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.

Optimize Your Marketing Budget with 1 Simple Concept You’ve Never Heard

When Search Engine Marketing (SEM) was invented, the entire marketing world was instantly and forever changed.

For the first time, we could actually read the minds of potential customers as Google became our therapist to solve all our problems.

Psychographic and demographic information paled in comparison to responding in real-time to the thoughts of consumers. It created an entirely new type of marketing – Response Marketing.

Prior to that, we really only had Interruption Marketing.

The difference?

Response Marketing presents a message to a consumer in response to an action he or she has taken.

Interruption Marketing presents a message to a consumer without any input from the consumer.

Here are a few examples of both…

Response Marketing Examples:

  • Search based – Results shown in search engines like Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Amazon
  • Survey based – Whether on a website or in an email
  • Event/Action driven communication – You spent $100 at a business so they send you a 10% off coupon for your next purchase. You bought a pair of running shoes so they recommend some running socks.

Interruption Marketing Examples (everything else):

  • Display Advertising (Google Display, Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • Billboards
  • TV (though Google is working on changing this to response)
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Direct Mail

As the founder of a company that specializes in Search Engine Marketing and Scientific Websites, obviously I’m going to tell you Response Marketing is the best way to spend your money…

However, that’s not true…

Yes, Response Marketing CAN be an amazing, cost-effective, and powerful form of marketing but it can only work if a few conditions are met.

  1. People must know they have a problem.
  2. It’s something people actually research. When was the last time you did a Google search for toilet paper?
  3. There are many people searching for it.

When you understand the difference between the 2 types of marketing you will better know when to invest in and how much to spend on Response and Interruption Marketing.

For now, forget about ONline vs. OFFline marketing since both can be Interruption or Response marketing.

Let’s look at a few examples starting with the extremes.

When should your entire marketing budget to be focused on Response Marketing?

When you have a consumer who knows he has a problem, researches the solution to that problem online, and there are a sufficient number of people searching online to meet your sales goals.

Most often this occurs in highly competitive industries in competitive markets because then it’s just a matter of being the BEST online.

Think of it this way, if you are the only one in your market selling your new widget inventions, very few people are searching for your widgets because they don’t know about them.

However, if you have 20 competitors selling a similar widget and at least a few of them are marketing, people in your area will be searching for your products. All you have to do is have the BEST online Response Marketing out of your competition.

When could your entire marketing budget to be focused on Interruption Marketing?

When people have no idea your amazing product or service exists and so won’t be searching for it. My business, Optimized Marketing, is this way since our scientific approach to online lead generation is completely unique and we only work with very specific industries.

With Interruption Marketing you have a very difficult task ahead of you. You need to generate enough interest in a very short amount of time (the time of a billboard, radio, TV or direct mail ad) to get someone to take an action.

Historically, that action was to contact you and sign up for services.

Unfortunately, that’s a large leap to ask someone to take. A much smaller leap is to generate enough interest through Interruption Marketing that she is curious enough to search for you online.

In other words, when looking at the entire Sales/Marketing Funnel for your business, at some point, all marketing can turn into Response Marketing.

If your web presence hasn’t been optimized to convert those searchers to contacts, that gives your competitors a great opportunity to steal the leads your Interruption Marketing is generating.

And vice-versa.

How much of your budget should be allocated to Response Marketing?

As much as gets a solid ROI. Then put the rest into Interruption.

There are 2 major factors in determining how much to invest in Response Marketing:

  1. How many people are searching for your products.
  2. How much you can spend and still get a great ROI.

If only 100 people each month are searching for what you provide, SEO and SEM are going to provide very little help for you. Your goal at this point is to get more people searching through Interruption Marketing.

However, if you spend $1000/month online and get 20 leads at a cost of $50/lead and your other marketing is generating leads for $75, keep increasing your Online Response Marketing budget (i.e. SEO, SEM and online testing) until your lead cost is higher than your other sources. A previous blog addressed how you can learn to balance out your online lead volume and cost.

Once your Response and Interruption lead costs match, invest more in Interruption knowing that your online Response system is already well-optimized to handle the increased searches.

Your 3-step summary to optimizing your marketing budget

  1. Implement a testing strategy to get a strong ROI from your Response Marketing.
  2. Keep increasing your Response Marketing budget until the ROI no longer makes sense.
  3. Invest in Interruption Marketing to increase the volume that your optimized web presence will be able to turn into contacts for you.

To better balance between Response and Interruption marketing,
Bryan

P.S. If your service-based business has at least a $1000/month online marketing budget and you would love to turn your online presence into an optimized Response Marketing machine, get in touch.

253% Increase in Web Page Contacts with One Little Test

The Optimized-Marketing laboratory is buzzing with new experiments, however the results from one test have been blowing us away…

Optimizing your website to convert more visitors to contacts is crucial!

Optimizing your website to convert more visitors to contacts is a crucial part of your web strategy!

The numbers are simply staggering. Almost unbelievable.

This test was run in 4 different states for 4 different businesses in the same industry and all produced the same winner at a statistically significant level.

Overall, the winner increased contacts an average of 253% over the control representing 200 more contacts per year for those 4 small businesses.

