Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - Top Blog Posts of Performance Lead Marketing

Here is a little round-up to share of the most popular posts by page-view of
  1. UK Exclusive - Google Affiliate Network is here - So far, it's hard to tell what impact (if any) it has had on the affiliate market?
  2. Google Lead Generation - Sign-Ups from the search results page rather than click traffic - One to watch and was the inspiration for this Econsultancy article by Justin Rees asking Is Google selling Leads in the UK
  3. Lead Generation Marketing: Time for ROI to kill off CPA - Short-term CPA obsessions are clouding online marketers long-term ROI aspirations
  4. Don't Marry Your Leads - Get Engaged First - Don't sell to a prospect with one foot in the door!
  5. PPC Advertising is Dead... - Search is becoming more display, maps, video and data collection driven which means new search advertising models are springing up. Yahoo recently launched cost per lead (CPL) search
  6. Performance Agency v's Performance Network - Agency's do Network's, like Network's do Agency's. The lines are becoming blurred as network trading platforms and agency planning and media services become common to both sectors.
What a difference a year makes and wonder what digital delights 2013 will bring us.

Happy New Year

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 - The End of Online

Online has heralded a golden age of new media over the past decade. But not any more - online as a marketing term has become redundant with the advent of mobile. Why? Because a mobile device is also online, so to eradicate confusion - Online (i.e. surfing via PC/laptop) has now been demoted to desktop.

Still confused? So let's try to nail down the terminology in a single sentence: 'Any internet enabled device that permits an application or site to use your location, is mobile and all other devices that are non-location specific are desktop.' This is why ipads are mobile devices but laptops aren't.

Desktop is actually a horribly fudged phrase to describe how the majority of people still use the internet for entertainment which is via a laptop in front of the TV. I don't know about you, but the laptop tends to follow me around the house so feels mobile enough for me.

The main issue here is convergence of technology which is forcing people and companies to think differently about what electronic products exist now and what may be adopted in the near future.

Take TV for example. I'm pretty sure within 18 months, we will need to come up with a new word for TV. The phrase Television will look wholly inadequate to describe what will be Social Internet Video (SIV). SIV is the way everyone will consume TV media in the future. A few years on, it will impossible to think of how a football match could be watched at home without tweets and not having customised fan vision overlaying live football matches. Or, how about X-Factor (with or without Louie Walsh!), - imagine reading people's ranting tweets tickertaping across the bottom of your screen. Forget the phone line, imagine how instant SIV voting will decide results in real-time.

Why doesn't it happen sooner? The only other factors that appear to hold back the tide of consumer demand is the way the TV market is currently structured by government and the dominant companies. Whilst the internet relentlessly innovates, TV appears thus far to be resistant to rapidly changing tastes in consumer media consumption.

The future of TV, Radio, Internet & Books, of course, will look nothing like it does today. Let's just hope whatever happens will help us to get information and entertainment faster and better than ever imagined before.

Lastly, in a case of art imitating life (a la The Social Network) and imitating art again, Facebook TV is coming... check out Facebook's secret plans here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Content is King? No, Performance is the new King

That's right, the concept of Performance Marketing may be as old as the hills, but only in the past year or so, has it become King elect. Paying by performance is now a staple on every advertisers marketing menu. Try dining out with a non-performance strategy and you'll never make it to dessert course!

Performance to many in the search advertising world, means paying for clicks whereas in the display ad industry, means paying for impressions. Both give some level of reassurance that there is a performance element, but the money shot is - How many of these impressions/clicks turn into leads and sales?

Google's ad platform has come a long way in terms of making search a goal based advertising medium. A goal could be a lead, download, appointment or sale. Anonymous traffic generation was a gold rush going back a few years but in the modern targeting/re-targeting landscape coupled with the avalanche of consumer data on tap it is essential to optimise your campaign towards leads/actions and ultimately sales.

In online advertising, the unstoppable rise of RTB (real-time buying) illustrates a desire to get media to perform to a specific cost per action or acquisition. There is simply such a glut of online media inventory out there that it is now only worth what someone will pay for it. The online advertising ratecard just hit the shredder!

The so called King, 'Content' has received alot of attention in the marketing press of late and rightly so. Having beautiful content on your site is not only engaging but can also win the hearts of your prospects and customers. But for it to be King, much more power must be leveraged to satisfy the demands of even an average commercially focused business enterprise.

Performance Marketing encapsulates all the elements that are great about marketing today - Great copy that sells; Flexible channels ; Compelling offer variants ; Discounted pricing models ; Ready to purchase consumer's. Which is why, the crowning of Performance as King is likely to reign for a very long time... All rise...

