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Measuring brand awareness for free

Often, I work with marketers who aren’t ready to expand their horizons to Internet marketing. They remain mired in the old TV and print habits, religiously comissioning expensive surveys to measure the uptick in brand awareness stemming from their latest campaigns. But one time I baited my hook with something they desperately wanted—I promised to do their brand awareness survey for free.

Several years ago, my nascent search marketing team was having a heckuva time getting a certain group of marketers to pay any attention to us. we’d shown them the statistics and the business case and everything we could think of, but they clung to their traditional ad spending—this newfangled search stuff made no sense to them.

One day, however, we found our opportunity. They were introducing a new product feature, one that they intended to publicize widely. They were determined to blanket the airwaves, magazines, and anything else they could think of with this interesting marketing message. They were determined to get the message out on this new feature.

But they had a problem. As often happens in big companies, their promotional budget was much smaller than what they needed. They faced the Hobson’s choice of reducing their spending on advertising or eliminating the brand awareness survey—the very survey that would prove to everyone how effective their campaign was.

So my team came to the rescue. “How would you like us to show you whether your campaign is working?” we asked sweetly. “We can prove that people are becoming aware of your message, and we can do it in a few days—not the weeks or months you must wait for a typical brand awareness survey.” And that’s not all we promised. “We can do all this for your favorite price—free.”

For the first time, these marketers were interested in what the geeks had to say. They wanted to know more. So, we explained that we can use keyword tools that tell us what words searchers are looking for. We can run those tools before the campaign starts to show that no one is searching for any terms corresponding to the new feature. Then, after the campaign has started, we can regularly show how many more people are looking for those very same words. And it won’t cost a cent—just a few minutes of time. Obviously, the only reason for an uptick in searchers looking for these words would be the success of the offline campaign in raising awareness. Tracking search volumes is a free way to measure brand awareness.

The marketers were ecstatic. They eagerly diverted the money allocated to the follow-up brand awarness survey and poured it into the ads themselves. They still had less money than they had hoped, but that’s always true, isn’t it? They also hoped that our statistics might convince the powers-that-be to add more money for the campaign once they saw it was working.

Finally the big moment arrived. Our keyword tools showed without a doubt that something no one had ever heard of was suddenly driving hundreds of searches on a regular basis. The excited marketers gave each other “high fives” to celebrate their success. And, just as they hoped, they got an increase in funding to do even more advertising. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Then, one of them asked an innocent question, “Um, just what do all these searchers see when they type these words in, anyway?” And we showed them. The search results pages showed magazine reviews of the new product with this exciting feature, they showed newspaper stories and many other results—with one Web site conspicuous by its absence. Ours.
You see, because these marketers had never been interested in search marketing, they had provided no content on IBM’s Web site for the search engines to find. They had a nifty Flash demo, but all these potential leads were forced to find some other way to get information from IBM. Google hadn’t found any information on IBM’s own Web site.

And then the light dawned. Finally they understood why search marketing was so important. And they were suddenly very interested in working with our team from then on. They got it because they now had a tangible, concrete experience that made it abundantly clear what they were missing.

Now, we could all sit back and laugh at how clueless these folks were, but that would be stupid on our part. In their defense, this happened in 2002, when so many of us knew a lot less about the importance of search than we do now. But all of us oh-so-clever Internet marketers too often write off the “Luddites” as a great way of excusing ourselves over our lack of persuausiveness. I mean, if we’re marketers, why can’t we convince these folks that this is something worth trying. What’s wrong with us?

We have to face the fact that we don’t apply the same skills to convincing our colleagues that we use to convince our customers. It’s hard work to get someone to try something new, so we reserve that level of effort for our customers. We don’t work quite so hard to turn around our fellow marketers’ optinions. We’d rather snicker about them or lament about how dumb they are. “They just don’t get it.”

Instead, we need to help them. We need to find out what kinds of things are important to them, such as brand awareness, and help them solve the problems they do care about. Once we show them we know a thing or two, then they might get curious about what else we know—then they’ll be far more likely to listen to us. It’s not different from the way marketers must initially hook customers with something they really care about, and wait until later to have a chance to “upsell” them.

So what are you doing to hook the folks where you work? Are you racking your brain over ways to convince them to use new techniques and new tactics, or are you just satisfied with feeling superior? Take the challenge to get out there and use your marketing skills to bring your colleagues along, instead of writing them off.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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