The skills we teach deliver real ROI.

May 2011 archive

Shake, Rattle and Roll…

Here at ASPE, we work hard to provide you with top quality content and instruction. But every now and then we need to cut loose and have a little fun ourselves. Watch as ASPE president, David Mantica, shows us how it’s done and breaks it down during the May 2011 ASPE outing at the Durham Bulls baseball game.

Web Seminar Recap: Google AdWords: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

By 2014, spending for online advertising is expected to surpass the $100 billion dollar mark. An exponentially increasing number of today’s marketers are seeing their budgets being spent online. On Wednesday, May 25th, J.T. Moore, the director of marketing here at ASPE, Inc., presented the free web seminar “Google AdWords: Everything You Need to Know.” In this web seminar, J.T. discussed the basics of Google AdWords including what it is, what it is not, it’s basic abilities and features, how to create a simple, basic campaign, account structure best practices, and targeting options available. Listen to the recording of this web seminar in its entirety .

Here are questions asked by some of the viewers that were answered by JT after the web seminar:

  1. How safe is the data if the ads are taken from a local database?

The ads are not coming from a local database.  You are building the ads within the AdWords application, so everything is being hosted by Google.  The data itself is being populated by Google, who in this case is also the company showing the ads.  There is definitely some concern as to the accuracy of the data because they have control of all sides, but you can mitigate this risk by making sure that your Analytics data is similar.  If you are using Google Analytics as your analytics platform, than again you have reason to be concerned.  But in the end, it is the nature of things and you will at some point have to take their word for it.  Putting in place and check-and-balances that you can to double-check them is wise.

Do you have more questions for J.T.?  Leave your comments or tweet us!  Follow @ASPE_ROI and use hashtag #ASPEEVENTS.

PhotoShop Fridays

Here at ASPE we like to work hard and play hard. If you follow our Twitter stream than you probably already know this. One reoccurring prank is the switching of our President’s, David Mantica, instant message picture to photos of his face on hilarious pictures from across the internet or PhotoShopping him into pictures with the Jonas Brothers.

We felt it was time to start sharing the hilarity with you. We’ll be updating the gallery when the mood strikes us…so if you don’t already, start following us on Twitter (@ASPE_ROI) and look for updates to the blog.

Are You an e-Commerce Pinball Wizard?

How do you think about your marketing strategy and e-commerce?

This is how I see things.

I equate things to a game of pinball, and the goal of this game is an e-commerce conversion. Each potential buyer is that shiny, silver ball darting around the table, which enters the game at its own unique point and takes its own path around the table, rarely if ever the same path as any of the balls before it. If you think about it, that entrance of the ball is very similar to the way in which each of our customers enters the sales cycle, our website, and/or our e-commerce systems. We utilize a myriad of tools and approaches to acquire these people, and each has their own unique nuances and situations that affect their path to the intended conversion.

In a truly integrated marketing approach, your various marketing channels, i.e. Direct Mail, your Website, Email, Social Media, etc., are the bumpers that help us score points and get the customer closer to that e-commerce conversion. Sales and Marketing are the flippers that help us keep these potential buyers in the game, and nudge these folks back into our various marketing channels, and at times directly into an e-commerce conversion.

Engaged Commerce

Our interactions with these potential customers (whether a Sales call, a direct mail piece, email, tweet, etc.) are at times successful right away, but they also result in unengaged folks rejecting the attempts (bouncing off). That is, however, a very simplistic view of the scenario. I recently heard Bronto’s CEO, Joe Colopy (@colopy) explain his thoughts around what he calls ‘Engaged Commerce.’ His position is that a better way of looking at it is that your acquisition attempts result in potential buyers being at various levels of engagement (their distance from the e-commerce conversion), i.e. Unengaged, Engaged, Very Engaged, or Converted. They will need different amounts of encouragement by the other marketing channels, sales, and marketing in order to convert.

An example of this would be a post on Twitter advertising a special limited promotion of 15% with a special coupon code. Only some of your potential customers are on Twitter, so you have a large amount of Unengaged potential customers at this point (depending on your customer demographic). Only a subset of your potential customers who are on Twitter will see your post (let’s call them Engaged), and an even smaller subset of those people who see the post will visit your site and consider making a purchase (the Very Engaged). As you can see, your action (the post) has now segmented your potential buyers into several different demographics that now must be reengaged. Sending another tweet could reach those people who saw the post, but didn’t visit the site, but you’ll still be neglecting your customers who aren’t on Twitter. You’ll need to send a follow-up mail piece, email, or follow-up with a call to reach these folks.

