Contextual Targeting: Discover why Consumers and Advertisers Prefer Relevant Content Placement

Contextual Targeting: Discover why Consumers and Advertisers Prefer Relevant Content Placement

As long as there’s been advertising, some form of contextual ad placement has existed. Any businesses or organizations that have run ads in newspapers, in magazines, or on television have been placing ads in ways that ensure they are surrounded by relevant, credible content. Choosing an ad placement based on the surrounding content makes sense, and this concept is pretty easy for most marketers to understand. For instance, it’s no surprise that TV commercials for frying pans are most interesting to viewers of cooking shows. Newspaper ads for movies get more attention when they are placed in the entertainment section. Magazine ads for gym memberships are noticed more when they are placed in fitness magazines.

This simple, easy-to-understand approach holds true when it comes to digital ads and online marketing. Placing ads on pages or videos with related content or similar interests is a smart way to increase an ad’s effectiveness. When advertisers and marketers look for websites full of related, credible content for their digital ads, professionals call it contextual targeting. While this is a relatively recent term, the approach is nothing new. Placing ads and messages next to or within the content (that already appeals to your best customer) increases the power, relevance, and effectiveness of the marketing message.

While this all sounds like common sense, it’s not always easy to implement. That’s because today’s advertising platforms and technologies are developing and changing rapidly. Modern formats and context change daily, even hourly. Also, it’s often tricky for advertisers to evaluate all the different options and approaches available within contextual advertising.

However, with a little help from an experienced marketing partner, finding the right contextual content for your advertising plan can be the turning point for your online marketing messages. Most marketing experts now believe that contextual advertising not only provides more precise targeting tools, but is also able to reach consumers at the moments in their day in which they are most receptive to these messages.

While this marketing strategy might seem like a no-brainer, it’s not always the way digital advertising works. Tracking cookies and data profiling have been the preferred method for many advertisers for the past several years. When using data-driven profiling, digital marketers often use demographics, web behaviors, and purchasing behaviors to determine which people will see their messages. While these advertisers may be reaching the right people, they are also sending ads to audiences in places in which the user sees no related content. For example, a Facebook ad about retirement communities might reach a person chatting with family about a child’s birthday party. An advertisement for an online university might pop up on your smartphone while you are playing solitaire. You may see popups on YouTube for the latest movie while you look for videos about how to fix a broken toaster.

With contextual advertising, ads are sent to content pages, not people. That means that the marketing messages are placed in front of online users consuming related content. People reading about tropical vacations might see ads for swimwear. Smartphone users reading about educational options might see an ad from an online university. Movie ads could be delivered to online users reading about local bands and theatre productions.

To explain it more simply, data profiling or behavioral advertising targets a consumer based on who they are or what they have done. Contextual advertising targets the site or page and reaches the people only when they are reading or viewing that content.

When advertisers target programmatically based on the content, they find the right pages using a Demand Side Platform, or DSP. This allows a media planner or marketer to purchase ad inventory that contains a keyword, a set of keywords, individual sentences, or matches with pre-selected contextual segments.

What are the Advantages of Contextual Targeting?

While data-driven profiling can be an effective way to send out marketing messages, contextual advertising also has many advantages. Almost half of marketers say this is their favorite targeting format. One of the most essential benefits is relevancy. Because they appear within related content, contextual ads make sense to the reader and match their interests. Therefore, they tend to be noticed more and clicked on more often. When marketers employ sophisticated contextual advertising strategies, they can locate sets of ad viewers who will be interested in the company’s messages based on the information on webpages they are visiting.

Why is Contextual Advertising Becoming More Popular now?

Data-driven profiling techniques have come under increasing fire in the past year. This type of profiling combines readily available information, like social media profile stats, and combines it with bits and pieces from other databases. Some varieties of data gathering also track an individual’s browsing history and include data about online purchases or offline credit card purchases. As a result, many consumers and governments have protested these practices and consider many types of data collection and data aggregation as an invasion of privacy. However, contextual targeting doesn’t require user profiling or tracking codes.

More and more countries are passing legislation that protects user data, and user privacy, including the EU’s landmark General Data Protection Regulation  (GDPR), passed on May 25, 2018. The GDPR legislation took away the ability of some online businesses to use or profile some types of information. As a result, many online websites and social media platforms have had to change and simplify the way they create or profile audiences. GDPR also mandated that any website using tracking codes, or cookies, must get user permission before tracking their behavior or sharing it with other sources or entities.

While GDPR was limited to European websites, any website or social media platform that intentionally or incidentally attracted European users had to comply with the new regulations. As a result, for most online sites and platforms, creating audiences based on consumer online behavior and traits slowed down or went away. While many sites still use cookies, they can only do so after a user opts-in or gives permission. The permission requirement has resulted in a dramatic slow-down of data-collection, making this type of advertising less precise and less prevalent.

However, when marketers choose their ad placements based on surrounding content, they do not rely on user profiling. Instead, they market to users on the site, whoever they may be. The qualifier for contextual advertising audiences is created based on their media usage at the moment, instead of basing it on past behavior or recent media usage.

Most experts agree that the practical impact of the GDPR legislation and related efforts in the United States have been the primary reasons advertisers began paying more attention to the benefits of contextual targeting.

On TheDrum.com, Julia Nightingale reports that GDPR has changed the way marketers think about contextual advertising,

“Does the fallout from GDPR mean that audience targeting as we know it, will become a thing of the past?…Having access to granular data is of course extremely valuable from both an insight and targeting perspective. Has the legislation change forced companies to take a closer look at their data infrastructure? Will we see a drastic change in the ways companies choose to target their audiences?”

Happily, for many advertisers, contextual usage has always been a preferred method for identifying audiences. Contextual marketing offers exceptional reach and vast audiences. It ensures the users are interested in their content “right now.” For example, an ad for NFL gear on a sports website is surrounded by plenty of sports- and football-related coverage, which means that the users tend to be highly qualified audiences. A robust website may have hundreds of pages of NFL or football content and hundreds of thousands of users. In this example, contextual advertising provides marketers with plenty of content and large audiences for their ads.

Contextual advertising is also a smart strategy for niche products. For instance, companies that sell specialty woks may not be able to use data-driven profiling to identify customers who are “most likely to buy woks.” Still, they can find interested audiences by placing wok ads in articles about woks, ranking woks, or describing the best way to use woks. They can also put their ads on cooking sites that feature recipes using woks, or within videos that show or use woks.

In the Past, Behavioral Targeting and Cookies Ruled

Not so long ago, behavioral marketing, using data-driven tracking, seemed unstoppable. After all, there were few legal limits on the ways digital platforms and websites could profile users. Social media platforms were especially adept at tracking and aggregating data in creative and specific ways. And it wasn’t limited to companies like Facebook. Google, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn. Many major websites programmed their digital properties in ways that enabled them to gather all kinds of information about individuals including age, gender, political preference, race, buying habits, credit scores, age of children, the brands they used at grocery stores, their net worth, the value of their home, and more.

By using cookies, a type of code that tracks online users’ web behaviors, sites could match emails to online and offline databases. Even credit information and purchasing habits from grocery store loyalty cards could be added to the online profiling systems. By employing a sophisticated set of programmatic ad tools, these tech companies could empower platforms like Facebook to target and retarget users with particular ads that could pinpoint their behavior from the websites they visited recently, to the model of the car they were likely to buy in the next 30 days.

This kind of behavioral targeting did not factor in contextual information, such as the content or articles on a website. Instead, the primary driver was tracking the behavior of users with digital code or cookies. It was the power of the cookies which allowed advertisers to gather personal web usage information and then use that information to create a digital profile.

With so many razor-sharp tools in place, contextual targeting became less popular. Behavioral targeting seemed to offer more in-depth data set to reach people in more specific ways than ever before. However, in recent years, users began to resist such intimately targeted ads. The ads became so specific to the actions of users that consumers started to suspect that computers were “spying” on them, and then selling their information to online companies. While the reality was rarely so sinister, abuses did exist. When the flaws of behavioral targeting became apparent, the United States and other countries required these digital companies to stop using certain types of tools to create audience profiles. Many tech companies voluntarily stopped using more sensitive types of data gathering, most notably political, racial, and financial profiling. As a result, advertisers find that it is now significantly more challenging to send the right ad to the right person at the right time.

Happily, contextual advertising was unaffected by these legislative demands. Because contextual advertising relies on surrounding content to attract users, instead of behavioral profiling to track user characteristics, it has never come under regulatory scrutiny. Contextual marketing does not utilize web tracking or previous behaviors as a way to connect a user with interests. Instead, the content attracts the user. Advertisers that use this strategy are placing ads on digital platforms where the user is reading compatible content, right now.

Is Contextual Advertising the Future of Online Advertising?

In addition to regulation from Europe, some U.S. states have also enacted legislation that restricts web tracking and data profiling. America’s largest state, California, has passed its own online privacy policies, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA. Other states may soon follow. The California legislation requires compliance by any website that wants to do business in California or send products to California. As a result, tech giants like Google, Apple, and Mozilla have responded in kind with additional, voluntary restrictions. According to Phil Schraeder in the April 12, 2020 issue of AdWeek,

“…the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect on January 1, leaving brands, ad tech vendors and publishers scrambling to figure out what they need to do to comply. Then, a couple of weeks later, Google announced that its Chrome web browser, following similar moves by Safari and Firefox, would eliminate cookies by January 2022, further complicating how, in the not-too-distant future, digital advertising would reach customers without access to the third-party data that had become the standard for programmatic initiatives.”

