Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Are Facebook Ads and Google AdWords Really In Competition?

Though Facebook Ads and Google AdWords are often positioned as competitors, they really aren’t. In fact, they’re pretty different. Like apples and oranges. Or pomegranates and Asian pears.

Yet, they get along really well. And savvy business owners have actually been using them in tandem to:

  • achieve serious visibility
  • increase sales and leads
  • find new customers
  • adopt different strategies that align with each platform

The result? They’re seeing some pretty serious ROAS (return on advertising spending - it’s not a thing, per se, but it should be).

What Are the Differences Between Google AdWords and Facebook Ads?

They’re not as different as the intent of their users. Here’s the main thing - Google users are driven, while Facebook users are browsing. 

Facebook Ads test the waters to see if there’s any potential interest, while Google AdWords ads are extremely specific to an interest that is indicated by the user’s search term. 

Google AdWords is paid search. 

With Google AdWords paid search, you bid on keywords in hopes that your ads will be displayed alongside search results for these queries. Then each time someone clicks on an ad, you’re charged a certain amount of money (also known as cost-per-click, or CPC). Google Adwords experts are able to target users who are already looking for something when they type into the Google search box. (Hence the term ‘search,’)

Facebook, on the other hand, is paid social. 

Paid social basically refers to the practice of advertising on social networks. Facebook has the highest number of monthly active users (MAUs) which makes it a highly competitive and potentially lucrative part of a digital advertising strategy for those looking to match with the interests of the users. But it’s not part of an active search.

So how does this translate?

Advertising Reach

Although Facebook has all of those monthly active users (over a billion, actually) with a trillion page views per month, they still only have the potential reach of under 50% of all internet users. 

Meanwhile, Google AdWords can reach over two and a half billion Google searchers every month. And with over 180 billion Google searches per month, the potential reach of Google Adwords is closer to 90% of all internet users. 

Quality of Ads

On Google, your ads are rather… primitive. And by primitive we mean that the most effective way to get your ad noticed is to make it bold and in all capital letters. That screams desperation. Or at least of being a little unhinged.

On Facebook, though, you have way more options, including graphics, a whole slew of photos or a video. Though you’re more than welcome to stick with the bold all caps option if you’re shooting for that desperate unhinged vibe.

Cost and ROI

On the surface, Facebook Ads will run you less than Google AdWords. Of course, this depends to some degree on the keywords upon which you’re bidding. 

Plus, you also need to consider your return on investment. Google Adwords generally has a higher average conversion rate than Facebook Ads.  

The Main Thing to Remember is That It All Comes Down to User Intent 

Facebook Ads are an excellent way to build and maintain
brand awareness. They’ll get people onto your site to learn about your business and maybe even sign up with you. But it’s not likely their Facebook feed is going to lead to an instant purchase. 

Google AdWords, on the other hand, is great for putting a product or service in front of the user when he or she is looking for it. In other words, when they want to actually buy it.

So as you can see, they’re not so much in competition with each other. They’ve actually found a way to get along. And that’s more than can be said for some people.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Question of the week: What's the best way to advertise my small business?

When you own a small business, you don’t have a multi-million dollar budget to hire celebrities, employ pyrotechnics, or combine the two to land a celebrity willing to set him/herself on fire. 

Which is best. Really.

So How Do You Advertise Your Small Business Then?

Since you have a more limited budget, you’ll want to ensure that you're getting the most bang for your advertising bucks. Start by answering the following questions:

1. Are You Targeting Your Audience?

We’ll assume you’ve done the research and gathered the data to determine your target audience. (And, more importantly, that you actually have one.)

Your campaign must be appealing to them. Your copy and imagery should reflect what they would want to read and see. For example, if you’re selling clothing for toddlers, you don’t really want articles on your blog about welding. Most responsible parents are keeping their two-year-olds away from fire.

2. Are You Measuring and Tracking Your Advertising

Four words for you. Google AdWords and Facebook. Unless you’re running your business blind-folded and from an underground bunker, you’ve likely heard of them. And so you know that they can provide you with extensive stats related to your ads so you can figure out what’s working and what isn't. 

Yeah, you’ll still need to do some testing and experimenting. But doing so with a head full of this valuable information can help you make faster decisions about what to try next.

