Tag : strategy

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194: The Right Marketing Questions at the Wrong Time

I need to get better at asking questions of my clients earlier in the advertising process. Sadly, I often struggle to focus on the marketing strategy instead of billable tasks.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a direct mail piece designed for a client and then asked them for the mailing list—only to learn that they do they not have a mailing list and don’t know to whom they will mail it. Or right before I dive into some Facebook ads, I’ve realized I forgot to ask, “Who do you want to target?”

I’m apparently not alone in my absentmindedness, because a common response is: “I don’t know. What do you think?”

On the times when I’m actually on my marketing game early in the process, I’ve asked the auctioneer, “Who’s our buyer? What’s our prospect profile?”

“Well, I was hoping you could help me with that.”

Mind you, this is after the auction contract was signed. That means auctioneers are booking deals in new asset and/or geographic markets without knowing who their prospects are, let alone which media they need (and in what proportion) to reach targeted potential buyers.

The problem with this tardiness is that the buyer determines the advertising campaign.

The prospect guides where we have to advertise—in terms of both media type and geographic area. That profile dictates what kind of impression we need to make, and that (along with asset value) governs the budget.

So, how is it that so many auctions are booked and budgets are set before anyone asks, “Who is the buyer?”

Right Questions at the Wrong Time

Some of it might be too much trust in “the sound that sells”—the idea that auctions in and of themselves get stuff sold, regardless of asset. While an auction is a great vehicle for transactions of a myriad of items, there is no auction without bidders. So, the most important part of the auction marketing process is the attraction and accumulation of bidders.

To do that, we have to stop thinking like auctioneers or real estate agents or salespeople—or graphic designers. We have to get into the heads of the people who would want what we’re selling. Often, that’s the most difficult part of the process—for both my auctioneers and their advertising vendor. If we personally wouldn’t buy that asset, we have to research who would. We need to have a good idea what they need, and what motivates them.

Why would someone want farm equipment with this age and these hours?
Do hunters check their Facebook during hunting season? (And when is deer season where this land is?)
What kind of consumer is looking for an unfinished condo unit?
Where do subdivision developers search for new opportunities?
How far would someone travel to purchase from an on-site estate auction or pick up from an online auction?
What would convince a real estate investor to buy farmland instead of residential properties?
How much disposable income would someone need to purchase this asset?
For what other industries could this commercial equipment or real estate be used?
Are we building any media only to impress the seller instead of buyers?

These questions speak to buyer motive, media mix, and targeting options. Their answers help us write headlines and select demographic criteria. The followup questions to the examples above would further focus our advertising and make our budget more efficient—even if it means spending more money on fewer people to attract an action from them.

It doesn’t cost you money to ask these questions.

In fact, it might cost you significant money if you don’t ask these questions—especially if you don’t ask them before you sign the auction contract. Save yourself some headaches. Take the prescription four out of five TV doctors recommend: ask two of these questions, and then email your advertising vendors in the morning.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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181: What Kind of Facebook Advertising Should You Use?

The biggest confusion I encounter when teaching people how to advertise on Facebook is the difference between an ad, a promoted post, and a boosted post. Part of that confusion comes from Facebook using similar buttons and terms to describe all of them. Don’t be fooled, though. These are very different tools with different purposes for savvy advertisers to use.

Origination

One of the biggest differences between the three is where the posts are built. Ads can be created only within Ads Manager (or Business Manager). Posts can be created only on your business page’s timeline. Ads do not show on your timeline at all, which often leads my clients to ask, “Did you build the ad already?” Both ads and posts can be scheduled for a specific release time.

Organic Distribution

Ads show organically only to the Admins and Editors of your page. Posts show organically only to 2-10% of the people who have hit the like button on your page.

Paid Distribution

Both ads and promoted posts are distributed through Ads Manager (or Business Manager). The confusing part is that the first step for both is to click the green button that says, “Create Ad.” Boosted posts are distributed from the “Boost” button under the post on your Facebook page. Boosted posts do not have all of the targeting and optimization options available to ads and promoted posts.