While many Americans are not yet fully aware of privacy regulation, that may be changing. On May 7, 2020, an IAS study was released that showed online privacy is paramount. The IAS study reports,

“While 89% of consumers say data privacy is important, more than half (55%) are unaware of any data privacy regulation…when it comes to preferences, consumers are most receptive to contextual targeting (such as an ad for baking supplies on a cooking website) over behavioral, audience, location, or social targeting. As privacy legislation and consumer actions accelerate a shift in targeting strategies, innovative advertising strategies like contextual targeting based on the categories, sentiment, or emotion of the page will be prioritized by marketers. Enabling contextual advertising will allow advertisers to adjust to the evolving landscape while engaging consumers in appropriate environments.”

As more and more governments and online entities get stricter about the use of tracking code, or cookies, some marketers are calling this dramatic increase in regulation the Cookie-pocalypse. In Australia’s Marketing Magazine, reporter Jasmine Giuliani wrote,

“When Google announced the decision to phase out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022, it caused a considerable stir in the marketing community. Whether digital marketers are rejoicing or panicking, there is no denying the move will change how online targeting, ad tracking and privacy will work on the web.”

As the news articles cited here demonstrate, the restriction of cookies is not the only reason contextual advertising is on the rise. As online browsers like Google, Apple Safari, and Mozilla’s Firefox struggle to gain market share, they are restricting the use of third-party cookies to provide a more secure user experience. These browsers are also allowing users to select more comprehensive privacy preferences, which makes cookies and tracking difficult or even impossible.

Because contextual targeting attracts relevant readers, it does not require the use of third-party cookies. In fact, contextual advertising does not actually target the user in any way – it seeks out content. It seems likely that contextual advertising will play a much more significant role in online advertising going forward.

As the public becomes more aware of data-profiling, more and more companies and governments are mandating data-monitoring restrictions. This means that behavioral advertising is becoming more attractive than ever. As a result, more advertisers will take advantage of the ability of good content to attract qualified consumers.

How is Contextual Advertising Used in Different Industries?

As explained earlier in this article, looking for on-page keywords is one way to help ad placement tools identify the meaning and context of a page. Once that context is defined, it’s used to make ad-serving decisions. This kind of contextual advertising allows all sorts of advertisers to serve up highly-relevant ads on pages with the type of content that identifies the interests of the readers.

How exactly does this work? To help our advertisers understand how to apply contextual advertising strategies, we’ve created these examples.

How to Use Contextual Advertising for Pennsylvania Auto Dealerships

Online buying and selling cars, trucks, and SUVs is more common than ever. But some marketers find that finding the best local customers online can be challenging. For auto dealerships in and around Lancaster County, placing ads on pages with specific make and model descriptions makes perfect sense. Advertising on sites with advice about auto care and maintenance is another smart strategy. To capture shoppers in the research phase, dealerships can advertise on sites with car listings, financing advice, or car shopping tips.

Dealerships who want to take advantage of the benefits of contextual advertising may want to place ads on sites or content that uses keywords that describe car care, auto financing, how to get the best price on a new car, top 10 cars of 2020, car selection, truck repair, how to clean your car, or even news of a new dealership in the area.

Contextual Advertising for Pennsylvania Entertainment, Movies, Theatre, Plays, and Concerts

When you’re a business that offers events and entertainment in Lancaster County and Central PA, it’s smart to look for content that uses keywords indicating interest in your production. While some online users will search for movies, to get even more people out to see the latest film at a theater marketers should serve up advertising on sites filled with the keywords regular moviegoers use, like things to do this weekend, cinema, binge-watching, and of course, movie.

It may also make sense to look for people interested in the titles of the movies that are playing right now. For example, instead of limiting ads to sites talking about film, also include digital platforms that talk about the movies that are running in your local theater. Place children’s movies ads on parents’ sites with “activities to do with kids” articles.

The same marketer might also market to keywords that make sense with the content of the movie. If it’s a movie about the rock group Queen, marketers might look for content about Freddy Mercury, Brian May, or Roger Taylor. Or they may look for articles that mention similar types of 80’s rock, Kiss, ELO, Aerosmith, and Moody Blues.

To sell tickets to the next big concert coming to town, it makes sense to reach people who are reading about entertainment news, celebrity gossip, music events, local concerts, bands, and venues. But if you’re hosting a Martin Short comedy show, you may also want to look for sites that mention Martin Short, comedy clubs, and comedians.

A smart marketer will think hard about the kind of content that will appeal to the target audience. By thinking about the keywords they will be reading, a media planner will be able to identify the best contextual content for your ad placement.

Contextual Ads for Lancaster County Food and Restaurants

Central PA loves good food, and residents of Lancaster County can choose to eat at a wide variety of great restaurants. And they also like reading about the people, food, and chefs that make our area a culinary haven. By serving ads on sites using contextual advertising strategies, restaurants can reach people who are reading pages about specific types of food, cuisines, and dishes. For example, if the advertiser is a Thai restaurant and they want to reach people who love Pad Thai, they can choose delivery by keywords around Pad Thai, the ingredients, Thai cuisine, and similar dishes.

A grocery store might want to target contextual ads based on keywords about products carried, online recipe sites for Lancaster County, articles on food health, food budgeting, shopping tips, couponing, and articles that talk about cleaning, cleaning tips, and housekeeping tips.

For B2B marketers who sell to restaurants, think about serving ads on the sites restaurant owners and decision-makers visit. Consider advertising in the business section, on restaurant health inspection pages, and in news about commercial real estate in the area.

Wedding and Event Venues

Any florist, party planner, linens rental, limousine service, or venue that wants to target bridal and big events can find relevant audiences by choosing the kind of keywords that will show up in content created to appeal to brides and bridal celebrations. For Lancaster County, these kinds of advertisers might want to target keywords or context segments like engagement, bridesmaid, engagement ring, wedding gown, bouquets, catering, and bridesmaid dresses. When a marketer chooses these kinds of keywords, their ads will be served to pages and articles about wedding registries, wedding planning, floral arrangement, bakeries, cake decorators, wedding planners, and more.

How, Exactly, Does Contextual Marketing Work?

While we’ve been talking a lot of about contextual or behavioral marketing, it may help to explain precisely how this type of advertising buy works. A contextual advertising system, such as Google Display Network, scans millions of websites every day using web crawlers or bots. These crawlers are continually indexing the text or words on websites for keywords. This includes the text, subheads, headlines, and other relevant code formats.

The contextual ad system can now send digital ads to a webpage based on the indexed keywords (or phrases, or context categories.) More advanced contextual targeting systems will scan for additional information (such as alt text on images or video content.)

These tools are also able to read the sentiment or tone of the page. They sort the pages into categories of credibility, reliability, and seriousness. This improves relevancy and avoids issues of brand safety. For example, with the proper filters specified, a financial ad can be served on a site full of credible content, like a LancasterOnline article on personal finances, but won’t appear on questionable sites, such as a video spoofing banks or using obscenities.

Often advertisers want to appear on particular websites. The way some publishers help advertisers perform contextual targeting with ad inventory may help. While situations vary, contextual targeting ad programs can often be built around the specific site, channel, page type, keyword, or taxonomy provided by the site owner. Taxonomy is a system classification or the way a site organizes its data into categories and subcategories. The deeper and more specific the site’s taxonomy, the richer the contextual targeting can be.

While costs vary widely based on targeting parameters, the current market dynamics mean that the price of contextual advertising is often lower than the investment needed in other types of online advertising. That’s because there currently is a large inventory of available content online. In other words, the impression inventory available is very high for contextual advertising. More contextual ad spaces are open compared to the number of ad requests. Since cost is created based on supply and demand, a vast supply means that ad buyers have lots of flexibility to decide when, where, and how an ad is delivered and shown.

However, all contextual advertising is not created equal. Targeted advertising on highly credible sites tends to cost more than broadly targeted ads with less stringent parameters on content quality.

Within this marketing strategy, there are a few techniques any marketer can use to reach their best consumers. Always consider the balance among your marketing goals, the information you want to communicate, and ad formats available to you. Remembering the role of these considerations will help your marketer make the decisions that work best for your Lancaster County or Central PA business.

Should You Target Using Off-the-shelf Contextual Segments?

Off-the-Shelf is a term used to describe pre-built audience segments. When advertisers look for pages for contextual targeting, they can select ad placements included in the Google Display Network based on keywords. But what if relevant pages don’t use those keywords? Off-the-shelf contextual segments are pre-built to be relevant to a category instead of a single term.

For example, an ad planner can work with a client to create a core theme or category for a set of ads. When placing ads, the planner chooses from among thousands of Google contextual segments that include sites and pages that have been selected because they contain syntax that shows the pages are about selected topics, even when they lack identified keywords.

For example, if a business wants to reach people looking for retirement communities, they can choose from a variety of contextual segments that are about retirement or similar subjects. While these pages may not contain specific words or phrases, they will still be on-topic and relevant to the category.

Targeting by segments ensures that an advertiser will run ads on the right kinds of sites. For example, if an advertiser targeted using the word “retirement,” they might also land on sites about corporate retirement savings plans and 401ks.  By choosing a segment, they are making sure they don’t end up on the wrong site.

Should you Target Using Custom Keyword Segments?

Just like off-the-shelf segments, custom keyword segments are sets of prebuilt keyword groups to help ad planners create contextual targeting marketing plans for Google Display Ads without using specific keywords. These keyword segments are less granular than a customized keyword approach but less generalized that the off-the-shelf segment option.

