Single Throw's Internet Marketing Post

Single Throw is an Internet Marketing firm that helps businesses with sales lead generation by making sure your message is in the right place at the right time - when a customer is searching and has need - when they are most likely to make a buying decision. We call this "From Search to Success." In this blog, Single Throw's experts will share their insights on the state of business and marketing, both online and offline, as well explore new areas of Internet Marketing.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Value of Fresh Ground Peanut Butter and Internet Marketing

Most people think Internet Marketing is all about showing up in search engines. And when it comes to search engines it's always "Google, Google, Google!" What most don't realize is that there is a bigger picture beyond showing up and getting clicked.

Sometimes showing up is half the battle, however the other "real half" is what happens after the click. A click that turns into a customer or sale is the real goal here. That "after the click" process needs to be well thought through - and that's a task that should be undertaken prior to launching any Internet Marketing effort.

Certainly you are saying, "Well, I want them to buy or call us." Of course you do, but how easy have you made it for them? Have you started a PPC program with phrases that seem to be exactly what you sell and what you would expect your customers to search for, yet these clicks aren't turning to sales? Are you simply taking these searchers - imminent buyers - and dumping them on your home page and expecting them to find it themselves? Don't be too embarrassed if you are...most companies do this. And most companies will waste a lot of their marketing budget early on because of this.

By establishing clear paths to connection, you are essentially the online version of that excellent sales person - so rarely found in brick and mortars these days - and helping that customer find exactly what they need without hassle and fuss.

Example: go to a Whole Foods Market and ask one of their staff to help you find fresh ground peanut butter (or something else...your choice here). That person, whether it's their department or not, will take you (yes, walk with you) right over to the fresh ground peanut butter. And they're nice about it! Amazing...Not only did they know where it was, but they nicely escorted me there. My typical experiences have been with other stores where a disinterested employee, without looking at me, will simply mumble, "try aisle 4."

Does your website simply leave customers with navigation, letting for them to fend for themselves...virtual aisles with signs extending well overhead that may not help them find exactly what they need? Wouldn't be simpler to just take them to exactly what they need?

By clarifying these processes, you are not only helping to improve your click-through budget, you are now getting a better understanding of your online sales process and making improvements to increase sales.

The Internet provides us with incredible feedback in an instant. Use that information to take your Internet Marketing efforts to new levels and improve sales and communication. Think past the search engines and rank. Think about the sales process and the paths to communication. Think Whole Foods and fresh ground peanut butter.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Riding on Internet Marketing Coattails

As Internet marketers, we have a role to advise our customers of the many marketing opportunities available to them. As a service business, we too, have to market ourselves. It's a constant, infinite, never-ending journey for both sides. It's actually a very exciting time to be on both sides. You're saying, "Caryl, you are way too hung up on this stuff." And you're probably right. But that's my job. It's a lot of reading, testing, observing, trying, failing, and try-try-trying again.

Marketing is not cut and dry. The Internet has made marketing both a thousand times easier and a million times more difficult. There is no secret formula that will work for all businesses in all scenarios. There are some basics that, as a business, you should be including in your plans. The first of which should be understanding your customer and their needs. The second is targeted exposure.

Often clients will say to me, "Our competitor is doing this, so we should too." Just then, the game show buzzer goes off in my head and I cringe at the thought, and the mentally conjured sound. While your competitor may certainly successful, riding on what you perceive to be their Technicolor coattails does not guarantee success for your company. What you may be observing is simply one small fraction of their carefully crafted marketing plan in action. And it may not even be the part that IS working for them.

So where does one start? Again, let's refer to the basics:
  • Who is your customer?
  • What do they need?

Without establishing their needs and intent, you can't even consider what might make for a successful marketing effort.

Next: stop playing "me too" with your competition. It is highly unlikely that they have covered every single avenue to reach what you feel is the overlap of your customer base. Look more towards what they are not doing and consider how to impact those areas. Let's look at this another way...

