Online Marketing Goals

Know what you want…

Seems simple right? In my experience, dealing with hundreds of clients over the last 12 years, very few can actually quantify what they want.

Some tell me they want marketing help (far too vague), but when I ask about success metrics, they almost invariably cite traffic as their primary success measure. Now, not to discount traffic, but that’s not what pays the bills is it?

ROI shouldn’t be calculated on traffic*, but by counting other other measures. If your aim is engagement, count comments, reviews, buzz. If your aim is sales, count overall revenue increases, direct conversions, increase of average sales…

In an SEM campaign in particular, knowing what you want is vital, because every click costs you. Your campaigns should be highly segmented, helping you know where each dime goes, how each ad performs, how each keyword you’re buying contributes to the goals you’ve set.

Search Engine Guide has an excellent post up today about segmenting your keywords:

There are four distinct keyword segments each representing a different phase of the searcher’s buying cycle. After going through the process above you should be left with one or more groups of keyword that can be optimized into a page or several pages. The next step is to take each group and segment them even further based on those keyword segments.

Once you know what you want, you can do A/B testing to determine where your money’s going and whether or not your plan is working.  Know what you want and you have a heck of a lot better chance at getting it.

*there are a few, rare exceptions to this rule

CapitalOne’s Stupidity Has Impacted My Credit!=Process Broken

UPDATE: Wow! Look at their GetSatisfaction page.

Bull...

If you like customer service horror stories, then you’ll love this one.

The Story

In February of this year, our heroine, yours truly, called CapitalOne to pay off one of her 3 credit cards with this company and to change her address and phone as she had recently moved and her forwarded mail was coming to an end. There was a whopping $5 balance so digging deep into her financial reserves she paid the trolls $5 while still on the line. Apparently a few days, after the card was paid to zero balance, these mean people accessed a $29.75 late fee on the $0 balance. Business process=broken

Pretty sure that’s not legal, but where does she go to complain? Government process=broken

Of course, as luck would have it, the trolls changed the address/phone on 2 of the cards, but not on this particular card. Business process=broken?

6 months went by, and our heroine lived blissfully unaware that the illegitimate late fee of $29.75 remained on the card. She was not receiving statements, so she had no idea that the CapitalOne monster was about to strike.

After checking her credit report earlier today, the heroine found that CapitalOne had charged-off the account for, you guessed it, $29.75. Yep, she now has an illegitimate charge-off on her credit for $29.75!

After 4 hours on the phone with CapitalOne today, and after talking to many of the Troll’s minions, she learned that they would not reopen the account and that they would not address the negative credit reporting. 4 hours of her life wasted and credit damaged only because the Trolls at CapitalOne do not have their **** together…

The Rant

It’s a sad story, but one we’ve all lived through at some mega-business in the past. The CapitalOnes, Comcasts and other notorious offenders continue to victimize on a daily basis.

But, why does this happen? Do people really start companies with evil, nefarious aims? Do they think that they will increase their customer base by pissing off the people who are shoveling money in their coffers? No. These companies hire fancy, dancy consultants to come in and ‘help’ them piss off their customers in the form of cost-cutting. Throat-cutting would be more appropriate terminology.

Hey, big business… Cut the damn marketing budget before you cut customer care. All the new orders you bring in will eventually be lost due to your prime suckage.

If your customers are !screaming! to get help and all you can think about is how to cut costs, you are bound to lose money. These consultants rarely care for the longevity of your company. They were brought in to immediately lower costs, but they have no stake in the future of your company so they could care less what their cuts do to your future.

