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Beginner's Guide to Marketing Relevance Online

A beginner's guide to relevance - How relevant is your marketing? Are you targeting the right people at the right time? How do you know? Jonathan Crossfield provides some tips and ideas on marketing relevance.

Beginner's Guide to Marketing Relevance Online

Jonathan Crossfield 3 November 2009. Article published in NETT magazine online 23 November 2009. Content provided by Netregistry.

Jargon translator

  • Search engine: The online application that allows you to enter a word or phrase and returns a (long) list of the most relevant websites that contain your request. The most popular search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): The activity of adjusting webpages to increase the chances of appearing prominently in the most relevant search engine results for your product.
  • Traffic: The flow of visitors to your website.
  • Keyword or key phrase: The word or phrase used to trigger a search engine request.
  • Long-tail phrase: A key phrase containing more than a couple of words, allowing for greater relevance and fewer results.
  • Short-tail phrase: A key phrase of only one or two words, resulting in a much wider and longer list of results as well as greater competition from other websites.
  • Natural results: The results generated by the specific keyword request.
  • Sponsored results: Paid advertisements that appear next to the natural results and are triggered by the particular keyword or phrase used.

A couple of years ago I was a rail commuter, spending hours each day on trains and in stations. It wasn't unusual to walk through the ticket barrier to be accosted by promotional models handing out flyers for something or other completely forgettable. After all, at that uncivilised time of the morning I'm more focused on getting where I need to be at a time that won't earn me scorn, on a public transport network designed to thwart me. Are morning commuters really in the best frame of mind to receive marketing for a new movie, clothing outlet, bank account?

Similarly, on returning home, there are almost always some bits of paper sticking out of my mailbox. In among it all, there will invariably be a real estate flyer suggesting I have my home valued.

"A home similar to yours sold for a gazillion dollars in this neighbourhood!"

Well, yes, I could list my house with them, but I'd probably go to jail for it.

You see, I rent. My neighbours rent. Probably half of the people in the surrounding streets rent. Each one of those leaflets is therefore not only wasted marketing dollars but also a great way of convincing renters to stay out of the market. We want to hear that house prices are going down. We don't want to have local real estates telling us about their record prices! It's the wrong message to the wrong audience.

Marketers are attracted to train stations and mailboxes for the same reason they like big television commercials, newspaper adverts and skywriting; it gets the message to a large number of people at once. Yet it is also a highly wasteful, hit-and-miss tactic where the majority will simply ignore what you have to say because it simply has no relevance for them.

But you're still paying for a million viewers for your television commercial even if half of them are putting the kettle on and most others are checking what's on the other channels. You're still paying for every postcard you print and mail, even when the vast majority go into the recycle bin unread.

How should a business develop relevant marketing that hits the right people at the right time, in the right place and with the right message? Online, of course!

Making your business relevant

Let's start with the message that should form the cornerstone of any marketing strategy. Identifying the message means accepting some hard truths. Your goal should be that every person who sees your message feels that it speaks directly to him or her. That means your message is about them, not you.

No one is interested in your products. People don't care that your thingummy is bigger or better than the next one. They're not interested in how long you've been making whatchamacallits or how many thingy-whatsits you sell each month. They're not impressed by complex lists of specifications or chunks of technical jargon.

 “Customers don’t buy products – they buy the means of achieving a personal goal, need or desire”

Why? Customers don't buy products - they buy the means of achieving a personal goal, need or desire - and that can change from moment to moment.

Today you may be suffering from backache while you type. Tomorrow your most pressing need might be renewing your car registration. The day after that, you may become obsessed with fixing that smell in the spare bedroom. Each of these may result in you purchasing a product - new office chair, tyres or scented candle perhaps - but the product was never the goal.

This is why marketers insist on talking about benefits and not features. You don't care how many knobs are on your office chair. You want to know how you can adjust the chair for maximum comfort and support. Your choice of tyres (and tyre fitter) may not be influenced by how many rally drivers swear by them. Instead, you may be more concerned with how quickly they can be fitted without breaking your budget, and whether you can make it to the RTA before they shut at midday. The particular scent of the candle may be less important than the fact that it masks odours.

The customer goal, need or desire changes the criteria for making a purchasing decision - and those criteria speak directly to the relevance of your marketing. Your business isn't really about the product you sell, but the goals your customers achieve by buying it.

