Healthcare Open Enrollment Means Marketers Ask: Whose Patient Are You, Really?

It’s Open Enrollment season in health care. Marketers at physician groups, hospitals, and health plans compete for attention and selection. These high-profile marketing campaigns tend to overshadow a new wrinkle that adds complexity behind the scenes — patient attribution.

It’s Open Enrollment season in health care. Marketers at physician groups, hospitals, and health plans compete for attention and selection because the choices made now will drive patient traffic and revenue potential over the coming year. These high-profile marketing campaigns tend to overshadow a new wrinkle that adds complexity behind the scenes — patient attribution.

Patient attribution is rising in importance as part of the overall shift toward Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), value-based care, population health, and social determinents of health. All of these trends require a provider or provider’s organization to be more engaged, proactive, and mindful of resource utilization. In an HMO model, the responsiblity rests with the assigned or chosen primary care physician (PCP), known as a “patient choice” attribution method. The PCP does an initial evaluation and determines when more specialized care is appropriate. But this obvious direct accountability is not present in other types of coverage, where the healthplan design does not require the patient to choose a PCP. In these situations, patients can bounce from physician-to-physician and hospital-to-hospital, with only the insurance company having an understanding of the patient’s health situation — based on the claims they pay.

This is where patient attribution comes into play. The idea is that clear lines of responsibility lead to more efficient use of resources and earlier resolution of health problems. But for a health plan to create accountability, it has to determine which provider or provider organization should benefit from the financial upside of success, or bear the downside risk for poorly managing a patient’s care. Providers and provider organizations with attributed patients can realize significant performance-based bonuses, if the oversight efforts result in more efficient use of resources, better clinical documentation, or improvements in their overall panel’s health. The downside is that a physician can be assigned — and remains responsible for — attributed patients who never come into the practice, which occurs most often if the provider does not have a strong outreach program.

Attributing a patient is not a simple matter. Each has strengths and different implications for the type of marketing service you might offer a provider or organization. If your hospital or physician group holds multiple value-based contracts, focus your marketing efforts on the agreements that offer the most financial “upside,” based on the number of lives under that health plan contract or based on whether the clinical performance targets outlined in the agreement are achieveable.

While there are several attribution models, the most common are Prospective Attribution, Retrospective Attribution, and Geography-Based Attribution. As a marketer, the outreach strategies and tactics you recommend may differ, depending on the the attribution method.

The retrospective approach relies on the patient’s visit history (sometimes called visit-based attribution). The patient is attributed to the physician or provider organization the patient went to most frequently. In some cases, that attribution may be to a specialist, rather than a PCP. This rear-view mirror approach has the advantage of retrospective accuracy, but also the weakness of assuming the patients’ behavior in the coming year can be based on their behavior in the prior year. As a marketer, your goal is to solidfy a relationship such that the patient would be strongly predisposed to returning.

In a prospective attribution model, the health plan will assign the patient to a provider or provider organization, with the expectation the provider will reach out to the patient to create initial and ongoing engagement. While the provider has clarity about who they are responsible for, patients may not respond to that outreach. As a marketer, your opportunity is to make getting the first appointment easy and the experience pleasant, so they do not feel a need to go elsewhere.

A geography-based attribution is an approach that assigns patients to nearby providers, often at the ZIP code level. The proximity of the provider’s office to the patient’s residence can be attractive to many consumers, increasing the odds the patient will remain with that practice. The weakness in this model is that it does not take into account the actual health needs of the patient who may need to see a specialist more frequently than a PCP. Geography-based marketing is a natural fit for most marketers, both in the real world or digital world.

As you execute upon this year’s open enrollment outreach, open a discussion with your contracting team about value-based agreements and the attribution models used. It may help frame some of the activities you pursue after the new year.

Why You Are Missing Out Without Conversion Tracking

Which digital marketing channels are driving the most leads and sales for your business? Are any channels just wasting your budget? Without properly set up conversion tracking, there’s no way to answer those two critical questions.

How can you tell if your new Google Ads campaign is improving your conversion rate? What percentage of visitors coming to your landing pages are there because of your Facebook Ads? You can’t get an accurate assessment of the ROI generated by your advertising efforts without implementing mechanisms to track visitor responses.

