The Problem With Marketing Metrics Like ROI and ROAS

Google “ROI vs. ROAS,” and you’ll quickly find yourself either drowning in definitions–many of which are incorrect–or dragged into the futile argument that one metric is superior to the other–when both metrics are useful (in different ways).

Most marketing articles and blog posts focus too much on the metrics and not enough time talking about the business context in which they might be used. Take this article from advertising giant Google, as an example.

The article goes into great detail defining ROI and CPA, but then ends with this:

“Your CPA shouldn’t exceed the profit you made from each acquisition.”

You might be scratching your head right now thinking, “What’s wrong with this statement? I agree with Google.”

Look, I’d like acquire new customers at a cost less than the gross profit earned from a single sale too, but for Google to make such a blanket statement is more than short-sighted, it’s just plain dumb.

I know plenty of highly successful and incredibly profitable companies that are absolutely willing to give up more than the gross profit of sale number one in order to acquire a new customer. And anyone that claims doing so is stupid needs to have their head examined.

When you’re playing around with marketing metrics, you have to make sure you keep the business context front and center. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about ROA, ROAS, ROI, ROMI, CPA, or some other newly concocted metric.

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The Importance of Building a Brand Online

We are in the midst of a marketing revolution. As consumers turn from “traditional” forms of media (magazines, newspapers, radio, television, yellow pages, etc.) to the connected world of the web (desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) business owners and marketers have an exciting opportunity. In the traditional advertising world, the pricing has more than caught up with the actual value. In my opinion, most traditional forms of advertising are a rip-off. In the “new media” advertising and marketing world, this isn’t the case. In fact, there are numerous instances online where the value of the advertising is FAR greater than how it is being priced today.

For example, an awesome SEO company can add to your bottom line is far greater than the prices most companies currently charge. This is especially true for companies serving small medium sized businesses. Content marketing, as somewhat of a subset of SEO, is the single most cost-effective lead generation strategy I’ve ever tracked – and I’ve tracked A LOT of direct response advertising. This is precisely why NOW is such an exciting time for business owners and marketers – especially small business owners. It’s the opportunity to get more than you paid for, but you’ve got to get started – like yesterday – because the market is quickly catching up.

What does any of this have to do with the importance of building a brand?

If you own a small business, it might seem like everyone is already “all in” with online marketing, but this isn’t the case – far from it. You need to get in the game now and start to build a strong brand online. Why is it important to build a strong brand online? First, most of your competitors are looking at the web from a tactical perspective – i.e. “how do I get more leads tomorrow?” or “how can I rank higher for XYZ keyword.” This is all well and good, but these tactical directives should be united under the umbrella of a coherent online marketing strategy. With the right strategy in place, every tactic becomes more effective. The first reason you should focus on building a brand is because most of your competitors aren’t (and they should be).

The second reason to focus your efforts on building a strong brand online is because Google is going to ranking trusted brands over everyone else. Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, says that the Internet is being overrun by SPAM. Google hates SPAM because it mucks up their search results. Google wants to match searchers with the most relevant AND authoritative website given their search query. If low-quality SPAM sites sneak into Google’s results too frequently, eventually searchers may go somewhere else to find what they need. Today, it’s not hard to get a relatively unknown website to outrank a proven brand, but this will not be the case in the very near future. If you’re a plumbing company in Gaithersburg, MD with three trucks, you need to ask yourself – when someone searches “plumbing company Rockville” (a neighboring city to Gaithersburg), do you really deserve to be on the first page?

The test to determine whether you have a skewed vision of reality is this:  If someone searches “plumbing company Rockville” and your business isn’t there, would they think Google is broken? If you deserve to be there, the answer is “YES.” If the answer is “NO”, you don’t belong there and you better start thinking about the changes you’re going to have to make to change the answer.

So, how do you build a brand online?

My recommendation to you is this – start with creating a written online marketing strategy. For example, at  Blue Corona, our strategy is centered around three tenets:

  1. Track everything and make data-driven decisions
  2. Maximize your online real estate – starting with search engines like Google
  3. Establish and promote your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it

The word “brand” is alien to many small medium sized businesses.

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.” – John Williams, founder of LogoYes.com

Put accurate tracking in place and then work to build an online real estate empire, but never forget Williams’ words above and keep your messaging clear and consistent. What do I mean build an “online real estate empire?” I mean:

  • Create an awesome website that is informative and helps your prospects make better buying decisions
  • Having complete and informative social media profiles
  • Connecting with prospective customers online and building and online community
  • Being referenced around the web by relevant industry websites as an authority
  • Building your own “media” outlets like a company Vimeo or YouTube channel to share great content with your audience, etc.