Business Example

I recently had a discussion with a friend at a large company. Friend and company will remain nameless, of course. He was explaining to me why their customer service sucks. While his team begged to keep their customer focus, the execs told them that they had to cut $40k from the budget immediately (thanks consultants!). This was, of course, to pay for the companies large social networking experiment. Don’t even get me started on that one…

6 months later my friend was able to show measurable losses of revenue after the significant cuts in customer care and had the foresight to forecast future losses. Because his team did this work, and showed that the $70K cut had put them on track to lose $900K by year’s end, they were unleashed to again serve their customers with excellence. But, how much impact was done in those 6 months? To have him tell it, the impact was substantial. In fact, months after, they are forced to adopt a new, costly customer retention program that will add additional losses to the big savings that the consultant brought them. The sad thing is that before they mucked with their current setup, they were retaining customers just fine and were one of the top 5 *****s in their field.

Sadly, as consumers we have no way to educate big business on this truth. One would think execs would have learned this in their obligatory MBA education from a top school… (I know, now I’m just being snarky).

We have no real way to speak out against these retarded cousins of the business world and I’m tired of just giving up. The Better Business Bureau is useless. Yelp is about the best way to get any attention when you are railroaded by companies, but that really doesn’t work well unless it’s a local business. Any suggestions on how we take back our time, energy and buying power? GetSatisfaction?Anyone else have a customer service nightmare they want to share?

Buxr.com’s Public Release Is Coming Up

Yan was nice enough to let me play around with Buxr a week or so ago and while I’ve only skimmed the surface, it warrants your attention. I’m not supposed to leak screen shots or anything, but if you do a little research you can see that some people have been a little more open on the subject already 😉

Yan talks specifically about Buxr’s differing approach here, but I still don’t feel comfortable giving you more details until it releases. Anyhoo, you can just wait til tomorrow and check it out on your own when it goes public.

Good luck to Yan as he attempts to make a dent in this crowded market. He’s been a pal for a while and he’s got a good idea of how online advertising works, especially from the publisher’s point of view, which is very important for those of us who are publishers. I’m looking forward to seeing more about Buxr tomorrow when all of you have had a chance to take it for a spin. Let me know what you think!

An SEO Christmas Present – Giveaway

Update: Contest is open to all. This contest is not US only. Yay!

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to do something special this Christmas for my readers and for some kids. While I’ve still been pondering what to do, I got a cool email from a friend over at one of my fav magazines and an idea was born. Boris over at Search Marketing Standard has graciously offered to give away a 3 year subscription to his magazine for the winner of my little contest (more on that in a second).

In the spirit of Christmas giving though, he’s also offered to sweeten the pot with a discounted rate for my readers and a charity match to one of my favorite charities. You’ll get a 67% discount off the price of a year’s subscription. It’s usually $15 per year and for the next 15 days you can get it for $4.95 US ($6.60 Intl) by using coupon code HOLIDAY67. (subscribe here)

Bonus: He’ll match each subscription that comes through with this coupon code with a dollar to Toys For Tots.

The Contest

So, how do you win? Well, it’s actually fairly easy. I want to know what you are doing this Christmas to change the world. No, not the whole world, just your little part of it. Just post it on your blog and ping back here to enter (trackback). At the end of next week I’ll go through the trackbacks or comments and compile a list of all the entries and make one big list. I’ll post the full list here and will choose the winner. Of course, if you have one that you think really shines, I’ll take that under advisement. I don’t really want to try voting on this one, but if there’s one that just really amazes you please let me know.

So, if you are doing anything special, from soup kitchens to Operation Xmas Child, please let me know. I want to be inspired. How are you changing your corner of the world?

Kindle Looks Cool, No Really I Mean It

OK, first thoughts on Kindle.