What Is Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking involves placing a piece of code on your website to track visitors and their actions. The data helps you understand their responses to various techniques used in your ad campaigns and different webpage designs. You can use conversion tracking for testing of keywords, redesigned landing pages, and new ad text.

Items You Should Be Tracking

  • Forms on your website (ex. quote requests, scheduled appointments, demo requests)
  • E-commerce sales
  • Coupon codes you give out as a way of encouraging people to visit physical locations
  • Phone calls

Here is what you gain by effectively tracking your digital marketing efforts.

1. Better ROI Tracking

You can add tracking codes to “Thank You” pages to monitor completed transactions by visitors and origination channels. That can tell you how many of those conversions came from visitors who clicked on specific advertisements. You can include tracking of signups, lead generation, or other items relevant to improving ROI.

2. Insights Into Campaign Successes

Some ads will perform better than others. Conversion tracking tells you how well specific keywords perform in attracting your target audience. You can also learn which ad campaigns to eliminate if they tend to draw visitors who quickly move away from your landing pages. Use information gained from your split testing efforts to tweak your keyword lists, ad copy, and landing pages for better performance.

3. Figuring Out What Content to Reuse

You want to stick with what works. Conversion tracking lets you know which content on your website attracted the most interest, or which campaigns helped drive higher-quality visitors. You want content that keeps visitors on your site who will eventually convert into a lead or sale.

4. Improved Audience Categorization

Segmenting audiences allows you to provide relevant content to those who visit your site or sign up to receive your email communications. Conversion tracking helps you figure out whether you have your contacts properly sorted for the type of information they receive.

Better categorization means your audiences aren’t sending your emails directly to the trash bin, or worse, clicking the “report spam” and/or “Unsubscribe” link. You also increase your chances of attracting the type of attention that leads to more conversions and better ROI.

5. Knowledge of Where to Direct Marketing Budget

Marketers running campaigns on a limited budget must maximize each dollar spent, while being cost-efficient. That allows you to create more effective campaigns that get the most for your money. You avoid dumping money into failing ad strategies and can direct those funds to higher-performing efforts.

Why Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking allows you to track and improve the ROI of your digital marketing campaigns by helping you identify your best-performing campaigns and eliminate those not delivering the desired conversion rates. It also helps you understand where you should be directing your budget across all the various marketing channels so you maximize every dollar invested.

Want more help tracking your marketing campaigns?  Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.”

Lead Generation Metrics — The Basics and Beyond

Lead generation metrics should help you understand not only what parts of your digital marketing are working, but what parts are generating the highest quality leads.

There are basic lead generation metrics that you must to be tracking in order to evaluate the success of your lead gen efforts. You’ll likely have to go beyond the basics to mine truly valuable insights about your efforts.

Here’s a list, that’s by no means comprehensive, of my favorite basic and more advanced metrics.

First, the basics.

Impressions

How many people are seeing your ad, your content or whatever it is you’re using to attract that audience? This is, to use another term, your reach. Your tracking and evaluation here should be on a per-channel basis, with an eye toward finding the channels that you are able to grow most cost-effectively.

Clickthrough Rate

CTR is the number of people who interact with your content. Typically, that means they click the ad or the link in your social media post, etc. (You might also want to track other types of engagement, like subscriptions.) The critical element of this metric is breaking it down to individual ads or content, including individual issues of your newsletter campaign. You want to know what is resonating with your audience and what is driving them to take action.

Conversions

A conversion can be many different things, depending on the goal you have for your lead generation campaign. (e.g. marketing-qualified leads, sales-qualified leads, etc.) Whatever action you deem to be a conversion, it’s generally a “state change” along the buyer’s journey. That can be a move from a member of the target audience who’s never heard of you to a website visitor to a prospect to a MQL to an SQL and finally to becoming a client. Each of those state changes is a conversion that should be tracked separately.

Conversion Rate

This calculated metric is a function of conversions divided by impressions. It’s worth tracking on its own, of course, but should also be evaluated with some latitude. That is, as you expand your reach and your impressions rise, you may have a less tightly targeted audience. Of course, you’d like your conversion rate to always rise. But if it falls while the total number of conversions rise, that’s not necessarily a bad trade-off.

With these data points solidly represented in our dashboard, we can move on to additional (and increasingly useful) measurements.