Did you catch that last part?

With no additional investment in TV, Radio, PPC, SEO, or any other form of advertising, combined those 4 businesses will have 200 more web contacts this year than without this test.

The answer is at the bottom.

The Unbelievable Power of Conversion Rate Optimization

This is the hardest thing for my team to explain to our clients because it just sounds ridiculous.

If the message on the page is the same and all the information is there, then why in the world would “minor tweaks” have such a drastic difference?

The answer to that has to do with a combination of eye movements over a web page, the “trigger points” of your visitor, and also understanding how to “optimize the thought process” of that visitor.

This is called Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Chis Goward has a great definition:

Conversion Rate Optimization is the science and art of getting more revenue-generating actions from the same number of website visitors.

Here are a few common aspects of CRO:

  • Optimizing page layouts based on eye movements from click-tracking data…
  • Optimizing the thought process of the visitor by presenting information in the best order to maximize the chance that she will contact you… (i.e. You don’t put a contact form at the top of a page if the visitor still has to be convinced to contact you.)
  • Optimizing the “flow” of visitors to direct them to the highest-converting pages…
  • Surveying visitors to learn what problems you can best solve for them…
  • Experimenting with all of these concepts to see what works best in the real world.

Conversion Rate Optimization is the most powerful tool available in the internet marketing world.

Imagine the potential improvement in all of your marketing if you KNEW scientifically which headline or offer generated more leads!

With that information in hand, you could now make your TV, Radio, direct mail and cross-marketing efforts more effective than ever before.

How much can your website truly grow and improve?

Most service-based business websites convert less than 10% of visitors to contacts (6-8% is on the high end). That means 9 out of 10 visitors leave your website without taking an action.

Increasing that to just 20%, 2 out of 10 visitors, is possible in almost every instance and we guarantee to at least double your contacts.

My Optimized-Marketing.com team and I were joking recently that our business probably wouldn’t even exist if the ad agency for my water treatment business in New Mexico would have been able to tell me what to expect for a conversion rate and cost/contact for our marketing.

That lack of information is what kicked my engineering brain into high gear to figure out a way to use the internet to scientifically answer those crucial questions for small businesses.

Since then, we’ve learned how to take technology, science and expertise that Fortune 500 companies use, and bring it to small businesses.

But unlike those large companies with entire departments dedicated to the task, we’ve figured out how to do Conversion Rate Optimization for small businesses for as little as $400/month.

Optimizing your website isn’t a quick process because it takes mountains of data and bucket loads of testing but, over the long-term, it’s the most powerful way to get the absolute highest percentage of your website visitors to contact you.

The best part is, your competition has never even heard of this so you can be confident they aren’t doing it.

If you’re the first business in your market to learn how to scientifically get more leads per marketing dollar spent…

  • You can start bidding more for Adwords and for more keywords.
  • You can run more TV ads on more stations.
  • You can mail out more postcards.
  • You can increase the wallet share of your current customer list.

While your competitor is cutting back his marketing because “nothing is working”, you’ll be going full steam ahead because all of your marketing just keeps getting better and better results.

The Science of Conversion Rate Optimization applied to your website in just 15 minutes

The most eye-opening 15-minutes you may ever spend with your website will be on a Conversion Rate Optimization walk-through with one of our scientists.

You will “walk-through” your website with us step-by-step to learn where our research has proven you are scaring away good leads.

You are then welcome to compare that to one of our websites to see the “psychological tricks” we use to increase sales that most people would never even notice.

Fortune favors the bold so don’t be the last one in your market to have a CRO team on your side.

Carpe Diem!

To your conversion rate optimization success,
Bryan

P.S. In this experiment, we moved the contact form from the sidebar into the body of the page. That’s it. The wording, form requirements, and other details were all the same, they were simply laid out differently.

Contact us for a 15-minute CRO walk-thru of your website. You’ll learn exactly where your website is bleeding away good leads.

Make internet leads 7x more effective with 1 simple trick

You might not realize it yet but, like my internet marketing team, you live in the world of the slight edge… Tiny improvements over your competition can tip the scales in your favor in a major way.

When we see a 10% improvement we do a quick chair dance and then go mine for the next golden 10% increase. Over time, all those 10% increases add up to massive results.

So when we find an easy way to get a 700% increase in lead effectiveness that requires absolutely no special skills, knowledge or training, some table-top river dancing may be on the horizon.

This is legit so put it on your schedule to start implementing right away!

These are the facts from the Havard Business Review:

These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon we explored in a separate study, which involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S. Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

In other words, if you respond within an hour, you’ll close more deals. Period.

Any time someone tells my team that the quality of the website leads they have been receiving isn’t very good, my first question is always, “how long does it take you to respond to the leads?

When I say it’s almost not worth responding if it takes you more than an hour, most people are shocked.

Obsolete Yellow Pages BookBut really, is it that hard to believe?

Back in the days when Yellow Pages (the actual big, fat books, not the online variety) were a primary method for people finding service businesses, everyone knew that if you couldn’t respond to inquiries quickly, they were just going to move down to the next listing, your competitor, and call him.

