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Tag Archives: Strategy

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Location, Location, Location

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Google’s landing page today looks nothing like what it did even 4 years ago.  The Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is full of information tiles and getting your business featured in these tiles will be the new play in the SEO game.

Google has always been the goto search engine, but look at how the Google SERP has evolved and also consider Google’s entry into the Digital Assistant arena. I propose that Google is evolving from a Search Engine to an Information Engine.

As a result, more people are finding the information they need right at the Google results page without having to follow a link to get the information they need.  In the end this can mean less traffic for your website but if you are prepared, there are several strategies that you can use to take advantage of this.

We will be writing a series of articles with tips to take advantage of this evolving search results page.  For today’s tip, we definitely recommend that you take advantage of the Q&A feature within Google Maps.  Search results that are destination specific take the user directly into maps on the first click.  These destinations have a section dedicated for Q&A.  Read more about this new feature in our article: Updates to Google Maps

Look below at the samples below for the same search:


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Unfair Digital Marketing Advantage

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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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Marketing-Strategy-Team

Marketing Teams & Operations

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Business success or failure is tightly related to the strength of its teams and the marketing team is often on the front edge of that sword. To build an effective marketing team you need a variety of experts that work effectively together. An effective digital marketing team will need at least 5 different skillsets to make the magic happen. So here they are:

  • Strategy
  • Content
  • Advertising
  • Conversation
  • Analytics

Each of these teams requires a different skillset and a person that is great in one might be a failure in another. Let’s explore the roles of these teams and the skills they need.

STRATEGY

This team needs to start with a representative from the Executive Management Group and the higher up the better. In a small business, this is typically the CEO or Owner and even if they know nothing about marketing they HAVE to be on the team. A strategy team without a representative from the executive group is very likely to fail. This does not mean that the executive has to become a marketing expert but they have to engage in the process. Many small businesses are owned and run by technical experts that lack the marketing skills. However, they bring to the team an understanding of and unquestioned loyalty to the business. This team can be subdivided into committees to deal with the detailed planning of specifics.
The strategy needs to answer these broad questions:

  • Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with?
  • Messages – What are we going to say?
  • Campaigns – When are we going to be in market?
  • Channels – Where are we going to be?
  • Performance – Why are we doing this?
  • Budget – How much are we going to invest?

I am sure most will instantly see the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How structure used for building a strategy. The challenge here is that these stages have many relationships that can be very difficult to document and think through.

Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with? This is a more complex question than many think. The simple answer is that you want to talk to customers and prospective customers but it is way more involved. The challenges are that communication is sloppy, messages between audiences can work against each other and channels overlap. Audiences evolve through stages of suspect, prospect, customer, client, and evangelist (aka Brand Advocate) and the communication evolves as the relationship does. The key thing is to know who we are talking to so we know how to talk. For each audience, we recommend building a persona that the planning groups can refer to in the later planning processes. It is much easier to remember a persona if you give them a name, image, and profile. At this stage, you need to gather some basic data on these audiences. At a minimum, get the number of people at each stage because one truth that will shortly be in front of you is that there is always more market to reach than there is budget to reach that market. This means that you are going to have to make priority decisions and the potential of each audience is a critical item in the thought process.

One sign that you have an audience problem is when someone says “Everyone is our customer” and even if this were true – and it never is – you still have to develop messaging that moves the person to action and that requires a defined audience.

Messages – What are we going to say? The marketing messages are independent of the audiences but they are assigned to the audiences. Over the years, we have discovered that many planning groups work better if they focus on an audience and then develop messages for that persona. As you move to subsequent audiences, the pace will pick up because you can assign already developed messages to the new group and discuss only what is different about messaging to that group.
In the old days, messages were largely one direction but social media changed that in a big way. Today messages are part of a two way conversation with the market and that means that all customer facing staff have to know these messages and who they are intended for.

Campaigns – When are we going to be in market? Armed with the audiences we want to communicate with and the messages we want to deliver, the next phase is putting them into campaigns and detailing out the specifics of budgets, content, specific performance goals, and other channel specific details. Campaigns ultimately are what bring audiences, messages, and channels together with performance goals.

Channels – Where are we going to be? This is a simple inventory of the channels that the strategy intends to use and every possible channel needs to be explored. There is no reason to be in every channel or every placement within the channel but you do have to consider it. Much of the research here is use by competitors, audience match to your audiences, and effectiveness of the placements. At a minimum, you need to consider search, display, remarketing, and social placements.

Performance – Why are we doing this? Performance is the reason we do all of this and it is what brings us back to the strategy. Within the strategy, we established goals for the various campaigns and in the performance we are checking to see what really happened and make adjustments as needed. Performance is not without its challenges and the first is that measurements in marketing are never perfect nor are they simple linear processes. We would all like to have an action to reaction relationship but the reality is that there are multiple actions to a reaction and the number of these varies greatly. There are many, including myself, that believe that action to reaction can be as high as 20. This means that for any one specific reaction, there could be 20 contributing actions that were taken.

Budget – How much are we going to invest? This is always one of the tough items in any plan. The answer to this is almost always the same. You want to spend as little as possible but as much as necessary.

CONTENT

Content is king and creating it is magic or so many would like you to think. There is no question that the team in this area has to be insanely creative with the ability to create visual and textual content that communicates the messages to the audience. While this has never been my strength, it is certainly one that I appreciate; when it is done right. The challenge sometimes is keeping the creative in-line with the strategy. One item that is very different in digital marketing (as opposed to print) is that the creative can be tested in the market to see if the message resonates with the audience.

ADVERTISING

Advertising is the blocking and tackling of the process. With the channels and budgets decided on, the goal of this team is to take care of the details. Digital advertising is very different than conventional placement in that the key is to run the system properly and keep the audience on target. This task is about running a fairly complex computer system to get maximum output from it. The team here tends to be strong on math and system process mechanics.

CONVERSATION

Conversations have always been part of marketing but social media has made them much more important and have changed the nature of these conversations. No longer is a conversation between the parties involved in the dialog because it now includes the thousands or even millions that will observe the conversation. An exchange with a prospect on Facebook can easily go viral resulting in millions of impressions for an offhand remark. This part of the team normally will fall to the customer service and sales department, which means getting them on board with the audiences and messages is now critical. Social media can be thought of as the dinner networking meeting of today only with an unlimited audience attending.

ANALYTICS

Analytics is an area that has existed in marketing since the first ad was run and someone wanted to know what it did. What has changed is that the depth of the data has increased and with that came some good things and some new challenges.

  • On the positive side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.
  • On the negative side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.

It is very easy today to bury decision makers in data while they starve for actionable information. The real magic in Analytics is reading the tea leaves and transforming data into information. You have to be very careful today with what you think you know and what specific data actually means. The Analytics team is responsible for transforming this data and feed the information back to the strategy team that can make adjustments in the direction of the business. This is typically done on a regular schedule and we recommend no more than one month between these cycles.

SUMMARY

In closing, you need smart people with different perspectives to the challenges that your business will face. In strategy, you need broad thinkers with a handle on the mission and goals of the organization. In content, you need creative people that can transform detailed messaging into easily understood visual and textual elements. In advertising, you need smart math skills with the discipline to execute. In conversations, you need people that understand how to relate to others using new means of communication like social media. In analytics, you need people that took Stats 450 for the easy A and that can communicate with the strategic thinkers, creatives, advertisers, and customer service.


Call us to see what's next for your marketing.