Content Formats

Ads can distribute with a photo, photo carousel, slideshow, or video. Ads can also leverage the Facebook canvas tool or the adaptive single-image tool. Boosted and promoted posts can be single images, a photo album, a video, or a link. On the photo albums, you can determine which top images get shown in the collage preview.

Buttons & Links

On an ad, the illustration (photos, slideshows, and videos) are all clickable to your website. So is the headline and link description. The viewer doesn’t see the URL, and the advertiser doesn’t need to include the URL in the text of the ad. In boosted and promoted posts, clicking on a photo advances the viewer to the next photo—not the advertiser’s link. URLs must be pasted into the text portion of your post and/or your photo captions. Posts do not have clickable buttons, either.

Facebook design comparison insert

Default Optimization

Facebook knows our tendencies as consumers, whether we’re likely to click on links or try to stay in the newsfeed. So, it allows advertisers to choose how advertising is targeted (“optimized”). The default setting for ads is link clicks. For promoted and boosted posts, the default setting is for engagements: likes, comments, and shares. Both ads and promoted posts can also be optimized either for impressions (showing to the same people as many times as possible) or unique reach (showing to as many people as possible). Boosted posts offer no options for optimization and are inherently aimed at engagements that keep the viewer on Facebook.

Distribution Platforms

Ads can be distributed to Facebook’s newsfeed, right column, Instant Articles, In-Stream Videos, or Canvas. They can also be pushed out to Instagram and the Audience Network (selection of editorial websites that show Facebook ads). Promoted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed & right column and to Instagram. Boosted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed and to Instagram.

Primary Measurement

Facebook’s default reporting tends to focus on total audience size and a single column of content results. For ads, the results are clicks to your website. For posts, results are measured in terms of combined engagements—likes, comments, and shares. Cost per engagements generally run much lower than cost per click. To compare apples to apples, make sure your reports for both ads and posts show the cost per click. Within Ads Manager (or Business Manager), you can customize which analytical data you want to see in your reports and in what order. Below is a recent sample showing the standard columns I use for my personal and client reports.

Anonymized Facebook report

Click to enlarge

Strategy

Ads prove a high stakes game of risk/reward. Single-photo and video ads have one first impression that must get someone to click to your website. Carousel and slideshow ads give you slightly more content to attract a buyer or client. Promoted and boosted posts offer the option of the photo gallery, which allows consumers to meander through your content before deciding to leave Facebook for your website. You can and should have different copy in the captions for each photo; and you should have a link pasted in the description, too.

Because of their content and distribution models, each kind of Facebook advertising has a different use. Ads align best with the pursuit of the most motivated consumers. Promoted posts appeal to consumers whose interest can be developed. Boosted posts are best suited for community awareness; that community can be either interest-based (fans of your Facebook page) or geography-based (people in a specific location).

Know that results will wildly vary. For the most efficient and effective Facebook advertising, you have to experiment with different Facebook tools and then measure their effectiveness.

Facebook comparison chart full size

Click to enlarge

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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111: The 4 Steps to Advertising Success

I’ve learned that one of the first questions I need to ask a client on a campaign is, “Do you have a mailing list?”

I can’t tell you how many times that a client and I have been corresponding about the final changes to a direct mail piece, when I’ve asked if they had their mailing list ready to send to the print shop. “Oh, we don’t have one; could you find one for us?”

By this point of the campaign, the budget is pretty much set; the website and newsprint distribution is already in play; and we have to adjust the direct mail audience to however many we can reach with what’s left in the budget. If analytics have proven that direct mail won’t be a primary or secondary media for a particular asset or geographic category, this would be more understandable. So often, though, we are highly dependent on a mailing list to reach the most likely prospects.

I don’t mind working with my mailing list broker to build lists for my clients, but the mailing list being unsettled at this point means that the campaign was planned backward. The marketing plan started with a dollar amount rather than a defined audience.

This problem is bigger than mailing lists or even budgets. Most successful campaigns require four strategic stages in this specific order: audience, then medium, then message, then production.

1: Audience

You can have an amazing, award-winning piece of advertising; but if the right people don’t see or hear it, they won’t know to transact with you. The first question of a campaign should be, “Who would be the best prospect—the best buyer, seller, or referral agent—for this campaign?”