Consider a different example. If I’m shopping online for a water softener Saturday morning, I’m probably going to contact you and a few other companies. Heck, I may even decide to take a ride over to Home Depot and see what they have to offer. If one of those companies responds to me before I get in my car to go to Home Depot, then I’m obviously going to trust them more than the guy I don’t hear from until Monday afternoon.

Do automated emails help?

E-mails can be scheduled to be automatically sent to everyone who fills out a contact form on your website and they can be a good idea to help confirm for the customer that their message did indeed go through.

It may buy you an extra hour.

But I’ve personally received automated emails from a company and that’s it. No follow-up whatsoever. Actually it just happened to me when trying to get my rims fixed for my car.

WheelsI contacted 3 companies.

The first had the best website and an automated email response… But that’s it. No follow-up and their phone line was just a voice mailbox so I didn’t leave a message.

Another emailed me back the next day saying he couldn’t help me.

The 3rd website probably hasn’t been updated since it was created in 2006. But…
He called me within 30 minutes of emailing him, explained what they do and what makes them unique, answered my questions and truly allayed my concerns about straightening bent aluminum rims.

He also got my $170. His website was outdated but his service, guarantee, and personal attention were great. More importantly, he delivered exactly what he promised since my fixed rims look great!

How do you get your sales reps to respond quickly?

So you see the value in a quick response, but aren’t real sure your salespeople will instantly start responding right away.

4 tips to improve your web lead quality and sales closing ratios by helping your reps respond quickly:

  1. Show them the data I listed in the first paragraph of this blog. Everyone responds better when they know WHY it’s important for them to do so.
  2. Make a list of your top 5-10 most common web inquiries a sales person would receive and then write up the perfect email response for each. Then have each sales rep save a copy of those responses in their email client and smart phone in “Drafts”. Now they can quickly copy and paste the best response for each inquiry while still having it come from an individual’s email address to make it personal.
  3. When your rep’s email a response, have them CC the sales manager. That way he can see when the lead came in and how long until a response was sent. Put up a chart or whiteboard showing the average response times for each rep each week. Salespeople are competitive (some with others and some just trying to break their own personal goals) so use that competitiveness to your advantage.
  4. As with all marketing, as your ROI improves, re-invest more marketing dollars online to keep your business growing.

What if my reps are paid on commission?

In my experience, paying commission does not translate into not providing any tools, resources, education or assistance for your sales team because they are all perfectly organized and hyper-motivated.

In other words, no matter how you pay people, provide them the tools they need to be successful and everyone wins. Especially your prospective new customers.

If you’re not already responding to all of your web inquiries within 60 minutes, or you really want to set yourself apart and respond to everyone within 5 minutes, then make internet lead response time a high priority in your next sales meeting!

To your success in closing more web leads, Bryan

Do TV & Radio work for small business? How to measure broadcast media

The more difficult question to answer is, of course, HOW do I determine if broadcast media is working for me?

This isn’t 1950 with 3 TV stations. You have to generate interest before you can generate a lead

Ok, one more question, what is the goal of your broadcast media? Go ahead. Take a second to answer that question.

To generate leads and grow your business, right!?

Actually…
No.

This isn’t 1950 with 3 television channels and a captive audience. If your goal with a TV ad (by itself) is to generate a bunch of phone calls or walk-in traffic to your business then you’re shooting for the stars.

The goal of broadcast media is to generate interest.

Hopefully enough interest to get them online visiting your website or searching for your business and what you do.

From there, it’s up to your internet strategy to take over because the TV ad did its job.

This presents 2 massive shifts in the way people market using broadcast media.

  1. Your message to pique curiosity and generate interest is MUCH different than one to sell a product. A “direct-response” TV or radio ad may focus on a special offer or discount. One that is just designed to generate interest instead focuses on what you need to do to get people to take the next step.
  2. You can now track the performance of your broadcast media to probably the highest degree of accuracy ever.

Don’t get me wrong, TV ads that market Black Friday Specials, discounts, coupons and offers absolutely can work assuming a few criteria are met.

  1. People know your business already. In other words, they trust you.
  2. People know where you are. They know how to find your business if it’s retail or how to get a hold of you for service.

If those 2 criteria aren’t met, they’re going to either ignore you or do additional research.

Guess where they are going to do additional research?
Online.

Generating Interest Not Leads

Studies show that up to 31% of Americans browse the internet WHILE watching TV.

The current way 1/3 of Americans watch TV

The current way 1/3 of Americans watch TV

So let’s put this in perspective.

Most people watch TV at night when your office is closed.

About 1 in 3 do so with an iPad, laptop, or other internet-enabled device at their fingertips ready to do further research on things that catch their attention.

Which means for 15-60 seconds you have a potentially captive audience primed to learn more about your business, products and services.

But…

Only if your ad is more interesting than the one that came on 30 seconds earlier and the one that comes on 30 seconds later.

And once they find your website, they must be engaged enough to stay on your site long enough to fill out a contact form.

Remember, it’s after hours so if your goal is to get them to call you the next day when you are open to generate a “lead”, best of luck. That’s a much harder task.

