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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is Advertising Scalable?

Most people believe advertising is scalable.
These people are right. And they are wrong.

SCALABILITY: How well a solution to some problem will work when the size of the problem increases.
Egg-zample: The small-scale solution: you want 24 eggs per week and you have 6 chickens, therefore you need each chicken to produce 4 eggs per week...  This solution is scalable simply because on a larger scale the same principal applies: you want 240 eggs per week and you have 40 chickens, therefore you need each chicken to produce 6 eggs per week.

Direct Response ads are scalable.  These are those high-impact ads created to hit a target with maximum impact and trigger a purchase with a single exposure – The scalability of Direct Response ads is easy to measure: Reach 10 times as many targets and you’ll make 10 times as many sales.

Unfortunately, most ads are not scalable, primarily due to the unpredictable or erratic nature of time, relevance and sleep. Non-scalable ads must be repeated until you reach a threshold called “breakthrough”.

Breakthrough is that moment when the rules of the equation change dramatically.

BREAKTHROUGH: The best way to understand breakthrough and how it differs from scalability is to consider the following statistic: Exactly 9 tractor-trailer units will tip on their side for each 30 that attempt to take a certain corner at 60 km/hr. The data has been collected, it is conclusive. Numbers don’t lie. However, if you apply scalability to this data, you will wrongly predict that 3 units will tip for each 30 units that take the corner at 20 km/hr.

Q: “So how long will it take my advertising to reach breakthrough? How many repetitions will my ad need before a customer finally takes action?”

A: Your moment of breakthrough will be determined by 2 factors. The first factor is relevance.

RELEVANCE: Does the customer need the product or can a desire be created for it? Direct response ads perform poorly when a “moment of need” is well defined. You'll agree it's a bit difficult to sell a baby carriage to a person who has no desire to have a baby. Similarly, how do you talk a person into buying a new hard drive for their computer when their computer really doesn't need a new hard drive; or a new furnace when the old one is working fine? When your product or service doesn’t have what is necessary for direct response marketing, your best option is to become the solution-provider the customer thinks of immediately when their “moment of need” finally arises.

“Sounds great. But how much time is that going to take?”

That question can only be answered after answering this one: How memorable was your message? We’re back to that issue of relevance again.

Involuntary, automatic recall is known as procedural memory among cognitive neuroscientists and the rules of its creation are simple: Procedural Memory = Repetition x Relevance. In other words, the amount of repetition your message will need is determined by its relevance and one last thing…

SLEEP: the second factor.

Sleep erases advertising. This is why 12 repetitions spread over 12 months won’t have the same impact as 12 repetitions in 1 month.  Becoming a household word in the mind of your public is like climbing a muddy mountain. Gain three steps forward during the day and you slide 2 steps back during the night. Three steps forward, two steps back.

But don’t despair. Breakthrough is on the horizon. Can you see it shimmering in the distance? Cross that threshold and everything around you will come alive.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How “good” is your website ACTUALLY performing?

So we’ve all been hearing more and more about how important it is for every business to have a website.  Absolutely, there is truth in this – although as I mentioned in a previous article, it is even more important to ensure that you have the right type of website for your particular business. However, the other component that is equally important when it comes to websites is commonly referred to as “Stats”.  Stats are the statistical information that is gathered on a website to basically “track” its progress, effectiveness and use.

When it comes to tracking these stats on a website, the process and information gets way more complicated, confusing and misleading than traditional media tracking ever was.

“Pfft, ya right! It’s way easier! My web designer gave me a site that I login to and it tells me everything I need to know about all of the traffic I’m getting on my website – bang, just like that! I don’t have to do a thing!”

If nothing else, my dedicated readers are certainly learning that I am not out here to dazzle you with bright lights and shiny objects. The information I bring to you is based on a combination of research, education and experience. This time I’m here to caution you on being “wowed” by “amazing” website “stats” – either yours or other sites.

  1. Average users and business owners have very limited knowledge (if any) of the terminology used in “stats”.
  2. They don’t know the definitions of the terminology and therefore also can’t determine when “common” use words are being used to replace actual representation terms.

Here are some websites that offer glossaries of the different “stats” terminology:

The sites above contain a great deal of technical information, most of which the average user really doesn’t need to understand.  However, they all offer the same basic description of some of the key terms that every website owner should understand.

