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It's Your Website, Stupid!

By David Berry: There’s been an ongoing seismic shift in the apparel industry, and at its center is ecommerce. Whether you’re an agency or a business owner, it comes as no surprise: big brick and mortar retailers are losing space to niche brands that are agile and focused on serving any number of growing consumer needs. So as the Macy’s and Victoria’s Secrets of the world are closing their doors, hundreds of smaller brands are popping up in the virtual world to take their place. Ecommerce start-up costs are low (relatively), and with the advent of dropshipping, there’s at least the appearance of ease-of-entry into the space.

So you launch your ecommerce brand. You’re armed with a handful of unique designs and items you believe in, with a small arsenal of beautiful images to share your brand with the world. Sweet. “Time to turn on some Facebook and Instagram ads and let the money pour in!” you say.

And…the results are underwhelming. Even after weeks and months of optimizations and doing all of the ‘right things,’ you’re still not converting sales at a level that justifies the investment. Why? Your Click Through Rate (CTR) is strong. Your ad relevance score is high. Your audiences are data-driven. You’re even getting a favorable Add to Cart Ratio.

But they’re not buying! Whyyyyyyyy?


Well, it’s your website, stupid! Okay, I mean ‘stupid’ in the nicest of ways. But here’s the thing—advertisers can only do so much if your site isn’t conducive to converting sales online. Imagine having a few amazing items for sale in a physical store that go great together, but you put them in completely different sections of the store. Some brands do the equivalent of that on ecommerce sites by making it hard to buy items together.

Or imagine that the look and feel of your store inside looks more like a Dollar Tree, but the outside of your store looks like a Williams Sonoma. There might be a disconnect, but yet again, several brands make the mistake of focusing only on high quality imagery in their ads, but don’t create a uniform look and feel through the whole ecommerce experience in the online store.

Here’s an example of two online apparel clients that we run ads for. Both sell products in different categories, but at very similar price points. The first three metrics are Facebook ad metrics. The next three are Shopify metrics.

What you see is this. Client ‘YOU’ has much lower Cost Per Add to Cart and Cost Per Purchase, but when it comes to converting those ads on the Shopify site, client ‘YOU’ closes a sale 43% less often than client ‘THEM.’ And this comes down to the on-site user experience. One site is much easier to navigate than the other. Client ‘THEM’ makes numerous recommendations for purchases that are often made in tandem, and they provide a high volume of images that help a prospective shopper see products from all angles too, so you know what you’re getting into.

The difference shows.

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So before you say “advertising doesn’t work!” remember—ads can drive someone to your website. But it can’t help them navigate it. Get your website in order, and with a strong ad campaign, you’ll finally see that cash register start to ‘ding.’

Advertising 2022: 5 Predictions for the Next 5 Years

By David Berry: The advertising industry is in the midst of perhaps its greatest squall of major changes since, well, ever. Digital media ad revenue has finally overtaken TV in the global ad spending fight, something that seemed unprecedented when that type of spend was first tracked back in 2004. Snapchat, social media's "next big thing" debuted to a first-day IPO spike of 44% in March, only to tank - it now trades at just $15.21 per share. And the Agency of Record model is dead or dying, depending on whom you ask.

That's today. So, what will the next five years bring? No one can say for sure, but hey, isn't that half the fun of playing this game? Here's my take:


1. Facebook will surpass Google in advertising revenue. The rumors of Facebook's demise, or lack of connection with younger audiences, has been grossly exaggerated. Ad revenue for the platform grew by 41 percent when comparing Q2 2016 to Q2 2017, and if that's not enough, Facebook owns Snapchat-killer, Instagram, as well as WhatsApp. Here's the thing - Google remains primarily a contextual tool, though admittedly, the ultimate 'pull' method in advertising (whether through search or display or some other method). But that's never been the source advertising's magic. Where Google is a master of one trade, Facebook and its properties are a master of several. And they're still just scratching the surface.

2. The agency of record model won't die-off. Don't get me wrong, the all-you-can-eat deals of advertising contracts that carried into the first decade of the 2000s are changing. Project-based work is on an uptick and it has given rise to hard-hitting small shops, like Eleven in San Francisco. But the un-clustering of AOR work will turn out to be a warning shot more than anything; a lesson to not take big client budgets for granted, and instead prove out your value and stop working just hard enough to furnish your agency game room. If the big shops can do that, AOR deals won't be going away; they'll be coming back.

3. Agencies will get back to basics. Can we be honest? As ad tech has gotten better. creative has gotten worse. And weirder (see below). Not only that, but the best creative work has essentially become agency masturbation for award seasons, and less about fundamental brand building. Talking to you, 84 Lumber. As agencies feel the pinch from tightening budgets and outside threats, they'll have no choice but to get back to basics - or be shown the door.

4. Employees will finally enjoy work/life balance. Okay, maybe this one is a little too ambitious. But here's the thing - young talent is hard to retain, and more times than not, agencies just don't get it. Execs and HR departments make blanket assumptions about millennials, pack their offices with bean bag chairs and 80s arcade games, and get ditched anyway. If the average age of your workforce is 25, that's not a sign of youth and innovation - it's an indictment of your inability to grow and keep talent. For starters, maybe they'll finally let more employees work from home. Or anywhere, for that matter. The agencies that really listen might just change the game for the rest. But we'll see...

5. Ad tech will get worse before it gets better. Programmatic buying was supposed to change advertising; make it faster, smarter and automated. Well, it's only raised questions, and with it, questions about ad tech in general. YouTube faced boycotts for its inability to guarantee appropriate delivery, and P&G famously ditched $140MM in digital spend, in part, because its partners couldn't verify that actual people were seeing their ads, and not bots. They increased sales anyway. The pressure is on - and ad tech companies are going to have to work just as hard to validate their efforts as they will to sell them.

Got any predictions of your own? Leave them in the comments!