Friday, 5 October 2012

11 Reasons why Lead Generation campaigns fail

Lead generation marketing is like a fast-moving train where you constantly need to upgrade the machinery and lay new track in order to get it to go from A to B as efficiently as possible.

To learn from lead generation and be a successful performance marketer, you need to understand why campaigns fail. You may be surprised to find that many of the factors are not under your control. Regardless, when marketing campaigns do fail it is still you (or the agency!) that 'carries the can.'

Below are the main reasons why lead generation campaigns don't work, time after time:
  1. Poor lead sourcing - speaks for itself, as the mantra goes, rubbish in = rubbish out. Campaigns will struggle from the get-go if the leads are weak.
  2. Slow fulfilment/conversion - it is shocking how many advertisers overlook the conversion element of lead generation especially when the conversion occurs offline. Expecting great quality leads to convert regardless of speed of follow-up is lead generation suicide. Timing is everything, which is why leads always out-perform list data. Think of every day delayed is 10% lost.
  3. Poor targeting/lead criteria - buying homogeneous leads can work for a while, but when conversions dip you need to understand what type of people are converting. For example, targeting 20-40 year olds may sound on brand, but if the majority are under 30 you need to adjust targeting.
  4. Inefficient tracking by source - It's all too easy with lead generation to use large networks or publishers to blind buy leads. You need to know at least what channel you are buying (email, display, SMS?) and at best the name of the publisher in order to make informed marketing decisions.
  5. Bad use of marketing channels - i.e. cold email for charity donations is unlikely to give an attractive cost per acquisition that will win awards, but maybe generating a lead for a follow email and call, will.
  6. National/Global/Weather events - can happen at any time completely outside of your control, not one you can plan for, but can blow even the best marketing campaign off course!
  7. Weak offer/promotion - Offering a free iPad may sound cool, but when 95% of your marketing community are using the same incentive it becomes instantly in-effective. Instead, dream up unique incentives such as product discounts, unique experiences, give-aways which can't be replicated easily and capture consumers imagination
  8. Competitor actions - online marketing can be instantaneous which means that your smart ideas today is another marketers blue-print for tomorrow's campaign. Be aware of the competition to achieve as much differentiation as possible
  9. Brand - the power of the brand is something often under-played in lead generation. Great brands are instantly recognised and their meaning communicated. Whereas newer brands don't mean a sausage to the average consumer until the message has been countless relayed over many years.
  10. Marketing materials - these have to look right and be functional for your intended audience. If you're not sure, call up your customers and ask them what they would like to see. Trying to read your audience's mind is never a good idea.
  11. Randomness - sometimes you just can't put your finger on it. Could be luck (good or bad). But if there's no apparent reason for failure then test again, as over the long-term, luck evens out.
I'm sure there are a million smaller reasons why you can't get it right every time, like sending out emails with broken links is inviting disaster, but can happen to anyone.

They key thing is to learn from the more obvious pitfalls to save many a campaign from the marketing dust-bin.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Why Lead Generation is NOT a marketing channel

Performance Lead Marketing
In recent years, Lead Generation has deservedly blossomed into one of the fastest growing areas of marketing today (42% of sales coming from online leads according to Econsultancy). It's even spawned a new more popular big brother of late - Performance Marketing. Performance covers a much larger area of marketing, encompassing non-lead activity such as pure customer acquisition (Cost Per Acquisition/Cost Per Sale) campaigns or revenue share based activity.

Many good folks (including myself) within the industry have fought hard to get lead generation recognised and established as a standalone marketing channel in the UK. To their credit in 2011, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) finally apportioned 1% of all online advertising spend to online lead generation up from zero previously - meaning £51m ad spend was defined as online lead gen last year. Whilst 9 out of 10 cats would say this is a tenth of the reality, it's a good start.

In 2012, with Lead Generation and Performance firmly on the marketing map and on every marketers to do list, now is the time to shift the focus away from talking about lead generation as a channel. Lead Generation touches all areas of direct marketing including email, banner (display), search engine marketing, mobile advertising, SMS, social media (virtual currency), tele-marketing, print advertising, co-registration (or host and post if you are in the US). These are the established marketing channels that are used for lead generation marketing. Lead Generation itself is not a marketing channel, it is a marketing purpose. To my mind, there are only three possible purposes for marketing and advertising in general:
  1. To generate leads/prospects
  2. To acquire customers (i.e. minus the lead process)
  3. To generate awareness/branding (hopefully, creating leads/customers later on)
Now, is the time to move the debate on to crediting lead generation more as a marketing objective rather than a channel in its own right. This will help senior marketers create much more lead focused marketing strategies which can then be distilled into tactics by the marketing teams or performance agency to pick the most appropriate channels (mentioned earlier) to meet those high level objectives.

