Unfair Digital Marketing Advantage

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Unfair Digital Marketing Advantage

The goal of all marketing is to create unfair advantage. In digital marketing, advantage comes from being in the right place, at the right time, with the right message. Unfair advantage comes from a defensible custom process that creates advantage in place, time or message.  An unfair advantage cannot be copied, bought, or replicated and like all secrets, it ages poorly. An unfair advantage cannot come from commercial tools because your competitor can buy the same product, take the same training, and your advantage disappears. An unfair advantage cannot be discovered in an article, study, or white paper because your competitor has access to the same knowledge. An unfair advantage is fleeting because once discovered by your competitor it vanishes. An unfair advantage has a limited lifespan and businesses must continue to invest in “What’s Next” to create, or maintain the next unfair advantage.

About Me

Over the last 46 years I have been a soldier, programmer, and digital marketing executive. My professional career started with 7 years in the US Army, which taught me leadership, tactics, and strategy. Followed by school and 16 years in custom software development. I was rapidly promoted from Programmer, to Systems Analyst, to Project Manager, to Executive Management, ultimately becoming the CEO. This was followed by 23 years as Digital Marketing Agency CEO in a business that morphed primary focus from SEO to PPC. I have always been attracted to the impossible problem of marketing and my teams were always staffed with smart and independent thinkers. I live by the rule of never working with someone who is not better than myself at what they do. I believe that team diversity brings strength and perspective to the team. With my recent retirement as CEO, I have moved to the role of Senior Data Scientist and I now have the freedom to work on the projects I love with people I deeply respect. My new life mission is to create experiments to discover patterns and relationships in marketing data that can be leveraged into unfair advantage for our clients.   

Finding Clients with Strategic Synergy

To accomplish this, my first task is to find clients with whom we have a strategic synergy. To be a reasonable fit the client must be reasonably sized (minimum monthly ad spend of $25K) with a professional marketing management team in place that understands and appreciates the complexity and business opportunity value in programmatic digital marketing. Of the active clients that I managed as CEO of SMS we have had probably a dozen clients that fit this profile. Indeed, they are the top 1% of their industry and intend to continue that position.

Profiling one of our large clients, they manage over $100k a month in PPC for 30+ locations providing a home service that includes repair, service, and installation for both residential and commercial customers. As a professionally managed business they are active in all channels of marketing including digital and conventional advertising and PR.  The manager is brilliant and understands the business to a level that nobody outside their industry will ever reach. He understands the complexity and tradeoffs involved in marketing and is willing to test new concepts under a fail-early strategy.  I have met with this manager every week for the last 8 years so I know that his account has no fundamental problems left but he also knows that the improvement opportunity is huge.  If we could accomplish the impossible of perfect timing, placement, and message the improvement would be 96%. With an annual budget of $1.6 million this approaches a business value of almost $50 million in business opportunity. Perfect marketing is a lofty goal but it is not realistic, however there is always room for improvement. If we can improve this account, moving the success rate from a typical 2% to 4%, the business value of that is $1.6 million! We just need to improve the system by 2%.

Why this must be a custom solution

If it’s not custom then it cannot be protected and the advantage will be lost as the market adopts the new best practice. There is an industry full of developers creating commercial products to the largest possible audience. This is how they create leverage and how they monetize the technology. Look at product like WordStream, Marin Software, Kenshoo, Optmyzr, and all their cousins. These are great products, but they are general use designed to fit the largest possible audience. They create advantage only until your competitor buys the same product or a better one. Custom solutions are perfectly fitted to the specific business with no compromise in the process. Tool developers are rarely experts in the industry, they write code for. Custom solutions take time and money to create and this creates a barrier to the competition as does protecting it as a trade secret.

The Digital Marketing Trifecta – Place, Time, and Message

Aligning three elements is an advertising utopia and perfection is impossible. However, improvement is certainly possible. When you examine the simple math of aligning three variables it does not take a lot of change in a variable to improve the response. Of these three variables, the big one is time because it is within time that the demand is created. The place and message need to be on target but detecting or improving the odds of the time is where most of the opportunity exists.  Time is largely created by a knowledge of the business and the events that drive it. I believe that unfair advantage will come from bringing outside data into the AdWords strategy.