Tracking Broadcast Media

The 2nd major advantage of redefining your goal to Generate Interest instead of a Lead is now we can track the impact of the ad…

We can track visits to targeted landing pages and the number of online searches for your business before, during, and after your ads are running.

We can break it into the time of day or segment the months when the ads are running and when they aren’t.

How accurately can you track broadcast media?

First off, how accurately can you track it now? Not very well, huh?
So any tracking would be a step in the right direction, right?

In one market, I was able to see a 135% increase in branded searches sustained over several months while running a TV campaign compared to without running any TV ads.

Additionally, the low performing month was during the normal seasonal peak and the increased search months were during slower times of the year. So the results were actually even more drastic than the 135% increase we measured.

Now are you ready for the scary part?
The data we gathered wasn’t for our client’s TV campaign. It was for his competitor’s TV commercials.

Get your competitors to pay for your marketing

Let that digest for a second. We can watch a TV ad that your competitor has spent thousands or 10’s of thousands marketing and not only measure it’s impact, but also get into the middle of the process.

In other words, when the TV watcher types “competitor” into Google, we can pop-up and cut them off at the pass.

Are you doing this right now? If not, hopefully no one else is doing this to you.

To your broadcast media success, Bryan

P.S. There’s a reason my team only works with 1 business per market and won’t take on direct competitors as clients. What we learn about your market is just too valuable to get into the hands of your competitors. So take 2 minutes, get in touch with my team, and take control of your internet marketing before you waste another dollar on untested methods that you still aren’t sure are working.

The cornerstone of your Marketing RoadMap – A solid Positioning Strategy

A positioning strategy is the position you occupy in the minds of your prospects and customers.

As a start-up, you have the awesome power to define that position from scratch. For an existing business you need to know your current position before you can plan how to change it.

First some background…

Thirteen months ago I started an internet marketing company.

My expertise and experience were in IT, mechanical engineering (BS from Kettering University), technology consulting, small business management (which I learned at the first business I acquired), and then a bit of business brokerage.

So starting an internet marketing business seemed like the best way to leverage all of those experiences, right? Right?

In fact it was…

First, I had to understand what would make my business and team unique.

Why would someone hire a computer-geek, mechanical engineer, entrepreneurial-junky to generate leads online instead of maybe someone with actual experience marketing?

In those words it actually sounds somewhat ridiculous. (Now that we’ve repeatedly proven our team can outperform anyone we’ve come across in internet marketing for service businesses, I’m finally fessing up.)

Here are the steps I took to position ourselves uniquely in the market as a start-up going up against multi-million dollar teams with more years of experience than I had years breathing.

  1. Study your competition – Know what they do, why they do it, and how they communicate.
  2. Study yourself – What does my team have that no one else does? What problems can we truly solve?
  3. Study your target market – If possible, survey them. What is important to them? What annoys them? What one thing would most help them?

Now take all of that information and formulate your Positioning Strategy. Your Positioning Strategy is the BIG PICTURE of what people will think of when they think of you.

It’s the stake you drive into the sand that separates you from everyone else. 

If you don’t know what makes you unique, your customer’s don’t know either.

Know Your Competition

Our competition fell into 2 primary segments… Web Developers and Ad Agencies.

By reading through their websites, reviewing their marketing, and talking with their customers, it was quite obvious that they both positioned themselves basically the same way.

They focused on:

  • Advertising Awards
  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Cleverness of phrases and headlines
  • Branding
  • Decades of Experience in the above
  • Measuring success objectively by the client’s appreciation of the design

It was obvious we could not possibly beat them at their own game. Instead, we defined our Position in the marketplace as:

  • Results Driven
  • Analytical (we use the scientific method not popular opinion)
  • Systems focused
  • Constantly testing to learn what works. (We openly admit we don’t have all the answers while pointing out that  no one does.)
  • Direct-Response
  • More experience where it mattered (in the industry and with a new marketing medium)
  • Success measured subjectively by the number of increased leads

As engineers, we could present a completely new skillset that was perfectly aligned with the internet marketing world. For the first time in history, we can test and optimize ALMOST EVERYTHING. Headlines, pictures, offers, videos, buttons, and calls-to-action can all be tested.

None of our current competitors knew the power of testing, or they simply weren’t communicating that they did, so we positioned ourselves against them to highlight our unique skillset. 

Hence our (thoroughly tested) business name, Optimized-Marketing.com.

Know Thyself

Yeah. We’re geeks and we know it.

  • Engineer– This has numerous advantages in the world of internet marketing. We understand how to setup scientifically sound split-tests  for Google Ads, landing pages, and other online marketing.
    • We are trained to build systems to solve problems. The problem is you need more leads and the solution we built is Traffic, Conversion, and Follow-up. Notice I didn’t say it’s about websites or SEO or Social Media. All of those things can change… But the system to leverage all of them may only need slight adjustments to keep up.
    • We love numbers. Of course you can’t measure absolutely everything, but we can measure a whole lot more than most marketers will ever tell you.
    • We focus on the outcome. Ever watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory? Engineers dislike fluffy, opinionated people. Until you show us the results, we don’t believe anything you say. That obsession with results, in the form of generating leads, makes us quite unique.
  • GM’s in the industry – I’m one of you! Amanda and I can identify with our target customer’s struggles because we’ve both been General Managers in the water treatment industry. Identifying with their struggles goes a long way in building trust.
  • Technology consultant – Experience doesn’t matter when the technology is brand new. Every time a new marketing medium like Adwords, Facebook, or YouTube comes out, we’re all back to square one. So, even though I had less marketing experience, I had a lot more experience using technology to improve businesses. Which is EXACTLY what we do.
  • Obsession with motorcycles – A lot of our target market, small business owners, are men with an appreciation for cars and motorcycles. I’m about 10 steps beyond fascination to full out obsession so I often use that connection to become more memorable. On a regular basis I hear things like, “Oh yeah, you’re the motorcycle guy.”

