There’s a phrase I like that summarizes the way I think about advertising in regards to generating sales and solving business problems: The best way to kill a bad business is good advertising. It may seem counterintuitive but it’s true: what we do as advertisers never provides a single silver bullet or cure-all that can fix the problems that may be inherent to a company’s product or services. Advertising is often a major ingredient, but not necessarily the total solution because if effective advertising drives people to your business and the experience is not what they were promised, those leads are very likely to dry up and eventually disappear.
When looking at a sales funnel, it’s important to take a step back as a business owner and be hyper-focused on filling the holes that are inevitably there, whether they be in the product itself, customer service, the customer experience, website, sales strategy, or anywhere else. Your sales funnel doesn’t have to be perfect, but the more holes you can plug within the funnel the better your results will be. Advertising’s main purpose is to fill the funnel (yes, it helps the funnel in other ways, but awareness is its primary objective.) When you combine a more “watertight” funnel with a good method of filling it, you always end up with better results.
Marketing and advertising are critical resources no matter what the business is. But they will only be one part of a reason that a company has success and never the sole reason. Think of it this way: the sales funnel is the engine in a car. Marketing & advertising are just one piece and if one piece is broken, the rest of the engine won’t function properly.
If there are issues within the sales funnel, spending more on advertising won’t solve a client’s problem. In fact, any good advertiser should refuse to increase ad budget if that money could be used to address costly holes in a company’s product, service, or process. Advertisers should be invested in the long game: if the money that would have gone to ad spend can be used instead to increase the client’s overall revenue, the client’s expenses won’t go up and they’ll solve critical problems. Once the problem is solved, additional attention may then be paid to advertising.
Bottom line: advertising and marketing give you opportunities but it does not create success on their own. What you do for other people is baked into the fabric of your company and when you approach issues from a problem-solving perspective and develop products & services of a certain quality, marketing, and advertising open doors.
As advertising professionals, it’s morally right for us to share ideas and be frank with our clients about the issues that we see within the other components of the sales funnel. I refer to this as kind boldness. Even if those ideas don’t see an immediate profit for the advertising agency, everything works holistically. Sometimes, it’s about problem-solving alone. It’s also more enjoyable and easier to keep clients that you have these organic relationships with because insights and well-executed strategy make clients happy and feel like you are in their corner.
At Ethic Advertising Agency, we believe that what we do is a vital, important service. We make trust and relationships the center of our approach to our partnership. We like to serve as an extension of our clients’ teams because when we are collaborating, we’re matching the DNA of the organization and that drives better results. This often means, talking about solutions we don’t provide, and guiding companies to make what we believe is the best business decision even if it means they don’t use our services..yet…
This approach is inherent to our company’s identity. Often, we will take the time to do initial conversations without a fee because, while there isn’t always a financial benefit, there is a lot of value in helping and creating relationships. This is part of our culture and our own marketing strategy. We view our work not just as profitable but also as purposeful. It turns out, there are a lot of opportunities out there when you don’t expect anything in return.
When you put yourself out there as a giving thought leader, you make yourself a magnet and the more magnetized you are, the more opportunities you may have. The agency and its team have to open themselves up to those possibilities because it strengthens the business. This only works if you truly expect nothing in return and treat those situations as a pure gift, because the potential clients are giving you their time, and time is the most precious thing that we have.
The time that you invest in these relationships may not be immediately profitable, but people are very willing to revisit your organization when they finally do have the budget and structure for advertising or if they can refer you to someone they know looking for the services that you provide. When you have that giving mentality and can provide the work and results to back up your altruistic attitude, success will come in one form or another.
About Jeff Swartz
Jeff Swartz is the CEO and founder of Ethic Advertising Agency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ethic is a hyper-targeted digital advertising and creative agency that specializes in video, animation, graphic design, and audio production. Digitally, Ethic also specializes in hyper-targeted programmatic (display, OTT, video pre-roll, digital audio), search engine marketing/pay per click, paid social media advertising, Google Grants, and native.
Ethic’s mission is to be a catalyst for happy, profitable partnerships through advertising and creative solutions. They also bring a holistic strategic approach to the table and still recommend and buy traditional advertising mediums when appropriate. It’s all about doing the right thing for their clients.
Hi there! I’m Zack Duncan. As the owner and sole full-time employee of a small digital marketing company, I have no excuse not to market my business.
But I’ve generally been terrible at it for the majority of the 5 years that I’ve had Root and Branch Group.
