Online Marketing

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5 Ways to Connect and Energize Your Brand

Warrior-Preneur Ann EvanstonOne of the joys of independent consulting is the opportunity to learn from a wide range of companies and the many solutions providers who stand ready to serve them. For startup CanaryVoice, we identified that social media savvy moms are likely to embrace its unique voicemail greetings service, leading us to explore the “momosphere” and participation in the BLP CONNECT! conference where “warrior-preneur” and marketing consultant Ann Evanston gave an inspiring keynote on “The Power of Connecting.”

Her request for audience feedback on the meaning of “connection” elicited a wide range of responses, including: growing relationships, personal converstions, face-to-face meetings, follow-up, support, cameraderie, resources, interest and attention. According to Evanston, connection means “creating an energy that draws people to you.” Pull not push marketing. Inbound, not outbound marketing. Energetically, YOU are what creates your brand, which is distinctly unique from the product you sell. YOU make your brand unique and special, and as such you can program marketing activities to create an energy that attracts customers to your brand.

While the emphasis of Evanston’s talk was geared toward an audience of women entrepreneurs and guiding their use of social media, every marketer can benefit from thinking more about ways to energize and connect with their audiences, no matter what the product or the size of the marketing budget. If the word for 2010 was “authentic” and in 2011 we are talking about being “transparent,” the word for 2012 will be to “humanize” your brand, according to Evanston.

So how do you go about humanizing, connecting and energizing your brand? Here were my take-aways from Evanston’s motivating talk:

1) Create polarity in your marketing. Ho-hum marketing is average and safe — be brave, be memorable and be yourself!

2) Understand that multiple “buying types” exist and that you need to appeal to all of them while being ready to refine your pitch once you determine which buying type you are dealing with. Diversify how you connect by creating different ways to tell your story.

3) Think with abundance, not in scarcity mode. Doing so will help you attract like-minded people who want to do business with you. You will create connections you never thought possible, that will lead to an even greater number of customers, referral partners and promotion opportunities.

4) Let go of the fear. Fear of success, fear of the money you can really make, fear of polarity, fear of that first Tweet. Don’t let fear hold you back from getting the things done you need to do to drive your business forward.

5) Create a step-by-step plan comprised of systems and processes that develop revenue…and, of course, give Ann a call to help!

There is nothing more powerful than the energetic connections an entrepreneur can make when she tells her story with authenticity, honesty and fearlessness. Whether it’s in a selling situation, a speech or social media marketing, let go of the fears that are holding you back. There is a world of partners, customers and advocates out there just waiting for you to make powerful connections that will help you grow your business.

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Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part I


Unlike consumer marketing, where sales from advertising expenditures are a direct operating expense and measuring conversion rates and lifts in retail sales are resident to the business model itself, measuring the sales impact from B2B marketing initiatives is often a more challenging task.

My clients often ask, and this post seeks to answer:

• How do we determine the overall impact of our marketing investment?
• What return on investment we should expect from individual marketing initiatives?
• What benchmarks can be established to compare the effectiveness across our programs?

When measuring the impact of marketing, it is important to do so in the context of the larger corporate agenda. If the stated company objective is to grow revenue while maintaining high customer satisfaction, the related marketing objectives might be to increase awareness while better educating existing customers about products and services they aren’t currently buying. Only from this understanding can sales, marketing, product and operations align under a common value proposition that gets everyone on board with measuring the impact of the company’s external marketing and communication investment.

What to Measure
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count;
everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

– Albert Einstein

Measurement of B2B marketing effectiveness is a relative one, and somewhere between hyper-obsessive measurement and doing nothing, there lies the opportunity to monitor how a company’s investment in marketing is affecting the bottom line.

The best unit of measurement for B2B marketing is cost-per-lead because it holds Marketing accountable to driving new inquiries at some measured cost while giving Sales a familiar metric by which they can also be held accountable. Ultimately a cost-per-sale analysis should be applied, but a cost-per-lead metric is the most common metric by which sales and marketing can share responsibility for their combined efforts.

Since all marketing programs will reach some percentage of both current and prospective customers, applying a CPL metric removes from the equation events that are out of Marketing’s control, such as competition, objection handling, timing, etc.

