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« March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

Event Promotion: Online Coupons and Discounts

Have You Considered Using a Coupon or Discount lately?
No discussion on internet marketing would be complete if you didn't bring up the topic of Coupons and Discounts. Coupons and discounts are a great way to get prospects to take near immediate action online. It's hard to debate that people are LESS likely to buy your products or service if they have a coupon in hand. In spite of a coupon’s versatility beyond just discounting, few businesses choose to make use of them. You can do the same - use coupons to drive sales, track marketing effectiveness, and create lifetime value customers.

Coupons are a Waste, Right?
A few years ago I tried to convince a client to provide coupons to his customers. The client is involved in the restaurant business. Up until that point in time he considered any type of coupon as bad.  We ran a test . . . give away a 25 cent to produce product and see what happens. The average ticket was over $30 per party.  Then the client said this . . . “What happens when people make copies and there are thousands of coupons floating around? I think that makes us look cheap.”  I would argue that thousands of people with a coupon for your restaurant is a good thing - especially when you're raking in an average of $30 per party. 

Correct Pricing
A number of business owners think coupons and discounts are a money losing proposition.  If you’re loosing money on coupons or discounts, you’re doing something wrong. (This doesn't include loss-leaders) The proper pricing of the product or service needs to be done with discounting in mind from the beginning.  If you set your price point intentionally high, you can avoid dipping into your profit margin. If you're going to start using coupons, target high margin items. Is there anything you can set to a higher price and then coupon?

Tracking Marketing Effectiveness

Coupons can also be used to track your marketing efforts. I'd argue couponing is less about giving a discount and more about finding out what advertising channels work. Have you ever checked out of an online store and entered a promotional code or discount coupon?  That is most likely tied back to a strategic marketing campaign.  Consider using a free consultation (coupon) as a way to lure perspective leads.

Creating Lifetime Value Customers
You can’t look at the single transaction as the ultimate indication of success.  Too many business owners think in terms of “If I could just get each person to buy X.” The question that needs to be asked is what is the value of your customer over time?  The value of a one time sale is minimal, the value of a lifetime customer is massive. Coupons can be used to assist you in creating lifetime value customers.

Use coupons to drive sales beyond just one transaction. Coupons should be part of your long term strategy. It's all about the lifetime value of a customer.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Others Do the Work, You Save Money

In the Think Big, Start Small post I suggested the idea of an online field trip to find web site concepts that might be applicable to your own web site. Some of the most successful web sites borrowed their ideas from some other site. For whatever reason, people have a pressing need to reinvent the wheel on the Internet.  It costs money to reinvent the wheel.  In many cases you can find a web site that is doing reasonably well, borrow some of their ideas and do even better.  The process allows almost anyone to save time and money on their web project. 

Looking At The Competition
A few years ago I headed up a usability study for a local private school that services the deaf and hard of hearing.  Part of the usability study focused on looking at the client’s competition and similar topical web sites.  The information derived from analyzing other web sites was tremendously helpful.  It allowed the client and the developer to integrate user approved concepts thereby reducing project time and cost.

Direct Marketing Methodology
The same methodology is used in the direct marketing field on a regular basis.  Most of the great copywriters encourage their students to collect junk mail.  Companies pay top dollar to create advertising campaigns that most people classify as junk mail.  If you can clue into the successful campaigns (those that run often) you might be able to integrate some of the ideas.  It takes time but is well worth the effort.   

Where to Start
The process is very straightforward. Find web sites that offer a similar product or service to your own.  Those will be the sites that you’ll look to gather information from. Take into consideration the factors such as user demographics and the size of a site as it relates to your site. 

You can conduct the testing on your own or make use of family or friends.  Consider looking to users outside your organization to conduct testing. People outside the organization traditionally have less bias as it related to your company or product.

Likes and Dislikes
Ask people to identify their likes and dislikes on the competing or similar web sites.  Make a list of your findings. Are there any ideas or concepts that you might be able to improve upon?

It is important to emulate as opposed to creating an exact copy. There are still copyright laws that need to be observed.