Before the web, building a brand was ULTRA expensive because you had to “rent” audience attention from a handful of big media companies. Today, with the web, this isn’t the case. In the world of online marketing, YOU can become the media. You can build your own YouTube TV channel. Do you know how much that costs? Nothing! Just your time and creativity (and if you’re a small business owner, you might have gobs of both).

If you’re a small business owner, your goal with online marketing should be to build a strong brand as fast as you reasonably can. If you get started today while your competitors are wasting time thinking about how to save money on their latest marketing tactic.

 

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Lessons Business Owners Can Learn from The 4-Hour Workweek

Vacation season is just about here, so now is the time to start looking for a good book to read! If you’re  a business owner, I highly recommend you check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.

The Gist of the Book

Your typical business owner slaves away day in and day out – giving up the here and now for the promise of something better in the future.  Society has trained us to take this approach. Work hard and retire (hopefully early).

From Tim Ferris’ perspective, there are (at least) two problems with this approach:

  1. You’re working through the best years of your life for payday that may not come and arguably isn’t worth it
  2. The fact that you have to choose one or the other is a myth – Ferris believes you can have both – fun now and money later

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “yeah right. That’s how I felt too… initially.  However, as I thumbed through the book prior to purchase, I had a change of heart. Whether you agree with Ferris’ worldview on retirement or not, his book offers a pretty compelling argument that by thinking and acting differently than you do today, you can produce greater results in much less time. The tips and advice Ferris provides are arguably far more realistic than say, the financial advice offered in Rich Dad Poor Dad.  Extra time is NOT something many business owners have, so Ferris’ tips are particularly relevant and there are at least a dozen great business lessons to be learned from The 4-Hour Workweek.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Think differently, but only if different is better.

Ferris says, “Most people walk down the street on their legs. Does that mean I walk down the street on my hands? Do I wear my underwear outside of my pants in the name of being different?”

As a business owner, you need to challenge the status quo. You need to look at what your competition is doing and think differently. The key is, don’t think differently, or do things in a unique way, just for the sake of being different. Think and act different when it’s smarter to do so.

Early in the book, Ferris’ tells a story about how, when he was just out of college, he worked in sales for a data storage company. Instead of making calls all day, Ferris identified 8-8:30am and 6-6:30pm as the best times to call to get past the gatekeeper. By finding the leverage point, Ferris was able to book twice as many meetings as his counterparts who were told to make calls from 9-5pm.

Whether Ferris’ story is true or not doesn’t really matter. Here’s a story about thinking differently that IS true (because I was there!). Bob Perini, president of DrinkMore Water, a bottled water delivery company in Maryland, pulled out of the print Yellow Pages at a time when all of his competitors were increasing their ad sizes. The Yellow Page sales rep told Perini that he was an idiot and that he would be out of business. What the YP rep didn’t know is that Perini had data (from Blue Corona) that indicated that people were abandoning the print yellow pages in favor of the web. Perini eliminated $120,000+ in yellow page advertising and got ten times the results from $30,000 spent online.

2. If possible, organize your workday to maximize your peaks.

According to Ferris’, “interest and energy are cyclical.” A lot of business owners – especially small business owners – harbor a false belief that life has to be brutally hard. Instead of resting when they get tired, they swim against the tide. Is it worth it? If you ask Ferris, the answer is, “No!”

Instead of trying to force a square peg in a round hole, recognize that your interest and motivation for some projects will wax and wane. Your energy levels will rise and fall throughout the day. Instead of fighting your natural tendencies, do everything you can to structure your day around them – maximize them. Think about how much farther you can hit a ball when you have a tailwind!

I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a BIG believer in the power of content marketing for lead generation. There are periods when I could write five blogs a day for a month straight and not get tired or run out of ideas, but inevitably my motivation to write comes to an end. Following these spurts (which are usually more like a week long with a blog or two a day), I might go weeks or even months without the motivation to right a simple paragraph!

Instead of trying to fight through my periods of writer’s block, I write as much as I can when the mood hits me (saving the content to be published at a later date), and I delegate the task to a variety of other people when I’m busy doing other things.

If you’re super productive first thing in the morning, arrive at the office early and work with your door closed until 11am. Don’t let your staff interrupt you. Explain the situation to them and tell them to hold anything but absolute emergencies until after 11am. You’ll be amazed at what is possible when you proactively take control of your schedule – vs. spending your day reacting to one interruption after the next.

