Saturday, August 22, 2015

Internet Marketing Vendors are Full of Crap

After working in internet marketing for the past 10 years I've learned one simple fact.... 90% of internet and e-commerce marketing vendors are full of crap and always over-promise and under-deliver.

 This is what the vendor usually does:
1. Internet Marketing Vendor solicits emails or phone call

2. Internet Marketing Vendor promises X increase in whatever metrics they work with (especially annoying if any executive hears about it)

3.  Internet Marketing Vendor promises easy integration and "one simple line of javascript"!!!

4.  Internet Marketing Vendor makes you sign a contract for certain amount of time to "get good data for a test" or to "build a longterm relationship"

 This is what usually happens.

Best Case Scenario:
Vendor has "trial period" without contract, during this time they make improvements by taking care of all low hanging fruit. This vendor then makes you sign long term contract during which their performance levels off and they basically add nothing to the bottom line above the low hanging fruit they took care of. You are forced to either spend your time riding them to keep improving above the low hanging fruit or just pay them to do nothing.

Worst Case Scenario:
Vendor makes you sign a contract up-front and the project is something that will not see results right away. SEO is the most common area for this. You keep paying them and don't see results, but feel trapped because you're in a contract or are worried you'll cancel right when things turn around.

 The worst part about any of these vendors is that they all have built in excuses to not live up to their promises. Here are some I've heard.

- Conversion Rate Optimization: "Only 1 in 6 tests shows a positive increase in conversion rate"

- SEO: "Google takes a while to readjust rankings", "your analytics reporting might be off"

- PPC: "It's just how competitive it is"

 Here's the thing to remember when working with vendors.

- Vendors are another business and businesses put THEIR OWN INTERESTS first. Their best interests are to get paid the most money for the least amount of work and cost. If you sign a contract without any ties to performance or opt-outs then what possible reason do they have to put good work in? They can just go out and sign-up another company with their hype and over-promising. Most employees don't get a "contract", if they don't perform, they get fired, why are vendors treated any differently?

 - Vendors don't understand your business like you or your marketing team does. Their are quirks and idiosyncrasies that every business has. A one-size fits all model simply doesn't work no matter what the sales team tells you.

So, what should you do?

- Negotiate so business is month-to-month or vey short contracts
- Make performance based agreements with concrete language on what metrics and reporting will be used

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why Google Should Have Kept Radio Ads

In 2009 Google cancelled their radio ads. Radio ads were created to let customers bid and place traditional radio spots using a simple self-serve auction system. Google didn't gain much traction with their radio ads. There were many reasons for radio ads failing, but it basically came down to the old guard of radio not embracing Google's system.

-Radio stations didn't want cheap ads playing even if they filled time.

-Media buying agencies were afraid it would hurt their business.

-Customers said ads were hard to track.

They say timing is everything, unfortunately for Google, they missed it by that much! Radio ads were cancelled in May 2009, the first Droid phone came out in October 2009. Instead of focusing on traditional radio Google should have put all their effort into creating ads for internet radio. With the Droid platform it would have given advertisers tools they've always wanted. Ads would have been self-serve and would have been highly targeted and played based on exact geographic location, time of day, search history, and now demographic data captured by Google+. Better tracking could have been accomplished with click tracking, click to call tracking, exact number of plays etc...

Yes, Google would have had to negotiate with the online radio stations, but I think these companies would have been interested in having a customer base as large as the Google Adwords network.

If Google could have made inroads with a player like Pandora it could have helped them finally get their foot in the door of traditional radio, which could have led to becoming the ad platform for apps like iHeartRadio or TuneIn. Right now these apps play advertising from the station you are listening to, no matter where you are actually located. No targeting whatsoever.

Google could have made it so the ads were actually targeted towards the person listening!

Google Radio ads would have also worked for local stations as well. Instead of stations basically throwing in ads on their internet stream for free or filling time with non-paid PSAs, local stations could have charged a premium for it without having to pay a sales staff to generate the leads.

