Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Marketing on eBay
Most people are aware of the premier auction website, eBay. Founded in 1995 as AuctionWeb, eBay has become more than the Internets yard sale throughout the years. From it's humble beginnings with founder Pierre Omidyar, eBay has boomed with auctions for all sorts of products like cars, rare antiques, and even a decommissioned soviet submarine (juliette class submarine k-77, though it failed twice to be sold). It has become an avenue for people all over the world to be able to sell not only the junk in the attic, but also finely wrought wares that showcase their talents. There's even those people who make a living off of eBay, creating eBay stores where the auctioneer has a physical location that is either a storefront for the exact wares they are auctioning, or providing a service to those who wish to get rid of stuff collecting dust(provided the store gets a commission). Marketing on such a site may be difficult, though, with it's nature as an auction site, but luckily there are many, many resources to help increase one views, and invariably, sales.
On ebay itself, there is a tool that will help you create a storefront in the site (http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/Building.html). Here, you can place your logo, store description, a store search function, navigation and even a promotion function, and that's only the basic layout. EBay also offers a variety of features(some at a fee) to help expose your listings. Functions such as the Featured Plus listings are reported to be twenty-eight percent more likely to sell than other listings, or using eBay Keywords in conjunction with your advertisement banners to have said banner pop up when a customer types in a specific keyword, as stated in a very helpful article from allbusiness.com ( http://www.allbusiness.com/sales/internet-ebay-selling-marketing/3243-1.html). Bold listings and photos have a greater impact on sales, and one can also use the groups and discussion boards to further their potential clientele and sales. EBay will even reimburse you for printing costs if you participate in their Co-op Advertising program and eBay also produces many reports to help store owners to hone their selling. Skip McGrath akins eBay selling as a form of niche' market, and one should market accordingly (http://www.skipmcgrath.com/articles/niche_marketing_article.shtml). When one enters a niche market, McGrath explains that one should become an expert of that niche, and with that expertise, integrity, and focus on such a small market, one would be able to command better and better revenues, as long as gross merchandise sales can be maintained at a high level.
There are also things one should not do when marketing on eBay. According to internetbasedmoms.com (http://www.internetbasedmoms.com/online-auctions/ebay-selling-strategy.html) there are four of said mistakes that can be costly while delving into being an eBay mercantile. First on the "no-no" list is not considering when your auction is ending. If it ends on a Sunday evening, when it has been purported that people are most likely to spend money on auctions, you may be costing yourself a large chunk of coin. Next is ensuring you have good quality photos at multiple angles of the product you wish to sell, and ensuring that all the photos function. When people have a good visual reference to an item, they will be more likely to purchase it as they will be satisfied with the condition of the artifact. The third thing that should not occur is using a "Las Vegas" style page, one with all sorts of shifting colors and other annoying .gif junk that tends to clutter and distract from the description rather than the intended effect. Lastly on the list is using a reserve in order to guarantee that a certain dollar amount will be reached. In the article, it was said that when this happens, people who know they can get more in an auction will grab that product cheap from the reserve and sell it for a massive profit.
This is only the surface layer of marketing and selling on eBay, and as one delves more deeply on the subject, more tips, tools, and tricks are sure to be found.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical portion of the online marketing mix. Sure there’s much to be said about SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and it gets many a results, but if a company works out an efficient means of getting high organic search results for their company, it can mean all the difference. In the class we’ve discussed that many people don’t take the time to search and search page after page of results to find a particular site, but rather will stick to the first page, and maybe venture to the second to garner their information. Though it sounds simple, it’s actually quite a job, trying to rewrite HTML to best fit the criteria of search queries, and it’s also a daunting task to even hire an organizer to create this organic code. Mark Jackson reviews in his article on clickz.com titled “Hiring an SEO”, hiring an organizer that will produce results can be a tricky affair. He gives some reference points from his own experience on hiring SEO’s, outlining that a blend of experience, references, what he calls “The human element” (essentially a general liking and fellowship between companies or team members), and giving potential candidates a small test to gauge their knowledge in reference to your work will provide a beneficial work relationship. He also puts in a little caveat that most of the seo’s he knows have or exhibit signs of ADD and that a strong process and/or talented manager is probably needed to keep organizers on track.
Search engine organizers have their work cut out for them, having to place relevant keywords, build reciprocal links, and pages that spiders can crawl over. They have to not only beat out their competition to the earlier spots on a results page, but also do it without resorting to keyword stuffing, link farms, or other somewhat nefarious black hat seo techniques. In fact there are two categories of optimizers, the aforementioned black hats who manipulate the HTML code in ways that search engines don’t find appropriate. Other than the methods previously mentioned, black hats employ other techniques like hiding text in the webpage by either using text the same color as the background or position it off-screen, or invisible iframes which is where the page shown isn’t necessarily the page hosted by the company one is looking for. The other side of this are white hat seo techniques, which are html modifications that search engines approve of. White hat advice can be summed up as creating for users and not for search engines.
