The Sell: The Real-Time Focus Group

THE SELL: The Real-Time Focus Group by Andrew EttingerMy advertising mantra is "crawl, walk, run." While it is tempting to jump directly into the latest and greatest (think social or mobile), grounding a campaign in paid search (tried and true) is ultimately more efficient. Search is a reasonable basis for every campaign because it is a
real-time focus group.

Even before they start buying ads, companies can learn from search queries. Consumers' actions - typing search queries - speak louder than words. With search, advertisers can identify what consumers care about without even asking them. If people are not searching for advertisers' names or products, they can deduce that the other media elements have not spurred demand. Search responds to demand, it won't create it. Therefore, searches are a de facto reflection of the public's awareness level. As such, it is a best practice to run a search campaign simultaneously with a TV flight.

Television, that trusty antiquated device across from your sofa, really does drive search volume. I am surprised at how many advertisers do not connect the two campaigns. Last year, a TV network ran a big outdoor campaign promoting a (not so funny) made-up word. Despite spending millions on billboards, they ignored paid search. Consumers who Googled the word were not directed to the Web site. Compounding the error, the network's Web site did not appear in the organic search results for that term either. #basicbestpracticesfail!

Once the search campaign begins, marketers can quickly assess which text ads produce clicks. This is one of the reasons they call digital the world's most measurable media. Recently, one of my clients tested two text ads that were nearly identical: one promoted a coupon and the other free recipes. To our surprise, they both earned excellent results. This led us to remove the coupon offer. Since these people are already interested in our product we don't need to incentivize them further with coupons, which have extra distribution and redemption costs. This will ultimately produce changes in the client's banner copy and Web site. Using search results was an efficient way of learning about consumer motivation.

Sometimes copywriters want to include the TV tagline in the ad text. This is a mistake. Search ads don't need to be a carbon copy of a commercial. Taglines don't usually prompt people to click on the ad, because they work best as part of the larger commercial. Instead, the ideal text ad is simple and to the point. While Google won't let you write "click here," that is precisely the encouraged action. The verbiage should make the consumer believe that his question, the reason for his search, will be answered on the Web site.

Still, taglines are an integral part of what motivates people to search. A tagline's search volume can give credence to the impact of offline elements (mostly TV or radio). For example, Bud Light can monitor how often people search for "drinkability." I still have no idea what that term means, but if I were curious enough I would probably Google it. As consumers conduct searches, they unintentionally provide feedback. A search is an expression of interest and often intent. Bidding on taglines makes sense even if including them in your copy does not.

Search is data intensive. It provides information in real time about what people are thinking. Advertisers can use that to inform other marketing decisions at little or no cost. Moreover, search helps satisfy existing demand. This is why crawling is the best way to run.

1 comment about "The Sell: The Real-Time Focus Group ".
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  1. Matt Bushell from IBM, January 12, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.

    Nice article. Marketing should be measurable and conservative in its dollar spend, and complementing offline with online is a great reminder of how to do that.

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