3. Are You Advertising At the Right Time?

Do you think the right plan of attack is to advertise year-round and spread out your budget equally from month to month? Could be. Then again, maybe not.

Keep in mind that for many businesses, Black Friday and Christmas are high-performing seasons, so you may want to allocate more money to your budget during November and December.

And also consider stashing some cash aside for those times when your competitors launch a big promotion. That way, you’ll have the capital to fire back with a counter promotion. 

4. Are You Branding Well?

You want your customers to identify your ads based on consistent copy, color choice, imagery logo and typeface. So avoid the temptation to change your brand each time you create a new ad. 

And show up in familiar places where people expect to find you. If your specialty is fishing gear, it isn’t going to fly at ComiCon. Stick with your image and you’ll build loyalty this way. 

5. Are You Effectively Using Your Resources?  

It should go without saying that if you have a small budget, a full page ad in the New York Times is not going to be an option. A Facebook ad is going to be more your speed. And it doesn’t hurt that you can control your daily spend with it.

Be honest about the resources available to you, and then leverage them in a way that helps you grow your small business.

Take advantage of customer surveys. Get a sense of where your customers like to hang out online, what books and magazines (i.e. those things made of paper) they read, what podcasts and radio shows rock their worlds. Because matching your advertising with the right understanding of your customers is going to attract more worthwhile leads.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Question of the week: What are the demographics of online shoppers?

You might be thinking, “Wouldn’t that be pretty much everyone? Even my 93-year-old grandmother is shopping online.” That seems like a logical conclusion. But that’s not the reality. 

Not Everyone Is Doing Their Shopping Online

Not yet, at least. Because if you know anyone in their 90s who’s G-macking with their Mac to buy iron supplements, then you know a member of the minority.

Yeah, there are A LOT of people comfortable with shopping online now. And this is good news for online retailers. But like any other retailers, they need to know who their potential customers are in order to market them effectively

So in 2014, Business Insider Intelligence issued a report that broke down the demographics of online/mobile shoppers in the U.S. by gender, age, income, and education. And then they took a look at what these different demographics were shopping for, and how their behaviors differed.

Here are the highlights of what they found:

Millennials Own It

It’s no surprise that consumers aged 18 to 34 are the key age demographic for online commerce. In spite of the fact that they have lower incomes than older adults, they spend more money online in a given year than any other age group. 

But it makes sense. Half of this group is comprised of internet natives who have never lived a day without the internet. So this is their world.

Boomers And Seniors Are Gaining Steam

Even though the millennials dominate, one in four mobile shoppers in the U.S. are over the age of 55 - which is about even with their share of the overall U.S. population. 

So in spite of the notion that boomers and seniors eschew the internet, at least 25% of them are comfortable with it and no longer live in mortal fear of “the Facebook stealing their identity” after making a purchase.  

Men Drive Online Spending As Much As Woman

Traditional shopping - the sort that’s done at the mall, grocery store or boutiques - has for a long time been the domain of women. This is partially because women control more of the household spending. And also because many men would sooner drain a knee than shop. 

But the BI report showed that men drive nearly as much spending online in the U.S. as women. Men are also more likely to make purchases on mobile devices rather than laptops or PCs. Perhaps shopping on the go makes it more palatable. 

Online Shoppers Tend to Have Higher Incomes

The median household income in the U.S. is around $50,000. Yet over half of e-commerce shoppers live in households with incomes above $75,000. And just under half are in households earning more than $100,000. 

But this isn’t all that earth-shattering. Because when you get right down to it, it’s safe to say that this is probably true of all shopping. 

People with more money have more money to spend.

So there you have it. The not too shocking breakdown of the demographics of online shoppers. 

And we don’t suspect a surge in male shopaholism any time soon. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Secret to Using the Most Effective Advertising Media

When you’re selling a product or service, you want to be sure that you’re reaching the right audience and getting the best response. Right?

So just where in the world can you get reliable statistics for different advertising media? 

The answer? Certainly not here. 

But in our defense, you can't really get them anywhere. 

Yeah, it would be nice if there were some Willie Wonka type contraption of whiz-poppery into which you could feed your advertising budget figures and get back what you can expect to see as a result. It would also be nice to have access to a chocolate lake.

But the straight-up answer to that question exists in the same realm as the Chocolate Factory. It’s fiction.

So we want to apologize up front for misleading you with our title. 

