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5 Ways to Make Your Advertising Extraordinarily Effective

Advertising is an important part of the lead generation puzzle. Some marketers suggest that you can do without the cost and low returns they attribute to advertising, but done right, advertising is a tremendous tool.

advertising

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

I advocate an approach that calls for a mix of lead generation tactics that includes advertising, public relations and a systematic approach to referral generation.

The biggest thing that advertising has going for it over most other forms of lead generation is control. You can control who sees your ad to some degree and you can control when your ad is run or sent. (I’m including direct mail in this statement)

So, if you have a new product launch or sales promotion planned, you may have lots of activities planned but your advertising is the one element that ties your launch to a date.

The key to effective use of advertising lies in how you think about it, what your objectives are and how you adjust your approach in real time.

Below are five elements that you should consider to make any form of advertising more effective.

1. Lower your expectations

I don’t mean you simply need to expect less in general, but you should probably be realistic about what an ad can do. If you are running a small online ad it might be unrealistic to believe you can sell a multi-thousand dollar consulting engagement from 15 words and a link.

The objective of your ads should be to move people from awareness to like and trust by having a small call to action that benefits them such as downloading a checklist or audio. The goal of most advertising should be to capture an email and start a relationship, not sell a product or service.

2. Cast narrowly

Most advertising, online and offline can be targeted at a narrowly defined viewer and this is a must. A radio station that tells you that 75% of its listeners are 18-55 isn’t narrow enough.

If you sell dog collars, select dog owners on Facebook. Group your Google AdWords in very tightly crafted keyword groups to target people looking for very specific things. Find geo targeted mailing lists and then cross them with lists of people that buy a similar product.

3. Promote content

The way to drive the greatest advertising response is to give away something people want. Use your ads to promote free eBooks, how to checklists and events that will help them learn what they want to learn.

Make content your call to action, deliver awesome stuff, capture leads and gently move them on to even more awesome stuff as you introduce everything they need to know about why your products and services cost more than the rest of the market.

4. Measure everything

The most successful marketers I know can tell you exactly how every element of their marketing is performing and why. It takes a great deal of work to get serious about things analytics and tracking, but you won’t really succeed until you do. You’ll either waste a great deal of money and fail or you’ll waste a great deal of money and limit your success (possibly a worse fate.)

By taking the time to create a process that allows you to measure every aspect of your advertising you stop losses, make good better and perfect the best all the while staying tuned in to what your market wants more of.

5. Test everything

This last element goes hand in hand with measurement, but takes it a step further. Once you have a baseline you can start to work on improving your results by simply tweaking things like headlines, calls to offer, visual elements, keywords, content, publications and lists.

Once you know what’s working in one place you can expand to test it in other places. I often recommend using inexpensive Google AdWords campaigns to test out headlines and landing pages before broadcasting more widely.

The online advertising space, particularly in social networks, is changing so rapidly that I believe you also should test out every new social network ad unit as they come online to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in this evolving space.

As you can see, advertising is for more complex if done well than renting some space and putting up a pretty face.

The Changing Face of Lead Generation

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few years professing the virtues of what I’ve been calling the lead generation trio made up of some combination or advertising, public relations and referrals.

GoDakshin via Flickr

The idea behind the trio concept is to acknowledge the need to spread your lead generation activities out and diversify them in a manner that allows prospects to experience your brand in different variations and from entirely different points of view.

The components of the lead generation trio are dependent upon one another to work. They support and compliment each other and the sum the effort is definitely greater than the parts.

Lead generation in general has changed dramatically over the last few years as traditional broadcast or outbound methods have grown increasingly ineffective.

This doesn’t mean, however, that marketers are left without proactive methods for generating leads.

The fundamental idea of the blended lead generation approach is still valid, but when choosing members of a lead generation trio, business owners must now take into the account the shifting online and social landscape.

While I still contend that advertising is a primary lead driver when employed correctly, I further believe that SEO, or the ability to be found, and social media, or the ability to create direct engagement, have become primary lead drivers and must be included in any discussion concerned with rounding out the new lead generation trio.

