The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Top Online Marketing Channels - My Top 6 in June 2007


At least a few times per month I’m asked, “Which internet marketing channels do you believe are the strongest?” It’s almost impossible to answer this question without some context. For example, a company that sells toys is much different than a consulting firm looking for Fortune 500 clients, right? Each business will have its own top online marketing channels, based on their model. That said, below I have provided my top online marketing channels in June 2007. My top 6 are based on data collected from across my clients, as well as for my own business.

In addition, I have provided the personification of each channel, which is basically their famous alter ego. ;-) Please note that since web marketing is extremely dynamic, my top channels may change (even in a few months!)

Without further ado, counting down from 6 to 1:

Colin Ferrell Starring as Social MediaComing in at Number 6: Social Media
Who hasn’t heard of Social Media at this point…heck, there’s even an acronym for it in web marketing (SMO) or Social Media Optimization. Social Media is an umbrella term that includes social news, social bookmarking, social networking, media-driven sites like Youtube, etc. Top social media sites include Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Netscape, del.icio.us, MySpace, YouTube, and dozens of other smaller sites. Using Social Media for internet marketing is hit or miss. Yes, these sites can be huge drivers of traffic and links, but some efforts will simply not take off. I think everyone has seen 1 digg for a story quite a few times… That said, I have seen some impressive results recently from a range of social media sites.

Why Collin Ferrell? You never know which Collin Ferrell you are going to get (or show up), right? You might get the Collin Ferrell who has had a few drinks, smoking a cigarette, and throwing the f-word around. Or, you might get the movie premiere Ferrell who comes sober, has some big names in his entourage that night, and lands a $30MM first weekend. Like I said earlier, Social Media is hit or miss.


George Clooney Starring as BloggingAnd at Number 5: Blogging
In late 2005, a VP of Marketing (yes marketing) asked me rather aggressively in a web marketing meeting, “Tell me…how in the world is a blog going to impact my bottom line?” Uh, I’m sure he would like to take back that question now! :-) I don’t need to spend much time explaining the explosive growth of blogs, their impact on readers (consumers), and how RSS, search engines, blog search engines, other blogs, and social media can all play a factor in helping Jane Nobody from down the street gain rock start status as the premiere mommy blogger! If you are in charge of marketing for your business and you aren’t blogging, start now. I’m not kidding, stop reading this post, walk into your IT department, grab a web developer by his collar, and set up your blog now. It’s cost effective, measurable, viral, and can get you closer to your customers than ever before.

Why Clooney? Top bloggers bring people together, they are industry leaders, can play nice with others, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with the community. Clooney has proven to be a big time movie star, but also gives back to the community and works to help others in this country and in other countries. He’s the closest thing Hollywood has to a future President (other than Arnold, of course!)


Tony Soprano Starring as Paid SearchNumber 4 on My List - Paid Search
A tough, gritty, time-consuming, and dynamic online marketing channel, with a hint of fraud in the mix! I’m a stronger advocate of Natural Search (see below), but based on my experience with paid search, it’s hard to overlook its power. The most popular places to run paid search advertising are Google (AdWords) and Yahoo (Yahoo Search Marketing). You can set up your campaigns fast, you have a lot of control over your message and what people are seeing on your site, and you will view results in hours. That said, you can also see your budget zip away in hours! :-) Effective paid search campaigns take time, skill, experience, and a drive to always improve your efforts. You need to be chest deep in your campaigns all of the time to reap rewards from ppc. From keyword research to building ad creative to designing landing pages to optimizing your campaigns, paid search is not for the faint of heart. Regarding fraud, you can read more about click fraud here, but don’t let the article stop you from trying paid search…just keep it in mind.

Why Tony Soprano? He’s tough, gritty, and results are the name of the game. He’ll give you a wad of hundreds for coming through and then smack you across the face the next day. Welcome to the family. :-)


Michael Moore Starring as Word of Mouth MarketingIn third place, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)
The power of wom is undeniably incredible. It’s pure viral marketing. You know, where John tells Mary, who tells her dentist, who tells her husband, who tells his friends at work, who tell their clients, etc. Before you know it, targeted visitors increase, sales increase, links to the site increase, organic rankings increase, blog posts about your product increase, etc. Sounds dynamic, doesn’t it? That’s why, in my opinion, WOM is one of the most powerful ways to enhance your business long term. So why doesn’t every company focus on Word of Mouth? It’s relatively hard to implement, it’s hard to track, and hard to determine a budget, which makes it hard to communicate to decision makers. That said, companies that understand its power (long term power), will reap great benefits from fostering word of mouth marketing. And by the way, I’m an advocate of both organic wom and amplified wom. I think both have their place in your web marketing arsenal. Check out WOMMA for more information about Word of Mouth.