The truth is, there really is no secret. 

This was recently proven by the Wharton School of Business after they did an extensive study in an attempt to reveal that same secret. 

It came from a slew of big name companies wanting to know the secret too. Especially where small businesses were concerned. So they collectively invested over a million dollars so that Wharton could track the return-on-investment experienced by several dozen small businesses as a result of advertising. 

It was grueling. These companies were scientifically monitored and measured for seven long and arduous years. The final report filled more than 2,500 pages with information well-suited to induce a coma. And in the midst of those thousands of pages, there was still no secret. None. 

But they did come to three distinct and interesting conclusions.  

1. How much you spend on an ad and what you can expect to see in return are not directly linked by any kind of mathematical equation whatsoever. 

So much for Wonka’s machine.

2. Turns out that results are undeniably linked to the MESSAGE of the ad. 

Go figure. But ads that speak to the heart or touch a nerve in some way are the most successful. Therefore, the objective of your copy has to be far more than just getting your name out there. It’s about finding that message that’s relevant to your audience’s perceived need.  

Think of it this way. 

You can’t draw birds to a bird feeder if you fill it with hot dogs.
(Never mind how logistically disgusting that would be.) But pour in that special blend of seeds and you’ve won them over. Your prospective customers are just like those birds. What have you been trying to feed them? 

3. There is an increase in results with repetition. 

Once you’ve nailed the message, keep it a while. Your business growth in dollars in the second year will likely be twice what it was in the first year. And growth in year three? You guessed it. Triple. After that though, it’s anyone’s guess. Things could continue to exponentially grow, or you could end up jumping the shark. This is typically about the clients though, not the ads. So it’s out of your control.

Okay then. 

So let’s say you’ve found your perfect message. Your clients/customers are google-eyed and delirious over your product or service. Can’t live without it. 

NOW is there going to be an advertising medium that’s more effective than others?

Well, of course there is, silly! But sorry. There’s STILL no simple answer based on a formula or equation. The media that will be most effective will depend solely on the nature of your product or service. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of various traditional advertising methods. 

Broadcast television

Also known as the big kahuna. (Not really.) But it should be because this where the big prestige dwells. Regular broadcast television is able to target psychographic profiles. But along with that big prestige comes the requirement of shelling out big bucks to get it. So there's that.

Cable television 

Like the lesser known Baldwin brothers, cable television is in the shadows of broadcast television (Alec). But it does offer the same impact of moving images and spoken words. Plus, it’s cheaper and can easily be geographically targeted. The big drawback? It could end up looking like you shot it in your basement.


As far as stretching your budget, radio reaches the second most people for your dollar. It can’t be targeted geographically, but can be loosely demographically targeted. (i.e. your full line of jerky products would probably be more successfully advertised on country stations than classical). If people are willing to drive a ways to get your product, or if your service allows you to go to them, radio is a great choice.

Outdoor advertising/billboards 

As far as bang for your buck, outdoor is the way to go. These reach more people for a dollar than any other media. But you are limited to a picture and ideally no more than eight words so if your business needs more than that, this will not be effective.


In terms of expense, magazines are the glossy and more static cousins of broadcast television. They are high impact, have tight targeting and create little waste. But if you’re relying on repetition (as highlighted in conclusion #3 above), then magazines are not going to cut it.


If you want to reach customers who are in the market to buy today, then newspaper ads will be an effective medium. The problem with newspapers though is that people not in the market for YOUR specific product or service are less likely to notice your ad than if it had appeared in other media. 

Direct mail

This is as highly targeted as any advertising medium is going to get. And all the way down to the level of the individual. But direct mail must be done right. Otherwise it can be very cost-prohibitive. 

Yellow Pages

Wait. Did someone say Yellow Pages? Well, they might still be good if you provide a service. But nobody uses Yellow Pages for retail anymore.

So see, it's just not so clear cut.

While we couldn't offer enlightenment as to which advertising media will be best for you, we're hoping you're at least somewhat more informed. 

And once again, sorry about the whole secret thing. But we felt it was time you knew. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Question of the week: Is TV advertising a thing of the past?

Well, obviously not. 

If it were a thing of the past, then nobody would be making them anymore. And if nobody made TV ads anymore, then we’d have no longer have the satisfaction of forwarding through them when watching a recorded program on our DVRs.

