Saturday, March 30, 2013

How to Benefit From A Cohesive Brand Strategy

An interesting brand strategy to me has always been putting the owner's persona front and center. Make them the face and voice of the brand. Everything we read today speaks to the relationships we build with customers. Make 'em smile when they see you coming. Volunteering for local charities. Networking. A good number of small business professionals I come into contact with invest a lot of face-time in their markets. These efforts make their names synonymous with their brands. In the greater world, think of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. As you read each name, no one had to tell you the company behind each. Attaching the visionary to your brand image extends the effort you put out to a greater effect. Relationships extend to your marketing and sales, benefiting from your notoriety in the marketplace. 

Humility often gets in the way of this strategy. It may seem like boasting, but if you identify yourself as a product for the greater good of the brand, then the benefit becomes obvious. By coupling the two you would also benefit from the fact that your marketplace won't view the brand and the very public owner as two separate entities. As it stands, the public owner is seen as the pillar of the company. If they were to die tonight, most would view the brand as vulnerable. Viewed as a spokesperson on the other hand, the company has brand cache of it's own. It carries on in the spirit of the spokesperson, i.e.: Walt Disney. Of course this strategy takes some nurturing, but at the very least it can be argued that cohesiveness of efforts bears more fruit than separate strategies for a common goal.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The 10 most profitable Google Feed Optimizations

Google Shopping is a paid service. That offers an opportunity for many advertisers: more clicks, a lower cpc and better conversion rates. Advertisers are beginning to realize that the profitability of their Product Listing Ads depends on the quality of their product feed.
What are the most profitable feed optimizations that will help advertisers maximize the RoI of their Product Listing Ad campaigns?
DataFeedWatch analyzed the modifications that its customers executed between November and February and compiled the following top 10:

  1. AdWords Grouping: Bids based on price 
    RoI-driven advertisers set higher bids for more expensive products. They divide all products into different price groups ($1-$5, $5-$10, etc.) so they can create product targets that are a mix of e.g. brand and price. Some of them are even able to categorize their products by margin and maximize gross margin across their entire product portfolio.
  2. Exclude: only advertise profitable products 
    Most merchants exclude certain products from their Google-feed for various reasons: Seasonality, CPA too high, etc. Not advertising those products is a big saving.

    Some merchants take that one step further; they exclude products on a per-channel basis: some products do well on Shopzilla but not on Google. By selecting the best channel for each product, they considerably improve RoI.
  3. AdWords Labels for high converters 
    Web shops are willing to bid more for products that convert better. Setting a product target per product type does not achieve that.

    Example: A shoe shop knew that those red high heels size 8 sell much better than those black ones size 10. Setting color and size as AdWords labels, enabled the shop owner to bid differently on both products and improve his RoI.
  4. Google categories: 6 levels deep 
    Merchants often have all products in a few generic Google Categories (example: Software > Video Game Software). An effective optimization is to assign deep-level categories to each of their products, based on product type (example: Software > Video Game Software > All Xbox games > Xbox 360 games).

    A more specific Google Category increases visibility and the traffic quality on Google Shopping and thus increases impressions and conversion rate.
  5. Availability: only advertise what's in stock 
    The "availability" field is mandatory and it ensures that out-of-stock-products are never advertised. Most shopping carts have a field for that, but Google accepts only four values here: in stock, available for order, out of stock and preorder.

    On Magento, for example, availability will be either 0 or 1, so all Magento-merchants remap each 0 to out of stock and each 1 to in stock. Another popular re-map is using Stock Levels: Availability = out of stock if quantity = 0 and in stock if quantity > 0.
  6. Variants: No way around it 
    Most apparel shops have Variants (example: 1 shirt in 5 different colors). Every shopping cart has a different way of presenting those variants and that's often not the Google-way. Hence, those merchants have no other option than to find the field that links all variants and re-map it to Google's group id.
  7. AdWords Redirect: Add Tracking 
    Tracking the performance is key for every merchant. Even though most of them have a pretty good insight using data from AdWords and (any) Analytics software, it pays to add additional tracking code to their feed: It enables them to segment all data in one place, like Google Analytics. Google has created the "AdWords Redirect" field to add tracking code.
  8. Appealing product titles 
    Merchants often remap product titles to ensure that their Product Listing Ads are compelling enough. Example: If the title of a product is "501", the merchant should add "Levi's" to it.