Now, if one doesn’t want to hire an SEO solely for their company, there are many firms out there that can perform the same service for companies. On topseos.com, they have even compiled a list of the top 50 seo firms in the world. Firms like Increase Visibility Inc., Slingshot SEO Inc., eVisability Inc. perform search engine optimization for clients like Banana Republic, Webtrends, and McDonalds. Though it’s not necessary for every small web-based business to have on retainer one of these top rated firms, but research into the reputability of any individual or firm is always necessary.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
People like free things. Whenever a company offers a promotion on products, two-for-one’s, free giveaways and such, customers eat it up. Being as it’s a tried and true method, companies also know it works. If a company is trying to get their name out there or introduce a new line of product, this tactic gets a lot of results.
Even well established companies use product promotions to further advance their customer base. In the case of Coca-Cola, the Coke Company has recently been using promotional give-aways and also filming these promotions on their Youtube channel (link below or in the sidebar). One of the more recent videos on the site is one that features a vending machine in an undisclosed college commons area where after purchasing a 20oz bottle of coke, the vending machine would then proceed to spit out multiple bottles of coke. It then proceeded to hand out flowers, pizzas, liter bottles of their product, and even a very large submarine sandwich. This stems out of their message at the fore of the video to “share happiness” with the students. The description goes on about doling out “doses of happiness”. Previous to this, Coke had also started a similar campaign in which the company sent out a team to give away a Live Nation $100.00 gift-card to random people who happen to have a coke product in their hand (link below or in the side bar). This not only incentivized the people receiving the gift card into staying loyal to Coke, but it also sends a message to those of us in the rest of their market, “Buy Coke, you may win something.”
It seems to be a very rough game, though, if you don’t have notoriety. Many of us are familiar with banners, sidebars, pop ups, and page takeovers. In fact, those of us taking this class should be very familiar with them. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve trained myself to ignore a lot of such attempts at inundating my attention to a myriad of these advertisements. We even have programs to block many of those sorts of advertising. Despite this, I find even myself, at times, having my eyes drawn to a particular ad that piques my interest. Even though this lends to the fact that these types of advertisements do in-fact work, getting the right sort of attention among the veritable plethora of junk ads can be a bit daunting.
Online promotions have made big headway into holiday shopping, as well. These last few major holidays have seen a huge push for product deals online comparable to those in stores, especially during the yearly Black Friday shopping rush. The Monday after the holiday has even been coined Cyber Monday, providing bargain-hunters, since they’re not as die-hard as some, an outlet to shopping deals that normally they would have to wait out in the 4:00am chill for. In fact, there’s even a Cybermonday.com, listing a cornucopia of merchants with online promotions. Perhaps not as expensive as television ads, much to the relief of those companies using online advertisement, is becoming a large part of advertising strategy.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Certainly after being announced a week ago, most people know about Apple's new product, the tablet computer they've named the iPad.
Now, Apple is a very well known and highly regarded company. Their ability to generate such a market pervading buzz is still astonishing. Even all the way back to their very fist ad, the famous 1984 Superbowl ad which ironically was modeled after Orwell's novel, they set a high curve for introducing their product to the general populace.
Now, the day that the iPad was announced I had just arrived home from work and had no idea that there would be any sort of rumblings on the internet of an impending tech release. Within an hour of the press release and my complete ignorance of the event, I was inundated by information about it by no less than 7 websites I frequent (Geekologie, Radnerd, ect., none of which are news sites) and three friends I keep in contact through the internet. To have gotten word out so fast and so widely encompassing, even with their household name status, is nothing short of awesome (in the original sense of the word).
The question I want to ask at this juncture is, "How did Apple manage to create this pervasive buzz of theirs?" SO, what is their secret, how have they cultivated and grown this expansive network? Especially when perhaps 12 years ago, Apple had pretty much fallen by the wayside and their largest market share was that of public school systems. Well, since I couldn't seem to find anyone who had definitively answered that question, so I suppose I'll take a crack at it...with a few inferences.
Despite not having a whole lot of notoriety during the 90's (and me being an ardent PC man), I have to admit that Apple produced very good machines from an early start. I remember using many a Mac in the school computer labs growing up, the one my mother ran in particular. The quality of the graphics even back then were great and they were quite user friendly once you got the hang of them. Apple's quality, I think, is a major part of their popularity. In fact, it's Apple that is THE TOP machine used in areas such as computer graphics.
