Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Is it possible for your business to accurately track lead sources?

If someone sees my service truck while my radio ad is playing, and later sees my TV commercial, and then gets on their iPad and searches for my business, how can you possibly track the effects of each one?

By watching the “pulse” of your marketing through your online laboratory.

So let’s start with that heart rate…

When you fly over the red rock formations surrounding Moab, Utah you can’t help but be fascinated by the unique beauty of the area.

Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

The sun setting on Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

Arches National Park is truly one of the most beautifully mysterious corners of the planet.

It’s one thing to see it from the comfortable, encapsulation of a commercial jet at 30,000 feet.

However, sitting in the back of a small prop plane with the door removed for effortless mid-air exit and a man strapped to your back, the thoughts of the intense beauty fade into the background drowned out by the idea you’ll soon be hurtling toward those red rock formations at 120 mph.

For a fleeting moment, you consider the wisdom of this particular adrenaline rush…
Then, over the roar of the wind, you feel the “signal” from a wild-eyed, greying jump instructor looking for the “OK”.

You’re only option is to give the thumbs up and juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuump.

If you’re a data-junky like me, when you go skydiving, you wear your Garmin GPS watch with heart rate monitor.

Looking at the data, it wasn’t hard to tell when we stepped out of the plane.

My heart rate spiked!

Interestingly enough, when you have the monitoring tools in place, your marketing impact can actually be tracked the same way as your heart rate.

Just as your heart rate is an important measure of overall fitness, your online activity is the core of any marketing plan. When you launch marketing offline that generates interest in your market, you can see that spike in activity online.

Tracking your lead sources

Is marketing so complex that it’s become harder to track lead sources instead of easier?

If you understand the goal of each lead source, you can track the effect of each lead source more accurately than ever before.

All marketing is not independent of each other. If executed well, all marketing works together with the focal point being the internet.

Have you ever put a call-tracking number on a TV ad, radio ad, or billboard? Did you get many calls? Probably not.

But did you measure the effect that had on your online search volume?

Just because you didn’t receive calls doesn’t mean that marketing didn’t work because most people do not respond to TV commercials by immediately placing a phone call. Instead we get online and do some research.

The exciting part is, my heart rate monitor doesn’t care if I’m running, sky-diving, or car racing, it still measures the change in my heart rate.

Your online search volume can be tracked the same way when you have the right tools in place to measure the impact of all of your marketing.

The Optimized Marketer’s Funnel

Now you need to understand the GOAL of your marketing.

To address this you need to use the Optimized Marketing Funnel.
Optimized_smallGraphics
Unlike your normal “Sales Funnel” an Optimized Marketing Funnel is upside-down. The wide part is on the bottom instead of the top.

The problem with the traditional funnel is that it doesn’t really help us understand the marketing process because:

  1. Everything you put in the top of a funnel comes out the bottom.
  2. Everything you put in the top of a funnel naturally moves along thanks to gravity.

Unfortunately, in the real world neither of those 2 points are true, which is why an upside-down funnel is so much more useful.

Now that you have an upside down funnel, imagine all of your inquiries are being fed in the bottom and are climbing their way up the walls.

For anyone to come out the narrow top of the funnel we need a driving force to help them out. That force is a combination of your Value Proposition and Branding.

Without that force, people will just naturally fall out.

For example, if I see your TV ad and go online to search for your business but you don’t show up in the results, guess what happens? I fall out of the funnel. Naturally. With no effort on your part.

  • What if I see your Google Ad but I like one from a competitor more? Fall out…
  • What if I click on the Ad but your landing page doesn’t solve my problem? I’m falling…
  • What if I fill out a form on your website but you don’t call me back for an entire day? aaaaaaahhhhhhh…

That little image of an Optimized Funnel brings up a few crucial points.

  1. You will naturally lose people at every step in the process so you should measure every step.
  2. The goal of each marketing piece is not to generate a lead. The goal of marketing is to have the prospect go to the next step and move them further up the funnel.
  3. You can measure what works (and what doesn’t) at every step and use that information to improve the entire funnel.

Without defining and understanding that your goal is to get the prospect to take the next step, you’ll never be able to track the effectiveness of your marketing.

Here’s why…

If you run a TV ad, your prospects go online to search for you and they can’t find your website, you won’t get any inquiries and you may say, “See, that darn TV didn’t work!”