    As a side note: merchants sometimes use this functionality to meet Google's guidelines, by erasing exclamation marks, replacing CAPITALS and deleting promotional texts such as "Free shipping, etc.
  9. Add bar codes 
    Adding the bar code of each product (UPC in the US, EAN in Europe) increases the conversion rate: Google now can identify each product exactly and better match products with search queries.

    Example: even if a product feed for mountain bikes does not contain fields for suspension type or frame material, Google can categorize all bikes by these attributes, if they have the UPC.
  10. Condition: new or used? 
    Web shops that only sell new products add 'new' as a static value in the mandatory 'Condition' field. Merchants with both new and used goods do a more complex remapping: They set the condition based on product type or even on certain words in the description.

About DataFeedWatch

DataFeedWatch is a web-app that enables merchants and agencies to map their product data feed any way they want.
DataFeedWatch is a service of WordWatch Inc. When we started managing Product Listing Ads, we quickly found out that controlling the data feed was the only way to be successful. We built a tool that enabled us to modify anything in a data feed. The performance of the PLA-campaigns soared as a result. The tool was so effective that we decided to spin it off as a separate service.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

So You Want To Build A Brand.

Where does one start to build a brand? Do you just let nature dictate, or should you plant your own seeds and nurture it along? My answer has to be the latter. As I see brand as essentially your reputation, I often tell start-ups to determine what they'd like their brand to stand for and then to work to that end. I think that that's a little easier than to trip along unengaged with who you are and what you stand for. 

I also think that you should differentiate your brand from the get-go. If you use differentiation as a strategy, then you can analyze the competition and then do something different then they are doing. Use them as a "what not to do model." The strategy here is to resonate with your customers by positively standing out. It's not to be different for the sake of being different, but different by being better - a leader. Your brand image should reflect something other than them. Most industries use a follow the leader mentality. Look at the leading brand in a category, more often those competing against the leader use the same colour palettes, the same images and the same conversation.

You want to own the conversation and attract by your difference. Values you adopt and consistently abide by will see you go from start-up to flourishing. Your brand values define you and your brand.  Who ever you decide to become, be sure to be authentic and passionate. Branding can be your friend and positively affect every touch point of your brand.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Are You Holding You Back?

Is your brand continually evolving? Are you always watching for tools and education to put more opportunity in your cross-hairs? Just last year I fine-tuned my website. I really thought the look and functionality was exactly what my brand reflected. In the year or more since that re-do I recognized that to update or improve the sight I really should have not completed it in html (which I did myself). I am now in a major re-do porting the site to a Wordpress platform. This is beyond me so I had to engage the services of a professional in this area. I'm anxious to get the flexibility that this platform allows.

Are you finding it easy to get the brand information and/or training you need to help you grow your brand? I've signed up for a few webinars and online lectures only to have them deliver generalities. I leave with more questions than answers. You come to realize that the webinar is really just a come-on in a complicated sales funnel. This can happen in a paid webinar as well. I set my sights low in many things that I attend. I am usually just looking for a nugget or two that can help me more effectively deliver my products. When I deliver to my clients, I often ask myself if this is how I would like to be treated? Is this price point something I would consider paying?

Do you monitize your services? Do you find it difficult to do? I'm curious to know what platforms you find advantageous and are you and your audience having an enjoyable experience working together? I've seen just having a book out there draws people to you and your brand experience. When you have a strong brand, you'll find yourself in demand for your opinion. How many people offer to buy you a coffee to get your opinion on something? These questions are exacting the reason I found that the platform of my website was sorely lacking to allow me to quickly adjust to new revenue streams. I like to react immediately not six months or more down the road. My brand expects me to jump while the iron is hot. Who better to invest in than myself? A few thousand well-directed dollars can make a HUGE difference in how your brand develops. 

How many people do you know, who whine on about the economy but do nothing to develop opportunities that will will positively impact their businesses? It's as thought their answer is to ignore the problems and success will eventually find its way to them. I wish that were true but it's never worked that way for me. I've always had to create my own opportunities. It's like the old adage. "I seems the harder I work, the luckier I get."
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