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Marketing Agency Since 1979

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Colorful Tips for Serious Marketers

Need A B2B Video? Four Things To Consider First…

Video presentations for B2B companies are no longer the luxury sales tool they once were. The world learns visually more than any other way, and visitors to a company’s website are more engaged, easier to convert, and remain longer when there’s a video to play. Product demonstrations, explainers, and webinars are among the most popular videos in the B2B community, and they need not be expensive to produce. What’s more, the ROI from video with audience-focused content is much higher than any other marketing activity if the right production steps are taken.

Simple, self-made company videos like whiteboard presentations where two employees stand in front of an actual whiteboard and explain a concept of some kind are the most inexpensive to produce. They can also be very effective in conveying key messages over a series. If tagged and titled properly, they can be a boon for a company’s website in terms of SEO. Unfortunately, they can also suffer from poor production values, reflecting similarly on the company’s products and services. On the other end of the spectrum, a video with high production values that covers a variety of topics in a single sitting might come off as highly impressive, but fail to really connect. In both cases, the losses are rarely offset by the gains.

Most companies want a well-produced video that conveys their message successfully across a variety of mediums.  To accomplish this requires the careful consideration of a great number of factors, but there are four main questions to answer before even beginning the production process.

  1. Do you have a script? Countless productions over the years have begun with a passionate need for a video but no succinct idea about what it should say. The default was always a video that explained the company’s capabilities and showed off the company’s facilities in an upbeat, attractive manner. It’s easy to see why most companies feel the need for such a thing, but too often these sorts of comprehensive visual overviews duplicate the work of the website and rarely do visitors need to hear your company’s story at your pace rather than theirs. Users jump around a website depending on what interests them and it’s impossible to guess what they’ll want to know first outside of your main selling proposition. Taking the time to write a script and at least a rough storyboard helps prevent the decision to “shoot everything” which always leaves holes in the edit and distills a company’s purpose and story down to its simplest form, increasing impact. Ideally, you want to focus on the specific thing that makes you special and which also matches the needs of your audience. Once you’ve figured that out, decide the best way to convey that single, special thing to that audience with – and this is important – much better things to do. Build out from there if you must, but longer is almost never better.
  2. Does the vision for your video have to include footage of your facility? Location shoots will drive up your production costs more than any other factor, especially if the video company you hire has to travel a considerable distance and is instructed to shoot “as much as they can”. Manufacturing plants, IT tech centers and the like are often in out-of-the-way low rent locales, and no offense, folks, many of them look exactly the same. Often, they’re a little messy and I don’t know how much your average employee loves to have their picture taken (they loathe it). The results can backfire if your location isn’t vitally important to telling your story and supporting your message. These days, there are graphical wonders that can be done to existing imagery that was paid for when your website was developed. Similarly, stock footage and clever graphics can make an even stronger impression and increase retention. The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars shooting a bunch of footage that will only distract viewers from the important information you want them to retain. So, shoot the place silly if you must…but only if you must.
  3. How are you going to use the video? Another default response is “Everywhere!”. It’s totally understandable to want to wring out every drop of your video’s promotional power, but with the multitude of devices that play video files you can never design one presentation that perfectly fits them all. For example, how often do you watch blockbuster films on your iPhone? It works in a pinch, but you’re still missing a lot of detail and production value designed for larger screens. Conversely, large font explainer videos can lend an obnoxious tone to proceedings if you’re blue-toothing to your home entertainment center. There is a way to optimize video elements to work on most devices, but it helps to know where the video will be shown most often and who will be seeing it. In some cases, audio may be critical to proper messaging. In others, it’s a waste of time. There are other environmental factors at play as well, like needing a presentation with a very loud visual impact that loops at a trade show that would virtually assault viewers in a delicate meeting atmosphere. Figure out the job, and then design the tool. Sure, you can hammer a screw but it’s really not the best way to get it into the wall, is it?
  4. Do you have an approximate budget? There are ways to accommodate almost any budget, but it’s helpful to know what you want to spend and allocate a certain percentage of that number to the various stages of the production. Not only will you get a more balanced presentation, you will also have resources left over for inevitable reshoots, re-edits, and ongoing promotional activities. Videos are a lot like websites: they’re not set in stone. You can add to them, rearrange them and stick access to them in lots of places you may not be able to plan for in the developmental stages. Elastic budgets are nice, but they can also delay production by opening the vision up too wide and sending decision-makers into endless rethinks. Tighter budgets make for tighter messages and tighter rollouts. That’s not to say that what constitutes a tight budget is the same for every company, but limits can be useful for signing off on the particulars and getting it working in your marketplace.

