Web Marketing | Stephan Spencer

Web Marketing Archives - Stephan Spencer

Crass Marketing Campaigns: Do They Work?

By | Email, Online Advertising, Web Marketing | 4 Comments

This isn’t a rhetorical question. i truly want to know!

Do crass, “low brow” marketing campaigns like this real piece of… umm… work 😉 from Domainz (the official -and at one time, only – domain registry for New Zealand and their .nz domain space) actually bring in respectable response rates despite unrespectable theme, copy, or visuals?

The following is a screenshot of the email campaign piece that landed in my inbox last month (it was an animated image; the screenshot shows what was the final frame):

Giving tough times the Finger with Pay-Per-Click

There was matching messaging on their website too. Thankfuly this brain-dead campaign appears to have been put to rest.

I was surprised the email even made it into my inbox. With a Subject line of “Give Tough Times the Finger” you’d think it would have gotten reported by recipients to SpamCop as spam more than a few times.

In my opinion, marketers CAN go too far. Some even get into the realm of truly warped and downright offensive, like this disturbing example, also from New Zealand. When marketers offend our sensibilities we (the targeted recipients) shut down. It can even alienate us from their brand. I know I (a customer) lost a little bit of respect for Domainz because of this campaign. Not enough to move my business from them (i.e. transfer my .nz domains to another registrar). But It’s like they made a withdrawal from their brand equity “bank account”, with me. (I’m borrowing from Stephen Covey’s metaphor of the “emotional bank account”).

So what do you think? Should marketers who practice “crass marketing” deserve an “Attaboy!” or a smack? Or a demotion?

Catch this video of the Teen Entrepreneurs Panel at Ypulse

By | Shameless Self-Promotion, Social Networking, Web Marketing | No Comments

I shot the following video of teen entrepreneurs Chloe Spencer of the Ultimate Neopets Cheats Site (my daughter!), Juliette Brindak of Miss O & Friends, Jared Kim of WeGame and Angela McBride, a.k.a. Asuka Martin in Teen Second Life presenting on the “Totally Wired Superstars” panel (moderated by Ypulse founder Anastasia Goodstein) at the Ypulse Mashup youth marketing conference in San Francisco this past August. Fascinating how these kids can build their businesses and balance that with school, extracurricular activities, friends, college entrance applications, etc.!

Or download the video to play it on your iPod.

Marketing on a Shoestring Budget – Steve Spangler Interviewed

By | Blogging, Ecommerce, Online Retail, Podcasting, Social Networking, Web Marketing | No Comments

You gotta check out this WebProNews video interview at ACCM 08 of Steve Spangler – the science teacher turned catalog company CEO/Emmy award winner/keynote speaker/toy inventor:

In the video, Steve talks about how his Mentos + Diet Coke experiment turned into a YouTube sensation and how he was able to leverage it for his own marketing purposes. Steve is a client of ours and he even mentions Netconcepts (thank you Steve!!) as his experts behind the scenes helping him, which was really cool to hear. :)

Also in the video Steve shows off his cool flaming wallet, and how he is privileged to receive “special treatment” at airport security because of it. Um, yeah, that’s not the kind of attention that you want, Steve 😉

What you don’t see in the video is that Steve also has a flaming business card holder. It’s hilarious when he whips out one of his business cards and he has to put the fire out on the flaming card before he hands it to you. I’d LOVE to have one of those card holders and then troll the trade show floor and then hand over a flaming card to overaggressive, hard-selling vendors – but WITHOUT putting the fire out! hehe :>

Live Blogging ACCM: Increasing Web Sales on a Shoe String Budget

By | Blogging, Ecommerce, Online Retail, Web Marketing | No Comments

I’m here at ACCM in the session “Increasing Web Sales on a Shoe String Budget”. Here’s the session description:
As the cost of doing business online continues to increase, small businesses must be strategic and creative in how they expend limited funds and resources. This session will discuss ways to maximize your conversion and average order size without breaking the bank on expensive bells and whistles. Using solid web design, studying metrics and trends, taking advantage of strategic cost effective marketing and using strategic catalog mailings are all part of the frugal marketer’s playbook.

