Archives for posts with tag: advertising

I am all for Return On Investment (ROI).

However, defining ROI in any small service business, particularly in marketing, can be incredibly difficult to be even remotely useful. Most businesses don’t bother except when it is easy. But for some reason, when it comes to social media, ROI is mission critical.

Why?

You can place an ad for discounted services, with a coupon, running for a month, and a unique web address, and  a unique phone number, and track that (but honestly how many actually do this?) But how can you track the person who becomes aware of your business through that ad, spots your sign one day while driving by, and then six months later needs and uses your services unrelated to the ad?

What is the ROI of your fax machine?

What is the ROI of customer service?

What is the ROI of a strong brand?

How do you place a value on communicating with a significant proportion of your clients every day?

Most businesses consider word of mouth one of the most important forms of promotion. It is essentially free and it is highly effective. With social media, we have the opportunity to insert our businesses into the “word of mouth” of our customers, and thereby their friends, and their friends friends. Why would you not get involved and take advantage of that?

Facebook for my business probably takes up 15 minutes of my day on average. An email, or even a call by the time I’ve documented it, to an upset client can easily take an hour. Should I not deal with an upset client when I don’t have to because the ROI is lousy? Yes, you can place a value on a client and on retaining that client. You can even track that you do get some clients from Facebook, but you may also get clients because you have an email address or a telephone number. When was the last time that anyone figured out the ROI of their email system? Even when buying a new phone system most businesses to not justify it with ROI, but rather than as the cost of doing business.

Small businesses often look up to companies such as Nike and Apple and see their devoted, and almost rabid, fan bases as evidence of marketing in action. I would argue, however, that companies like Apple and Nike create devoted fan bases is by being approachable and interacting with their clients – Apple in particular. I’m not the greatest Steve Jobs fan, but there are lots of examples of Steve taking the time to reply to ordinary consumers and being very interested in what they had to say. HP, Dell, et al. for a number of years, sold dramatically more computers than Apple, but it was Apple who held Mac World every year. Nike became cool because they did not go after deals, they went after people who actually used their shoes – athletes. They engaged their most high profile target market.

Of course, there is a lot of other marketing involved, but remember Apple’s most famous ad only ran once in most markets. Apple, and Nike for that matter, opened their own stores that operate on a quite a different model from other retail outlets. There is some argument that this was to help control the customer experience, but I also feel it was to be able to respond, and engage, with customers. Like all companies, they do not always get it right, but I do think that it is the willingness to attempt true engagement, and a real concern for the customer experience, that breeds fierce loyalty.

Social media is not a strategy – engagement, however, is.

So how to do social media and get some results and some traction?

To me, a major issue for small businesses is when they are on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, and are doing all of them badly. Focus on one, and only one, and do it well. Then you can move on to another one.

Create things,or provide a service, using social media that other people will value.

Share other people’s content sparingly.

Self promotion has to have value, or at least not look like self promotion.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your fan base or ask them to share.

Drive fans to your website, or blog, from places like Facebook or YouTube not the other way round.

Pick your social media sites carefully. In my opinion, YouTube, for example, is very useful and can expose you to an enormous audiences, but the attention span is fleeting and the sense of community is almost non-existent. Embed videos in your site or page. Facebook works for my business and my previous business. Twitter does not. However, Twitter will almost certainly work for my new business, and it works for me personally. This has a lot to do with the small towns versus large cities and the  nature of my business – it may well be different for yours. Google+ has some personal value, and some SEO benefits, but has little real world value at this point in time in my opinion. But it does look very pretty!

Numbers of likes or followers are pretty irrelevant. It is the level of engagement that counts. I’d much rather have two hundred relevant, and engaged, fans or followers than 6,000 just making up the numbers. As someone much smarter than me once said: “If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business.”

And finally, don’t cross post, post from one social network to another, unless you really know what you are doing.

And even then just don’t do it.

Please.

I beg of you.

I see people I respect and who should really know better, cross posting and it is counterproductive. Content for Facebook does not translate well to Twitter because of the character limit. Twitter’s special characters are not understood by most Facebook users.

There are social networks where cross posting seems to work pretty well, but again, it is a black art, and if you are questioning the ROI of any social network, cross posting from a different network is not any kind of an investment.

To sum up this long, and sprawling post, the ROI of social media is the ROI of engagement. If talking to existing and new customers is not for you then I wish you well.

That just means more customers for the rest of us.

Many thanks to my friends and colleagues on the Marking in Veterinary Medicine LinkedIn group for the conversation that this post was cannibalized from. Also many thanks to Ali Burden-Blake (@inkspotsocial) for her excellent blog post: “Stop! Why using social media won’t work for your veterinary practice.” which inspired the conversation in the first place.

A QR Code - I dare you to scan it!