There are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of micro-decisions that transpire during the production of a video, but if you know what you want to say, how you need to say it, where you’re going to say it and how much saying it will cost, you’ll thank yourself dozens, even hundreds, of times along the way.

– S. Norton

Scott Norton has produced dozens, even hundreds, of video presentations of varying lengths and budgets for B2B companies in the industrial, high-tech, and manufacturing marketplaces. For more information on producing a video for your company, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Psst…B2B Websites Need Updating, Too.

Small to mid-sized B2B manufacturers are a busy bunch. Part of the reason SMS came into being was to help these kinds of companies focus on marketing as they often become too mired in the complex, insular, day-to-day activities of sticking to production schedules and finding increasingly efficient ways to make stuff. To say that the advent of Internet marketing disrupted their marketing-as-usual more than most would be an understatement. In many ways, they felt they simply weren’t suited.

For example, many OEM industrial products are meant to be installed inside other industrial products so giving them a glamorous digital roll out never quite felt ready for prime time. Technically complex product specs rarely jumped off the screen accompanied by iconic imagery and alluring ad-speak. Prized facilities were often cluttered with the decidedly less-than-photogenic tools of the trade – mountains of boxes, metal tubing, spools of wire, splotches of tinfoil – making capturing promotional images a series of compromises that, like the old George Gobel joke, prompted companies to feel like “the world was a tuxedo and they were a pair of brown shoes”.

Creating informative, eye-catching websites for companies with predominately pragmatic mindsets was done extremely carefully so as not to seem, to put it politely, “surplus to common sense”. Every once in a while a clever tag was approved or a funny mascot incorporated to break the mundanity, but most often a bit of color, a few appropriate images and some tightly written technical copy sufficed. Throw up a few more pages for a little history, a couple of bios and a contact form and you were hard-pressed to convince a client they needed anything else. They were who they were and if someone needed them there was a number they could call.

These days, modest placeholder sites with standard value propositions still exist. The problem is, you rarely see them. The reason is as simple as it is seismic in its implications: they haven’t been updated enough for search engines to care about them. If a company’s website is listed on a number of popular online directories providing enough active backlinks, no one will really notice for awhile. But at some point it becomes clear that a site actually has to do something besides function as an electronic piece of literature to rank in searches. That’s where things get cloudy. Most B2B websites aren’t built to entertain. At best they’re serviceable technical resources for folks who already know what they’re looking for so what the heck are they supposed to do, tell jokes?

There are a number of things a site can do to start becoming more visible, and the good news is these things can be done a little at a time so as to not put undo strain on frequently tight budgets. Who are we kidding; budgets are always “tight”, aren’t they? I’ve never met any loose-fitting budgets personally, so SMS programs are designed for the snug ones. We start by building our customer’s websites to pass stringent Google health tests so they’re not vulnerable to algorithmic penalties. Beyond that, there are a host of relatively simple things one can do to make them more attractive to search engines. We can make sure the URLs include the most important keywords, and that the titles and subtitles on key pages handle the others. We can add alt-tags to images so that search bots find them relevant and interesting. And yes, we can add informative content that reflects a company’s industry and products. The best part is all can be done a little at a time, and we’ve developed programs* that bundle the important stuff into an affordable monthly cost.

What we’re talking about is something we continue to talk about and need to keep talking about: website optimization. Websites aren’t done when they’re finished. They require stages of SEO improvements and design updates that will make them visible, attract clicks, and engage users. Sometimes a blog post or two does the trick. Sometimes a pleasant navigational experience inspires engagement, instills confidence and extends visits. It’s not productive to assume that a website is “good enough” or that the implementation of one activity carries the load. It’s better to run the reports, check the stats, research the competition and move a few of the boxes so that the plant floor looks great from at least one angle.

SMS has grown with our clients. It’s a productive partnership that requires understanding, communication and trust. So trust me when I tell you that whoever you are and whatever you do, the website you use to promote your products and services needs updating. If it’s not true at this very minute, it will be very soon. What’s also true is that we’ve come up with more than a few ways to make sure you can afford to make the updates you need.

