Category Archives: The ad business

Inbound marketing: a primer

Darren would be even more confused today

He'd be even more confused today

I lost faith in the ability of traditional advertising to make a dent in most businesses years ago. The tipping point was probably when my boss strong-armed a client into producing a Super Bowl commercial. The client, an old beer brand, would have had better luck investing in the California Lotto. An entire year’s budget was blown in one fell swoop.

Traditional marketing used to work, no doubt. It was a decent enough trade-off at the time: You watch our awkward and often insulting and sometimes misleading messages, and we’ll subsidize your TV, radio and print content. New technologies — the remote control, 500 channel cable, DVDs, DVRs, MP3 players, caller ID, the Internet — all made these interruptions more unwanted, and more avoidable.

For the vast majority of businesses — mine, and probably yours — traditional interruption-based marketing just doesn’t work any more.

At some point, it became far more efficient simply to help the customer find you online, than for you to find the customer, interrupt him and seduce him.

Enter: Inbound marketing

For most companies, the website is a repository of everything your company does and stands for. But that’s not enough to grow your business. How do we turn our websites and our social media into the marketing and sales tools we know they can be? After years of asking, marketers have arrived at some answers. Taken together, these answers form the emerging discipline of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing encompasses a variety of strategies and techniques that help companies get found online by those who are looking for their products and services. Inbound marketing techniques encourage website visitors to invest time and take specific actions in return for something of value. The inbound marketing mantra: Get found. Convert. Analyze. Here’s a brief overview.

Get found

First, create content. And lots of it: blog posts, product pages, landing pages with offers, videos, photography, webinars, ebooks and white papers. In other words, become a publisher. Don’t worry, you can do it. Just share your knowledge. Making videos and web pages is easy and fun once you get into it. And yes, you can outsource. It generally costs far less than traditional advertising.

Next, optimize your content. Use search engine optimization techniques (SEO) so that Google and other search engines can “recommend” you. Make your content informative and valuable. Use relevant keywords. Get other websites to link to your content. Also, optimize your content for your visitors. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for, and make it clear to them what actions they should take.

Then promote your content: Use social media, your email list, AdWords, your email signature, personal appearances – whatever makes sense for your business and your customers.

Convert

Now that you have visitors, convert them into real prospects. Invite them to interact with you. Offer free or low-cost content that has real value – an ebook, a webinar, a sample or an evaluation. You can ask for their email address or more. Maybe they can call a phone number, or join you on Facebook. When they interact with you, they enter your sales funnel — enthusiastically! It’s now up to you to nurture the lead until its ready to become a sale.

Analyze

All this online interaction with your prospects is measurable. You’ll be amazed what you can learn: What content people like. What actions they’ll take. How they’ll react to different versions of the same offer. Which websites referred your visitors. Where visitors are physically located. Learn about your competitors’ web traffic. Learn the relationship between success and dozens of variables, which you can adjust as needed. It’s all in the data.

Sound easy?

It’s not exactly easy. But it’s not rocket science either. Inbound marketing gives you a proven roadmap to success. How well you do will always be somewhat proportional to the time you put into it. You can’t simply turn on a marketing spigot when sales start to dry up. You need to water your inbound garden every day.

Personally, I’m glad it’s not overly easy. The commitment it requires constantly forces you to think about how to better serve your customers. It forces your  commitment to industry expertise, and sharing your knowledge. All of this will make you a better business person. It’s not easy, but that’s why you’ll be successful, while your competitors waste time looking for shortcuts that simply don’t exist.

Are you doing what it takes to attract and convert people who already want the benefits you deliver?

If you want a place to start, go to the Inbound Internet Marketing Blog for some useful information. Or go to Inbound Marketing University for some fantastic free resources. Or just run a search for “inbound marketing.”

What’s holding you back?

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The trust deficit

Does your company or brand earn your customers’ trust every day?  If it doesn’t, you’ve got problems that transcend marketing and marketing messages.

Think the Better Business Bureau is trustworthy? Not if you’re paying attention.

I had a client in the telecom business who told me that the problem with his customers (already a bad start, isn’t it?) was that they blamed him and his phone systems every time phone service went down due to the Internet service provider. I thought, wow, if my system went down every week, I’d blame the guy who advised me to buy it, too.