By 2013, more and more CMO's and Marketing Directors will be discussing Lead Generation and Performance Marketing strategy at board level (if not already).

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Don't Marry your Leads - Get Engaged First!

It's so tempting isn't it - you've generated the perfectly crafted lead and now you want immediate conversion to customer. But hold up - you've hardly met and already you're popping the question.

Asking someone to marry you on the first date not only sounds desperate but is likely to attract the wrong sort of response such as 'Don't speak to me ever again' & 'Where did you get my details from' Of course there will be the odd few that say yes straight away but are you really sure you want someone like this?

Yet in lead generation marketing we try to marry people on the first date all the time. Generate - Convert, Generate - Convert, doh... 

The key missing ingredient essential to all long-lasting relationships is - Engagement.

Yes it sounds boring and is a little bit fuzzy. You might even worry you'll scare the lead off before you get the chance to convert. However a compelling engagement strategy needn't slow down conversion. It could be something simple, such as a welcome email sent before the prospect is telephoned. The welcome email is all about adding credibility, useful content and support to the sales pitch.

Adopting a more complete engagement strategy over a longer period can also mean offering prospects the opportunity to download something for free, watch a video or play a game, all relevant to the end goal of getting the person to buy your product. Not forgetting, that in b2c marketing you must apply engagement techniques at low cost and high scale in order to meet both volume and CPA targets.

So resist the temptation of taking things too fast and spoil what could be many more beautiful customer relationships in 2012.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

PPC Advertising is Dead and Google Knows It

Google PPC is dead

Hold on, just a cotton picking minute, you cry - you're talking about the central nervous system of all online marketing, you're way out of line. But hear me out (I am not a Google basher - note to Google bots, please spider the word Not). I dare you to dispute my top ten reasons:

  1. You are NOT what you click
  2. Under 100 keywords drive 95% of search traffic (outside of e-commerce)
  3. PPC based search agencies struggling to add value and diversifying
  4. Google's infamous long tail of niche terms/hidden keywords with ROI busting returns has been docked by Google's broader matching software.
  5. Auction based pricing model dominated by intermediary aggregators who squeeze out end user advertisers by selling on the cheaper click traffic as higher priced leads
  6. Google diversifying into display and affiliate marketing. We now see comparison site ads and email signup ads mixed in with search results
  7. Advertisers endlessly question the true ROI of search ads, but for many years have felt there has been no credible alternative
  8. Advertisers demand leads and customers rather than just anonymous click traffic
  9. Performance Marketing is becoming a by-word for all marketing. Who would choose non-performance in this brave new marketing world where low-risk and ROI are lord and master?
  10. Social media is rapidly becoming the filter through which people view the internet rather than tapping words into search engine boxes.
I've no doubt Google knows all of this which is why our search world will change beyond all recognition over the next 24 months. It will be Google search, but just not as we know it!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Performance Agency v's Performance Network

The Royal Couple

In the booming Online Lead Generation sector, the once distinct roles of the Performance Marketing Agency and the Affiliate Marketing Network are merging.

Wind back a few years and you could see clear daylight between the two separate disciplines. Take first the role of The Marketing Agency, being primarily focused on:

  • Campaign creation & brand proposition
  • Answering the client brief
  • Media Planning & Buying specialist 
  • Strictly client-side

Contrast this with The Affiliate Network:

  • Delivery according to the media plan
  • Management of publishers
  • Affiliate marketing platform specialist

Fast forward to today and we see marketing agencies running private affiliate networks and conversely affiliate network's doing 'traditional' agency work such as planning and buying performance media.

Who is is treading on whose toes? And who is the most capable of giving the best service and results?

There is no single answer, but clearly as the performance marketing industry matures it is transitioning from many siloed specialist operators towards a broader, easier to understand proposition. This is why both agency and network players now seek to offer advertisers a one-stop shop for all lead generation and performance marketing services.

Networks and agencies have much to learn from one another and it can only be a good thing if working closer together and adopting good practice means more cohesion and simplicity on offer to the modern day performance marketer. However, a clear and present danger of being both agency and a network is where conflicts of interest arise in media buying between owned and bought media.