*The SMS Web Management Services Pro Account now includes monitoring of all Google Ads with unlimited alterations to existing ads. For more info about that and other affordable SMS services, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Let’s Bounce: When Short Sessions Are A Good Thing

A client recently asked us to define “bounce rate” and undoubtedly the question arose from a supposed red flag on their analytics report. We’re trained to perceive bounce rates as bad things – flat-out rejections of our content – bringing on plenty of professional anxiety. This can be true in some cases, but not all. Depending on what the “post-click landing page” is designed to do, spending a short amount of time there may actually indicate that our content is on the right rack.

Bounce Rate is is defined as “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate from the site after viewing only one page”. Quelle horreur! Why did they leave? How could they not have clicked onto our products page and exhaustively explored all of our offerings? Where did we fail? Does our website have bad breath? Well, your website only failed if the page the visitor was looking at was designed to have them stay awhile and perhaps navigate to other pages. High intent, long-stay users on B2B websites are few and far between in general, so unless your website is deeply enriched with in-demand resource content, visits are going to be on the shorter side.

There could be many reasons that a user has left your domain, such as, yes, low-engagement copy or their finding that what they thought they were getting was something very different. Those are relatively simple fixes. Copy can be rewritten to be easier to read and more engaging and referring links can be more clear. But what if the page is actually set up in such a way that the user gets exactly what they want quickly making it easy to do their business and immediately embedding them into the marketing cycle? For B2B websites that primarily exist to capture qualified leads through forms and RFQs, in many cases the faster the bounce the better.

What we’re talking about, essentially, are websites with pages that are adequately optimized for conversions. The post-click copy is easily readable and closely matches referral links, forms are only as long as they absolutely have to be, CTA buttons are easy to find (inside 3 seconds!) and don’t resemble ads, and page loads are quick and breezy. If your linked pages don’t match these descriptions, you may see them back-buttoned or closed out. In some cases, users may click around the site because they’re not getting enough info from the page they landed on. This kind of extended site engagement can be a false positive, as users have clearly become fatigued with a landing page that was intended to convert.

Incidentally, the use of of the term “landing page” here is multi-fold; any page can be considered a landing page if it results from a clicked link. Many refer to “landing pages” as those pages that convert from a Google ad. It’s a good place to start because if we’re carefully designing our paid traffic pages to convert, why not handle the free organic ones the same way? Content is key to organic SEO which could suggest that more is better, but not always on the same page unless the content is specifically written to be read, as in blog posts. Blog pages are ideal for adding content and are an efficient way to compete organically without overloading the website and fatiguing the user. Elsewhere, brief, image-accompanied bursts that deep-link to extended content works fine but overall it’s best to keep it light, tight and driving the conversion.

So, try and relax. In an ever-expanding field of competition where huge sites from giant industry juggernauts often dominate traffic, there is still plenty of market share for smaller websites that are well-suited for engaging the user, quickly servicing their needs, and sending them on their way.

For more information on how well-optimized landing pages can transform your website into a lead conversion machine, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

 

Why “Scientific” Marketing Services?

While attending PittCon 2019 last week in Philadelphia, I experienced a flood of professional nostalgia. Forty years ago my father, Robert Norton, founded Scientific Marketing Services, Inc. to address the specific marketing needs of companies in the scientific marketplaces. He saw an opportunity to service clients with a unique structure that quoted on a project-by-project basis without budget-straining retainer fees, and offered a wide array of in-house creative and fulfillment services that avoided cascading multiple vendor markups. Most importantly, he felt that a marketing agency should know their clients’ markets and speak their language. He was right. There were no shortage of companies literally cheering after being told they wouldn’t have to write their own copy, and meetings rarely resulted in a polite parting of ways. SMS was built for profitable relationships that lasted for decades.

All of that is still true. Forty years on, we continue to fully service or seamlessly complement our clients’ often complex marketing needs, but have expanded into other high-tech B2B industries such as manufacturing, processing, healthcare and more. We’ve shepherded clients through economic recessions and technological revolutions, keeping them visible and getting them found. Walking the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and stopping to talk to familiar and unfamiliar faces was a refresher course in how things really do remain the same despite a constantly changing world. Companies are still looking for affordable ways to extend budgets and bring their products and services to market. Their messages may be more electronic these days, but they still need to connect in the same way. They need to reach the right people and convey what’s “in it for them” as succinctly and cost-effectively as possible.

