Worth Your Time

Advertising as we know it is quickly heading towards extinction. Many would argue that it’s already extinct. This isn’t as gloomy as it might sound however because it is being replaced by more accessible, affordable, and powerful methods of interacting with your customers. The opportunities are so massive that it is difficult to understate them.

The only way to keep up with these changes is to get engaged with the technology and jump in. It also helps to read like it’s going out of style. Here are two fantastic (and free!) resources that are well worth your time if you have an interest in seeing where it’s all going and why.

The Cluetrain Manifesto

This book has been around for a while (published in 2001) but it was definitely ahead of its time and is 100% relevant today. Want to know why your customers are smarter than you? Want to know what to do about it?

FEED: The Razorfish Consumer Experiment

Razorfish is one of the top digital marketing agencies out there. This report reflects their current research into how connected consumers are interacting with social technologies and how it applies to marketers.



Looking for a sustainable competitive advantage? Try patience. There are no shortcuts to marketing your business. We live in a marketing culture obsessed with finding the right tactic to boost sales instantly; that one big idea that will immediately define a brand and differentiate it from competitors. Here’s a tip: If you really want a strategy that is unique, one that 90% of your competitors will not be able to duplicate, go with patience.

It’s not surprising that advertisers and agencies continue to search for a quick fix. We live in a world of instant gratification and, to be fair, there was a time when it was possible to get an edge on your competitor using clever offers pushed out to the masses with traditional advertising. So what’s changed? Attention. Today’s consumers are not paying attention to mass market advertising like they used to. There are too many ads in too many places and 99% are irrelevant to the audience that is exposed to them. Yet even with all the news of TV ads getting Tivo-ed, print ads being ignored, and direct mail going straight into to the trash you still see streams of hopeful business owners putting hard earned capital on the line to run a 4 week campaign expecting an immediate 2-to-1 return on the investment. Once they realize it’s not going as planned, they pull the ads and start searching for another magic bullet. It’s the marketing equivalent of yo-yo dieting.

Don’t fall into the trap. Once you have decided what and how you want to communicate with your customers, design a plan that allows you to implement that strategy consistently over a significant period of time. Treat your marketing plan as if it were any other operating expense such as rent, utilities etc. This will enable you to maintain a more consistent presence than your competitors and will allow your messaging to gradually seep into the minds of your customers. Realize that only a tiny fraction of the market is ready to buy your product at any given time. Your goal should be to reach customers well in advance of the transaction so that your brand is the first one they think of when the impulse hits.



The secret to great online marketing is relevancy. The reason so many advertisers get this wrong is because they try to apply traditional offline strategies to online campaigns. Traditional marketing is based on reach and frequency. The more eyeballs you can aggregate, the better, because only a small portion of the market is ready to buy at any given point in time. You cannot buy TV commercials that are only shown to people that need to buy a vacuum cleaner within the next 48 hours. This theory is completely reversed online. You can very easily – with a search campaign for example – buy ads that are only shown to people actively shopping for nickel-plated sprinkler heads or authentic decorative tumbleweeds. But with all the powerful targeting that online advertising offers, there is plenty of room for abuse.

When online advertisers start sacrificing relevancy for reach, they often end up with deception. This happens to me all the time on Ebay. I search for something like: “Fender Twin Reverb Guitar Amplifier” and receive a page full of results that all appear to be exactly what I’m looking for. But when I start clicking through to the items, I find that half of them are for things like copies of the user manual, promotional posters etc. instead of the actual amplifier itself. This isn’t Ebay’s fault by the way. It happens because merchants craft their listings for related products to appear as though they are the actual item. They are trying to take advantage of product search traffic in order to sell other stuff. It’s dishonest and does nothing but infuriate the very customers they’re trying to attract.

Doc Searls has an interesting post about online advertising that demonstrates why deceptive advertising gimmicks not only do not work, but could very well “pop” the online advertising “bubble.” The message for advertisers that want to get it right is simple – be relevant. The brilliance of online marketing lies in the ability to establish a true dialogue with people that are already interested in your business. It’s a quality, not quantity, based system.



People that plan advertising campaigns often spend a lot of time focusing on the negotiation and mechanics of purchasing ad space/time. It’s easy to get caught in this trap. Business owners naturally gravitate towards numbers as do the sales reps selling the products. Answering the “how many spots, banners, column inches, clicks etc. can I get for my budget” question seems like a logical way to gauge the kind of deal you are getting. There are two main problems with this philosophy. The first is that it is rarely useful or even possible to make a true value judgment about what you are purchasing using basic calculations such total budget/total units. The second – and most important – reason is that what you do with the advertising you purchase is infinitely more important than how much you actually buy.

Time and time again we have seen business owners or marketing directors spend months negotiating contracts and then scramble once the deal is done to come up with content. The message is almost an afterthought. This is a big mistake because the content of your message is the primary ROI driver. It does not matter how many extra commercials or other freebies you get if the messaging does not initiate a response. On the other hand even a terrible ad buy can often be salvaged if the content is remarkable.

If you are going to spend money marketing your business your focus should be on creating a relevant message that your customers will respond to. Do not make the mistake of spending all your time trying to figure out the nuances of negotiating advertising contracts or, even worse, delegating the task to a lower level employee. Find a professional media planning service that can create an optimal plan for your situation and let them do what they do best – negotiate great deals on your behalf. This frees your time to work on your message to make sure that the money you spend reaching out to your customers comes back to you in the form of increased sales.

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