In the last 2 weeks, my number 1 competitor has been doing more marketing than in the previous 9 months. Ironically, I don’t own a Television, don’t subscribe to the local paper, don’t listen to local radio, haven’t received anything in the mail from his company and none of our prospects have asked about that competitor. So how do I know he’s doing marketing in my area? Google Adwords told me so. As a matter of fact, Google Adwords can be used to track local industry trends, competition, market interest and even key terms (i.e. the words people on the street are using to describe your business or product offering). And the best part is, it can cost you little to no money and you don’t even need a great website to gather this information.
Here’s the concept. In previous blogs I’ve talked about the free tool at Wordtracker.com to help you determine which keywords are most popular on the internet. The problem with this tool for small businesses is that it’s a global tool. Meaning that it’s tracking keywords all over the world not just in your territory and so what might be a popular phrase or keyword around the world might not be in your area. More importantly, just because, on a global basis, your competition’s franchise is real popular, that doesn’t mean they are in your area. Or how about if your competition is a local restaurant that won’t even register on the tool at Wordtracker.com because only people (i.e. your potential customers) in your local area search for that business name?
Let’s look at a few examples. Keep in mind that this blog assumes you know how to set up a Google Adwords account, create a campaign for a targeted geographic area, and buy negative, broad-match, phrase-match, and term-match keywords. If all of that is foreign to you, check out my blog on Online Ads. Also review some of Google’s resources.
- Local Industry Trends – Everyone has competition. And sometimes your direct and indirect competition might not be who you think. For instance, if you own an upscale restaurant who is your competition? You might say your direct competition would be the other upscale restaurants in town, however you would be missing out on a large part of your competition. Call it “indirect”, but any place where someone might spend discretionary income would be competing with you. After all people don’t go to your restaurant because they’re hungry. They can cook for themselves or eat fast food. They go to an upscale restaurant for a social experience. If you’re an accountant, you might consider other accountants in town as your direct competition however accounting software and people who do their own taxes are also your competition. For the water treatment industry, everyone else who sells water softeners and drinking water systems would be your competition however all the soap companies who sell people on the idea that more soaps and lotions are all they need to solve their problems are also competition. You get the point. With Google Adwords, in addition to buying your competitors’ business name as a keyword, you also need to buy all of the keywords that describe your indirect competition. You’ll catch the trends as to what’s popular in your area almost immediately and then be able to use that information in your marketing to better TALK directly to your prospects in the words they are using.
- Competition – As I mentioned above, my top competitor just started marketing (through a direct sales telemarketing approach that’s very hard to track) in my area in the last month. How do I know this? I bought the keywords for his business name for the geographic territory that I serve about 10 months ago and in the last month more people searched for his business name than the other 9 months combined. The logic is quite simple. People are only going to search for things they’ve heard of so, one way or another, they’ve heard of his business and are doing some background checks via Google.
- Market Interest – As you can tell, all 4 of these benefits are tightly related and so this one just builds on the last 2. Quite simply, if you’re tracking your direct and indirect competition as described in steps 1 and 2, you can gauge total market interest by simply monitoring the fluctuation in the number of searches for each term. If more people are searching for “Tax Software” than last month or last year, you better have a page on your website that directly addresses why your accounting firm is better and more cost-effective than off-the-shelf software.
- Key Terms – The internet is an unparalleled testing ground for marketers. You can test creative, copy, calls to action, offers, coupons and just about anything else that can potentially improve your marketing. Now, with the help of Google Adwords, you can track common phrases. Last week my ad agency sent me creative on a newspaper insert we are working on. This ad agency works with dozens of franchises similar to mine around the US and part of the wording on the ad included the term “Water Analysis”. I’d been buying that keyword phrase along with a common synonym, “Water Test”, for months so I logged into my Google Adwords account to see, in my area, which was more popular. Turns out people search for “Water Test” or “Water Testing” 11 times more often than “Water Analysis”. Analysis just isn’t a word people use. So we updated the marketing to reflect the phrase that is already on prospects’ minds. The goal being that, as they’re sorting through their newspaper, they’ll be more likely to notice the term “Water Test” as they’ve already given that phrase a position in their mind. Make sense?
Now that you’re tracking all of this information, what do you do with it? You respond to their problems and let people know why your solution is the best to solve their problems. In marketing we can break up any individual marketing creative into 3 basic pieces:
- The Target Audience – This is the MOST important piece. You can be running a buy 1 get 1 free deal on Harley’s but if you’re doing so in People or Home and Garden magazine your marketing isn’t going to perform as well as if you put it in American Motorcyclist.
- The Copy – This is what you say and how you say it. Whether it’s written words or video or an audio recording.
- The Offer – or Call to Action. This is what you use to try to make the prospect “Act Now.”
With the Google Adwords system I describe above, we can improve each item to maximize our conversion rate.
- Target Audience – We are only marketing to people who search for the keywords related to your business or competition. It doesn’t get much better then that.
- Copy – With information on local industry trends, competition, and key terms, your website can directly talk to your prospects in their own words. More importantly, you can create individual mini-sites to address each competitor or trend that might be taking business away from you. Again, you can specifically target and respond to the EXACT problem that you can solve for the prospect.
- Offer – The possibilities are, of course, endless. If you can pinpoint your competition and why people are choosing them over you, you can easily structure a risk-free offer to get them to choose you. For the restaurant you can describe how the quality of food, waitstaff, atmosphere etc. far exceeds anything else in town. With testimonials and specific examples of the painstaking processes you use to hire chefs and maintain the utmost food quality. Put yourself head-to-head with your competition and show how you’re better. Now that you know exactly who your direct and indirect competition are, you can really get into the minds of your prospects.
This is a huge topic to cover in a blog. The ways you can leverage the information Google Adwords can provide for you are nearly endless. It’s a marketer’s dream-come-true. The best (or worst part if you sell Google Adwords services) is that it’s not complicated, would take a few hours to setup, and maybe an hour or 2 per month to maintain to garner all of the important information you can use.
Granted, as easy as it is to track, I’ve never heard another Google Adwords guru describe this power for small businesses. They all focus on online businesses so if you’re looking for more ideas on small business marketing in today’s marketplace be sure to follow my Facebook Fan Page or sign-up for my email list in the upper right.
To your Google Adwords marketing success, Bryan
P.S. If you don’t even have a website you can still use everything I described. Just place your bids so low that your ad will show up on page 4 and never be read. If you’re looking to bring a new product to market or start a new business, this is a great way to determine current market interest.