The Campy Inspiration Movement is Crap

By David Berry: The business world and the personal world intersect more often these days than in generations past, largely due to the advent of social media. The tools are right there to use, usually on our phones. Fleeting thought about politics? Tweet it. Nice sunset on your walk home? Snapchat it.

Inspirational quote about success, proving your "haters" wrong, or living a luxurious lifestyle or whatever? Facebook it. Instagram it. LinkedIn it.

It's easy to see why these types of posts have taken off in popularity. The social media world is rife with realities that have been filtered, polished and reduced into images or sayings that project an image that isn't real. But it doesn't matter. Because it has been deemed desirable. 

Hundreds of thousands of people, or millions in some instances, post and share these campy, half-empty inspirational quotes over a celebrity's face or the backdrop of a luxury home or car.

Sure, you could glean some insight from a handful of them. Or, you could skip them all, read this short list, and move on with your life.

  1. Real successful people don't post about being successful. Gary Vaynerchuk is the only person I know of who does this stuff because he's passionate about it. He could give a damn if you like him or are "inspired" by him.
  2. Success is almost always about doing something well, efficiently, over and over again. Sure, innovation plays a major part for the mega-successful (Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, etc.). But those making 7-figures and up in their day jobs have managed to do something probably quite simple, but quite well. (Spoiler Alert: They're usually their own bosses too).
  3. The truly successful don't care about haters, who wasted their time, or what other people think. Those who do well for themselves know that the opinions of others are useless at best, a distraction at worst. Successful people don't care about you - they care about being successful.

Now get out there and be successful.



5 Tips for Thriving in the 'Summer Slow Down'

By David Berry: If you're in business for yourself -- particularly in the 'establishment' phases -- you're well attuned to the fact that there is such a thing as a seasonal slow down. Invariably, for many businesses, that season ends up being summer.

The reasons aren't always apparent, but circumstantially, it's easy to find some causes. Employees take multiple, small summer vacations with their families (hey, the kids are out of school), and likewise, so do your clients. Then, there's the simple element of momentum. At the start of a New Year, the holidays are winding down for everyone, so there seems to be a huge rush -- and pressure -- to aim for hyper-productivity. Summer lacks that momentum, as it's sandwiched square in the middle of the year.

Whatever the causes, the summer slow is real for many industries. So, what's a business owner to do in the midst of such a lull? 

1. Keep a Sense of Urgency: It's easy to ride the waves when things are good; leads are answering your calls and pushing projects forward in a timely manner. Prospects are showing up in abundance -- life is good! Except, when it's not, and you find yourself without the practiced habit of maintaining diligence in your day-to-day to make sure the lights stay on. It's a lot harder to develop new, good habits than it is to maintain good habits. So, never let up.

2. Eat Lunch with Someone Else 3X Per Week: In a world where most of our communication happens with our hands (texting, emailing, social media), it's easy to forget how critical it is to actually see people in real life. Go figure. I don't know about you, but it seems like more times than not, in-person meetings are not only better for relationships, but they actually lead to more productivity/opportunities between both parties. Time to leave your desk.

3. Reach Out to Cold Leads: I'm not sure what your business looks like, but for every client I have, there are two or three that never got off the ground for one reason or another. So, reach back out to them. On the phone or in person. They may not answer your emails for the simple fact that whatever they have to say in response is too complicated to articulate, so they go cold. Push them into action and see if you can close.

4. Try to Grow Warm Leads: Want to know the best individuals to grow your business with? Existing clients. It might seem counterintuitive -- since they're already your clients -- but it might be safe to assume that if they're with you, they're happy. Who better to try growing or expanding your business with than the ones who already know your value?

5. Expand or Contract Your Services: If things have indeed slowed for you, spend some free time taking an honest look in the mirror. Is there a service that you offer that no one uses/buys? Consider modifying it or eliminating it. Similarly, do you have a service that users love? Consider expanding it.

So tell me -- is the summer slow down real? How do you work through it? Leave your comments.


Wtf is 'Digital Advertising' Anyway?

By David Berry: Once upon a time, when advertising budgets were dominated by TV, radio and print, the media landscape was easy to understand. Clients could feel and hear their ads, and the media was easy to understand too. A TV ad goes on TV. A radio ad goes on radio. A print spot goes in a newspaper or magazine.

But then along came digital, and the confusion began. Clients -- and even agencies -- were, and still are, slow to embrace it. Largely for the same reasons anyone is resistant to change; it goes against what they know. The medium itself challenges the entire process that so many in the creative world took for granted.

  • Client Sends Brief
  • Creative Team Brainstorms
  • Creative Team Comes up with Great TV Commercial
  • Creative Team Wraps Billboard, Radio and Print Campaigns Around TV Commercial
  • Yay! 

Digital isn't that easy. And a lot of it isn't even visual or auditory in nature, so it's much harder to wrap your head around -- and therefore, harder for agencies to sell, and even harder for clients to sell to their own bosses. So, what is digital advertising exactly? In short, it's literally anything that is online. 

Digital advertising refers to marketing media that is digitally displayed. Digital advertising technology exists on the Internet, on smart phone and hand-held media devices, and even on automobiles and billboards.
— SmallBusiness.Chron

Within that definition, there are a number of categories which the ads fall into (and more than what I'm showing here).

  • Display Advertising. (Let's call them banner ads.)
  • Affiliate Marketing. (3rd party partnerships where content sites get a cut of sales from other people's products. Looks a lot like display advertising.)
  • Social Network Advertising. (Sponsored content and retargeted content.)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM). (If it's in the top 3 on your Google search, it was paid for.)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). (If it's on the first page after the ads, SEO got it there.)
  • Mobile Advertising. (Ads that are targeted to your phone, because you fit the target audience or because you're near a place that wants you to shop.)

But there's something that a lot of digital ads have in common, and that's what makes it so hard to digest -- so much of what makes it good is never seen. For advertisers who spend millions of dollars on their ads, it's a terrifying prospect to say "hey, that TV commercial you can watch every day on your favorite stations? Let's drop that in favor of a bunch of Google Ads that you'll never see, with targeting too convoluted and detailed for you to understand."

