March 03, 2009

Channel Shift And Online Marketing

These are absolutely delicious times in the world of multiple channels.

Sure, I focus a disproportionate amount of time on catalogers and retailers, because that's what I know. But the most interesting stories are over in the online marketing world.

You know those online marketers. They're the folks that just stare at you when you mention anything that cannot be immediately quantified with a conversion rate metric. They're the folks who organically benefited from all of your offline marketing. They're good people, learning their craft on the fly --- something offline marketers have a much harder time doing.

And in the course of just six months, the world shifted out from under them.

Aaron asks us, "How Much Of Your Pagerank Are You Wasting On Twitter?" Catalogers/Retailers, read this carefully, but as you read the article, make the appropriate substitutions:
  1. When you see the word "Google", put in the word "Catalog", or the word "Retail".
  2. When you see the word "Twitter", put in the word "Internet" or the phrase "Online Marketing".
Aaron speaks about the exact sort of thing that was announced at Get Elastic today. These folks are reducing blogging frequency, and eliminating Friday link-love, instead spending time on Twitter forwarding readers to good articles. Just like that, a brand that utilized a fruitful combination of social media and Google elects to slowly de-tether from the beast, choosing to spend more time on Twitter.

Too much hype was made over Web 2.0. What is happening now, however, doesn't have a label. It is a fusion of online marketing and offline marketing and Web 2.0 and, most importantly, demand creation, that is threatening to anybody in the online marketing camp.

Demand creation is sorely missing from online marketing and Web 2.0. Improving conversion rates and managing search and placing a shopping cart in the upper right hand corner of the screen is all about capturing as much demand as possible --- a good thing. But it is a fundamentally different process than what one goes through to create demand.

Demand creation results in new channels. New channels, as we have learned over and over again, cannibalize old channels. Search, all of a sudden, is an old channel. Old channels go after the money. New channels go after romance --- and are always criticized in the early going for not delivering ROI.

For my loyal catalog and retail readers out there, this is a time of huge opportunity. You can ignore the pap about selling on Twitter. You can ignore the stories about improving conversion rates by 394%. You can, instead, find new and innovative ways to use combinations of micro-channels in ways others haven't envisioned. Test! Try things. The mighty online marketing empire probably peaked last September, and is now being nibbled all around the edges by the very micro-channels it enabled.


  1. Anonymous5:28 PM

    In the vocabulary of most direct marketers out there, the term "conversion" is a good thing.

    The term refers to converting interested prospects into to buying customers. We usually expand it by saying conversion rate". But you are using it to mean something else I think. What is that?

    Thanks, Ted

  2. Ted, there's what I would call "linear" direct marketing. It's what 95% of direct marketers practice. You execute paid search on Google. The customer clicks, comes to your site, and 2.9843399% purchase something.

    Ask an online marketer to tell you the conversion rate of a paid search visitor, and you'll get 2.9843399% sputtered back to you in 1/100th of a second. Ask a vendor to tell you this number, and the vendor will chew out the client for failing to convert 97% of the visitors, and will offer a solution to fix the problem.

    Now, ask an online marketer what the impact on future sales is when a customer from Google fails to convert, and you'll get a blank stare. Ask an online marketer to tell you what the probability of a website visit is this month for online-only buyers when a catalog is mailed to the online-only buyer on the first of the month, and you'll get a blank stare. Ask an online marketer to tell you what percentage of your February sales came from customers who visited in January but did not purchase, and you'll get a blank stare.

    These are non-linear questions.

    Direct marketers, and especially online marketers, have been trained to answer linear questions. Unfortunately, we all live in a non-linear world.

    These are the subtleties that I deal with in my Multichannel Forensics projects. The vast majority of direct marketers simply stare when asked any question that cannot be answered by a linear conversion rate.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Just a clarification

    I didn't get into details but I reduced my blogging frequency to free up brainspace for more of Elastic Path's exciting internal projects. I don't plan to spend more time on Twitter, if anything, less time on Twitter. I know there were some readers who loved the link list so I figured, hey, I can still share links through Twitter since everyone and their dog seem to be on it :)

    Love your blog!

  4. Hmm, just re-read my announcement and it does sound like I was asking folks to follow on Twitter in lieu of blog content (instead of to compensate for loss of Friday links). I definitely believe there's at least 100x more value in the blog than a Twitter stream, if I could I would post twice a day :)

    Re: Aaron's post

    I personally have noticed that backlinks to Get Elastic have slowed down since Twitter picked up and like Aaron Wall, regret that they are nofollowed - seems like a waste. A while back I tweeted that there should be a method of distinguishing trusted accounts and follow their tweeted links (weed out the spammers, squatters etc or require a post/follower threshold).

    Google could program its algorithm to give links from Twitter a lower link value (yes it can do this) than other forms of links, but the RT juice would still add up. I had over 100 RTs of a recent article (of course, with Twitter the subject matter of the post), and hardly any real web links. Would be nice if Google took that into consideration :)


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