Why Moore? Moore targets an issue and gets people talking. Then the grapevine effect of WOM takes over and everyone has an opinion…which leads to popular movies and revenue. I remember seeing Roger and Me in 1994 and telling my coworkers and friends about it. Think about Moore’s movies and the topics they cover. Then think about how you heard about them.


Anderson Cooper Starring as Natural SearchIn second place, the runner up is: Natural Search
I am a huge advocate of organic search, which are the natural search listings in the search engines (unpaid listings). Rank highly for your competitive keywords and you can drive large amounts of targeted traffic to your website. People trust natural search. It’s unpaid (theoretically anyway), and there are third parties (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) that rank listings based on some criteria of importance (their algorithms). Yes, there’s an entire industry out there (Search Engine Optimization or SEO) that help companies rank highly for terms, but it’s not as easy as applying budget to your organic rankings and having that yield top listings. If you have optimized your site for natural search, then compare revenue from your organic search channel with your other channels. Then, take into account ad spend. Natural Search is ultra-profitable (and can help build your brand, increase targeted traffic, increase revenue, and your bonus). :-)

Why Anderson Cooper? He’s a younger and edgier version of news anchors from the past. He has built enormous credibility (like natural search engine results), but you know there are decision makers above him that help mold the message. You trust him, but not 100%. :-)


Pete Sampras Starring as The In-House Email ListAnd our winner, my top Online Marketing Channel:
The In-House Email List

This is probably the most important marketing asset you can have at your disposal. It’s not trendy, flashy, or sexy, but with it, you have a solid base for any campaign you decide to launch. Used properly, you can count on a certain amount of revenue per month from your in-house list. You also can tap into this list for qualitative data from surveys, focus groups, and other customer feedback mechanisms. In addition, you can segment your list for more power. For example, you might know which customers want to learn more about categories A versus B, they might buy during X months versus Y months, and spend $x per transaction versus $y per transaction. Then you can base your campaigns on this data and you’ll see the true power of your in-house list.

Without a solid in-house email list, you are forced to use other channels to drive campaigns and sales. And, good luck with gaining feedback! “Hello Mr. Transient Paid Search Person, can you tell me what you think of our website?” Come on! For those of you with new businesses or small in-house lists, start to think about ways to increase your list. Launch campaigns to increase your list. Then when you have a solid list, take care of the people on that list. They can make or break your business. Literally.

Why Sampras? Pete Sampras was beyond talented, but he was humble. He dominated the competition, but he rarely made headlines. He won championship after championship, but the reporters ran by him to snap photos of Agassi. Pete was a winning machine, and was completely under-appreciated. But if you needed someone to come through, I wouldn’t want anyone else ready to serve the ball. That’s your in-house email list.

GG

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Pop Quiz - Trendsetter or e-Commerce Blunder?


Not Your Typical e-Commerce Issue

Online shopping is booming, companies are investing in their websites at a staggering pace, and innovative web technologies are enhancing the e-commerce experience for shoppers. “Click and buy” is now understood by almost everyone sitting at your dinner table…even the grandparents. Based on the first line of this blog post, and the fact that I’m a web marketing consultant, you would think the rest of this post would paint a rosy picture of buying online, right? Although online shopping works well most of the time, there are those times that push my patience to brink. This is one of them.

Here’s the pop quiz:
Based on the photo above, which one of the following statements is true:

A) Glenn decided to be a trendsetter and have the front of his sneakers be different colors. He wants to start a marketing craze where sneakers don’t entirely match.

B) Glenn has always wanted to be mad scientist with a lab in his attic. There he can sew together “Frankensneakers” for the world to buy. {Cue mad scientist laughter}

C) Glenn ordered sneakers online and wasn’t able to view the actual sneakers he would be buying, only to receive sneakers that weren’t manufactured correctly.

Although I do like being a trendsetter and the name “Dr. Frankensneaker” does have a ring to it, the correct answer is C. ;-)

My History with Adidas Trail Running Sneakers:
A quick background first. I love Adidas trail running sneakers. I started running 15 years ago and I’ve tried many of the top sneakers. For me, nothing has come close to Adidas Trails. That said, I don’t like looking like a jogging clown, even though I can juggle and create balloon animals. :-)

You Can Use E-Commerce to Buy Almost Anything, Right?
Based on what I do for a living, and the fact that I buy almost everything online, I decided to visit shopadidas.com and buy sneakers online. Keep in mind that although I’m a huge advocate of e-commerce, it can be tricky if you need something to fit perfectly (especially when you are going to be jogging a lot miles in a pair of sneakers…) I was willing to take the risk.