How do you cut through the clutter and know you're not being had? Well, we'll talk about that next week. But for now, hey, you know what digital is. That's a good start.

- DB

Here's How Much You Should Spend on Advertising

By David Berry: A question that every - every - marketer hears from prospects or clients is "how much should I be spending on ads?" And there isn't a marketer alive who can give you the "right" answer on the spot (though some could come close).

When I get asked this question, my favorite response is "one million dollars." I say it with confidence too. Invariably, the person who asks me chuckles, and then I explain the same thing every other marketer will explain to them.

"It depends..." 

Of course, even though "it depends" is the start to the right answer, people don't want the right answer. They want a tangible number that they can touch and feel. That they can react to and say "oh, I can afford that" or "oh, that's too much."

Today, though, I'm going to try to give you a "pretty good" answer to the question, based on a few assumptions:

  • You're a small-to-mid-sized business and you sell a product to consumers
  • You haven't done a ton of advertising yet
  • You have a lot of shifting priorities and don't know where to start

If that's the case, I can make a few more assumptions:

  • Advertising has to pay off quickly, or there won't be more money to play with
  • You'll watch over every dime once you start spending money on ads
  • You may be inclined to freak out, change direction or shut it off at the first sign of volatility

The good news? A lot of small-to-mid-sized businesses are just like this. Now, let's dive in.

Put Aside $5,000. I say $5,000 for a few reasons. It's an amount of money with which you can test and learn what works and doesn't work for your business. Plus, it's enough where you could justifiably stretch it out for several months. Too many first-time advertisers say they can afford a certain amount, yet when it comes down to actually spending it month after month, they balk. They freeze. And they pull back without learning or selling much. By putting your investment aside ahead of time, you remove the chance that you'll panic and pull back if you pay as you go.

But $5,000 Isn't Likely to Transform Your Business. Treat your initial $5,000 investment the same way you would treat the purchase of a sofa. You might recoup some of your costs on it, but the goal is to use it for a purpose. And that purpose, in this case, is to learn which approaches, messages, visuals, targeting, etc. are the ones that work for you.

You'll Get There, But You'll Need to be Patient: I have a client who spends $2,000 a month on ads and generates close to $7,000 in revenue. Another spends around $10,000 a month and generates around $25,000 in revenue. But that didn't happen overnight. In fact, in both cases it took us about three months to come up with an approach that generated consistent revenue. If either client had panicked in the first 90 days and abandoned ship, they wouldn't be seeing the success they're seeing now.

So there's your magic number! $5,000. Now, where do we start? Well, that's a conversation for another day. Or, you could email david@dbpluspartners.com to discuss it :)



This is Why No One Values You

By David Berry: I'm a member of a highly-engaged Facebook group called PR, Marketing and Media Czars. If having the word 'czars' in its title didn't give it away, this group has more than a handful of angry egomaniacs who think the PR industry, in particular, is the center of the universe. In fairness, though, I've made several great connections in the group, from people who are there to make great contacts and do great work.

The other day, a woman posted a rant about a low-ball offer ($300) she'd received on a project to name a new brand or product. She signed off her rant with "what is wrong with people??????"

Well, I responded. Like, is it a small-time brand? Did they already provide you with research and direction and thought-starters on names they like? Are you obligated to see the name selection to the finish line, or are you just furnishing an idea that they'll build upon?

And if you've ever used a thing called "Facebook," you can imagine the size of the fire storm that came with it. Hundreds of comments flooded in. Some were saying "no one knows anything about value anymore!" and "bet they'll hire some 20 something know-it-all to do it and get crap work!" 

In the internet age, it seems that everyone's first instinct is to be pissed off for no good reason, but here's what all of them missed - they never bothered to discuss the value of the project. And the woman never bothered to articulate her own value, either.

On its face, naming a brand sounds easy. "Let's call it ThunderCandy!" See? I just did that in five seconds, and I'd gladly accept $300 for it. 

But the company likely needs an expert who does more than that. And it's on the professional's shoulders to articulate the depth of the process and the value of its outcome. Plus, if you asked the people in the comment thread what it should cost, they'd tell you between $3,000 - $8,000. So how do you get from $300 to $8,000 (or even have a shot at it)?

Here's how I'd go about it:

  • Re-Explain the Ask: Show the client that you understand the request. That you know who they are and who their target user is. Who the brand is today and who they aspire to become; what makes them different. They don't just need a name. They need an identity. A hook. An identifier and a mental image maker. And a name has to go hand in hand with visuals and graphics, which is something else they might need.
  • Explain the Process: There's research involved. Potentially a lot of it. Use cases of not just brands in general, but competing brands in the space, including those who've succeeded and those who haven't. Why have the winners and losers arrived at their respective lots? Was it branding related or something else? Do you plan to test the name in focus groups or surveys? Who is going to tabulate that data and make sense of it? There's a lot of work there.
  • Give Them Past Examples: Have you done this before? If they're interested in hiring you for it, there's a good chance you have. And with that, you have case studies on how you approach this work and an existing model for the outcomes that the client can expect.
  • Explain the Deliverables & Timelines: Give them the confidence that says "I understand what this project is and I know what it'll take." Honor their internal deadlines, approval processes and so forth, and acknowledge certain milestones along the process so that they know you'll get the job done on time and to their satisfaction.
  • Now, Lay Out Your New Fee & Justification: You've just given the prospective client a lot to consider that they probably haven't thought of. Here is where you tell them that you'll include all revisions, status meetings, in person meetings, conference calls, finished documents in proper format, etc. And then you have demonstrated your value - and why a much higher fee for the project is justified.

I'm by no means a hard ass, but I told one commenter in the thread "if no one - NO ONE - is willing to pay your fee, then it doesn't matter what you think your value is. You're just worth less than you want to believe you are."