QR Codes are those funny square barcodes that have popping up on magazine ads all over the place for couple of years now. The idea is to allow an easy way for smart phone users to enter a web address or contact information by just “scanning” the code on the printed page. A paper hyperlink if you like. Unfortunately, there seems to be huge misunderstanding about how QR Codes are actually used in the real world. This leads to an unsatisfactory user experience which hurts the brands involved and the entire concept of QR codes. QR codes have enough problems without brands making things worse!

QR codes are a short term fix until smart phones are clever enough to read and follow printed links for themselves. This technology is very nearly there, but until it is all the way there we are stuck with QR Codes. To make matters worse, there are two competing systems: the Microsoft Tag and the more conventional black and white QR codes that everyone but the Microsoft fan boys use.

There are four huge implementation mistakes that I see on a daily basis – I have got into the habit scanning every QR code I see in the hopes of seeing something cool, but mostly so I can feel superior to whomever implemented yet another bad QR code.

QR Code Mortal Sin #1 – Making the QR code too small to scan

Yes, I kid you not. Considering how expensive ad space is in most magazines and newspapers it always amazes me when I see QR codes that are so small that my iPhone 4S (arguably one of the most advanced smart phones currently out) cannot focus on them. I do understand that ads get re-sized for different magazines and different months but that copy often stays the same, but it all just feels lazy. Get rid of the QR code for crying out loud if you are going to perform a major re-size on a regular basis. Think of it as printing the wrong phone number or web address.

QR Code Mortal Sin #2 – Not having a landing page that is optimized for mobile devices.

What is the basic concept of a QR Code? To get a user to take out their smart phone and try to interact with your brand! So why make the experience horrible by making them constantly re-size and peer at a tiny writing on a tiny screen?!

QR Code Mortal Sin #3 – Using QR codes in Stupid Places.

Why, oh why, oh why, would you put a QR code in your email signature? Who is it for?! Are you really expecting a user to open up an email from you on their computer, see the QR code in your email signature, and then get out their smart phone and then try and scan the code from screen of your PC?! How about a simple link in your signature instead that you can just click on, or when you get the email on your smart phone, just touch! Because you can add a QR Code to your emails doesn’t not mean you should. This also goes for using a QR code for a picture on social media sites or on billboards on the side of the freeway.

QR Code Mortal Sin #4 – QR Codes that give a page not found error (also known as a complete waste of everyone’s time).

*sigh*

Nobody wants to do this!

As a little experiment, I scanned all nine QR Codes in the May 2012 edition of Veterinary Practice News that flopped onto my desk the other day. I used my iPhone 4S and the QR Reader for iPhone App by Tap Media (one of the most popular readers on the App Store) and if I encountered problems I also tried Red Laser App that includes a QR code reader. For Microsoft Tags I used Microsoft’s own reader App.

I only one bad URL during this test, and that was solved by using a different app do kudos to everyone involved for avoiding the most heinous of the QR Code mortal sins! Unfortunately, the new app just brought me to a slightly more involved , but admittedly mobile friendly, version of the same ad I was already looking at  (this actually happened to me twice during this experiment). Points for mobile friendly chaps, but a little originality would not go amiss either. I only had one QR code that was too small and therfore impossible to scan with any of the apps – they shall remain nameless but will surely burn in hell. Sadly, five of the QR Codes I scanned led to non optimized sites that were difficult to interact with on a mobile device. That leads me to believe that someone in a meeting somewhere said “we need to have QR codes on our ads because they are cool,” but did not actually think about what they were actually going to use the QR Codes for.

One company, however, did a really nice job however: Erchonica – who make cold lasers for wound therapy. They used both a standard QR Code and the Microsoft Tag which led to an optimized YouTube page with videos of Erchonica’s lasers in action. Very simple idea , and gave the reader something that they could not get with the printed page – video. Interestingly enough, another QR Code I scanned also took me to a YouTube page – however it had not been defined as a mobile page which seemed like significant missed opportunity. So nice job Erchonica – I even watched the video!

The rather nice implimentation of QR codes on the Erchonia ad in this month's Veterinary Practice News.

The bottom line of all this is that QR Codes can be a great little tool but are seriously misused. This hurts wide scale adoption and wastes a lot of time, energy, and money. As for the title of this post? I invite you to watch the great Scott Stratton, who is responsible for my current obsession with QR Codes, on the subject.

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at creating a marketing strategy, branding, social marketing and the various ways of creating an online presence, whether it be websites, social media and some of the other online tools that allow you to market your business. Traditional advertising, however, should still have a place in most marketing strategies.

Where traditional campaigns fail is when they are not part of a much larger effort which includes online social media efforts and the client’s experience in your business. Think about how you, or even better, your clients, find businesses and products. They will probably see a traditional ad, and then do some research online. But if there is not an ad for them to see then this initial driving force never happens.

A well designed ad, whether it be online, in a newspaper, on the radio of television will solve a problem that your potential client has. Your entire branding strategy, in fact, should be geared around this not enough to tell customers that you exist – you have to tell them why and why that matters to them!