In reality, you can measure that TV did indeed work but your web presence is what failed.

Let’s take this one step further and define the goal of each marketing medium.

All of your marketing should be categorized as Interruption Marketing or Response Marketing.

Interruption marketing simply means that, as a consumer, you didn’t ask for me to market to you but I did anyway. Television, radio, direct mail, billboards and even online display advertising are all Interruption marketing.

The goal of Interruption marketing is to generate interest. Period. If you define its goal as generating a lead, you’ll have almost no way to track how well it works.

Google Changed Everything

Google did something amazing and a bit scary to the marketing world. For the first time in history, we, as marketers, are able to read the minds of our prospects and respond immediately.

Google is our therapist as we type all our problems into that magical little search box.

In Response, we can market to people with a problem for which we have the perfect solution. That is Response Marketing.

The defining characteristic of Response marketing is that the consumer is asking you to market to them. Yellow pages, email opt-in lists and remarketing campaigns can also be considered less precise forms of Response marketing.

The goal of Response marketing is to generate a contact or inquiry.

Measuring the Net Change

To determine the effectiveness of your marketing, you can only measure when something changes. An engineer or scientist conducting experiments might refer to this as “isolating each variable”.

With a heart rate monitor strapped to your chest, it’s very easy to see when something changes. You engage in some cardio and your heart rate goes up.

However, if you never measure your resting heart rate, it’s hard to tell just how much of an impact different workouts have on you.

In marketing, if you are running radio, TV, direct mail, branded delivery trucks and search marketing at the same time, and you ask my team to tell you which is working, it’s nearly impossible.

Why? Because nothing has changed. Your heart rate is never at “rest”. We haven’t isolated any variables.

Instead, if you are running radio, delivery trucks and search marketing, and then ask us to track the effect of an upcoming TV campaign, now you have a baseline and a change to measure.

Even when our customers don’t tell us about these changes ahead of time, we often notice the spikes in our data shortly after an effective offline change.

To your success in accurately tracking your marketing,
Bryan

P.S. To my knowledge, there’s no other company that offers this level of data analysis for small businesses with internet budgets as low as $800/month. Contact me if you’d like to increase your leads by only investing in marketing that you know is working.

Easily give your Brand a Concrete definition and watch all of your Marketing explode

The Power of Branding Speedometer

To improve your marketing, define your Brand.

People seem to believe Direct Response marketers don’t like Brand marketing. That we’re somehow arch-enemies in the world of advertising.

That’s just not true.
We directs love great branding.

And there’s a simple reason for this.
It works.

Within a month or 2 of starting internet marketing for a new client, we can tell if a business has a strong local brand. The search volume relative to population, click-thru rates on those clicks, and even conversion rates of the website all give us clues to the strength of your business name in your local market.

Defining Branding

When you ask most people about branding they start thinking of broadcast media, logos, and slogans.

However…

Are your service trucks and the decals painted on them part of your branding?
Are your uniforms?
Is your website?
What about how you answer the phone?
Is the quality of your work?
Can your pricing be part of your brand?
How about your team culture?

Yes!
All of these are part of your brand.

So what is branding? Flint McLaughlin of MECLabs has the best definition around:

Brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition.

I love branding because the data shows that it works. In other words, if you have a great business that delivers a truly unique product or service in a way that retains customers, then getting results from any form of advertising is a whole lot easier.

Recently a company came to my home to clean my carpets.

They cultivate their advertising by building up relationships with locally influential people, like my realtor friend who referred them to me. That’s great marketing.

They come to my home and about 45 minutes later I notice they are packing up so I go to check on things. They forgot about my area rugs that we discussed twice. They also never let me know they wouldn’t move anything. Not even the chair in my office (on wheels).

From my perspective as a marketer, their marketing DID work. I DID hire them, however their branding was very poor.

The worst part is, they did a great job, had a fair price and were very personable.

Just a few quick tweaks could transform this business…

Imagine how much more effective every dollar they spent on marketing would be if they:

  1. Introduce themselves and explain exactly what they are doing today and that they don’t want to move things that are valuable so if there is anything they need to clean under, please move those now.
  2. Double-check with you before wrapping up that everything is done to your satisfaction.
  3. Share a handout with their invoice that includes a list of all of their services. (I overheard them talking about a tile cleaning job, yet they never once offered to clean my tile.)

