In my role at Distilled, I am usually the first point of contact for new clients, and inevitably I am also the person who lets them know how big a dent our fantastic service will make in their wallet. This usually starts a conversion regarding realistic expectations, return on investment and assurance that we are not committing highway robbery. While most of the potential clients I speak to understand that they need search marketing, many don’t understand the amount it might cost to invest in something that is going to provide strong and sustainable results. As someone who has worked in both online and offline marketing related jobs, I thought I would write a blog post or two that shines some light on the value of online marketing and why it really is worth that little bit more for a great campaign. My first post is going to discuss the ever-important themes of ROI, targeting and value for money. I know all of these are popular topics so if you have any comments or links to add, please let me know!
Show me the ROI!
When I worked in magazine sales, one of our hardest challenges was proving the return on investment for our clients. We could show that 80% women who read our magazine also liked to go shopping for women’s clothing, but we couldn’t quickly and cheaply prove that those same women would see our client’s ad and be driven to buy that exact product right away. Research needed to be carried out, sales tracked, and assumptions made. At the end of the day, it was never an exact science. But then again I’m not sure that it should have been. Magazine and TV advertising are not about direct marketing and immediate results; they are about building up brand identity and establishing a clear place in the market—creating a culture.
In a post credit crunch diminishing sales market, however, accountability is becoming increasingly important, and all forms of marketing and advertising are trying to prove that magic selling point of ROI. Since its beginning, this is where digital has been able to run a head of the pack. You want to know who is on your site? Look at the traffic. Are they buying? Check your analytics. Do they like you? Check your feedback. The potential for monitoring, analysing and, most crucially, knowing what your visitors are doing, what they want and how they respond is one of the fantastic things about internet-based business and marketing. The key is knowing what to look for, getting it set up and demanding access to the knowledge.
Proving fantastic ROI is where strong search marketing agencies can stand out from the rest of the crowd. The very first and most important thing I focus on when beginning a new project is my potential client’s perception of strong ROI. What do they hope to get out of search marketing, and are their expectations realistic? Even though search engines are at the core of what we do, search marketing campaigns should never strive to just get to the top of Google. I find sitting down with a client to discover their long term business goals can help establish what actually needs to be done, and how search marketing can help them to achieve those goals. It may be that they get more results from building up a bespoke but targeted following though social media or that they could really benefit from some immediate PPC to help get them some exposure and increase awareness. Managing clients’ expectations and setting clear measurements for success are two of the most important steps in the very initial stages of any marketing project, especially in an industry where people can sometimes get distracted by the means to the end, rather than remaining focussed on the end itself.
When kicking off a search marketing campaign, I always ensure potential clients have a clear understanding of what they are going to get back from their agency and that they set realistic key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs do not always need to be traffic and sales growths and are not the only ways to show strong a strong ROI. Search marketing is still an organic process, and although it is very easy to see its impact over a period of time, you have to give it a chance to work. Discuss with your agency what you expect to see in the first few months. This may be research into your marketing, a review of your website, or a summary of all the hard work they are doing to ensure that an uplift in results is just around the corner.
Less is More
When trying to establish what you want to achieve from search marketing, it’s crucial to focus on what is actually important to the overall growth of your business and make sure that your search agency has the same goals in mind. If you are selling antiques, who cares if you have 50,000 people a day on your website if none of them are interested in antiques and they got there by mistake? Online marketing is extremely adept at reaching small but valuable target markets (this is where I am obliged by the industry to mention the long tail), and it would be shame to waste a lot of money reaching out to people who have no interest in your business. We are currently doing a lot of work to increase conversion rate optimisation for our clients, and often this means ensuring that all of our marketing efforts are going to where they will be the most receptive and in turn the most profitable. That being said, there is a time and place for numbers (online newspapers, pubic services bodies and politics, for example) but for the most part it’s always nicer to have an intimate conversation than to shout at a crowd.
How Would You Like to Buy a Bridge?
When the States was still a brand new country, there was a con artist in New York called George C. Parker who would approach people right off the boat and ask them if they would like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. Being new to the “Country of Opportunity” apparently some innocent immigrants succumbed to the hoax. Unfortunately, those new to a market are always going to be targets and there will always be people out there who are looking to make a few pounds off of someone’s lack of experience. The wild west of the online world is not immune and there are cowboys out there who try to sell very “cheap” search marketing. I get a lot of clients who have had that experience in the past and they are still smarting from getting ripped off from the last guy. It’s always sad to hear about people who have had the misfortune of working with a less than scrupulous agency, but it’s also a bit shocking to find out how little they paid to supposedly ‘get to the top of Google right away’. Like everything else in this world, in search marketing you get what you pay for. If you don’t believe online marketing services are worth much, how can you expect them to generate large business benefits? Search marketing that is done well can be very successful and could possible revolutionise your business results. But it takes time and a lot of hard work and research. A talented team will devote the care needed to understand how to grow your business and those man hours are what you should be paying for. That’s not to say you can’t find a good value out there, but just be wary, discount SEO may leave you in a worse state than you started in.
Inspired by Lucy L’s use of colourful analogies in her posts, I have created a fun little analogy to further illustrate my point (sorry if it’s a bit feminine biased):
You have dry skin and are looking for a new face lotion and you have a choice of two lotions.
One of the lotions is in available in Boots. You see it on the shelf and hear about it from friends, and they let you test it on a part of your skin to see how nice it is. The ingredients are right on the box, and you know from the brochure exactly how it works and what results you can expect. It may take a few weeks to work, but the results of regular application are consistent.
The other lotion is sold by a man who comes up to you on the street he saying he has this great new lotion. It will do everything you want and more and you will get results right away, but he can’t tell you how or what’s in the lotion because “it’s a secret formula”. He claims that all of the other pretty people are buying this lotion, and you want to make sure you don’t get left behind. You must have it and you must have it now, and he will sell it to you for a very special deal. Cheap as chips.
Now guess which lotion is the most likely to give you a rash, or spots, or do absolutely nothing at all because it’s really just watered down hand lotion.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some companies who will offer great rates, but it’s always important to read the label before you buy!
Searchenginejournal has a great post on warning signs and what to make sure you avoid when starting a new SEO campaign.