2: Medium

Once you have that profile in your head, you can then ask, “How or where would this prospect most likely need to see or hear our notification?” It’s at this point, when you should start researching mailing lists along with applicable websites, print publications, and other media. You can then adapt the size or reach of each respective media to match the quantity of prospects that you can reach with your budget. This mix could vary from one asset market to another and from one geographic market to another, and polling bidders at your auctions will let you know how to manage that mix for the next similar auction. Similarly, you can survey sellers and referral agents for similar campaigns to them.

3: Message

You can successfully get your advertising in front of the right people; but if it doesn’t speak to their needs or wants, you’ve only annoyed the best prospects. We have only a few seconds to appeal to what the seller values.

 

So, lead with facts. Explain the benefit of the facts, only if you have room. (Most of your audience is smart enough to decipher their benefit from the facts.) Leave information like preview dates, terms, and company information at the end of your medium—not in places of prominence. Nine times out of ten, “auction” should not be the headline, because it’s very rarely the primary benefit for the buyer or seller. And if your logo is at the top, please go back to Go. Do not collect $200.

4: Production

You can be in the right place in front of the right people, saying the right message; but if you’re there at the wrong time, you can still fail to connect with the prosper. If you have the right words but also have images that look like they came from a security camera, your pitch will lose punch. If the design of the print piece or production of the broadcast piece is shoddy or distracts from the asset(s) for sale, that will be the impression of your brand and, by extension, what you’re selling. Spelling and grammar matter. Readability (or ease of inferring from a broadcast) matters. Sometimes, even creativity matters.

There are no universal marketing guarantees, but starting from our audience’s perspective helps us ask the right strategic questions throughout a campaign. It’s not always easy to look through our audience’s lens, because we are often in a different head space than our prospect. When we do, though, we improve your chances of a successful campaign.

TAKING IT PERSONALLY

I find that people get the whole Jesus thing out of order—even more often than marketers get their strategy backward.  A lot of people think they have to clean up their mess before Jesus can come into their space, that they have to complete a certain amount of self-improvement or lifestyle detox to invite him into their lives.

The truth is that any movement toward perfection is still short of perfection.  Jesus wants to join us in the chaos, destruction, and dysfunction of our lives in order to display what he brings to the table.  He wants us to realize how much we need him, how much he has done and keeps doing for us.  The Bible says all of our righteous attempts without him are like used menstrual rags—not exactly impressive gifts to give him or our world.

Jesus doesn’t need us to do anything but surrender to his sovereignty.  Once he’s the one steering our lives, his power changes us from the inside out.

Stock images purchased from iStockphoto.com.

90: 6 Weird Intruders in Your Mail Box

IntrudersI love snail mail.

So, I register for mailing lists all the time.  I like to see what corporate America is producing in their metropolitan ad agencies and what auctioneers create with their brochure mills or local print shops.  I don’t see “junk mail.”  I see lessons in how to capture attention and how not to get trashed in the first pass through the stack.  I’ve got a storage bin filled with competition-worthy samples, and I’ve developed a list of the ways auctioneers ignore the purpose of advertising.

Advertising should do three things:
(1) capture attention
(2) inform
(3) call to action

In other words, your media needs to make a good first impression, hold that attention, and then leverage its impact to evoke a specific response.  The first step and the transition to the second step are typically where I see auctioneers stumble.  They assume that the recipient is as interested in what they’re selling as they are and that the recipient will interact with an advertisement as though they already know the content will interest them.

Most auction brochures and postcards I receive make me shake my head—more times than not because of the mailer panel.  The mailer panel is the first impression panel for the vast majority of the people on your mailing list.  Don’t make your first impression like these guys I’ve met at my mailbox:

The Shady Lawyer
If you get on enough auctioneer mailing lists or peruse enough advertising competition entries, you’ll find a mailer panel that shows the auction company name and logos and their contact information—and nothing else but the auction terms.  Before you ever know what they’re selling, you’re given all the indemnifying conditions of what you can and can’t do in regards to something being sold—something not shown nor described.