You can save a significant amount of money and time on development costs by emulating others.  There is nothing wrong with taking someone's idea and expanding it or modifying it.  It is the essence of the Internet.  Almost everyone is a copy cat.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Start Small, Think Big

“I want a better looking web site!”  That is one of top comments I hear when companies look to rebuild or redesign their web site. Far too many companies waste a ridiculous amount of money on web sites that fail to bring a return on investment.  At the same time, companies and individuals with far less money for their web site make the mistake of investing in their wants versus their needs. You’re better off concentrating on your needs first.  You can save a significant amount of money and time by investing a few hours to think through what your web site needs to accomplish before starting any work.  There is no need to build the biggest and best web site right from the beginning. Below are some simple questions and suggestions.

Beyond Visual Design
Don’t make the mistake of over focusing on a web site’s visual appearance.  This isn’t to suggest a web site should be devoid of design.  There needs to be a consistent look and feel that’s easy to navigate.  Too many companies overemphasize a web site’s visual design.  There are individual with simple one and two page web sites that do six and seven figures in revenue annually.  Their web sites are visually bland and they have no programming skills.

All the Eggs In One Basket
A number of companies insist on vesting themselves heavily in web sites.  Web sites offer just one marketing channel.  Yes, web sites are great at automating some tasks but they aren’t a magic bullet.  Do you have an offline process for marketing and doing business?  If all your eggs are on the Internet, you are limit yourself.

Take an Online Field Trip

What does your web site need to accomplish? Get a piece of paper and start to jot down some notes.  Do you have any competitors in your market place?  Visit their web sites and write down your likes and dislikes.  Are they doing something particularly well that you could “re-purpose” on your web site. You can modify something that an existing company is already successfully utilizing. Most web sites build off what others have already done.

Interaction and Conversion Is Key
At a minimum a web site should give your users the ability to interact with you.  Make sure that you can drive traffic to your site and that it has some sort of conversion process in place.  Remember, most people come to a web site never to return.  Is your web site Sticky?

What Is Your Web Site Worth?
A web site’s worth comes down to a number of factors beyond just cost.  In what ways can you use your web site to reduce costs, increase revenue, and save time? With some simple math you can approximate cost and time savings, plus forecast additional revenue.

There are a plethora of additional factors.  Hopefully what’s listed above will get you at least thinking beyond “something that looks better” when you are rebuilding or starting a new web site.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

 

Keeping Email Marketing in Perspective

In a previous post, “A Simple Way To Sell More,” I explored the importance of delivering value in every email you send.  Delivering value is a critical element in any sort of email marketing campaign.  Today I’ll look a little more into email list performance, tracking, and some other simple suggestions. 

Delivery Tracking
Make sure if you are sending emails you employ some type of delivery tracking.  Most people would be surprised how many companies DON’T utilize some sort of tracking for their email campaigns.  Many companies assume that just because they send an email that users open everything they receive.  It is critical from a marketing perspective to employ some sort of performance tracking on your emails

Email Open Rates
Recently I looked at open rates for all my clients who do email marketing and asked friends to submit their data.  Of almost 70 separate emails broadcasts sent to permission based opt-in lists the approximate average open rate was around 40%.  The data isn’t to discourage people from email marketing, but to give perspective.  One of the biggest shocks to clients is seeing how few people are opening emails. It is important to keep expectation grounded in the reality.  Nobody gets 100% of their subscriber list to open an email.

Home Grown
The best email list is the one you grow yourself.  There are lists that you can purchase, but you are better served building your own.  Always think in terms of the user’s perspective. Users won’t sign up to an email list that isn’t of at least some interest to them.  Focus on your target market and giving them a good reason to sign up.  Also make sure you properly advise your list subscribers on how to setup their SPAM filters.  You wouldn’t want them unintentionally blocking your email.

List Size - Quality Versus Quantity
You need to keep the highest quality list possible. Too many list owners focus on the size of their list compared to the quality of their list. You’re better off with a smaller list of interested readers who are excited to dive into your offers.

The Copy Factor
The more I read, learn, and experience, the more credence I give to good copy writing.  I would argue that the single most important factor to any email marketing campaign is the ability to create compelling copy.  Regardless of how nice the pictures, users need words to give perspective and incentive.  Headline, benefits, and a call to action are just a few things to keep in mine.  The importance of copy is a lesson few ad agencies and graphic designs truly understand.