Engage. Convert. Repeat.

The key, as Joe puts it, is to be able to recognize how best to “Engage. Covert. Repeat.” If you see a large segment of your unengaged email contacts converting from follow-up phone calls, then try to reengage them with email again, and see if you can repeat the conversion with another phone call. Start setting scalable and repeatable processes around these trends in how one marketing channel supports another. But, of course, at times we will fail to keep our customers engaged, so the ball falls to the bottom of the table resulting in a lost sale.

The key thing to remember is that to succeed, all of your marketing channels must be working together. If you neglect one of the channels it is like removing one of the bumpers or flippers from the table. It is a lost opportunity to nudge the customer towards that e-commerce conversion, and will most likely result in a lost sale. One of the other channels may pick up some of the slack, but at some point that bumper or flipper is overworked and one of the balls will slip through.

What this image is unable to convey is the number of potential customers you have in the sales cycle, on your website, or in your e-commerce. This table only has one ball in play, but the game gets exponentially harder when you have tens, hundreds, even thousands of potential customers bouncing around the table at any given moment.

So the question is…Are you an e-Commerce Pinball Wizard?

Can you juggle all of these marketing channels? Can you identify these potential customers at various levels of engagement? Are Sales and Marketing prepared and educated enough to properly respond to them?

If not, you are losing potential sales. If you rely too heavily on one marketing channel, you are losing potential sales. A truly integrated approach is the ideal end result for us all, but you have to see all of the pieces involved in the game first. Once you understand the pieces you can act on your strategy, and go for that Top Score.

Let me know what you think about this post. Do you agree with this idea of e-Commerce Pinball and Engaged Commerce?

Google AdWords’s New Landing Page Quality Policy…Your Ads May Be Totally Shut Down

There are certain people whose email you open immediately. I don’t care who you are, but if you receive an email from someone with an “” address with the subject line “IMPORTANT: Your Site May Be Flagged and Affected For Policy Issues” – open it. Here’s the email I received on May 10th:

A little freaked out, I emailed and called our AdWords Rep to get the scoop on these changes. Here’s what’s happening.

On May 17th Google will be rolling out new landing page quality guidelines. Right now they are sending out mass communication to inform people of the change, but they really have no idea if your site is in violation at this point or not. The goal of this mass communication is to inform people of the change, and (in my opinion) scare people into really looking at their sites to address the issues ahead of time. The AdWords Policy team is beginning to review sites and will be reaching out to those in violation of the new guidelines in order to give you some time to address the issues before your ads are shut down. If you are an account with small budgets and low amounts of spend (aka…don’t have a rep), you may or may not be informed ahead of time. Time will tell, but you will most likely be given some buffer to address the issues before your ads are shut down…but no promises.

According to the email and policy:

“Google AdWords prohibits websites that don’t have a clear privacy policy and solicit personal information from users in circumstances where it’s unclear how the information will be used. Additionally, Google AdWords prohibits the advertisement of websites that offer a free gift in exchange for personal information and websites that request personal information to get the results of a survey or quiz.”

However, it does also say:

“Examples of acceptable websites:

  • Websites that request personal information for legitimate lead generation or business purposes and have a clear privacy policy
  • Websites where actual purchases and/or transactions take place”

Depending on how strictly you want to take it, just about every website could be classified into either the Unacceptable or Acceptable buckets based on the vagueness of these statements. After talking with our AdWords Rep, here is the key: Google is going after people who don’t fully disclose to website visitors how they will be tracked and communicated with (most likely due to lawsuits against Google for invasion of privacy). To be safe, you need to make sure that every AdWords landing page you use that contains a form has a privacy policy. If you are asking someone to fill out a form, then you need to have that privacy policy clearly available before the user submits information, and the privacy policy must now clearly state:

  1. Clear, accessible disclosure before visitors submit personal information
    Our existing policy requires you to clearly describe how any personal information you solicit will be used. Soon, we’ll require that your description must also be easily accessible before site visitors submit their details.
  2. Option to discontinue direct communications
    In the same description of how personal information will be used, you’ll also be required to describe how people can opt out of future emails, phone calls, or other direct communications.

If the landing page is purely informational then you are in the clear. If you are asking for a purchase/transaction, that page must now have:

  1. SSL when collecting payment and certain financial and personal information
    Many websites use what are known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections to encrypt sensitive information that travels between the user’s browser and the website’s servers. To help ensure user safety, AdWords policy will require all advertisers to use SSL when collecting payments and certain financial and personal information (like bank account and social security numbers).