Plus, if we’re being really honest, the Super Bowl would be boring. Wardrobe malfunctions notwithstanding.

But it’s a valid question. 

Because with the nearly constant bombardment of advertising on the internet and through social media, it might seem like TV ads are a thing of the past. A pointless waste of time even. Especially given the aforementioned fast forward function.

Here’s the reality. 

TV advertising is not yet a thing of the past, because people continue to watch traditional television. 

Is it going the way of dinosaurs and parachute pants though? Right now in 2017, TV ad spending has definitely lessened. There are a number of reasons for this. 

  • It’s threatened by streaming services where any program can be watched ad-free at the push of a button (or two). 
  • Audiences aren’t as interested in glitzy reality TV and show-stopping award programs as they once were. 
  • Advertisers are uncertain about national policy at the moment since the White House has redefined the word “chaos.” 

But TV advertising is not dead. Not yet, at least. Because here’s where it has an advantage:

Digital media has a marked lack of transparency.

Advertisers are growing more and more frustrated when their ads pop up next to potentially offensive content on YouTube, for example. Or they feel less likely to trust Facebook when it inadvertently undercounts views of video ads. Which it did last year in 2016.

Advertisers want high-quality content. Like the kind that’s been backed by a third-party measurement system that has been in place for decades. You know, like the kind that you find on good old regular TV. 

These days, the only thing one needs to do is to link a brand to controversial content to generate massive approval on social media. Boom. Done. It’s that simple. So there’s something to be said about programming one can trust. In this regard, and to some extent, TV is still a safe haven for advertising. But times are ALWAYS changing. 

And to be honest, the future for TV advertising looks dim. 

Really dim. If only it were as clearcut as simply adjusting the UHF and VHF knobs… 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Question of the week: What is the difference between UX design and UI design?

As in all things digital, there is not a simple answer to this. 

Designer and expert Helga Moreno put it in a nutshell though when she said this:

“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.”

Yeah. Okay.

But the difference between UX design and UI design is more complex than that.

So let’s start with UX, or user experience design. 

Most simply put, UX design is a human-first way of designing products. It’s about enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by making something easy and even enjoyable to use. 

While this could apply to any number of interactions between a potential/active client and a company - such as sticking two beer cans on either side of a hat and designing a stream-lined straw to go directly to the mouth -  we’re focusing here on UX design as it pertains to the digital world.

The role of a UX designer is complex and multi-faceted. It goes beyond the visual and moves into more of the realm of marketing. The UX designer is deeply involved in the structure, analysis and optimization of the customer’s experience with the company or product. Working in this capacity means being hands on with the process of research, testing, development, content, and prototyping to get the most optimal results. 

So a UX designer could really be more appropriately called a UX designer/marketer/project manager.  

But that’s just too much of a mouth full. But basically, the UX
designer’s main objective is to connect business goals to user’s needs through a sometimes arduous process of testing and refinement which will ultimately bring happiness to both sides of the relationship.  

So then does that mean the UI designer is the visual person?

Not exactly. (Because that would be too easy.)

Some would interpret the profession of user interface, or UI, designer as something akin to graphic design - sometimes extending outward to branding design and front-end development. Others are more inclined to define it in much the same light as UX design, but with more emphasis on the visual component.

Both are somewhat true and somewhat not true.

Much like the UX designer, the UI designer wears multiple hats and takes on many responsibilities.

At the end of the day though, the UI designer is ultimately responsible for taking a product’s development, research, content and layout and waving their magic design wands over it to create an attractive and responsive experience for users.  

And the UI designer is never solely responsible for the brand itself. But s/he is responsible for the translation of branding to the product. Which is sort of a big deal.

So are UX design and UI design mutually exclusive? 

This is what Helga Moreno seems to imply. And in many cases, they are. Sometimes one is just going to be more needed than the other. For example, in situations where there are multiple user types or multiple products or services catering to different audiences, UX design makes more sense. 

But there are websites that incorporate both, to some degree. Though it’s still a rarity to see both UX and UI design at maximum strength. That day when interface and experience join forces could well be coming though. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In the Battle of First-Mover vs. Superior Product, Which One Wins?

You've probably been there...

Moved by an idea for the greatest product or service EVER. It may have been in an inspired moment while daydreaming or reading an interesting article. Or playing corn hole. Because that’s how ideas work. They show up when they feel like it.