Let's take a real world example. Telstra's product is primarily bound up in cabling that links your house to a complex network, coupled with the devices people can use to access these cables. But if Telstra launched a marketing campaign describing copper cable and the efficiency with which they can get under your house to install it, you wouldn't be too impressed. Who gets excited about copper cable and trenches in the pavement?

Telstra is not in the business of selling copper cable or optic fibres, even though in its most basic form, that is the product. It's not in the business of selling telephones, or bandwidth, or even connections. Telstra sells the ability for its customers to communicate.

It is because Telstra understands the difference between product and goal that the marketing focuses on people communicating. The latest campaign revolves around the central idea of calling Mum, but never once does it describe cables, junction boxes and the related hardware our money pays for and that makes that call possible.

We may be paying for cables, phones and infrastructure but in our minds we're buying communication with Mum.

Apply the same thinking to your own business. What goal are your customers meeting by buying your product? That's the real business you are in and will go a long way to helping you design a more relevant marketing strategy.

Right here, right now

The right time and place is when and where a potential customer is considering a purchase. If you sell office chairs, tyres or scented candles, it is unlikely anyone is interested in hearing about these things unless they have an immediate need or desire for one. But if someone types ‘scented candle' into Google, it's a safe bet they have that need.

This is why the search engines have become so essential to business and far more effective than targeting people on the street or in their mailboxes.

But with search engine optimisation, the trick is knowing which keyword searches to target. Appearing prominently against every search for the word ‘jewellery' could be a costly and difficult exercise, because of all the other jewellery and related outlets that are also relevant to the term. But ‘jewellery' is such a wide term that those that click through to your website may not find what they are searching for.

Far better to target more relevant and descriptive terms, such as ‘gold pendant', ‘antique jewellery store in Sydney' or ‘platinum wedding bands'. There may be far fewer people searching for these phrases, but it will be easier to appear near the top of those searches. Also, the people who click through will be more likely to be interested in your offer. The more specific the keywords, the more qualified the customer. The best results can be gained by targeting long-tail phrases of up to five words.

Don't forget the customer goal. For example, your ergonomic office chairs may be the perfect solution for people typing ‘backache' into their search engine, looking for relief, or ‘Father's Day' looking for a present.

Relevancy doesn't need to always be product specific, but should always tap into whatever events or triggers cause someone to seek out a solution your product can answer. Research the most common event triggers that cause someone to search for your product and then identify the best phrases related to these.

Relevancy Changes over time

What may be true of your customers today may be entirely different a month from now. The global financial crisis dramatically changed the priorities, needs, goals and desires of most consumers. Smart brands adapted their marketing quickly to remain relevant. Foxtel deftly turned the expense of a cable TV connection into an economic blessing by pointing out that it is cheaper than taking the family out for entertainment.

Search engine advertising, such as Google AdWords, can be developed to target just the right phrases, with the text more likely to trigger a response. Unlike natural SEO, AdWords campaigns have the ability to be changed and updated as results change or consumer behaviour shifts. For example, you wouldn't continue running your AdWords campaign for woolly scarves in December. Instead, it is short work to update it with your latest line of T-shirts.

This makes search engine advertising far more manoeuvrable than traditional SEO. If a campaign isn't working how you want, you can quickly and easily tweak and relaunch it until you find the perfect wording.

Still, appearing against the most relevant searches is not the end of the process. When the potential customer clicks on the link, the landing page needs to directly answer the need. Too often, links from search engine advertisements lead to the home page of the website and not to the most relevant page for the query. What started as a highly relevant and focused campaign is lost.

If you hit on a link promising a bargain watch only to find yourself on a home page offering a variety of products, you probably won't be willing to search through the website to find the offer.

The best strategies incorporate landing pages specifically designed to be as relevant as possible to each AdWords campaign by eliminating anything on the page unrelated to the offer. You want a bargain watch? Here it is - no distractions - click here, buy now, job done.

These landing pages may be unique to each advertisement, allowing the greatest amount of tailoring. The only people who will ever see the page are those who have willingly clicked on a link because they are interested in an offer - and you only pay when they do. No wasted marketing budget, and you get highly qualified leads that can be changed and updated whenever necessary.