Whichever model wins out (or more likely a new combination of the two), it has never been more important to demonstrate media independence and use integratable (is this a word?) platforms with total transparency to ensure advertisers receive the perfect marriage of both agency and network.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Google Lead Generation

Check it out... Try Googling myvouchercodes when logged into Google and see what you get. I got this search result with an email sign-up box:

On clicking 'get offers' you get this Google email sign-up thank you message:

So no click, no traffic just email leads. Over and above Google's recent addition of display advertising for financial product comparisons, this is now an example of pure lead generation advertising from Google.

Checking out Google Adwords, this ad extension is not currently available in the interface but it's only a matter of time.

It's clear that Google no longer see themselves as a website traffic provider using cost per click (CPC) but are becoming more orientated around cost per lead (CPL) and cost per action (CPA) campaigns. The current range of performance based advertising options on Google include:

  • Display advertising- if you're a Google owned comparison site!
  • Cost per call - using Google's less than perfect telephone number tracking solution
  • Email sign-ups

No doubt a sign of things to come if they can make it work and scale it without cannibalising the search business.

A Google click or a Google lead - I know which I'd prefer.

How long before Facebook begin offering similar Performance Marketing options?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lead Generation Marketing: Time for ROI to kill off CPA

When you think about it, CPA is possibly the most punishing metric created for lead generation marketing. The raison d'etre of lead generation is the unique process of collecting someone's contact details, nurturing them with great content and so convert over time.

The offline direct marketing world has long favoured ROI for direct mail campaigns because of the time it takes to get back results and the associated costs that are tied up in the campaign.

Whereas in the whizz-bang world of online, some bright spark managed to make CPA the official yardstick of campaign success. This creates an atmosphere of instant gratification which lumbers a massive burden on lead generation to perform instantly or die. Ultimately instant performance is down to where the consumer actually is in the buying cycle and how engaged they are with your brand. Using CPA metrics only tends to steer you away from the long tail of lead generation where careful lead nurturing extracts ever more conversions out of the same batch of leads.

ROI based lead generation and performance marketing allows longer-term planning and more investment in smarter ways to convert customers. It has never been cheaper to automate effective marketing communications to potential customers to ever more gently coax them down the marketing funnel.

So the next time someone gives you the CPA of a lead generation campaign, try asking back what is the end ROI and see what happens... nothing well...

The more we start to adopt ROI as the key metric in the lead generation industry, the more companies will invest long term in the channel to create longer lasting benefits we all need more of.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Lead Nurturing - Be the Sheep Dog

I last blogged about lead nurturing back in March 2011. One year on and great strides have been made in automated marketing technology which means nurture should now be - second nature.

However, it is not nearly exploited as much as it could be. With an increasingly time and money poor customer, it has never been more vital to engage prospects using a lead nurture marketing process. Nurturing through engagement go hand-in-hand unlocking sales that would have otherwise been lost. Techniques essential to nurturing include:

  • Communication - must be entertaining using appropriate style and tone for your audience
  • Free stuff - offer free information, games, video, gifts or vouchers 
  • Interaction - allow consumers to interact with your brand through social media channels
  • Personalisation - skilfully use personal details to craft more relevant sticky content

Once you have this mindset you also need to consider the best communication channel to employ. For instance, SMS is great for grabbing attention when you consider 95% of texts get read, but if your message is not considered important enough you risk alienating prospective customers. There is no hard and fast rule, for it could be highly effective to use SMS further down the nurturing process if you have failed to engage the consumer by email or phone but have a great marketing proposition to deliver. Depending on the value of the sale, a direct mail piece could be sent to those who have not yet responded but fit the perfect profile of your customer base.

So rule everything in when trying to engage Mr Consumer as you nurture him down the natural ravines of the purchasing funnel. Picture how a shepherd and his dog herd sheep into the pen using guile, patience and skill to ensure all are guided safely and happily to their destination.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Can you handle the Pressure of Performance Marketing?

It is said, 'You are only as good as yesterday's leads.' 

Performance Marketing must be one of the most scrutinised areas of modern marketing. One day you are weeding out lead fraud and validation issues and others you are constantly tinkering with optimisation options to extract more conversions from the same budget. Every day could be good, bad or indifferent. This is a daily grind or a daily pleasure, depending how well you are doing!

