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Advertising Is Broken!

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You may have heard that a frog won’t jump out of a pot that’s slowly brought to a boil. He’ll just sit there and die a slow, blissfully ignorant spa death as the water warms so gradually that he doesn’t notice. The world of marketing is changing. If you’re a local business that invests in digital marketing, you may be seeing signs that tell you the water is warming:

  • Every year the critical conversion keywords cost a little more.
  • Every year the organic results move further and further down the page--there are always more ads and more people competing for the same real estate.
  • Every year more aggregators and directories show up ahead of local businesses in organic results (think Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, Avvo, Healthgrades, TripAdvisor).
  • And now Google and Amazon are competing with new ad units or more alarmingly, directly with local businesses.

Every year it gets a little more expensive to get the same results. The water is warming. But wait—you did notice this, which means you’re not just going to sit and be boiled alive. Spoiler—the frog doesn’t either. Turns out the tale simply isn’t true. The frog actually does jump out when the water gets too warm. And as a local business, you’re feeling the effects of the changing world. You’re trying to be as smart as a frog without a death wish. Which brings us to the REAL problem. The world is changing, the water is warming but all the marketing companies are telling you it’s fine. They’re the ones telling you to ignore your lizard brain. Their answer? Just spend more and enjoy the soak.

And maybe you’ve noticed something else. The TV guy tells you that TV is the answer. The radio lady tells you radio is the answer. The outdoor guy tells you billboards are the answer. The PPC lady tells you to buy more PPC. The SEO company wants you to spend more to keep your ranking. And you have a listings company, a programmatic vendor, a social vendor, a reviews vendor, a reputation vendor... The list is almost endless: direct mail, fridge magnets, geofencing, chat, loyalty, trade mags, plus proprietary channels like Pandora, YouTube, Hulu, Yelp and Amazon. And every time a new marketing vendor shows up they have case studies that PROVE that their solution (the one they happen to be selling) is the RIGHT solution for a business just like yours. How can you possibly know what to choose? You don’t want to be the frog, but it’s these very vendors who are fueling the fire that’s raising the water temperature in your pot: “Spend more and spend it with me!” The entire universe of marketing is trying to very incrementally do things a tiny bit better. No one is trying to do it differently. Everyone is skating to where the puck is, not where the puck is going.

You’ve all heard the funny/sad cliche that half a business’s marketing efforts work—they just don’t know which half. That’s why it’s so tempting to try the solution that the most compelling sales guy happens to be offering. There’s really no way to know what will work for a business like yours. Unless…. Unless there actually is.

If you want to know what kind of marketing will actually work for your business, you need to uncover a few very key, very basic bits of information. And if you know these critical data points you can actually quantify your marketing solution. It’s super simple too:

  1. Do you have a well-known brand or an unknown brand?
  2. Does your product/service fill a known need or an unknown need for your ideal customers?
  3. Is your product/service high research or low research?

This is simple, but not easy. It takes some serious research and some dedicated tools to accurately quantify these key measures of your business. It starts by asking a few questions so you can begin to know which of the below four quadrants your business currently resides in. How well known is your brand? And how well known is the need for your product/service?

I’ve provided some examples to get us started:

Nespresso, Roto-Rooter, Listerine, Fence Repair and Garage Door Replacement

Known Need:

Imagine you come home from work and there’s water all over your bathroom floor as your toilet is slowly gurgling up in reverse. You have a very known need for a plumber. Known need puts you on the right side of the vertical axis.

Unknown Need:

I’ve previously told the story of my Nespresso machine purchase. I was not actively in the market for a Nespresso machine—I was shown an ad for one and I realized it would be a perfect gift for my wife. If you offer a product or service that a big chunk of your ideal customers are not actively searching for, that puts you on the left side of the vertical axis.

Known Brand:

You need to be honest here. Boosting yourself or your brand will just result in running the wrong kind of marketing and will get you crappy results. How well known are you known to your ideal consumers? How do you stack up compared to your primary competitors? Pro tip—if you’re a multi-location business this answer varies widely by market.