Actions a target audience may take along the sales funnel that can feed an ROI modle are:

• Impressions
• Clicks
• Leads
• Conversations (at events)
• Inquiries (by phone ormail)
• Qualified meetings
• Opportunities (RFPs)
• Sales
• Retention
• Lifetime Value (LTV)

There is wide variance in the types of B2B marketing programs available, and an equally broad range of ways to measure their associated impact. Whether considered individually or collectively, B2B marketing programs can be justified and evaluated by their:

• Cost
• Potential to drive revenue (or other rationale made by management)
• Size of audience
• Quality of audience
• Measurability/accountability

Marketing Spend as a Percentage of Revenue
According to a 2008 IDC study, on average B2B companies spend 2.8% of revenue on marketing (ranging from .8% in the services sector to 5.8% for IT companies). Spending levels depend largely upon the stage of the company and its strategic need to invest in awareness initiatives. The study showed marketing programs represented 61% of total marketing spend, with an average of $293,000 of program spend and $16.8 million in revenue for each corporate marketing staff member.

Return on Investment Benchmarking
Ultimately, a company needs to ascertain its ROI from marketing in order to assure shareholders that the expense is warranted, and to more intelligently make investments in the future based on the results experienced in the past.

While every marketing investment will return a different result, at a macro level we can calculate is how the overall amount invested in marketing (entire spend and salaries) relates to revenue. For example, spending roughly $500,000 to generate $20 million in revenue (2.5% of sales put toward marketing), would be a gross ROI of 3900% (ROI = Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment/Cost of Investment).

Such a gross metric, while interesting, is not that useful for making decisions about where to invest in specific marketing programs. On an individual basis, my rule of thumb has always been that it’s reasonable to expect an average gain of 10x the amount spent, or an ROI of approximately 1,000% from any single program. Some will generate more and some less, but using this as a basic metric provides a starting point from which to create historical benchmarks.

Measurement by Objective
While ultimately, the goal of any organization is to drive sales growth, the process typically begins with marketing programs that drive awareness and leads, each of which have unique properties when it comes to measuring ROI.

Awareness (CPM)

Awareness among customers and prospects, and — more importantly — their attitudes and feelings toward the company, is an important metric by which to determine the impact marketing is having on sales. It is also somewhat difficult to measure.

At one (very expensive) extreme, custom research companies can develop custom panels of would-be customers who can be studied year-over-year to show trends in industry attitudes toward your brand. In the online advertising industry there is another less expensive, and potentially more effective, solution is offered by Advertiser Perceptions, which measures awareness, attitudes and perceptions about specific media vendors by marketers and the agencies that represent them.

At the other end of the spectrum, surveying your own customers is an easy and inexpensive barometer of perception. An adept management team should also have an instinct for whether the company’s marketing is resonating with customers based on their direct feedback from the sales channel. If sales are going up and customers are echoing certain brand values and calling for products and features by name, then something about the company’s marketing is clearly working.

Leads (CPL)

I’ve found marketing to drive demand generation in the B2B space less important than the “air cover” a national sales team can benefit from as they seek to ensure their prospects have heard of the company and have a basic understanding of how it’s different from competitors whom they may perceive to all “sound alike.”

Leads are a viable metric for determining the relative effectiveness of all marketing programs, and wherever possible a contact form should be used to obtain for more information. However, lead-generation as a marketing objective is likely to be inefficient for a high-end sale because it is more likely to attract smaller, unsophisticated advertisers when the company has likely already identified and is pursuing through its national sales force.

Sales (CPA)

Fundamentally, all marketing activities exist to support revenue. Marketing’s impact on sales can be felt at many levels – from positioning to equip sales reps with the right words and collateral, to sponsorship and advertising, editorial coverage, promotions and event marketing – done with the intent of driving revenue.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to measure the impact of great sales collateral and a well-differentiated positioning strategy than it is to track a click-to-sale ratio. These intangible measures can only be captured through the close alignment of sales and marketing to ensure market feedback is systematically incorporated into future iterations of product marketing and corporate positioning.

Retention

Conventional wisdom says it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Therefore, some emphasis should always be placed on cost-effectively generating new opportunities from existing clients and sales management should undertake a periodic customer retention analysis to determine the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer.

In Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part II, I will take a closer look at the differences between different B2B marketing tactics and how each can be measured for their relative effectiveness.

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ad:tech New York 2010

imagesWith a conference the size and importance of ad:tech, each attendee is likely to give a different answer when asked “so, how was the show?” From my perspective, ad:tech, along with the industry it serves, is alive and well. Now in its second year at Javits Center, ad:tech New York has never been short of attendees, with around 13,000 pre-registered for the show last week (Nov. 2-4). 