So, back to the word “scientific”. SMS continues to broaden our scope of clients beyond the scientific marketplaces, and there was some discussion years back about rebranding as “Specialized Marketing Services”. Doing so, we felt, could loosen the market reins while maintaining focus on the kinds of B2B companies that best suited our experience and structure. What’s more, advancements in communication technologies allowed marketers to achieve unprecedented statistical depth within the various marketing disciplines. Troves of data are now mined to inform marketing initiatives boasting pinpoint precision, rendering small, full-service agencies a rare breed. SMS has dug deeply into the data-mining philosophy with a wide variety of in-house digital programs, but selecting one highly-specialized sales partner for each marketing initiative is increasingly the order of the day, bringing many companies back to the start with multiple vendors needing to find ways to work together without siphoning too many dollars from their clients’ marketplaces.

Quite often the result is companies either returning to old form with sales teams and flesh-pressing contacts, or allowing one or two trendy (and potentially expensive) Internet search engine tools to carry the full marketing weight. The former often requires staff to work on 100% commission, while the latter fails to properly engage, relegates lead generation to search engines alone, and forces one or two “marketing people” to wear more hats than there are hooks. Programs begin and are left unfinished. Remote salespeople lose motivation and lack the in-house knowledge to properly service accounts. Marketing efforts – if they can even be considered as much – become a merry-go-round of unrealized ideas that leave general managers feeling distrustful and desperate. Again, we find ourselves back at the beginning.

Which is why SMS has retained our structure, and our name. Sure, there’s a lot of required homework and perpetual learning curves, but forty years on we still feel strongly that companies need a reliable full-service marketing partner with proven experience who will research their clients’ markets, learn their daily activities, customize a thoroughly considered budget plan that includes an effective marketing mix, and regard all technologically advanced marketing tools with a critical eye. We do believe there’s something of a “science” to marketing and that the smallest details matter, but we don’t believe that new is always better or that allocating more resources necessarily leads to better results. In fact, one definition of the term “scientific method” involves “careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed”. It covers rather nicely how SMS came about, and perhaps why we’re still here.

Maybe it’s too hard to change after forty years. Maybe we’re stuck in our ways. More likely, it’s just how we’re built: to help companies grow through careful, considered and affordable marketing programs.

– S. Norton

For more information on how SMS’ unique structure can keep your company competitive despite the ever-changing technological landscape, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

 

Hey, Siri…is my website optimized for voice search?

Ever tell Siri you love her? Try it. 🙁

By now, most of us are talking to our electronic devices. I don’t mean the kind of brash insulting we sometimes resort to when our phones or tablets fail to do what we want them to, but the kind of talking that actually expects an answer. Personally, I find it a little unsettling. Perhaps that’s due to the “uncanny valley of communication” it presents. Talking to an near-sentient artificial being feels almost natural, yet still unnatural enough to keep me emotionally off balance. I have to confess to unplugging my Alexa for a sense of privacy immediately after thanking it for giving me an answer to a silly question. It’s all still so weird, man.

As weird as it may seem to me, nearly 60 percent of searches are now done on a mobile device, and more and more of these searches are done using one’s voice rather than engaging in the often tedious process of typing in actual words using the world’s tiniest keyboards. In fact, according to a recent Internet trend report, at least 50 percent of searches will be done “through image or speech” by the year 2020. Given the obvious, it’s high time we start regarding our searchable content in terms of how people “speak” as opposed to how they “type”.

Search engines were introduced – are you sitting down? – in the mid 1990s. Since then we’ve all gotten pretty good at inputing just the right keywords into our search bars to get only those results that come closest to what we want. Likewise, digital marketers have been carefully including those keywords into their web copy to attract search engine bots. And while we’ve been enjoying this electronically symbiotic relationship for decades, things are about to change. We’re going to have to start thinking with our mouths, so to speak. In other words, copy is going to have to become more conversational in order to compete for search rankings.

Does this mean that web copywriters are going to have to become proficient in memes and slang? Dunno, dude. Sorta? Actually, it means a few things that make a lot of sense. For one, conversational searches are generally longer than typical keyword searches. We’re talking more like 7, 8 and 9 words as opposed to 2 or 3. So, instead of typing “digital marketing help” into your browser, you might say “find me agencies that do digital marketing” ending with maybe a “please” or perhaps a “right now, dammit”. Easy enough to understand, but does it also suggest that marketers are going to have to swap out tight, succinct copy for something that reads like a transcript of two people talking over a beer? Not exactly.

