Monday, July 23, 2012

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

I know I promised another AR post… and that will come. But, I got a question from a reader about advertising through Facebook and other pay-per-click services and I thought such a topic deserves a full post. So, I wanted to address that question quickly.

I will start first with a caution about pay-per-click… it can be expensive and have low ROI. Next, I want to caution about advertising on Facebook ( I hope the FB police are not offended).  Everyone is on Facebook and that is good and bad. The good is lots of people can potentially see your ad. The bad is that many people ignore Facebook ads because very few look legitimate. Your ad for a reputable technology, for example, may display right next to the ad for losing belly fat by stuffing Acai Berry up your nose. You, therefore, are ‘guilty’ by association.

If you move forward with any type of pay-per-click advertising be sure to watch the returns carefully!  You may find that a lot of people click but don’t buy/register. Now, some people may tell you that  it is all about exposure and that is such a nice thought BUT it really is about dollars. That’s why business exists, right? So, if you undertake any pay-per-click be sure you have metrics in place to measure conversion from click to buy/register etc. Most importantly, don’t ever think that pay-per-click will be as valuable as organic web traffic. Do not rely on pay-per-click alone and make sure that your messages are spread out all over the place.  With that, let’s move on…

Pay-per-click advertising is all about keywords. For example, when a person searches a specific term or on Facebook when they talk about a particular term – your ad will appear if you are associated with the potential customer’s words. To be successful, you need to know which words and combination of words are most popular with potential customers. Immediately, you can probably think of about a dozen or so obvious words BUT check them out before you use them in a pay-per-click campaign to avoid wasting money. A great way to check keyword popularity is using Google AdWords.  You can sign up for an account for free and check out words even if you are not going to advertise on Google.

Next, be prepared to experiment A LOT! Add keywords the run the ad for a little while and check your metrics. Then change the words and check the metrics again. Just when you think you have found the golden ticket for perfect keywords, fads will change and new words will become the norm… This process of keyword advertising is ongoing and constant. Be sure to keep on top of it!

The advertisement itself should be short, to the point, and attention grabbing without looking like a scam.

The best way to create an ad is to start by talking to your company’s support staff, sales implementation staff, R&D staff, etc. Also, read the latest popular news and reader comments about products like yours. You will find, for example, that buyers will expose a lot of useful information (the buyer’s hot spots) if you just look for it.  Ask the sales/demo staff, are buyers most interested in - price, location, technical requirements, system features – which features, etc.? You may even find it helpful to join a sales person on the road or sit in on a few demonstrations. You need to personally ‘know’ the buyers if you want to catch their eye on the web.

Now you are thinking… so you also mentioned support staff, implementations, etc. What do they know? Oh, they know A LOT more than you think. Support staff are often the first line to receive feature requests, how-to questions, concerns/problems. This is fabulous information for advertising! You are able to get inside the customer’s head. Advertising is all about reading minds for targeting purposes.

Remember, to construct a great ad – you must know your customer better than you know your significant other. Use all your resources including support, R&D, sales, implementations people, etc. Find out what they know to create a profile for your target customer. Once you know that customer’s hot spots – what they love, what they hate, what features are most important, what are their goals, are they cost conscious, etc.. then start writing a short message that that speaks directly to that target customer. Remember, however, that your message must above all else, support your brand and be consistent with other elements in marketing.

For example, let’s say that your profile customer is cost conscious. If your product is expensive – don’t try to convince the customer that it is not expensive in an advertisement. Your marketing, including the pricing, will prove the ad a liar and hurt your brand image. If you are expensive, focus on expressing value.

Now let’s talk about word choice for the advertisement. This is a biggie! You need to remember both denotative and connotative definitions for EVERY word in the ad. Connotation in particular is a dangerous thing! For example, words can have “meanings” that are not actually realistic but to the buyer that meaning is reality. For example, in the paragraph above, I used the word value. Value seems like a harmless word, right? Maybe not. Value is often associated with generic brands like at the supermarket or the Great Value brand from Wal-Mart. Is that the picture you want to give a potential buyer? Interestingly, change the word value just a little to ‘valuable’ and now the association is expensive since most people think valuable items cost a lot of money.

If your ad includes an image – choose wisely! People are heavily influenced by feelings. Feelings can be manipulated with images and colors. Further, depending on who you are advertising to, you need to consider culture. Let’s first talk colors. Colors have connotations, too. Green, for example, is healthy, spring time, or money. Blue is relaxing, calming, or cold. Red is stop, emergency, or  passion. Now think about images. Who is your target? Don’t offend them with a poorly chosen image that plays into stereotypes or completely ignores culture.

Lastly, if you decide to go ahead with Facebook ads be sure your company has a Facebook page. Potential customers will look you up to see if you are legit even without clicking on the ad. You may do well to encourage your current customers to follow you on Facebook and to help populate the page so the company’s legitimacy is established. Plus, if current customers follow you - their friends (other potential customers) will see that and maybe check your page out. Make sure your Facebook page, like all other marketing, supports the ad… or the ad supports the other marketing (whichever way you want to say it).

Well. I hope that helps. Thank you for the question. It always helps to get ideas for postings and I certainly hope it helps your marketing! Let me know if you have other questions. Perhaps, I will do a post on using B2B and partnerships to improve sales, that may be of interest to you as well.


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