To prevent confusion or misplacement, these options also allow you to exclude terms. Using the retirement community example, you may want to exclude keyword segments that include 401ks, IRAs, financial planning, or employer retirement savings plans.

What is Contextual Advertising With Video?

Video has become one of the most popular parts of the online universe, so don’t overlook it in your contextual advertising plan. Both Google Ads and YouTube are good choices for advertisers who want to use contextual advertising to reach people viewing relevant videos about related topics or who are watching videos on specific video URLs. For example, if your business sells parts to repair home appliances, ads on how-to videos about appliance repair would be a perfect contextual fit.

What is HyperLocal Contextual Advertising or GeoFencing?

For many companies, nothing beats local advertising. Keeping content relevant to the places people go offline is at least as important as being relevant to the context in the digital world. That’s why so many advertisers are including offline locations as a part of their contextual advertising plan. Usually a part of a geofencing strategy, hyperlocal contextual advertising uses place as context. For example, if people are online while in a local coffee shop, they are doing certain things – drinking coffee, meeting friends, and relaxing. This might be a good time to send ads about coffee, eating out, or shopping. If the coffee shop is next to a gas station, ads about checking the tank may be relevant. If the coffee shop is next to a movie theater, advertisers can deliver ads promoting the latest films.

Can You Target by Site?

For some advertisers, you won’t need a lot of technology partners to get started. If you’ve done your research, and already know the types of sites that your target consumers go to, you can target by a specific site.

There are two ways to do this. The first strategy is to utilize a narrow industry example. For instance, marketers who want to reach trucking companies can look for sites that are specifically targeting the trucker industry. These may be news sites, listing sites, or industry publications.

The second example is to go directly to the site. If your business wants to start advertising on LancasterOnline, for instance, you can contact the site directly. In this example, the marketer must make a direct deal with the inventory owner (LNP Media Group.) When you work directly with a site that offers advertising, you have the advantage of a direct connection to the content. You will agree on terms, price, and estimated reach, or CPM (Cost Per Thousand.) When you work with well-developed content sites like LancasterOnline, you rely on an account rep to make recommendations about content and frequency. This account rep sends the client proof of performance once the ads have run.

In this example, if you want to send ads to people who are visiting Lancaster on vacation, you may want to advertise on LancasterOnline’s pages about area attractions that show up in searches for “what to do in Lancaster.”

You may want to expand your advertising to other tourism and visitor’s sites as well to reach more people looking for information about Lancaster County. Each website will have special requirements for how and when marketers can advertise.

Advertising on local media properties is one of the most common uses of contextual advertising. Websites like LancasterOnline offer brand-safe environments with broad reach. They also provide a deep set of topics and industry specialties so that you can advertise to very targeted groups of B2C and B2B audiences.

Are you Ready to Get Started?

Contextual advertising allows your company to reach people when they are exploring related content. That content may be about your product or industry, or it may be related to your business in other relevant ways. You can target by keywords, website, or prebuilt segments. You can also use contextual advertising for video ads and location-based advertising.

LNP Media Group is experienced in this kind of marketing and ad placement. Whether you choose to run ads on LancasterOnline or you want to create a contextual campaign to run on other websites and platforms, we can help you develop plans that meet your marketing goals.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll show you how contextual advertising can work for your Lancaster County or Central PA business.

LIVE Virtual Marketing Events to Guide Your Business During the Covid-19 Shutdown

LIVE Virtual Marketing Events to Guide Your Business During the Covid-19 Shutdown

LNP Media Group hosted four marketing seminars to help local businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The seminars were attended by over 60 local businesses, and were led by Dr. Renee Tacka.

This page contains links to a recording of each seminar, plus the slide deck.

Week 1: Sending a Positive Message & Staying Top-of-Mind

Mon, April 27, 2020

Are you a business owner or marketer who’s looking for guidance on how and what to communicate to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic? During this webinar, you’ll learn:

– How to communicate empathetically with your customer base

– How to appropriately promote your business during COVID-19

– What you can do to stay top-of-mind, whether you’re open or closed

Week 2: Creative Ways to Run Your Business Without a Storefront

Mon, May 4, 2020

Is your business storefront currently closed due to COVID-19? If so, we’re here to help! In the second webinar of our four-week series, our speaker, Renee Tacka, shared creative ideas to help you run your business and generate revenue while your storefront is closed!

Week 3: How to Expand Your Business’ Reach

Mon, May 11, 2020

Are you looking for ways to drive more sales for your business? If so, expanding your reach is key. During this webinar, Renee Tacka shared tips on how to adjust your marketing strategy to reach more consumers and grow relationships using traditional and not-so-traditional methods.

Week 4: Reinforcing Your Connection to the Community

Mon, May 18, 2020

Has COVID-19 impacted your business’s ability to engage with customers? If so, maintaining your connection to the community is more important now than ever before. In this final webinar of our 4-week series, Renee Tacka will talk about how your business can convey its support to the community and reassure customers that your business will be there for them when you reopen.

About Renee Tacka

Renee Tacka is a doctoral-level business professional with 23+ years of experience achieving results in the media, research, consumer goods, and retail industries. She is accomplished in business and operational planning, market development, team management, budgeting, and all functional areas of marketing, including sales, advertising, consumer behavior, database marketing, and market research.

Renee is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Graham School of Business at York College of Pennsylvania in York, PA. She teaches marketing, digital marketing, advanced advertising, personal selling, sales management, fashion marketing, retailing, and branding. Renee started as an adjunct professor at York College of Pennsylvania in 2008. She is also a well-known educator throughout the media industry, having trained many media clients in sales, advertising, and market research techniques to accomplish both internal and external company goals and objectives.

 

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Mastering the Marketing Funnel

Mastering the Marketing Funnel

If you’ve ever thought about creating a formal marketing plan for your Pennsylvania company, you’ve probably run into the term “marketing funnel” or “marketing sales funnel.” While almost all modern communications plans use some type of marketing funnel, this is not a new term.

In fact, most experts attribute the first use of “marketing funnel” to an ad agency exec in 1898. Over a century ago, Elias St. Elmo mapped out the marketing journey as a tool to get new advertising clients. He was the first advertiser to sort the customer’s journey into distinct stages.

Since then, the marketing funnel has been reimagined and labeled in many different ways. The concept of the marketing funnel, sometimes called a purchasing funnel or a marketing sales funnel, has lasted so long because it is a relatively simple, easy-to-understand visualization of the hypothetical journey a customer takes.

Even though the marketing funnel has become a well-established communications tool over time, many small businesses today don’t take time to develop a marketing funnel strategy. That can be a mistake. This tried and true marketing tool can help almost any Lancaster County business think about ways to convert a person into a lead, a lead into a sale, and a purchase into a repeat customer.  When you visualize the marketing funnel and map out plans for each part of the process, you realize that to get sales, you must begin by building awareness.

Like it or not, every customer starts out as someone who knows nothing about your business. They may not recognize your logo, see where you’re located, understand what you do, or know anything about you or your products or services. However, to be successful, any business or organization must convert people with no knowledge into a repeat customer, and that can be quite a task. Lancaster companies must know how to create relevant and compelling communications, offers, and interactions, and then deliver them at the right time to the right audiences.

Awareness, Preference, Conversion, and Advocacy


Here’s where the marketing funnel can help. The stages of the business funnel are awareness, preference, conversion, and advocacy. When you spend time thinking through your marketing funnel, what your best customers will do at each stage, and how long they will spend at each stage, it will become clearer how to fund each stage appropriately. You’ll also find out which areas you already have covered, and which areas need more work. You’ll understand where you need to spend money to improve a stage, and which stages are already working well.

When you spend time developing and analyzing your marketing sales funnel, you’re actually spending time developing and analyzing your business. You are thinking about what you need to do to get more customers through the door, and how to get them to use you again and again. When used effectively, a well-managed marketing funnel serves as a road map that shows how a business can turn leads into customers and turn a one-time purchaser into a loyal consumer.

While a marketing funnel provides a neat, easy-to-understand graphic guide that illustrates the stages your customer goes through, it’s essential to understand that this journey is rarely linear. Few customers “fall” through the funnel predictably or in perfect order. Every customer does not fully experience every stage or even go through the stages in the desired order.

For example, some Pennsylvania customers go through the funnel in minutes. For some restaurants, the prospect may go through the marketing funnel quickly. One night they may get hungry (where am I going to eat right now?), do a quick “near me” search on Google (awareness), make a decision based on an online menu or website (preference), and call to order a pizza for pick up (conversion.) If they tell their friends how good the restaurant is, they continue to promote the business (advocacy.)

In other situations, it may take months for a customer to consider a purchase. For example, they may think about buying a new car for months and see several ads from many dealerships during that time (awareness and preference) before they visit a dealer’s lot (conversion.) And if they send their friends or family to that dealership in the coming months, that’s advocacy.

In another example, a person may consider joining a gym to get fit. They may become aware of a nearby gym, see the fees, and move on. In the meantime, they may begin a workout routine, and access blogs and information available for free on that gym’s website. They may subscribe to the gym’s free e-newsletter and workout tips emails. They may see ads for the gym on their social media feed. Even though they have not paid for anything yet, they recommend the gym to a few friends, who become members. At last, the person sees ads for joining for one month free with a 12-month membership and decides to join his friends, make the investment, and join the gym.

In the last example, the person experiences awareness, then preference, then advocacy, and lastly, conversion. They don’t move through the funnel predictably. Still, all of the communications they received while in the funnel helped them decide to purchase, and also resulted in two additional memberships.

