There is an urban myth that restaurants always offer their poorest quality wine at their second cheapest price. Why? Because customers, not wanting to appear cheap, but equally keen not to overspend, usually choose the second least expensive wine on the menu.
What makes marketing such a fascinating business is that it is so difficult to come up with a genuinely stand out strategy. In the above example, neither the customer nor the restaurant really wins. Yes the restaurant owner gets to shift his bad wine, and yes the customer feels at the time as if he’s getting a good deal, but soon he or she begins to associate the restaurant with bad wine, so the owner decides he must drop the price of his entire range. His little marketing trick has quickly outlived its usefulness.
Where marketing is concerned, when you stick your neck out, you get shot at. When you wind it in, nobody will notice you. In many respects it’s a Hobson’s choice. So is the best strategy simply to make sure everyone knows you are there?
People will always have different ideas about your product, you are not going to please everybody all the time. But, and this is as close to a cast iron guarantee as you will get in the world of business, if you don’t tell anyone about it, no one will buy it.
So, let’s put personal preferences and tastes to one side for a minute and make some pretty safe assumptions. One person who knows about you and your product is better than none. 10 is better than 1, 100 better than 10 and so on. Marketing is a numbers game.
But what if 100 out of 100 people dislike your product? Simple, it means you have a bad product and you need to change it. Now, let’s say the idea behind your product is a good one but the product itself is shoddy. Well, those hundred people will understand the point your marketing campaign is trying to make, they will understand that they need something like your product in their lives, but they will go and buy it from somebody else.
Welcome to the world of search marketing: these are the principles behind it. On the one hand, by purchasing keywords from the likes of Google in an online marketplace, you can let everybody know about your product, but on the other, if the quality of your content is poor, it will be your competitors who benefit.
Google, by far the biggest player in the adwords market, ranks you in two ways. First of all, money, as per usual, talks. If you pay top dollar, you will likely push yourself toward the top of the page rankings, but don’t be surprised if your closest competitor, whom you know to have a superior product, but a much smaller budget, is right up there with you.
This is because as well as ranking you in terms of how much you have paid, google will also award you a quality score of between 1 and 10 depending on how relevant your content is to the adwords you have bought. That’s right, in the world of search marketing, you can’t just be rich, you have to be clever too. And you have to know who your audience is.
The potential to waste money is truly frightening. Pick the wrong words, or prepare the wrong content, and Google will make sure you suffer the consequences. But on the flipside, a major advantage of search marketing is that you can reach people at just the right time i.e. when they are actively looking for your product. The second they input the search term into Google, you can be there to guide them to your product. All you have to do then is to convince them to pick you over everyone else.
It’s a bit like the story of the Chinese zodiac: the rat beats the mighty ox in the race to be named first of the calendar signs. How does he do it? By riding on the oxes back and nipping off just in time to scramble over the finish line first. If you happen to be the biggest player in town, expect the rest of the competition to be riding along in your slipstream. Yes, Google has changed the world forever, but some things will never change, and auction strategy is one of those things. That is why people are forever looking to partner with the best analysts.
But we do make slow progress, and there is no doubt that the traditional auction structure has been well and truly disrupted by some of software, programs and algorithms out there. It is a tremendously exciting game, adwords, where the hunter can become the hunted, the rules can change at the drop of a hat, and it is full of colourful characters. It’s not for the faint hearted; you need to be strong as an ox, and cunning as a rat. Like these guys.