Mike Feiman of Pooldawg is up first. Pooldawg (a Netconcepts client, btw) was founded in 2003 and sells 2100+ pool cues. Pooldawg uses Google Analytics. Number of visits doesn’t really matter, it’s all about what they do while on your site. They are focused on visit length, visit depth, bounce rates, conversion rate. Have about 3000 pages total, fully indexed by Google, each page is a potential entry page. Very important to present a consistent feel throughout the site. Pooldawg buys PPC. Don’t get caught in bidding wars. Focus on the long tail. Drop keywords that don’t perform and focus on conversion and cost per action (CPA). They buy ads on Google Adwords, Microsoft adCenter, Yahoo Search Marketing. By chasing keywords they cost per conversion skyrockets. “billiards” as a search term converts poorly. Long Tail is where it’s at. Brand names + pool cues convert much better and are cheaper. They constantly evaluate keywords, trying to get them to perform by ad copy tweaks and landing page tweaks etc. and if they still don’t perform, they drop them from their PPC keyword list. Mike says: I’m willing to pay $1 a click if it’s costing me $5 a customer, but not $1 a click if it’s costing $40 a customer. People who use their internal search convert at 4x higher rate than those who do not. Signed up with Celebros and conversion jumped from 4x higher to 6x higher. Look at the results for searches coming through and if the results are poor, do something about it. Added a “Related Searches” tagging feature, thanks to Netconcepts, put them on the product page, and people use them. That creates more pages for Google to index, and they’re seeing search traffic already coming in directly to these pages. They just launched this but it’s already returning ROI. Only 10% of visitors are using the internal search. It’s really about taking advantage of their current customers rather than throwing money at getting all new customers. In terms of guerrilla marketing… Participating on message boards is hugely valuable to Pooldawg. They talk to the board leaders who then communicate to the forum users, sponsor the message boards. With blogging, they haven’t quite found their voice yet. They write articles internally and get them syndicated. One of their most popular articles is “the Anatamy of a pool cue”, get tons of traffic to that page and it converts really well, so the ROI on the hour it took to write the article was great. Before site redesign done by Netconcepts, only 30% indexation in Google. Now 100% and they rank really high. Affiliate marketing is great for low cost customer acquisition. 6-8 % of total sales. 1000 affiliates, and only 100 really drive any real revenue for Pooldawg. 49% of traffic from natural search, 9% from paid search. 85 of their Top 100 terms are in the top 5 rankings in Google, 80 of the Top 100 in Yahoo. Natural search is very cost effective. Give users engaging tools and content. Pooldawg is building a very nice library of proprietary content – over 100 articles – will be adding video too. They partner with trusted names and steer away from the shadier players in their market. Sponsor the WPBA, BCA, GenerationPool.com, AZBilliards.com – associate themselves with trusted names.

Steve Spangler, “Chief Mess Maker” (CEO) of Steve Spangler Science. Shows off his flaming wallet and how they took him to a private room at the airport. 😉 Steve is the originator of the Mentos + Diet Coke geyser experiment. Showing off some video of him on the Food Network, on the Ellen Show, on Denver’s 9News. Hilarious! Steve originally moved from public speaking for generating revenue to the website to do so. In 2005 the Mentos geyser things started to take off. How do you leverage this into a business that supports 30 employees? How do you go from an obscure backyard demo to an Internet phenomenon in less than 12 months? (i.e. get to 2 million + views on YouTube). In 2004 he wanted a redesign with some Flash but Stephan said no he wouldn’t do that but Netconcepts would create a blog instead. On June 1 2004 this amazing traffic spike happened. It was a brief mention of Instasnow and Steve Spangler Science on the blog BoingBoing. Stupid.com puts Instasnow on their stupidest products list and it gets on Good Morning America. Turned lemons (“bad press”?) into lemonade by blogging “It’s great to be stupid!” The blog is a perfect place for all sorts of great stories and testimonials like how Instasnow got a teacher out of a speeding ticket. Really important to write attention grabbing headlines on the blog: not “200 teachers engage in inquiry based science” but instead “Parents Beware: Teachers Gone Wild”. Not “Science project about pulling microscopic meteorites out of your gutter” but instead “A meteorite hit my house!” The blog post that really launched the whole Mentos geyser phenomenon, video news anchor wearing a beautiful St Johns outfit got covered with Diet Coke: “News Anchor Gets Soaked! Mentos Experiment Sets a New Record”. Where else would he put the fact that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? called Steve and wanted to put a Mentos + Diet Coke question on air: the blog! Does the blog generate sales? Measured that and the answer is yes. Steve makes the Time 100 most influential people nominees list. Is blogging really worth the effort? It is! Currently blogging 2-3 times per week, have an editor helping find stuff to blog about. #1 in Google for “science experiments”. Big spike on Cybermonday. 3,000 inbound links. 4% of total traffic is from the blog, but 12% of sales are attributable to the blog! Now Steve is looking at expanding into Twitter. Amy Africa in the audience says: “I love Twitter!” but she’s being facetious. 1.8 million views on the Steve and news anchor Mentos + Diet Coke YouTube video. What should you blog if you want to make money: best-selling products, “Did you know?” product information loaded with keywords, company events – past and present, “Behind the Scenes” information, customer testimonials.