Hits – total number of file/graphic images requested as a result of a computer accessing your website
Visitors – number of computers that have accessed your website (includes multiple visits by the same computer)
Unique Visitors – counts each computer’s IP address that accesses your website only once
Page Views – the number of times pages within your website have been looked at
Traffic - On the web, traffic refers to the amount of data sent and received by visitors to a website.  However, most people think of “website traffic” in the same way that they think of people walking into their physical store.

“Hits are commonly misinterpreted as a metric for website success, however the number of hits rarely translates to the number of people visiting a website. Nor are the number of hits the same as the number of webpages viewed.”  (

This statement pretty much says it all.  So what exactly do you need to pay attention to on your website stats?

  1. Unique visitors – this tells you more accurately how many sets of eyeballs are looking at your website. However, as with all statistics, take it with a grain of salt.  A family of 4 with one computer will count as 1 unique visitor for 4 sets of eyeballs. A business “network” that is setup to report the same IP address for every workstation could count as 1 unique visitor for hundreds of eyeballs.  On the other hand an individual with 2 laptops, a home pc and a work pc that accesses your website from all four computers will count as 4 unique visitors for one set of eyeballs.

  2. Visitors – this number tells you how many times computers access your website, including repeat visits by the same computer and/or the same person. Unfortunately it won’t separate out how many of those visits are by the same person or different people on the same computer. 

    However, a good “stat” package will tell you the comparison between “unique visitors” and “repeat visitors”, using these two numbers together will give you the best overall picture of the “walk-in traffic” your website is getting. (Having a new person visit your website is good – unique visitor; having that same new person come back is also good – visitor.)

  3. Page Views – this number can give you a good idea of how many pages within your website are getting eyeballs.  However, it may also include the bored (or excessively young) user that repeatedly hits refresh on your page because you have a cool image that changes every time the page reloads.

    Again, a good “stat” package will give you a breakdown of how many times “each” page is viewed, not just a total page count and better yet is pattern tracking that will tell you what path they took from when they first arrived at your site. For example: Home page to Services page to About Us page to Price List page to Services page to Contact Us page.
What you don’t want to rely on is whatever the “Hits” are being reported as. For a site to boast 80,000 hits a month, week or even day could mean nothing more than 1,600 pages that are loaded with 50 “hit points” per page (graphics, files, etc). Over the course of a month this could mean an average of 54 page views per day, which could be based on access by 9 computers averaging 6 page views per day. If it’s the same 9 computers every day and the same people using those computers, your 80,000 hits per month could actually only mean 9 sets of eyeballs per month.  Even if the 80,000 hits is based on per day traffic, if each unique visitor averages 6 page views per day this would still only calculate out to 267 unique visitors per day – a nice number for a local business, but a far cry for the 80,000 claimed. These are extreme examples, but they do illustrate the point of how easy it is to manipulate the information and dazzle average users who don’t fully understand the jargon.

If you really want to delve in deeper to understand the mechanics behind website statistics, this is a really good, easier to understand site:

At the end of the day, be very cautious about being “wowed” by website statistics – while some truly are impressive, most are simply over-inflated and misleading.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Word of Mouth

Over and over we hear how “word-of-mouth” is the best form of advertising out there. It is unarguable the strength that lies in “word-of-mouth” marketing. But how many of us stop and REALLY think about that?
  1. Are we giving our customers something good to talk about?
  2. Do we have enough customers for “word-of-mouth” to have a noticeable impact?
  3. How long will it take for “word-of-mouth” to produce noticeable results?
  4. How long am I willing to wait to see growth in my business?
  5. Is there anything that I can do to increase my “word-of-mouth” marketing?
  6. Can I make my “word-of-mouth” marketing produce results more quickly?
For most businesses who are just “getting through the day”, they’re probably not giving their customers anything substantial to talk about. What are the things that make YOU talk about another business? Slightly bad service? Maybe something really fantastic that surprises you or knocks you off balance because you weren’t expecting it? Unfortunately, giving customers what they “expect” to receive from your business is going to do NOTHING for your “word-of-mouth” marketing.
  • Make a big mistake and they’ll go out of their way to tell people they don’t even know about it.
  • Make a small mistake and their entirely family and most of their friends are going to hear about it.
  • Do what they expect and they’ll say nothing.
  • Do what they don’t expect and their entire family and most of their friends are going to hear about it.
  • Do something that they never would have thought was possible, that they can’t possibly ignore and they’ll go out of their way to tell people they don’t even know about it.
See a pattern here? Any thoughts on how easy each of these scenarios would be to achieve? I’ll give you a hint, they’re listed in the order of easiest to hardest. Is that a good thing for relying on “word-of-mouth” marketing? For most businesses… no it is not.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What happens when advertising stops?