Email Marketing is an important step for keeping in contact with customers and clients.  But it is only one facet of an overall marketing campaign.  Make sure you diversify your marketing both online and off.

Two Click Usability and SEO

A number of web sites unintentionally bury their best content.  In some cases users might completely miss the most important content a web site has to offer. This usability challenge can also have a significant impact on e-commerce web sites. Companies and web site owners need to ask themselves: “Is the content on my web site easy for users to access?” Less clicks can also help you with your search engine optimization efforts.

Below are some simple suggestions for making sure you best content is getting to the user:

The Two Click Suggestion
One usability suggestion is making sure important content is no more than two clicks away.  Users should be able to access most of your pages without having to click more than two times.  The ‘two click’ suggestion is also applicable for search engine optimization purposes.  Most spiders will only crawl web sites so deep before they stop.

Let the User Decide
Another helpful way to determine what content is most important to the user is by looking at your log files. Think of your log files as an informal voting system.  In many cases the users choose pages or article that a web site owner wouldn’t have considered important. Use the log files to your advantage.

Questions to Ask:

  • Are there individual pages or article that get a comparatively large proportion of requests?

  • Are there pages or article you believe to be important that are being missed by users? 

Using Anchor Links in Each Page
You can use HTML anchor links within each page to point related pages on your web site.  If a user is interested in the related information they might be apt to click on the link.  Keyword targeted HTML anchor links also help search engines to better index your web site.  If you can't integrate HTML anchor links into your body content, consider placing them at the bottom of each page.

Getting Big With Blogs
One web site format that offers a surprising amount of versatility and usability is a Blog.  A Blog's hierarchy is a great way of organizing web sites that have a large number of individual pages. Blogs are usually categorize by topic area and in most cases archived by date.  A Blog format isn’t for every web site, but that doesn’t mean you can adopt some of the information architecture related to categorizing content.

Blogs also have Search Engine spiders have a much easier time crawling Blogs because HTML links.  If you choose the right keywords and topic areas, you stand to get better indexing in the search engines.

It is in the best interest of almost every web site to keep content as easy to access as possible.  When good content becomes difficult to reach it makes it tremendously difficult to create a sticky web site. It is not only good for the usability of your web site, but it is also good for your bottom line.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

A Simple Way To Sell More

Over the past few years I’ve been doing a decent number of electronic newsletters (ezines) for clients. One of the hardest things to get any client to understand and incorporate is the concept of delivering value before asking for a sale.  The concept isn’t just limited to electronic newsletters.  It can be anything from the sales process used by a company to a sales letter or email. 

A History Lesson
Last year I worked on an electronic newsletter project that was visually spectacular. The ezine contained a number of articles that were loosely related to their company’s areas of expertise. There were two offers displayed within the ezine for services the company provides.  Much to the client's dismay the ezine failed to provide any leads or sale.  The client sent the ezine once and has yet to send another almost a year later.  This is a typical scenario for many companies.

Those Who Win
At the same time there are people who generate thousands of dollars each month via their electronic newsletter or sending a sales letter via snail mail.  One of the big differences is that those who are successful with their newsletters place an emphasis on delivering value first and asking for a sale later.  In some cases the successful people ask for the sale much later.

An Abundance of Value
Dr. Joe “Mr. Fire” Vitale has a great standard that he uses when it comes to delivering value to your user base.  He suggests providing your user base with 95% information and 5% sales pitch.  I completely agree with his statement.  The concept of delivering value also plays into trust and credibility.  Regardless of how compelling the offer, perspective consumers buy from you if there isn’t a high level of trust and credibility.  When you provide value you raise the level of trust and credibility.

Whom to Buy From
Who would you rather buy from?  Someone who pushes an offer in front of you every opportunity they get, or someone who your trust and they go out of their way to provide you value first? Always provide the client with value several times over, before asking for the sale.  It can be a difficult concept to integrate, but eventually leads to a great return on investment.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

 

Finer Typography Points

As a follow up to last week’s post Watch Your Typography, I came across an article getting into research around the use of typefaces and readability. The article points to research conducted by the Wichita State University Software Usability Research Laboratory.  The research provided given some scientific insight into user interaction with type.