What’s the Big Idea?

By | Web Marketing | One Comment

I was speaking with a friend recently who was sharing with me a web site idea. Quite honestly the idea wasn’t the greatest or maybe I just wasn’t that interested. Regardless, I have the same problem nearly every time someone tries to get me excited about their whizzbang new idea – they don’t know how to pitch it to me and so they don’t reel me in.

What typically happens is that the person gets lost in the weeds – caught up in the small details such as what the site will look like or what they are going to call it. That isn’t what I want to hear. You need to be able to tell me three things:

1. What the site does (Technical)
2. Who it is for (Target Market)
3. Why it’s better than what’s out there (Competition)

You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t answer these questions you have a problem. All the other details can be filled in after this. Sure it’s nice to have a conception of what you want your site to look like, but if you’re not a designer you shouldn’t get too caught up with this because what you envision probably isn’t web friendly or practical.

If you have an idea that has you excited enough to go out and try and find funding or someone to join your endeavor, that’s fantastic. I don’t want to be a killjoy here, but do it right or don’t do it at all.

Company names don’t always translate well to domain names

By | Branding, Online PR, Search Engines, Web Marketing | 7 Comments

Be careful when converting your company name / brand name into an (available) domain name; it can have embarrassing repercussions.

I was reminded of this fact recently when seeing an email in my inbox that was sent to multiple recipients, including myself. One of the recipients was someone at arsecommerce.com. This domain name may appear rather ordinary to us Americans. But to those who speak “the Queen’s English” – including those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – I bet they get a chuckle when they see it. I can imagine them thinking to themselves “Is this the company that put the “arse” in commerce?”. The company is ARS Ecommerce, not Arse Commerce.

Company names that work well in one context may not work so well in another. I remember a classic example of this from a hilarious piece in Business 2.0 magazine (circa 2001) called “Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History“. Here’s the money quote:

In October 1998, an e-commerce software vendor launches with the name Accompany, which, when said aloud, sounds exactly like “a company.” As in “Hi, I’m calling from Accompany.” “Which company?” “Accompany.” And so forth. It changes its name to MobShop in March 2000.

In my post on the News.com blog titled “Eleven steps to buying a domain name that doesn’t suck, I give another classic example of a domain name faux pas: therapistfinder.com. No, it’s a site for finding therapists, not rapists.

You also have to consider whether your choice of domain name will get you inadvertently blocked by email firewalls or the search engines’ adult filters.

Take for example this parts store – partsexpress.com – hyphenating the two words would have been a good idea. Ditto for whorepresents.com, an agency that represents celebrities.

Here are a few other examples of domain names gone horribly wrong:

  • cumstore.co.uk for Cumbria Storage Systems, Ltd.
  • choosespain.com to travel in Spain, pain-free!
  • mammotherection.com deals with modern architecture and engineering
  • cummingfirst.com is for a church in Cumming, Georgia

While these are pretty funny (and/or disturbing, depending upon your point-of-view), these are reputation management nightmares. Sadly, they were all preventable — usually with merely a well-placed hyphen or change in keywords. NYCanal.com could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment by choosing ny-canal.com or newyorkcanal.com instead.

Wacky Viral Marketing

By | Branding, Web Marketing | 3 Comments

With the glut of online marketers and the holiday season gearing up, many businesses are having a hard time getting your attention. Enter the world of the weird, the wacky, and the downright crazy to make you go “Hmmm…”

Have you seen the “Mentos Intern”? You can order lunch, chat, watch a live feed while he works, schedule his work day, rate his efforts, and much, much more. The campaign is hilarious, and effective. The “Mentos Intern” grabs our attention simply because we can all relate to his predicament. Who hasn’t been a lackey, working for ‘The Man’ at some point in their life? The campaign also includes the best of the best for social media marketing; Trevor is accessible through Myspace, Facebook, Blogs, and gaming! He’s your friend, he’s your buddy…he’s the “Mentos Intern.” The best part about this site is, that it’s gone viral all across the web, and the “Mentos” name is tagging right along. What better way to promote your company (and your brand) than to take advantage of the net?

Mentos Intern

Here’s another one that has been sweeping across the web. Sling Media is a company that designs and markets technology to control (and access) your basic cable from anywhere. Their home page features an interactive salesperson with a catch. Sling Media knows that salespeople are annoying–and exploits them. Their home page has an interactive Flash-based site that gives you the opportunity to be as mean as you could possibly be to “The Sling Man.”

