Survey of marketing tech types finds ROI strongest for search and internal email tactics

A recent survey has shed light on what one breed of marketing professionals are perceiving as good bets in terms of measurable return on investment (ROI). The tactic leading the pack is email, sent to an internal — or “house” — list. This is hardly surprising, since it is a relatively low-cost way to announce new products and deals to customers and prospects. What is more interested is seeing how both organic search marketing (i.e., search engine optimization) and pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing are viewed by these same executives compared to other tactics. Here is the full run-down:

Perceived ROI by tactic, from 3,000+ search marketing pros

Considering the search-centric executives surveyed (these were 3,186 “in-house search marketers or agency executives,” as reported in‘s ROI for Select Marketing Tactics according to US Search Marketers), it’s not surprising both are regarded highly. Both are deemed as “Good” investments in respect to the return they typically provide by one out of every three respondents, and another third (34% total) considered one of these two tactics “Strongest” in terms of ROI.

This would be a glowing assessment of search when compared with other tactics, if only PPC weren’t also deemed as “highly variable” by 28% of respondents. Considering how much control one has on the risks and rewards of PPC, this makes me wonder if that measurement isn’t the voice of a minority who either hasn’t conducted a PPC campaign or hasn’t done it properly.

The booby prize goes to online advertising (“banners, etc.”), deemed “Low Value” by 43% of the group. With opinions of online ads being this negative, is it any wonder ad networks are scrambling to sweeten the kitty with more behaviorally-focused targeting?

What is your response to these numbers?

Google Reader replaces that stack of half-read books

Thank you, Google. I think. Today for the first time, I clicked a mysterious link in my Google Reader (which reads RSS feeds — click on the “Subscribe”button above if you don’t know what those three letters stand for). The link is labeled “Trends.” Below is what I found when I clicked it.

My so-called reading habits. Click if you’re the nosey type and want my top-read blogs

Oh, I see. That’s why I have over 1,000 unread items in my Google Reader.

So which is worse: Having to look at a stack of half-read books and looming New Yorker and Economist magazines (more on taming them later this week), or visiting Google Reader and being greeted with a chart of my crap reading habits?

Four secrets to online video demos that break sales records

A friend of mine got his start in marketing as a carnival pitchman. He would travel the country, selling electric blenders from a dusty demo booth. He was good. Really good. He once told me that a key to success on a highly competitive midway was being sure to gather a large crowd. In carny lingo this is called building a tip.

The web has replaced the carnival back lot. Search engines, online ads and other techniques do the job of building a tip. And once a visitor arrives at a site, today it’s often a video that gives the pitch.

I was blown away recently by just such an online pitch. It was for Jawbone, a noise-canceling Bluetooth cell phone earpiece. Below is a link to the site, where you can watch the full video:

Jawbone Video Demo Page

If you’re like me, you were immediately sucked into the demo. That’s a key to a good pitch. Lead strong, without ever overdoing it and scaring your tip away. Here are three other things this video does right:

  • Feature a pitchman (or woman) — Selling is always one-to-one, whether it’s to a throng of carnival revelers or to thousands of isolated web visitors. Similar to other direct sales media, such as direct mail, you cannot achieve record-breaking sales success online unless you are persistent in hammering away at the value of the product. A disembodied voice-over cannot make the necessary level of personal connection.
  • Use drama — People buy things because it makes them feel good. There is pleasure in finding something that can improve a life. Whenever possible, illustrate dramatically how your product can do this. On the midway, my friend would chew up nuts and bolts in his blender. It was a loud, suspenseful, almost scary way to demonstrate power and durability. Then he’d replace the metal blender carafe for a glass one and cram it with fruits and vegetables — pits, stems and all. In what seemed like an instant he had made fruit smoothie samples for the audience, further showing the machine’s power and versatility. My friend made this device seem almost magical.
  • Build to a strong finish — Selling is ultimately about theater. That means you should follow the same story arc most commonly used in entertainment. Bring your audience’s interest to a crescendo. Work their emotions until they cannot imagine what will happen next, and are hanging on every word and new development. Then make sure they understand that when your pitch ends, they are expected to take out their wallets. If you’ve done your job right, they will!