The AI Path to the Solution

We believe that progress in this this will come from the AI/Machine Learning/Deep Learning field. Using the tools that are rapidly developing in this space we should be able to build models to evaluate data feeds from advertising networks, websites, and other sources to make better decisions. Considering that failure rates in advertising are often 98% there is plenty of room for massive improvement.

If you are interested in being a partner in this journey in Marketing AI please call Bob Dumouchel at 800.272.0887 or email bob@smsrd.com

 


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Getting To The Why

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Our office recently saw a TED Talk by Simon Sinek on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. To summarize, he talks about a concept he came up with called the Golden Circle. There are three layers to a company; the outside layer is the “What”. What do you do and this could be a personal question or a business one. The second layer is the “How”. Finally, the most important and hardest question to answer is “Why”. When a business or individual can portray the “why”, they will gain followers that believe in that vision and the examples that Simon uses are Apple, the Wright Brothers, and Martin Luther King Jr.

His Ted Talk inspired us to look within and answer the “why” for our company.

At the end of the presentation all we could think about, in regards to our company and who we serve, was the tag line for Zalinsky Auto Parts. To the best of our knowledge, this isn’t a real company but a fictional one in the movie Tommy Boy. Yes, the movie with the late (and hilarious), Chris Farley. The tag line for that company was “I make car parts for the American working man, because that’s what I am, and that’s who I care about.” Although we are not an auto parts store, we can empathize with that saying. We market for small businesses because that’s what we are, and that’s who we care about.

As a business, especially a small one, knowing the “why” is crucial to promoting your business. Now while the conversation about the “why” is not as funny as the plot to Tommy Boy, there are some serious business lessons that help in getting to the Why.

Connect Businesses to New Customers: The search engines can be seen as a meeting point between two different audiences. To the person with the blank search box on their screen, they are looking for a specific product or service such as the Brake Pads that Callahan Auto sells. On the other end of this are advertisers looking to sell their product. If Tommy Boy were to be re-made today, they could utilize Google AdWords to find customers to buy these brake pads as the search results serve as a meeting area to connect businesses that provide a product or service to the individuals looking to purchase said products or services. Helping clients to utilize these marketing channels excites us because it helps us improve the quality of life for consumers while helping our clients grow their business.

Allow You Time To Focus On Business Items: If Callahan Auto were to operate by today’s rules, they would be able to outsource the digital marketing needs of their business to experts such as us. This would free up time in their schedule to grow the brake pad division and to explore other items to sell within the Callahan Auto line or even time to discuss ideas for other businesses to open. One Why within our world that we take pride in is helping to keep this part of their business in good hands as this additional time saved can be used to focus on other areas of their business.

While Tommy Boy and TED talks are two things that are typically not mentioned in the same sentence or the same article, the principles of getting to the Why ultimately played a major factor into the plot of the movie and if Digital Marketing was as prominent in 1995 as it is today, we would welcome the opportunity to manage the digital advertising for Callahan Auto Parts to get their name out to potential customers and give Tommy Callahan III additional time to focus on growing other parts of the business.


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Be Careful What Click Through Rate You Wish For

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As the old saying goes, “be careful for what you wish for; you may receive it” is something that holds very true in today’s world, especially when it involves the Click Through Rate of your AdWords account.

In a recent article, we discussed the new Added By AdWords testing going on and Google’s assertion that these ads would help improve performance by 5%-15%. While they did not specifically state the scope of metrics this applies to, our suspicion is that this is related to Click-through Rate.

While Click-through Rate is an important aspect to look at, as it is one of the major factors that helps determine Quality Score (improving this can decrease your Cost per Click), your ultimate focus as an advertiser needs to be on generating additional business for yourself, not Google.

Sometimes what is good for Google (higher click through rate) isn’t necessarily going to lead to beneficial results (improved Conversion Rate) on your end. For example, Dynamic Keyword Insertion helps adjust the headline of your ads to match the search that someone conducted. While we see many cases where this helps to improve Click through Rates, many of these cases have led to lower Conversion Rates.