They did ask me how often I cleaned my carpets and then recommended I clean them every fall and spring.

Fat chance I’ll ever remember that.

Instead, they should have said, “You seem to be happy with your fresh, clean carpet and since you’re a new customer, in 6 months Bonnie in my office will give you a call, remind you it’s been 6 months and get you a 10% discount on your next cleaning. As long as we come out every 6 months you’ll always get your 10% discount.”

How many people get their carpets cleaned regularly every 6-months?

Imagine the impact on that business from offering this one service.

The lifetime value of each customer would sky-rocket which would allow the owner to spend more in marketing to acquire each new customer.

THAT is branding!

Branding is setting an expectation.
The strength of your brand is in how well you foster that expectation.

Branding cannot exist without a Value Proposition

Your Value Proposition

Great branding requires a unique value proposition.

If you want to improve your marketing and get better results, where do you start?

You could call me and I guarantee my team will get you better results online, however we will ask for your value proposition (also called a Unique Selling Proposition).

Most marketers will never ask you for this.
Most “brand experts” fail to understand that a brand cannot exist without a value proposition.

This is great news!

This means that 90% of your competitors are never going to define their value proposition and therefore will never be able to create a lasting brand.

MECLabs has developed a simple way to create your value proposition by answering 1 question:

If I’m your ideal customer, why I should do business with you rather than your competitors?

Can you answer that question?
If not, go to your calendar right now and schedule 2 hours this week to sit down, block out all interruptions, and figure that out.

Great Marketing Starts with a Great Brand

In the early 1900’s, legendary direct marketer and author of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins, took on Schlitz Brewery as a client.

Here’s what Claude had to say after visiting the brewery:

I saw plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes, and I asked the reason for them. They told me those rooms were filled with filtered air, so the beer could be cooled in purity. I saw great filters filled with white-wood pulp. They explained how that filtered the beer. They showed how they cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily, to avoid contamination. How every bottle was cleaned four times by machinery.

I came back to the office amazed. I said: ‘Why don’t you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don’t you tell the reasons?’ ‘Why,’ they said, ‘the processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them.’ ‘But,’ I replied, ‘others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.

So he put their story of quality control and purity in print and as a result they jumped from 5th to tied for 1st in market share.

Often your Value Proposition isn’t something completely unique. It’s just something that you communicate more clearly than your competitors.

Clarity always beats persuasion!

Branding isn’t fuzzy

I’m an engineer so I don’t do wishy-washy and touchy-feely very well.
Which is why I love great branding.

It’s precise.
It’s direct.
It’s crystal clear.
It’s measurable.
It can be tested.

When you understand that your brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition and you have a great value proposition, you understand there are plenty of ways to test and measure the power of your value proposition.

It’s easy to measure the power of a value proposition in Google Adwords Click-Thru-Rates, A/B Split-tests on websites, email headline experiments and even in conversations with customers.

That, however, is the easy part.

The hard part is for your entire business to deliver on the expectation created by your advertising by living your brand.

To your branding success,
Bryan

Direct Response vs. Institutional Marketing – Which is your small business trying?

Marketing in a basic sense is broken down into 2 main categories: Institutional Marketing and Direct Response Marketing.

What I am personally fanatical about tracking is the results to direct response marketing. By that I simply mean that if I send out a post card, create a website, or insert a piece in a newspaper, I want to know exactly how much revenue those marketing pieces generated for me. As a small business (i.e. you don’t have $100 million dollar ad budgets) this is the ONLY type of marketing you should be focused on.

Major corporations, however, invest in very sophisticated very expensive institutional marketing programs. By that I simply mean that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to create a recognizable name, character, and/or slogan. More importantly, that advertising has created a position in people’s minds ideally relating the name, character, or slogan to their brand unlike any of their competitors are able to do. Once you have that position you never want to give it up because changing an already established position can create confusion in the prospects mind and it gives room for a competitor to take over that position. Along these precise lines, I recommend a great book written by Al Ries and Jack Trout called Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Ries and Trout give example after example of businesses like Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Michelob, Miller, Avis and others who did and did not understand their positioning and how that affected their long-term profits. Some have messed it up horribly.

