By Kelly Kubrick – first published in Building Excellence Magazine, Spring 2009
In September 2008, at CMHI / MHAAC’s semi-annual meeting at Oak Island, Halifax, Kelly Kubrick presented attendees with an overview of recent trends in web marketing. Kelly reviewed a variety of tactics, and categorized them as “old news” (offering declining value), those whose value hasn’t changed and those which are considered “hot” (you might get burned using them).
“Old news” tactics are those which have been around some years now, may be showing their age and which are generally receiving fewer marketing dollars than in the past. To begin, marketers appear to be shifting “offline” advertising (print advertising, outbound telemarketing and rented mailing lists) dollars towards online (search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, etc.) dollars, because the online offers a far more measurable spend.
However, within the world of online marketing, there is movement away from designing complicated home pages, measuring gross traffic (vs. net leads), static micro sites and live chat as a customer service channel. Again, the driver appears to be accountability – ensuring that the dollars spend deliver the most value. Finally, offering a web site and email newsletters is certainly old news – any company that hasn’t invested in at least the former might as well be trying to market itself using an unlisted phone number.
What hasn’t changed?
By contrast, other tactics have proven their value within the online marketing toolkit. Home builders should ensure they provide customer testimonials, pricing information and multiple product search criteria on their websites. As an example of the latter, Kelly suggested visiting Vacation Homes to see all the different ways visitors might choose to search for a property they might be interested in.
In addition, Kelly recommended testing of the length of any “Request for information” forms you offer on your website – until you objectively test which elements do or do not depress response, you shouldn’t make assumptions about which fields should stay or go.
Finally, Kelly advocated strongly that home builders should allow prospects to communicate with you based on their channel of choice – thus if they first contact you by phone, you likely will need to continue communicating them via that channel. Alternatively, if you can convince your clientele to initiate contact with you via less expensive channels, you should reap financial benefits later. Wondering how? Here’s a quick question – in your marketing materials, which gets the larger font? Is it your telephone number or your website? What does that tell you?
What’s hot now
These tactics are experimental and too new to have established themselves as keepers in the web marketing toolbox. However, for those willing, there are several emerging online tactics you might consider trying in 2009.
To the right is an image used on the homepage of Wilshire Homes to help the visitor grasp how this builder can solve living arrangement concerns. This is an excellent example of sidestepping home building jargon by offering the consumers’ perspective first.
Source: Screenshot from http://www.wilshire-homes.com homepage, September 2008
Geo-targeted pay-per-click (PPC)
Below is a screenshot from a Google AdWords PPC account. Pay per click refers to the process of purchasing positioning on search engines such as Google, Yahoo! or MSN. In particular, the screenshot shows how targeted this media buy can ensure that advertisement is only shown to search engine users connected to a computer within 35 kilometres of Oak Island, Halifax. In other words, using this technology, home builders can ensure that their advertising dollars are not wasted on those people who are outside the targeted geographic range. Revolutionary, don’t you think?
Source: Screenshot from Google AdWords, September 2008
Multivariate testing refers to a concept where by a marketer can identify several elements on a web page that they are not sure about, and test response against each. To illustrate – below, there are two versions of the same home page from Zip.ca , a Canadian DVD-by mail rental service. In the first image, the home page is designed around the release of Dark Knight with no mention of pricing. In the second image, the home page is designed around an image of a happy family, with pricing and a “quick start” free trial form to fill in.
Which appeals to you? Why?
Source: Screenshots from http://www.zip.ca homepage, September 2008
Here’s the trick – both of those home pages exist simultaneously. In other words, during this multivariate test, this website presents alternate versions of the same page, and records response so that the marketers can figure out which approach drives the most response. No heart-stopping redesign project here, but rather an objective analysis of what works, or doesn’t, on your home page. Imagine the number of things you might consider testing on your own site…
Also from Wilshire Homes is an interactive micro-site found at BuiltAroundYou. When the site launches, you’ll be greeted by Sheila, who will proceed to ask you about your housing interests. However, instead filling out a survey, Sheila asks you a series of questions, verbally. As you respond, by clicking or filling in fields, a personalized housing report is created, which you can elect to receive by email, print out or send it to Wilshire to request follow up. Or do nothing with at all. Try it, and imagine how it might appeal to younger generations unwilling to visit a sales centre…
Source: Screenshot from http://www.builtaroundyou.com, September 2008
So where does this leave you? Essentially, the message is that there’s no shortage of tactics in web marketing available to you, but rather that you should have an opinion about which ones might be appropriate for your own company’s strategy.
A final thought – it’s five years from now, and Internet advertising now outpaces traditional channels. How will you acquire customers? Furthermore, young Canadians know Internet better than you. How will you retain their business?
Best of luck in 2009!
Kelly Kubrick is the former Director of E-Commerce at Time Warner in New York and President of Internet marketing consulting firm Online Authority.