If it’s a truly brilliant idea, you might have shared it with friends. And if they thought it was killer, you may have considered trying it out on Shark Tank. But you more than likely didn’t. Because if you did, and the big rollers bought into it, you wouldn’t be reading this right now but rather sitting by your pool and soaking in all the riches that come with the first-mover advantage. But then maybe you wouldn’t.

Because while the first-mover advantage does exist, it depends on a lot of factors. 

Depending on the situation, it works out great for some companies. But for others, not so much.

First-mover advantage is defined as the ability to edge out the competition as a result of being the first to market in a new product/service category. And sometimes it works. But it’s not enough to just cruise in with your dazzling new product, win over a bunch of people, then kick back and think you’ve got it made.

The idea is to become a durable first-mover vs. a short-term one. The durable first-mover will produce results that improve a firm’s market share or profitability over a long period of time. The short-term one is a flash in the pan and will soon be challenged and maybe even consumed by the competition.

There are two factors that influence the fate of the first mover. 

They are:

- The pace at which the technology of the product is evolving.

- The pace at which the market for the product is expanding. 

In other words, the success of the first mover relies on an understanding of how fast or slow the technology and the market are moving, and knowing when to strike. (When the coals are hot, ideally.) 

The evolution of technology.

Advances in technology happen at different rates in different industries. Take glass, for example. The first manufactured glass showed up around 3500 BCE when artisans were making glazes for ceramic vessels. Some three million years later, glass blowing came along. It then took another 1600
years before there would be lead glass. Meanwhile, a computer from thirty years ago looks like it should be in a museum of ancient history. 

And then there’s the WAY these technologies evolve. Things like computer processors evolve in a series of incremental improvements. But then there are other examples where the evolution is disruptive. This was the case with digital photography when it began to displace film. 

Basically, the faster or more disruptive the evolution of technology, the bigger the challenge for any single company that hopes to control or dominate it. The product or service can quickly become obsolete. 

But if the pace of change is more gradual, it’ll be harder for later entrants to differentiate their product. And even if they do, the changes aren’t fast enough to prevent the first mover from getting a mastery over its product and then putting it in the product line in a timely way.

Market evolution.

Market evolution can vary as much as the pace of technological evolution. For instance, look at the phone. It took 50 years for fixed telephones - you know, the old fashioned kind that are tethered to the wall - to reach a household penetration of 70%. Cell phones mastered the same feat in a mere 20 years.

When market growth moves at an initially slow pace, the first mover has time to cultivate and satisfy new market segments. Thus, it tends to favor the first mover. But if the market evolution pace is rapid, then long-term dominance is unlikely. A fast-growing market fosters the opening of competitive spaces for later entrants to exploit. This puts the first mover at a disadvantage because it often lacks the production capacity or marketing reach to serve this expanding customer base.

Still, a first-mover could get some worthwhile short-term gains in this situation, as long as it knows when to exit stage left.

And the more a product or service strays from the existing products or services, the more uncertain will be the pace of the market’s growth and its eventual shape.

Breaking it down.

Ultimately, a company will have the best chance of becoming a durable first-mover when both the pace of growth in technology and the market are slow and gradual.  Resources like product development, production, marketing and branding will not be as critical at this point - though having these in place could definitely up the ante.

But even under these so-called “perfect” conditions, there are still three things that a first-mover should consider - depending on the product or service.

1. Where applicable, create a technological edge. The first-mover doesn’t have to face competition (yet), so they have the luxury of time to gather and master technical knowledge.

2. Get primary access to scarce assets that later entrants will want. These could be things like a prime location, great suppliers and talented employees.

3. Build an early base of customers who would be highly unlikely to switch over to a later entrant because it would be too inconvenient or costly.  

Two companies took distinct advantage of this knowledge.  

Coca-Cola and Hoover admittedly got in at a good time, so they already had that going for them. But they knew how to build that early base of customers and, in Hoover’s case, get the technological edge. By a long shot.

So while today Dyson may arguably make a better product, it probably won’t put Hoover out of business any time soon. If ever. In fact, Hoover is such a durable first-mover, the good people of Britain use Hoover as a verb. As in, “Jolly good day to hoover the rugs.”

And having your company name transformed into a British verb is a real testament to the durable first-mover advantage. Wouldn't you agree?