Just read an interesting post on Socialmediatoday.com about the marketing funnel. They’ve extended it to add an extra level of advocacy to the funnel which makes sense. Most models of consumer behavior stop at loyalty, when as we all know in this time of connectedness it’s the advocates who breed awareness among new potential customers. This is particularly relevant when you consider social networks and the review and recommend online culture that services like Twitter encourage. The brand advocates are the people we all want to encourage and retain.

This suggests to me that a funnel may no longer be the most relevant shape/metaphor to use. The behavior of customers as they become more and more engaged with your brand is cyclical and we cant’ just consider the model a representation of a ‘persons’ journey, rather it’s the way they engage and then help others to engage thus creating community around your brand. Maybe we should call it a circle of buzz…

circle of buzz

So we’re officially in a recession now (according to official government figures via the BBC) with no sign of things getting better anytime soon. Marketing budgets are being slashed by many and redundancies are spreading like wildfire. So, if you want to either make the most of your marketing budget, or if you’re in marketing and you want to hold onto your job, where should you be putting your money in online?

It’s pretty simple to be honest, just keep spending but make sure it’s working for you!

Something I’ve been doing for many years is capping all my online marketing spend through the use of a CPA (cost per acquisition) limit. Work out what you can afford to spend per sale/referral/lead and still make a profit, optimise your use of the various marketing channels available to keep your cost per acquisition under the limit, and then keep spending!

Hard to justify in the current climate? Just build a business model to show your boss (or yourself) which demonstrates the returns available by keeping spend tied to a CPA.

This is one of my bugbears, especially with regards to PPC (paid search). If it’s working for you, your campaigns are optimised continuously, and you’re coming in under your CPA, then why not throw more money at the campaign? Yes, you have to be diligent to ensure that your CPA limits are adhered to, but once you have it embedded as a process in your organisation it’s not that difficult to grow your spend and as a result your return.

So where should the marketing spend go (in online)? Well, into channels which are measurable and where you can track the returns. Paid search, affiliate marketing, banners (yes, you can work to a CPA if you use the right tools), social media campaigns, viral and of course natural search (search engine optimisation). Of course SEO deserves a different CPA to other channels as it’s naturally cheaper to do as long as you stick to the principles and don’t get sold by an agency looking to charge you the earth for something that costs nothing but common sense.

Advertising can be so boring sometimes. It’s far more engaging to create an advert that makes your prospective customers stop and stare while they try to figure out what it is you’re trying to market to them. Then the moment of realisation kicks in when they figure out what your product or service is and that’s when it gets stuck in their minds and advertising recall pays off.

Here’s some great examples on these two pages (link 1 and link 2).

My favourite I think has to be this one advertising a casino in an airport:

A widgets masterclass

March 3, 2008

Here’s an interesting series of articles and audio/video from Business Week on the subject of widgets. The series is designed to help influence CEO’s as to whether it’s worth dipping your toes in the waters of widgets (I’m a believer so I’d say yes, go for it).

Building a brand with widgets gives a good overview as to why it may be important to your brand to embrace new technologies and distribution channels such as widgets in order to promote your brand and discusses the viral aspects that can make brands fly online.

Widgets: The future of online ads is a piece singing the praises of widgets and all they stand for. On the flip side Why widgets don’t work is a counterpoint playing devils advocate.

A widget mogul in between classes is about the up and coming Facebook app developer Ankur Nagpal who’s made six figures at the age of 19 creating apps for Facebook.

When Facebook ads flop introduces us to some of the many unused Facebook applications and gives reasons for their failure. What’s good about this piece is the fact that most of the apps are from large companies with mature marketing strategies and yet they’ve still got it wrong, should be a warning to us all.

The CEO guide to widgets is a podcast talking about the use of widgets for advertising on social networks.

Finally, Making money from widgets is a video interview with VideoEgg CEO Matt Sanchez discussing how to go about monetising the widget world.

Great series of articles, definitely recommend sending this to your CEO (or manager…) if they really don’t seem to get it yet!

Marketing Sherpa has quizzed 420 top digital marketing experts about what they feel are the most effective methods for advertising online and which give the best ROI.

Search engine optimisation came top, this is not surprising as the ROI is incredible. Some changes take such little effort and can return such amazing gains that SEO will always be the top in a survey like this.

Second came behavioural targeting for adverts, slightly more surprising this one as I wasn’t aware the technology was quite there yet to get a better ROI than other ways of advertising such as paid search.

Paid search (or PPC) showed quite a drop in confidence in delivering ROI, however marketers said that the biggest increase in budgets would be in the paid search arena.

And the biggest trend in measurement for this year was voted to be the integration of search and email analytics with your standard onsite analytics thus completing the tracking of the customer journey. Integrating offline and online campaign tracking came second here, now that’s a holy grail and I don’t believe will be truly possible for a year or so longer.

Interesting study; more available here.

A study by ComScore, Tacoda (behavioural ad network) and Starcom has turned up some not wholly unexpected results regarding the profile of users who are frequent ad clickers in the U.S. online population.

It turns out that measuring your banner campaigns performance on click through rates may not actually signify brand engagement to the level that you’ve been expecting.

There is a small group of consumers out there who account for the vast majority of all banner click throughs. These heavy handed individuals make up just 6% of the online population in the U.S. and yet they account for 50% of all display ad clicks. Worse still, this small group is not fully representative of the public at large, rather it is made up on predominantly users between the ages 25-44 and with a household income of less than $40k. These people spend a lot more time online than the rest of the internet population but at the same time their spending online does not proportionately reflect this heavy usage.

What does this mean for marketers? Well, it could suggest that good click through rates do not correlate strongly with good brand awareness for the ads subject.

Time to diversify! Banners have their place, best used as a response mechanism to attempt to acquire or convert users, and that means best measured for effectiveness using other metrics than click throughs. Conversion rate and acquisition numbers are a far more accurate measure of success. A brand specific measure may prove to be engagement and their are now ways to measure engagement with banners and online adverts. Diversifying your online spend into other mediums is key, making sure you are represented well in search, more viral types of advertising and offline will have a better overall effect on your brand equity.

It’s up to web people to educate your marketing departments, many of you will have understood or suspected this for a long time!

AOL has bought Buy.at the affiliate network. This is the first affiliate buy I’ve seen by a major portal like AOL, there’s been a lot of other ad network buys but it’s good to see an affiliate network securing such a deal. Affiliates were always going to be huge in 2008 as technology advances and publishers get onboard more, perhaps this is a sign of things to come?