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14 How to Sell Anything Using Social Media

One of my predictions for 2012 is that more people will come to understand that you can indeed do business using social networks and, frankly, I’m already seeing it.

There are a couple reasons for this.

First off, people are getting more comfortable with social media and social behavior and the “social media is a pure engagement temple mentality” of some early adopters has faded.

More importantly, however, is that smart marketers are testing, tweaking and trying lots of things and figuring out how to build know, like and trust – the path to selling anything, anywhere – on social networks.

In my own experimenting I can tell you that generating and converting leads using social media takes a more patient approach, but once you find the right path, it’s actually a better way to sell in any environment.

The reason I see many people’s social media marketing efforts fail is that they are still simply broadcasting sales messages. This approach still works to some degree in an advertising setting because people often stumble upon your ads with a buying intent. It still works to some degree in email marketing efforts because people have asked to get your messages and you can easily earn the right to sell in that relationship.

However, most people don’t participate in social networks to shop so any sales message can feel sort of harsh and in the snack sized, feverish world of tweets, shares and likes any and all messages are very easy to ignore.

If you want to sell using social media, here’s one path:

Test your message

Using 140 characters or less to basically write an ad that makes people want to retweet and click isn’t something most people can muster in real time – and yet, that’s what most try to do.

I’ve had tremendous success using Google AdWords to test very compact messages. Once I find a message that draws clicks there, I know I’ve got a winner that will get action in the form of a tweet or share.

This somewhat scientific approach is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing in social media and it’s the primary reason people that contend you can’t sell there say so.

Target your message

Here’s another proven technique that seems lost on many marketers. Just because there are 800 million people on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to appeal to all of them.

The quickest way to get the right kind of attention is to announce “hey you 437 people that need to get better at X” I’m talking to you.

If you want to learn more about the impact of using data to form your social media messages look no further than the work Dan Zarrella is doing.

Prove your worth

It’s nearly impossible to get someone ready to buy simply by crafting a mouth-watering tweet. There’s just not enough information to develop trust.

You must make your initial relationship building all about valuable content. Give something away that you know your targeted prospect wants and needs. Move the free line to the point where your free stuff is better than most other people’s paid stuff and watch how enamored people get.

Here again, there’s nothing new about this. For years, smart marketers made tiny little inexpensive classified ads in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics pay off nicely using this exact approach.

Engage

Now, here’s a step that just might be unique to social media and online marketing in general and it’s a very powerful one.

In the process of giving away all that great information ask your prospects to tell you things, share things, rate things and help you make the world a better place for all who inhabit it.

Seriously, create feedback forms and make that part of the deal for why you are giving away such great stuff. Socialize your content and make it easy to email, tweet and like. Send a series of emails during your content sharing phase that reinforces the important takeaways from the content and offers more engagement like email support or live Q and A sessions.

Ask for the order

Once you’ve done all this work and logically and authentically led a prospect to the place where they do indeed have some level of trust, it’s time to tell them where this journey is ultimately headed.

Paint the picture you know exists in their “current reality”, remind them of the incredible glimpse you’ve shared and then illustrate what the picture could look like.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming they will connect the dots – show them how to get the value you know you have to offer and be extremely clear about it. One of the benefits of this approach is that, if you do it right and they still don’t buy, you’ll earn the right to ask why and they’ll gladly help you understand how to get it right.

There’s nothing that magical about this approach really. Marketers have been using some form of these elements for years, but it’s the total package, including patience and hard work, that makes it pay off in the world of social media.

10 Did Google Just Create the Click to Schedule Ad Unit

The GMail blog team announced what looks like a much needed enhancement to Google Calendar this week called appointment slots.

This functionality allows anyone to create a public showing calendar offering up times when appointments are available. The idea is that people can visit your calendar and schedule a haircut or consulting session any time day or night.

Services such Tungle, Doodle and TimeBridge were created in some ways to fill this obvious gap. (Although they offer much functionality for, say team scheduling, you do have to wonder how hard this will hit them.)