You have to keep in mind that, in a small business, building your “brand” is as much about your corporate positioning strategy as it is about how people perceive you personally.

Know Your Target Customer

Let me reveal one of the most under-utilized secrets in marketing.

If you actively do this, you are one in a hundred businesses… Maybe one in a thousand.

If you want to know your target customer, <drum roll pleasesimply ask them what’s important to them!

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ask your customers AND prospects what’s important to them, including the prospects who don’t buy. Don’t forget to ask the ones who don’t even take the time to contact you why they didn’t contact you.
  2. Track ALL customer complaints to Fix, Review, and Follow-up with them. Only about 1 in 8 customers who have an issue will complain about it so treat those complaints like gold. There are few better ways to learn how you can make it easier for customers to do business with you.
  3. Use surveys to ask the same question the same way. In other words, hearing 10 customers say similar things 10 different ways is not the same as their quantitative response to the question on a 1-5 scale.

How did we learn about our target customer?

I joined the trade organization of our target market to get access to our target customers’ emails and, instead of sending out an email saying “buy from me,” I sent out a survey.

The survey was a free tool for businesses within the industry to benchmark their marketing plans against other businesses within the same industry. All for free. Whether they were interested in our help or not, it was a great value to the market.

That’s how I got my first 4 clients.

My first few emails never even told them what I did or how I could help. I simply asked them where they needed help and then built a business around those needs.

Eliminate Competition

The net result of a strong positioning strategy is that you become so unique, you literally don’t have any more competition. No one can compete with you because you don’t offer the same products or services as anyone else.

So, what is your Positioning Strategy ? If you don’t have one yet, when are you making the time (open your calendar and schedule it now) to create one?

To better positioning yourself for success, Bryan

Why are my Adwords CPC going up, leads going down, and position getting worse?

This question has come from a few business owners who outsource their Google Adwords management and are wondering why  their average cost-per-click (CPC) has jumped from $3 to $6 or $9.

This blog will actually address a few questions:

  • Why are my Google Adwords CPC going up?
  • At first we got a lot of leads but now it’s dropping off, why?
  • We used to be in the Top 3 paid spots for <favorite search term> but we weren’t yesterday. Why?
  • Is there something my SEM expert can be doing to improve all of this?

These actually seem like a quite broad range of questions but, in fact, they are all related.

Overview of how Google decides which ads to show.

Google Adwords is an auction market… But it’s not a PURE auction where the highest bidder wins. You see Google is in business to generate revenue so they take a bit longer term approach to their auction.

Let’s look at a very OVERSIMPLIFIED example.

WaterMan and WaterBoy are 2 different businesses that are bidding on the keyword “water filters”.

WaterMan is well established and decides to bid $4/click. WaterBoy is just getting started and decides he can only afford $2.01/click.

So which ad does Google show on top???

We don’t have enough information yet… You see, WaterBoy understands how Google works and realizes that if he invests a bit more effort in his ads, he can actually get better placement than WaterMan.

So he creates a Highly Relevant ad that 4% of Google Searchers click on for a 4% Click-Thru-Rate (CTR). WaterMan doesn’t have time to be bothered with all that, puts together a basic ad and so ends up with a 2% CTR.

So let’s do the math for Google to see which advertiser will make Google more money.

  • If Google shows WaterBoy’s ad 100 times, 4 people click on it at $2.01/click for total revenue of $8.04.
  • If Google shows WaterMan’s ad 100 times, 2 people click on it at $4/click for total revenue of $8.00.

In other words, Google can make more money showing an ad with a LOWER bid price.

Again, this is a vast oversimplification, but this helps us answer our first question.

Why are my Google Adwords CPC going up?

Your competition is creating ads that are more relevant (i.e. have a higher CTR) than yours or new competitors have recently entered the market resulting in more people bidding on the same words.

Ok, so let’s take this a step further…

WaterBoy started his marketing at the beginning of the year on January 1 however WaterMan is a bit slow to get on board with new technologies and didn’t get started until June 1st.

So when WaterMan’s ads start running, Google doesn’t yet know if his ads are any good because there is no history. So Google gives the new guy on the block, WaterMan, top placements for his ads until Google has enough data to do the calculations above.

Which answers our next 2 questions –

At first we got a lot of leads but now it’s dropping off, why? –

Google at first gave you the benefit of the doubt and top positions however, over time your competition developed more relevant ads that get more clicks and therefore make Google more money.