1. How long before this gets ‘upgraded’ and you piss off the early adopters? (a little Zune frustration is coming out here)
2. $400 is high. How come this doesn’t come with a few public domain books on there for fun?
3. Battery life looks awesome, as does weight. Think this is too late to ask for this for XMas?
4. Did they really just advertise blogs on there? That is cool (no, not being silly, really I do think that is cool).
5. Any audio? Will it read to me? Can I podcast newspaper subscriptions (ie Audible) on this device?
6. How long before this gets hacked like the jukebox? I mean the fact that it’s not wifi but mobile (ie like a cellphone/modem or aircard), makes this really cool for a hacked web tablet. Then again, the N770 is less than the $400 that this costs though it’s only Wifi capable out-of-the-box, but the potential is so darn fun…

Amazon Kindle

… and, PS to Amazon. Tsk Tsk, the only ‘share’ option is via email. Not very WOMM friendly. Also, when you ‘work three years’ on a product, make sure it’s ready to sell via your Associates store on launch day. Argh!

UPDATE: OK, another thought… Could this solve the sagging backpacks problem in school? I mean, I know you’re thinking, ‘she acts like she’s never seen an e-reader’, but I can’t help but think this is an almost must have for a traveling reader (erm, like me).

A Few Yahoo! Product Suggestions

I’ve taken some time over the last few weeks to pay attention to different Yahoo! services. In addition to being an employee I’m a huge Y! service lover, from Upcoming to Del.icio.us, from Music to Widgets, they’ve really built/bought some great products.

I thought it would be fun to walk through a few of their products and give them my ‘How I’d Improve This Product’ dealio, so here goes.

1. Mail

Make it Zimbra 😉

2. Calendar

Make it Google Cal… Nah, just kidding, but the functionality of Google Cal should be their aim. At present it doesn’t seem like the Y! Calendar is getting much product attention, since it is far from something I’d use. I’d suggest, off the top of my head:

1. Making it sync via iCal. Right now when you click sync it tries to sync your mail from other services and that’s retarded.
2. Adding in contexts (always fun to go all GTD).
3. Allowing imports from other services. Lower the barrier to entry.
4. Ajax. Otherwise, it’s useless.
5. Photos. Why are they asking you if you want to add photos to your calendar? Who the heck does that?
6. Connected Devices… What is this supposed to do? When I click it I get an error message that it’s unavailable.

3. Yahoo Music

As a moron who has a Mac as my primary computer and a Zune as my primary listening device (I know…), no music service is going to completely please me. That said, they’ve done a huge overhaul and the result is a much cleaner and cooler look, incorporating Upcoming and other cool stuff (where’s MyBlogLog?), but if they want me to be able to use them, Y! Music really should:

1. Be compatible with a Mac. I mean I have a PC too, but it would be cool to be able to use the service on my Mac as well. I get a message that I should ‘upgrade’ to Vista or XP, LOL. Upgrade? Not even close…
2. Make Zune one of their devices. I pay Microsoft $15 per month for the privilege of using Zune.net and I’d rather use Yahoo!, especially at $6-8 per month, and I don’t have that option right now, although apparently I can use my phone. What is up with that?
3. Make the call to action a little more noticeable. I just spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to download the client, before I noticed the really small ad in the bottom right-hand corner. Tsk-Tsk

4. Groups

I’ve seen some of the changes coming to groups, and me likee. However, I’d also add that calendar, and perhaps even upcoming, should really get tied into that product, for maximum usefulness. As well, groups and message boards both seem like a natural fit for our little widget, but then again, if it were up to me it’d be on every page at Yahoo! 😉

Well, I’ve wasted enough time listing what-ifs today. If I have some time in the coming weeks, I’ll try to do this again. If you create something similar, let me know and I’ll link to it. I love to read product reviews and ideas.

Neat SEO Trick

While doing my morning reading, I devoured a list from Guy’s blog that led me to this neat seo trick.

Search Engine Optimization Analysis Tool: Use the SEO Analysis tool to see how a search engine spider sees any website. This is a great way to discover your competitor’s SEO weaknesses and consider how you can improve on your own.

I think this is hella-helpful for those of you going at it against the big-dogs. Find their achilles heel and exploit it by ranking well for it.  Take care to carefully read #11-14 as well, as they are also very helpful for similar reasons.

