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March 2011 archive

Google Introduces the +1 Button…aka Like Button

We all saw this coming, but most of us hoped it would not actually get implemented. Google has now rolled out the +1 Button that allows you to, for the lack of a better word, ‘Like’ something. I’m kind of hoping this is Google’s April Fool’s joke this year, but they look to be a day early.

In their official documentation, Google repeatedly cites the fact that “90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know,” and that “71% say reviews from family members or friends influence purchase decisions.”

Based on the data sent to me by our Google AdWords representative, the goal of the +1 Button is to help searchers see more personal, relevant ads/results, which ultimately should help websites see more, better qualified traffic. It also states that the +1 Button will automatically be added to your ads over the next few weeks for English searches on My assumption is that we will also gradually start seeing +1 in some first page organic results.

Surprisingly, they also state that they plan to roll out the capability for people to add the +1 Button to their websites. You can sign up to be notified by the +1 Button team when +1 is available for your site here.

What does +1 mean for ranking…both in paid search quality score and SEO?…Here’s Google’s position:

Will the +1 button affect my clickthrough or conversion rates?
Each campaign performs differently, so we can’t predict how your clickthrough rate (CTR) will change for individual campaigns. However, we believe that including the +1 button on ads will increase the overall CTR of campaigns as personalized annotations increase user engagement.
Will the +1 button impact how you determine quality score?
No, this does not change how we determine your ad’s relevance of quality. As always, we look at your ad’s performance relative to that of other ads for the same query, position, and UI treatment.
Should I change my ads or landing pages?
No, there is no need to change the copy or landing pages of your campaigns. We’re adding +1 buttons to ads and search results on in English. Simple, compelling ads directing to a relevant landing page will continue to perform best.
Where can I see how many +1s my ads are receiving?
Currently reporting is not available. However, soon you will be able to see how many +1s your search campaigns are getting on the Dimensions tab in AdWords.
Why can I not see +1 buttons on my ads?
Only signed-in Google users will see +1 buttons on ads and organic search results on in English. Also, +1 buttons are not available on Internet Explorer 7 and earlier versions of Internet Explorer.

Here’s a shot from the PDF documentation I received from our Google AdWords rep with additional information:

Web Seminar Recap: Social Media Marketing – The 3 R's

On March 16th, Jeremy Smith and JT Moore presented on The 3 R’s of Social Media Marketing: Return on Investment (ROI), Return on Time (ROT), and Return on Conversation (ROC). At a very high level, they discussed how to start monitoring your social media marketing under each of these philosophies, while looking at when one ‘R’ may be more appropriate than others. During the ROI section they talked about creating measurable objectives, and gave some examples of how to set social media goals and create achievements and strategies to help you reach those goals. They looked at applying ROT to your presence management, and recommended how to streamline some of your Twitter, Facebook, and blog outreach activities. They ended by discussing ROC, and discussed how to judge sentiment and measure the value of conversations in social media. View the Social Media Marketing: The 3 R’s web seminar recording.

Do You Know What Your Sales Team Is Doing?

I’ll admit, as a marketer I often quarrel with our Sales department. There is a natural territorial struggle in most organizations, including ours, between sales and marketing. For us, the most common reason we get into these quarrels is that both departments are contacting the same customers, often with different or competing messages.

Most businesses today would agree that customers are becoming harder and harder to connect with via telephone. People are becoming more and more reliant on email as their primary mode of communication. We send five emails back and forth with someone over the stretch of a day to schedule a call instead of doing a quick, two-minute phone call that would accomplish the same thing in a fraction of the time. But that’s just the nature of doing business these days.

The other day I was making coffee here at the office and thinking about the traffic to our websites. One of my biggest frustrations is seeing Google Analytics reports, like the one below. The two big, red arrows I’ve added highlight my frustration. The above mentioned quarrels and this Google Analytics report at first glance seem completely unrelated, but any of you Google Analytics pros out there may know where this is going.