We used to always be in the Top 3 paid results for <my favorite search term> but we weren’t yesterday. Why?

  1. Your ad became less relevant compared to your competition.
  2. You competition is now willing to bid more.
  3. More competitors have entered the market to bid on the same keywords.

Keep in mind, not being in the top 3 isn’t always a bad thing and is pretty much impossible to guarantee unless you are just willing to drastically over-bid everyone else. Sometimes it’s just not cost effective to pay $10/click to get top position.

Which brings us to our final and most important question…

Is there something my SEM expert can be doing to improve all of this?

Yes.

Here’s the thing, we hired a new team member to help with copy writing, marketing, and Google Adwords. She’s been with us for about 7 weeks, has received regular training, and is probably 50% up to speed on Adwords.

Of everything we do, Search Engine Marketing is the most complicated and fastest-changing.

Granted, we’re fanatical about being the most knowledgeable around in our given area of expertise so our training and our definition of “expert” status might be a bit higher standard than most.

That being said, here are 4 of the most important things your SEM expert can (and should) do:

  1. Set Benchmarks – The most important is your cost/contact or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). Know if it should be $10 or $500 by knowing the lifetime value of your customers. The lifetime value can vary significantly for residential, commercial, and industrial clients and so should your CPA.
  2. Become obsessed with testing – We’ve done tests where a single word in the headline of a Google ad can change the click-thru-rate nearly 300%.  If our CTR is going up 300% your CPC is going down but the only way to know which word is going to make that difference is to test.
  3. Adjust your individual keyword bids – This concept is pretty simple but rarely done in small business because it can be time intensive. The idea is that if “water filter” has a CPA of $100 and “water testing” has a CPA of $25 and your target CPA is $50 then you need to cut your “water filter” bid in half and you can afford to increase your bid on “water testing” by double. All words are not created equal and the best words vary from one locality to another.
  4. Build up Negative Keywords – This again takes a lot of work to build up but is crucial. Google allows you to block your ad from showing up when it’s not relevant. For instance, if you sell filters to remove iron from water and bid on the keyword “iron in water” you don’t want your Google Ad showing up when someone types in “can I improve anemia by drinking iron in water?” In that instance, the negative keyword would be “anemia.”

Even though there are dozens of other things you can do to improve SEM, keep your CPC down, and get more leads, these 4 things are important enough that if your current SEM expert was just doing those, your CPC wouldn’t be going up.

If you don’t want to be an Adwords expert, how do you know if your hired expert is doing his job?

If your cost-per-click is going up, your leads are not, and you didn’t have an influx of new competition in your market, then your SEM expert isn’t doing his job and you should replace him or her.

Simple enough?

To your SEM success,
Bryan

Great Websites Aren’t Built, They’re Tested

Have you ever asked your web design company how they determine how to design your website?

How do they know where to put the contact form? What call-to-action will work best? Which headline will grab your visitors’ attention to generate a lead? Which graphic or video to utilize for best engagement? What about the wording they use in the menus?

Have you ever asked your mechanic to fix your car without him taking it for a test drive?

Me “testing out” my G35 at an autocross in Pittsburgh.

After all, he has decades of experience… He’s gone to school and had extensive training in fixing cars… That’s all he does all day long every day… So he should just KNOW what’s wrong with your car and be able to fix it, right?

Well that’s what a website design company is claiming if they design a website based on anything other than testing.

Tests on other, similar websites do have limited value, but, for a service-based business, every market is unique so testing in your market is what will ultimately determine if your website is sputtering along or passing people on the autobahn.

Testing is the only way to take your website “for a test drive” and learn both what does work and what doesn’t. Moreover if you want that car to keep running smoothly – or you want your website to keep generating leads – you need to maintain it.

Testing Builds Trust with Your Customers

According to Entrepreneur.com, the most trusted brand in the US is Amazon.com.

Not Coca-Cola or Nike or Procter & Gamble or Apple.

A company that is less than 2 decades old (it first hit the Internet in July 1995) has managed to build greater brand loyalty and trust than any other company.

Unlike many of the other top trusted brands, they managed to build trust with virtually no “traditional” marketing.

  1. Have you been inundated by their TV commercials? (they only have a few) Radio commercials?
  2. Did they send you a catalog with your last order?
  3. Direct-Mail postcard on your birthday?
  4. Is your inbox inundated with pithy  blogs from them?

What’s their secret?

Amazon.com is probably the most thoroughly tested website in the world.

Every button, every call to action, every step in the shopping cart, every suggestion and every screen you’ve seen on Amazon has been tested and re-tested and are again being tested as you read this. They never stop. They’re always learning.

What are they learning? What their customers want.

That was kind of anti-climactic, huh?

Amazon’s big secret to becoming the most trusted brand in the world is they watch what their customers do and respond.

Well in 1995 when they got started, they were cutting edge with this approach to business. So they sky-rocketed ahead of their competition and haven’t looked back.

Today online testing and optimization is no longer the expensive, unexplored area it was 15 years ago.

It now can be done for small businesses for as little as $399/month.

Internet testing designed to deliver exactly what your customer wants may be the most powerful way to increase your leads while strengthening your brand.