The Internet now affords us with tools to better understand what our customers are searching for. Nine times out of ten a client will say to us, "Competitor A shows up in Google for that so we should, too." Yet, research indicates their customers aren't using that terminology, it's more of a phrase used by people in the business, not by the customer. So while it might be nice to show up there as well - it's nice for ego, I imagine - it's not necessarily going to help attract new customers, which is the real goal, the one that will grow your business. And now you both showing up for something no one is searching for. Doesn't sound like a good investment of resources, does it?

Here's the tip: look to avenues your competitor has not penetrated. Offer your potential clients a UNIQUE value proposition, not a "me too" proposition. Find out what they need and target your efforts to that need. Be a little bold. It's scary, but rewarding.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Google Finance: A Portal Play? As seen in the NY Times...

Google enters the fray with their own spin on the finance portal. Some like it, some don't. Find out what industry pundits are saying...

read more digg story

Friday, March 24, 2006

Time to adapt and change, or…

Remember black and white TV's? How about UHF and VHF dials? No HBO, ShowTime or Sopranos in their showing us the "reality" of a North Jersey mob family, complete with cursing and nudity? Why are soap operas called "soap operas"?

It was a time when TV existed because of commercials. TV shows were brought to you by "XYZ Company." Variety shows did live ad commercials for products. Soap operas were named that because they were sponsored by the soap manufacturers...actually taking us back to a day before TV existed and radio was king.

Commercial TV shows are certainly are still, of course, "sponsored by," but who actually even hears those words out load anymore? They generally become the signal to get up and hit the fridge. And cable TV has certainly made those 60-second breaks disappear from our memory.

Marketing evolves. Radio evolved to TV. TV further evolved to commercial free broadcasts, VOD and DVRs. Radio continues to evolve with satellite offerings. Then there's the Internet. It no wonder that at this week's Association of National Advertisers TV Ad Forum conference it was released that 78% of advertisers said they have less confidence today in the effectiveness of TV advertising than they did two years ago, according to AdWeek. It was also noted that some 80% will spend more of their advertising budgets on Web advertising and 68% are looking into search engine marketing.

The reality is that everything changes. Consumers have far more options than they did in the past. That option extends to marketing. They can now take an active role to gather only what they want or feel they need. They can see a message online, hear it on the radio, then jump online to get more. It is our role to ensure that we give them every opportunity to find us and information about our products and services easily and effectively.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Contact points are key to business

Godin had a good example today of how NOT to do business. Well worth sharing a second post today.

It's a quick read, check it out.

We tell our customers all the time that every contact point is key. While they may have minimum sales on this site, there's better ways of telling a customer. Customers should know that before they shop. At minimum, they certainly should be told nicely at purchase time.

Essentially this company has made a business decision that $12.95 is the minimum worthwhile purchase for them. That's a shame. There's lots of other sites out there willing to sell the same without asking them to fill their basket. eBay has tons of them.

I wonder how many others went and tried this out. They'll likely have more abandoned carts today then they've ever had. Or maybe not.

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11% growth? I'll take it!

"Search" has been one of the largest business growth segments we have seen in some time. Even in what was considered a downsized economy, search thrived. Winners emerged, like Google, and we, as business people emerged victorious as we found a new outlet to reach our customers.

ComScore recently released a study noting that the growth of search has slowed to 11% from a whopping 42% when comparing January 2006 to 5005 respectively.

The 42% "surge" of 2005 makes 11% look shabby. It's not. Our economy has seen various surges like this, especially in the area of new mediums such as the Internet. 11% is a very good growth rate. What this tells us that search is a real business. It is starting to find a level of stability in our current communication system. The "fad" of search is disappearing, making it as commonplace as the Internet has become.

Looking back to the post-Civil War era, the American economy saw similar inventions change the world economy and communication as we know it. Electricity, telephones, even typewriters. They were all once "gee whiz" inventions that were found only in the richest of homes. Now we don't even think about them - we just use them. Just how we've stopped thinking about computers, the Internet and even search.

