Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before Bashing Banner Ads

They’re a symptom of the problem--not THE problem

Brian Morrissey’s post on Digiday last week (“15 Alarming Stats About Banner Ads”) has sparked a lot of controversy from the marketing community. Here is a sampling of the distressing stats he shared:

* 50 percent of clicks are accidental
* The 468 x 60 banner has a .04 percent click rate
* An estimated 31 percent of ad impressions
can’t be viewed by users


Before we weigh in, take a peek at this online discussion related to Morrissey’s post
One commenter stressed the importance of balance: “Make sure the banners are limited, targeted for the specific needs of your audience, and are unobtrusive. Respect your space and your audience.” Amen.
Another commenter disagreed with the Morrissey’s stats arguing that for those in businesses “where a single new client can generate enough revenue to pay for years of banner ads they are great! The trick is to use good banner ads.” Right on.

Said another, “My peers and I stopped using the CTR to measure the performance of display ads around 3 years ago because it is not an accurate determinant of performance. A good example is a study by Google TechTarget which demonstrated that 44 percent of people who click on paid search were exposed to a banner ad prior to that click. However, most marketers and agencies simply use the first and or last click to measure the performance of digital marketing and in that case display was not getting any performance attribution to the campaigns. They’re selling themselves and their marketing activities short.” Amen again.

Morrissey’s stats are disturbing, but rather than throwing in the towel on banner ads, let’s throw in the towel on ineffective online advertising. Remember that banner ads are one of the cheapest, fastest, least complicated forms of online advertising. They’ve made it easy for armies of lazy, overworked, inexperienced or otherwise unprofessional marketers to get into the game. So what you’re seeing on a lot of websites is a dumping ground for poorly executed and untargeted creative out there by the B and C team. In other words, it’s not the creative assigned to the A team who focuses on the higher priority, more expensive media channels.

Remember, banner ads are just one device in a B2B marketer’s bulging tool kit. And whether or not someone clicks on a banner, hovers over it, or takes further action on it, such as downloading or purchasing from the advertiser, the result of that action is not necessarily the result of the single banner the consumer just viewed.

As far back as 2002-2003, my colleague Rick Telberg and I starting exploring the “latency” effect of online advertising and other cause and effect relationships. Our report “Beyond the Click” still gets plenty of inquiries.

Macro View

The S&P 500 index is now at or near its all-time peak reached in October 2007. Interest rates appear holding steady and housing continues to rebound in all major metro areas around the country. With a 10.2 percent gain over last year’s level, existing home sales continued to climb in February. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the sales rate was the highest since November 2009 when a federal tax credit was propping up home sales. Economists say inventory has been tightening because construction levels are still low, adding little new housing stock, and homeowners are waiting to sell until they have more positive equity.
That’s the big picture, but drilling down, two statistical nuggets caught our eye:

1) First, sales of distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 25 percent of sales, that still a lot, but quite a bit better than 34 percent at this time a year ago.
2) Second, homes were on the market for a median of 74 days. That’s 24 percent better than year-ago levels, according to NAR.


In this era of Big Data and obsessive measurement, it’s easy to suffer from analysis paralysis. Let’s put away the spreadsheets and algorithms for a while and get back to being creative. That doesn’t mean tricking a consumer into clicking (or scanning) on your ad creative. It means finding an emotional connection that draws them to you because you have something to offer them of value at a time when they really need it. Budgets should be loosening up a little in 2013. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Tags: Brian Morrissey, Digiday, National Association of Realtors, banner ads not working, TechTarget


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Know Everything About Email? Think Again

Intro lines just as important as subject lines. Facebook burnout on the horizon?
We’ve all spent hours agonizing over our email subject lines—and it’s true—they do matter. But, don’t forget about the intro line of your client or customer emails. That’s the first two or three lines of text that users see immediately after the subject line. Intro lines are even more important for mobile users since subject lines are typically cut off for mobile users. According to Incentivibe, which specializes in shared giveaways for business, marketers should use the intro line to hammer home the offer and the benefit in 65 to 85 words. That’s long enough to convey your message and call to action, but not too long to lose your recipients’ interest.

Getting ‘inactives’ re-engaged

Like most B2B marketers, you probably have tons of inactive subscribers on your lists and it’s not helping your deliverability stats to keep them on the list. Some of you are probably trying to re-engage them from time to time, but sending a once-a-year “we want you back” email does little good, according to digital marketing company, Silverpop. Experts say that’s waiting way too long.