Typically the signal-to-noise ratio at ad:tech is so bad it requires you to speak with 1o people to arrive at a single qualified conversation on the show floor. But I’m pleased to report that the efforts of ad:tech chairwoman Sarah Fay and the DMG management team to pull the show back from the brink of being an affiliate vendor-fest appear to be working. During the couple of hours I walked the floor, in addition to at least three prospective CPA/CPL advertisers, I met representatives of Pepsico and Vonage, both of whom seemed open to new opportunities. Exhibitors echoed this sentiment, which was great to hear since even with a booth, introductions to big brands are unlikely unless prearranged.

While my primary focus was to evangelize ValueClick Media’s recent advancements in data, audience targeting and optimization technology among press, clients and digital opinion leaders, I did a fair amount of listening too, and came away with a few themes worth sharing:

  • The ad:tech conference is healthy and so is online advertising. No recession here, thank-you-very-much and knock on wood.
  • Social commerce is hot, with some mentioning the Gap ‘deal’ by name.
  • Questions abound regarding how, when and where social, mobile, local and search intersect with meaningful traction.
  • Lots of buzz surrounding the Rubicon/FAN and Specific/BBE deals, rumors of AOL buying Dotomi and other video consolidation anticipated.
  • A prevailing attitude of “enough already” when it comes to the over-labeling, shiny-button syndrome that seems to plague our industry. People are ready for consolidation and until then want to simplify the silos in ways that can make it easier for brands to buy from digital media providers.

If you are in agreement with the last point, you should love the video investment banker and savvy online self-promoter Terence Kawaja posted during the conference. Enjoy!

For more information from the conference, the ad:tech blog is always a good read.

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Study highlights efficacy of display advertising

comscore logoThis week comScore and ValueClick Media released a white paper I co-authored titled “When Money Moves to Digital, Where Should It Go? Identifying the right media-placement strategies for digital display.”  The study was based on over 100 campaigns run on the ValueClick Media network and used comScore’s Action Lift reporting methodology to evaluate the impact of various display placement and pricing strategies on site visitation and search behavior .

                       Read the press release.                        Download the paper.

While cross-media and search vs. display has been studied previously, to our knowledge this is the first quantitative analysis of the view-through effectiveness of various display placement strategies (Audience Targeting, Contextual Targeting, Retargeting) and pricing options (Premium/CPM, Efficiency/CPC). And while the study is by no means exhaustive, and may even raise more questions than it answers, it validates the efficacy of display advertising and provides direction on which placement strategies to deploy to drive advertiser performance, whether measured by brand or direct response metrics.

Here are a few of the key findings:

  • Retargeting works extremely well and should be considered for both direct response and branding initiatives
  • Some placements create new traffic while others find audiences that are already engaged with the subject
  • Marketers in different industries take advantage of the strategies differently
  • All multi-strategy marketers increased site visitation above the norm
  • Advertisers who used three or more placement strategies tended to have one metric in which they disproportionately beat the norm

While the study was exclusively on placements across the ValueClick Media network, it was not sponsored research, but rather done in partnership with comScore. Regardless, the campaigns were all sold and delivered on a single network, so a different network or analysis across an entire campaign may have shown different results.

That said, the data tells an interesting story about ValueClick Media. Most surprising to me was the lift, however small, driven by the RON baseline, something we attribute to the impact data and optimization is increasingly having on the ability to predict the performance of every impression — a huge validation of our technology. Contextual pricing probably skewed high due to inclusion of campaigns run on our more exclusive vertical networks. And the data suggests we just may be undervaluing our audience targeting and retargeting inventory.

Laurie Sullivan did a great job of recapping the results of the paper in her MediaPost article published today. I will be presenting the research with Anne Hunter on Tuesday at the IAB MIXX conference in NY. Our workshop is up against sponsored content from Google/AdMob, Yahoo! and AOL, so I’m eager to see what audience we attract. Whoever comes, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone during Advertising Week in NY!

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Fixing Advertising Los Angeles | July 2010

CaptureRarely does a panel discussion achieve an optimal mix of education, entertainment and controversy the way the Fixing Advertising session did on Monday night in Los Angeles. The education series, sponsored by Dapper, has now made its way to every major U.S. media market in an effort to not only make sense of the fragmented display advertising landscape, but to actually do something about it. Bravo!