So, with all of that said, my suggestion is to do an audit of your account and find all of the landing pages you are using for your ads. Review all of these pages to determine whether they are informational, forms, or transactional. If they are informational, then no new changes are necessary. If they contain forms, make sure you privacy policy is readily available, and make sure the policy addresses all of the above items. If they are transactional, make sure you are using SSL in your e-commerce system.

Hopefully this helps clear things up a bit, and reduces the likelihood that your ads are in violation come May 17th.

Have any additional info on the landing page quality guidelines update? Have any of your pages been flagged? Ads shut down? Let me know.

Enough is Enough…Your Social Icons Mean Nothing

Ok, we’ve all seen this when walking into a restaurant or store:

(Sorry to pick on you @Moes_HQ)

Or this when looking at magazines, brochures, or other print material:

They are everywhere. But WHY????


Too many people join social media simply because they feel like they have to (usually because their competitor is doing it or they read an article on it). They see the potential big wins of driving people to their store or site, or maybe they go farther and see the ability to quickly and easily engage with their customers. I whole-heartedly, 100% agree with the fact that social media can have a major impact on your business, when done right. I preach the social media gospel, and help individuals and companies see the light for a living…But I ask you, what does this accomplish?

Enough is Enough…END THE MADNESS!!!

The point of social media is to engage with people. It is to start a conversation. Companies that got in early and utilized social media as a marketing channel had major wins, but now anyone and everyone has an account. So slapping social media icons on your website, in your email signatures, in your print materials, and in your store is not enough. All it does is tell people that facebook exists…twitter exists…maybe it tells them that you know they exist. But in the end that’s all it accomplishes.

Simply having icons on your website is a start. The icon will have a meaning to people involved on those networks, and it allows them to link to you and your profile, and if your lucky, engage with you. But because these icons live in the electronic world, they provide that link. A print piece or an in-store piece doesn’t have that capability. It is flat and static. Those icons mean nothing, and accomplish nothing!

How we got here

A couple years ago, a facebook icon on your print material maybe said a little more. Social media had not completely engulfed the masses, and certainly wasn’t the norm, so that icon made you stand out. A social media junkie (aka..early adopter) probably whipped out their iPhone or BlackBerry and searched out your profile on facebook. But that says more about the demographic of social media adopters at that time than it does about that icon’s effectiveness in your marketing piece.

Today the average social media user has changed. It is much closer to the average consumer demographic than ever before. More of your customers are using social media, but they are less technical users of the platforms and not as devoted as they were ‘back when.’ Asking them to search you out on that social network to connect with you is asking a lot. Many of them probably have no idea even how to perform that search.

The Solution…Add Value

Tell people more. Tell them your username. Tell them why they should connect with you. You wouldn’t just create a postcard that only had a picture of a ‘Sale’ tag and send it to your customers. You would tell them what the sale is, when it is, where it is, and why they should come. Promotion of your social media should be done the same way. This is what we are moving to at ASPE:

It tells people:

  • Why they should connect with us
  • Where they can connect with us
  • What our usernames are
  • How they can connect with us

It gives people the option to instantly mention or message us on twitter, tells them what our company profile is on LinkedIn if they want to connect, let’s them know exactly what our channel is on YouTube, gives them a webpage where they can find out more about our use of social media, what to expect if they choose to connect with us, and links them directly to us from that page, and it even gives them a QR code they can use (if they know what it is) that takes them directly to that page,so they don’t have to type or search.

Yes, it takes up more real-estate, but it is a much stronger utilization of the space. If you want to take it a step further, try asking a question in your text to start the conversation. Tell them to tweet a picture of your ‘social connect graphic’ (whatever campaign it’s for…the above example is just a branding campaign) for a chance to win a prize. Engage them!

In the end you should see better results in driving people to connect with you, and should see a network that is more engaged with you. So stop plastering social media icons on your print materials, and start adding value.

If you want to get even more advanced, try testing the graphic against your lame (kidding) use of just icons. Use tracking on your website to tag traffic from your ‘social connect graphic.’ You can attach a parameter in the QR code link or use a special URL that is only listed in that graphic. Compare the amount of traffic with that tag or to that specific page with the traffic from pieces that only have the icons and see which performs better.

Agree? Disagree? Have your own examples of Good/Poor use of social media icons?

Send us a tweet (include your own photos or comments) and use the hashtag #endthemadness!