For Performance Marketing Executives to manage their time effectively and be successful, it is vital to streamline and automate as many lead marketing tasks as possible:
  • Set auto volume caps and quality thresholds by publisher and channel to optimise performance
  • Loop back real-time sales information rather than chase people for spreadsheets that have to be reformatted anyway
  • Experiment with staggered trigger welcome email frequency rather than blasting manually at unplanned times
  • Use API's to take real-time feeds into the database to save on manual uploads and internal IT resource
  • Create a repository of email/banner/co-reg creatives that be easily modified and reskined for different campaigns
  • Use tracking technology that requires as little manual intervention as possible

With these elements taking care of themselves it will free up more time where the real world experience and gut-feel of a true performance marketer can make the biggest impact i.e. the fun stuff!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Is your database built on quicksand?

I've got 5m names on my email database!  Well, I've got 10m on mine!  We've all heard the boasts of having humongous prospect databases without being backed up by any similar boasts about performance. Whether you are an email list owner or a blue-chip brand with a enquirer file - the problem remains the same.  In times of need when you email said database to generate revenue on a penny broadcast basis, it still returns a pitiful amount of value for the effort.  You can test all the subject lines, times of day and creative treatments in the world but if your database if not highly engaged with your brand it won't make a blind bit of difference.

So honestly ask yourself the question - Is your database built on quicksand?  Are you constantly topping up whilst the bottom falls out of it every month?  This strategy of diminishing returns can't go on forever!

In the case of databases, size simply doesn't matter.  The boast should be 'I've got a database that generates 10k customers for me/my clients every month!  Care about the size of the return not the number of random email addresses on file. This is something Groupon perfectly exemplifies as a marketing machine.  Their model tells them exactly how many customers they deliver for their advertisers every month. It is the role of the advertiser to package up the right incentives and margins to create long term value from the campaigns.

So try to change the mindset away from size of database towards size of return.  This focus will help build the proper foundations for a database judged on engagement and value. Then pretty soon you'll be boasting about its performance but never its size.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wanted - Co-reg Copywriters

For the many millions of lead generation budget that is spent on co-registration (co-reg) it's amazing how little time and money is spent on creating a compelling advertising creative that consumers want to engage with. Essentially marketers have a 6 word header and a further 50 words to convince a consumer to opt-in and respond to the offer.

I tend to use freelance copywriters for campaigns that is 1,000 times more effective than your average co-registration copy. Remember great copy not only increases the volume of leads generated but also raises the quality by recruiting people more relevant and in tune with the brand. Far too often, copy is left to the last minute and involves rehashing promotional blurb from a homepage - I admit I've been guilty of this in the past.

Great advert copy needn't be expensive and when you are spending millions generating leads online it is a small price to pay when you consider better copy can uplift conversions by min. 10%.

At the very least, if you are a last minute copywriter by default rather than choice, I recommend reading 'Olgivy on Advertising' to get the creative advertising juices flowing.

So if anyone out there describes themselves as a co-reg copywriter then be sure to drop me a line? - I think you are alone in this profession in the UK!

Friday, 13 January 2012

UK Exclusive - Google Affiliate Network is here

It has been rumoured for a long time, now Google has launched (albeit quietly) their very own UK affiliate network using the adsense publisher base. Is this good or bad news for the performance marketing industry? Only time will tell...

Should you want to sign-up to Google Affiliate Network, you'll get this bounce-back message:

Thanks you for your interest in Google Affiliate Network, a leading provider of affiliate marketing services and technologies. Please note that we are currently in limited beta outside of the United States and are only working with a small number of advertisers at this time. We'll keep your submitted information on file and contact you as soon as we expand our product offering.

Google Affiliate Network

As predicted at the start of the year, Google is turning up the heat in the lead generation and performance marketing space - making 2012 the most exciting yet. Watch out, you have been warned!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Detox your Lead Generation campaign before it's too late!

Last year, sales were walking in the door and your performance marketing garden was full of roses. Now things that used to fly aren't flying so high any more. That hard won extra budget only seems to be propping up a stalling campaign. There's no extra cash but something needs to be done - quick!

Don't be tempted to simply cut your way to your CPA target by negotiating down your leads costs and employing cheaper marketing tactics. Instead, put your lead generation campaign on Detox by giving it the five point health-check:
  1. Creative - Time to freshen-up advert copy, email creative, subject lines and from addresses
  2. Relevance - Are your prospects still as interested in the 2011 brand proposition?
  3. Audience - Tighten up the targeting to remove dead wood that's bringing down responses
  4. Incentive - Is that 5% off really pulling in the punters in todays aggressive discounted markets
  5. Conversion - Analyse leaks in the follow-up process from tele-script, email copy to DM pack that can cause those sales to fall through at the final hurdle
Put this plan into action and come Spring you'll be enjoying the results of a fresher more effective campaign.