The best way (so far) to add conversational copy on your website is through your FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page. Don’t have one? Tsk, you should. Users expect FAQ copy to be conversational and new copy is very easy to add. FAQ pages are also fantastic for SEO and can be as long as we want them to be, expanding into deep, topic-heavy tomes of resource material. Simply add a search function and your visitors will not only find you, they’ll be happy they did.

And to all of those B2B industrial and manufacturing marketers out there who may be wondering if their more niche audiences are using voice search to find them and are now starting to worry that they may have to redo their website and/or add an in-depth FAQ page, I say “Bruh…chill”. Most searches are for learning to perform relatively mundane tasks like “how to boil an egg” or obtaining local, general content like “where can I get a good massage”. Still, make no mistake, eventually everyone will have to answer the call to some extent or another.

Werd.

– S. Norton

Wading Into the Web: Transitioning Into Digital Marketing

As advertising and brand building goes from print to the web, many B2B companies are feeling increasing pressure to reallocate marketing resources towards the new digital frontier. The company website – once a place to promote the company’s message and capabilities – is now a dynamic and sensitive marketing tool. With the advent of search engine marketing (SEM), social media and Google Ads we now talk about a company’s web presence.  Words like optimization, maintenance, content, landing pages, analytics, and conversions have taken over the conversation, tempting marketers to dive into a rapidly changing landscape of selling and promotion before they’re in the right position to do so.

So how do we make the transition into digital efficiently, affordably and without hurting our brands? Well, I’m glad you asked. The first thing I would tell you is don’t dive, wade. For instance, if you cut off print display advertising completely and throw all of that money into Google Ads you are relying on a bidding war to maintain your visibility. Approximately 80% of a company’s web traffic comes from branded searches, meaning the customer was looking for them by name. They know the name through a legacy of print advertising and packaging that has built trust over time, but a regime change in a customer’s company could throw much of that trust out of the window. Having some print presence in the right books could make the difference when Internet searches have leveled the playing field and more market share is up for grabs.

Speaking of the right books, it makes sense to do a thorough review of where you’re placing print space and where that money might be better spent in digital. Call your reps (or have your marketing agency’s buyer call them) and put them through their paces. Let them sell you again on their circulation and cough up a few metrics. They may have other ways for you to take advantage of their own online presence and as we’ve explained before, they might even give you free stuff. Take it all in and carefully consider each option. It may also be wise to ask your customers where they search for new products. Do they still use print? Which books? How often? Their answers may surprise you and guide you in a new direction.

Deciding what portion of your resources to direct to digital should also be done carefully. These days, there are more digital marketing companies than you can count and some will charge a flat monthly or yearly rate for services that fail to justify the expense. If they’re asking for it all up front, be wary. They’re the equivalent of the startup vinyl fencing companies of a few years ago. The materials were relatively inexpensive to buy and all one had to do – or so one assumed – was dig a few holes and click the pieces together. Everyone was suddenly in the business…until they weren’t. I am almost positive that everyone reading this has seen at least one installation that has fallen apart and been left to decay over the ensuing millennia.

Not every digital program fits every company. Knowledge of a specific market is essential for making a Google Ads campaign, for example, work properly. And all landing pages should at least match your company’s look and/or website with copy that shares company values and puts the user first. A picture may be worth a thousand words but to Google it’s only worth the few in its tag. Content that reflects the ad and closes the sale is paramount. In fact, there are dozens of decisions that need to be made correctly to build a strong chain of ad-to-landing page relevance and once that chain is established it needs to be monitored, maintained and when necessary, repaired. This isn’t a slap-together job with a one-time fee but it also shouldn’t cost you the bulk of your resources to be successful.

All of this is to say: take it slow and get deeper over time. Digital marketing tools can be powerful but they still require the right blend and balance. That’s why SMS has designed three basic web management services programs that gradually increase in depth and complexity (to view, click here). We understand which services companies need most and we offer them a little at a time. We monitor the results and weigh all the choices. Some companies are ready to start with more, while others still need to take their first steps. In the end the goal is to get companies balancing the right initiatives so that they don’t hurt their brand or bank accounts as they make the transition.