It’s only been over the past year or so that I’ve actually gotten serious about our marketing. There always seemed to be more pressing priorities with client work, and it was hard to carve out the time. Plus, it didn’t sound really fun to me.
So, what changed?
My mindset changed.
I don’t like “selling” but I do enjoy teaching. I’ve been an instructor at Pitt for several years, and it’s been an amazing gift to get to teach students who are interested in learning. I’ve borrowed that same approach to marketing for Root and Branch. So now, instead of thinking about marketing as pitching consulting and training services for things like SEO, Google Analytics, and digital strategy, I create instructional content and share it online.
What were the results?
As you can see in the screenshot below from Google Analytics, traffic to the Root and Branch website from organic search (SEO) began to increase in late 2020 after I started getting serious about training content.
In August of 2021 compared to 2020, organic search traffic is up over 1,000% from about 7 – 8 visits a day to over 100 visits a day. These visitors are almost all finding Root and Branch because they are looking for a specific marketing problem that I’ve created (SEO-optimized) content to help answer. Some of these people will be fine figuring it out on their own after reading the article, but some others will want to connect for a paid training or consulting arrangement to learn more.
What do I do specifically for this content marketing?
I create blog content on the Root and Branch website once or twice a month. Each blog provides answers to questions my audience is looking to address and links to other related content. How do I know what people are looking for? That’s part of the SEO “keyword research” process and there are tools available like Moz, Ahrefs, Google Trends, and more to help. So, if I identity “how much does Local SEO cost in 2021?” as a high opportunity keyword, I’ll create content that answers the question. The same thing goes for more exploratory topics like the similarities and differences between the legacy version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) compared to the new Google Analytics 4.
Once a month I will also review the performance of preexisting content and see if there are new search trends that I can borrow to refresh the content. Google Search Console is the perfect tool for this job. Refreshing older content makes it more useful to readers and also improves the value (and the rank!) in the eyes of Google.
Depending on the topic, I might also create a short instructional video to explain a concept like on-page SEO optimization or to provide a walkthrough of how to set up a platform like Google Analytics. As the second biggest search engine in the world, this YouTube content will also be found by people looking to get their questions answered.
It’s been slower to grow on YouTube, but the channel is up to ~900 or so views per month and 25 – 30 hours of watch time.
Mostly, it’s just been fun and I’m looking forward to seeing where it might go.
Zack is the Digital Marketing Executive in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh and the President of Root and Branch Group. He provides SEO and analytics coaching for companies and directly manages monthly retainer clients in paid search, SEO, and analytics.
He’s a big fan of the local Pittsburgh beer scene and would be equally happy to talk about Dancing Gnome vs. Grist House as he would be to chat about on-page SEO vs. National SEO. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.
And if you’re interested in digital marketing tips and perspectives, you can follow Root and Branch on Linked In or subscribe to the Root and Branch YouTube channel.
Email marketing can be thought of as the use of email to promote products or services while developing relationships with potential customers or clients. It’s a way for you to get in front of your customer base and keep them up to date with what’s going on within your company. It is essentially the electronic version of direct mail, with the biggest benefit being that your content is sent out instantly and at a specific time and date determined by you.
• Marketing Weekly- 73% of marketers said email marketing is the number one digital marketing platform for ROI.
• Adobe- As much as 58% of millennials claim that they prefer to be contacted via email.
• Mailigen- 89% of the marketers agree that email is their primary lead generation channel.
• Blue Kangaroo Study- 7 out of 10 people say that they have used the vouchers/coupons given to them via email marketing in the last week.
• Litmus- 82% of the consumers check and open the emails sent to them by a company.
• Experian- Every $1 spent on email marketing yields a $44.25 return on investment.
• Emails convert 3 times more than social media.
• Email marketing is more likely to drive sales than social media marketing
• 61 percent of consumers enjoy receiving promotional emails weekly. 38 percent would like emails to come even more frequently.
• 60 percent of consumers say they’ve made a purchase as the result of a marketing email they received.
Email Marketing Dos:
There are certain things you should be sure to adopt in your email marketing strategy. They will help to ensure that your email campaigns are successful and reaching the right audience.
Build a Contact List
If you’re relatively new to email marketing, building a contact list is one of the first things you should do. In order to send emails, you need contacts to send them to. One of the easiest ways to develop your content list is through form submissions on your website. People can subscribe to your newsletter through these form submissions or submit their contact information to receive more information about your product offerings.