In fact, you could easily make the case that referrals have become a member of the social media family and that public relations is now a subset of SEO. I know this point of view won’t sit well with some PR practitioners, but here’s how I now see the major lead generation activities

Advertising – this includes online ads, offline ads, direct mail, pay per click and the all-important elements of ad testing, conversion and tracking.

I believe every business that focuses on promoting content using advertising tools and incorporates landing pages, including mobile landing pages, into their conversion process can still generate leads in a quasi outbound manner.

The thing that advertising has going for it that no other form of lead generation can match is control. This is the one vehicle that allows you to select who gets your message and when.

SEO – The area of SEO is really much bigger than page and search optimization. I use this term to incorporate the production and use of keyword rich content and the acquisition of links in ways that make it easy for prospects to find your business when they search globally, locally and mobily (I know that’s not a word, but perhaps it should be these days.)

Using this broader description of SEO makes it easy to incorporate a great deal of today’s public relations activity, a great deal of which is designed to create content, links and direct prospect contact under the banner of SEO.

Social media – I’ve been saying this for some time now, but social media behavior and tactics have simply become baked into marketing in general, and of late I’ve seen this behavior mature to the point where it’s become a stable aspect of the lead generation trio.

I know many people still cringe at the idea of social and sales being mentioned in the same sentence, but social platforms have now become such an integral part of content discovery and sharing that it is nearly impossible to effectively generate leads via any form of advertising without the integration of social and most forms of successful SEO now rely on social platforms as well.

In a way social media has become the ultimate referral vehicle. Throw ratings and reviews into the social mix and you’ve pretty much round out the new face of lead generation.

So, if you still view SEO as the art of search engine manipulation or social media as a tactic still struggling to produce ROI, think again. Advertising, SEO and social media are now the foundational elements of a solid lead generation program and like so many things that are meant to go together – you can’t have one without the others.

Is Advertising Worth the Expense?

That’s the question on the mind of many a small business owner these days – particularly since there seem to be so many low cost and no cost ways to get the word out.

Well, for me the simple answer to the question posed in the title of this post is yes and it depends.

Wanna find out more about my thoughts on the effective use of advertising to generate and convert leads?

Join me for a special live tweet chat sponsored and hosted by FedEx Office® as part of their Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat Series.

I’ll be live chatting on Twitter on Thursday October 13th at 7pm CT (worldtimebuddy.com for the time zone challenged)

The best way to participate is to create a TweetChat account if you don’t have one and then log in during the time of the call using the #fedexsmallbiz hashtag. That way you can follow along with the discussion and participate in the full conversation with the other participants.

The discussion will be moderated by @FedEx and you can expect a lively conversation on this important topic, including a range of opinions about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to advertising your small business.

As part of the promotion the folks at FedEx Office have given me four $25 gift cards for my listeners to use on things like printing and binding those super important sales presentations.

Here’s how you can grab one of the gift cards – tell me in the comments of this post about the most effective use of advertising you’ve ever employed. Effective can mean new leads, signups, and, of course, new business. (I’ll choose the four best from the comments so make them good). FedEx Office has no involvement in the selection of the winners. This is sponsored by @ducttape.

Look forward to a lively chat on the 13th!

Disclosure: FedEx Office compensated me to write this post and participate as a small business expert during the FedEx Office Boost your Small Business Tweet Chat program. FedEx Office also provided the $25 gift cards. The ideas in this blog post are mine and not ideas or advice from FedEx Office.

5 Things Your Business Should Never Pay For

This post originally appeared on American Express OPENForum.

There is a never-ending list of things businesses must purchase in order to grow. It’s just a fact, and that fact is exploited by plenty of folks that want to sell you things that may or may not actually propel you towards growth.

In the building of your brand, both online and off, there will come a time when a company approaches you with an offer for a service that seems to address a need, but in fact, is so detrimental it may actually do more harm than good.

These offers often address our inherent desire to shortcut the real work required to produce sustainable business and marketing results—but, of course, that’s the appeal.

Below are five things you must do the right way—and that usually means you should never pay for them.