Cost per Lead

What does it take to move a prospect through a stage in the funnel? How does the cost compare with other methods? (Direct mail, trade shows, etc.) How do costs compare across the various digital channels you’re using? These are the metrics that will guide your spend going forward.

Leads per Channel

Another calculated metric worth adding to your dashboard. Here, you compare how many leads a channel is generating against all other channels. It’s an analog to conversion rate in that a channel with more leads generated from a smaller audience (impressions) might be a channel worth exploring more deeply.

Time to Conversion

This metric typically takes some aggregating of data across platforms, as you’ll want to note when each state change occurs. It’s valuable to know how long it takes a typical prospect to proceed through each stage. It’s even more valuable to know this on a per-channel basis. And more valuable still to know average time-per-conversion for those prospects that become clients. You can then tailor your programs to pay more attention to those prospects who appear to be on that “golden path.”

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

CLV should be calculated across the board and broken down by channel. A channel with a slightly higher cost per lead but a 10-time increase in CLV is a great channel!

Conclusion

You may find the able list of metrics daunting to consider, especially if you’re not gathering and reviewing any of them now. If so, there’s no reason not to start small. As you become more comfortable with the data, you can expand your dashboard to include a broader range of data points and a broader possibility of action points.

How Are Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

direct mail
Creative Commons license. | Credit: Pixabay by Alexas_Fotos

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

Keep in mind that the best marketing is done through multiple channels, so make sure you are able to track each channel’s results. Use the ones that work best for you.

Almost all business types currently use direct mail and benefit from it. So, let’s get into the details the DMA found in its report of what they are doing that is working.

  • Postcards — A house file had a 5.7 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 3.4 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Letter Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 4.37 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 2.5 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Flat Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 6.6 percent response rate with an ROI of 37 percent and prospect file had a 4.9 percent response rate with an ROI of 30 percent.

They do not track rates for self-mailers or booklets, I am not sure why. The two most common uses for direct mail are direct sale and lead generation, and no matter the use, a flat size envelope wins. So how are companies tracking their direct mail results?

  1. Online 61 percent of companies are tracking online with the use of PURLs, landing pages and more.
  2. Phone  53 percent of companies track phone calls to either a call center or designated location.
  3. Code or Coupon  42 percent of companies use coupons or codes to track.

They also use, at much smaller rates, matchback, linked sales transactions, list coding and others. There is no right or wrong way to track, do what works best for you. The most important thing is that you are tracking your results.

Now, are you curious about volumes of mail? Based on monthly volume, companies are doing the following:

  • 50,000 or less = 39 percent for a house list and 36 percent for a prospect list
  • 50,001- 150,000 = 21 percent for a house list and 15 percent for a prospect list
  • 150,001 – 250,000 = 16 percent for a house list and 12 percent for a prospect list

Finally, let’s look at cost per format:

  • Letter: $22.55 for a house list and $39.75 for a prospect list
  • Postcard: $14.60 for a house list and $29.70 for a prospect list
  • Flat: $29.30 for a house list and $31.90 for a prospect list

As you can see from these numbers, direct mail can really be a benefit to your marketing. If you have done direct mail before but not recently or if you have not used direct mail before, you need to make sure that your final designs meet postal regulations. There is no reason to pay extra postage when you don’t have to. Your mail service provider can help you navigate the regulations and facilitate your direct mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started? Your prospects and customers are waiting to hear from you.

How to Track Your Direct Mail Response

There’s more than one way to track your direct mail results, so don’t feel like you have to go buy sophisticated software to accomplish this task. Here are four easy ideas to track your next direct mail campaign.

Uncover The Facts on torn paperWe all know we should be tracking our response rates, but sometimes it can seem difficult. So for 2017, let’s get past the procrastination hump and really see what works and what needs help. There’s more than one way to track your results, so don’t feel like you have to go buy sophisticated software to accomplish this task. Here are four easy ideas to track your next direct mail campaign.