After all, it’s not about the internet or fancy websites…

It’s about YOUR customers.

So What is the Best Approach to Internet Marketing?

The simplest way to understand online lead generation is to break it into 3 pieces.

  1. Where are you getting Traffic?
  2. How are you Converting it to leads?
  3. How are you Following-up with visitors not-yet-ready-to-buy?

To get a better idea of what is involved at each of those steps here’s a breakdown:

  • For Traffic –
    • Search Engine Marketing services in the form of Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and other networks
    • Local Search Engine Optimization – focused on your local market based on what you learn from SEM
    • Online Directory Updates – their are dozens of online directories that can send high-value traffic to your website so it’s important that your contact information is up-to-date in all of them.
  • For Conversion –
    • Onsite testing and optimization to give your visitors more of what they want.
    • Online surveys to engage your visitors and provide a custom solution while learning more about their level of knowledge on your products.
    • Targeted landing pages related to online or offline marketing campaigns.
  • For Follow-up – Not all visitors are ready to buy today. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready next month so are you going to be there?
    • Email marketing is the best way to stay in touch with your target market. As a matter of fact, 77% of consumers prefer retailers to communicate with them via email. Direct mail is second at 9%.
    • Google “stalker” Marketing – Google has the ability to show your ads all over the internet to people who have visited your website. You think that might keep you at the forefront of their mind when they see your ad online several times per day?

Integrating with Offline Marketing

You are not Amazon.com.

Your market is different. Your customer’s are different. Your level of service is different. Your competition are different.

Rarely will you be able to rely on your website alone to grow your business. You need other more traditional forms of marketing.

Integrating with those other forms of marketing is crucial because who can afford to spend marketing money unless they know it can work?

You need to take the lessons you can learn cheaply and efficiently online, and integrate those offline to improve the ROI of every marketing dollar you spend.

In other words, what works in a Google Ad will most likely work on a direct-mail postcard campaign.

Studies done by Marketing Sherpa have indicated that up to 67% of a website’s traffic can be driven by TV ads so all of your marketing needs to work together.

If your website is currently the result of a “mechanic” who claims to be able to look at your car and fix it for you without taking a test drive, now you know why you might not be getting the absolute best results.

If our approach to internet marketing sounds like it might just generate some better results, enter your contact information below and one of our dedicated internet marketing team members will help you with a full Online Marketing Analysis that encompasses the 3 steps mentioned above.

Our hourly rate is $120 and your in-depth analysis will take 1-2 hours. However, I’m really curious how many people find us through these blogs so if you fill out this form, we’ll perform your analysis and then take 20 minutes to review it with you for FREE.

To a better tested website, Bryan

Get Your Free Internet Marketing Analysis

How I learned to LOVE making mistakes and being wrong

At one point in my life I was a 21 year old male and it might be fair to say I was a bit, uh, cocky.

One of the reasons was because I had a blast racing the Formula racecar my college buddies and I built to do 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds and pull over 1 lateral G. (For the non-engineers, that means it took turns faster than a Z06 Corvette.)

It was about that time that a little software program taught me the power of being wrong.

You see, my responsibilities for our Formula SAE racecar as Engine Team Leader were to make sure our car was fast AND reliable. (Learning the reliable part was a humbling experience but a story for another day.)

Kettering University FSAE 2004 Dyno Run

Dyno run of Kettering's 2004 FSAE Car - I'm on the right in the backwards hat holding the laptop.

At the start I knew very little about engine design as my upperclassmen Chris, Tim, and Jason could fully attest. I bombarded them constantly with questions. I also raided our school library to find anything I could about engine operation.

My university made some very sophisticated software available to me to simulate how various changes to the engine would result in more or less power.

Based on the help of my more senior team members, and the books I’d been devouring, I now had enough basic theories about engine design that I could start plugging various design parameters into the software.

You see, the way the software worked was a bit tricky… You couldn’t just say, “Make me the most powerful 600cc engine possible,” and let the software spit out the answers.

You had to actually tell the software exactly which part of the engine to change. So, for instance, you might have to change the size of the exhaust to determine which diameter would result in the best performance. (FYI, bigger is not always better.)

Think of it this way… Right now you’re sitting at your computer. Let’s say it starts working slowly and web pages aren’t loading up real well. Well there’s no software out there that will just “fix” that problem.

It might be your web browser, the website’s servers, your internet connection, a virus, spyware, or another program running in the background and you have to try each one to see which is causing the problem. It might even be several problems at once.

That’s kind of how you design a car engine. You know you want it to go faster, you just have to figure out which areas to tweak to speed it up.

Ok, so I’d put in these various parameters for intake and exhaust design and then the software would test out one configuration and then report back to me how much power and torque that particular configuration would produce.

Over time I’d run hundreds and hundreds of different configurations to find the best combination.

And here’s the thing…

My idea of what should have produced the best combination of performance was often wrong.

Now as our Team Leader, Travis, used to say, “we’re engineers not scientists.” Which meant, we work in the real world not a perfectly controlled lab, so my computer simulations weren’t the final word – they were just the starting point.