The sooner you can get through the sting of that truth, the sooner you can get on your way to understanding how to articulate your value in the first place.


What Makes a Good Ad?

By David Berry: It's perhaps the most subjective, divisive topic in the entire ad industry, and its centered around a question that's been asked since the dawn of the industry - what makes a good ad? (And more recently, the question is 'how do you make something go viral?')

The New York Times pointed out that many people, when probed with this question, tend to argue that "sticky ideas and products tend to be simple, unexpected and credible, with concrete details, an emotional undertow and a memorable story line." 

But it's not quite that simple - or consistent. If funny and cute were truly the way to go, for example, then you'd never see a Party City 'Thriller' commercial like, ever.

The better answer to the question is a bit more layered. A few weeks back, I read a book called Contagious by Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business at Penn.

The Times said that "Berger, for his part, asserts that six principles help make things go viral":

  • Social Currency (making people feel that they are cool insiders)
  • Triggers (everyday reminders of an item or idea)
  • Emotional Resonance (making people want to share the experience with friends)
  • Observability (that is, a highly visible item advertises itself)
  • Usefulness (people like to share practical or helpful information)
  • Storytelling (embedding a product or an idea in a narrative enhances its power).

Without summarizing the book, Berger goes on to explain case study after case study that supports those six principles. And it goes so far as to explain how Cheerios (yes, Cheerios) gets more word of mouth buzz than a gargantuan fun land like Disney.

But why? No one thinks of Cheerios as a sexy brand, but it never has to be. A good brand doesn't need its ads to be cute or funny; ads are reinforcements for brands that are already ideally suited to drive sales (and that's the only true measure of a good ad).

Winning brands do their winning by embedding themselves into the day-to-day fiber of our lives, both in how we interact with the brand/products themselves, but also in how they fit into our compulsions to connect, share and tell stories with one another.

It's why Party City's Thriller ad is a good ad, despite the fact that it's annoying. Social currency doesn't always have to be based around a good thing; saying 'ugh, did you hear that annoying Party City Thriller commercial - again? Must be Halloween again' is exactly what Party City needs you to think. And now you've told the brand story for them and they've triggered an emotion in you. Sure, the emotion seems negative on the surface, but are you really not going to shop at Party City because the ad is annoying? No. 

Hell, you could hear the song Thriller out of season and not even think of Michael Jackson. You're just thinking of costumes. In Party City's world, Thriller is perhaps one of its most known triggers - annoying or not.

The best ads don't need to be polished or high in production value. They just need to get people talking. And if it has several of those six principles, your odds of 'going viral' just got a major boost.

- DB

5 Things I've Learned as DB + Partners Celebrates its 1st Birthday

By David Berry: A year ago, I started DB + Partners with the following:

  • No savings/reserves to float the business while things got off the ground
  • No real expertise running a business
  • No clients
  • An idea for a business model that was different (and hopefully different enough to stick out)

A year later, DB + Partners is humming along. The business has 11 clients, 10 of whom are in the B2C space and seven of whom have a retail component to their business.

In terms of work, the disciplines now fall in to two distinct categories. One is paid social media management with a focus on lead generation or sales conversions, the other is copywriting. (And the 'Partners' in our business name means we have experts who extend our expertise into other categories).

I'm fortunate to say that 'business is good.' DB + Partners won't be confused with a major ad agency, but then, I never intended for that. In fact, I take a direct shot at them on my website. With that said, a year in business has taught me a number of things about business. Here are five of those things.

Fun Fact! This was the first version of the approved logo design for the business; it's a color scheme I haven't used publicly until now. Like it?

Fun Fact! This was the first version of the approved logo design for the business; it's a color scheme I haven't used publicly until now. Like it?

Every day has a 'wtf am I doing?' moment. In a corporate environment, there's always a second set of eyes. Plus, numerous people smarter and more seasoned than you. So when a decision gets made, you have the comfort of knowing it was vetted along the way. Plus, there are other people managing payroll, operations, web management, invoicing and so on. When you're on your own, not so much. And, there are things you were never trained for. The sooner you get comfortable with the discomfort, the sooner you can find a way around it - or through it.

The easier it is to explain, the easier it is to get buy-in from a prospect or client...

There are several advantages to being 'small time.' You work on what you want. You're faster, more agile. You don't have to go through the bullshit of hierarchy, or hold back on speaking your mind for fear of disrupting the apple cart. It's you and your rag tag crew against the world. In a world where getting shit done is the ultimate trump card, smaller is better. 

You get to say what you're really thinking - and that's what your clients want. I used two curse words in the last paragraph and I feel just fine about it. Also, when I have an idea, I speak it. If I have a criticism, I speak that too. It's my name on the line and no one else's. Scary? Sure. Risky? You bet. But time and again, here's what I've learned - clients love it. And they've just about had it with the businesses/partners that care more about looking good than being good. 

Clients have just about had it with this game that cares more about looking good than being good. 

But, there's the weight of a major inferiority complex. Spoiler alert - there are a lot of things you don't know how to do. For example, I'm not a videographer. It's a skill I wish I had - and one I know is valuable - and it's also a prime example of why I created DB + Partners the way I did; to leverage the skills and expertise of others without claiming it as my own. I know smart, talented people. So rather than try to offer a service I'm not great at, I'd rather be upfront about it and connect you to the guys/gals I know can hit it out of the park where I can't. You don't have to know everything. But you do have to be smart, resourceful and helpful. There's value in those things, and your clients will see it - even when you're not the one doing the work.

Hard work isn't measured in time. I'd ask any ad agency (or company) why they're so damn obsessed with how many hours their people work while sitting in front of a desk inside an office. That's a working model that hasn't been 'innovative' for more than 100 years. A good business cares about results. If I'm done with my work day at 2pm and I kicked ass for my clients, guess what? I'm done for the day. If I have to work until 2am to kick ass for my clients, then guess what? That's what I'm going to do. From wherever I damn well please.