Buying Sneakers Online at ShopAdidas.com:
The buying process was seamless. ShopAdidas.com has an excellent website, enabling me to find the line of Adidas Trails easily and efficiently. They also provide great zoom and pan functionality once you are on the product detail page. Sure, I couldn’t try them on, but I’ve been wearing Adidas Trails for 15 years. I was confident that the sneakers would fit. I hoped anyway… In 10 minutes, I had found sneakers that I liked, purchased them online, and now I just needed to wait a few days to receive them. They arrived 3 days later (definitely within my e-commerce shipping window of tolerance), and yes, they fit perfectly! Excellent. Keep in mind, my focus was on how they fit and not how they looked. It’s funny how our eyes can play tricks on us… I didn’t even notice the front piece of the shoe, you know, the one that stares you right in the face when you look down!

Are You Kidding Me? This is what went wrong??
Never in a million years would I have thought that an improperly manufactured sneaker would the problem.

I was entirely prepared for the following e-commerce issues:

* A bad shopping experience
* Poor pricing or high shipping charges
* Not being able to track my order properly
* Shipping taking too long
* The sneakers not fitting properly

But none of these things happened. The experience was great until I put on the sneakers, actually went for a run, drank a Gatorade, and then looked down….What? The front of one sneaker is green and the other is grey!

ShopAdidas.com Customer Service:
What would they say, right? The quick facts: I already wore the sneakers, the box is gone, but the sneakers weren’t put together correctly. Let’s see how this goes over at ShopAdidas.com. I called and spoke with a great customer service rep. She completely understood my situation and didn’t care that I wore the sneakers already. Not once did I hear a hint of skepticism, which I was completely prepared to hear… The call took 10 minutes and the customer service rep issued an RMA# (return authorization) which I received via email (with a shipping label) a few days later. Note, I think the email should have arrived immediately, but that’s the way it goes. Also, I would still need to purchase another pair of sneakers online, since they can only credit my account. I think they need to be able to issue a replacement, but their system cannot handle it yet...

The Positive Note:
It is amazing what a good customer service experience will do. At least they stepped up, admitted that it was their problem, and handled it quickly. I think many other companies need to follow ShopAdidas.com when it comes to accountability. I will buy from them again, but for me, there aren’t 3 strikes in my e-commerce game. There are only 2 (and sometimes 1 if the customer service experience doesn’t go so well…) I hope my next experience is a better one.

So what’s the lesson here?
I guess there are a few, and I’ll try and summarize them below:


* Buying online has improved dramatically over the past few years, but don’t get too confident. Until you can reach through your screen and hold the actual product that you are going to buy, there are still times where you can benefit from buying at a brick and mortar store.

* Customer service can make or break a buying experience. If the ShopAdidas.com rep didn’t act so quickly and understand my situation so well, I’m confident that they would have lost my business for a long time.

* The hassle of buying online, waiting for a product to arrive, finding a problem, contacting customer service, waiting for the RMA#, boxing up the product to return, dropping off the package at UPS, and then having to reorder the product again, takes a lot more time than running out to a store and buying sneakers. Aren’t the core benefits of buying online speed, selection, and efficiency? I guess only when it works perfectly, right?

So now I have a decision to make (and one that I’ve had to make in the past – see my post about Best Buy In Store Pickup). Do I purchase the sneakers online again and hope for the best or do I run out to the store and just pick them up? I’m a busy guy, so I might actually purchase them again online.

Am I a glutton for punishment? You’ll need to check back to find out…

GG

{UPDATE} OK, so when I left off, I had to ship my sneakers back to Adidas and then wait for a credit (which I found out could take 30 days after receiving the shipment). I went ahead and trusted that Adidas would follow through and issue the credit, and I ordered a new pair. The funny part was that ShopAdidas.com now didn’t have my size in stock! So, I visited a shopping engine to find out pricing and availability at several online stores. I found the sneakers I wanted in my size (and at a $12 discount from what I originally had paid). They should arrive early this week. As for Adidas, I received an email on Friday explaining that they did issue the credit. So, it all ended up ok. Sounds like an e-commerce soap opera, doesn't it?? The problem is...I don't like soap operas. :-)

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