Bowling for Business: Party on with Pay Per Click

Improve sales by using pay per click.

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on October 9, 2011.)

I enjoy hosting parties. But I have to be honest. It isn’t so much that I like to prepare food, decorate the house and entertain guests as it is I love having an excuse to get my family on board with cleanup before everyone arrives. Intuitively, my usually clutter-prone kids and husband understand that we should put our best feet forward where visitors are concerned. So, pre-party, no one argues with me about embarking on an archaeological dig to remove dirty laundry so we can rediscover whose room is whose. When company is due, everyone is on board.

Are you careful to put your best foot forward where advertising is concerned? I pose the question because, left to their own devices, it’s common for entrepreneurs to make the mistake of creating marketing campaigns from their own points of view instead of from the perspectives of their target markets.

In a recessed economy, where budgets are tight and maximum return on investment is critical, you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional to manage your marketing efforts. But if you go it alone, you’ll need to find a way to make sure the money you decide to spend is actually reaching the people who are most likely to purchase your products or services.

One of the most popular promotional avenues of late is pay per click (PPC). So, although I’ve written previous posts about it, I think the topic is worthy of additional attention. Depending on the way it is used, PPC can either quickly suck your bank account dry without delivering a single paying customer or effectively direct scores of sales to your online or physical store.

Since there are dozens of ways to use PPC campaigns, how can you be sure to use the right platform in the right way to produce the right results?

Here are a few PPC providers. (But the list is by no means exhaustive):

So which platform should you use? Since most PPC campaigns operate in much the same way, the trick is to advertise where your prospects go instead of where you do. Clients often tell me they don’t want to use one platform or another because they “never visit that website.” Unless you fit into your own target market, that isn’t the parameter you should use.

Instead, research to determine where your best potential customers are spending their time. Then, use that place to put your best foot forward. For instance, if you provide a service, consider advertising on review sites. According to a survey conducted by eMarketer: “Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted—nearly 12 times more—than descriptions that come from manufacturers.”

Another survey, done by Econsultancy, showed that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust opinions of unknown users. So, if you provide a service that can be reviewed, consider advertising on a review site. Since you can’t legally solicit positive reviews, the best way to take advantage of review site traffic to promote your own product is to purchase PPC on review sites. Here are a few to consider:

For Free—

Although you won’t likely be able to employ someone to do market research for you without spending any money, you can always do research on your own. To find out which websites your customers rely on, ask them. And take advantage of the free listings available on virtually every review site.

On a Limited Budget—

If money is tight, you might want to use the resources you have to hire a research firm to determine which PPC site to try. These firms can determine where you would find the most bang for your buck. Another option is to experiment on several sites at once to determine which sites provide the highest click-through rates.

The Sky’s the Limit—

In a perfect world, you should find a company to research your target market and manage your campaign. Pay per click is time intensive. The Facebook ad team advises running at least10 campaigns concurrently to experiment with different combinations of messages and images. Imagine the potential time drain of managing multiple campaigns on several sites at once. If you can swing it, getting as many people on board as possible is a party.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Getting Your Advertising Feet Wet

When it comes to marketing, have yourself committed.

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on September 12, 2011.)

My family and I survived another move. Although we’re still unpacking boxes and, in the process, have uncovered more junk than the professional organizers on Hoarders, things are finally returning to normal.

It was just a year ago we last lived the nightmare of packing up everything in one home and toting it to another. So we were reluctant to relocate yet again. But as soon as we saw the location of the condo, all four of us were sold. After eight years of living in Arrowhead, we finally have access to the lake. And we aren’t about to let little things (like lack of a boat, canoe or kayak) keep us from diving in.

All too often, entrepreneurs dabble instead of committing to comprehensive advertising strategies. But, in today’s competitive market, your campaign won’t succeed if you just dip your toe in the water. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

I recently met with a gentleman who wanted to hire my firm to handle his advertising. But he barred us from using Facebook, Twitter or a blog. He said that he would turn over the keys to his social media kingdom after we generated media attention for his brand.

“I’m not sure I buy into this whole social media thing,” he explained. “So I’ll let you set up those platforms after you get us on The Rachel Ray Show or Good Morning America. You can do it the old-fashioned way by writing press releases, running newspaper ads and making phone calls.”

I told him that his request was akin to asking a plastic surgeon to improve the appearance of a patient’s nose without using a scalpel. I doubt many doctors would be willing to accept the challenge.

Professional communicators have enough obstacles to garnering media attention and public interest in our clients’ products and services, as it is…let alone taking critical tools off of the table. Companies that don’t stand a chance of getting on Rachel Ray can still make a respectable name for themselves, faster and less expensively, using social media. Besides, any successful campaign incorporates a multi-pronged approach.

No matter how little or how much you have to work with, you can cover all of the advertising bases even if you’re doing everything yourself. This is my own short list for managing our clients’ comprehensive campaigns:

  • Print—Although you might not have access to Madison Avenue copywriters, professional graphic designers or funds to purchase big media buys, you can do print advertising as long as have access to a computer and a printer. Start small but aim high. After you’ve built your business one customer at a time, you will be able to hire someone to help refine your strategy.

In the meantime, don’t neglect alerting folks about your brand by using paper and ink. No matter how popular the Internet becomes, there is something to be said for putting your message in writing and getting it into the hands of your target market.

If you can afford to hire a graphic designer and a copywriter, do it. Coming up with a catchy turn-of-phrase and adding visual interest will serve you well.

  • 3-D—Participate in the real world. You need to rub shoulders with folks to get them interested in your products and services. Think chatting with folks at chamber of commerce mixers, networking groups and your son’s Little League games. Get involved in your own community so people have a reason to support your small business.
  • Online—Strange that a relatively new business phenomenon is now compulsory. But it is. Pew Research reports that 58% of people do some type of online research before making a purchase of any kind. Is your company easy for them to find?

For free, you can add your business to review sites such as Google Places, Yelp, Merchant Circle, and Service Magic. You’ll be amazed at how much interest a free listing can generate. And for a modest fee, you can upgrade to a premium listing.

Don’t be worried about the potential for negative reviews. The nice thing about these sites is that you can address concerns and complaints immediately and publicly by posting them directly beneath positive notes or less than favorable comments. So go on in. The water’s fine.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.