As you can see in this range of examples, different people spend different amounts of time in each part of the funnel. Various business models must look at the marketing funnel differently. That’s why it’s so important to spend time thinking through the kinds of experiences your prospects may have in each stage. When you spend this time working on the funnel, you are making sure it’s easy for your audiences to find you. You also want to provide enough information for customers to understand why they should choose you over your competitors. Of course, you should make buying as easy as possible. And finally, you must ensure you have tools in place to transform a first-time buyer into a repeat customer and to transform a customer into an advocate for your business. With planning and the right marketing tools, you can help your Lancaster County customer move to the next stage when the time is right.

Make the Most of Every Stage in the Funnel – Online and Offline

No matter how big and famous your business is, every person must have some initial experience with it. For companies like McDonald’s, many people discover the chain as a child and don’t remember the first time they heard about it. For other businesses like a daycare center, people are only receptive to remembering their options once they need those services. For different types of companies with low-risk purchases, like restaurants and taverns, people are open to trying places that are close by, even if they’ve never heard of them. No matter which kind of business or organization you have, you probably know that new customers rarely spend time to find and research your product or services. Most customers will gravitate toward familiar names when they need to choose a business. To make matters more complicated, it’s likely that you have competition. Your company is just one choice of many in your category in Lancaster, or even in Pennsylvania, all competing for your prospects’ attention.

According to Crystal McFerran in Forbes.com,

“The marketing funnel starts with general awareness, and then you foster interest. But how much desire is there at that point? Your prospective lead can be all over the place for this process, so how much are they worth to you? If you know there is desire, it can be worth spending resources. But if they just want to browse, do you break out the samples and the goodwill, or do you wait to see what develops?”

While making decisions on how to handle prospects in each stage of the funnel can be challenging, when you place your messages in the right place at the right time, your prospects begin investigating their options, and you’ll want to stand out, get attention, and ensure they understand your value.

At each stage in the funnel, you want to offer them the right amount of information. For some, that may be as simple as making sure your business and offerings appear at the top of a Google search, especially when people are searching specifically for businesses within Lancaster County. Other types of businesses will need to supply deeply technical information that helps prospects understand the benefits of a substantial investment. However, no matter what you sell or who you sell to, once your customer understands who you are and what you have to offer, they need less and less information to lead them to the conversion, or sales, stage of the funnel.

To increase awareness, it helps to think about context. If you are placing an ad, what kind of editorial content surrounds it? Is this content that people trust and spend time with? Does putting your ad in this format make sense with your product and offerings?

According to Matthew Broughton on ExchangeWire.com,

“If ads are genuinely relevant to content, they are more effective. We know, for instance, that contextual alignment can drive up to 50% higher ad recall, according to Google’s 2017 Market Insights study in EMEA.”

For example, running ads about sports equipment in the sports section of LNP makes more sense than running that ad in a wedding magazine. Online, a Pennsylvania bank may want to avoid placing ads on a gambling website but may wish to allocate more funds to placing digital ads on the financial news section of LancasterOnline. Bakeries may not want ads to run alongside content that bashes carbs.

Once you decide where your ad should be to gain awareness, you must determine what message you want to convey to achieve preference. In the early stages, it may make sense to use emotion to capture their attention. Can you create messages or offers that make your potential customers feel a certain way? Can you position your product or service as a pathway to belonging to a specific group, such as smart investors, health-conscious eaters, or serious athletes? Can you help them understand how your product will help them avoid undesirable emotions such as anxiety or fear?

Once you get their attention, it’s time to use logic to prove that you’re good at what you do and that your company can deliver on your promises. Websites, social media sites, videos, brochures, testimonials, and guarantees are all tools that help people research and trust your company and your offerings.

Price, placement, and promotion will help you make the sale. If you can provide a positive sales process, at the right price, with the right offer, you may be able to seal the deal. But you’re not done yet. Once you complete the conversion, you want to retain your customers, so they will come back again and again and refer others to your organization.

Of course, your organization must provide exceptional service and deliver on your promises, and make the case that you are better than competing organizations in Lancaster County and Pennsylvania. But it also helps to do things like offer discounts for repeat customers, give preferential treatment to loyal consumers, offer discounts for referrals, create promotional offers, and send out important news and information to your loyal customers to stay top of mind.

In this article, we’ll break down each part of the funnel, and give you practical advice to help you make the most of your customer’s journey.

Early in the Marketing Funnel; Create Awareness

Awareness is at the top of the funnel for a good reason. It represents how familiar your audience is with your product or service.  Like it or not, today’s consumers rely on extensive research and others’ opinions before making a purchase. That means that brand awareness is critical if you want to stand out in a consideration set. Once potential customers recognize your brand, they’re more likely to make purchases and repeat purchases with little or no additional research. High levels of awareness alone actually create trust and loyalty.

According to JJ Tyson in Business2Community.com,

“Research shows that consumers trust brands more that have consistent messaging. Additionally, people like knowing that they’re using products that their peers are using… By increasing brand recognition, you’re also increasing the likelihood that others will want to talk about your product in a natural setting.”

Brand awareness can create trust by creating logical associations that confirm your company’s credibility and proficiency. It’s no coincidence that some of the best-known products or services are also some of the most trusted. When you think of Citizens Bank, Sheetz, Microsoft, and even Snickers, you don’t question their skills or abilities, even if you’re not a current patron.

In Psychology Today, Deborah Ward reports,

“Studies have shown that we are attracted to what is familiar to us, and that repeated exposure to certain people will increase our attraction toward them.”

While this article is focused on personal relationships, humans are hard-wired to be attracted to familiarity, and this is not limited to familiarity with people. Humans are also more likely to trust inanimate objects, businesses, or concepts that they are familiar with, and advertisements are no exception. When we become familiar with a company, product, or service through repeated exposure, our probability of preference skyrockets. And, don’t forget that locality plays a role in our preferences. Ensuring that local consumers also know your business is located locally, in Lancaster County, will also build preference.

While paid ads are one way to increase your target audience’s familiarity with your brand, pleasant experiences, good associations, and positive perceptions will also build familiarity and preference. That means that having articles published that are relevant to your Lancaster County business can boost awareness, but it doesn’t stop there. Ranking high in Google search, showing up on search engines, being referenced on other websites, being a sponsor of events, offering free samples, participating in festivals or community events, using branded company vehicles, ensuring highly-visible street signage, and even investing in company wearables can all increase your business’s visibility and awareness among your audiences.

Of course, paid advertising is an effective way to control the frequency and precision of your marketing messages. With paid advertising, you know who is seeing your message and how often they are viewing it. You will be able to select audiences that are more likely to convert into sales, instead of spending time and money building awareness among people who are unlikely to buy. After all, if you want to create awareness for a retirement community, it makes little sense to place ads in vehicles that are read by high schoolers. Conversely, why run ads for teen acne medication in business publications targeted to senior executives? You’ll get more impact, recognition, and recall if you run ads to relevant audiences.

Frequency is also a powerful tool for building awareness. A Pennsylvania business can’t significantly increase awareness of a travel offer by running one or two advertisements on Facebook. That’s why successful travel companies like Travelocity are continually running campaigns on social media. In another example, just one employment ad from an otherwise unknown company may motivate a few people to apply, but a series of advertisements for a well-known company ensures a larger pool of better-qualified applicants.

How to Increase Awareness

Want more ways to create the kind of real brand awareness that will make a lasting impact with your audience? Try LancasterOnline advertising to find local audiences and compatible content to one of the biggest audiences in Lancaster County. Ad choices include mobile ads, sliding billboards, homepage takeovers, sponsorships, collaborative content, and business directory packages.

Another way to increase awareness is to work towards getting the top rankings for your business’s relevant keywords on search engines like Google. Using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques and strategies can help your Lancaster County business become more visible, increase click-throughs on your listing, and raise awareness of your organization. Paid search ads ensure that your business shows up at the top of the search page, building awareness and increasing click-through rates (CTR.)

In fact, according to research by Backlinko.com,

“The #1 result in Google gets 31.7% of all clicks … On average, moving up 1 spot in the search results will increase CTR by 30.8%. However, this depends on where you’re moving from and to. Moving from position #3 to position #2 will usually result in a significant CTR boost. However, moving from #10 to #9 doesn’t make a statistically significant difference.”

You can also build awareness with video ads, social media posts, and social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. With digital campaigns, you can even target your audiences based on a location and deliver mobile ads to people within a small radius of any geography, almost anywhere in the world. Called geo-targeting, this technique allows a business to send promotional offers to people in their parking lot, or people the parking lots of their competitors.

Leverage the Middle of the Marketing Funnel; Create Preference

Once you understand how to create awareness, it’s time to explore ways to establish preference. After all, your customers will probably be aware of more than one of your competitors. For example, car shoppers have heard of many major auto brands and may even be familiar with many local dealerships. If a dealership wants to get Lancaster County buyers to their showroom, they’ll have to give their consumers the information they need to make decisions. Dealerships must create messages that build or reinforce credibility and trust.

One way to build preference is to create messages that are relevant and helpful to the consumer. People shopping for a new car face common dilemmas, including price, financing, warranties, style, service, and availability. If a Pennsylvania dealership can address any of these in their communications, the dealership may become more relevant to certain types of people and which means those people will pay more attention to their ads.

A Lancaster County salon that caters to young, funky clients should create different messages and ads than salons that specialize in bridal parties. Some Central PA electricians can deliver service anytime night or day, while others are set up to serve the needs of large commercial clients.