There are plenty more lessons, but I figured that's enough for today. What have you learned? And do you agree with my insights? 


Your Sucky Creative is Ruining Your Digital Campaign

By David Berry: Modern advertising technology has made it easier than ever to reach the right users at the right time. It's crazy - and it's now getting extra creepy - just how much advertisers can know about who they're targeting.

But with the technology comes a host of professional risks that may not seem obvious at first. Like getting so caught up in the quality of the targeting, lookalike audiences, conversion tracking, etc. that you almost forget the most important part - none of it matters if you have sucky ads.

Look at your Facebook News Feed. Or the pre-roll ads you're served on YouTube. Sure, they might have all the ad tech in the world behind them, but is stock imagery really 'sticky'? Is B-roll that you borrowed from your TV commercial really going to 'stop thumbs'? The answer is no.

Case in point. Here are the first four promoted posts I could find in my newsfeed:

Anything stick out to you? No? Exactly. Every single one of them is a stock image. And - ironically, given my profession - nearly all are targeted to me by expert digital marketers.

The upside? They've targeted the right person. These ads are relevant to me. The downside? They're really effing boring. They're all stock images. And there is nothing captivating about a single one of them. And I'm not going to click on them. Why? Because they're trying to sell me something to enhance my digital marketing skills, but they've done a poor job of it on their own. And ultimately, that's a wasted dollar.

On the flip side, here are four ads I was just served that I do like.

Why? Let's take them one by one. The first ad - in case you can't read it. The first one is slightly copy heavy, but it has a clear bait question in the copy underneath the image - "Struggling with how to sell from stage?" And then right there on the image, it shows you a script that it has promised to ship you for free. It looks real, and it offers a freebie. That's something I want to click.

The second ad has a strong, statement making visual of a marketer just begging someone to pay attention to them. That's something a lot of struggling marketers could identify with. If an ad makes you say "man, I feel that way too," then you're hooked.

The third and fourth are much simpler - just show the product, and as much of it as possible. Not the sexiest stuff in the world, but far more compelling than just showing a stock photo of a handsome couple, for example. Plus, it is an honest gateway to what I'll see when I click. There's no clickbait, just a clear, compelling message about what I can expect. That's an ad that feels like it can be trusted.

So the next time someone says "but our campaign isn't working!" make sure you've considered whether or not it's worth clicking on at all. You might have great content on the other side of that click, but you'll never earn the right to show it if your creative sucks.



It's Your Customer Service, Stupid

By David Berry: Before I even dive in to today's topic, I should be clear - I am writing this post with blood boiling at my temples; I am in a fit of rage.

I remodeled my kitchen late last summer and bought all new Frigidaire Gallery appliances as part of that process. Well, the gas range oven stopped working on the second or third use and, after a little bit of delay. The stove top still worked, so I could make do with it.

The team that I dealt with via email was very helpful. I provided the model number and serial number for my range and boom - they set my appointment up for me with surprising ease. 

It went all down hill from there.

The service tech was supposed to come last Monday between - you guessed it - a ridiculously wide time range. Sometime between 10am and 4pm. I'm fortunate to work from home, where a six hour time swing is an accommodation I can make, but for the majority of people, who report to an office every day, that can be a headache.

Around 3pm, I hadn't so much as heard from my tech with an estimated time of arrival. I called the number I was given. The tech said he was no where near my neighborhood, his appointments had run over, and could he come by the following day?

I was pissed, but obliged. Fine, I'll get it fixed tomorrow. Well, the same thing happened - twice more since then. And each time, the Frigidaire service tech never called. I had to initiate the dialogue each time, only to discover he wouldn't be showing up - again - and wanted to reschedule - again - without so much as an apology.

Can I repeat a lesson you already know, that somehow still needs to be repeated? No amount of marketing, branding or advertising can solve for poor customer service. It's the easiest, yet somehow most unattainable brand value.

Do what you say you will do. Do it as quickly as possible. Rinse and repeat.

This is not a difficult principle or precedent. I don't care what business you're in - making appliances or shining shoes - you WILL succeed if you can get this right.

And if you make a mistake, own it and fix it. That didn't happen either.

I believe that Frigidaire, corporately, understands that. But with regard to execution, there's a major operational shortcoming. No one from the corporate team followed up with me to see if the appointment ever took place, nevermind my issue was resolved.

No matter how good your first line of customer service is or was, it means nothing if you can't deliver it at the last line of contact.

Frigidaire, you have failed. 


3 Ways to Squeeze More from Facebook Web Retargeting

By David Berry: In February, we gave you a blog on the basics of Facebook Web Retargeting; what it is, how it works, and how powerful it can be when supporting bottom line business goals.

Today, let's dig a little deeper. One thing to note is that web retargeting isn't a magic fix-all. Some brands might see it that way, though. They'll set-up a basic web retargeting pixel and say "wow, we're seeing higher click-throughs and traffic. This thing works!" But below are three ways to get even more out of the pixel.

(Note: There are other types of retargeting that we'll touch on in other blog posts, such as engagement retargeting)

1. Retarget Off of Individual Pages on Your Site: If you're an ecommerce retailer with a wide variety of products/target users (think Party City), then retargeting off of all your site traffic may not be the best use of your time. Instead, retarget off of specific pages. The Disney movie, Frozen, has been huge in recent years, and the target user for the products there are likely the mothers of young daughters. So, Party City would get the most bang for its buck by retargeting off of the Frozen page and serving other Frozen content to those users, knowing they've already expressed an interest in Frozen-related products. The odds of conversion/sale increase dramatically when you're retargeting users with content that is specifically relevant to what they already clicked on.

2. Use Retargeting Audiences to Market Similar Product Lines: Let's go back to the Party City/Frozen example. If I have a user who has already clicked on an Elsa costume, for example, then she may be an ideal target for ad content that I'm about to promote for Beauty and the Beast products (not gonna lie, I really can't wait to see it). This is likely to lead to higher click-throughs than simple interest targeting. 