While watching my partner, Keurig, brew up that morning’s caffeine fix I asked myself, “How do people get to my site without being caught by tracking?” That’s when I began running through a bunch of scenarios. It’s possible that people are bookmarking pages, maybe links from other sites, but those would probably only feed a few visits in a day. Then it hit me! Our sales team sends people to our site eight hours a day, every business day. Those emails are generated through a CRM tool, or Outlook for a lot of people, and don’t necessarily have any tracking.

So do you know what your sales team is doing? Do you know what kind of traffic they drive to your site? Do you know how effective their emails are?

Want to???  Read On. It’s actually pretty simple.

All that is needed is a few parameters added to your links, and then some policing of your sales team. What we did here was to create a list of all of our products in an Excel sheet, in this case courses. We then used the Google URL Builder to generate new clean URLs with parameter tracking attached. Here’s how it looks:

Here are the settings we use:

  • Campaign Source = sales_email
  • Campaign Medium = [sales person's name, i.e. "tom"]
  • Campaign Name = [code for the product]

The generated URL  for the page looks something like:

The link I would give our sales person, Tom, would look like this: Google Online Marketing Boot Camp

We gave each of our sales reps a sheet that was unique to them with these clean URLs that had parameter tracking attached. We asked them to insert those links into the emails they send to customers instead of creating their own links. To my surprise, they took to them pretty well because they like seeing the data specific to their efforts and the amount of time to insert that link is about the same as it is to insert a clean URL on their own.

By doing this, you can now use your analytics tool to generate reports and segment out just the traffic that is being driven by the emails your sales team is sending. Below is a sample of some data from our Google Analytics:

This is a nice Do-It-Yourself way of tracking the traffic generated to your website by the emails sent by your sales team. You can later combine this data with stats on the number of emails they are sending to get an idea of the effectiveness of their emails. We also drill down into the geographic data associated with these visitors to see which geographic regions were receptive to the emails. Our sales team is not mass email marketing, so they typically know which customers were sent their emails. This allows them to know who was or was not interested and they can plan to follow-up accordingly.

This has definitely opened up communication between the marketing and sales departments and discussions about effectively creating and using emails within our company. Hope this helps your company as well.

Building your Database Part 2: Organic Development

I don’t care if you work out of your house on a little iPhone app you dreamed up or whether you work for a multi-bazillion dollar Fortune 100 company, we all want a bigger database of customers and potential leads.

So where do you start? How do you continue to grow your database?

Today, most people turn to building their database organically as it is the most cost effective option. Organic database development uses your current assets, current customers, past customers, friends, neighbors, relatives… anyone in your database to collect new names. It also reengages your current database, and helps you clean those contacts up by getting new, up-to-date contact information. We have all seen the ‘Refer A Friend’ promotions that ask us to update our info, and ‘refer’ someone we think might be interested in this ‘limited time super savings discount,’ ‘free membership’ or whatever else the company throws at us as a benefit/temptation.

It is not wise, nor prudent, to build your database using an all organic method.  A number of things could happen including the majority of your contacts coming from the same company, the same city, have similar job titles/functions, or the same industry.  Some of these occurrences may sound positive, but take my word for it; none of these occurrences in your database are good.  Put it this way, managing your database is very similar to managing a 401K portfolio.  The key is diversity.  Your database should have a range of different companies, different job titles, different locations (even if you sell a geography based product), and different industries.  The rational for this is protection from “jolts”.  Diversity in your database protects you from jolts in different segments of the economy.  The storm will come but a diverse database will have segments that will be protected from the wind.

So, what is organic database development? Organic database development is, essentially, using your current database source to collect new names while keeping your current contacts and their contact information up to date.  Why it is so cost effective is you don’t have to pay for the source names?  In all other database building methods you have to purchase or rent the names you want to acquire and use.  With organic methods, you use the existing (paid for asset) to get new assets.  So the next logical question should be how?