The goal is to think about your audience and spend time considering the things that they want or need from your type of business. What features or benefits are most important to them? You might want to interview some existing customers to find out why they chose your company. Or you can even talk to people who are likely to use your business and see what they want or need from your industry. Spend time talking to non-customers to get different perspectives. Once you have identified their needs, match those needs with the products or services that you can deliver consistently. See how you can take the things your organization does well and pair them to the needs of your potential customers.

One of the tricks to a successful business proposition is focus and selectivity. Choose one thing that you do well and resist the temptation to talk about everything you do. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead, be prepared to omit messages about some of the other things you do. It’s hard enough to create awareness about one specialty, so focusing on one thing makes it easier for you to capture the attention of new customers. For example, a pizza shop may brag about offering the best wod-fired margherita pizza in town. Sure, they may also sell calzones, salads, and lots of other kinds of pizza, but they shouldn’t talk about everything in an ad. Which message is most effective?

“We have the best wood-fired margherita pizza in Lancaster.”

or

“We have the best pepperoni pizza, calzones, and salads in Lancaster. And lots of other great pizza too!”

As you can see in this example, if you’re not willing to focus on one really great thing about your business, it will be much harder to stand out. You message will also be harder to remember. And that means your advertising dollars may be less effective.

While this may seem like a scary strategy, it’s not hard to find examples of successful businesses that stick to one message. Some of the biggest companies in the world have built their empires based on one or two attributes. Fed Ex was built on reliable speed; when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. Geico makes it easy to apply for insurance; 15 minutes or less can save you 15 percent on car insurance. Wal-Mart delivers low price; save money, live better.

While it seems hard for small businesses to do what these mega-brands have done, remember that it is not easy for mega-brands to stay on topic. After all, even Wal-Mart had to figure out its brand positioning. Their first print ad ever published, way back in 1962, did not look like the first ad for the world’s biggest retailer.

According to Jim Edwards for Business Insider,

“Even though the company is a master marketer, it paid little attention to the design of its logos until 1992—long after other retail chains realized that consumers were both interested and delighted by well-designed shopping environments.”

No matter how big or small your Lancaster County business is, when you know more about your customers, it becomes easier to develop messages that create preference. Whether you want to be known for discount prices, luxury goods, exceptional facilities, white-glove service, location, vast selection, industry expertise, or fast service, focusing on one element of your offerings makes it easier to communicate your point of difference successfully. That means that it’s also easier for customers to understand and retain your message, which increases awareness, and amplifies preference.

When it comes time to create effective, focused messages, video ads are a great place to start. Video ads may become one of the most effective tools in your marketing arsenal. Make sure your videos have high production value, stunning visuals, and smart messaging to capture attention and create preference

LancasterOnline advertising is also an effective place to create preference. Display formats in mobile ads, sliding billboards, and homepage takeovers allow you the visual space you need to communicate your company’s point of difference. Most formats can accommodate video, animation, and still images.

LancasterOnline also offers collaborative content. These advertorial-type articles can dig into your business’s point of differentiation, the products you sell, and even your company’s social values using the same professional writers and photographers that create content for other parts of LancasterOnline. Other types of collaborative content may include sweepstakes, quizzes, and giveaways.

Next in the Funnel: Conversions

Let’s be honest. Everything you’ve done up until now has been for one reason – to get conversions. This is where all your marketing efforts pay off. Whether a conversion is a sale, a contract, a donation, or a membership, it’s the goal of marketing. A conversion is an action you want your customers to make.

Once you have made your audience aware of your offering, and you have gained their trust, it’s time to convert. For some Central PA businesses, this may be a visit to a dealership. Other organizations may want audiences to donate to a cause or vote for a politician. Banks want people to open a checking account. Bakeries need people to buy a doughnut. Still other business models want people to order online, visit a store, enroll a child in sports, make an appointment, adopt a pet, and more.

No matter which type of conversion you’re looking for, you’re more likely to reach your goal if you can keep the prospect engaged, and you can keep the conversation going. One of the most attractive features of online advertising is that it offers many tools you can use to solicit interim commitments. While you may not be willing or able to get a sale online right away, you can take advantage of the moment they see your ad to make sure it’s easy for them to take action in the future. You may also be able to capture their information so you can remind them to take action later in the process.

Online ads are clickable, which means that you can drive people to your website or to a custom landing page with a form to collect information from interested potential customers. If you have an e-commerce business, your digital ad can click right through to an online product page where people can complete the purchase on the spot.

In other examples, a grocery store can offer a coupon for a free item to be redeemed when they buy $20 or more in groceries. A nonprofit could create a landing page that asks people to sign up for the e-newsletter. Once the nonprofit has the email, they can follow up with regular solicitations.

Advocacy: Retaining Customers and Creating Fans

As you can see, creating a new sale is a lot of work. Most Pennsylvania business owners know that getting new customers is one of their most significant expenses. Once you have a new patron, you should have a plan in place that ensures they are happy with your services, intend to use you again, and are likely to recommend you to a friend.

How valuable are repeat customers? According to ConstantContact.com,

“If you’re a small business, you need to save money anywhere you can. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current customer. Bringing that new customer to the spending level of your current customers costs 16 times more... By increasing customer retention just five percent, a company’s profitability will increase by an average of 75 percent.”

Any successful business knows they must deliver excellent service and reliable products consistently just to stay in business. Still, it takes a little bit more to create a customer who will be an advocate for your business and reward you with customer loyalty.

One way to build lasting relationships with your Lancaster County customers is to let them know that you share their values. The Corporate Executive Board surveyed 7,000 U.S. consumers. Of those who said they had a brand relationship. “64% cited shared values as the primary reason.”

Chick-fil-A is famous for openly sharing its commitment to Christian lifestyles and closes on Sundays to allow their workers to spend time at church or with their families. But this doesn’t mean that you have to share religious or political values to resonate with your consumers. Starbucks is widely considered to be a large, successful company that supports independent thinkers, alternative lifestyles, and eco-friendly causes. Ben & Jerry’s is a brand that promotes causes with distinctive flavors. Tom’s Shoes successfully broke into a well-established, competitive category by initially pledging to donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Over time that has migrated into a pledge to donate $1 for every $3 they make.

How can you increase company loyalty by sharing your company values? Think about your company’s beliefs, the people you market to, and what matters to them and you. Consider plans to integrate your company’s values into your marketing. How can you make positions, causes, or beliefs a part of your business and communications plans?

Another way to build customer loyalty and advocacy in Lancaster County is through sharing relevant information. Creating e-newsletters, emails, and blogs that relay information, tips, and industry information is a great way to create a deeper relationship with your customers. You can promote this information in emails, on social media, on your website, and in your ads.

Make sure you’re sharing high-value information that your customers can use to make their lives better. Examples of this include Think with Google, an online marketing and advertising information resource that includes countless studies and surveys from Google designed to help you learn more about your market and your customers. Quickbooks has a smart blog full of accounting advice, peppered with information for running a profitable small business. Restaurants often create e-newsletters or emails to announce menu items or special events. Financial planners can send weekly emails on investment news.

Another way to create customer loyalty in Pennsylvania is through loyalty cards or programs. Although they require a fair amount of set up and administration to work, loyalty rewards programs can provide the incentive a new customer needs to return again and again.

As any grocery store can tell you, store coupons are also an effective way to drive repeat purchases. Many businesses also provide incentives for customers to recommend them to a friend. A Lancaster County dentist offered dinner for two at a local restaurant when existing patients referred new people to the practice. Other incentives can include gift cards, vouchers, or free upgrades.

Ready to Map out Your Marketing Sales Funnel?

Whether you’re a new business owner or an experienced veteran, it’s worth the time to map out your marketing sales funnel. Think about the ways you’re increasing targeted awareness, the messages you’re developing to create preference, your conversion process, and your retention strategies.

The marketing funnel is an easy way to recreate the hypothetical journey a customer goes on, from discovering your company to becoming a loyal customer. While you must accept some loss of patrons at each stage, if you can create ways to keep some clients on the path to customer loyalty, you’re well on your way to creating a sustainable business model.

If you’re ready to create or revisit your marketing sales funnel, LNP Media Group is here to help. We are experts at digital marketing, video production, print marketing, and overall advertising strategy. Contact us for a no-commitment, free consultation. We’ll set up a time to discuss your marketing situation and recommend ways to grow your Lancaster County business in every stage of the funnel.

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Email Marketing for All Types of Businesses

Email Marketing for All Types of Businesses

Why should your company be doing email marketing?

First and foremost, because people are very engaged with their inboxes. According to Pew Research, 90% of Americans use the internet and email. People can check their work and personal email accounts multiple times a day via their phones. Email is easy to use, easy to understand, and can be highly engaging if done correctly. And, for marketers, email has a great ROI with a return of $42 for every $1 spent. Email marketing has better reach than social media marketing; there are 3x more accounts than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Who should you be sending emails to?

There are two fundamental distinctions regarding who to send your emails to:

  • Your own list of opted-in customers or prospects
  • Someone else’s list of opted-in customers or prospects

Let’s start with a discussion of the basic types of email marketing you can do to your own lists.