Growth surges for "real" businesses don't last forever. It was an enjoyable - and profitable - ride. Now we need to stop treating it like the "next big thing" and start using it for the value it provides.

See ComScore's PDF of the data release here.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why the Internet reminds me of our 4-month old puppy

Murphy 4-month old Labrador puppy We have a new lab puppy, Murphy. He's great: cute, cuddly, and extremely smart. Most of the time. The "other times" he is wild, crazy, and out of control. Seems like he barely hears a word we say. It's frustrating. Puppies are lucky that they're cute.

So what's this have to do with the Internet? While most people wouldn't call it "cute," they may call it "smart." And I have certainly heard the word "frustrating."

How many websites have you visited lately that have frustrated you? Websites from large companies - companies that have been around for a while - as well as startups. Many are attractive, maybe even cute. But they don't seem to be speaking your language. Are they simply like a poorly trained puppy, not understanding what you need and simply letting you roam crazily through the site? Problem is, most people will not work that hard with a website anymore; they will simply move on to another that might treat them more respectfully and address their needs.

The Internet is no longer a fad, yet many companies still treat it as such. I still hear business people say, "Oh, we don't really use our website." They're right: they don't. Their customers do! As a matter of fact, many still treat websites and their Internet marketing programs as the stepchildren of the tech department. They have them, the tech department set them up, yet there's little to no connection to their marketing, message or the customer's needs. It's a cool tool with things that click, and forms that post to, well, somewhere, eventually making their way to sales or marketing or customer service.

Your Internet presence is available to your customers and prospects - imminent buyers of your goods and services - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can search in Google or Yahoo based on their "needs" and come across your site. "Need," the perfect time to be in front of a customer. Why on earth would this not be one of the most well-trained aspects of your marketing?

Train your website to be one of the best marketing tools you will ever have and you will be rewarded with long-term customers. Be sure that messages are clear and concise; processes help customers rather than hinder them; and everything - from words to images - exists to help drive the customer directly to what they need.

The Internet - like a puppy - is frustrating, especially if you really don't know what you're doing. It all looks simple at first, but then you find out that it's not. This is the same reason why so many puppies end up in shelters, and websites simply get abandoned: People think they know what they're getting in to, try on their own to get through the frustrating part, then give up. The good thing is for both people with puppies and companies that are embarking on Internet marketing, there's lots of help available.

The moral of this story: seek help. If nothing else, start reading and searching in Google for advice. If you are still floundering, get professional help.

BTW: Murphy starts puppy kindergarten next week.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pay Per Click Fraud Causing Concern

Google is once again making news - and this time is not all good - with their click fraud settlement for a reported $90 million.

While the search engines maintain that they are controlling fraudulent click problems, research is indicating that is not always the case. Late last year, a study found that the instance of click fraud in Google's pay-per-click search engine might be as high as 29.5%.

Yet it's a powerful advertising tool, often the single search engine presence that many companies have. All the more reason to ensure that you are not relying solely on one means to achieve a presence in front of searchers. Pay per click results, shown as the highlighted "Sponsored Results" in search engines, are still clicked on less that the "organic" or "natural" results, or those that are indexed and ranked for relevance by search engines. Reports put that at organic results receiving an average of 75% more clicks.

So then why is PPC so popular? First, it has little to do with popularity or relevance. While PPC companies have guideline for submission, finding the right targets means Downtown Hardware can now compete on the same playing field as Home Depot. Second, PPC properties make it sound easy. Downtown Hardware can do it themselves. Sure, 10 years ago they could also purchase a Mac and Quark and create their own ads, provided they could come up with attractive visuals, a winning headline, and great marketing copy.

Bottom line, no matter how easy it looks, it isn't. Nothing comes without a price. You may be able to "wing it" for a while and achieve results far better than doing nothing. However it is still an investment in the growth of your company. Treat it as such.

read more digg story

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Trust - and mistrust - in sales and marketing hasn't changed all that much

Seth Godin poses a question in his blog today which I'm sure will raise a few eyebrows. As usual, Godin likes to keep us all thinking. "Do you trust marketers?" he asks.