By all means enter the digital pool, the water’s fine. The shock to avoid is the one that comes from diving in too deep and too fast.

B2B Branding: Values Over Bonafides

Before we get started, consider this perhaps oversimplified and playful adage that branding your company is like building a fort: no one really cares about the materials you used to build it, they just want to know if it will keep their parents out. Or maybe the bonafides are the fort’s solid construction and plenty of room for comic books and the greater value is being free of watchful, judgmental eyes and the shared love of said comic books. Hmm…getting closer but still not quite hitting the mark. Let’s try for real.

Many B2B websites like to talk about tradition, quality and excellence. They proudly brandish ISO certificates and show glamorous photos of clean looking products with headlines that boast of reliability. These are all good things, and once upon a time, they were enough. A smart logo on a box did most of branding’s heavy lifting, and attentive customer service did the rest. Again, these are all really good things for a company to be known for but today they’re more or less expected. Additional bonafides such as being open 24-7 to every country around the world and the ability to contact almost everyone at the company when it suits the customer is somewhat industry dependent but for the most part also par for the course.

So now that your competitors have as much opportunity to get in front of your customers and prospects as your company does with “never closed” websites that are accessible with handheld devices everywhere there is Internet service, how can a company truly set themselves apart? The answer lies in user-focused messaging that shares your customer’s values. To better understand what that means, let’s look at some key points about what branding really is or has become.

A brand is a company’s personality and represents its relationship with its customers.

Personality is most often expressed by a company look and logo, but it’s much more than that. Personality involves shared values in terms of not just excellence and dependability but also caring about things that go beyond our day-to-day routines. Harvard Business Review defines it as “a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand’s higher purpose or broad philosophy”. Do you manufacture your products to make a living and help others make theirs? Of course, but you may also make them to help the world become a healthier place or advance our knowledge about who we are and where we’re going. Think bigger picture and find a way to express it succinctly.

Good branding is about quality of interactions, not quantity.

I’ve heard many times that it’s important to “hit” your customers and prospects as often as possible in order to be there just when they need you. I would say it’s better to anticipate when they’ll need you and be there in the right way. If it’s obvious that your marketing initiatives are template based or “boilerplate”, you could be scaring business away. Everyone wants to feel special, so make sure your interactions with them are designed to do that. What really helps is to genuinely believe your customers (and, I might add, your customer’s customers) are special. If you don’t, you may need to rethink your profession. And here’s a doozy of a stat from HBR: 45% of consumers will unfollow a brand on social media if their platform is dominated by self-promotion. Whether your company is B2C or utilizes social media or not, there’s plenty to take from that.

Successful branding boosts customer loyalty…and profits. 

Consistent branding that focuses on building an audience instead of simply direct sales pays dividends. According to desktop software publisher Lucid Press, there’s a 23% average revenue increase resulting from branding consistently. Think content marketing is a waste of time? Okay, but 91% of B2B marketers disagree with you. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute 89% of them think branded content is more important than sales and lead generation, and 72% think it’s more important than traditional print advertising. Customers want to be seen as more than just a customer. They want what the cool kids around the marketing cooler call “relatability”. In modern, colloquial terms – they want to feel you.

When I was a kid my friends and I had the greatest fort you could ever imagine. It even had running electricity and was located on the banks of an irrigation pond with actual fish in it. At first we built it for us so that we could be away from those oppressive, watchful eyes. Over time we realized we also built it to share with others, and while telling them all the cool stuff it had made them want to see it, it was their knowing that they could stop by anytime and be themselves that brought them back.

– S. Norton

For more information on generating an effective branding campaign for your company, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Google Ads No. 1 No-No : Breaking the Relevance Chain

If you remember one thing about this blog post, it should be this: linking a Google Ads ad to existing website content is usually a costly mistake.

By now, most Google Ads users understand that linking ads to homepages will cost you quality score points. We can shake our fists at Google for forcing us to throw more bid money at them in order to compete, but we have no one to blame but ourselves if that good money is chasing a bad landing page.

So, what is a good landing page? Can such a thing be qualitatively defined? Doesn’t the efficacy of one’s marketing programs still depend on a better understanding of one’s markets? Surely, manufacturers and engineers know best when it comes to knowing what their users want to see.

