Volume 114: 7/1/05

Fix the Holes!

Once upon a time there was First Marketing Dude, and he told First Business Owner Dude, “You know, you get 2 sales out of every 100 people who walk in here, so why don't we bring in 1000?” Since then, billions of dollars have been wasted on advertising and marketing models that miss the mark. In our more charitable moments, we’d like to drop-kick First Marketing Dude out of the stadium. Send more traffic when you can’t convert the traffic you already get?

When our own Howie Kaplan, the Senior Conversion Analyst here who performs Conversion Assessments all day long, came across an article detailing search engine optimization and marketing firms’ complaints about their clients, he blew a gasket ... then blogged his reaction.

Sent out some ripples. Got himself quoted. Made the point brilliantly!

Do I look crazy to you?

Shari Thurow wrote in ClickZ Monday about How NOT to Work With an SEO/SEM Firm. She interviewed SEO/SEM firms about their most common client/prospect complaints:

"You'll have to change your Web site. Accept this fact before contacting us."

"We have a difficult time talking to people who honestly believe we can wave a magic wand and miraculously make a Web site appear at the top of search results, even in this day and age," said one SEO firm staffer. "In order for us to optimize a site, the site has to change: copywriting (and not just the meta-tag descriptions), information architecture, page layout, link development, you name it. The prospect's site must change in order for the prospect's site to receive increased 'natural' search engine traffic."

Another SEM firm echoes this sentiment. "When we said that the text content on your pages will need to be changed, what we meant was: the. text. content. on. your. pages. will. need. to. be. changed."

It's a valid point, but from a Conversion standpoint, it underscores a more important one to us- Why do people continue to try and attack a conversion challenge by throwing more traffic at it? It's pure lunacy to change your site to accommodate the recommendations of a firm whose stated goals are to provide more qualified traffic, when you've previously displayed an utter inability to close on the qualified traffic you currently enjoy.

Fix the holes in the bucket first, and then worry about how to add more water!

How's that for a sobering splash?  Howie’s in-your-face rant summarizes the philosophy that has defined us since our infancy in “message must be meat” language. Made sense to a number of folks who decided to give it a word-of-mouth life in Blogland. Make sense to you?

The Bring Your Companion Contest!

On September 8-9, 2005, Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, authors of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-selling book Call To Action are presenting a one-time-only event that will change your online world forever.

Hungering to attend with an important someone? Just send us a brief case study of how you've successfully implemented one of the strategies or tactics presented in Call to Action. We'll select the best twelve entries. If yours is one of them, you'll win a free seat at the Call To Action: Secret Formulas To Improve Online Results Seminar for the companion of your choice.

You pay for your tuition. We'll pay for your companion's tuition. Just ! The deadline for your entry is July 11, 2005.

Viral Marketing Online I: Start with Value

Online advertising costs are orbiting. The rules for maximizing your online advertising efforts change faster than the wind direction. Optimizing your search engine rankings requires careful attention to the evolving algorithms, and you have to dig deep and persevere to “own” the critical keywords that improve your visibility.

You simply can’t ignore this stuff if you want to succeed online. But what wouldn’t you give for a nice, inexpensive, adjunct strategy that gets your customers marketing for you?

Enter the age-old standby: word-of-mouth referrals.

The enduring fact is, people talk with each other about the things that matter to them – discoveries, horror stories, shared interests. Typically, these conversations took place over cups of coffee or across backyard fences or when folks brushed up against one another in the grocery store. They still do.

But with the World Wide Web at your disposal, you needn’t confine yourself to fences and coffee – today it’s clicks that help you capitalize on the human propensity “to share.” To make viral marketing work for you online, all you need is:

  • A persuasive, delightful experience

  • A clear call to action

  • Optimized design and placement of viral marketing features

  • A simple method for transacting the referral

  • A backed-by-integrity point-of-action assurance

The viral marketing caveat: if you can’t delight your audience, forget soliciting referrals

According to Keith Bates, formerly of Keith Bates & Associates, “viral marketing is the concept of seeding your market with a great, often quirky, idea that gathers a life of its own and spreads through audience interaction.”1 The viability of your viral marketing strategy rests on a single element: the online experience of an individual customer interacting with you. The essential ingredient to your success is not the sale (however you define that term within the context of your business objectives) - it’s providing an experience that builds loyalty and cultivates the long-term relationship.

Viral marketing allows you to expand the outreach of the long-term relationships you are cultivating. The numbers are powerful: 64 percent of us will try something if a friend recommends it, and someone who has had a good online experience tells an average of 12 people (five times as many people as they would tell offline).

But viral marketing carries risk. When your conversion entities are ill-considered, poorly designed and fail to persuade, viral marketing can backfire spectacularly. For all the good press happy customers can spread, unhappy customers will spread considerably more bad press. And oddly, complaints seem to plant themselves in peoples’ minds far more intractably than praise.

You first must delight your audience, through which you lay the foundation not only for loyalty, but also for referral. Your ability to delight depends on identifying and delivering an experience jam-packed with relevance and customer-focus:

  • It understands exactly what matters to your audience (as opposed to what matters to you)

  • It communicates personably in the language of your audience (as opposed to “company-speak”)

  • It acknowledges the demographic, psychological and topological dimensions that comprise your audience’s buying decision process, so that it allows each individual to “buy” in a manner that is comfortable to them and meets their emotional needs.

For word-of-mouth marketing to work well, you have to start with something of merit and value. Only when people perceive these qualities are they willing to make the effort to talk about them. You don’t want people remembering you for the wrong reasons, and the last thing you want is to provide a dissatisfied audience with a venue for bashing you.

So, before you consider incorporating viral marketing, tidy up your shop. When you’ve developed an online experience that is worth raving, then you’re ready to give your audience some tools with which to rave.

1“Word-of-mouth marketing gets people buzzing.” Richard Karpinski. BtoB: The Magazine for Marketing Strategists. June 13, 2005.

Train to Increase Your Conversion Rates

New Services

We've been busy bees over the holidays.  Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!

New Publications

You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page.  We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently.  We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.

Volume 114: 7/1/05


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