One of the biggest issues most companies face is gaining trust from prospects and maintaining that trust when they become clients. The competitive playing field has changed dramatically since the Internet became an effective commercial sales and information tool. Now Fortune companies compete with online garage sales. Choice is more than abundant, it's overwhelming. With the added choice comes greater opportunity for good, as well as bad.

As individuals, companies, marketers, ad agencies, and Internet marketing firms, we all have a common goal to sell. We sell for ourselves. We sell for others. Part of that sales process is gaining the trust of who we are selling to. However, this is process isn't anything new. Trust - and mistrust - has always been a huge part of a prospect's decision-making process. It existed well before the Internet. It happens when we shop for a car…When we see a sale in the newspaper…When we prepare to sign a contract for services…Or when we shop on eBay.

The Internet has provided us all with far greater access to information. Our role, as marketers, hasn't really changed. It just got a bit harder. Our responsibility to be "trustworthy" has always been there. And there have always been those marketers - the "snake oil salesman" - that chipped away at our ability to gain trust from buyers.

We know people don't always trust marketers. And we know why. Successful purveyors of products and services understand that gaining trust and combating skepticism are huge responsibilities and requirements that will affect the ultimate outcome. We need to keep in mind that it's far easier for our prospects to simply find someone else they trust more than we do us.

So start right away by understanding how to build trust with your customers and prospects. Here are a few tips...

  • Tell it like it is: Let a customer know what the next steps are and what they can expect, then...
  • Walk the walk: If you say a call will be returned within one business day, return it.
  • Here's what it looks like: Give accurate representations of the process or product.
  • Say it with flowers: Customers like "happy" surprises. There's nothing better than to get some free tips, or even a "taste" of what's to come.
  • Keep it simple: Life's hard enough for most people. Don't mire someone in details when starting to build a relationship. Make it easy. Ask for a little now, then maybe a little more later as the relationship builds.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver: It's a pretty simple concept. Figure it out...

Remember that building trust is an investment in not only one sale, but the development of a lifelong customer relationship. There are a lot of roadblocks out there that may affect this process. Tackle them early one and you will reap the rewards of a profitable relationship.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You don't sell online? Of course you do!

Jupiter Research released a study at the end of February that noted how nearly half of those that "shop online" ultimately will make their purchase at a physical store, rather than online. That's been the trend for some time now. People like to be able to browse at their leisure and compare prices, but immediate gratification can only be had by going to the local Best Buy and putting it in your car. Overnight delivery sometimes just isn't fast enough - and it'll cost you!

What's most intriguing about this study is the fact that 62% of online shoppers start their quest in standard search engines, such as Google, and not comparative shopping engines, such as Froogle. Why is this intriguing? It tells us that even when search engines try to make it easier and can provide more specific information, 3 out of 5 people will still use what they are most comfortable with. They have come to know - and trust - search results from Google, Yahoo!, MSN and the others. Froogle, Yahoo! Shopping, DealTime and others have not gained that credibility factor yet.

Often clients will say to me, "We don't sell our products online." Ah, but yes you do! Most "shopping" is done well before the sale. People need to go through the phases of research before they can make the final purchase decision. These phases are being completed online. And research is showing that search engines are the leading factor in making that decision.

Search engine marketing is a powerful way to help influence a buying decision. If you are not providing information to your clients to help them make that decision, or they cannot even find you during the research process, they will find your competitor. Don't miss this important phase of the sale!

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Google: The Advertising Media Company

Google once again is filling the headlines with stock drops, a missed quarter and the new venture into the world of print and broadcast. A world well beyond what the world knows them for, and what they have essentially popularized: Internet search.

Now "Googling" doesn't simply mean finding that company you read about who's services you can really use right now or that new product that you really, really need (really, really want is probably more accurate). Advertisers can now "Google" for ad space. In a process similar to their AdWords pay-par-click platform, Google will be auctioning off surplus print ad space, and radio and TV commercial time.