Knowing one’s markets is still vitally important in the Google Ads game, especially when choosing keywords and search terms. We previously discussed how many users search with keywords that focus more on application than a specific product or solution. Users don’t always know what they need to fix their problem, but they definitely know their problem. Understanding their problems will lead to better keyword choices.

But when it comes to ads, we have to defer to the mighty Google and its search bots and algorithms. When deciding ad quality scores, Google seeks one thing and one thing only: keyword relevance. If an ad doesn’t share matching or very closely-related keywords, bots deduce that it’s a poor result for the search terms. Google knows its users want direct relevance, not a puzzle. Therefore, keyword inconsistency earns low quality scores which lead to poor ad positioning.

Landing pages are the big payoff for users and require not just keyword consistency but conversion optimization. A landing page that converts visitors into customers should consist of the following:

  • A headline that matches the ad’s headline and is suitably engaging
  • Copy that focuses on the benefits to the user, not the proud history of the company
  • A call-to-action that stands out
  • A short form that doesn’t ask for too much or require sensitive information
  • A strong image that instantly tells them they’re in the right place

Most company websites have content that reads…well, like website content. There’s a mix of product specifications, sales copy, self-described excellence assurances, and a standard run-on sentence or two. These elements in and of themselves don’t necessarily mean a website is bad, but they certainly don’t deliver conversions. More importantly, if the content doesn’t match the ad, Google will literally protect users from it by sticking it below more relevant competition or making it disappear altogether.

Some of you may be asking yourselves if you can optimize your existing pages by adding some relevant content to them instead of spending the time and money to create unique landing pages for (at least) each ad group. The partial answer is “yes”. The whole answer is “sure, if you don’t mind possibly damaging your brand”. When ads appear on SERPs, the majority of users will choose a brand they recognize and trust, not just the first ad. Highly relevant ad campaigns boost brand recognition, and brand recognition plays a significant role in all aspects of marketing. Therefore, it’s best to invest in it at every customer and prospect interaction instead of chipping away at your budget through visitors who immediately click away and never return.

It really is simple: if you’re investing in a Google Ads campaign, understand from the outset that you will need to allocate time and budget dollars to all three key elements: keywords, ads and landing pages. Like any chain that connects you to your customers, your campaign will only be as strong as its weakest link.

Want More Effective Google Ads? Focus On Application.

Let’s do a little paid traffic marketing review, starting with the basics: Google Ads (a.k.a. Google AdWords, Pay-Per-Click programs) are designed to drive traffic to commercial websites to help sell their products and services. To do this, a significant portion of that traffic needs to land on pertinent and engaging content that’s been optimized to convert paid leads into sales. That’s the main idea, complemented by a little brand recognition that hopefully drives brand searches somewhere down the line. But many industrial marketers who have decided to include Google Ads campaigns in their marketing budgets are frustrated with their programs because they seem to be more work and expense than they’re worth. Brand recognition is vital but can be difficult to measure, and lead conversion can be similarly hard to define. With this in mind, let’s look at a simple tweak we can make to our existing campaigns that could make a big difference in terms of direct conversions.

Many websites in the B2B industrial markets have been designed to tell and explain with perhaps a little sales punch mixed in for good measure. Few are organized to accept users who demand that their ad clicks lead to direct matches for their search terms. This is not a small point. Search engines and data marketing on social media platforms have further conditioned us to expect precise recompense for our time investment. We want what we want and we don’t want to waste our time figuring out how a web page satisfies our needs. But optimizing all or a large portion of a company’s website for multiple ads can be costly and time-consuming. And nothing kills marketing initiatives faster than dragging revisions, which is why landing pages were invented.

Landing pages that are optimized to respond to traffic from specific ad groups are an added expense but can easily pay for themselves if done correctly and monitored carefully. However, some companies don’t sell their products directly, opting to work through distributors. Sales happen, but it’s difficult to determine ROI on your Google Ads expenditures without pausing and restarting campaigns to test the drop in traffic and subsequent sales numbers – a radical practice that isn’t recommended as it can hurt revenue and customer confidence. So how can a company without 1) a budget for multiple landing pages, 2) a shopping cart feature, and/or 3) a website that’s freshly optimized for Google Ads campaigns still use them to improve sales?