While consideration to Quality Score impact needs to be seriously evaluated before taking this step, there are occasional instances where undermining your Click-through Rate can actually help your business. One case we ran into in the past involved a B2B client that was focused on higher scale projects.

Initially, the Click-through Rate for this client’s traffic was high but the quality of leads coming in was not. In this case, the solution we came up with was to pre-qualify people within the ad (by saying that the client would only take projects at a certain dollar amount or over).

This had an immediate impact on account performance. In Google’s eyes, overall performance went in the tank as the Click-through Rate of these ads saw a significant decline. In the Client’s eyes, AdWords performance improved substantially as the quality of sales leads he received improved.

The takeaway out of all of this is that discretion needs to be exercised before making changes that fall in line with what Google recommends because the adjustments that benefit them do not necessarily benefit you as the advertiser.


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Things Don’t Exactly Match Up Here

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The Friday News Dump, while it is most notorious in the news world, it can be applied in several different places, in fact Google engaged in their own Friday News Dump last week.
While a large portion of the population was distracted with March Madness and or celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Google quietly released some information on a change that will necessitate additional vigilance on the part of advertisers everywhere.

Historically, Exact Match keywords are only supposed to show when the person searches for something that Exactly Matches the search that was performed on Google. Previously, Google had loosened this to where it now includes “misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations and accents.” We had concerns about this when it became publicly known that this would not be optional.

Our initial takeaways from this are as follows:

1 – Same meaning different order is a bigger cause for concern than Rewording and ignoring function words

The first example cited by Google was the addition, removal or change of function words such as in, the, for, etc. If the update to the close variants was limited to this scope, our concern would be much more limited.

However, this seems to be the opening act for the fact that the exact match setting will no longer take word order into consideration. In many cases, a two word phrase can have a very different context based on the order that they are placed in. Historically, the point of Exact Match is to only match for words when presented in that exact order and this change opens up the door for Exact Match keywords to act more like Broad Match Keywords.

2 – Google says “early tests show advertisers may see up to 3% more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates”

The way this claim is worded, the first thing that strikes us is a lack of confidence “may see up to 3%” in the already modest claims. While common sense and logic would dictate that loosening the exact match settings are naturally going to lead to more impressions (and more clicks) this says nothing about the quality of these clicks (which would likely decrease) and we are highly skeptical of something that loosens the keyword matching settings to actually increase overall conversion rates.

3 – Search Terms Report becomes more important than ever

One of the AdWords basics is to review the Search Terms Report to see which searches are matching to your ads for the purpose of seeing if there are new keyword ideas worth exploring or whether there are certain searches that need to necessitate expanding your negative keyword structure to help control for the quality of traffic.

With the definition of Exact Match Keywords being updated, the Search Terms report and expanding your Negative Keyword base based on the searches that are being matched through close variant matching will be more important tomorrow than it is today.

The world is always changing and the speed of changes is much faster in Google AdWords than it is for the rest of the world. Just like being a parent, this is the fun part but also the part that keeps us on the edge of our seats on a daily basis. While we have concerns with the expansion of the Close Variants setting, these are concerns that can be mitigated by being extra vigilant in analyzing the searches being matched to your keywords.


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Added By AdWords

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What if we told you that Google is starting a new pilot where they believe they can do a better job writing your ads than you? This may sound crazy but as they say, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The Ads Added by AdWords pilot has been publicly known for a little over a month but the more we think about it, the more we have concerns about it for advertisers over the long-term.

While Google claims these ads see performance improvement of 5%-15%, we believe that Advertisers need to have authenticity in their voice and controlling how ads are presented is an important part of this process. By transferring part of this process to someone who is not associated with your business or someone hired to represent that voice on your behalf, weakens the authenticity of this voice in our opinion.

The good news is if you like controlling the messaging on your own ads; it is very easy to opt out. There are a couple ways you can stop this process.

1 – Check to see whether this has been applied to your AdWords account

Currently, the percentage of accounts opted into this feature is very small. To check whether you are among these, you will want to click on the Ads tab go to Columns menu, click on modify columns and under attributes you will want to select the icon next to Labels and click apply.