SlingMedia Interactive Options

While you may not know what SlingMedia does, this viral campaign drives traffic to their site because it piques your curiosity and is pretty darn funny. This is a good example of how wacky viral marketing can get attention to an unknown brand; beneath the “Sling Man” are some brand-and-product links that will help you understand what their flagship product, the Slingbox, is all about.

What kinds of wacky viral marketing campaigns have you seen on the web? Does it work for you?

Understand MySpace Before Marketing in MySpace

By | Blogging, Community, Web Marketing | 3 Comments

With tens of millions of users (but probably not the purported 100 million though), MySpace.com is a force to be reckoned with. Especially when you consider that MySpace apparently drives more traffic to online retailers than MSN Search, according to some recent Hitwise data.

But MySpace is hard for us adults to get our heads around. It just doesn’t seem logical: How does it hold the interest of so many — young people, with short attention spans, in particular — despite the facts that the design/usability is so atrocious, the web page creation platform is so frustratingly restrictive, and it’s chock full of so many junk/spam/abandoned profiles?

Um, it’s about looking cool, fitting in, and hanging out. Duh!

Then where do us adults feature in this? Besides offering a tempting place for stalkers and voyeurs to hang out (can you say “Creepy!”?), it’s a promising venue for marketers to hawk their wares. But do you have what it takes to crack it? The most unlikely of marketers seem to have it — bars, bands, and quirky dotcoms (disclaimer: these guys are a client) , whereas big brands like Blockbuster don’t seem to have a clue.

MySpace is a real slice of humanity. Amongst the throngs of teenagers (many of which have their profiles set to private), the MySpace ecosystem is host to concerned parents trying to keep tabs on their kids, college students, obsessed sports fans, realtors. In other words, the Average Joe or Jane. And of course marketers. Clueless marketers. I’ll readily admit I’m one of the clueless ones. Thankfully there is someone I can lean for guidance through this teen marketing minefield… my 15 year old daughter Chloe. You may recall she’s the one with the Neopets blog whom I’ve blogged about before (BTW, she was featured recently on BloggerStories.com… I’m so proud of her!). Chloe has a MySpace page (a private one, so don’t bother looking), and she gets MySpace. I plan to enlist Chloe’s help in marketing within MySpace. At 15, she’ll be the youngest marketing consultant I know!

Before you start marketing in MySpace, you’d better understand it. Because if you don’t, the MySpace community can turn on you the moment you make your first misstep. Just like bloggers can. (Note: many MySpace users are bloggers too. MySpace supports blogging within its platform.) The cardinal rule in MySpace is the same one as in the blogosphere: ‘Keep it real’.

You know who else gets MySpace? Site owners like this one who provide layouts, backgrounds, funny photos etc. to the MySpace community. Those folks are sitting back, sipping pina coladas and watching the moulah from Google AdSense roll in.

Sometime when I get a chance I’ll write a follow-up post to this one and share some specifics about MySpace marketing, like getting large numbers of Friends, using photo animation, customizing your layout, etc. So stay tuned!

Partnering up has its advantages

By | Content, Online Advertising, Web Marketing | No Comments

Have you considered incorporating content partners and marketing partners into your online strategy? For example, partnering with content providers who could augment your own content with additional related content? Or partering with sites whose visitors match your target market?  If, for example, you wanted to reach women online, you could partner with a site like iVillage.com and build a microsite together, then have them promote it through their site and subscription lists.

Think about the sites you advertise on as potential partners. Join forces and create a microsite together and then promote it to a joint captive audience. Or make a deal with them and syndicate some useful content onto their site. For example, you could develop a whole library of useful tips and, rather than doing standard banner ads, you could provide these tips to your partner, who would then fold it with the rest of their content. Et voila!… “Sponsored content”!

Even better if, between the two of you, you can develop some sort of “hook” or viral component, such as a funny video, an addictive game, a downloadable ebook, worksheet, calculator, widget, etc. 

Got an example to share of a site where the whole is greater than the sum of the partners? Post a comment!

President Carter is a-bloggin’

By | Blogging, Content, Web Marketing | No Comments

Guess where the idea came from for President Jimmy Carter, nobel laureate, to start a blog? Yep, it was from yours truly. :-)

The goal was to generate media attention and garner links to the Carter Center’s website. And it worked like a charm. His recent trip to West Africa, chronicled in a blog format, is mentioned on some fourteen thousand web pages, as witnessed by Google (via a search for “carter west africa blog“). All it took was a press release to start the wheel in motion. Booyeah!