So let’s walk through a few examples to help you understand how to accurately assess yourself.

  • Home service companies generally live in the known need half of the quadrant. Just like plumbing, you tend to know if you need some fence repair or a new garage door.
  • Most new verticals tend to live on the left side of the known need axis. As a product, service or industry is emerging, the ideal customers don’t yet know they have a need. I mentioned Nespresso for me personally: I didn’t NEED a cup of coffee when I bought that. I also didn’t NEED a new coffee maker—I already had one. But when I saw the ad, I remembered that we stayed in a hotel once that had a Nespresso machine and that my wife told me she liked it. She’s also mentioned that she hates making a full pot of coffee when I’m traveling.
  • Another great example of unknown need (and at the time, unknown brand) is the classic marketing tale of Listerine. Listerine existed for a few decades in the late 19th/early 20th centuries as a general antiseptic. It wasn’t until the 1920s when the company started advertising the scary and socially awkward condition of halitosis, for which they conveniently had the cure, that sales really took off. If you don’t have sufficient demand for the stuff your company sells, expect to be mired in the dreaded quadrant four until you do.

The biggest mistake that local businesses make, and the one I personally witness over and over again, is the fallacy of demand. Too many brands and businesses tell me that they only have a budget for conversion marketing—they can’t afford to “waste” dollars on awareness or branding. And time and again, a conversion-based PPC campaign gets deployed only to result in a sky-high cost per lead and incredibly terrible conversion. If consumers don’t know they have the problem that you solve, or if they don’t know you exist, the likelihood of conversion from PPC is incredibly low. Without demand, your supply is useless.

Research Level

The last component that you need to consider when designing a marketing solution is how much research goes into the selection of the products/services in your vertical. If you walk into your house and your floor is covered in water, there are only a few things you need to know as you’re desperately looking for a plumber on the internet: How many stars do they have? Do they answer their phone? How quickly can they get here?

But now imagine that you’re considering a very costly financial commitment like getting your foundation repaired. Or imagine you need to decide what kind of assisted living facility is best for your grandmother. The notion of searching for “nursing home near me”, clicking on a PPC ad and selecting Nana’s long-term care facility based on that one interaction is laughable.

High research categories require more than just PPC. You need content, offers, video information, how-to infographics and lots and lots of information about why you’re different or better. You need to run marketing campaigns that leverage those tactics: proactive advertising and not just reactive marketing.

Grid of proactive vs reactive advertising.

The last thing to consider here is that your business exists primarily in one of the four quadrants. But your consumers exist in all four at any given time. The key to creating a marketing solution that’s actually, finally effective is knowing both sets of information. Where are YOU in the quadrants? And how are your customers distributed in the quadrants? The marketing tactics to deploy are based on that combination of information. A representative, completely non-comprehensive sample of that omnichannel solution matrix looks like this:

Known vs unknown brand.

And when you know where you are in the quadrants and you know where your ideal customers are in the quadrants, you can design an intelligent, effective omnichannel marketing solution to reach the most people the most effectively.

Known vs unknown brand.

So if your marketing vendors aren’t running you through an exercise like this, you’re the frog in the pot. They’re trying to skate you to where the puck is or worse, where it used to be. 10 years ago an SEO-only strategy could get you a lot of business. Five years ago a PPC-only strategy could get you a lot of business. The world has changed. A single-channel strategy isn’t going to work for much longer. And a non-quantified solution is just a guess. Marketing is changing, so jump out of the pot. Now. Don’t let your marketing providers just let you boil alive.

In a sad, surprise ending to this story, it turns out that the current landscape of marketing solution providers are really the frogs. All the one-trick ponies are right there in the pot with you. Just ask them. You’ll hear that they want you to enjoy the warm water.

Marketing has changed. Jump out of that pot.

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