The reasons we are unable to introspect on advertising's effects, especially in low-involvement situations, are:
  1. the effect of each single ad exposure is small;
  2. with repetition, even imperceptibly small effects can build into larger perceived differences between brands;
  3. if something gets repeated constantly without challenge, our minds seem to regard this as prima facie evidence that maybe, just maybe, it is true (the truth effect);
  4. often it is no big deal to us which of the alternative brands we choose, anyway.
Understanding this also explains why tracking campaign advertising is far more effective than trying to track the effectiveness in one single ad delivered through one particular media.

We don’t know a lot about what happens when advertising stops but what we do know is enough to warrant caution. Most companies don't know what happens when advertising stops because they only look at the immediate sales figures. If sales don't go down, they breathe a sigh of relief. But it is critical to look at what is going on underneath, at the brand image and 'brand value' level. Here is where the early warning signs of erosion in brand value are likely to be seen first.

So stopping advertising could be a smart decision. But, then again, it could be a time bomb. Remember the milk company I mentioned in a previous article? Well a doctoral thesis on milk advertising in the United States some years ago revealed the delayed nature of the time bomb. It underlined the fact that maintenance of sales in the short or medium term after ceasing to advertise is no reason for complacency. In a prolonged series of test market experiments, it was found that nothing happened to sales when advertising of milk was stopped. Nothing, that is, for 12 months! After a year of no advertising, milk sales suddenly went into a sharp decline and continued to decline at a sickening rate.

Advertising restarted immediately, but it was too late. It took another 18 months to halt the decline and then begin to reverse it.

So beware of the delayed time bomb. To regain a favourable position that is lost during belt tightening can cost more in the long run than to try to retain it by continuing to advertise at a maintenance level.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are you part of the Wedding Market? Maybe you should be....

The wedding industry is HUGE.  Even in a lower economy, people still manage to find dollars for the day, that for many, is the most important day of their lives.

Did you know that over 5 million people will get married THIS YEAR alone?!

So, are you a business that is very obviously, directly related to the wedding industry?  Or are you a business who typically sits back thinking "I wish I was, but no I'm really not" ?

For some that may very well be true - but for others you might be surprised.  Many brides are often looking for different ways to make their special day unique. For their wedding to be the one to stand out in the minds of their friends and families for years to come.  I for one did a few "out of the norm" things for my own wedding back in 1996.  First was having the entire wedding party (and most of the guests) arrive in antique and hot rod cars. Second was the inclusion of a magician to provide some fun entertainment for the numerous kids we had in attendance. Third was the entertainment for the adults!  tsk tsk.... I know what you're thinking!  :-)  We brought in a Fun Money Casino.  And to top it all off, the staff from the casino along with the men in our wedding party were all dressed "Blues Brother" style.  It was a blast and was a hugely talked about event for years to come. Another thing that we did that was unique back them, was we had little bottles of bubble blowers for everyone at the ceremony to use rather than throwing rice, bird seed or confetti.

My point is to have a hard look at your business and see if you are able to create an opportunity that would allow you to tap into an industry as huge as the wedding industry.  This also gives you the opportunity for some marketing features that you may otherwise have not participated in.

Our Gateway Gazette Wedding Supplement is one such example, but there are plenty of others out there too.

Marketing your business isn't always just about getting the right "message" in the right "place".  It can also be about finding the right niche to promote.  To think outside of the box not only in what you say or how you say it, but also in what you are offering to the public.  Look at your products or services through a different set of eyes - you never know what opportunities may simply be lying in wait!

If you are interested in learning more about the Gateway Gazette Wedding Supplement visit:  But hurry, deadline is March 9th.