In a game of poker, the money you’re able to spend is often more important than your absolute skill as a player. If you can’t cover your bet, you’ll fold even with a strong hand.
Sadly, small and home-based businesses face the same problem when it comes to marketing.
An ad in the Yellow Pages can cost thousands of dollars a year; no matter if you’re a big national chain or a local mom and pop shop. Similarly, radio, TV, newspaper and magazine spots can be prohibitively expensive, even if the potential returns are (theoretically) mouthwatering. And if you do decide to go for broke with an expensive campaign, your untested marketing message runs the risk of missing the mark, leaving you confused, bruised, and – quite possibly – broke.
The small-business owner needs a Robin Hood marketing medium to compete with their big deep-pocket competitors. This medium should even the playing field between the well-funded and the bootstrappers by rewarding creativity and insight as much as ad budget. It must allow for flexibility, so a campaign can be changed on the fly for no extra cost. And it has to provide the ability to test multiple messages – to try lots of things and keep the winners.
Enter Google AdWords, the one advertising medium that allows you to make a lot of money without first spending a lot of money – if you do it right.
Levels the Playing Field
You can open an AdWords account for five dollars, and start showing your ads within fifteen minutes of setting up your account. You bid on placement on their coveted first page of search results, but – get this – you pay only when someone clicks your ad and visits your web site. And – even more exciting – your ad’s position is determined as much by the quality of your ad and your website as it is by how much you’re willing to spend for a visitor.
Who decides on the quality of your campaign? Not you. Not your competitors. Not even Google. Google’s users vote – by clicking attractive ads and ignoring irrelevant ones. By spending time on interesting web sites and fleeing boring or heavy-handed ones.
Allows For Flexibility
You can change your ads, your keywords, even your web pages – in real time. Obviously, if an ad isn’t working, you can delete it and try a new one. But you can also take advantage of your nimbleness by piggybacking your ads on daily news stories. If Brad and Angelina’s relationship is crumbling on the covers of supermarket checkout lane magazines, and you are a therapist or relationship coach, you can write a headline related to the celebrity gossip and then introduce your services. You can get lots of short-term traffic with very little competition by running after the crowd and setting up your lemonade stand.
Powerful Testing Tools
AdWords allows you to create two ads as easily as a single one, and specify that they should be rotated evenly to different searchers. One thousand searches later, 500 people have seen Ad #1 and 500 different people have seen Ad #2. Google automatically tallies the relative effective of each ad by comparing the number of clicks each one received.
For example, Ad #1 has received 25 clicks, for a “click-through-rate” (CTR) of 5%, while Ad #2 has generated only 8 clicks, representing a 1.6% CTR. You now know that Ad #1 is more attractive than Ad #2. Everything else being equal, you can now delete Ad #2 and replace it with Ad #3. If in the next test Ad #3 earns a CTR of 7.4%, it becomes the new control. You can continually improve your marketing using this simple and powerful interface.
With only slightly more work, you can measure not only clicks but sales. You can see which of two web pages generates more orders. You can compare two different price points, or guarantees, or shipping options. Every comparison teaches you something. Even if 9 out of 10 experiments result in decreased results, that one success will improve your profitability.
Once you know what works online, you can now take those headlines, offers, sales copy, guarantees, and prices offline with greater confidence. Now if you want to try a newspaper ad, or a Yellow Pages listing, you’ll have great confidence that it’s an effective message. You’ll spend money on marketing only when you know that money will come home with friends.
A Paragraph of Caution
AdWords is not the panacea for small business marketing woes. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or get sloppy, or set high daily budgets and forget about your account, you can do serious damage to your bottom line. And if your ads generate visitors to an ineffective website, you’re just paying the Google “Clueless Tax.”
But if you take the time to explore and understand and master this new advertising medium, you may find AdWords the Big Equalizer you’ve been praying for, as you battle the big and powerful competitors in your marketplace.
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For more valuable information for businesses struggling to succeed online, visit www.askhowie.com. Discover powerful tips, tricks, tactics and strategies, all shared with humor and compassion by Howie Jacobson, author of AdWords For Dummies.