Sending emails to your own lists

E-commerce

E-commerce businesses stand to gain the most from email marketing because you can use emails to drive people directly to your site to make a purchase. This is much easier than driving foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar store. Here are two essential types of e-commerce email campaigns:

  • Abandoned cart emails – One of the most critical types of email campaigns for an e-commerce business is the abandoned cart email. When customers shop your site, they may get partway through the purchase process and not follow-through to provide payment information. Abandoned cart emails are easy to set up through almost any email service provider (ESP) and are fully automated based on rules you establish. These emails will remind people that they still have items in their cart, and with a few quick clicks they can finish their purchase. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails for your ecommerce business you are leaving a lot of revenue on the table. These emails are effective, with 87% of shoppers saying they would consider returning to their cart to complete a purchase.
  • Sales promotions and new product promotions – Additional emails that are essential for ecommerce businesses include sale promotions and new product promotions. These types of emails should communicate their message quickly and succinctly with a clear call to action (CTA) for purchase. Frequency for promotional emails varies by industry type, but overall you should pay attention to your open and click rates and your unsubscribe rates. As long as opens and clicks remain strong, and unsubscribes remain below 1%, you are not over-messaging your list.
Brand loyalty

Any type of business, whether ecommerce or not, should use email marketing to establish and maintain brand loyalty with customers and prospects. Email campaigns to support brand loyalty can take many forms:

  • User information – For parts and supply stores, emails can provide information on how to install a product or how to trouble-shoot an installation issue.
  • Complimentary tips – A gourmet food store can send recipe ideas or tutorials on how to use the latest kitchen tools.
  • Teasers – If your business is a performance space, emails can showcase past or upcoming performances by clicking through to a landing page with video clips.
  • Area interest – For hotels and resorts, emails can contain information on activities and sights in the surrounding area.
  • Benefits – Retail stores with a loyalty program can send emails with news about how to leverage the loyalty program for maximum savings.
  • Lifestyle – Luxury brands can incorporate high-end imagery to associate their products with the desired lifestyle of their customers.

The focus for all of these content ideas is to provide something that is of interest to the recipient. Too often, email marketers only think about their own businesses’ needs: “How can I sell this? How can I drive more people to my store? How can I generate leads?” The thought process needs to shift to: “What does my audience need? What are my audiences’ interests? What does my audience want to know?” by thinking like a customer, email marketers can make their campaigns more engaging.

Business to business

Thus far, we have talked about email marketing that is oriented toward consumers. Email marketing is also an excellent tool in the B2B space. For B2B emails, the focus still needs to be on the recipient, not on the sender. Education is a big component of B2B email marketing. Business is complex, and there are multiple products and services competing for every business persons’ time and attention. You can make your email marketing stand out by using your expertise in your industry to provide user-friendly content on topics such as:

  • Products – Pros and cons of different products used in your industry.
  • Trends – What are the critical industry trends that your audience should know about?
  • Laws – Are there legal changes in your industry that affect your audience?
  • Case studies – Explain how other businesses have successfully used your products and services.

Most B2B email marketing is a compliment to a human sales force. So, don’t think of your B2B emails as a channel for instant sales. Think of your B2B emails as a place to nurture your relationship with your clients and prospects. B2B emails can showcase your company as a valued partner who gives out relevant content and doesn’t just ask for money.

E-newsletters

E-newsletters can contain most of the type of information previously mentioned. Your e-newsletters can contain offers, educational content, branding content, event listings, new products, and more. If you are a news media company, your newsletters may contain breaking news, or news related to certain categories (e.g. business, crime, sports).

The difference between e-newsletters and other types of email marketing are simply that e-newsletters are sent on a regular schedule, usually daily, weekly or monthly, so recipients know when they’ll be hearing from you.

Sending emails to someone else’s lists

There are two types of opportunities to send an email marketing message to a list that is not your own.

Permission-based national email databases

National vendors offer access to millions of opt-in email addresses that are collected from a wide array of sites. To gain access to these national email databases you typically need to work through a media company or ad agency. The first step in sending your email campaign through a national database is selecting the right demographic, geographic, and psychographic profile that you want to reach. Selections can also include intent to purchase items like homes, cars, appliances, and more. Some vendors even allow selections based on recipients’ job titles, which means these databases can be a great option for human resources for recruitment campaigns.

Many vendors offer a performance guarantee of a minimum open rate of 8% or a click rate of 1%. If these performance thresholds are not achieved, the campaign will be delivered again at no charge.

E-newsletter Takeovers

Media companies that have e-newsletters often offer advertisers an option for an e-newsletter takeover. Each e-newsletter’s list has subscribers who have different interests (such as crime, food, sports, and weather), so you’ll need to select the e-newsletter list that aligns most closely with your brand and message.

The e-newsletter takeover is a co-branded email design. The email will come from the media company’s sending address and will contain both their logo and your logo. Recipients already trust the media company because they have signed up for the media company’s e-newsletters. Having your brand and message cobranded on the campaign will let recipients know that your marketing message is coming from a trusted local advertiser.

As with the national email databases, e-newsletter takeovers are sent by the media company, so there is no risk to your sending domain.

Key terms

Here are some key terms in the world of email marketing. Being familiar with these terms will help you understand how to engage in email marketing in an effective and legally compliant manner:

CAN-SPAM law – This law governs the use of bulk emailing, which is what email marketing is. CAN-SPAM law does not apply to individual emails you send out of your personal or work email accounts. CAN-SPAM only applies to bulk email campaigns sent out to lists of more than a few people. A few of the key points of CAN-SPAM law are:

    • Business information in footer – You must include full business contact information in your email footer.
    • Clear sender – Your sending email address needs to clearly represent your business identity.
    • Clear subject lines – Your email subject lines cannot be misleading or confusing.
    • Opt-ins – You may only send bulk emails to people who have opted-in to receive bulk emails from you. An existing business relationship, however, is considered a form of opting in, although it is not the best quality opt-in. The best quality opt-in is a confirmed (or double) opt-in. With a confirmed opt-in, the user enters their email address to receive emails from you, and then they are sent an email with a link that they have to click to confirm that they truly do want to opt-in. This is the gold standard of opting in.
    • Unsubscribe link – You must include an unsubscribe link in your emails.

Deliverability – This is a critical and often overlooked part of email marketing. You may have a gorgeous email design with an amazing offer, but if it goes into recipients’ junk or spam folders, they will never see it. A full-service ESP may provide you with deliverability metrics, or you can pay separately for the services of a deliverability vendor such as Glockapps or Return Path. These services will tell you whether your email campaigns are landing in people’s inboxes or in their junk folders. You can also track deliverability directly with some email clients. For example, you can use Google Postmaster to track your Gmail deliverability.

Email client – An email client is what the recipient uses to open and read your email. Common email clients include Gmail, Apple iPhone, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Email service provider (ESP) – An ESP is software you use to send out your emails. There are many, many ESPs. Some common low-cost options include Mail Chimp, My Emma, and Constant Contact. These ESPs can be used free of charge if your list is small. These are generally simple, easy to use ESPs without a lot of bells and whistles. More expensive ESPs have more options for automation, A/B testing, segmentation, deliverability tracking, and data integration.

Engagement – The metrics below are all measures of recipients’ engagement with your email marketing:

    • Open Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that opened, or read, your email. However, this statistic is inexact. Opens are recorded when the recipient’s inbox downloads a single transparent image tracking pixel. If you have images set to download by default, then every email in your inbox will be ‘opened’, even if you haven’t looked at it. By contrast, an inbox with image downloading turned off will never record an email has having been opened, even if the recipient reads the text of the email.
    • Click Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that clicked on a link in your email. Click rates can be counted as unique (by person) or aggregate (total clicks, even if some people click more than once).
    • Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of bad email addresses in your list. There are hard bounces (email is no longer in use and will be permanently not mailed to) and soft bounces (inbox is full or out-of-office, thus the ESP may try to email a soft bounce again).
    • Unsubscribe Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that clicked the unsubscribe link in order to stop receiving emails from you.

From address – This is the email address that your campaigns will be sent from. For example, info@ABCCompany.com if you are sending from your corporate domain, or info@mail-ABCCompany.com if you are using a separate mailing domain.

Friendly-from – The friendly-from is the wording in front of the from address that tells the recipient a little more about the sender. So if the sending address is info@mail-ABCCompany.com, the friendly-from might be “Customer Service”. In your inbox, the full information would look like this: “Customer Service <info@mail-ABCCompany.com>”.

Landing page – The landing page is where your customers will click through to from your email. For an ecommerce business, the landing page may be a product page in your ecommerce system. For other types of campaigns, the landing page may be a stand-alone page that has additional information or that collects lead information from the recipient.

Lists/Segmentation – One of the most important aspects of email marketing is segmentation, which allows you to send the right message to the right person. For example, if you are an ecommerce company who sells products to both businesses and consumers, you would want to segment your list into two ‘buckets’ so that you can message businesses differently from consumers. Different ESPs provide different ways to create segments. Segments can be created based rules you apply, using tags, activity on your site, or based on subscribers self-selecting into a particular segment. While it is tempting to send all of your offers to everyone, you’ll get better deliverability and better engagement if you restrict your messages to the right audience.

Rendering – Your email may look great in the builder tool within your ESP, but how does it look in inboxes? This can vary, because different email clients may read your email code differently. Because of this you need to use an email testing and optimization tool, such as Litmus or Email on Acid, to test how your email design is rendered across multiple email clients.

Responsive – Your email designs need to be responsive, which means that the design needs to automatically resize and adapt depending on where it is being viewed. Your email design may have four horizontal blocks on desktop, but viewed on a phone those blocks will be vertically stacked. Responsive design is a standard for all email marketers because 63% of emails are opened on a mobile device.