There’s a guy on the radio who exhorts listeners to refinance today because rates may never be this low again. He’s been saying the same thing for years. The idea is to make people feel stupid if they don’t call. Why should anyone like or trust this guy or his company?

Did you know that the Better Business Bureau is funded by the companies it rates? A conflict of interest in any book. Maybe it was a necessary model 20 years ago, but not today. Knowing this, why would anyone trust the BBB endorsement? Wouldn’t you feel the opposite of trust?

I’ve worked for ad agencies that clearly put their own agenda ahead of clients’ interests. “You must be willing to take a chance,” is often their motto. Easy to say when you’re playing with other people’s money, and the only guarantee is a media commission. Any wonder so few agencies have the trust of the companies they seek to work with?

You don’t need to see United Breaks Guitars to lose trust in the airlines. How can you trust any company with pricing structures so byzantine that even their own reservations agents are befuddled? How many airlines do you implicitly trust to do the right thing? I can think of one.

The Chevy Volt was going to get the equivalent of 230 miles per gallon. That was when it was in the free-publicity and government-funding stage. Now that it’s actually here, it gets the equivalent of 60 miles per gallon. Not bad, but do you really trust a company that exaggerates its value proposition by nearly 400%?

Have you caught on to how the mega-supermarkets are disguising price increases? When this week’s sale item goes back to the “regular” price next week, it will be 10-15% higher than before the sale. No wonder everyone wants a Trader Joe’s in their neighborhood.

Have you tried to register a domain name at GoDaddy? There are so many offers that you must explicitly turn down, that by the time you’re ready to check out, who knows how much you’ve agreed to spend. It’s really a shame, because their customer service people can be great. You have to guess they’re pretty embarrassed by their bosses’ irritating and untrustworthy sales tactics.

Trust isn’t all that hard. The formula consists of honesty, effort, performance, good nature and a consistent story. The mix differs from industry to industry. But for goodness sake, don’t game your customers. Word will get around and no amount of “marketing” will fix the problem.


One way to respond when your competitors lie to your customers

How do you respond to misleading information spread by your competitors? This video provides one simple example.

I like how they’re not angry or obnoxious (as I’d be tempted to be). Their low-key approach and disarming good nature help nail the message. Yes, the presentation could be better, and I wish they could have taken Paramount Equity Mortgage to task somewhat more aggressively. But I give the two young mortgage brokers a lot a credit for standing up for themselves.

[By the way, here’s my post on the misleading advertising they refer to from Paramount Equity Mortgage. Here’s more information from the Washington Dept. of Financial Institutions.]

Does one video posted to YouTube solve the problem of  competitors who mislead the public? Of course not. Some people will always weigh the pros and cons of playing dirty. They’ll figure out how much they can get away with and go just that far. As social media continues to empower consumers and small competitors, the unscrupulous will look for new and creative ways to cheat. So while I applaud the video, there has to be more.

Imagine if every honest company, small and large alike, policed their own industry like Brandon and Cliff tried to do on their own. Imagine if an entire confederation of honest companies cooperated in showing customers how to recognize and deal with questionable sales tactics. Eventually, I think that will be rule, rather than the exception – and it will be a lot harder for the bad guys to win by cheating. I sure hope so.

Maybe I’m wrong. (I don’t think so!) What about you – do you think companies should respond when they find competitors lying to their customers? If so, how?

Note: from the looks of things, Revolution Financial seems to have gone out of business. But I have a feeling Brandon and Cliff will do well in the long run if they keep using the same instincts that led them to post that video.


“The Idea Writers” by Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi

The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi

Marketing in the digital era can confuse and frustrate the heck out of people – clients, agency managers, 20-something interactive whiz kids.

About two months ago a longtime ad-agency pal asked me, “What in the world has happened to our industry?”  I tried to answer. Teressa Iezzi, editor of Creativity, explains it a whole lot better in her book, The Idea Writers. Continue reading


Hayes Barnard, Paramount Equity Mortgage and advertising lies

Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity fined about $400,000 for violations

This is not a photo of Hayes Barnard of Paramount Equity Mortgage, who was fined $400,000

You’ll notice I didn’t write “Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity Lie.” No, I parsed the language (quite cleverly, if I say so myself). It leads you to believe something a bit different than what’s actually written.