Advertising you can’t account for

I’m not against paying for advertising, in fact, quite the opposite; I think advertising is an essential part of small business lead generation. What I am opposed to is buying any advertising that you can’t or don’t track.

Advertising only works if it’s the right message, presented at the exact right time, to the exact right audience. There are so many variables at play here that the only way to get your bang for the buck is to measure real results, in almost real time. Advertising without accountability is like playing roulette with your money.

Referrals

Lots of companies offer incentives for referrals, and in some instances a little cash for the act of a referral can motivate, but is it the right motivation?

Referral generation is an important aspect of marketing, but when you pay for referrals you change the relationship from social to financial and that changes the dynamic in ways that won’t last long-term.

The proper motivation for a referral is the lending of trust in an effort to help either the company receiving the referral or the individual being referred. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use creative incentives to keep referrals top of mind, it’s just that if you provide something of value, you shouldn’t have to bribe people to share.

Reviews of your business

Online reviews carry increasing weight in the information gathering routine of prospects, as well as in the ranking factors that contribute to high search engine results. Because of that, smart marketers are paying more attention to reviews and even getting more proactive about stimulating written reviews from happy customers.

So, it should come as no surprise that enterprising snake oil types are offering reviews for fee services that can get your business favorably reviewed by professional Yelp and Google Places review accounts located right there in your town.

On top of being dishonest, my guess is that paying for these reviews may actually get some businesses banned from review participation. Put the work in and make reviews an authentic arm of your message.

Links to your site

This one has faded from the mainstream for the most part, mainly because the search engines police it so heavily, but there are still lots of SEO types willing to sell you links from high quality sites leading back to your site.

Back links to your site are extremely important, but its become extremely easy for search engines to recognize abnormal linking behavior, and even easier to penalize sites that participate in it.

Write good content, point to good content and participate in social networks—that’s how you create organic links to your site.

Opt-in e-mail lists

Every list company, including the largest, most respected names, will sell you a list of targeted opt-in e-mails. The thing is, no matter how many hoops they jump through to make sure these e-mails are CAN-SPAM compliant, they aren’t opt-in, because they did not opt-in to get your e-mails.

Some companies get around this by not actually selling you the list, but instead renting you the ability to send an e-mail from their servers to a list. No matter how tempting this may sound, it’s still spam and not something you should even consider.

It can be difficult to navigate the various offers of help that show up at your door, but some things just simply can’t be bought.

5 Reasons Why You Must Advertise

advertising

Image: brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Sending email is free, creating a Facebook page is free, Twitter outreach is free, cold-calling is free, publicity is free, referrals are free, and advertising costs money.

So why is it that even with all of these wonderfully low cost and free ways to promote your business I contend that you must make advertising one of your core lead generation tactics? (Actually one could argue if anything is free, but the items listed above don’t come with a direct cost.)

Advertising is in fact one of the marketing tactics that comes with an invoice. You must write a check to run ads or send direct mail, often before seeing any results. In my experience people shy away from advertising, not because of the cost, because they don’t know how to get results and they don’t understand the long-term residual effects. Think about it, if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?

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The Well Lit Path

lit pathThe other day I was conducting an educational workshop for folks interested in becoming Duct Tape Marketing Coaches. At one point I talked about presenting workshops as the primary way that coaches acquired customers and that it was an essential success factor for prospective coaches to consider.

One of the attendees then asked that, “if speaking for leads was the tactic that worked, why bother doing anything else?” And this, I fear, is at the heart of what trips some small business marketers up.

Lead generation, nurturing and conversion is a game of trust and momentum building and no matter the actual environment in which a customer is acquired, the path taken to getting them is usually lit with many other marketing related lights. In my example above, while it’s true customers often make the decision to hire a Duct Tape coach when they attend a marketing workshop, the decision process started perhaps, because the prospect had heard of Duct Tape Marketing, read about the workshop in the local paper, had a friend invite them to the workshop, and read testimonials and success stories on the coach’s web site. So, in effect, the workshop was merely confirmation that this individual might be someone that could help.

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