Sending domain or mailing domain – Your company’s website address might be ABCCompany.com. This is your corporate domain. Many small businesses will send bulk emails directly from their corporate domain. However, when you use your corporate domain to send bulk email you run the risk of damaging your corporate domain’s reputation if your email campaigns are reported as spam. To avoid this, you may want to set up a separate sending domain, such as mail-ABCCompany.com. Setting up a mailing domain is considered best practice for medium to large businesses.

Final Thoughts on Email Marketing

Email marketing presents a wealth of opportunities for all types of businesses. If you are interested in sending an email to a list that is not your own, LNP Media Group offers effective, affordable solutions. E-newsletters on LancasterOnline are available for sending co-branded offers to a wide variety of opt-in lists, including food, entertainment, crime watch, sports, and business. We also work with national databases of millions of opt-in email addresses which we can target based on interest, intent to purchase, demographics, and more. Our team of digital experts create impactful email marketing designs with a performance guarantee. Contact us today to get started!

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OTT, CTV, & the Future of Video Advertising

OTT, CTV, & the Future of Video Advertising

Whether they’ve been in marketing for a few years or a few decades, today’s advertisers have seen a lot of changes. With so many rapid developments in the way programming is produced, marketed, delivered, and sponsored, it’s hard to keep up. Media, digital technologies, and even consumer behaviors are changing every day. In response, new advertising opportunities are appearing at an alarming rate.

Today, many marketers, advertisers, and business owners are trying to figure out similarities and differences between OTT and CTV. To make matters even more complex, the media industry is not defining or using the terms consistently. And some seem to make new terms up as they go along. OTT, CTV, Programmatic TV, Streaming TV, IP TV, Smart TV, Livestreaming, VOD, Pre-Roll, direct-to-consumer, and more all swirl together into one confusing glossary, while the more you research these terms, the more you’ll realize that the dust hasn’t really settled on terminology and naming.

From a viewer’s point of view, this turmoil is practically invisible. The vast majority of TV and video audiences are unfamiliar with the changes in ad formats, terminology, and delivery. They have no reason to become familiar with the language – it’s all just programming and content to them.

However, for marketers understanding these new ­­terms and opportunities is critical, so we’ve provided this guide to make explanations and definitions easy-to-understand.

A Little Background on Advertising, Commercials, and Videos

Decades ago, if a company or advertiser wanted to run a video ad (also known as “commercial,” in pre-digital lingo,) they really had just three choices; ABC, NBC, or CBS. Having just three channels that went off the air at night considerably limited the advertising inventory. Because there were a limited number of advertising slots, or inventory, available, only the wealthiest advertisers could afford to buy on-air ads. These pricey TV commercials required the patronage of big brands with deep advertising pockets.

In the late ‘60s, other, smaller networks started popping up based on regional interest or more focused content. Early cable was born. By the 1980s, viewers had access to a wide array of cable channels. With remote controls in hand, ‘80’s viewers could “surf” from MTV to VH-1, and paid stations like HBO became common.

With thousands of shows on the air and many 24-hour stations, TV advertising inventory exploded in the 1980s. The price of advertising dropped. For the first time, TV ads became an affordable option for a much wider variety of advertisers and businesses.

In the 90’s home internet became more popular, and by the 2000’s online TV became a reality. Today’s viewers can access free and paid programming on TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones.

The marriage of TV and internet continues to evolve. Today, many people are getting rid of cable in favor of online viewing.  In fact, over 74% of American homes say they own at least one Internet-connected TV/device. Known as “cord cutters”, more and more of these people are eliminating cable and linear TV and relying on streaming services. In fact, many of today’s household never activate a cable service. These “cord-nevers” opt for the flexibility and versatility of TV delivered from companies such as Roku, Hulu, Fire TV, and other internet-based options that stream content to a variety of devices and platforms.

As people shift to more flexible TV delivery styles, connected TV advertising, also called streaming TV advertising, has adapted along with them. Determined to meet the needs of content producers, advertisers, and consumers, the market continues to unfold with improvements and iterations intended to provide compelling ways to deliver a customized, high-quality, and efficient TV ad experience.

Elizabeth Thorp from Moblyft reports,
“Compared to traditional TV advertising, connected TV advertising is a laid-back branding experience that occurs while users consume digital video content on their television sets. These are the ads that you see before and during streaming content, and typically appear in 15 to 30-second segments.”

Whether viewers choose to watch free videos on YouTube or want to catch up on local news, there are many options to choose from. By combining the right subscription and technology, audiences can now watch all kinds of content almost anywhere Wi-Fi connections exist. As a result, people now have millions of viewing choices across a variety of platforms, including ad-free viewing.

Alex Sherman at CNBC noted that, as of November 2019, the list of current streaming services included,

  • Netflix(introduced streaming in 2007): 158 million subscribers, 60.6 million U.S. subscribers (as of October).
  • Hulu (began streaming in 2007): 28.5 million U.S. subscribers (as of November).
  • HBO(founded in 1972, began streaming outside pay-TV bundle in 2015): 34 million U.S. subscribers, 8 million HBO Now subscribers (as of October)
  • CBSAll Access and Showtime (began streaming in 2014): 8 million subscribers (as of February)
  • ESPN+ (began streaming in 2018): 3.5 million subscribers (as of November)
  • DAZN (began streaming in 2016): More than 4 millionglobal subscribers (as of May)
  • Crunchyroll (began streaming in 2006): More than 2 million global subscribers (as of November)
  • Amazon doesn’t disclose the number of Amazon Prime Video users. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated there were 100 million Prime subscribers in January, but those subscribers get many other benefits, including free one-day shipping.

With so much change and churn in the industry, and with such a wide range of options available to audiences, it’s no wonder that advertisers are continually devising new ways to create ads and sponsorships to fund all this content. Even as you read this blog, the OTT, CTV and streaming TV advertising options are continuing to develop, change, evolve, and expand.

Research Reveals Rapid Growth in OTT and CTV

For decades, traditional network television captivated audiences in great numbers across the nation, making it one of the most powerful mass media tools available. Even with the arrival of cable, it was years before network programming began noticing diminishing audiences.

Today’s TV and video innovations are causing tremendous excitement in the advertising world. For marketers, extremely fractured audiences are a new challenge, and a new opportunity. Instead of reaching one or two larger audiences, advertisers can now isolate thousands of smaller audiences. But just as the content producers struggle to keep pace, marketers must also move fast to find the best advertising solutions.

How fast are things changing? eMarketer reports that OTT service subscriptions continue to increase while traditional TV viewership is declining. In 2018, 90.3 million U.S. households subscribed to services like cable or satellite. In 2019, that number fell to 86.5 million and is expected to decrease to 82.9 million in 2020.

The same eMarketer report noted that in 2018, there were 170.7 million OTT viewers, which jumped to 182.5 million in 2019, and that number is predicted to increase to 191.5 million in 2020.

Other research shows the same story again and again.

According to an article by Joseph O’Halloran for Rapid TV News,
“…nearly three-quarters of consumers subscribed to at least one streaming TV service, and as many as 69% young consumers (ages 25-34) particularly believe of the superior nature of streaming , with 69% agreeing on the superior relevancy of connected TV (CTV) ads. Additionally, 53% of consumers used their mobile device or tablet to shop while watching TV on a streaming service, with this number rising to 74% among parents.”

This data illustrates the major shift away from mass-audience advertising toward hyper-segmentation. As fewer and fewer people watch traditional cable TV, the viewing audiences split into smaller, more diverse groups.

Since the cost of advertising is usually based on the size of the audience, ads that reach fewer people are more affordable. This means that more advertisers can get into the video/commercial game for less money, reaching smaller numbers, and delivering their messages to more targeted viewers.

While videos (a.k.a. commercials) are one way to advertise in this new world, other popular strategies include product placements and brand integrations. Products and services pay content producers to include them in the show. This may take the form of reality show judges keeping cans of Coca-Cola on their desk. A character in a series might work at the Cheesecake Factory, or a sit-com family might take a trip to Disney World. Media services like Netflix and Disney+ rake in millions from such placements, and this type of covert advertising is likely to increase.

According to Tiffany Hau reporting for the New York Times,
“Even as Netflix resists commercials, it is finding ways to work with brands. Last month, Netflix worked with the sandwich chain Subway to start offering a Green Eggs and Ham Sub (spinach-dyed eggs, sliced ham, guacamole, cheese) tied to the new Netflix series ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ based on the Dr. Seuss book. The sandwich generated a lot of publicity for Netflix in the lifestyle press while also putting the Netflix name in front of the millions of people who buy a Subway sandwich each day.”

What are the Definitions of OTT and CTV?

While we’ve mentioned before that many advertisers and media companies are not using consistent definitions, it’s helpful to have an understanding of some of the most common characterizations.

OTT is one of the most standard terms. OTT is an acronym for “over-the-top.” This term is used for the delivery of film, video, and TV content that is served via the Internet and “over-the-top” of cable, in addition to or instead of standard cable or satellite services. Over-the-top programming doesn’t require users to subscribe to a traditional service like DirectTV, Comcast or Time Warner Cable. However, traditional cable/satellite TV content and advertising is usually included in OTT definitions.

For example, when a cable/satellite provider offers viewers a service package that includes on-demand shows yet restricts fast-forwarding through ads, that’s one kind of OTT. If you can view apps via cable, like Netflix and YouTube, that is also OTT. Over-the-top also includes pre-roll ads for online shows, apps, and videos on your desktop, even when they are viewed without the use of cable. Broadly defined, OTT covers any video or programming content, with advertising, delivered by cable or the internet.

CTV is a definition created for a type of programming delivery service. CTV stands for Connected TV and is also called streaming TV. While it has the word “TV” in the name, it is not limited to content shown on a television set.

