestions to help screen out the snake oil and find the real opportunities. The conversation should go like this:
Marketing sales person: “We have x to the 12th power visitors coming to our site, you should advertise here! If you want the exposure you deserve as a company you should be on our site.”
Business owner: “Well, can you show me how you have helped business drive revenue? Do you have any examples? Do you track lead conversion rates or have you done any studies of the conversion rates and quality of the leads you generate? Any data on the revenue impact on businesses like mine?”
Marketing sales person: “Ah, well, um… yeah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Ah, but we have this really cool site, you see, and didn’t you see that awesome chart we have on how much traffic we have.”
Business owner: “Hmmm, that is a lot of traffic. Can you segment it for me so I can understand how many of your visitors are actually looking for my product or service? What kind of data do you have on how many people are actually looking there for something I am providing? Also, what share of that traffic will I see with the 12 other service providers I compete with on the same page? What page will I be on and how much traffic does that page get? I am still unclear on how much revenue your customers are seeing due to your product?”
Marketing sales person: “Ah, yeah, well, we do not guarantee to sell the stuff, that is your issue, we will just get you exposure.”
Stop. The. Press.
This is where reality comes in. The reality is that the expectation and the results simply are not aligned. Businesses are coming to these service providers to get customers, but in reality they’re often just getting over-priced brand exposure. And frequently it’s brand exposure to the wrong audience.
Here are some other questions to consider when looking at these types of marketing opportunities. How and why are you getting the traffic to your site? Is it through SEO? What are the keywords that are driving the traffic to your site? Are these relevant to me? How? Why?
It’s also important to note that there is a distinct difference between demand fulfillment and demand creation marketing. Demand fulfillment is the type of marketing where a customer already has a specific need and is looking for an answer. They are seeking out a solution you provide. In the online marketing space these customers will use Google to put in keyword phrases that, in essence, are asking the question they want an answer to.
Example: Auction Service Saratoga Springs, NY
The results will then be their answer and we fulfill the demand. The goal in this type of marketing is to be visible as a result when the right questions are asked that fit your solution.
Demand creation marketing is a lot tougher. This is when a prospect does not have an explicit need and is not necessarily looking for your innovative answer. You are then trying to create demand for your service or product with creative, innovative marketing copy or by outlining a problem they did not know they had. You are also exposing them to an opportunity they were not aware of. This type of online marketing has a much lower conversion rate and often is just a branding opportunity to support future sales opportunities.
So what about a regional listing site or local listing opportunity? Here, you place a display ad or text ad or listing on the site for a fee.
“Selling one type of advertising but delivering another with the wrong evidence for success.”
This type of advertising traditionally has a very low conversion rate and often does not convert into a sale at all. That being said, it does increase your brand awareness and can support other marketing efforts focused on fulfilling demand. Brand awareness is important, don’t get me wrong. What is often wrong is that the people selling these services are promising one type of result but, more often than not, deliver another type of solution. On top of that they are giving you the wrong evidence to support the conclusion.
As a business owner, I would not pursue this as a first option in most cases. If the primary goal is to increase leads or customers, this type of marketing effort generally would be a secondary consideration. The only exception to this is if the keywords or target audience is going to that third party site as a primary means of answering a question they have. If this is the case you need to know a number of things to properly analyze the value of the marketing effort. What percentage of the traffic is relevant to my business? What are the average conversion rates for the business on this site? What share of traffic are the businesses getting for the most part on the site? I could go on and on but a deeper understanding of the potential leads and customers will give you an understanding of the value of the marketing.
Other questions to consider when looking at a third party regional site for advertising include:
Do the demographics of the visitor fit my target customer?
Are these the type of customers that will stick or are these “one and done,” single-sale customers?
This post may offend a number of people that are selling these types of services. I want to be clear that I do often support the decision to use these sites for branding or for driving leads. However, what I have found is that many times the wrong expectation is set using the wrong data. This practice is disconcerting given the strong desire of small- and medium-sized business owners, who lack digital proficiency, to solve the online marketing puzzle. In many cases, companies, and many of them big companies, are preying on this misunderstanding, throwing up seven different kinds of smoke by showing them the wrong data and selling them annual packages that result in branding but no actual leads. What’s more, the branding is often with the wrong target market.
Your only defense is asking the right questions. If they do not have legitimate answers to these questions then you should be very critical of the opportunity. Good marketing companies should have the impact data readily available and will subsequently have an accurate idea of what the real opportunity is.