Once the service is rolled out to all users you’ll see an extra link with the schedule box pops open that allows you to schedule blocks of time that are open for appointments. Choosing this function essentially creates another calendar and since every Google Calendar has its own personal appointments sign up page; you can embed it on your website or give the URL directly to friends and clients. You can find the URL for your appointment page at the top of the set-up page, which you can access via the Edit details link.

Google Appointment slots

Right now, one major limitation appears to be the both the owner of the calendar and those scheduling an appointment must use Google Calendar – not such a big deal for internal teams, but likely a deal killer for a hair salon.

However, think about the implications of Google creating a “Click to Schedule” function for AdWords units, Places Pages, and Review Pages like those in HotPot. For many industries this could be a game changing kind of social action and another big revenue generator for Google.

From a local business standpoint it gives Google another lever into the transaction while adding functionality for both buyer and seller.

15 How to Target GMail Users with Highly Relevant Ads

If you are a GMail user you’ve probably noticed Google’s highly relevant ads running in and around your emails. For example, if someone sends you some information about a new car they are thinking about buying there’s a good chance you’re going to see car related ads when you open this email. It’s a fact of life in the Google world – you don’t have to like these ads, but you might consider using them to market your business.


Contextual ads in GMail – Click to enlarge.

Think about it, these are some of the most highly targeted ads you buy. Someone sends a note to a friend talking about starting a business and wham, there’s your business opportunity right in the email.

Gmail ads are available to advertisers through the AdWords platform. You need to have an AdWords account and set-up a campaign. You can target GMail through the “managed placements” network setting. You can do this as a GMail only campaign or as part of a campaign that also runs ads on other sites.

To add Gmail simply add http://mail.google.com to the list of managed placement sites. The video below from Google’s Austin Lau explains this function.

14 More Local Marketing Tools from Google

The Google Local Business Center is a must visit for business in general, but certainly for businesses attempting to attract customer in their local community. As you may know, Google allows you to add your business to a directory and then enhance your profile with all kinds of information about your business, products, and services. This is a free listing and every small business should take advantage of it.

Google shows these listings when someone make what is obviously a geographic based search such as – Toledo plumber. The results show in what is called the Google 10 box above other listings. When someone clicks on one of these results they are taken to the profile through Google Maps.

Recently Google has added and integrated a couple of useful tools.

1) Now your Local Business Center account shows you analytics. You can see how many people are clicking on your profile, what search terms got them there and, for folks looking to find your business locally, where they came from based on their requests for driving directions. This is some pretty cool data, particularly for retail locations. It could help inform where you might spend some direct mail focus, for instance, and how you might optimize some of your web pages.

2) AdWords now allows you to connect your Google Local Profile to your AdWords account and, by doing so, you can ask Google to show your address, based on the location of the ad visitor, when someone views your ad. Google has dubbed this add-on Local Extensions. Once extensions are set up, Google will dynamically match your business locations to a user’s location or search terms and show the address with your text ads.

This could be useful for a business with multiple locations. Now, instead of having to set up multiple local ads you simply assign extensions to all your ads and Google will show the address of the best location based on where the user is located. Here’s the help page for more info on setting up.

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8 Google Keyword Tool Now Offers Search Volume

One of the first successful PPC ad systems was service called Overture. One of the most popular features of this service was a tool called the Search Suggestion Tool. Anyone online back in say 2002-2003 used this tool a bunch to help determine what search phrases received the most traffic. This was one very simple DIY tool.

When Yahoo bought out Overture the tool languished and eventually went away. In my opinion this was a big mistake on the part of Yahoo. (But that’s a conversation for another day)

Click on the screenshot below to see full size

Google Keyword Search ToolGoogle recently enhanced their keyword suggestion tool and added search volume and some measure of competitiveness. The reason the PPC engines offer tools like this is to help people get better at bidding on search terms and offer suggestions for more terms to bid on. Serious PPC folks use this tool to help determine bid amounts and bid on thousands of search terms. (If you have an AdWords account this tool is built into your dashboard.)

I’ve found that this tool is also a nice, low effort way to get some ideas for keyword phrases for your web pages and blog posts. The tool offers suggestions for ways that people are really searching in your industry and might spark some ideas for blog headlines. Of course, for local businesses, this can be a great way to identify terms that you might want to add your city name to.