“We need a pwan!”

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Summer’s gone. Soon the holidays will be here, and then the New Year with renewed hope for increased sales.

So now is when many businesses plan their budgets for next year.

I love budgeting. It’s a chance to review what worked – and didn’t – and set out to do better next year.

And it always brings back memories of watching the animated cartoon An American Tail over and over with my family.

In case you missed (or forgot) it, it’s Steven Spielberg’s production about immigrant Fievel and his fellow little mice in Manhattan in the late 19th century. All they wanted was the freedom to pursue the American dream, work hard, and earn their share.

Problem was the Big Cats of New York harassed and extorted them until there was little left for them and their families. Powerless, the mice held a meeting. Their leader, the richest mouse in New York, Gussie Mausheimer (played by comedian Madeline Kahn with an encore of her Germanic accent from Blazing Saddles) declared, “We need a pwan!”

Our hero, Fievel, came up with a bold plan to banish the cats. The timid mice built a giant mechanical mouse, and by using technology, they drove the cats away.

So as you set your goals and budgets for next year, be bold. Put 10% into testing some new methods in your marketing strategy.

Otherwise, you run the risk of the Big Cats eating your business for lunch.

Happy Pwanning!

Purposeful social media

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The blogosphere is bloated with the pros and cons of social media for businesses. Everyone has a point of view, but a lot of them are so wrapped up in their advocacy that they miss the point.

Namely, “Why are we doing this?”

It seems like businesses spend way too much time thoughtlessly devoted to participating in social media because it’s popular or “experts” say it’s important as a channel or your competitors are “in that space” or because that’s what the big brands do….

Yes, organizations should use social media. But the hidden cost of social media is the time it takes to sustain your presence. Your organization can go small, medium, or large with a commitment as fits your budget, but without that commitment, your strategy will fail.

So start with “What are we trying to achieve to advance the mission of our organization?”

Then you can create a strategy that devotes resources that are appropriate, sustainable, and within your budget of time and money.

Non-profits and social action groups, for example, need to spread the word to grow their community to advance their overall mission. That’s a very strong alignment with what social media can deliver. With that purpose front and center, even smaller ones can devote significant personnel resources to the social media channel on a daily or weekly basis.

For profits, on the other hand, might want to be more incremental in their social media purposes considering they have other dollars working in other channels.

For example, if yours is a smaller business, your purpose can be as simple as maintaining a current Web presence so those that visit your site will see current information rather than having a negative impression from seeing a site that obviously hasn’t changed from the day it was started.

You can start with a Web site you can update yourself. And choose a single social network that has the members you want to reach to view your site. As you update your site with a sale or new product or service, you can send a tweet to followers and/or post to your social network.

And think about a blog for your site. It’s not that hard (or time-consuming) to create more than one short new blog post each month. It not only engages your audience, it’s one of the best SEO tactics to increase your ranking on the major search engines to bring new viewers to your site.

Most importantly, start with purposes that you can comfortably sustain. You can always add more resources and personnel devoted to a more complex strategy.

Balancing the target to audience size continuum

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Advertisers have lots of choices for parceling out precious ad dollars.

The challenge is to focus on the best-qualified targets while delivering in scale to an audience large enough to impact top line sales and bottom line results.

Online display advertising has unique advantages over direct mail, print, and broadcast media in meeting this challenge.

  • Hyper-targeting can identify audience more precisely than generalized readership, zip codes and delivery zones demographics.
  • Online activity is so pervasive that ad exposures are delivered in scale.
  • Real-time analysis can deploy campaign assets to optimize for results.

Consider what hyper-targeting can mean for your marketing strategy.

  • Messaging differences to your customers and prospects.
  • Targeting messages by behavioral and purchasing characteristics.
  • Cross-device targeting to find the right users as they migrate throughout their day from PC to smartphone to tablet.
  • Re-targeting to readers that have not yet completed the desired result.
  • Messaging sequencing to build on what your targets actually view.
  • Focus campaign dollars to reduce wasted broadcast, print, and direct mail dollars on unqualified viewers.

Enterprise-size organizations have had an exclusive hold on these tactics for years because of budget commitments. Smaller companies are now re-evaluating their budgets. Instead of a series of one-shot expenditures, online display creates a continuous presence that keeps your ad dollars available to be directed towards your defined targets.

Data sets, software, and delivery mechanisms are the cornerstones to successful online display campaigns.

Look for resources with data sets that are huge in both the sheer number of individuals, and the scope of information on file for each of them. With that much data, they’ll have invested in the data management platform technology to create your hyper-targeted audiences. Key features and capabilities should include:

  • Extensive 1st party data, not just cookie tracking histories.
  • More data points for precise audience targeting.
  • Full-scale market reach to create the targeted audience in scale for your campaign.

And besides defining your audience, these resources will have the means to deliver your message so you’re on a level playing field with the big advertisers.

  • Thousands of publishers’ web sites for message delivery.
  • Real-time Bidding so your dollars will win the ad space.
  • Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn social network access.
  • Integration with mobile and tablet apps to expand your reach to those users.

These are some of the reasons that Internet advertising is pulling ahead as the number one – but not exclusive – choice for businesses that balance the risk to their ad dollars.

These businesses use a mix of Internet display with the traditional 20th Century media to capitalize on the targeting to audience size ratios that these media offer while minimizing the waste.