Friday, October 18, 2013

Google Isn't Perfect and Why You Must Build Your Brand Beyond SEO & Online Marketing

My business depends on the popularity of direct mail. Of course it's no surprise then if I tell you that the past few years have been a little scary with all the popular attention digital marketing has received. What started with simple banner ads and basic Google adword campaigns has morphed into an all encompassing online lead generation strategy where only the strong survive. Those with the resources and smarts to ensure they consistently rank #1 in Google are capturing market share at unprecedented rates never before seen. And is this a fair system? Is trusting the wisdom of Google a fair way to decide the outcome of an economy? 

Today, if your not on page one of Google then you're all but dead to the online world looking for your services. The solution? Hire a really good SEO expert to do a number on your website. But, in doing so you run the risk of segmenting your brand away from potential customers. Take for instance the tale of two banks. Say I'm new to the Tulsa market, so I do a search for "Tulsa banks" in Google. Note - the results of this search were captured on October 14th, 2013 and are subject to change. At the top of this search is F&M Bank, a small local bank with nine Oklahoma locations and three in Dallas. In addition to F&M, four other local banks also reach page one but to my amazement, I have to go to page two to find Bank of Oklahoma (BOK). Not only is BOK the largest local bank in Tulsa, with over 100 Oklahoma locations, it's one of the 50 largest banks in the United States! My eyes must be deceiving me for how could BOK be on page two!?! 

What is it that F&M Bank is doing so well that BOK isn't? Well, maybe not anything. If I tweak my search to "Oklahoma banks", suddenly information about BOK appears but I have to go all the way to page six to see F&M Bank. So is F&M good for Tulsa but not the rest of Oklahoma?  Not at all, but their SEO and content marketing strategy could potentially limit them to these types of results. Because with SEO you have to make choices. And these choices often disqualify you from a key segment of customers you would like to work with.

One of those critical choices F&M Bank has made that influences their Google ranking on certain keywords is with their website title, "F&M Bank | Tulsa - Owasso, OK | Dallas - Fort Worth, TX". By including Tulsa in their title, they are making F&M Bank more relevant to Google in regards to being affiliated with Tulsa. And because Tulsa is a relatively small market, something as little as a title can make a huge deal. But not surprisingly though, they do not show up on page one of a "Dallas banks" search, due to greater competition in a much bigger market (in fact they don't even rank in the top 100 results for "Dallas banks"). So how exactly can F&M expect to grow in the Dallas market when there is little chance they'll ever rank high enough to gain attention via internet search results? Note - the Google algorithm uses hundreds of factors to index and rank web pages with page titles being just one small influential cog in the big machine. To understand other ways you can influence your ranking, consult an SEO specialist or contact me and I'll be happy to give you a starting point.

The reality that F&M Bank and businesses everywhere face is that in order to gain attention and grow, more traditional forms of advertising must be incorporated. The last thing that I would tell you is that SEO isn't important. To the contrary it is extremely important. But, SEO and content marketing is a bit of a zero-sum game typically not effective enough to enable a business to gain all the customers it needs to thrive. And that is exactly the reason why a supposedly old-age business like mine, that offers print and direct mail solutions, can continue to service customers, add value and actually grow our sales in the year 2013.

Every year, billions of advertising dollars are spent with newspapers, billboards, magazines, radio, television, email marketing, word of mouth, POP displays, branding campaigns, messaging campaigns, print ads and of course direct mail. So, for anyone to tell you that print or any of these other forms of advertising are dying, they just aren't educated enough on marketing to realize that all of these continue to generate customers a return on investment. And perhaps the greatest irony of continuing traditional advertising methods is that they typically help you improve the results of your overall SEO and content marketing plan. But because you may then spend less on digital marketing, the fact that going traditional still works is the dirty little truth many SEO marketers just don't want you to know.

Author's note - I'd love to hear from you about what traditional advertising methods work for you. If you are kind enough to comment on this post or share with your network, please give a shout out to your own favorite old school advertising method. #directmail

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why We Tip In Cash And Still Love The Mail

Every Door Direct Mail (pictured above)
My wife and I were sharing dinner recently at a Tulsa restaurant when it was time to pay. Our server had done a good job of being attentive while not overbearing so we agreed that a gracious tip was in order. As we customarily do, we handed the bill with our credit card to the waiter and proceeded to both open up our wallets and start digging for any bit of cash that we might have. Unfortunately, on this night though we only had a few dollars (about 10% of the bill) so we put the whole tip on our card.

This story might sound familiar to many of the cash tippers out there. For us cash tippers, we know the value of a cash tip as it’s the only definite way to know that your waiter has received the full reward for their good service. The value of a cash tip is that it’s real, in physical form, with every penny ready to deliver to exactly the right person. They take it home that night. And while physical cash holds no greater value than cash on a card, the closer and more physical it becomes, the greater the emotional value grows.

If we stop to look around at the world we live in, the cash tip phenomenon is at play all around us. Things become more valuable in physical form. And this is exactly why something like direct mail continues to be such a powerful advertising tool despite the significantly cheaper method of email marketing. Direct mail is a non-filtered form of print advertising that has the ability to connect with a person in a far greater way than an email never will. And despite what online marketers love to tell people, direct mail is here to stay. In fact, smart marketers are moving back to traditional mail because of it’s proven ability to create an easily measurable return on investment.

A recent study by the marketing firm Epsilon Targeting indicated that 73% of U.S. Consumers prefer direct mail for brand communications because they can read the information at their convenience. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the study goes on to state that 73% of Americans say they receive a lot of emails that they simply do not open and that 70% received more emails in the past year than the year before. The pendulum towards email marketing over traditional direct mail can only swing so far before over saturation dilutes a message completely. 

The best marketers understand the importance of cross channel marketing. A well constructed multi-touch campaign that combines direct mail, an inbound call center and email is sure to outperform any single form of communication. But to exclude direct mail is short sighted. Just as a cash tip is the easiest way to ensure you are properly tipping your waiter, direct mail is the easiest and least invasive way to ensure your message gets to exactly the right person. And just like cash, it becomes extremely powerful in physical form. And if the recipient has any interest in the message at all, it will probably get saved, even if just for a few days. The power of a direct mail piece sitting inside of your potential customer’s home is obvious. If the recipient simply places direct mail on a table, takes it with them to work, attaches it to the fridge or cuts it up and inserts it into their wallet, direct mail has the potential to be viewed hundreds of times before it’s tossed away, either directly or indirectly. It’s billboard marketing inside a home. It’s cash in your wallet. It’s tangible. It’s real.