Does anyone remember the grade school project where we had a pen pal from some foreign land? Do you remember how long it seemed to get the response—your letter needed to go all the way to Europe, he needed to write back, and then it had to come all the way back to the US. A simple interaction could easily take a month or longer. I remember when fax machines were the new fangled way to send a document in a hurry. Today, you are hard pressed to find a fax machine in most offices. Today, information and documents are exchanged by e-mail and instant messaging. Yes, today, we are indeed living in an ‘instant’ world. But is it working to our advantage?
Recently I was part of a discussion about effective advertising in today’s travel industry. We all agreed that the Yellow Pages were done. Most of us thought that newspaper advertising was out except for special promotions. We were up in the air on radio and cable television with some of us seeing great success and others seeing dismal failure. And then the topic turned to the effectiveness of online advertising.
Many of my colleagues were disappointed in the results from Adwords (the ads that you see on most websites) as well as the results on Facebook advertising. While I do not use either of them a lot, the times I have used them I have been happy. The main complaint was that there was not enough ROI (return on investment) for the price paid for a monthly campaign. Again, there was this expectation of instant gratification.
If you think back to the pre-internet days, how much business did you write based on one ad you may have run in the newspaper? Unless it was highly targeted, probably not too much. The chances of your ad hitting a prospect at the exact moment they are looking to make a travel purchase is pretty slim. The chance that your name will come to mind when they are ready to purchase, on the other hand, is pretty good. So, what has changed? Not a lot. Instead of looking for sales made, take a more broad perspective.
Ignore the dollars for a few moments and look at interactions. Do you regularly measure interactions? Before you design an ad, measure how many people contact you each month by phone, email, and your social networks. Then take that same measurement during or after your ad is running. With a well designed ad, you will see an increase. But just like traditional advertising, the chances of finding someone at the exact time they are contemplating a purchase is next to none. But, if they contacted you, your ad is working; and hopefully they will remember you when they are serious about pulling out the checkbook. And if you are doing your job correctly, you will have captured at least their name a email address so you can follow up and taunt them until they are ready to buy!
Perhaps the best thing about online advertising is that it is cheap, flexible, and on target. With the newspapers, you had an ad that could not be changed, went to everyone in your town, and costs you an arm and a leg. To know if it was working, you had to ask how your prospect found you—always something I forgot to do. With online advertising, you only pay when they click on your ad-it costs nothing for them to be exposed to it. You determine how much you want to pay for the click—a quarter, a dollar, five dollars? You can pull it at a moment’s notice. Ever sell out a group and still have an ad running for another week? Using an analytic program, you can tell exactly how people found you. And perhaps the best of all, you can target it to your market. If you are selling adventure travel, your advertising dollars are being wasted when a newspaper delivers to the nursing home. But online, you can deliver to your exact demographic.
But, some things never do change. Results will take time. But use the tools at hand and develop a strategy utilizing your past history, your current marketing plan, and your CRM and you are well on your way to a successful campaign.
PS: Want a tip? I have heard the argument that agencies don’t like to have Google ads on their sites. Hogwash. Today’s consumers are expecting them. Toss up a few. Use the filters to eliminate any competing ads and cash the check at the end of the month—or do like I do and base your Adwords (your ads) budget on the Adsense (the ads that display on your site) revenue.