Building Communities In a Web 2.0 World

I’m preparing now for an upcoming presentation at Webcom-Montreal (note: site in French) mid-November. While I have my outline done, I am looking for a few great examples of community. I’d love to hear what you think about this.

Who is doing community right? Who sucks at community?

Yahoo! Acquires Bluelithium

It never ceases to amaze me how important metrics are to a company. Is Facebook important because people are on it, or more likely, because of the wealth of data that Facebook has collected about each and every user and because of the super-easy way you can target ads directly to that user, theoretically? Well, I suppose it’s a bit of both… You want a network to be full of hyper-interested persons, but you also want to catch them at their most vulnerable (while decompressing with friends) and you want to be able to tightly target ads to them at the same time.

With that intro, I would like to let you know that Jerry Yang, our Chief Yahoo, sent us an email this eve with the announcement that Yahoo! was buying Bluelithium. I can’t say I’m surprised, considering what they do:

With more than 100 employees, including computer scientists and researchers, BlueLithium is known for providing powerful data analytics to help customers get the most out of their campaigns as well as impressive behavioral targeting capabilities. They provide the dashboards and insights our performance customers have been asking for — capabilities that have been a bit of an Achilles heel for us.

Bluelithium is the fifth largest advertising network in the US and the second largest in the UK, according to PaidContent. The purchase price, again says PaidContent, was in the neighborhood of $300M. It appears that Bluelithium, if it is truly what it is hyped to be, can help Y! deliver much more relevant ads, and can more specifically allow advertisers to target specific segments of users to make their advertising dollars more meaningful.

I’ve said this before, if most web-savvy users do not click ads, and more and more users are being classified as ‘savvy’ then we have to turn the current model on it’s ear. We have to deliver better ads; more targeted; more useful; more succinct. Advertising shouldn’t be about removing borders and adding images to TRICK people to click ads. Ads should be so damn useful, that they are a HELP to the user and not something we have to fool them into using. When ads become user-focused, and not advertiser focused, we all see increased clicks and increased sales. Customers are happy because they found what they were looking to buy and advertisers are happy because their sales have gone through the roof. Let’s stop looking at what used to work and look at what SHOULD work.

Now, though advertising is a passion of mine, that’s definitely NOT what I am involved in at Yahoo! I’m a customer-facing, community nerd with advertising only entering my radar in knowing that it makes my paycheck possible. However, I can’t help but think, especially after the RightMedia acquisition, that Yahoo! is making a concerted effort at challenging the big G at their own game of dominating advertising online.

Of course, depending on the guys/gals at the top, that remains to be seen, but I do think that today is a good day for Y!

Is Vista Yet Ready?

I finally took Vista off of my laptop last week. While my main computer is a Mac, I’d been attempting to use Vista since February on my secondary laptop to no avail. After several months of heartache, I still had no sound. And, I know I’m not the only one as my post on Vista sound (back when I was beta-testing it in October) still gets hundreds of hits via Google per day. …maybe I should monetize that post. 😉

Anyway, I was wondering, is there anyone out there who is using Vista with satisfactory results? I know that EVERYONE I talk to who has used Vista on their own machines tells me that it performs like a Beta software. I know that there were no changes, that I noticed, from the beta test to the finished product.

What does this mean? Well, for one, I can’t imagine that Microsoft actually RELEASED a piece of software to compete with XP and OS X, that just does not work. It seems to be a case of shooting themselves in the foot. I should state for the record that I am a big MS fanboi, with 3 XBoxes, 2 Xbox 360s and a Zune (yes, a Zune). I have no beef with most other stuff that MS has done, and have no grudge against them. Shoot, we even own Microsoft stock!

I just can’t believe that they actually released this software. I’ve never been one to call for someone’s job (note all my previous posts are really, really nice), but were I in management, anyone with even ‘manager’ in their name on that team would be gone now. I just can’t fathom the strategy here… Why are they not even trying to get more updates or fixes out there?

Anyone with a clue, please clue me in.