One of the answers is by selecting keywords and generating ad copy that focuses on your products applications rather than just its identifiers and benefits. Users who are searching for solutions because they’re not sure what product(s) they need are really doing “research”. That’s a mindset that is prepared to take the time to learn and perhaps seek an expert who can help them decide on which product is right for their specific application. A quick – albeit oversimplified – example would be a company starting a campaign to sell “hammers”, but instead of bidding for that keyword and words like “stainless steel” or “comfortable grip” bid for the application-focused (and likely less expensive) “nail drivers”. Of course, just about everyone knows they need a hammer to drive a nail, but not everyone knows the latest and best way to, say, vent volatile gases from a storage tank safely or extract blood samples without contaminating the organic material.

This shift to a more content marketing perspective – from B2C benefits mode to the more complex B2B research mode – can create softer landings on our websites. This isn’t to say we should neglect optimizing them to be as user-friendly as possible or ignore elements that drive quotes. Industrial B2B websites should always be closing the sale but they should do so in response to their unique demographics which are often plant and product line managers seeking new and efficient solutions that will match their innovations, improve plant safety, and enrich their bottom lines. If they land on a web page that offers well-organized and simple product solutions to their often disorganized and complex problems, their lives got that much easier. And don’t worry about a lower amount of impressions. What you want are qualified impressions, so try not to stare too hard at low search volumes.

Google Ads feels primarily designed for B2C brands to sell products to consumers – which is why they focus on lots of impressions to reach a wider demographic – but it could be for everyone, even companies with websites that are light on shopping carts and heavy on industrial content aimed at tighter, B2B audiences. And while varied applications for a single product can spread the offense around a wide array of markets, we may still want to establish more effective user expectations by employing an applications focused, content marketing approach to the tools at our disposal.

– S. Norton

For more information on generating an effective Google Ads campaign, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

 

The Three Most Important Web Marketing Moves for 2019

Over the past year, this blog has covered many digital marketing methods and concepts for the high-tech, industrial and manufacturing marketplaces. With the new year upon us, I thought I would identify the three most important for growing your business in 2019.

Website Optimization. Without question, a responsive website with your company’s key message and value proposition “above the fold” is the most essential design element for competing in the digital marketplace. Remember all those discussions about short attention spans when your company was redoing its website? Well, they’ve gotten shorter. Are the conversations about needing to make your website user-friendly for mobile devices still fresh in your memory? I hope so. The percentage of visitors that will use mobile devices to access the Internet will increase from from 57% to 63%, with time spent on mobile devices increasing from 40% – 49%. How you look on the small screen will determine how an increasing majority of your customers see you. Make sure they like what they see, find what they want, and can contact you as simply as possible.

Content Marketing. SMS advises more and more clients to consider balancing their AdWord campaigns with content marketing programs in order to make the most of their search engine marketing (SEM) budgets. Industrial B-2-B companies usually have very clear demographics, so seeking content that interests them requires a simple climb up the application tree – from your root products to the many markets that utilize them. Taking a deeper interest in where your products end up and how they integrate into the world will generate a motherlode of content from which to mine. Dig out interesting topics and put your company’s spin on them. The copy will include many keywords that match the searches of your customers and prospects. Google will love your resource-oriented approach and you may even get some regular readers. Most importantly, you’ll be found on SERPs that are too often dominated by ads that hoard PPC keywords with unlimited budgets and frequently limited search relevance.

Security. Not only is it wise to protect your website from hacking and viruses, top level website security improves search rankings and for good reason: Google doesn’t want to lead you into a trap. Hackers work tirelessly trying to penetrate server vulnerabilities and it’s up to your hosting company to keep the doors and windows shut. Choose your hosting company carefully and make sure your website is linked to secure destinations. HTTPS has become a household acronym in web marketing but not everyone feels the same urgency to employ it so it’s important to audit your inbound and outbound links regularly. Keeping your software up-to-date, enforcing strong password policies, encrypting login pages, deleting old files, and backing up your data are some of the most important things your web development partner can do for you. Being able to deliver fast loading, flat page designs is great, but being able to protect your web clients is the higher calling.

Finally, SMS would like to thank our clients for their trust in our services in 2018. We’ll continue to select just the right mix of affordable, effective, and proven traditional and digital marketing methods for each and every one of you in order to help you grow in 2019. As always, we do it because we know your markets, speak your language, and don’t believe in charging for anything that doesn’t end up working in the marketplaces you serve. It was our promise in 1979 when we began, and it remains our promise 40 years later.

– S. Norton

For more information on updating your website for 2019, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.