2 – Check the labels and see if any of them say “Added by AdWords”

If anything, it is at least easy to identify which ads have been added by AdWords and which ones have not. The first step you will want to do is remove these ads. Even if you see that this feature has not been applied to your account, the reality is that pausing or not having any of these ads in the first place means there is merely no symptom and there is work to do in removing the source which leads us to…

3 – Request to be opted out of this test

The good news is that you can get yourself opted out of this “feature”. By filling out this form, you are able to opt out of the Added by AdWords feature and ensure that you maintain control of the ads that are seen by your prospects.

While this has been launched on a small scale so far, the progress of this will need to be monitored in the coming months. The good news is that if you have concerns about this, it is easy to avoid having this impact the ads being run in your AdWords account.


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Featured Client- Western Bat Specialist

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Western Bat Specialists have been an SMS client since March 2014. When Bat Grl first talked with us there were major problems in their AdWords account and website. We dropped everything and worked through the weekend to get them and their phones back up and running/ringing. Today we provide AdWords, SEO, and Website maintenance services for them.

If you have some of these furry little guys flying out of your attic then you need Bat Grl to be your protector. Her secret identity is Rebekah Wright and she works at Western Bat Specialists. Bat Grl and her team provide Bat Removal Services for homes and businesses from Bakersfield to Eureka in Northern California.

They like these little guys and never hurt them but they do perform exclusions from buildings. What we never realized until we worked with Bat Grl is that bats are protected. This means that exclusion from a building cannot happen during the Maternity Season and bats cannot be killed, both actions are illegal. Why would you want to harm them anyways?

Without these cute furry little guys we would have a major insect problem in many communities. No matter how you feel about them, Western Bat Specialist will take care of them for you, the right way.


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New SMS Staff: Marvin Byrd

Marvin

Marvin provides hardware, software, and security engineering services at SMS. The systems side of our business has been working on PPC automation and AdTech Networks like our AuLaCart project and Marvin brings a new depth of geek to our staff. Marvin will also be providing security engineering in both hardware and software to clients.

Marvin graduated from Cal Poly in 2009 as an electronic engineer and has experience in hardware, software, and system security. He worked a couple of year for the DOD out in a desert that he cannot talk about and most recently as a Security Auditor in the private sector. He is a partner in our AuLaCart project and has been our secret to overcoming the engineering challenges of that project. Marvin is a scary smart engineer and is a pleasure to work with.

Marvin will be working with clients to make sure that their networks are secure from Hackers. As we all know system security is a huge concern for all businesses and the attacks can come from hardware, software, or social engineering. Marvin understands each of these threats and knows how to make reasonable recommendations that managers and executives can understand and respond to.

Marvin is an engineer that can move easily from hardware, to software, to security. Marvin also provides engineering consultation on hardware devices and firmware. A few of his current projects are a medical device for a company in the bay area and a WiFi board for RC vehicles.

I first met Marvin in 2004 when he was the team leader for the Arroyo Grande High School Robotics Team and we have kept in touch since then. When the opportunity to work with Marvin presented itself we were very excited to add him to our team.

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Clients in the News

We love it when clients get press coverage. It is the physical world equivalent to a great organic position on an important keyword search.
Liftgator was selected as one of the Top 10 new products at the 2016 World Ag Expo. Justin and his team have really set a new standard for work truck lift gates and it is great to work with them.
Finis was selected as one of the Top 10 Most Organized Brands by Brand Folder. We have worked with the team at Finis since 2010 and they are both well organized and creative so the award is well earned.
Loomis Tank Centers was at the 5th Annual Preparedness Expo, Saturday, March 12, 2016 in the Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo, CA. This will helped educate the community on the use of water storage for residences, businesses, ranches, and farms.

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Featured Client-Loomis Tank Centers

Featured Client-Loomis Tank Centers

Loomis Tanks

Large, small, medium, colossal, tall, short or petite, Loomis Tanks has got you covered! Now that I’ve got your attention. I would like to introduce one of our newest clients, Loomis Tank Centers; we are very pleased and excited to be working closely with Dan and their great staff.