To get the full picture, we actually had to get an engine, strap it onto a dynamometer (device used to measure engine power kind of like you use a scale to measure your weight), and build a test rig to test our simulated ideas in the real world.

You know what happened?

The real world taught me once again the beauty of being wrong. The dyno testing showed that some things that worked really well on the computer (like a large intake plenum) had serious limitations (like horrible throttle response) in the real world.

Ultimately the result of being wrong, admitting it, and then quickly moving forward was a phenomenal engine package.

Our primary race was an autocross-style road course for 30 laps that required even power delivery over a large RPM range.

At competition when we were on the dyno testing our car in front of the other teams, a bystander remarked, “that’s not a torque curve, that’s a torque plateau!

That was EXACTLY what we were looking for!

That appreciation for being wrong and getting better because of it, is exactly how my internet marketing business approaches website design.

  1. Strong Base theory with the Marketing RoadMap – Just like I had to know what parameters to put into the engine software, marketing requires an equally strong base on how people think and interact with websites, Google Ads, and search engines.
  2. Testing at every step in the marketing process – On the car engine we tweaked every item air touched from entering the engine till leaving the muffler. In internet marketing, we test and optimize every step from the words your target customer is typing into Google, to the ad we show them, to the page they land on, to the places they click on the landing page, to the contact form that generates the lead. Every place your prospect visits is monitored, tested, and improved.
  3. Real world feedback – The first month that we launch a new website is the absolute worst for performance. Why? Because at that point everything is theory. Some of it can be based on what has worked in the same industry in other parts of the country however no 2 markets are the same so what works in one city very often doesn’t work as well in another one. So we start with our best guess at what will work and then slowly but continuously improve. For your market we learn exactly what is important to website visitors by analyzing search terms, clicks, and online surveys.
  4. Mistake Loving – Maybe I’m not quite as arrogant as I may have been at 21, however we do know our process is the absolute best available. The way we know this is that we openly admit when we make mistakes. When we make a mistake, we analyze WHY our theory was wrong and then we improve your website or advertising the next time around. We even tell you what we learned so you can apply the same lessons into your offline marketing.

Maybe some advertisers, web designers, or internet marketers you’ve chatted with believe they just know what will work to convert your website visitors to customers.

Well don’t be too hard on them.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I used to think I knew what would work too.

Now I know better.

To your mistake-loving success, Bryan

P.S. If your business could use some help improving internet lead-generation and you appreciate our unique approach, contact us at Optimized-Marketing.com.

How much do your customers care about what you think?

In the past week I had a great opportunity to talk to dozens and dozens of small business owners about internet marketing and, in particular, their websites.

One of the most common things I would hear is, “I like this website” or “I don’t like that website.”

When I’d ask a business owner about his own website and whether he was happy with it, the majority of the time the response was, “Yeah, I like it, it looks pretty good.” Or, “I like it but it could use some updating. It looks outdated.”

My question was actually a setup because his opinion about his own website is irrelevant.

That’s kind of harsh for me to say, right?

After he would tell me his opinion on his own or another website I’d ask, “Do your customer’s or prospects care about what you think looks good?”

It was kind of a verbal punch in the nose so I had to repeat the question almost every single time.

In case you think that’s a trick question, let me make it simple.

NO – Your customers don’t give a hoot about your opinion of your own website.

Your opinion or preference or feelings about your website don’t matter a lick to the visitors who come to your site. You know what does matter? Their own opinions. All they care about is themselves and quite frankly, you’re the same way.

The problem is actually worse then that… Your opinion is not only not important, it could be outright harmful to your website’s performance.

Why?

Because you know too much and yet you don’t know enough.

You have the “curse of knowledge” so you already know all the jargon and slang and vernacular of your business. When you look at your website you understand exactly what each button and drop-down and description means. To you it makes perfect sense.

Beyond that you may not even be the target consumer. In other words, if you’re a 55-year old married male and your target market is 30-45 year old mothers, no matter how hard you try, you can’t see the world exactly through the eyes of those mothers.

So you know too much about your own product, but don’t know enough about your target customer to put yourself in her shoes.

So how do I know if it’s a good website?

There are only 2 ways to determine a great website.

  1. The conversion rate. Conversion can be defined in a number of ways but is generally local contacts divided by local visitors. In other words if you had 100 visitors and 5 contacted you, then the conversion rate would be 5%.
  2. Test and optimize the site. If you want to improve your conversion rate, you need to setup tests throughout your website to determine exactly what will catch your visitors’ attention and get them to take action.

So the next time someone asks you if you like your website, feel free to say,  “I love it!

Then when they ask you why, be sure to say, “because we have a conversion rate nearly double the industry average.

By-the-way, this is entirely true of all marketing. Unfortunately, testing which TV or Radio ad is resonating better with your target market is hard to do. So test out your marketing concepts and ideas online first, then take them offline.

It will save you a lot of time and money and will absolutely get you better results.

To your success in learning what really matters to your customers, Bryan

P.S. If you need help using your website to learn what motivates your customers, contact us at Optimized-Marketing.com and we’ll either take over your current site or create a new one for you. Either way, your conversion rate will consistently improve.