If you walked into a retailer, they wouldn’t stop you at the door to read the fine print from your pending receipt.  Why would a retailer—or an auctioneer—start their advertising that way?  They tell me it’s because that’s the only place left to put the terms.  These auctioneers believe the mailer panel is the leftover space, despite it being maybe the most important space of the entire piece.

The Conspiracy Theorist
I also get pieces whose mailer panels hold not much more than a small (often illegally reproduced) map on them, sometimes with directions.  Like the shady lawyers, these auctioneers assume the space next to your address is the junk drawer of the advertising kitchen.  If there were more than one Area 51, you could make the case that maybe these auctioneers might be selling restricted real estate.  We’re told there’s an important place; we just don’t know what’s going on there.  Think about it: why would anyone be interested in a map that comes with no reason to use it?  And who keeps a map to a place they don’t know if they want to visit?

The Polygamist
Every time postage rises, more auctioneers consolidate their mailings, sometimes by designing more than one auction into a piece but more often by stapling and/or tabbing multiple brochures together and mailing them as a combo pack.  This can be a smart strategy, if the auctions are for similar assets that would have been mailed to the same list anyway.

The problem comes when only one of the auctions is mentioned on the mailer panel of the outside piece.  If I were the seller of one of the auctions shown in the interior pieces, I’d feel second rate.  I also regularly receive pieces that just have a calendar showing highlighted dates and a couple headlines.  Rather than treat one seller with unequal attention, all sellers get the impersonal treatment.

Typically, the auctioneer is combining an entire month’s worth of mailings at one shot.  In most cases, it would seem to me that somebody’s auction is getting advertised later than optimal timing.

The Mime
These pieces don’t say anything; they just indicate that there’s something not being said.  I’ve seen auction mailers with nothing but the recipient’s address and a stamp on them—sometimes also a stamped return address and logo on it.  Blank on the other side, too.  Why?  Because the auctioneer only paid for one-sided printing.  Usually, they are mailing a poster they had printed to hang in stores around town.  They are banking on the fact that curiosity will typically trump attention span and the hope that they won’t be seen as cheap.

I understand the intrigue strategy, but there are better and more professional ways to generate curiosity.  You’re paying to mail both sides of the brochure.  Why not use both?

The Narcissist
One auctioneer told me he that didn’t like me putting pictures on the outside of a brochure and that he wanted just his name and enlarged logo on the outside of the piece.  “When people see my name, they will want to open it.”  Even as a direct mail junkie, I don’t open all of my mail, even pieces from known entities.  From what I’ve heard, I’m not alone in that reality.  So, I wouldn’t trust the name recognition approach, especially when mailing to a new geographic or asset market.

The Acrobat
Usually this dude comes in postcard format.  He expects you to flip the piece over to see the most appealing images and information.  Online print shops only exasperate the problem by calling the side of the postcard opposite the address the “front.”  They assume guests will come to your back door first, I guess.  They overlook that the vast majority of Americans open their mail address side up—because that’s how mail deliverers put it in mailboxes.

Don’t make the people on your mailing list guess what’s for sale and why it’s important they know about it.  Capture their attention and inform them right from the first impression—the mailer panel.
[tip]

In advertising, you should judge a book by its cover, because that’s what its audience does.

Spiritually and relationally, though, it’s not a safe practice.  God says that he’s the only one who sees the inside through the outside.  Sadly, though, the church has built millennia of precedence of creating a sliding scale of holiness, based on mostly-arbitrary exterior criteria.  I struggle with this, too, especially when I feel insecure about my spiritual state.

Recently, a conversation with a mentor of mine challenged my resistance to a former convict participating in certain church environments.  We talked about how scandalous God’s grace and mercy are, and he dropped this on me:  “I don’t want to have a finer filter than God does.”  In other words, if God forgave someone and allowed them to approach him, why shouldn’t we?

Then he hit me with the knockout punch: “All of us have some pretty dark places in our hearts—all of us.”  It’s easy to see the darkness in others instead of our own waywardness.  It’s a challenge, though, to extend to someone else the benefit of a doubt that we give ourselves.

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

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