Your Marketing Needs a Plan: Don’t Miss these 4 Critical Steps


By Sue Brady


Know where to put your snow

Marketing doesn’t just happen. It takes thoughtful planning.

As you embark on your next successful year, be sure to remember a few basics as you formulate your plans:

  • Set clear goals

What do you want your marketing to accomplish: Sales, brand awareness, positive social media coverage, award-winning recognition?

All might be valid goals for you, and all would have different approaches. Understanding your goals is perhaps the most important element to spell out in advance of launching any new marketing program. And don’t forget that goals have nuances. If your goal is sales, it makes a difference if you are after a one-time sale or if your product is a subscription or requires repeat sales throughout the customer life. Knowing the difference will determine how you segment your acquisition file, how you message your campaign, and how you communicate with the customer post-sale.

  • Define what success looks like

While sales might be a goal, success metrics go further. Metrics could be gross revenue per new customer, % business from existing customers, mobile app downloads, Return on Investment (ROI)* above a defined amount, Cost per Orders (CPOs)* lower than a certain level. All are valid. The key is to know what you’re after.

  • Identify your target market

And it can’t be everyone. Get specific. What type of person needs your product? How much money do they make? Are they college educated? Do they live in urban areas? Are they in their 20s? Do they tend to use Facebook? Knowing who your customer is will make finding them easier.

  • Design a campaign that will meet your goals

If your goal is say 500 mobile app downloads, you might want to run a campaign targeting your audience on their mobile phones. If you also know that they are Facebook users in a certain age group with certain interests, you can run a highly targeted campaign on Facebook.

As with every post I write about marketing, if you aren’t testing every time you go into market, you are missing out on an opportunity to learn. Whatever campaign you choose to run, there’s almost always room for testing. Testing will make your next campaign better. Test the most important things first: offer, audience, creative. Use what you learn as you create your next campaign.

Check back for future posts expanding on some of these concepts!

* CPOs are calculated by looking at the total cost to generate an order, and dividing that by the total number of orders received. Total cost typically does not include creative development, because creative can be used well beyond the campaign it’s first designed to support. Think of some of the well-known marketing campaigns out there. Take Flo from Progressive Insurance. If the folks that created that campaign took all of the campaign development costs against the orders for that first campaign, it most likely wouldn’t have been considered successful because of the high CPO. Flo has been used for years now, and so the cost of developing that initial campaign has benefited many campaigns that came later.

ROI can be a trickier metric. ROI is calculated by looking at how much revenue is generated vs how much it cost to generate that revenue. Higher ROI is obviously better. But how you calculate that ROI can vary. True ROI should look over the life of each customer generated off of that specific campaign spend, and also take into account other business generated from the campaign. For instance, TV ads often drive consumers to search on the web, or to respond to a direct mail or email campaign that arrives at the same time. This gets into the importance of attribution. You can read a post about that here.

Verbs are Your Friends – The Importance of Call-to-Action Buttons


By Sue Brady

Red Button

Call-to-action buttons, or CTAs for those in the know, are the buttons a user clicks on from your website to complete an action. Typically, it’s to complete an action you want the user to complete, like ‘BUY NOW,’ and that’s why they are so important. Most importantly, test your CTAs to figure out what will work best best for your site.

Elements Worth Testing:

Message – Does it call on the user to do something specific?

Appearance – Does it blend in or stand out?

Size – Again, does it blend in or stand out?

Color – Hmm, does it blend in or stand out?

The message. Text can be short or long, but make sure you include a verb. Action words will get users to take action. Funny how that works. Most experts who write about button text will say that shorter is better, and they are probably right. But you won’t know until you test it yourself, on your particular pages.

And make sure you are directing the user to do something you want them to do. For instance, if your CTA is simply ‘Learn,’ a user might not understand why he should click. Retailers seem to have figured out that a button that says ‘Add to Cart’ is universally understood as the next step needed when someone wants to make an actual purchase. Your own CTA should be just as clear.

Appearance. It’s a mistake to make the user have to work to figure out where they are supposed to click. If your button blends in too nicely with the look and feel of your site, it will be difficult to find. Test something bold and different. Make sure the button is ‘findable’ without having to scroll. And also, reversed out white type works just fine against a bold button background.

Size. Big and bold. This relates back to my previous statement about making sure the user doesn’t have to work to know where to click. With a big and bold CTA button, the direction to the user should be obvious. If someone sees nothing else on your page, you want them to notice that CTA button.

Color choice. Way back when I first started working with direct response websites, I remember someone telling me that I shouldn’t use red on my CTA buttons. That advice makes sense. Red means stop and has a negative ‘feel,’ but the truth is, won’t know until you test. When I worked at AOL, where we tested everything often, orange was frequently a clear winner in this type of testing. That was many years ago, and I still see orange used a lot, but I also frequently see green and blue.