  1. Phone numbers: Use a unique 800-number for each offer you do. It gives an easy way for people to respond to you and provides you with what mail piece they are responding to. Phone numbers are pretty cheap, so this is also a very cost effective way to track.
  2. Coupon Codes: Provide a coupon code on the mail piece that ties into your offer. Each offer will get a different code. When people respond to your mail piece, they must be required to give that code to get a discount. There is really no extra cost to you at all. This will be easy for them and easy for you to track who responded to what code.
  3. Landing Pages: Like the coupon codes, you will create a landing page for each offer you provide. Then, you can track who went to what page, as well as who ordered from the page. Remember to keep the URLs short for easy typing from the mail piece. You can also use QR codes for them to scan to get to the landing page. This is a cost effective way to track since the set up of each page is not very time consuming.
  4. Mail Piece: You could also use the easy method of requiring people to present the mail piece at your store to get a discount. Then, you get the piece back and know who came in response to the mailer. There is no extra cost to you. Obviously, this works best for businesses that have a store front and where people buy in person.

Once you start to get results, you may be surprised by what you learn. Sometimes the most popular offers are not the ones we thought they would be. Make sure to add this response information to your data file so that you know what works on who. Also, keep track of what they purchase from you. Both of these data sets will help you to provide more personalized offers in the future.

Did you know that 80 percent of your total sales from your marketing efforts come after eight to 10 contacts with your customers or prospects?  Have you ever thought about creating some additional marketing touches with your mail pieces as a way to increase the number of contacts to your customers or prospects and lower the cost of the overall marketing campaign to help you get to that 80 percent of the sales that are there?  Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • IP Address Ads: Target your mail list by matching IP addresses to it. Then, send ads to those IP addresses to remind them to respond to your mail piece.
  • Social Media Ads: Same concept here: match to people on social media platforms to reinforce your direct mail message.
  • Email: Do a follow-up email reminder after the mail piece is received.

In 2017, direct mail can have great response rates — make sure that you know what’s working and what needs more work. Direct mail does not need to and should not work alone. Combine your efforts to enhance your response rates. Don’t be afraid to try new things — just make sure you can track the results for future improvements. Talk to your mail service provider: They can help guide you on what will work best.

Google AdWords Audit Checklist: How to Optimize Your Campaign

Google AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. However, like anything else, it must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Google AdWords logoGoogle AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. It allows you to focus your advertising budget on customers who are ready to buy, giving you a steady stream of eager new prospects. It also allows you to start with whatever budget you’re comfortable with, making it a tremendous resource for small businesses.

However, many business owners are not maximizing their campaign performance, so they are leaving money on the table month after month. Like anything else, your Google AdWords campaign must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Keywords
Keywords commonly trip up both new and experienced AdWords users because there are so many factors to consider. To optimize your keywords, I recommend using three distinct tactics, each of which addresses a common problem.

  • Pruning: The goal of pruning is to remove unprofitable keywords from your list, including those that are irrelevant and those that, for whatever reason, simply do not perform well for you. To start pruning, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report from the Keywords tab of your account. Any keyword that does not show solid performance should be removed or paused. Also consider adding negative keywords, which tell AdWords not to display your ad if a particular word appears in the search string.
  • Fishing: The goal of fishing is to find new keywords that will be profitable for your campaign. Again, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report and look for keyword phrases that are performing well, but are not yet in your Ad Groups.
  • Replanting: Replanting is a process to optimize your top performing keywords while limiting your budget for new or unproven keywords. Move your top keywords into their own campaign, and focus on tweaking your ad copy and landing pages to tightly match those keywords. Likewise, move unproven keywords to their own campaign and reduce their budget until you get more data on them. Replanting allows you to improve your quality score, increase your click-through rate, and maintain better control over your advertising dollars.

Ads
Your ad copy is an excellent place to optimize your AdWords campaign, since it is virtually impossible to write perfect copy on the first, or even the tenth, try. Here are a few ways to optimize your ads.

  • Split testing: Never allow just one ad to run in an ad group. Always run at least two ads so that you can compare their performance.
  • Offer: No matter how good the rest of your ad copy is, a weak offer can sink your AdWords campaign. Remember that a great offer minimizes customer risk and overcomes the tendency for procrastination. Review your competitors’ offers, think through what would appeal to your ideal customer, and split test different offers in your ads.
  • Extensions: Ad extensions factor into your quality score, and also play a role in improving your click-through rate, so make sure you are taking advantage of all of them. The Review extension, with a third party endorsement, is particularly useful in building credibility.
  • Other factors: Other areas of your ad copy that should be audited include your headline, display URL, and description. Make sure that each section is clear and succinct, focusing on how you can solve a problem or fulfill a need for your prospect. Ensure that your entire ad is internally consistent, easy to follow, and has a strong call to action.