It’s kind of like the radio commercials of Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity Mortgage. Continue reading


Don’t make your customers look like twits in the name of “creativity”

Maybe your small business can’t run an ad campaign during the Super Bowl. But you can take lessons from a couple of big brands that did – and in doing so, offended the environmental community, all of Brazil, a huge chunk of the black community and anyone who is sympathetic to the Dali Lama. Continue reading


More on the Chrysler “Imported From America” ad

For some great insight into Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s decision to go with the Wieden + Kennedy concept for the Super Bowl ad, check out this great post by Forbes auto industry blogger Joann Muller.


The hardest-working Super Bowl commercial was…

There’s a brand that’s in trouble. It’s been making shoddy products for years. It was (and maybe still is) at the brink of failure. It needs not just a Hail Mary, but a succession of them.

Wieden + Kennedy may have answered at least one of those prayers with its work for Chrysler, the first-ever 2-minute Super Bowl commercial.

A Super Bowl commercial must work much like any other marketing communication. It has to speak to the right people, on a matter that’s relevant, in terms they understand, and be compelling. It has to address a need in the client’s sales process, or sales funnel.

Do you think another Super Bowl spot worked better than Chrysler’s?
Please comment at the end of this post. Or email me directly.

But the Super Bowl comes with extra burdens: It creates more pressure to make impact than any other venue in the world of advertising. Everyone’s watching. Even if they’re not watching the game, they’re watching online. They’re FB’ing, Tweeting and emailing. They’re even blogging. You mess up, you’ve done more than waste time, money and opportunity. You can embarrass your brand.

Continue reading


Wieden+Kennedy, 2010 Agency of the Year

As always, Dan Wieden is eminently quotable. “If you told me six or seven years ago that some of the best work this agency would do would be for Procter & Gamble, I’d think you have a drug problem.”  (See Ad Age article.)

Wieden + Kennedy 2010 Ad Age Agency of the Year

2010 Ad Age Agency of the Year: W+K

Meet Ad Age’s 2010 Agency of the Year, Wieden + Kennedy. You remember them, right? Edited to add: W+K was also named Creativity Agency of the Year.

The nicest part of the story:  It wasn’t so much their work for new clients that sparked their great year – though they’ve done notable work for Delta Airlines and Chrysler. Rather, most of their growth and notable work came from existing clients, as they’ve strengthened relationships, built trust and did some kick-ass work. (And created the most remarkable social media campaign of all time. Take that, digerati.)

Comments welcome at the end of this post. Or email me directly.

Congratulations Dan Wieden, Susan Hoffman and your cast of hundreds.


An email from the Dominican Republic

Here’s an email I’d like to pass along, from Erica Monteith, sister of my office mate Ian.

We spend a lot of time worrying about business issues that seem overwhelming. Once in a while reality intrudes with a gentle tap on the shoulder. To better appreciate your circumstances and blessings, read this: Continue reading


Stan Richards is a smart man

Richards, founder of The Richards Group, says his agency is a better, happier place for long ago adopting a policy of not defending existing accounts in agency reviews, according to this article in Ad Age. Continue reading


Just for fun, which of these commercials do you like better?

Two Western-flavored TV commercials for two western-flavored hamburgers.

One from Burger King, the other from Jack in the Box.

Your thoughts?

Hootie

Hootie sings of burgers

Jack

Jack sings of burgers


“5 reasons you no longer need an ad agency”

This post by Sean X Cummings covers a favorite topic: the evolution of the ad agency business. There’s plenty to agree and disagree with in Sean’s post. If you’re currently with an agency, or own one, maybe you’ll agree with the post, and at the same time think: He’s talking about OTHER agencies… We’re different. Continue reading


The Martin Agency loses UPS; picks up Expedia, Sun Life Financial

Just a reminder of what a tough industry this is: Last week, The Martin Agency withdrew from its bid to retain UPS as a client — a client for which it has created stellar and effective work. Continue reading


Wieden+Kennedy wins Delta Airlines account

Delta Airlines is the world’s biggest airline. Did you know that? I didn’t. Well, maybe I had heard it once or twice, after the merger with Northwest. But who pays attention to anything about airlines anymore, other than Southwest? Continue reading