  1. Test, test, test
    2. Verbs are your friends!

Back to Testing Basics, & a Really Cool Website Redesign Method


By Sue Brady

AOL Roms

I am proud to say that I used to work for AOL. This was back in the day when AOL was experiencing phenomenal growth. I worked with some Class A marketers while I was there, and I learned an incredible amount about the importance of testing. All marketers know that testing is key to continued success, but somehow not everyone is diligent about practicing it. There are some real basic Marketing 101 type things to keep in mind as you continue (or start!) your testing program:

Offer is important
Audience (aka targeting) is important
Creative is important (though perhaps not as important as #1 and 2 above)
Testing one thing at a time is important

Offer is key because it’s what will bring your reader in. At AOL, we started with a ‘10 hours free’ offer. The offer kept going up though, with tests around more hours and multiple days being a part of it. The number of free hours kept expanding. Why? Because response was greater, including conversion to a paid subscription once the free trial was over, and even when taking into account the cost of the extra free time. Free is a powerful word and should be tested as a part of your offer strategy.

Audience is really about knowing who will buy your product and understanding where to find them. Are you targeting the 25-40 crowd? Then your advertising probably shouldn’t show 50-year olds. Try not to fall into the trap of “everyone wants my product.” You need to be more specific than that. Figure out what really defines your various customer segments. You need to analyze your database to really understand this, and it’s worth doing (and should be redone frequently).

Creative is fun to test, but do so wisely and as always, learn from your tests. I’ll use AOL again as an example. We found, through repeated testing, that putting a person’s picture on a CD package lowered response. We tested parents, kids, grandparents, couples, singles. And we reached the conclusion that showing people didn’t work so great for selling AOL. Perhaps it was because the person looking at the CD couldn’t identify with the person in the picture. I don’t really know the reason. But, it wasn’t a hard and fast rule as it turned out. The person in charge of Hispanic marketing decided to test a photo of an Hispanic person and guess what? It won! And not just in that one test. It continued to win through roll-out and for a long time after that. The key takeaway is to realize that different segments of your audience may respond to different images.

Testing one thing at a time is the best way to figure out what is impacting your increase or decrease in response. I read a really interesting article about website redesign. The author, Chris Goward (@chrisgoward), explains a ‘new’ method called Evolutionary Site Redesign. He talks about using an iterative approach where you test one component of your site at a time to gradually redesign the site as different approaches/offers/layouts work. They’ve had dramatic success with some of their clients with this approach. It makes so much sense!

Part 2: Social Advertising 101 – Focus on Twitter


By Sue Brady

Being Social

To continue with last week’s Facebook ‘Boost or Promote’ theme, this week I’ll focus on Twitter as an advertising medium. There are a number of different ways to advertise or boost your presence on Twitter, and your choices will depend on your goals. Twitter is on track to generate $1 billion dollars this year through advertising revenues. It must be working!

To run advertising on Twitter, you need to set up an Advertiser Account. I’ll assume you have already done that part as we move forward with this discussion. With all of the options discussed, there are a variety of ways to target your audience: interests, geography, gender, keywords and more. You always are able to set your budget and how much you are willing to bid for each click or interaction (similar to ‘pay per click’ advertising). Note that your promotion will be seen more if you bid more.

The Website Card. The newest addition to Twitter’s offerings is the Website Card. The website card is a tool to drive traffic directly to a particular webpage, and allows you to display rich website content on Twitter. The user sees an image and a call to action. The cards are marked as ‘promoted.’

The cards have only been available since early May, but this quote from a Search Engine Land article shows results:

“In testing, Twitter said, Website Cards have shown higher engagement and click through rates and lower cost per click levels, compared to similar tweets containing an image and a link. Citrix, for instance reduced its CPC rate in testing by 92% and Betabrand reduced its by 85%. UK-based mobile company Three received 64% more URL clicks and its engagement rate increased 26%.”

After you create a card in Twitter (you can do that following these directions provided by Twitter), you simply ‘tweet’ out the card when you ‘compose a tweet.’

The Lead Generation Card is something altogether different. This type of advertising allows you to collect a reader’s email address without them having to leave twitter. You may have noticed that some tweets have an ‘expand’ option. If an advertiser is using a lead gen card, you’ll see your twitter handle and email address pre-filled on the ‘card,’ along with the advertiser’s offer and call to action. The only action needed is to click the button to send your info. to the advertiser. I cannot tell how widely used these are. I have checked my feeds for days and not come across one of these cards. I even checked the feeds of the first brands Twitter allowed to use this feature, and none of them appear to still be using it. It sounds like a good idea but perhaps hasn’t taken off.

Promoted Tweets – You can promote a tweet in two ways:

  1. Your tweet can appear in a user’s timeline, even if they don’t follow you.
  2. Your tweet can appear when someone does a specific search on Twitter.

It’s no surprise that the second option has higher click-thru rates. Clearly if someone searches on a topic and your tweet is served because it’s related, the user will be more likely to click. The potential downside is that your impression volume could be very low. But if it’s targeted, who cares?! You’ll pay for engagement (retweet, reply, favorite, or follow).

Promoted Trends – You can also buy a # topic to show in the trending topic Promoted Trendssection (with a link to your tweet). Your # doesn’t need to be trending…you just pay to have it appear there.


Promoted Accounts – You can promote your account to generate more folPromote your Accountlowers. The goal of doing that is to increase your pool of followers so that they will see your future tweets. You choose who you want to have targeted. You pay per follower gained.


Remarketing – Twitter has a tag (snippet of code) you can add to specific website pages, so that if someone visits that website page, you can target them later when they visit their twitter account.

Twitter offers this cheat sheet, based on your goals, to help guide you as you decide which advertising route to take.

Twitter Cheat Sheet