Another large chunk of their large market share would due to the technological innovations they've produced, starting with the ipod in 2001. In fact, by looking at Apple's stock trends, the correlation between the release of their products and the success of their company is parallel. Being able to produce stylish, functional vicissitudes to the way we look at technology goes a long way with the market in not only success of the company, but also stimulates the massive amounts of "buzz" that permeates the internet to a point where even an ignorant web meanderthal such as myself knows about the newest Apple gadget within an hour of it's dissemination.
Apple's buzz can also be attributed to simple "word-of-mouth". Now, I suppose it depends upon how you might define word of mouth, being as the internet is mainly a textual medium. I think that individual references, even in when read rather than heard will be just as effective, and with the all-encompassing connectivity of the internet it's obviously very effective. The blogger jeffbullas made reference to a study from the Harvard Business Review done by Dodds and Watts in 2007 that stated,
Jeffbullas also makes reference to Emmanuel Rosen's book “Buzz..Real Life Lessons in Word Of Mouth Marketing” wherein Rosen explains the importance of word-of-mouth in social sites and also lists ten principles that are at work in social networking.
"1. Social Networks are Invisible...even in the age of social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace no matter how hard you try you cannot find the “strength of the tie” and this comes down to
- the privacy of the networks
- people don’t reveal their true network ties
- there is a lot of noise in the data that comes from these sites
2. People Link With Other Who Are Similar To Them
An example of this is that each sport has its own social network, Golfers hang out with golfers and compare notes on things like golf clubs. This “Homophily Principle” has 2 basic implications
- They tend to form clusters
- The more similar your employees are to your customers the easier the communications will be
3. People Who Are Similar To Each Other Form Clusters
This can be simply shown with examples of why do Hells Angels travel in packs or girls in second grade play together. Clusters can informally adopt products together such as “Apple” fanatics.
Note: If you product becomes the standard within a cluster , it makes it difficult for competitors to uproot you from this position.
4. Buzz Spreads Through Common Nodes
This means that even though we as human beings might have only “6 degrees of separation” that transferring buzz between different structures or nodes has a high degree of friction.
5. Information Gets Trapped In Clusters
You can have different clusters in the same building or company such as Marketing and PR. Spreading buzz from one group to another is rare. It normally means that a story can be trapped within the marketers or PR.
6. Network Hubs and Connectors Create Shortcuts
There is an example of some German Birkenstock sandals that were discovered by an American Margaret Fraser on a visit to a Yoga trainer in Germany where she discovered these really comfortable sandals that on taking them back to the USA and became the master distributor that have now become a $120 Million dollar a year business. The connector enabled a quick way to get the product discovered on the other side of the world.
Note: Venture capitalists are also a good example of the role of the connector between “clusters”
7. We Talk To Those Around Us
The Internet does cross geographical boundaries but those that are in close proximity are the ones we still influence with the most ease
This highlights the following
- Geography still matters
- 74% of all comments are transmitted through simple face to face conversations (Keller Fay, 2007)
- When marketing a product or service that you hope will have a national or global appeal. It is important to create a presence in every geographical location.
- Traditional marketing based on Zip codes, database marketing and bricks and mortar locations is still important
8. Weak Ties Are Surprisingly Strong
A study in the late 1960’s by Mark Granowetter of Harvard showed
“Word of mouth through acquaintances had significantly more impact than word of mouth with close friends and relatives”
The takeaway on this – people outside of our close networks are important in bringing in fresh data – in other words diversify your connections.
9. The Net Nurtures Weak Ties
It’s easy to maintain weak ties on the Internet. The increase in weak ties on the internet can explain why information travels much faster today. The Internet creates millions of shortcuts of weak ties that bridge social clusters.
10. Networks Go Across Categories
Politicians used to be able to take one message to a core group of supporters and a different one to the general public but not now. The internet and the new social networking channels are blurring the lines among different categories. What was once a private message to the loyal followers is now public conversation within seconds and minutes."
Rosen hits many interesting points on how social networks behave and is absolutely right on principle number three with the statements, "Clusters can informally adopt products together such as “Apple” fanatics. Note: If you product becomes becomes the standard within a cluster , it makes it difficult for competitors to uproot you from this position." The act of belonging and commonalities to deiscuss can be a huge advantage to generating buzz.
Now, they say that any publicity is good publicity, but it's a heck of a lot more effective when it's positive, and sometimes negative really bites you in the end. An example of this is the "Dell Guy" incident, where as their advertisement spokesman for their "Dude, you're getting a Dell" campaign. This destroyed the spokesman's career as, well, a spokesman, and gave Dell a large bloody nose in respect to their penetration into the market for a number of years.
All-in-all, Apple is enjoying their lofty position because of their ability to read, navigate, channel, and manipulate the whole of the social network that is the internet and it's multitude of sub-nets. Given their success in years, barring major changes in how people behave on the global network, Apple will probably continue their leading position within the