3. Focus on being productive – not busy.

Walk into any business and you’re bound to hear someone say, “I’m too busy.” But Ferris sees things a differently.

“Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions,” says Ferris.

In modern life, there are an unlimited number of ways for creating busyness. As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you’d like to do. You’ve got to pick and choose. Success is about prioritization. Ferris’ explains that being busy simply for the sake of being busy is just another form of laziness.

Instead of checking email 30 times a day, schedule times to check it and discipline yourself to sticking to your schedule. Identify 1-2 big projects or priorities and attack them first thing in the morning. Most people think they can do more than 1-2 projects per day, but very few can. Identify your priorities and stick with them. Ferris, like fellow marketing guru, Seth Godin, believe that most meetings are unnecessary. Meetings should be to make a decision – not to define a problem.

4. Remove fear by considering the absolute worst thing that can happen.

We can’t say no to so and so client because if we do, they might take their business elsewhere. We can’t publish XYZ blog post because our competitors might see it and copy us. Sound familiar? Business owners are a worried bunch, but you can’t allow the fear of what might happen to prevent you from making the right decisions for the long-term success of your business.

Practice worst case scenario thinking. What would happen if you lose that big customer? So what if a competitor copies your idea? What options would you have? Would your business survive? The reality is, most things, issues, and problems are far less serious than we make them out to be. Keep this in mind when you’re having a crisis or your business encounters a problem.

5. To make prioritization easy, take things to the extreme.

Prioritization is HARD which is why most business owners suck at it. The easiest way to learn how to prioritize is to take things to the extreme. In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferris uses the example, “if you had a heart attack and could only work two hours a day, what things would you do?” When you take things to the extreme, it becomes much easier to see the leverage points. If you had to spend your entire marketing budget on a single marketing strategy, which one would it be?

Conclusion

Again, whether you agree with Ferris’ worldview or not, The 4-Hour Workweek has some fantastic tips business owners can use to become effective and efficient. If you own a business, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and then apply some of the strategies. If Ferris can make millions working four hours per week, imagine what you’ll be able to do if you apply his strategies and continue working a 60 hour week!

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How to Make Your YouTube Marketing Effective

A lot of businesses and companies are already on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but many of them aren’t taking advantage of the vast opportunities online video marketing offers. Whether you work for an HVAC company, a doctor, or a software business, YouTube is the perfect place for you to gain publicity. It features categories for its videos such as “How to,” “Science & Technology,” and more – no matter if you want to teach people the proper way to do a push-up or share your new product with them, online video marketing is a great way to go about it.

Getting Started with Your YouTube Marketing Campaign

However, before you break out the video camera and get started, there are some things you need to know about YouTube marketing in order to make it a success.

Produce great content – The first step toward successful YouTube marketing is creating great (read: unique and relevant) content, which will be determined by your industry. A local chiropractor in Rockville, Maryland uses his YouTube channel to publish instructional videos on how to stretch your back to prevent back pain.

You want your content to not only be engaging but also serve a purpose—that’s what’s going to make people view your video and share it with others!

Have realistic expectations – You have to set realistic goals for your YouTube marketing campaign, success doesn’t happen overnight. Maybe you’re thinking you’re going to produce the next viral video, but sometimes that’s just about luck and timing. Work toward having a consistent view count for your videos before you try to make the next big YouTube sensation.

Don’t limit yourself to a commercial – YouTube is a great place to be interactive and interesting—you don’t need to force a sales pitch on people. Each of your videos should be designed to evoke a response in your viewers, whether you’re trying to make them laugh, inspire them, or get them to buy something.

Don’t base success on view counts – Not every video is going to get a million views. What you really need to focus on is having meaningful engagement with your audience. If you’re doing that, then your YouTube marketing is a success. Think about it this way: it’s better to engage with 25 people who are interested in learning more about your company, will go to your website, and are likely to buy the services or products you offer than to have a video that gets 100 hits but generates no user interest and no leads.

Be interactive – Don’t produce your video and forget about it—be responsive. If people leave comments or video responses, try to reply to them when you can. You can even post response videos when they’re applicable—let your audience know you’re listening to them, and gain more trust and credibility.

Use data – Make your YouTube marketing as effective as possible. Pay attention to what videos your audience is “liking” and “disliking” and tweak your content accordingly.

Cross-promote – If you already have a strong online presence, use your other social media avenues to share your videos. Your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ followers are already interested in your business, so sharing your video with them is the easiest way to be successful.