It’s better to identify inactives and cull them out after a few months of inactivity. But instead of deep-sixing, put them on a separate “activation track” in which you try to engage them by sending different types of content than you’d send your main list. For instance: Ask them to update their preferences in one email and send a survey of white paper in the next. Also try to find out why they’re inactive. Are there any patterns? See if your inactives fall into a particular demographic group, geographic group or industry category. See if they tend to come from one or two activation sources. Those are red flags that savvy B2B marketers will remedy ASAP.

Facebook burnout?

New research indicates that Facebook may be losing its luster for many users. How do you like that? More than one fourth of users (27%) say they plan to spend less time on the site according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Only 3 percent expect to spend more time on the site. And here’s what really got our attention: the group most likely to cut back their Facebook time are the 18-29 year olds. While more than two in five (41%) of FB’s one billion global users access the site multiple times per day, we know that large numbers of users rarely or never access the site—it’s probably moving to the 80/20 rule—the 20 percent most active users account for 80 percent of the regular usage.


There’s no substitute for a snappy, relevant subject line, but no matter how clever your marketing team is, if they don’t follow it up with a relevant intro line, you’re like a baseball team that can’t score runs after it gets runners to third base. With 82 percent of marketers planning to increase their investment in mobile this year (Source: American Marketing Association and Aquent poll of U.S. marketing professionals), can you afford email copy that’s not optimized for your on-the-go clients and prospects?

TAGS: Facebook burnout, American Marketing Association, Aquent, Incentivibe, Pew Research Center, Silverpop


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We’re Recovering, but Not Fully Recovered

Why B2B marketers need to be on LinkedIn

Social media doesn’t kill businesses. Lousy posts do. So whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore social media. But at the same time, you can’t be all things to all people. If you’re overwhelmed and a little frustrated by the amount and time and effort it takes to keep up with all your business and professional networks, we suggest keeping LinkedIn on your “must save” list before you start trimming. A recent HubSpot study of more than 5,000 businesses found that, LinkedIn was 277 percent more effective for lead generation than Facebook and Twitter.

We’re not bashing the other popular social networking channels, but if you have to “heavy up” on a single social networking channel, then LinkedIn will probably give you the best bang for your time buck if you’re at least reasonably well-established in your profession or industry.

As Wall Street Journal’s Kate Mitchell reported yesterday, “the quickest way to earn respect and build a reputation on all social media, including LinkedIn, is to showcase your knowledge on topics relevant to your business. Don’t confuse this with only pushing your own agenda, but rather contributing a distinct point of view on topics relevant to your industry.”

LinkedIn has an extensive network of groups where thought leaders post discussions relevant to a particular market or topic. Furthermore, you can create your own groups to lead discussions. For example, a  report by Forrester and LinkedIn notes that nearly three in five (59%) IT decision makers “rely” on social networks for purchasing decisions, yet many companies don’t take advantage of the lead generation that can come from customizing their LinkedIn page.

Macro View

With all the hype surrounding the record stock market highs, the one number that jumped out at us the most was that CBOE Volatility Index. That’s the so-called “fear gauge” and it just fell to its lowest level since February 2007. Market watchers say this indicates the market is no longer as easily unnerved by small corrections or by turmoil in other parts of the world. For now, the recovery in housing, the stock market and the overall economy has gained some solid footing, even though economists argue the Big 3 indicators are not specifically related to each other.

So just as we kept telling to maintain hope throughout the dark days of 2008-2009, now we’re telling you to keep your eyes on the road as there are plenty of potholes that could derail this recovery (i.e. perceived recovery). Congress can’t seem to make any progress on the budget crisis and the national debt. The full impact of the March 1 sequester won’t be felt immediately and hot spots in Europe, Asia and the Middle East could easily deflate the confidence of businesses and consumers large and small.


You can’t stop marketing right now just because you’re flush with leads and cash. Just choose your investments wisely and pick your fights where you can win them. And by all means, if you haven’t given your best employees the raises and promotions they deserve. Do so ASAP or they’ll be out the door before you can say, “brain drain.”

A recent article in the New York Times shared the harrowing tales of job seekers who’ve had excessive interviews with companies that never hired them (or anyone else). We have a couple of important takeaways for both job seekers and companies if anything like this sounds familiar to you:

1) For employers: There is no such thing as a "perfect candidate" because businesses (and non profits) have to evolve much faster than they did before. A perfect candidate today, may not have the skill set (and right cultural fit) for your organization a year or two down the road.