Landing Pages
Your landing page is your opportunity to close the sale, turning visitors into leads and customers. It must be laser-focused to match the ad, reassuring the prospect that she is in the right place and explaining what to do next. Optimizing your landing page is not easy, but it’s critical to your campaign performance.

  • Dedicated landing pages: One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is using their homepage as a landing page for ads. A secondary mistake is using the same landing page for lots of unrelated keywords. Make sure your landing page is 100 percent congruent with the keywords and ads in each Ad Group.
  • Congruence: As mentioned above, your landing page must be fully congruent with your ad. This means that the landing page copy should match the keywords, and the landing page offer should repeat the offer made in the ads.
  • Call to Action: It sounds crazy, but I have reviewed countless landing pages that do not explicitly explain what the visitor needs to do to start the buying process.  As a consumer, it’s frustrating when it’s not clear what to do so most prospective customers will leave rather than try to figure it out.  So make sure your landing page has a clear call-to-action, ideally above the fold so the visitor does not have to scroll to find it.

Tracking
Tracking is the only method you have for determining how well your AdWords campaign is performing. Make sure that each of the following forms of AdWords tracking is set up properly in your account:

  • Webform conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete your webforms
  • Shopping cart conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete online orders
  • Website call tracking to measure how many visitors call after clicking on your ads
  • Call extension tracking to measure how many people call using the number displayed in your ads
  • Offline sales import conversion tracking to measure how many sales are generated offline via phone calls or in-person

Optimizing and maintaining your Google AdWords campaign is an ongoing, never ending process. A regular audit procedure will determine which portions of your campaign are working well, and which need some attention. Although it may seem lot a lot of work, following an audit checklist like this can be completed quickly if you break up the tasks over the course of a week or two.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my complete Google AdWords checklist.

5 Types of Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything. Oh boy, have the times changed

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything.

Oh boy, have the times changed. AdWords now gives advertisers five different conversion types, along with options to customize exactly how conversions are tracking in your account. For example, you can now track all conversions or you can track only unique conversions to exclude the instances when prospects complete multiple forms on your website.

In this article, I’m going to bring you up to speed on all five different conversion types:

  1. Webform Submissions
  2. Online Sales with Revenue
  3. Calls from Website
  4. Calls from Ads [Call Extensions]
  5. Offline Sales [Import]

1. Webform Submissions:
Again, this was the only option for me back in 2006. Webform submissions like quote requests, demo requests, or any other key action on your website should be tracked as a conversion in your AdWords campaign. This can be easily set up by adding the conversion code to the “thank you” page of all your webforms.

2. Online Sales with Revenue:
Eventually, Google introduced the ability to assign a value to your conversions, which revolutionized campaign management. If your business sells anything online, then you absolutely must set up revenue tracking for your shopping cart. Once set up, you’ll start to see revenue data in AdWords so you can calculate your profit per keyword, placement or ad.

3. Calls from Website:
Just last year website call tracking was launched so that advertisers can see how many phone calls are generated from the AdWords ads. This code is fairly technical so I recommend assigning this task to your webmaster to get set up. Once installed you’ll start to see conversions in your AdWords account any time a prospect calls after clicking on one of your ads.

4. Calls from Ads:
Most people do not call directly from the phone number listed in an ad, but some do. In AdWords you can track these calls by using a Call Extension, which is one of the many Ad Extensions available in AdWords. When you set up your Call Extension, make sure to click on the advanced options and check the box to track phone calls using a Google forwarding number.

5. Offline Sales [Import]:
Up to this point all the conversion tracking options sound great, but they don’t solve the major problem for non-eCommerce businesses, which is tracking sales generated off of the internet.Luckily Google recognized this problem and introduce the Offline Sales Import conversion option. This is the most technical of them all, but it’s well worth the effort to have your webmaster set this up. Here’s how it works:

  • Your webmaster will have to edit all the forms on your website to add a hidden field called “GCLID” (stands for “Google Click ID”)
  • Your webmaster will set the value of this hidden field using the URL parameter called “gclid”. For example, when someone clicks on one of your ads, Google automatically ads the “gclid” URL parameter, which looks like this 123ABC567DEF. This is the unique tracking code you’ll use to track sales back to your ads.
  • You’ll need to send the GCLID code to your sales team and/or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce.
  • On a monthly basis, you’ll need to find all the sales that have a corresponding GCLID code and import those codes, along with the sales revenue, into Google AdWords.
  • AdWords will automatically match the GCLID codes to the keywords, placements and ads that the customers originally clicked on before ultimately making a purchase off of the internet.