Although YouTube’s content and features may be different than your other social media platforms, the concept is still the same: interacting with your customers. Don’t forget this as you make your YouTube marketing plan—take advantage of one of the most popular social spaces on the internet!

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The Google Scroll: Infinite Results on Demand

Did you use Google today? Chances are you probably did. As you scrolled through your search results, did the page end after the first ten, or did you just keep scrolling and scrolling? It seems that the Google scroll function has been updated, or at least is currently in testing. The function surfaced at Blue Corona yesterday morning, but is now only appearing on certain computers. How it affects SEO, or even if it will stay live, is unclear.

Has this Google scroll been around for a while?

Several SEO blogs reported back in August that there would be testing on a Google infinite scroll feature. At that time, Google hinted that rather than clicking between pages, the user would just select a button at the bottom of the page and more results would pop up below. What we experienced here yesterday was something different: a Google infinite scroll. An endless stream of results, no clicking required.

Is the new Google scroll permanent?

There was no mention of the Google scroll on the Inside Search blog as being part of the April updates, so it’s probably safe to assume this is something else. And at present, Google hasn’t mentioned anything about it on any of their other blogs or pages. However, there is already an infinite scroll on the Google image search results. Could this just be an elusive quirk in the system or something to look forward to in the future? Only time will tell.

What does the new Google scroll mean for SEO?

But what does this mean for SEO? Well, it doesn’t seem to change the results list, so your site probably won’t move too much. (But, you will be able to say your site ranks on the first page now, since all of them do!) What the new function does change is how the user interacts with the results. The average user probably doesn’t make it to the second page with the current results format. They hit the bottom of the results, and if they see something they like, they’ll choose between the top ten (although we know most users don’t even get past the first listing!).

With this new Google scroll, a quick spin of the wheel takes the user way down the page, to results he might not otherwise see. So this could mean your website gets more hits, simply because people are actually seeing it in the search results. However, an infinite scroll might overwhelm some users. So many results and so many options could seem like an overload, and the user might just stick to the top.

Should I change my SEO practices?

Your goal has always been to dominate the search results, and especially now this is no time to stop. The new Google scroll gives your website an opportunity to be all over the search results – so a user can scroll and keep seeing your site pop up. That undoubtedly gives you more authority and increases the chance you’ll grab that visitor. So keep writing blogs, building microsites, creating social media profiles, etc. to show up more often in the search results. And of course, watch your traffic for any changes as this new scroll comes into play.

The best way to keep your traffic up despite all the changes Google rolls out is by having a great site with fresh, original content. If you need help making your site SEO-friendly, you can contact Blue Corona for internet marketing services! In the meantime, we’ll be sure to keep you updated about the new Google scroll – and let us know if you notice any traffic changes!

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Why Business Blogging is Beneficial

For small businesses, having a good website is vital if you want to be found online. Your website is one of the best ways to advertise your products and/or services, especially in a society that has gravitated to the Internet and relies on the Web rather than flipping through the Yellow Pages when trying to find the best plumber, doctor, remodeling company, etc. (fill in the blank with anything!).

Now the question becomes, “How do I get found online?” There are a number of ways to improve search engine ranking for your site, including creating unique content, having a good website design and proper coding (making sure no content is hidden, having an XML sitemap, etc.), and link building. Link building can be tricky, as you can’t control the search engines, but creating unique content is something you CAN control. It’s a great way to rank better online, increase traffic to your website, and, ultimately, get more leads and book jobs!

Blog Away!

Business blogging is an easy way to crank out unique, relevant content. One Rockville chiropractor has been blogging for the past year and has seen a surge in website traffic because of it. In November 2010 (no blog had been added to the site yet), there were 200 non-branded organic visits to the website. In November 2011, just 11 months after the blog was implemented, the traffic more than doubled – jumping to 533 non-branded organic visits.

Business blogging is a surefire way to get more visitors to your site – think about it…you’re creating unique, relevant content that people are searching for online. Own a plumbing company? Write blog posts about common plumbing problems, what to do if your toilet overflows, etc. You will rank better than a plumbing site that has just a Homepage, About page, and Contact page.

If you want to be found online for a particular phrase, more specific, “long-tail” keywords in particular (i.e., Power Plate training), writing a blog post about it (what Power Plate is, why it’s beneficial, what it entails, etc.) is a good way to be found more easily for it. Going back to our chiropractor’s blog, posts included specific topics like that – core strengthening tips, correct sitting posture, etc.