You can also put gated content on your website that requires a form submission to access it. In terms of social media, you could hold contests or giveaways that require users to submit their contact information to be entered. There are so many unique ways to get these contacts, but it’s the first step in successfully implementing email marketing into your overall marketing strategy.
A/B Test Emails
A/B Testing involves sending one variation of an email to a specific subset of subscribers, then sending another variation of the email to another subset of subscribers. The variations can be in terms of subject lines, email templates, an email campaign with images vs. no images, and so on. The ultimate goal of A/B Testing is to see which email variation performed best in terms of how many people opened it, overall clicks, people who unsubscribed, etc. It’s a great tool to test out different concepts or ideas when it comes to your email marketing, so then you can analyze the results and draw conclusions of why certain emails performed better than others.
Practice Email Segmentation
Email segmentation involves dividing email subscribers into smaller subsets or lists based on specific criteria. Some examples would be separating contacts based on whether they’re customers, employees, or their job role or industry. Email segmentation helps deliver more relevant information to customers based on their interests, purchase history, and geographic location. Ultimately, email segmentation helps to avoid the one size fits all mentality. It helps to cater content to specific email lists rather than sending the same mass email to everybody. According to a statistic, segmented emails make readers 50% more likely to click on a link within the email!
Utilize Email Automation
Email automation is just as it sounds – Emails that are sent automatically to customers and prospects. By using an email automation system, it will ultimately help to save time and money for your company. Based on the criteria you required on the form submission, the information can be used to send automatic emails to customers and prospects. Examples would be a welcome email when they first subscribe, happy birthday emails, monthly newsletters, or items left in your cart reminders.
• Don’t use false or misleading header information.
• Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
• Identify the message as an ad.
• Tell recipients where you’re located.
• Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future emails from you.
• Honor opt-out requests promptly.
• Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
Analyze Campaign Analytics
Finally, once you’ve successfully sent out an email campaign, you need to ensure you’re analyzing the analytics. The analytics help you better understand your email campaign’s success and areas you may have for growth. Some examples of email analytics would include the following:
Open Rate: What percentage of subscribers opened the email.
Click-Through Rate (CTR): How many people clicked on one or more of the links found in the email.
Unsubscribes: How many people opt-out of receiving your emails after opening the email sent to them.
Email marketing Don’ts:
Of course, in email marketing there are also things you should avoid, as they may deter someone from opening the email or remaining subscribed to your email list. Here are a few examples.
Don’t Lead with a Sales Pitch.
Leading with a sales pitch will ultimately cause your subscribers to unsubscribe from your emails or lose interest in opening them. Sales pitches are expected at some point, as the primary goal of email marketing is to draw in conversions. However, don’t make every email a sales pitch or automatically lead off with one. Consider what customers previously showed an interest in and send them similar information down the road. If they have a need, establish yourself as the industry experts so when it’s time to buy, they turn to your company!
Don’t Sound Spammy.
Sounding spammy is just as it sounds. Don’t make email content that could potentially be marked as spam to your subscribers. Subject lines are critical to whether subscribers open or don’t open your email. If your subject line sounds like spam, they’re less likely to open it, or they may never even see it as their email automatically sent it to the junk box.
Don’t Forget About Mobile Users.
In today’s day and age, many people open their emails from the app on their smartphone. Because of this, you can’t forget about mobile users in your email strategy. You need to ensure that the email is formatted so they can open it on a mobile device. For example, ensure that your type size is readable and keep subject lines short. Most sources recommend a subject line of 30 characters for mobile emails. Also, you should limit navigations and links, as this could become burdensome to the subscriber on a mobile device. (You should still have a clickable logo and other external links, just not as many). Today, mobile devices account for nearly 60% of email opens, and email open rates from mobile devices have increased by over 100% since 2011. Because so many people now utilize mobile devices for their email, it’s crucial to account for that in your email strategy.
Don’t Send Everybody the Same Email.
As stated previously, don’t send everybody in your subscriber list the same email. This goes hand-in-hand with email segmentation. Not all of your customers, prospects and subscribers have the same interest. Develop lists based on their interests and send them content that is relevant to them.
Email marketing is crucial in today’s day and age, especially when it comes to having a solid marketing strategy. Although getting started can seem somewhat difficult, by understanding the basics, you can begin to implement email into your marketing efforts and learn as you go. If you have any questions or feedback, reach out to the author below!