Check this out ...

Continue reading "Finer Typography Points" »

Web Sites That are Always Under Construction

Construction How can a web site annoy a user in 5 seconds or less?  By presenting the user with a page that contains the words “under construction.” During the pioneering days of the Internet it was almost impossible to run across a page on a daily basis that didn’t say “under construction.  Thankfully most companies have abandoned the practice of tagging their incomplete pages with the “under construction.” Yet there are enough sites that contain those infamous words to dedicate a post to the issue. 

One area where the under construction plague runs rampant is on personal web sites. If you do a search for “under construction” in Google and you get 52 million results.  There are a few steps any web site can take to overcome the usability issues created by always being under construction.

Users Seek Immediate Content
The problem with most under construction pages is they don’t present the user with any compelling content.  There might be the occasional “stop back soon for updates,” but users rarely go back to the site.  Remember the user’s mindset when they surf the Internet.  If you can’t provide users with information they’ll find it elsewhere.  User attention span is measured in seconds.

What Can Be Done
In many cases you don't need to use an under construction page. Any changes on a web site should be done near instantaneously or in the background. Depending on the versatility of your navigation consider disabling individual web pages or sections that don’t contain any content.  Consider posting a temporary page with some content.

Try not to leave pages blank. From an SEO standpoint pages with little or no content have almost no search value.    As opposed to presenting the user with an “under construction” page, present a temporary page with some relevant content.  Some content is far better than no content. Give the user a sneak peak of what is coming or use the page to build some anticipation.  Just make sure the anticipation isn’t carried out for too long.

Be sure to include good contact information if you’re using temporary home page. What a page lacks in content can be made up with an offer to communicate. Encourage users to contact you if they have any questions.  Keep the emphasis on customer service.

The Internet is always under construction.  Posting a sign to point out the obvious doesn’t help users. Keep the emphasis on presenting the user with some content or the ability to assist them in some fashion.

Additional Resource:

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Money Saving Advertising Question

Last week I had an interesting business experience.  Someone tried selling me advertising in a local print publication.  As part of their sales pitch they gave me a number compelling reasons to consider in an attempt to get me to advertise with them. After they finished their presentation I asked a very fair question which quickly resulted in the salesperson getting upset with me and abandoning me as a prospect.  Over the years I found the question to be a simple yet effective way for staying clear of advertising that might not fit your product or service.

Guaranteed Success?

To be fair, no form of advertising can provide you with guaranteed ROI.  One of the most difficult tasks is being able to effectively track the ROI performance of traditional advertising.  The percentage of “keyed” ads for traditional marketing like radio or print is fairly low.  The ultimate responsibility of effective advertising falls on the company or person actually producing the ad.  If an ad doesn’t contain critical elements including a well thought out USP and call to action it is going to be difficult to be successful. It doesn’t matter how many impressions a media channel can guarantee. You need to demand results with your advertising!

The Question To Ask . . .
You can ask the question for almost any type of advertising: television, radio, print, billboards, online, etc. Direct the question to the person trying to sell you advertising.  Ask them “Can you give me a few references of companies who advertise (or have advertised) with you selling similar products or services to my own?  I would like to ask them some questions related to their ROI.” It’s a fair and honest question.  If a company can’t provide you with a few advertising references why buy advertising from them?  The question isn't meant to discourage businesses from advertising.  It's to discourage people from getting into the wrong advertising.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Watch Your Typography

Have you ever misinterpreted something that should have been completely obvious?  Earlier today I was out for a meal with my friend Mike.  When it comes to typography Mike, the graphic designer, is always one to take notice of the finer details.  Graphic designers have a unique perspective when it comes to anything involving design. After quickly taking notice of something unusual, Mike asked me to read an ad from the placemat in front of me. It was a great lesson in the art of typography. 

"With great power there must also come great responsibility" said Uncle Ben to Peter Parker. The analogy can be used for how type is displayed.  Anyone can completely change the meaning or feel of a group of words just by using a different type of placement, font, or style.

Continue reading "Watch Your Typography" »