If that didn’t make sense, then just send your webmaster this page and he or she will be able to help. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Go through the 5 conversion types again and make sure you have them all set up in your AdWord campaign. These are all critical to maximize the performance of your campaigns.

Want more free Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

5 Common Google AdWords Mistakes to Avoid

Google AdWords is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advertise your business. It allows you to target your advertising dollars towards customers who are already ready to buy, and to tap into a constant stream of prospects searching for your product or service. Plus, there’s no big upfront investment so you can start with a low advertising budget and then scale over time. These factors make Google AdWords a vital resource for any small business, but like any tool, it is often misunderstood and misused.

Google AdWords is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advertise your business. It allows you to target your advertising dollars towards customers who are already ready to buy, and to tap into a constant stream of prospects searching for your product or service. Plus, there’s no big upfront investment so you can start with a low advertising budget and then scale over time. These factors make Google AdWords a vital resource for any small business, but like any tool, it is often misunderstood and misused.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of AdWords accounts and the most common mistakes I see typically fall into 5 basic categories, all of which can be quite costly to your business, but are fairly easy to fix. Here is a look at the most common types of mistakes people make when using Google AdWords, and how you can avoid them.

  1. Budget Allocation Errors
    This mistake can happen during the planning phase. Many company owners simply allocate their available dollars equally across all of their products or lines of business. This is almost never the best idea because all products and services are not equally valuable to your business. Instead, focus on your marketing goals based on maximizing your ROI (Return on Investment).

    Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with your ad campaign. Do you want to grow an already profitable business unit or try to scale a new product or service? How many new customers do you hope to attract per month? Figure out what you want to accomplish, and then allocate your budget based on what is most likely to help you quickly reach your goal.

  2. Ad Writing Problems
    Writing ads is a tough job, but a great ad is the key to attracting the right prospects and turning them into customers. Many business owners struggle with exactly what message they want to send, and end up making one of 4 basic ad writing mistakes. See if your ads fall into any of these categories:
    • One Size Fits All: One size fits all ads try to target a single ad to a long list of keywords. Instead of being highly relevant for one keyword, the ad ends up being mediocre for all of them. To fix this, create separate, tightly targeted ads for each of your core keyword phrases.
    • Me Too: These ads don’t stand out from the competition in any memorable way. If everyone in your line of business offers free consultations, then a free consultation doesn’t make you special. Figure out what you provide that is different from what your competitors provide, and highlight that difference in your ads.
    • Feature Rich: Your prospects want to buy a product or service that solves a problem in their lives. Feature rich ads focus on all the bells and whistles, but fail to answer the basic question of how the purchase will meet a specific need. To improve these ads, identify your customers’ needs and explain how you will fulfill them.
    • Company Focused: Like feature rich ads, company focused ads fail to explain what you can do for the customer. Talking too much about your company wastes space that could be better used for telling prospects what you will do for them.
  3. Landing Page Issues
    It is easy (and often the obvious first choice if you’re just getting started) to set your website’s home page as the landing page for all your ads, but it can cost you customers. Your home page gives a general introduction to everything you do, but your prospect clicked on a specific ad to meet a specific need. Make it easy for your prospects by targeting individual landing pages to the relevant ads. Describe the benefits of your product or service, give specifics, demonstrate your credibility, and don’t forget a call to action.
  4. Keyword Match Type Mistakes:
    Keyword match types is one of the least understood aspect of Google AdWords for new advertisers and unfortunately these mistakes can be extremely costly. When you add keywords to your AdWords campaign, then Google allows you to set 4 different match types to tell Google exactly which search phrases phrases should trigger your your ads.
    • Broad: This is the default setting so new advertisers often unknowingly select this when setting up their campaigns. However, it is almost never the best option. With this setting, your ad will display when a prospect searches not only your chosen keyword, but any other keyword that the algorithm thinks is related. You could end up paying for clicks from people who have no interest in what you are actually selling.
    • Exact: This setting displays your ad only to prospects who search for your exact keyword phrase in the exact way that you set it up. This can be overly restrictive because you could ignore prospects who are highly interested but searching in a slightly different way. For this reason, I generally do not recommend starting with Exact match until you identify the top performing search phrases. Once you know the exact phrase, then you’ll want to use Exact match to laser target your advertising.
    • Phrase: Phrase matching is almost always the best choice for a new Google AdWords campaign. It displays your ad when your keyword phrase is searched, even if it is part of a longer search phrase. Note that your ads could still display for irrelevant searches so it’s critical to use Negative keywords whenever you use Phrase match. Negative keywords will block your ads from displaying on any irrelevant searches you select.
    • Modified Broad: This is generally the best setting for business owners who want to expand their advertising campaigns. It matches your ad to search phrases that include all of the words in your keyword phrase in any order. It improves your reach, but also raises your risk of irrelevant clicks, which is why you’ll want to avoid this advanced setting when you’re just starting out.
  5. Conversion Tracking Omissions
    Without conversion tracking, you have no objective data to use in tweaking your advertising campaign and maximizing your ROI. Yet many business owners omit this crucial step. Setting up online conversion tracking for solely web-based businesses is as simple as adding a bit of code to your receipt, or “thank you” page.

