For the past few months I've been working after hours in a Beatles tribute band called The Meetles that plays three nights a week in the New York City subway system. Although my primary role in the band is singing and playing rhythm guitar, I also pitch in with online marketing chores, because I'm the only band member with SEM chops. Along the way, I've learned that search marketing and playing in a subway band have a lot in common. How so, you ask? I'll offer a few thoughts on the show business/SEM parallels below -- you might find them helpful in tapping your own inner marketing rock star.
1. Play where the people are. Our little band may not be the world's most recognized Beatles tribute band; but what we do is unique, insofar as we're the only group that brings this music directly to the people of New York City where they spend much of their time: the subway system. And because we go where the people already are, we get a nice audience. Of course, that's something to consider when you're contemplating your keyword choice as well: if you want high traffic, find the high-traffic keywords.
(Of course, if you're going for efficiency, high traffic might not be the best approach. Finding the one or two venues that coveted producer frequents might be a far better approach. Search analogy: if you don't have the unlimited budget to get in front of everyone, focus on the targeting and keywords that you know will reach the audience that's most useful to you.)
2. Be relevant. If you sense that your customers want to dance, play "Twist and Shout," not "Yesterday." If half your business is B-to-B and the other half is consumer-facing, learn which keywords and times of day represent which traffic -- and craft messaging and landing pages accordingly. Don't just show up and play; give the people something that's relevant to their interests and desires.
3. Use the slow times. Our band often draws big crowds, but subway traffic ebbs and flows dramatically, and we sometimes perform for just a couple of people. We use the slow times to work out new material that we'll want to bring to a wider audience later on, and the peak times to offer material we've already perfected. Slow times aren't so different in search: use your seasonal low points to plan out what you'll be doing during peak times, and your peak times to gain the revenue or market share when there's a lot to gain.
4. Invite everyone. Don't trust everyone. When you're playing the subways, you never know who's going to come out of the next train: it might be somebody who'll propose to fly your band to Europe, or a gang of gun-packing thugs. The only thing you can do is to be open and welcoming to everyone, but keep a watchful eye out at as well. The same holds true in paid search: bring in all the traffic you can, but watch out for click fraud. Be open to affiliate partners -- but take a peek now and again at whether they're following the rules you set about bidding on your brand terms.
5. Come together. Even with Paul and John's great solo careers, the real star is the entire Fab Four. The same is true of every band, and every marketing program. Take the drums away and the guitarist loses rhythm. Take the guitar away, and the vocals don't make sense. Take the TV spend out of the picture, and the search traffic that your commercials drive will dry up. Take intelligence you've gained from search away from the display campaign, and the targeting just isn't as good anymore.
And just as the best bands are the ones in which each band member riffs off the other perfectly, the best marketing programs are the ones in which each channel responds to the other ones -- in which the call centers can track calls back to individual search keywords, and printable coupons allow bricks-and-mortar stores to attribute sales to search-driven Web visits. The real secret isn't just having players that play well separately; you need the band -- and your marketing program -- to work as a group.
Come together, right now!