Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category

You must make the move to measurable media today

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

With the economy in the tank, there are a lot of people who are understandably worried about their businesses and their jobs. Companies that rely on marketing for revenue are especially concerned; historically, marketing budgets are among the first to be cut when there is a downturn. In the dotcom bust early this century, the slicing of marketing budgets directly contributed to the demise of several publications, including one that I worked for at the time.

I have said this before, and I will say it again now – if you are a media company that relies on advertising for revenue, you need to start offering a performance-based, ROI-based media option today.

If you don’t believe me, let’s look to someone who knows something about online advertising – Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Google just announced their earnings for the third quarter of 2008, and in the press release, Schmidt said this:

“The measurability and ROI of search-based advertising remain key assets for Google.”

Measurablility and ROI-based marketing programs are what are going to be the key assets to get Google through the hard time. I say, why not follow the leader?

The markets are down (again) so let’s talk about marketing instead

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

My latest article has just been posted on The Industry StandardFive ways media companies can take advantage of the shift to performance-based media.

New dollar billWith the markets down 30% year-to-date and nations around the world joining the U.S. in an economic downward spiral, it might feel like anything related to the economy or spending money is bad news. But there are bright sides to any situation if you look at it from a different perspective, and this situation is no exception.

When the economy dips, and companies take a hit, one of their first budgets to be cut is often the marketing budget. Marketing can feel like unnecessary spending for businesses, and it’s easy to cut one month and then quickly pick up the next month again when the company is doing better.

During the dotcom bust of the early 2000’s, I was working for Publish magazine, a trade magazine/Website focused on “Internet communication.” That magazine, like many others (including The industry Standard) folded due to the bad economy and the cut that IT companies were making to their marketing budgets.

But those were the days before performance-based media. Google, the leader (and pioneer) of PPC and performance-based advertising, launched its AdSense program in October 2000, but it didn’t gain traction until 2002. At that time, marketing budgets were easy to cut because marketing execs couldn’t prove ROI on the money they were spending. But today, when $1 out is easily measured to x dollars back, I believe that companies that provide performance-based advertising options will be insulated (a bit) from the downturn.

This isn’t to say that companies will be entirely shielded. But when some amount of revenue is easily tied back to a smaller amount of spending, companies will not be inclined to cut that spending.

Dollar bill by reubenaingber

Obama's online strategy

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Last night, I read the article on TechCrunch about how Obama has overtaken Kevin Rose as the most popular person on Twitter. I hadn’t been following Obama before, so I decided to check out the Obama Twitter feed and I noticed this message:

Barack Twitter

This is smart online marketing. Holding out a carrot like the VP candidate – an issue that has been debated and talked about so much – is just smart. So, after following Obama on Twitter (“he” reciprocated the follow First to know about Obama's vp candidatewithin minutes), I went to the Web site link that was posted. Again, a stroke of marketing genius. Because even if I am not going to vote for Barack Obama, I really want to be in the group of people who are the first to know who his running mate is going to be. So I gave up my email address. And my phone number. And now Obama’s campaign can continue to market to me from now through November.

(Find me on Twitter @mchang16)

Five things your business can learn from Disney

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

“How do kids find new music?” is the question that I set out to answer in my article for The Industry Standard this week – “Tweens, teens increasingly turn to MySpace, iTunes, and illegal P2P services for music.” Go have a read if you’re interested in what I found.

In the course of researching and writing that article, I couldn’t get Disney out of my mind. Even though I don’t mention Disney in the article, the entertainment and media giant was there, framing every thought. Disney is the champion of the tween market, not only with its TV programming but also with its music efforts.

Hannah MontanaAt a time when the music industry is faltering, Disney’s success in the music industry is only growing. According to an article on CNET, Walt Disney Records’ music sales grew 60% from 2006 to 2007 due to the “tween and young-teen music craze led by Disney star Miley Cyrus.” This was at a time when music sales were down 17% overall.

And Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) is joined by other Disney hits in appealing to the tween crowd. Along with 2006’s High School Musical, the boy band group The Jonas Brothers is set to be another huge sensation for Disney.

Disney may have millions of dollars in marketing to back up their successes, but there are a few things that everyone can take away from the company’s success and apply to their own businesses. Here are five things that you can do to be just like Disney:

1. Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.

Jonas Brothers2. Be yourself. Part of the appeal of the Disney stars is that they seem so real. Because of this, they appeal to both tweens and their parents. And to maintain that image in front of so much media scrutiny, it’s likely that the stars are mostly just being themselves. Sincerity is appealing, and operating a business that you believe in and behaving with integrity while operating it will help attract – and keep – customers.

3. Remember that you’re building a brand. While Disney stars may be “being themselves,” they are never outside of the watchful eye of the media, and as such have to behave in a way that will build their brand – always. One little slip up (such as Cyrus’ photo incident with Vanity Fair), might be able to be overcome with an apology. But constant deviations from your brand will leave your customers confused and angry.

High School Musical4. Piggyback on previous success. The Jonas Brothers, Disney’s up-and-coming prospects who you often hear compared to The Beatles (at least by Disney), first toured as the opening act for – Hannah Montana. By piggybacking on the success of one musician, Disney was able to launch the careers of another group that appeals to the same demographic. In the same way, piggyback one business success off of another whenever possible.

5. Let your customers in on the action. One of the biggest reasons that High School Musical was so popular was that it invited everyone in to learn the songs and the dances. Both fans and customers want to be included, so figure out ways to draw your audience in and let them participate every chance you get.

 

What does Wi-Fi stand for?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Wi-FiThis past week, a family member asked me a question related to my post about the better workplace coffeehouse, in which I mentioned the term Wi-Fi multiple times. The question wasn’t about what Wi-Fi refers to (wireless Internet access), but about what Wi-Fi stands for. Specifically, the question was if the term Wi-Fi was somehow related to Hi-Fi (high fidelity) and if Wi-Fi actually means “wireless fidelity.”

It turns out the answer is no. Wi-Fi doesn’t actually stand for anything. According to this article from BoingBoing:

“Wi-Fi doesn’t stand for anything.

It is not an acronym. There is no meaning.

Wi-Fi and the ying yang style logo were invented by Interbrand. [The founding members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, now called the Wi-Fi Alliance] hired Interbrand to come up with the name and logo that [they] could use for [their] interoperability seal and marketing efforts. [They] needed something that was a little catchier than “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence”.”

According to Internet.com, some of the losing names that Interbrand suggested were Skybridge, Torchlight, Flyover, Transpeed and Elevate.

UPDATE: Thanks to an awesome comment by a reader (Thanks MixtLupus – check out his blog here), it turns out that Wi-Fi does indeed stand for Wireless Fidelity. I couldn’t access the knowledge base (anyone who can and sends me a screenshot, I will be indebted!) but here is the small piece that I could see.

Fidelity

For every $1 spent on search, Google gets $1.10

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I just saw the headlines from a report this week that Google is earning $1.10 of every new search dollar spent. This didn’t make sense (obviously) because Google is magic, but I couldn’t imagine how they were creating money out of nothing. Turns out that the explanation is simpler:

“For every new dollar spent on search in Q2 2008 versus Q2 2007, $1.10 went to Google. Yahoo lost $0.09, and Microsoft lost $0.01. In other words, advertisers are putting all of their new search dollars into Google, and pulling money out of Yahoo Search and Microsoft Live Search.”

Dollar BillLooks like Efficient Frontier Insights, the company that published Search Engine Performance Report: Q2 2008, is looking for publicity with that headline, because it isn’t really accurate. Google may be taking money away from Yahoo and MSN, but they aren’t taking $1.10 of every NEW dollar. Google may be taking old dollars away from its competitors, but it isn’t creating money out of nothing.

Nevertheless, the news remains strong for search advertising. Some other highlights from the report – CPC rates increased for all three search giants compared to Q2 of last year, as did ROI.