    If your sales convert offline through phone calls or face to face meetings, conversion tracking is a bit more complicated, but still entirely possible. Your options include tracking phone numbers, coupon codes, and Offline conversion imports. All it takes is some understanding of the Google AdWords conversion tracking system and a little persistence to continually keep track of your leads and sales from your advertising campaigns.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

Building Your Facebook Community

In July, 2010, Facebook announced that more than 500 million people worldwide were actively using the social media site to connect with family, friends and, yes, increasingly, brands. While Facebook continues to evolve as a marketing platform, a growing number of marketers are looking to leverage this channel to engage consumers and build communities. But what are some of the secrets to success, and how can you leverage these best practices to build a powerful community of brand advocates?

In July, 2010, Facebook announced that more than 500 million people worldwide were actively using the social media site to connect with family, friends and, yes, increasingly, brands. While Facebook continues to evolve as a marketing platform, a growing number of marketers are looking to leverage this channel to engage consumers and build communities. But what are some of the secrets to success, and how can you leverage these best practices to build a powerful community of brand advocates?

Listen. Understand. Then frame the conversation.
Before attempting to develop a full Facebook fan page for your brand, first determine the nature of the conversation between your brand and its customers. When it comes to framing the conversation, the brands that build successful Facebook communities take their cues from their customers and don’t try to dictate or dominate the relationship. They do this by listening. Follow these tips to tap into multiple listening sources to uncover shared passions:

Brand audit. Type your brand name into Facebook’s search bar to take a pulse of the nature of the conversations already taking place about your brand.

Leverage traditional market research. Collect information about how your customers use social media, and what kind of content and conversations are important to them. Survey your customer base through database marketing, website intercept surveys and third-party research panels. Use focus groups to drill down into the attitudes and particular content, features and functionalities that will set you apart.

Listening tools. Use powerful monitoring tools to filter the immense amount of discussions and activity surrounding your brand, and to identify opportunities and key areas of interest.

Acquire and grow: Build your fan base. So you’ve identified a shared passion that will underpin your general community framework. Up next: building your base. The best acquisition strategies leverage existing customer touchpoints as well as opportunities within Facebook’s ecosystem. Take the following steps:

  • secure a vanity URL and make it easy to be found;
  • clearly define the benefits of joining your page;
  • invite existing customers via email;
  • offer something unique or exclusive, giving those who like your brand a reason to visit, engage with and recommend your page;
  • test different placements of the “Like” button across your existing digital touchpoints;
  • include your Facebook page’s link on relevant paid search terms;
  • include Facebook URLs/tags on traditional advertising efforts (e.g., print, TV, radio);
  • “favorite” related brands; and
  • test Facebook advertising.

Stir the pot: Engage your fan base. Once you’ve acquired fans, create a compelling experience that keeps them engaged and actively participating. Keep in mind that engaging your fans is a journey, not a destination. Do the following to keep fans engaged:

  • provide them with unique access to special content and/or offers;
  • create and test applications like polls, trivia, simple games and widgets, making sure the underlying subject of those applications syncs with the shared passion of your community;
  • shower your fans with public recognition;
  • encourage user-generated content;
  • rotate and target content (e.g., geo-posts) to keep it relevant;
  • think internationally; and
  • adjust your content strategy accordingly.