3. Use Retargeting Audiences to Create Lookalike Audiences: Facebook has extensive data on its users, everything from age, gender, school and family status down to past purchasing behavior and web activity. Which means that when they say they can find users who look and behave like you do on the web, you know they mean it. So a great way to get extra mileage out of your retargeting audiences is to build lookalike audiences off of them. If I'm selling a ton of Frozen products, and I know that there are other users who look just like the ones who are buying my stuff, well, I'm going after them too.

Got any tips of your own? Share them here.


The Death of the Ad Agency

By David Berry: Something big is happening in the ad agency world. That thing? Agencies are going away. They are dying.

A 2016 Wall Street Journal article summarized it well: "Many big marketers are [sic] moving away from “agency of record” deals—retainer-based relationships in which a single agency was responsible for most of a client’s projects that in some cases lasted decades."

The agency of record model has been around since, well, forever. It's the model Don Draper used.

Hey, it's me, Don Draper. I used the agency of record model. And I might be out of a job if I was still working in 2017. But damn, I'm handsome.

Hey, it's me, Don Draper. I used the agency of record model. And I might be out of a job if I was still working in 2017. But damn, I'm handsome.

As advertising has shifted away from traditional media - radio, TV, print - and into a more scattered digital space, things have changed. Brands need more content, more often. They need strategic thinkers and they need consultants with expertise in video campaigns, display media, SEO/SEM and so on. Each varying need requires a unique skill set, and many of those skills don't exist in great depth at the agency level.

So, outside consultants - particularly in the digital space - have come in to bridge the gap. The role of the consultant has grown, because of their narrow expertise and agility, while the strength of the agency has declined because their expertise is less defined. They've become less agile too.

So what does that mean? Brands are putting agencies to the test. They know that the ball is in their court. They're challenging agency partners to work on leaner budgets, and sometimes to receive compensation only on a performance upside. Accenture, Deloitte, EY and KPMG (the 'big four' of the consulting world) are scooping up the specialty work that the big agencies haven't mastered and - in the instance of Accenture - are actually buying up ad agencies to bolster the creative side of their own businesses.

The net-net is this - you, as a business owner or lead marketer, do NOT need a big ad agency to solve your problems, though they'll likely try to sell you the benefits of having it all 'under one roof.' The reality is that they're likely skilled in a couple of areas, and doing patchwork to make up for the rest of it.

What you actually need is a goal. You need a handful of experts working to get you there. And in most cases, that's it. 

And if you're an agency, the key to your success going forward will be in specialization. Agencies like DDB have already made great strides in doing this, or have at least worked to make their teams more agile and mobile to better serve client needs. Agencies that can pull that off will be just fine. But those who are still using the model of 10 years ago? They won't be here in 10 years. In fact, they'll be gone sooner than that.

- DB

Sex, LinkedIn & the Truth About 'Disruptive' Advertising

By David Berry: Have you been on LinkedIn lately? I have. Admittedly, of the social media sites in my day-to-day repertoire, LinkedIn ranks below Facebook and Instagram, and probably on par with Twitter. Which is to say that I check it two-to-three times per week.

But something is happening on LinkedIn that should be opening eyeballs. Like if you're a digital marketer, it's a drop-everything-you're-doing and seriously look at this type of situation.

See? Very eye-opening.

See? Very eye-opening.

It seems that LinkedIn adjusted its algorithm, or more simply said, it changed the way it shows you content when you log in to your feed. If you're a regular LinkedIn user, you've noticed it too.

The phenomenon is this - at the top of your feed, and all throughout it, are photos of professionals whom you've never met (mostly attractive women) who have posted images of themselves alongside vaguely-inspirational copy about their profession or a recent occurrence at their job.

And these posts stay at the top of your feed for days; sometimes up to a week.

In case you haven't been on LinkedIn recently to notice it, here is an example of my feed - which I literally just opened. I cross my heart, hope to die, I logged in and this is the first post that showed up.

Now, I'm sure that Michaela is a fine professional; maybe even a great one. Her post goes on to describe a generic story intended to motivate her followers. I dig it.

But let's call a spade a spade - replace her bottle with a glass of moscato, or hell, leave it as is - and it's basically another selfie of an attractive woman that you'd otherwise see on Instagram.

But here's the difference - random people on LinkedIn and Facebook don't dominate news feeds with 22,000+ likes and 1,200+ comments. Sure, it happens sometimes, but this is happening every single day on LinkedIn.

As marketers know, it's extremely difficult to reach a lot of your own fans/followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and it's nearly impossible to reach people outside of those groups. Yet somehow, with a little bit of sex appeal, LinkedIn is doing the opposite and practically giving mass exposure away like it's food nearing its expiration date.

In fact, even before this trend started in earnest, some brands were catching on to it. Candace Galek started a bikini business called Bikini Luxe and built it largely on the back of her audience on LinkedIn. In early 2016, she posted this image and it went 'viral' with more than 40,000 views in a month:

Galek told Digiday that "from March to date, Bikini Luxe’s LinkedIn traffic was higher than its main traffic driver Pinterest, where it usually receives more than a million impressions per month. My personal updates are getting more comments than 95 percent of Bill Gates’ posts. He has five million followers while I only have 25,000 on LinkedIn."

Look, digital marketers talk all the time about being 'disruptive,' which is the latest, most played out advertising buzzword in recent memory. It's advertising-speak for 'getting noticed.' Well, guess what - selling swimwear on Facebook or Instagram isn't disruptive. It's expected. 

There are half a billion scantily clad models out there, some hawking their poses for validation, and others doing it on behalf of brands. What exactly separates any one brand from the next? I'll tell you - almost nothing.

Let me be clear - I am not recommending a regression to the same old 'sex sells' pitch. What I am proposing is that if a brand wants to be 'disruptive,' then they need to start thinking in a truly disruptive way. 