That doesn't sound like search now, does it. No. Is it a bold play into new territory or a strange evolution for a company that has made its billions on the Internet? Time will tell.

The reality is, Google isn't a little company working out of a garage any more. Those days are long past. Like any other company, they are looking for new outlets to maintain their dominance and growth. While these new avenues may seem strange, there are likely connections well beyond their revealed plans. Many of which stem from providing access for all to advertising mediums once only available to those with huge budgets. Just as organic and paid search results allow companies of virtually any size to compete, Google is hoping to do the same for other mediums.

According to a recent article in USA Today, their plans are as follows:

Print Advertising: Google buys ad space directly from publishers and auctions the space off. Google profits if advertisers offer more than Google paid. This will include both display and text based ads that sport "Ads by Google" and direct readers to websites.

TV: In the same auction-style process, Google will sell commercial ad space to advertisers. Their hope is to extend the capabilities to have TV set-top boxes to learn more about demographics and viewing habits — and serve up tailored ads.

Radio: In January, Google purchased dMarc Broadcasting, which specializes in using computer technology to fill otherwise unsold airtime. It's reported that Google envisions users winning the airtime, then simply recording their spots right from their computer.

Sounds scary: home grown radio spots. And like the growth potential for - and commercial-free capabilities of TiVO and XM Radio - just went way up.

While more equal access to mediums is a great for everyone, and will likely start to draw ad prices downward at some point, this evolution is much like any other. The ability for Google to profit will depend on how they make this process easier and different than current methods of purchasing "over stock" of these same mediums, which is certainly not a new concept. It will either give them the strength and profitability they are after, and allow them to grow the search side of their business, or they can be leaving a door wide open for another search company to dominate. And MSN says they are ready to do so.

The world of Internet marketing and search engines is getting more interesting by the minute.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Webisodes, Intermercials...It's all Internet Marketing!

TV is becoming more of a promotional tool for the Internet than any of us ever imagined. While industry pundits tout the Internet as the death of TV, smart marketers are taking advantage of our widespread usage of the medium. Instead of fighting it, they're joining in.

We've already talked about how Pontiac was looking for a little "cred" with it's "Google Us" spots running in primetime. While being in Google does not really indicate anything about the quality of the car, it certainly appears to be an implied endorsement. And it's an opportunity to get people to the site and sell them some more.

Certainly marketers are looking to promote their products, but they are doing it in a way they know they can provide "more." More means instead of limiting their message to 30 or 60 seconds, they can now take even more of your time, and certainly offer you something in return. Plus lot's of measurement of click-throughs.

Take Dove's new Calming Night webisodes. Sure, webisodes, you remember those short movies that BMW and American Express offered viewers in the recent past. Seinfeld fans and fast car enthusiasts could watch short movies featuring the products and people they love. Big movie names and we're sure the budgets to match (Felicity Huffman and Penny Marshall for Dove, Barry Levinson for the Seinfeld Amex spots, and a host of popular directors for the BMW spots). But what does that do for either the viewer or the product? Branding, baby. Pure, measurable, honest-to-goodness- we-got-you-now branding. And now that you're at our site, watch more...sign up for more...and more...

Is it the introduction of the Intermercial? Part commercial, part Internet, and lot's of bang for the buck - because we know that if you click to the site, there's interest. And if you have interest, we can give you a taste, and once we give you a taste...we've sold you!

The Internet is not limiting our opportunity to market products and opened the world completely to reveal that all of the mediums can peacefully - and successfully - coexist to form a platform for us to spread the word.

Think of how you can use the marketing mediums to offer "more" to your imminent buyers. It doesn't mean you have to hire Penny Marshall to produce your message. It does mean you have to figure out how to serve your customers' and prospects' needs and desires better. If there's the slightest bit of interest or need, there's an opportunity. Don't miss that opportunity.

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