Build trust. Being open isn’t always easy. Many brands shy away from social media out of fear that their fans and followers may say something negative or turn on them. Deal with issues and problems in an open, transparent way. In fact, if you’ve done a good job offering value and engaging those who like your page, you may find they’re your biggest defenders. To build trust with your fans, do the following:

  • post a comment policy;
  • remove spam;
  • be transparent and authentic;
  • remain calm and think before you act (i.e., respond/post);
  • train and communicate your goals with those responsible for managing/engaging fans; and
  • build a corporate policy and communicate that policy internally so employees understand how to engage consumers in a transparent manner.

Have fun: Analyze and optimize. So, how do you know if you’re doing a good job? Tracking and analytics will help you get a handle on your page’s performance. Try the following tracking tactics:

  • use unique tracking codes for Facebook posts;
  • leverage Facebook Insights to understand activity and usage;
  • identify brand advocates and tag them in your database — you may even want to consider rewarding them for their support with bonus points; and
  • communicate your learnings and institutionalize them.

Finally — and perhaps most importantly — don’t lose sight of the fact that Facebook is an evolving platform. No one person can keep up with all the developments, so make sure you partner right. Find an agency and/or support system that’s well-versed on Facebook best practices and your brand, and has shown a proven ability to engage consumers.

Digital Marketers Abuzz About WSJ Article Slamming Web Tracking

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably already heard about or read a July 30 Wall Street Journal article called “The Web’s  New Gold Mine: Your Secrets.”

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably already heard about or read a July 30 Wall Street Journal article called “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets.”

In case you haven’t, the article — which offers findings from a study conducted by the Journal that assesses and analyzes cookies and other surveillance technology that companies are deploying on internet users — paints a very ugly picture of online marketers and web tracking companies.

The study reveals that the “tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry.” For example, the nation’s 50 top websites, on average, installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning. A dozen sites each installed more than a hundred.

The study also found that tracking technology is getting smarter and more intrusive. “Monitoring used to be limited mainly to ‘cookie’ files that record websites people visit,” the article said. “But the Journal found new tools that scan in real time what people are doing on a Web page, then instantly assess location, income, shopping interests and even medical conditions. Some tools surreptitiously re-spawn themselves even after users try to delete them.”

Finally, the report found that “these profiles of individuals, constantly refreshed, are bought and sold on stock-market-like exchanges that have sprung up in the past 18 months.”

For the online ad industry, this article comes at an inopportune time. Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) have drafted privacy legislation, the Senate held a hearing last week on the subject, and the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to release a report this fall.

As expected, the digital marketing industry is riled, with online ad industry execs reassuiring the public that they provide clear notice, allow users to opt out of ad targeting and don’t collect users’ names. One article that was particularly on target about the importance of advertisers coming clean on how they use consumer data was by BlueKai CEO Omar Tawakol.

In the article, which appeared in the Aug. 2 edition of Advertising Age, Tawakol says, “every web page that collects or shares data should be clear and visual about the data being collected. This disclosure needs to be simple and visual rather than in legalese that requires a law degree to comprehend. It should be as simple as a recycling label or a nutrition label. In addition to providing disclosure, the industry should also give consumers easy control over when, where, why and how that dataset is used.” He also suggested the following:

  • Every publisher of data should link to a preference manager at the bottom of each page called “about advertising.”
  • Every ad should have a standard icon like the little ‘i’ icon created by the Future of Privacy Foundation. That icon should link to a preference manager which shows you how to control your own data.
  • There are several different versions of preference managers like BlueKai, including Google, Better Advertising and Yahoo. Although one standard is preferable, choice isn’t a bad thing — even if it means different companies provide different ways for consumers to visualize their data.
  • Once this is prevalent, legislators should mandate that the only way publishers and ad companies are allowed to share consumer data across third parties is if they conform to the industry standards on transparency and control that are outlined above.

All great ideas … but there’s more to the story. In next week’s blog, I’ll introduce another argument to the mix: the growing number of sites where users volunteer the information that cookies try to collect.

What do you think of the WSJ article? Post your comments below.