An argument against The Long Tail

Monday, July 7th, 2008

The Long Tail is a concept that was set forth in 2004 by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, which was then turned into a 2006 book. In short, the idea is that because of the Internet and it’s infinitely wide and Long tail monkeyincredibly low-cost distribution capabilities, the big “hits” of popular culture (be they movies, music, books, etc.) are no longer the only things that will make money. Now, the “misses” will also be money-makers.

But a new article by Anita Elberse just published in the Harvard Business Review called “Should you Invest in The Long Tail” is taking a closer look at the theory and suggesting that businesses really shouldn’t shift their promotional dollars to the long tail – and instead should stick to promoting the winners. She comes to this conclusion after determining that the tail, although long, is very flat and accounting for very few sales, and typically less satisfied consumers.

Anderson replies here.

Elberse responds to Anderson here.

This is a very interesting debate, and one that should be followed by anyone who is involved in marketing or advertising online. Anderson and Elberse have taken a great deal of time looking at data and doing analysis on this concept, but here are some thoughts based on reading the articles.

– Anderson seems to be focusing on the fact that online retailers like Amazon.com will begin selling a lot of items in the long tail. Whether or not it’s true is practically irrelevant for the vast number of online businesses. Most businesses don’t have the reach of Amazon.com and are targeted at a much smaller audience. The people who run those businesses know that 80% of their business comes from the top 20% of their clients and customers – so they will continue to focus their attention – both time and money – on reaching those clients/customers. Now they have Elberse’s data to back them up.

– People buy stuff that other people like. This is why user recommendations (such as those on Yelp or TripAdvisor) are so popular, and why the head of the tail keeps growing in popularity. People like to have a choice, but when their time is limited, they typically will go with the easier choice. And it’s easy to choose something that has been recommended by someone they trust – or an online audience of their peers.

– The long tail does exist and consumers are benefiting from more choice – but the tail isn’t a place that any musician or artist or blog or business wants to be. And may not be a place where money can be made. According to the data collected by Elberse and cited by Anderson, “In music, of the 2.4 million digital tracks sold in 2007 in the US (most of them through iTunes) 24% sold only one copy and 91% sold fewer than 100 copies.” 100 copies sold through iTunes (at $.99 each) isn’t even enough money to buy a new guitar.

Photo by loufi

Domain names & widgets in Ireland

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I’m back from my vacation, and it was terrific. Basically, Chris and I spent an entire week having fun and relaxing – and not a bit of work was done by either of us. It was a real vacation!

Of course, I may not have officially been working, but I was on the lookout for business ideas and interesting perspectives on the Internet during my time in Ireland. Only two things stood out:

1) Most ads, billboards and marketing that I saw in the country included a URL, and most of those URLs ended in .ie. I really was surprised at the prevalence of the country-specific domain name usage in Ireland. I can’t be sure if it was just Ireland that uses it’s country code, or if that practice is common across the world, but I definitely expected .com to be more popular in Ireland than it appeared to be, at least in what I was looking at as I drove across the country. This trend (or non-trend) is something that I am going to be watching closely for globalization projects.

2) In Ireland, a widget is related to Guinness, not the Web. In fairness, many people in Ireland probably think of the Web when they hear the word widget. But for us, during this trip, the widget was all about the Guinness.

According to this interesting post by Fred Wilson that I read when I got back from my trip (Why Widgets is the Wrong Word for What We’re Doing), widgets as they relate to the Web may soon be an outdated term (or concept) anyway. But for posterity, a widget is “an object on the computer screen that the user interacts with,” according to Wikipedia. It’s basically a piece of code that can be used on a Web page (or blog) to deliver specific content or functionality to a Web page. (I am not convinced that the widget is going away, although Wilson makes an interesting point.)

In terms of Guinness, the widget is a little plastic ball that is in the canned version of the beer that releases gases to help make the head that Guinness is so famous for. This link provides some very helpful information (and a picture) about the Guinness widget.

I told you I was on vacation and not working, right?