Organic database development works because we live in what many would now call a viral world.  Think about how quickly YouTube videos become sensational news stories, and saturate water cooler conversation. With social media adoption at levels no one could have predicted 10, 5, or even 3 years ago (Think about this…as of January 2011, there were 500 million Facebook users. That is 1 in every 13 people on Earth!), it has become even more viral.  The industry jargon used for this is pass-along or word-of-mouth. Some real-world examples include:

  • In telemarketing, getting a customer to refer someone else to call on that may be interested
  • In direct mail, the actual physical pass-along of the brochure/catalog/mailer/etc
  • In email it is the wonderful forward function or the Share-to-Social or Share-With-My-Network links (SWMN) that allow you to pass the information along to other people

The first step in creating a solid and consistent organic database development program is building what we will boil down to a referral model.

  • Do all your sales people ask for a referral?
  • Do you have contests where the base of entry is providing multiple referrals?
  • Do your follow-up questionnaires or surveys ask for referrals?

Where ever it makes sense, ask for a referral.  It is free, it is easy, and only your best customers give you referrals and that is what you want.  Because they trust you and believe in your product, they will provide you with good, quality names. And remember, this is both a B-to-C and a B-to-B tactic.

The second step, for most people, in creating a solid and consistent organic database development program is to hire an Email Service Provider (ESP).  Yes that is right; Outlook is not going to cut it. You do not need to have the ESP do your email marketing for you (you can if you want, but it will cost you), but an ESP will provide you with increased deliverability services, they will make sure your IP does not get blacklisted by the major service provides if you happen to get flagged as SPAM, most will provide you with features that help you with building forms on your site, and all will help you with maintenance/growth of your email database. They will help you to segment your contacts by things like geographic location, by industry, by title and by previous purchase.  Proper segmentation will make help ensure you don’t piss off your email database by sending them irrelevant email.

So now that you are setup with a state-of-the-art email marketing platform, how do grow your database…the point of this whole post?  What better way to grow your database than to offer your current customers something for free. Don’t go all Price Is Right and offer them a new car. And it isn’t a newsletter.  BORING!  You need to look at contests that are relevant and fun, but better than contests are industry specific knowledge.  Yes, you got it – white papers and web seminars.  Nothing builds a database faster than offering free, NON-MARKETING industry or functional knowledge.  We have seen net new names upwards of 40% when emailing our existing database free knowledge offers.  Your database will forward relevant offers of free knowledge to their friends, coworkers, and colleagues, which results in more, relevant contacts in your database.

Third, and equally important, is to ask for contact information on your website.  Whenever and wherever it makes sense ask website folks for their email address.  It is as simple as “Join our mailing list,” or fill out such and such form to get some type of information. You drive people to your website through all types of marketing, both online and offline, so why not be collecting names and growing your database here as well.

Keep in mind that there are a few hindrances in developing a purely organic database. If you are one of those bazillion dollar multi-national Fortune 100 companies, you probably have less to worry about. For smaller companies or those just getting started, read carefully.

A number of things can happen with an organically developed database that could potentially have negative effects on your performance (if you are not careful).  Things to watch out for are the majority of your contacts coming from the same company, the same city, having similar job titles/functions, or being from the same industry.  Now some of these occurrences may sound positive, but in the long run none of these occurrences in your database are good. They potentially limit you and open you up to what I like to call ‘Jolts.’ Diversity in your database protects you from the inevitable storm.  The storm will come, but a diverse database (of qualified and relevant contacts) will have segments that will be protected, and get you through these tough times. For instance, in 2008 you would not have wanted your entire database to be made up of financial institutions and banks. You want to manage your like you would manage a 401K portfolio.  Again, the key is diversity.  If you find yourself lacking diversity, then you may need to look at other ways of growing your database, like purchased lead generation programs or name rentals.

Remember, over time even the best organically developed database may have to look at a redistribution strategy.  You may find out that you are getting too many names from a particular segment, and you may either need to stop working that segment for a while or move to some “purchase” database building methods to get a more even distribution.  It is more difficult and more expensive to get those folks, but eventually, every source needs to be replenished.