Other Benefits of Business Blogging

A blog is almost guaranteed to bring in more unique (and qualified) visitors – provided the content is original, the blog is updated on a regular basis, and the posts cover relevant topics people are searching for. Though driving more traffic to your website is a huge benefit, business blogging can also:

  • Increase the authority of your company
  • Help you connect with customers
  • “Humanize” your brand
  • Boost your conversion rate

Increasing Authority: Adding a blog to your site and writing blog posts on a monthly (or, better yet, bi-weekly or weekly) basis can establish your company as a trustworthy source. Especially if you’re in a competitive industry, distinguishing yourself as a good authority will not only have a positive impact on consumers, but it can eventually help boost your organic rankings.

Connecting with Customers: Business blogging allows you to engage with both prospective clients and existing customers. In such a competitive industry, this will help you stand out and make your company seem more appealing, whether you’re a veterinary clinic, an HVAC company or a home build-design firm!

Many companies do both blogging and social media, and this is a great concept. Tweeting or sharing your blog posts on Facebook allows you to reach a wider customer base and is an extremely easy way to promote your content. Google+ is also rapidly growing, so putting up new blog posts on your page can get you even more website traffic!

“Humanizing” Your Brand: The more personal and friendly you can be, the more appealing you’ll seem to prospective clients. Business blogging can be a great way to convey the “soft” side of your brand and seem more accessible. You can achieve this through blog posts about testimonials (a client success story, for instance) and personal posts that are still related to your business (like this).

Boosting Your Conversion Rate: Which one is more likely to catch the eye of someone who searched for “correct posture for public speaking” – a blog post about the correct posture for public speaking or a page that is about posture in general? You guessed it…the correct posture for public speaking page! A more focused page is not only likely to get more clicks, but it’s also likely to convert better!

Blogging is a fantastic way to make your website (and company) not only better in the eyes of the search engines, but also in the eyes of prospective clients and existing customers. Particularly if you’re a small business owner, you’re missing out on great opportunities by not blogging!

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Why Host Multiple Domains?

How many websites does your business own? Most people would probably answer just one, http://www.yourcompany.com. And if you’re a business owner, you may have considered microsites as an option to boost your website visits and leads. But should you host multiple domains – is it really worth it? We’ll evaluate the success of one company that experimented with hosting multiple domains, and then you can decide if creating microsites is a good option for your business!

Host Multiple Domains to Get Links

The biggest benefit of choosing to host multiple domains is you can create a 100% personal, fully controllable mini link network. Having good, keyword-rich links back to your main site helps boost it up in the SEPRs, and if you own numerous sites you can use them to easily build up a strong foundation.

Remember – you should be using your personal network as a base on which to build links from a variety of websites, including blogs, forums, directories and other types of sites. While lots of links are good, lots of links from the same site can cause Google to peg your site as spammy.

Host Multiple Domains to Drive Traffic

Of course, what you really want when you host multiple domains is to increase traffic to and get leads from your main site. So how do microsites work in action? One natural gas company in PA had three microsites in addition to their main one. These three microsites consisted of a single page which directed visitors to visit their main site to learn how to save money on their natural gas service. Looking back at their traffic since the main site went live, in October 2011, 46.7% of all visits have come from referrals. Of that number, 97.4% of the referrals were from the three microsites. This is a substantial percentage and shows that microsites really can’t be ignored as a way to drive traffic.

Host Multiple Domains to Get Leads

Going off of the last point, while it’s great to get visitors, without new leads, visits are practically worthless. In terms of that natural gas supplier in PA, nearly 100% of the conversions from referral traffic came from the microsites. Those conversions made up 77.8% of the total conversions for the site from all sources. Based on this data, choosing to host multiple domains really paid off for the company – and it might for you, too!

Host Multiple Domains to Take Over the SERPs

Say you run a company that makes shoes. You are coming out with a brand new shoe that has a revolutionary design. You could have a landing page on your main site about the shoe, then create a 3-5 page microsite dedicated solely (no pun intended) to the new shoe. On the microsite, you can dedicate much more space to the new shoe – where on your main site you might have a single landing page (or worse, a generic inventory page), a microsite will allow you to have a page about how the show is made, what it’s good for, etc. That way, when someone searches for one of your keywords, your microsite as well as your main site will probably show up. It’s always good to take up multiple spots on the results page as it increases your chance of grabbing the visitor!

How to Host Multiple Domains

If you aren’t computer savvy, the idea of hosting multiple domains might be a little overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. The right SEO company can help you create a microsite to generate traffic and leads, and they can even design it for you so you’ll have a great finished product. Try out a microsite for your business and see how far it will take you!

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