Thursday, December 13, 2007

College Students Come Calling for Google

Thanks to Search Engine Land for the heads up on a new Google program to turn college students loose on local businesses.

According to the always-on-top-of-things Greg Sterling, "You've got to hand it to Google for creativity. It created the local business referral representative program to enlist stay-at-home moms, college students and others to get better data about local businesses and build AdWords awareness. (I was told by Google that the response to the program had been strong.) Now Google has developed the "Google Online Marketing Challenge." According to the site, "student groups will receive US$200 of free online advertising and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns."

Sterling also has a heads-up about an upcoming Simple Ads program, so check out his post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Optimize - Strategize - It's all "zzzz" to me

A recent project had me examining several dozen web sites, checking out product offerings and company information. Ugh! The state of web marketing and communications is pitiful.

Over 75% of the sites used jargon, but never said what the product was - I see they are all cost effective, revenue enhancing, they all optimize, strategize (and cross-my-eyes). They are all industry-leaders, best-of-breed, they all provide solutions, enhance, enable, and empower. HUH?

They fail to list their products. When products are listed there is not a simple descriptive sentence alongside that product. Want to know what the product does? Well, it's likely state-of-the art something that enables somebody to maximize their revenue potential. (And, like I asked, WHAT is it?). Instead - they have a page of "Solutions" which is poorly written, poorly edited, and minus compelling benefits.

Several don't list any of the names or backgrounds of the people involved, provide no street address, and fail to provide basic company information. Hey, if I'm dealing with Google I don't really need to verify that this company knows what they are doing. If I'm dealing with XYZ Cutie Name Company I want to have a lot of information that tells me they are legit.

Betcha they are thinking, "We'll provide that when they call us. No need to give any information away to our competitors." Problem is, who would care to call such an unprofessional company.

If it was just this one situation, I wouldn't be so peeved. But this is rampant. Go to any major conference, walk the conference floor, look at booths and literature, and tell me what half the companies do and how they are unique among their competitors. It can't be done.

PR these days makes it even worse. Check out this post from Ken Magill. He's on-spot in his analysis about how ineffective it is to think that people will work hard to understand your company.

So this is my mini-rant. I wish every company that wants to succeed would optimize its language, strategize on how to communicate better, enhance their message, enable real people to understand exactly what's being offered, and be the best-of-breed communicators as well as technologists.

Now THAT would be real marketing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Small Biz and the Web

Two pieces worth noting to help keep your small retail business competitive.

One from the New York Times - Small Merchants Gain Large Presence on Web - pointing out that small- and medium-size retailers selling online has swelled in the last two years, from 21 percent to 32 percent. This article should give you cause to pause if you're thinking about opening a new business as a bricks-and-mortar location. (This sent in by pal and research guru Tim Stehle - thanks, Tim!)

The second from Andrew Shotland's blog, covering keynoter Allison Mnookin's (VP Small Business, Intuit) talk at the recent Kelsey Group Interactive Local Media Conference. She told attendees that company research shows 20% of the small businesses claimed that SEO was by far their “most effective” online marketing tactic. Only about 5% said that online advertising was most effective. Shotland remarks, "Of course 59% said business cards were the most effective form of marketing so we SEO junkies still have some work to do."

The Kelsey Group blogs also had great information from Mnookin's talk - check out Steve Marshall's post which includes hints on how vendors should work with small businesses, as well as tidbits such as, "SMBs spent about $110 billion on marketing last year. But only 22 percent have done any online marketing (in the past 12 months), and less than 5 percent of their marketing budgets are spent on online media. Finally, although 95 percent of SMBs say they want to have a Web site, less than 50 percent currently do."