The Loomis family has been in business since 1905, wow that’s a long time! The family business was founded by E.C. Loomis, the great-grandfather of Dan Loomis, whom is the current owner of Loomis Tanks. Loomis has various businesses in our local area, from insurance to feed and supplies. But we are all about the Tanks, queue that one song!

Loomis Tank Center is a wholesale and retail distributor of polyethylene, fiberglass and steel tanks for the storage and transportation of water and the bulk storage and transportation of chemicals and fertilizers. Basically if you need to transport water for Shamu, they have a tank for you!

The experience and knowledge within the Loomis Tank management and long-term staff is unmatched in tank manufacturing and distribution in the US. They make sure their clients are well informed and get the best advice about their tank purchase, which is not as easy as you tank. 😉

They proudly supply storage tanks to various professionals and non-professionals, such as:

  • Contractors
  • Homeowners
  • Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Governments
  • Municipalities

 
7 retail locations in California, Arizona, and Nevada. With over 40 factory direct locations nationwide so that they can offer the best pricing and freight rates possible.

That being said, if you need a septic tank, water tank or storage tanks for chemicals and fertilizers, whether you’re looking for steel, fiberglass or plastic tanks, Loomis Tank Centers has a tank for you! Simply visit them by clicking here.


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Our Adventure in 3D Printing


We absolutely love new technology so when the opportunity to have a 3D printer in the office came along, we jumped on it. For our AuLaCart project we needed a custom case to protect the equipment and 3D printers are great for very small scale custom work.

In printing our first project, the AuLaCart case that is part of our recent patent filing, we quickly encountered our first challenge: just how slow this process can be. In our case the print time was well over 3 days and several of the parts had to be printed multiple times because of warpage. While the finished case looks like only two parts, the reality is that there are 8 parts that have to be ground down and glued together to complete the case.


In the learning process, it was interesting to discover that “solid” pieces are really hollow. When you slice the design from the stl file (design file) to gCode (printer instructions) it automatically fills large areas with a honeycomb structure to give it strength without wasting your expensive supplies. This improves the warpage that can happen when there is lots of material cooling at different rates. This may not sound like a big deal but we quickly found that temperature control is one of the biggest learning curves in 3D printing. Both the extruder and bed of the printer are heated and finding the right temperature settings can take time and a number of failures. The printer that we have is an open design so to control temp we ended up building a really “fancy” enclosure (implied sarcasm) from a cardboard box with a window made of shipping tape. Fancy-3d-Printer-CaseWhile it may not be top of the line, it makes a big difference in the success rate of printing parts.

As we worked with the printer we experimented with various types of different materials such as plastic, polycarbonate, carbon fiber and even a type of wood. The most difficult by far was the polycarbonate, which is best known by the brand name of Lexan. This is a tough material and we never printed a successful part with this. The reason is that the temperature need for this specific material is 310c on the extruder and our printer will only go to about 290. That being said, the material never turned as liquid as we needed and therefor failed every time. Thank heavens, we recently we found a polycarbonate that can be printed from a lower temperature and we finally got a successful print.

One material that was especially interesting was carbon fiber and this material makes some really strong prints. The material itself is stiff and breaks easily from the roll. However once printed this is impressively strong material. To test materials we print small scale rocket ships. When using other materials it was easy to break parts off of the rocket ships however the carbon fiber rocket was nearly impossible to break (unless you are superman strong like my boss Mr. Bob, who was successful in breaking a part of my carbon fiber rocket). Carbon fiber is not the cheapest material you can print with, but if your print needs to stand up it is a good choice.

So far, our only production work has been the AuLaCart case and, because of the size, it was printed in 8 pieces and had to be glued together. 3D printing is not as accurate as conventional machining of a part so when it comes time to fit parts there is a fair amount of hand work on anything with tight tolerances. In our case, all the edges that were to be glued had to be flattened to get an edge that would glue properly and result in the right size of the final part. The printed surface is rough and needs to be treated if you want smooth surfaces. The only surface that gets a smooth surface is the one that attaches to the printing bed so you might want to consider that when you position the piece for printing.

The bottom line with 3D printing is that it is a very cool and interesting technology that works best when hot. We are now discussing ways that this new ability might be beneficial to our clients so if you have a thought for using 3D printing in marketing, please let us know.


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