In my opinion Google missed out big time, it will be interesting to see if they ever change their TUNE! /rimshot


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Don't Like Shopping Cart Abandonment Programs

I recently attended an online marketing conference where the "hot topic" was shopping cart abandonment email programs. Every vendor was giving the crowd their spiel about how it can save so much money and get lost customers back. I think getting "lost" customers back is the wrong idea, how about not letting them get away in the first place!

Shopping cart abandonment email programs typically REQUIRE that customers enter their email address before they can enter the checkout process or before they can see the total price with shipping/tax. Most shopping cart abandonment companies assume you do things this way, so all the "incremental lift" stats they provide are based on this system. (It is possible to send out abandonment emails with collecting email addresses. If your customer tracking is setup correctly you can match IP addresses to customers subscribed to your marketing emails)

What if your shopping cart wasn't based on this system? Would the conversion rate be higher if the barriers to entering the checkout process were taken out of the equation? What if customers could add product to the cart and see the shipping/tax before they were forced to enter their email address. Would increasing this base conversion rate be more cost effective than sending out discounts to customers who left, some of whom would have came back anyways?

The shopping cart abandonment "experts" would tell you this is the wrong way to do things. They would say the barriers are small and that the loss of email signups and customer information would hurt you, that customers wouldn't have enough "skin in the game" once they got in the shopping cart.

Maybe they'd be right, but to me it seems backwards.

In a sense you're rewarding customers for leaving your site. Why not make entering the email address optional and give some of the customers who provide their data upfront a small discount before they buy? Then they'll be less likely to abandon in the first place.

I guess it just feels like a band-aid solution.

The number one reason why people abandon shopping carts is because of high shipping prices. Why not work on that first? How much would the conversion rate go up if the shipping was cheaper? Would it be more profitable to eat more of the shipping than send out abandonment emails to customers who may come back anyways?

I'm not saying that all shopping cart abandonment programs are bad. I'm simply saying tat the root causes of abandonment should be addressed first.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Is Google Interested in Autonomous Cars?

Google's interest in Autonomous Cars is peculiar to some. Google doesn't build cars and their only real presence on America's roadways is their Street-View cars. Google says they "want to improve people's lives by making driving safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient", but I'm not buying it.

I believe Google is interested in autonomous cars because it fits with the one thing already do well... advertising.

The lion's share of Google's profit come from advertising, but where is the one place where people can't shouldn't be in front of a screen? Answer, the car... The average American logs about an hour of drive time per work day. To Google that's ten more hours you could be clicking ads, viewing ads and generating profit.

It's also no secret that Google has been pursuing "personalized search results" as well as local search. What better vehicle (pun intended!) for these ads than an autonomous car. Autonomous cars would allow ads to be served based on exact location and destination. Advertisers would have a captive, ready to buy audience and since Google would know their destination, Google would also know their INTENT!!!

Google could show hyper-local, results for people searching their mobile device while they get a ride. Advertisers would love this because it would be highly targeted. Instead of someone hearing a radio ad for a business 50 miles away, someone could see or hear an ad (Google Music Anyone?) for a restaurant on the way to their destination. If Google could get enough buy in from advertisers they might be able to turn mobile internet into an ad supported medium like terrestrial radio or broadcast television!

But what if Google wants to take it further?

Autonomous cars themselves could flip the idea of ownership on it's head. A car that drives itself would have no reason to sit in the parking lot while you're at work or while you're sleeping, these are times when the car could be "working". Instead of owning a car, you would just hail one from the "Google Fleet" with your smart-phone.

Google's fleet of cars could have an internet connection, a large high resolution monitor, the exterior could be wrapped in advertising targeted to its driving area. The in-car entertainment could be ad driven. Browsing the web? Streaming music? Watching a movie? What's to stop Google from throwing advertising into the mix? These "intrusions" would be a small price to pay for a cheap "subsidized" ride. If Google could get the cost cheaper than a car payment, cab ride, or rental car people would certainly buy in.

Of course there are other reasons why Google could be into autonomous cars. It could help with their street-view program as cars could run 24/7 and they wouldn't have to pay people to drive around.

They could license the autonomous technology to car manufacturers or maybe they think that the aging Baby Boomers won't want to give up "driving" and this could fill the gap.

It will be interesting to see what road Google takes with autonomous cars.