2) If you are a job seeker and have been invited back for interviews half a dozen times or more, that's probably a red flag that the hiring company cannot make decisions in other areas of its business. Chances are you will be stifled in that kind of inertia-driven environment if you're "lucky" enough to get the job.

Disregard our advice if you're applying for Supreme Court Justice, CIA head or Fortune 500 CEO. More on that later.


TAGS: LinkedIn, lead gen, B2B, CBOE volatility, fear gauge, Forrester Research

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Surviving the Sequester

Important numbers for B2B marketers

Just like Y2K, 12/21/12 and the Fiscal Cliff, the world didn’t come to an end on March 1 when Congress failed to come to a consensus on the budget. The resulting “sequester” may actually be a silver lining to the economic clouds (see below). Key learning point here: Don’t let any of your clients or prospects use the prospect of automatic federal spending cuts as an excuse to delay a decision. By the time they get the all clear signal, it will be too late for them to regain market share they lost by not investing appropriately in their marketing, advertising and demand generation programs.

Important numbers for B2B marketers

Like it or not, most of you who read this blog regularly are numbers people. You may not think of yourself as a “quant” or a “cruncher,” but you’re measured regularly by your clients, prospects, superiors and board by quantifiable measures of the return on your marketing investments. Here are some quick stats that we think you’ll find useful in your next planning session.

Tweet the numbers. Market research firm Compendium says including numbers with your tweets will result in 50 percent more clicks for B2B marketers. Again, you’re not in the consumer space where tweeting with numbers provides only a 3.5 percent lift.

Tweet with substance. Sure Twitter’s character limit is pretty, uh limiting, but Compendium found that B2B buyers were drawn to tweets of 11 to 15 words, not the 1-to-5 word tweets that resonate with consumer marketers. If you can produce 11 to 15 meaningful word in just 144 characters, that’s where your skill comes out.

Blog 300. According to Internet Marketing Report (IMR), Google rates blog posts of more than 300 words as valuable content and posts of less than 300 words as “fringe content.” If your goal is to improve your search engine optimization and overall Google presence, then go long (provided you can remain relevant) and try to publish on the same day(s) each week.

Blog 1-2x. According to IMR, One or
two well-crafted blog posts each week will do more than daily or more frequent posts that don’t have any substance.

Macro View
Despite mandatory federal spending cuts imposed by the sequester, it’s hard to argue that the overall economic outlook is trending upward. Not a sharp hockey stick mind you, but a gradual upward slope nonetheless. Here are some signs we like:
·         * Banks are lending more to business and industry.
·         * Consumers are more confident and are buying more new homes (and fixing them up).
·         * Sales of new homes jumped nearly 16 percent in January to their highest level in 4-1/2 years.
·         * Home prices were almost 7 percent higher in December 2012 than they were in December 2011.That was the
  biggest year-over-year increase since July 2006.
·         *  Residential fixed investment, which includes spending on home improvements, advanced 17.5 percent in the  
  fourth quarter
      * The Commerce Department revised its stats upward on business spending in Q4—to a 9.7 percent gain, from
  its initial estimate of an 8.4 percent gain
             * The financial markets continued the momentum started in January and are near their all-time highs
·         * The Conference Board consumer confidence index surged to 69.6 in February from 58.4 January suggesting that     
        consumers are getting used to their 2-percent smaller paychecks.

Surviving the Sequester

The $85 billion in automatic U.S. federal spending cuts may not be all that bad. In an interview on the
DJ FX Trader podcast, Sri-Kumar, president of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies said the so-called sequester is actually a longer-term positive for both the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar. Say again?!?

"This is a pain which ought not to be avoided,” he said. For one, the equity market needs to see a significant correction that reflects the “fundamental problems” the U.S. economy has, and that could happen Friday, Sri-Kumar said. More importantly, the U.S. needs to get its fiscal act together, and the sequester is one way to do it, despite the likely negative short-term impact.


The government may finally do something that cash-strapped homeowners have been forced to do for years—get their house in order and then spruce it up. Check out the lines this weekend at your local Home Depot or gardening center. Bet they’re longer than usual.


TAGS: Sri-Kumar Global Strategies, housing market, sequester, business confidence