Ironically, last month I stumbled across this YouTube video. It’s for a high-powered blender, not unlike the kind my friend sold back in his pitchman days. This video breaks all of the rules of a good demo. I’m not surprised that one and only comment left at the bottom of the video reads as follows:

The Vitamix may be a good machine. But there is no way I’m paying $400 dollars for a stupid blender. I don’t care how good it is. If I had Bill Gates money I wouldn’t spend that much for a blender. I’m sure there’s a machine out there that’s just as good with a much nicer price. And I’m going to keep searching until I find it.

Ouch! Sorry, Vitamix. While showing all the tricks that this blender can perform, you failed to sufficiently build its value. You’d never survive a day on the midway.

Research confirms it: Folks are less likely to consider a brand they don’t find in search results pages

The revelation that you risk losing business if prospects don’t find you in search results is just one of the conclusions from a newly-released research study from Enquiro (registration required). This report is packed with valuable insights. Here’s another: When a major brand (Honda) appeared as one of the top paid listings, as well as the top organic search engine result, the lift in brand recall was huge — 220%. As the graphic shows, this was compared to no organic result and a less prominent side ad. In addition, the lift in recall of this dual placement, when compared to a top organic listing alone, was still impressive — roughly 70%.

When brand is in the top ad AND the top organic listing, the lift more than doubles

Clearly, if you can sponsor a pricier ad that runs across the top of the search engine results page, go for it. This ad unit is far more effective than a side unit. Its brand recognition power in this study was equal to the top organic listing alone. That’s huge.

Brand recall is important, but what about intent to consider a purchase?

An ad / organic combination can also boost intent. For the Honda brand, when a non-branded phrase (“fuel efficient cars”) was searched upon, and the pairing of top ad and top organic results was encountered, an average 8% lift in intent was observed. Specifically, what was measured was an intention to include the brand in this person’s consideration set. This is no idle assurance, because all 2,744 participants in the study said they were considering buying a new car within the year.

A corresponding eye tracking study showed that this increased intent was mirrored by a significant bump in the time spent looking at both the sponsored and organic links for the brand.

Advertise On Brand Keywords — Even When You Show Up Organically

Now consider the graphic below. Even those who did a branded search (i.e., included a brand in their search query) were 7% more likely to consider purchasing that brand when an ad for it appeared above the brand’s top organic listing. At least, that’s the case when the brand in question is Honda.

Validation that you should advertise on your brand’s keywords

This is valuable validation. Other research, most notably from Nielsen Reelresearch, has shown a similar improvement in actually clicks to a site when an organic result and an ad are paired. But it’s hard to spend money on clicks from a paid ad when you have the top organic result for that keyword phrase.

Say What Counts In Your Text Ad’s Headline and Web Address

The eye generally overlooks the body copy, focusing on the text ad’s headline and web addressA final noteworthy finding is based on eye tracking “heat maps” of how consumers read these paid search ads. As the graphic to the right shows, the descriptive copy that follows the headline and precedes the URL barely gets a glance — at least for the typical results page viewer. (Click on the graphic for a zoomed-in view of the heat map.)

Further research would be helpful. For instance, how do heat maps differ for those who have clicked on the ad versus those who merely looked it over?

Nonetheless, this research is terrific evidence of the power of paid search, and how best to harness it.

Viral campaigns more frequently relying on pre-existing buzz

Legend has it that in 1936, Lana Turner was playing hooky from Hollywood High School when she was discovered by a film studio executive. She was sipping soda in a local drugstore. Almost immediately, Turner became a star. Social media sites such as YouTube are becoming today’s soda fountain. For example, take the lastest “discovery” (last month there was Nick Haley).

Musician and University of Minnesota grad student Adam Bahner became a minor internet sensation. Bahner, who records under the name Tay Zonday, wrote and posted a music video that had novelty and a simple but catchy melody going for it. Here is his video on YouTube.

Next, he is contacted by video production company True Entertainment. Their assignment was to promote a new soda flavor from Dr. Pepper. The director’s vision was to take “Zonday’s” song, add a boatload of production values, and come up with an online video that would get attention and go viral. Very viral. As of this writing, the video has been up on YouTube for exactly one week, and has been viewed there 1,234,763 times. Here it is.

One of the first lines of the song is “This is the web, and it’s going to murder your TV.” True enough. And it has already made modern Lana Turner stories more sudden, more fleeting, and decidedly digital.