The verb 'disrupt' literally means: "To interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem."

Guess what? Posting a bikini model in a feed filled with spreadsheets, data and industry trends is disruptive.

Telling an Instagram user to take a snack break with a bag of Cheetos isn't disruptive, no matter how charming Chester the Cheetah is.

Telling a LinkedIn user to stop working so hard, walk out of the building and take a well-deserved break with a bag of Cheetos is disruptive.

LinkedIn might not be the way you create a disruption for your client. But right now, I'm willing to bet it can.


A Quick Lesson in Facebook Retargeting: The Most Powerful Advertising Tool in Social Media

By David Berry: This blog has become an outlet for broad level insights for marketers, as well as business owners looking to gain a few tips that might inspire new ideas. But today we're going to get into some nuts and bolts - and you'll walk away with some tangible tips that you can implement to create social media ads that do more than get a few new fans.

Today's blog centers around retargeting. If this is the first time hearing this term, I'll try to make it simple for you. Retargeting takes users who have been to your website or app and, based on what they did or didn't do there, hits them with additional messaging to encourage purchase or action.

The rationale for 'why' is quite simple - according to AdRoll, only 2% of shoppers convert (buy something) on their first visit to an online store.

Retargeting focuses on the 98% who don't buy something the first time.

It's easy to understand why retargeting is so valuable to marketers. Billions of dollars are spent every year by businesses in hopes of finding the right people to buy their stuff. Most of it is wasted on people who don't care or never even notice.

Retargeting only focuses on the people who have done something that shows they are interested in what you're selling. That means they've visited your website, added something to a shopping cart, searched for products, entered payment information and so on. 

And as a marketer, that means spending money on people who might actually buy.

Here's a real-life example from a client of mine:

Let me explain what you're looking at. These are two campaigns that I ran side by side for a client last month. The campaign labeled 'FB Website Clicks (Groupon)' was a group that utilized targeting insights from a Groupon campaign and generated a 1.71% CTR rate - not bad. (Many brands will see website click ads with CTRs of under 1.0%).

The campaign above it, 'Retargeting/Conversions,' however, had a CTR of 7.84%, or more than 4X stronger than the other campaign. Plus, it led to 205 users going to my client's website and actually adding one of their products to their shopping cart. And in this reporting window (10 days), they generated 4 attributable sales - it is possible, or even likely, that these users made purchases that were not as easily attributable, as well. 

And again, the rationale for why this works is simple - these users already showed you they were interested. You're just doing them the favor of following up with them to remind them. And in due time, if they're truly interested, they will buy from you.

That's your mini crash course. But now, how do you go about making this work for your business?

Facebook thankfully makes it easy(ish). If you're not too savvy with implementing code on your own website, you may want the help of a developer. Don't worry, once upon a time, I didn't know how to do this either. Plus for most strong developers, installing this snippet of code (and some of its extensions, aka 'Custom Events') to your website is a pretty quick task.

Facebook actually gives you all of the tools you need in order to create the code and it provides a step by step guide for installation, too. You can view that information here.

Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of work involved with creating good ads, adding in layers of targeting and testing, testing and testing again to see which ones actually drive sales. But the reality is that in the realm of 'sophisticated marketing,' this is an attainable skill set to learn. And the value of taking the time to do so could truly change the financial outlook of your business.


Why Good Marketers Are Good Lovers

By David Berry: Valentine's Day is less than a month away, so I've got romance on my mind. My girlfriend will be happy to read that. But all the thoughts of chocolate and delicious meals (let's be honest, that's every day) reminded me of my favorite analogy.

And that is to compare good marketing to being a good lover. Before I explain, let's all share in the romance of a good Keith Sweat music video.

Okay, now that we've got that out of our system, let's get to it. Far too many brands miss the love lesson altogether. They think, "well, I have this great thing/service to sell, and if I just tell people about it, they'll want to buy it."

Invariably, it doesn't work. It turns into a few weeks of consistent social media efforts and very little ROI, then complete abandonment. Or a handful of emails or blog posts, minimal response, then the complaint that "ugh, this stuff just doesn't work."

Anytime I engage a business owner in this conversation, I ask them, "Well, if you gave up so quickly in your love life, would you have ever gotten married?"

The response is always the same - a smile and a chuckle. But that's exactly where we should be looking for our lessons as marketers. Any successful relationship involves a consistent, measured approach. You have to vary your pursuit; dinner one night, dancing another, or an event centered around a shared interest. And here's the kicker - you have to show consistent interest in the one you're pursuing! If you want to keep them, you always need to be attentive to their changing needs and wants. If you decide that they're not worthy of your pursuit - and only once you're sure that's the case - then you can move on.

You can't ask a girl on one date, abandon her for a few months, then show up out of nowhere and ask her to marry you. Or keep taking her on the same date over and over again and expect her not to wonder if there's something better out there. This may sound like total lunacy, yet that's exactly what brands do all the time!

They post a few pieces of content one day (a first date), then immediately start asking for clients to buy their products (marriage proposal) without much regard for how the content was received - if at all. Then they wonder why consumers are slow to buy from them.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your brand/product/service isn't special enough to circumvent the rules of marketing. There are no overnight successes. Those who are consistent, attentive and dedicated to their customers will win them - and keep them.

Any good lover knows that.



Recycling: Good for the Environment - And Your Content

Recycle. Like I just did with this free stock photo from Pixabay.com.

Recycle. Like I just did with this free stock photo from Pixabay.com.

By David Berry: What is a business to do when they're listening to every marketing expert around tell them that 'content is king,' but they don't have the resources worthy of a kingship? Recycle.

No, I'm not talking about your cans and bottles (but that's a good idea, too). I'm talking about recycling old content.