Credit for the effective cadence and tone of the session goes to Pete Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds, who clearly being qualified to serve on the panel himself had the audience on the edge of their seats just by knowing just when to dial up and down the intensity. He began by asking the audience what level of discussion they wanted to hear, which was promptly met with shouts of “deep dive” and “hard core!” And the panel did not disappoint. 

So what is being done to “fix” advertising? Kim began the conversation by asking the panel to articulate what’s broken — and everyone had an opinion about given the theme of the evening. 

According to Zack Coelius of Triggit, advertising is broken because it’s fragmented. It’s broken when it costs 20 to 30 percent of the media budget just to plan, buy and manage the process, especially when you don’t know where your ads are going and when you don’t have control over the buy.

Frank Adante of Rubicon echoed his sentiment from the publisher perspective, explaining how the sell side is fragmented too. Finding the money is difficult, he says, when an estimated two million advertisers are buying from one thousand sources and at least 500 sales teams worldwide. Not to mention the difficulties presented by multiple billing, collections, reporting systems. The solution, he suggests, is a central platform for selling and the  need for automation.

According to Jon Aizen of Dapper, people enjoy the web and get great value, but they don’t like display ads, which cover 10-20% of the visual real estate. After all, banners haven’t changed much since 1994. Advertisers actually have sometthing people want, but the advertising isn’t reflective of their offering, which Dapper hopes to change by matching visitors to relevant content.

Amy Lehman of United Online made a compelling case for how expensive it is to manage campaign reporting, metrics and attribution and how insane it is that we have not dealt with this as an industry already. Furthermore, she said, the industry is “beyond commodotized” and we make enable fragmentation which only makes it harder on ourselves. Ultimately, according to Lehman, most facets of the fragmented ecosystem (analytics, rich media, creative optimization, ad verification, etc.) belong resident in the ad server. 

As automation of these processes takes hold, will jobs actually be eliminated? Probably not, since machines can’t do creative or strategy, but more junior level roles centered around manually running reports and  managing pivot tables may evaborate, or at least their jobs will change, as the industry continues its rapid trend toward automation. According to Adante, automation is partly the cause of the fragmentation, referencing how a huge SEM/SEO services industry was built upon the backs of the major search engines.

Jon Aizen spoke about page saturation, consumer immunity (banner blindness). Unlike how a half page ad in print is half the cost of a full page, more ads on the page online are sold at the same rate, thus creating banner blindness. In Aizen’s view, sometimes it is more prudent to know when not to serve an ad. He also claims display units are too small and not intrusive enough. After all, when was the last time a banner ad made you laugh or cry?

The days of arbitrage models where middlemen add no value are over. If Terrence Kawaja’s now infamous GCA Savvian fragmentation slide is an indicator of some future consolidation, the Kim asks “by whom?” According to Coelius, “it’s going to be a going out of business process, not a buying process.” For those vendors who help to add insight and extract real value for advertisers, however, the outcome may certainly be acquisition by those larger media players and agencies who must continue acquiring such technology to compete long term.

Partly justifying the need for so much data and analytics is how much more multi-dimensional and dynamic display is compared to search. The mere fact that campaigns are distributed among thousands of sites in and of itself is complex. Then add in the critical creative component, which according to Michael Baker, a recent DataXu study found was the single most important factor in driving conversions, followed by consumer and context.

Being hosted at The Rubicon Project, Adante diligently represented the voice of publishers, whose role in all of this cannot be overlooked. According to some, a publisher backlash related to how networks use their data is looming, but there shouldn’t be any at all if publishers are simply paid for each impression based on what it is worth to the advertiser, which is what DSPs and sophisticated ad networks are set up to do.

Best quotes of the evening:

“We’re trying to kill online advertising and replace it with content.” – Jon Aizen

“Arbitrage just needs to die.” –  Zach Coelius

 “These little buy and sell side technologies are like plaque in the teeth of Google.” – Michael Baker

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From left to right: Amy Lehman, SVP Advertising, United Online; Zach Coelius, Founder & CEO, Triggit; Frank Addante, Founder & CEO, The Rubicon Project; Jon Aizen, COO & Co-Founder, Dapper; Peter Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds; Michael Baker, CEO, DataXu, James Beriker, CEO, Dapper.

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