Author Archives: Ben

About Ben

Blue Corona is a full service digital marketing company providing accountable advertising solutions, search engine marketing and ad tracking to small and medium sized businesses.

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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