Why I'm kissing Tumblr a sad, sad good-bye

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

My company has a lot of blogs for the various businesses that I’m starting – 52 to be exact. Most of them are run on WordPress, which I really like, one is run on an old install of TypePad (which is clunky, but might be because I need to update), and one is run on Tumblr.

I love Tumblr. I love the user interface, the way that you can post quick snippets of things. Quotes, pictures, text, links…it is fun to use. And the templates are awesome. The Cara Austin blog is on Tumblr, and it’s a delight to update every day.

Sad Good ByeBut there is a fundamental problem with Tumblr that I wasn’t aware of before I started using it – the search engines don’t seem to like it. In the two months since I have been posting (every weekday starting March 13, 123 posts total), the blog has only received 17 visitors from Google. Every one of those visits, except one, had the term “Cara Austin blog” or “Cara Austin Tumblr” as the search term.

This is a major problem for a commercial blog. I have a personal Tumblr that I use for my own things, notes, things I want to remember – and I don’t care if no one ever comes to that site. But for Cara Austin, a musician who needs to get her name out there and needs to sell albums, this is a big issue.

I didn’t know this about Tumblr. I didn’t know that the pages wouldn’t be indexed well (or show up high) on Google. I knew that Tumblr doesn’t have comments. And I knew that Tumblr didn’t have a search engine built in. These things I decided to live with.

But I didn’t know that Tumblr had a search engine optimization (SEO) problem.

I could no longer ignore the fact after I launched another new blog on WordPress on April 23, put up a few posts, and that blog starting receiving more traffic, from a wider variety of search terms, in a much shorter time period.

Here’s a little chart to illustrate:

Tumblr SEO chart

And so I’m leaving Tumblr. I’m leaving with a tear in my eye, but I’m leaving nonetheless.

Photo by Jaye_Elle

Deceptive marketing and lead generation

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

valueclick logoMy most recent article for The Industry Standard is up on the site now: What the ValueClick settlement means for the future of lead generation. Why don’t you go read it? And hey! Why don’t you leave a comment if you have something to say.

For those of you who don’t know the background to the story, ValueClick just recently agreed to pay $2.9 million to settle the FTC allegations that they were doing bad things with their business, including:

1) Lying to consumers, advertising free offers, but then requiring consumers to pay or purchase to qualify for those “free” offers.

2) Violating federal law, specifically, the CAN-SPAM act.

3) Not securing customers’ financial data, even though they promised to secure it.

The press release from the FTC with the complete list of charges is here.

ValueClick will admit to no wrong-doing. Here’s what ValueClick says about the charges:

“The FTC alleged that the Company utilized deceptive marketing practices that violated the CAN-SPAM Act and FTC Act. In an effort to resolve this matter, ValueClick agreed to a settlement payment of $2.9 million without an admission of liability or conceding that the Company violated any laws.”

Having worked in the lead generation industry for years, I know that this is not the norm in lead generation and that most lead gen companies follow solid business practices; but yet, these types of scams do happen fairly frequently. Lead generation is a big business in the U.S. (see images below) and gettng bigger as companies realize the value of generating data that can provide specific metrics and ROI. So companies will use many different tactics – not all of them aboveboard – to generate leads for their clients.

If you’re doing lead generation through a third-party provider, make sure that you get them to explain in detail the following things:

1) What the environment looks like in which they will be generating leads. If they are creating a registration form, make sure that they show you what it looks like.

2) How they are generating the traffic that drives the leads.

3) If they are doing “co-registration” to generate their leads. Co-registration is the practice of including a check box at the end of another registration form so as consumers register for one thing, they also can “opt-in” for your thing, too. If they are doing co-registration, find out if the box is pre-checked, and if it is, run the other way.

4) Ask for a client reference – they should be willing to let you talk to someone else who has used the service and found it reputable and helpful.

Here are those lead generation numbers that I promised. This image is taken from the BtoB Magazine’s Interactive Marketing Guide for 2008, which has a lot of great online advertising data.

Lead generation statistics