Newspapers

Yes, there are people who still read newspapers, and even some who buy them.

In smaller towns, newspapers are still the main source of local news which can be difficult to find from the major media outlets. Newspapers in smaller towns, also recognize that the game is changing and have pretty comprehensive websites with pay walls. If you are in a major metropolitan area you may not have experienced this, however, even in bigger cities, newspapers still have their place.

Ads in newspapers can have a spotty reputation, but a lot of this has traditionally been due to badly designed campaigns and a lack of metrics to track results. Lucky, the internet and new technology is there to help you. A specially tailored URL (website address) for your campaign, or a QR code (bar codes that can be read by a smart phone), in a traditional printed ad that leads the reader to a specially designed landing page on your website makes for easy tracking. A good example of this is on my desk in front of me. It is a piece of junk mail trying to get me to subscribe to the Arizona Republic and offering me a special price for Sunday delivery. If I want the offer, I am told that I should visit “J7.AZCENTRAL.COM,” scan the QR code or call a special number. If I go to that address I am taken to a special landing page with an electronic version of the prepaid card I might have filled out in the past.

Where you appear in the newspaper is incredibly important. I personally stay away from any special section like TV listings or “weekend” sections, unless they are targeted at your audience – pet adoptions sponsored by a veterinarian or pet shop are a good example of what can work. The main part of the paper is where you want to be – that is why people are buying the paper! That is the bit they, in general, read the most. It does tend to cost a little more – that alone should tell you something – but it is worth it.

Radio

Radio, although facing some serious competition, can be a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large part of your client basis. Your radio station will look after production of your ad and can make some really helpful suggestions. Small radio stations may also be willing to work with you on infomercials, which can dramatically increase your exposure for little increase in costs. The trick with infomercials is to have a great idea. I’ve used a weekly vet tips section, which combined with lost and found pets from the local shelter gave dramatic exposure at an excellent price and also gave the radio station some great content that their listeners were interested in.

The great advantage that radio has is that listeners tend to like the station, not the individual programs. That means your ad / program has a far greater chance of being heard because it will not get glanced over (newspapers), or fast forwarded through (Television).

Metrics and tracking with radio can be tricky, but again a URL that is geared to your campaign can work wonders.

Television

With the advent of cable and the fragmentation of the television market it is now possible to have a TV spot running on a popular network for less than you used to pay for a yellow pages ad. This, of course, varies greatly on the market, the cable company and the channels and show you want to be associated with. If you do get an ad – make sure that the cable company will let you use it on YouTube – thereby you can embed it on your website and get the maximum value for your television budget.

A word of warning about YouTube, Facebook, and combining them with traditional campaigns. Don’t make your potential clients go to Facebook or YouTube to get “exclusive content” or to view your new ad. Because once they are there, the chances are that that website will entice them onto something else and they’ll forget about your website that you were hoping you would go back to. Embedding is your friend, and it helps keep the customer where you want them – looking at your content or advertising.

Yellow Pages

As my friend Dave Nicol puts it so sucictly in the title of his excellent book: “The Yellow Pages are Dead” (you can read my review by clicking on the title but not until you’ve finished this article please!)

With all the respect in the world to Dave, I think it is probably nearer the truth to say they are dying. When was the last time you picked up a yellow pages? And if you did, did you then go look at them online to see what you could find out about them? Being in the main yellow pages directory for your area is important, however, the days of the full page ad are over. A listing – maybe a small box ad, depending on your target customer, will be more than enough. Of course, ask your customers, or look up your existing measurements of how people find you and then make your own decision. In areas where there are multiple books pick the best one, or if you can find out, the one your customers use.

Do not buy enhanced online packages from the yellow-pages companies. They are not very good at it, on the whole, and you can find much lower cost solutions. If your marketing budget is an issue the yellow pages are a great area to cut. Don’t be swayed by the “your competition is in our book” argument. Let your competition waste their advertising dollars – be smart about where you place yours.

Directories, Maps, Etc.

These really are a waste of money and probably always were. My favorite I saw recently was a printed directory which had an enhanced picture of smart phone on the cover show what was inside the guide. And no they did not have an app. This cover, all sense of irony removed, was just trying to be hip, and was actually showing off why the publication was irrelevant.

Finally, the Internet

The internet is an incredibly powerful tool, and it is possible to have a marketing strategy and a marketing campaign only using just it. A traditional marketing campaign, however, must have an internet and social media component and all the elements show be designed and work cohesively.

It is also important to remember that ads, even if not very successful in their own right, can help with your general brand awareness – your internet and social media components should be able to tell you if this is the case.

I believe that a good marketing strategy combines lots of elements and disciplines – including the running of your business. If your potential clients know the name of your competitor, but not yours they are not going to be looking for anything other than your competitors name online, …or even in the phone book.

Next Week : Internal Marketing

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