Think that feels 'cheap'? It's not. And it's actually more common than you think. According to Digiday: 

The Atlantic, which uses archival material on both the print and digital sides of its business, now generates more than a quarter of its traffic every month from older content. At publications like Business Insider, the figure is even higher, and for lifestyle-focused publications like Refinery29 it’s higher still: 35 percent, and growing, the company said.
— Digiday.com

The rationale makes sense too. For three reasons.

  1. It uses fewer resources. You already created the content; you're just driving people back to it. Less is more.
  2. Message frequency = message penetration. This is how old TV advertising budgets were built; they knew they needed to deliver the message multiple times for it to really get noticed. When that happens, you get top of mind brand awareness, and that pays dividends when it comes to generating repeat traffic - particularly for ecom brands.
  3. It's easier to plan. As Neha Gandhi, Refinery29’s svp of content strategy and innovation, said, “Betting exclusively on the news cycle is far too volatile a game to play, if you’re looking to drive sustained growth and loyalty.” Find evergreen themes, and build on those.

Here are a few tips to get you started on an evergreen content strategy:

  1. Develop content categories. Let's say you run a grocery store chain. Regardless of time of year, target users of a grocery store will always have an interest in food/ingredients, the in-store experience, recipes and finished products/dishes, how the foods bring value to an every day lifestyle, and so on. When creating evergreen content, make sure you have these pillars established. It'll ensure that your content is always relevant, and always on brand.
  2. Use it everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and any other pertinent social media channels. Plug it in your email content, your corporate blog, and at retail store level, as appropriate.
  3. Then, use it again. If you're worried about users thinking you're selling it off as 'new' content two or three months after you first used it, be up front about it. Say 'In case you missed it!' (ICYMI), or 'From the archives.' This keeps you transparent, and allows you to gain extra traffic and engagement on content that otherwise would sit in solitude.

Have any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments. And don't forget to subscribe to our emails for more tips that we'll send directly to your inbox.

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Sassy Brands on Social = Successful

By David Berry: 2017 kicked off with a bang and a botched Mariah Carey performance, just the way the universe prescribed. But it only took a couple of days for the first social media #win to show up, courtesy of Wendy's.

In case you missed it, check out this exchange between a would-be troll and a far more adept social media manager at the helm of the brand's Twitter account.

Roasted! Admittedly, the brand has been on a roll since its public thrashing of its troll. And, the public (and the industry) have been heaping praise on the brand for the past couple of days. But to call a spade a spade, what Wendy's is up to isn't anything new. That's not to downplay their hot streak.

David Ogilvy once said 'The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.'

In that regard, this notion of humor to generate buzz (or sell burgers) is business as usual. Yet somehow, when it happens, the ad world and the general population alike celebrate these brands as progressive thinkers. But are they really?

Old Spice and Taco Bell in particular have reinvented their brands over the past decade with a great deal of success by being funny and, dare we say it, 'sassy.' When you think of Old Spice, you think of Isaiah Mustafa saying "I'm on a horse!" and laughing. When you think of Taco Bell, you probably think of their witty social persona, and them randomly sending Taco Bell-themed goods to their raving fans.

The point is this - when you really break it down, advertising (or social media, or whatever) isn't all that hard. And Wendy's is once again discovering it and simultaneously revealing it.

1. Know your audience. And 2. Find a fun, compelling angle to engage them.

No amount of fancy research or ad tech will ever change that truth.


5 Things Your Marketing Team Should Do Before 2017

By David Berry: Lost among the memes and mockery of the 2016 Presidential Election is the reminder that Q4 is finally upon us! For most businesses, this is a time of professional reflection; a look at where the business has been and - just as importantly - what that means for where the business is going. What is your marketing team doing to get ready for 2017? Well, here's a good place for them to start.

  1. Look at What You've Done. Bonus points will be awarded if you set up benchmarks for performance at the start of 2016. If you did, then measuring success becomes a true exercise in measurement, and far less of a guessing game. Unfortunately, here's how a lot of small to mid-sized businesses go about their marketing: Let's do what we did last year, if sales didn't go down, let's do that again. Instead, use available data to identify what worked and didn't (Facebook analytics, email open rates, sales data, etc.) and make the best judgments you can.
  2. Evaluate What the Competition Are Doing: Every business has competition, including yours. And while it would be difficult to really see what's driving their wins/losses, you can still get some insight by paying attention and doing some research. Subscribe to their emails. Follow them on social media. Google them. Find them and see what they're doing and try to get a sense of what's working and what isn't working. Blogs, podcasts, emails, social media, etc. are all things you can see for free to gain insight.
  3. Evaluate What the World is Doing: Did you know that digital advertising spends will surpass TV this year? TV is indeed a major player, but the new money in advertising isn't going to TV; it's going to mobile (text, social), digital (display, retargeting) and social (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). And it's definitely not going to print.
  4. You Need a Plan to Stick To: What are the themes that you'll focus on each month in social media, email, retargeting, SEM, events, etc.? Get specific. Build out a communications calendar that lays out the themes for your communication and considers multiple touchpoints, along with increasing/decreasing frequency depending on the business's needs and priorities. Then stick with it. Marketing isn't a light switch; you can't just turn it on and expect it to work. It takes time and consistency, and that only comes with good planning. For extra help, take a look at this great article from Forbes.
  5. Measure Your Wins/Losses and Adjust Accordingly: If you can find a way to map your monthly sales over your monthly advertising expenses and identify correlations, you may be able to identify which marketing efforts are working and when. Furthermore, if you're invested in digital marketing (social media, email marketing, display campaigns, etc.), then it's actually very easy to measure success, right down to leads and revenue. If you don't measure, you have no ground to stand on when justifying your plan, or criticizing anyone else's.

And when in doubt, hire some pros. Yes, of course business' like mine benefit from it if you do, but the reality is that you have a business to run. You shouldn't be running all of the marketing decision making at the same time. I talk a bit more about that on this video below with Arturo Arca from Pragmatique Legal. Any questions? Email me at david@dbpluspartners.com.