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Monday, April 03, 2006

My Conversation with Amy

If you're a small businessperson looking to come up to speed on the ins and outs of the myriad aspects of doing business online, properly, the sheer number of options can be daunting.

Still, to this day, there are few true resources out there that offer unbiased reviews and tips.

I tend to think that some of us marketing professionals in this business try to sell too much to such businesses, too soon, and I'm not shy about saying it. That being said, by arbitrarily determining that the smallest businesses don't "need" what we have to sell, we also decide that they don't need replies, customer service, etc. It's a problem, and a tough one to solve, because if the customer service response is meant to simply convert people to high-cost products and services, then that's less ethical than not responding at all. Bottom line, pointing people to useful free or inexpensive resources costs money, no matter what the Lovecats may say.

So Amy, a marketer with one outstanding product and a lot of unanswered questions, exchanged emails with me recently.

Before I recap the contents of the exchange (with permission; some names have been changed), I should add that you could save yourself a lot of trouble by combing through the resources available at Ralph Wilson's excellent site, Web Marketing Today. In particular, focus on the articles and the reviews of products, services, and publications. Ken Evoy at SiteSell.com also caters to this market, but SiteSell (consider yourself warned) will be more interested in directly selling you things like site builders (you don't have to buy these products, though - their info is also very helpful and some of it is free).

--
Amy wrote to me with a question about my Google AdWords Handbook package:

"I'm on the brink of starting an adwords campaign for the first time
but I don't really know much about it at all. I have never advertised
my product but it it gaining a wide fan base and getting into many
publications, message boards, etc.

1. Will your book/course explain the whole process even to a total
newbie?
2. Robert Rutabaga's was recommended to me by a friend. His company
just sent an update and told about you/yours. He says he has a a
testimonial about your course. (I didn't see it.) His is cheaper.
3. How is yours different from his, the same, better?"

--

I responded:

Amy, Bob's material starts off cheaper but becomes much more expensive if you want the full package.

If you're an absolute beginner and are concerned about the pricing of my materials, I suggest you start slowly. Visit Amazon.com and purchase my book Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2005) for $16. You can't go wrong.

As far as how my stuff is different: Bob got the whole idea of becoming an "AdWords guru" from me. My first AdWords ebook came out in March, 2002 -- 20 months before his first material came out. What can I say. He's a smart man, has a lot of great clients and colleagues who keep him on his toes, and there are enough good ideas in both of us to go around. Many of our "students" have started lucrative businesses just from our materials. One early reader of my book started a marketing company that does $1.5 million a year now - 2/3 of that is profit. Not that this is supposed to make you faint with joy - it's only money, and I know the folks who started that marketing company enjoy the money mainly for the freedom it buys. They like fresh air and volunteer work, and hate the rat race.

Some of our clients are very large (Fortune 500), and we work very hard for them. Some are quite small, and are growing fast, and we work very hard for them.

Looks like you have a sound product, but AdWords can be risky on a small budget if you are trying to find buyers using expensive keywords -- for a very specific product that many potential customers don't yet know they want.

In scrapbooking you will be up against larger companies and that can be tough because they are possibly able to be more scientific through all stages of customer acquisition and retention. Therefore, continue to use a variety of marketing methods, including reliance on natural search traffic. Note: I said "reliance on natural search traffic" -- not "search engine optimization." Good traffic from search engines doesn't require extensive "optimization" if you have real customers and are on top of the basic factors that determine search rank. But do build out the content on your site, in a natural way, so search engines can find you. Pay attention to things like web credibility and usability. Disclose everything fully on your site, and make it easy to navigate. Communicate with your audience, not with (what you think) search engines are going to like.

(Just to be clear, I do believe in many of the techniques crucial to optimizing to improve natural search referrals. But I also believe that 90% of businesses and maybe 90% of the firms they hire to help them with this kind of project commit fundamental errors when they "optimize." Often, they do more harm than good. Check out my "simpleton" article "Anatomy of a #1 Search Result." - http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=115. 3.5 yrs. later, it's still true.)

--

It's not that I believe in giving everything away for free. The reality is, we've turned the corner on that. Companies with sizeable web presences are investing more in web services, more in analytics, and more in measurable traffic. The proposals we send to our clients represent the cost of doing a professional job.

But not everyone is sure how to allocate their budget yet, even if they have a decent one. Is there some panacea to giving small business the type of information they require without breaking their bank account? Maybe it isn't rocket science. Maybe it's as simple as a $16 book.

When you're ready to graduate to the next level, Amy, the higher-priced specialized ebooks, and the tradeshows, will be there when you need them. Keep it going!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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