Camel cigarettes had deep enough pockets and understood the power of institutional marketing, branding, and positioning so well that more 5 year-olds in the previous generation could identify Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse. Obviously 5 year-olds can’t buy cigarettes so why do they want 5 year-olds to know Joe Camel? Because in a decade when teenagers start getting exposed to smoking by peers, whether they consciously understand it or not, Joe Camel has made a position in their mind that’s not easily forgotten. If you have a small business, you can’t possibly afford to do this. You need to pay your bills and make payroll this week, you don’t have a decade to build a position.

There are, however, 2 main “small-business” exceptions to the rule that small-businesses shouldn’t engage in institutional marketing. Both of these industries can successfully invest in a combination of institutional and direct-response marketing.

  1. Banks – In your lifetime, you are more likely to get divorced than change banks. For some reason, banks have customer retention rates somewhere in the high 90% range. My mother told me that when she moved across the country, married my father, and they started a family, the ladies at the bank were some of the first people who she would show her babies too. That sounds rather strange to me, but it makes sense. Any good marketing is about developing relationships and any bank worth it’s salt is going to train their tellers to do just that. If their good at it, it’s just natural that their customers would know all about their “favorite teller” and vice-versa. After all, it’s a very intimate relationship as that teller knows quite a bit about you that your best friends and family will never know. So how can banks invest in institutional marketing? I would suggest in the same way that Joe Camel did. Target children. If you know that you’ll have a 90% plus retention rate, it’s a race to see who can get that first checking account setup for the first job, right? Well what if you deposited $5 in an account for each middle school or high school student who came to the bank with an A on their report card? It may take a decade or longer before that pays off, but you’re almost guaranteed to keep that child as a customer as they need a car loan, house loan, student loans etc. etc. etc. At least you’re more likely to get those accounts from that child than you are to attend their 50 year anniversary.
  2. Franchises – Obviously this is one of the benefits of a great franchise. Yes, of course, their are franchises that are downright terrible and the name isn’t worth a whole lot. However their are others that have been established for so long and have invested so much money in marketing over decades that their name is extremely valuable. This week I was speaking with a colleague who owns a franchise that’s one of the top 300 most recognizable names in marketing and has no competitor recognition in the top 1000 names. Their tag line has been known and marketed for decades. The business is a Culligan water dealership and the tag line is obviously “Hey Culligan Man.” Prior to his current business, he owned an independent pizza joint. In addition to loathing the late hours required at a pizza shop, he said it’s nearly impossible to make money when you’re competing with the big name pizza places like Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Domino’s. Even when you have a great product, which he did. All 3 of those pizza franchises have the resources to invest in both institutional and direct-response marketing. Each month without fail, I will get a postcard with the latest specials from each of those 3 pizza franchises. Why? They want me to cut out a coupon and take action right now to buy their pizza. Obviously they also invest a lot in commercials, websites, radio ads, sponsorships and other items that don’t generate a “direct-response” for them, however, it does help them create a position in their prospect’s mind so that when she starts thinking of pizza, they pop into her head.

So if you have a small business, what should you do? The answers is very simple, invest all of your marketing budget in direct-response advertising. If you decided to go the route of being an independent franchisee, you’ll obviously benefit from the institutional marketing your franchisor does on your behalf. However if you have any control over your own marketing dollars, you better make sure that every dollar that you spend in marketing is coming back with friends. In other words, with the use of micro-sites, web analytics, coupons, call-tracking phone numbers, and plain-old asking people (though you do always have to be skeptical of their answers) you should do your best to determine exactly which marketing investments bring money to your business.

In my business I’ve tested radio, direct-mail, newspaper, websites, Google Adwords, yellow pages, local sponsorships, home shows, and just about everything else. Over 2 years I’ve tracked the results of each item and today can, with very high certainty, know approximately how many dollars of revenue I’ll bring in for my best marketing projects. For my business, newspaper (which was literally the last thing I decided to test because I thought it was dying) has out performed everything else even though there are still some profits to be made with home shows and direct mail if done properly.

So what does that mean to me? I’m going to put as much of my marketing budget into newspaper marketing as possible as often as possible until it stops working. Do you know what marketing projects can produce those results for your business? If you stop investing in institutional marketing and start investing in direct-response marketing, you will.

To your direct response marketing success, Bryan

P.S. If you’re looking for a great book on the subject and some more details on what numbers you should track with your marketing, check out my blog about Claude C. Hopkin’s book Scientific Advertising.