CTV is content that is:

  • Delivered via the internet or through cable services to your Smart TV interfaces, computer, or smartphones
  • Delivered to your TV, computers, or smartphone via Xbox, Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, or Amazon Fire stick

Without digging too deep into the technical subtleties, Connected TV is just programming delivered via internet. It’s sometimes called IP TV, Smart TV, livestreaming, VOD, or direct-to-consumer. While cable companies often offer some type of CTV upgrades in their service offerings, most CTV can be delivered without a cable or satellite subscription. CTV allows for the delivery of video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Disney +.

Connected TV is the integration of Internet and enhanced web features that can be seen on new-generation TV sets. It is the merging of computers and television.

To help divide the two concepts, think of OTT as the content that is delivered, while CTV refers primarily to the device that delivers content. The definition of over-the-top content usually includes the type of programming delivered by CTV or streaming TV.

Advertising Performance: The Difference Between OTT and CTV

Now that you know the difference between OTT (content) and CTV (delivery method), we can start exploring the advertising opportunities. In a nutshell, if advertisers buy CTV ads, they will deliver only via Connected TV (the delivery method.) If marketers are purchasing OTT ads, they may show up on CTV, but they can run almost anywhere else internet programming exists, since they are “over the top” of cable and CTV.

OTT includes an almost endless advertising inventory and is sold at a lower average price than CTV alone. OTT blends the delivery of TV ads with all kinds of digital advertising products like pre-roll video ads. When you purchase OTT ads, you may get some CTV inventory mixed in with a vast video, commercial, and pre-roll inventory that may show up on websites or even on in-app ads. When you purchase over-the-top advertising, you are not purchasing 100 percent TV delivery. While OTT offers always reference the inclusion of CTV advertising or streaming TV advertising, OTT buys usually include very little CTV programming.

OTT advertising is cheaper than CTV advertising because it mixes premium (CTV) and cheaper (website/in-app) formats together. While Connected TV ads are often unskippable, over-the-top ads may not be. The viewer may be able to skip the ads after only a few seconds. The exact ad parameters will vary by platform. No matter where the ads ran, the sales rep should produce detailed reports on placements, that tell the advertiser exactly how, when, and even where the video ads ran, and how many times it was viewed in its entirety.

Even though OTT ads are a blend of CTV and online pre-roll ads, they still offer the reach and frequency numbers many marketers to need to reach their audiences. While it may be tempting to dismiss over-the-top ads as inferior, the fact is, many people are spending less time watching a TV (connected or not) and more time each day on their smartphones and computers. As a result, they are investing more time viewing videos and online content, which means they are more likely to see ads online.

For advertisers looking for higher ad frequency and lower cost per thousand, OTT can be an affordable, effective way for marketing videos and ads to reach a variety of target audiences. Many types of over-the-top ads are also clickable, so businesses may be able to measure their ability to drive action.

To add another layer of complexity, many sales reps are unsure of the distinctions between OTT and CTV. Many advertisers believe they are buying one type of advertising but end up with another package. If any rep is selling an ad package that they describe as 100 percent CTV, it’s smart to get the specifics in writing. Otherwise, there is a good chance that the actual media buy will be a mix of online and CTV spots.

CTV is More Expensive for a Reason

When shopping for media plans, most advertisers are struck by how expensive CTV is compared with OTT. Remember that while over-the-top ad buys usually include CTV, CTV ad buys do NOT include OTT. When advertisers run their videos on Connected TV, or “Pure CTV” as it may be called, the delivery is very different from the usual OTT package. These ads will look like traditional commercials that occur in the middle of programming.

Most importantly, CTV videos, or streaming TV ads that play on an internet-connected TV, are almost always non-skippable. That means that viewers must watch the entire ad. If they rewind the program, often they must watch the ads again in real time.

Many networks now offer paid or free apps via CTV, including CBS, ABC, NBC, and specialty networks like Comedy Central. Most local TV affiliates also offer similar programming apps. Almost all of these apps feature non-skippable CTV ads in their programming. The ads are guaranteed to run in their entirety. As a result, CTV inventory costs more than OTT ads, with a higher CPM (cost per thousand).

However, despite their name, CTV ads cannot reach all Connected TV platforms. Most subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ are supported by subscription fees, not pre-roll ads, so advertisers can’t purchase ads on those platforms.

If an advertiser’s videos have been successful in a broadcast campaign, it’s smart to add CTV into the mix. By including CTV into the media plan, marketers make sure the videos reach cord-cutters and cord-nevers. To viewers, it’s all a seamless experience.

The drawbacks of Connected TV? It is pricier, and unlike over-the-top, it does not give viewers the option to click on an ad.

If OTT and CTV Video Ads are so Great, Why isn’t Everyone Using Them?

Research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau shows that more than 50 percent of marketers say that programmatic TV, CTV and OTT are “top of mind”. But, only 15-17 percent of businesses have actually included OTT and CTV advertising in their promotional plans. While the percent of total advertisers using these platforms may be low, the companies that have tapped into this technology are spending, and spending big.

According to Alan Wolk of Forbes.
“According to the latest research from Beachfront, an independent video supply-side platform (e.g., publisher-side platform), ad requests on CTV are up an astounding 1,640% year-over-year.”

Even as CTV and OTT become more common, it can still be a confusing place to advertise. To make matters more complicated, the language seems to change from one vendor to the next. While some marketers are just not sure how to get started, others feel overwhelmed, unsure, untrusting, or even intimidated by the technology.

As marketers work to become more comfortable with these new offerings, they may find that it’s smart to start with conservative “test and learn” strategies. By starting small, and carefully measuring results, advertisers can quickly discover what effect these new ad formats will have on their business.

For many companies, Connected TV and over-the-top advertising isn’t replacing other successful marketing tactics. Instead, these new ad formats serve as marketing add-ons that are continually being tested, analyzed, and optimized. For many of today’s marketing experts, this kind of addressable TV advertising is a smart way to leverage the performance of other digital media, and can create a more targeted online experience for the consumer.

Yes, the technology is relatively new, but more and more advertisers are finding ways to make CTV and OTT a part of their advertising plans.

Taking Advantage of New Targeting Options

These new promotional tools provide more targeting options than ever before. With OTT and CTV, marketers can pick and choose among thousands of demographic, psychographic, and behavior-based attributes. Over-the-top advertising is also starting to connect social media targeting tools and with TV audiences.

According to Strategus.com,
“Customers have yet to develop a loyalty to any one OTT service provider, like NBC, Comcast or Universal, and instead go where the content is that they want to consume. Now ads can appear programmatically, based on their geography, online and offline behaviors, psychographics and other personal details, ensuring the ads they see are relevant.”

As any good marketer knows, even the sharpest targeting tools are useless if organizations are not sure whom they want to reach. With so many profiling options available, it’s more important than ever for businesses to provide well-defined audience profiles to media placement companies. If companies want to get the most out of these advanced targeting tools, they may need to do more work understanding their customers. Marketers that haven’t found the time to explore customer attributes and interests are going to be in trouble. Any advertiser who wants to tap into these new ad options must understand exactly who their audience is.

According to Mike Rowan in Forbes,
“The first crucial step is to know your audience. Draw heavily on your buyer personas, which hopefully you’ve created. Conduct interviews to determine what type of people are buying your products (age, gender, location, interests, etc.). Audience information is the foundation for successful OTT targeting, so take the time to do your homework.
Segmenting your audience based on their actions and intentions, such as what they browse and purchase on your website, is a highly effective way to target. And collecting data from your customers can be as easy as installing cookies on your website or as sophisticated as asking customers directly about their preferences.”

It’s Time to Customize OTT Videos for Each Audience

Once marketers know whom they are trying to reach, they can begin customizing their messages. Unlike old-school TV commercials, today’s ads are not casting wide nets, trying to get everyone’s attention. Instead, modern advertisers are empowered to talk to their audiences in targeted ways. For each ad campaign, businesses must consider the message, the tone, the setting, and even the size of the fonts used in videos.

For example, car dealerships may want to create different video ads for young, budget-conscious car buyers versus well-heeled retirees looking for exceptional service.

For videos marketing gym memberships, one video could target swimmers looking to stay lean and another could target weightlifters looking to bulk up.

Ads that market health systems may leverage the opportunity to differentiate between people who just need wellness checkups versus people looking for regional heart specialists.  When marketers tap into the power of OTT, they have the ability to serve super-targeted ads to well-defined audiences.

Forget the old one-size-fits-all attitude. Businesses with more than one type of target audience can use OTT advertising and CTV video or streaming TV ads to be specific. This is the time to create multiple videos and deliver them to the right audience at the right time.

Remember These Words: Retargeting, Retargeting, Retargeting.

The best part of the new advertising paradigm is that it allows businesses to reach the same consumer again and again, but in different media. Retargeting is a term that means very targeted ads are sent to the same consumer based on prior online activity. Retargeting ads track online patterns, and then use that information to send ads to people based on their digital activity.

By taking advantage of device thumbprints, website cookies, and IP targeting, advertisers can now connect TV viewing and online marketing. For example, a woman uses her desktop computer to look at lamps on Bed, Bath, & Beyond’s website. After she’s done on her computer, she watches TV using a Roku device, which operates on the same internet connection. When the right kind of retargeting programming is in place, she’ll find that Bed, Bath, and Beyond ads for lamps are showing up on her TV.

If she decides to return to the computer and buy the lamp, the preset tracking will attribute the sale to the ads, helping marketers decide the best places to run the next set of ads.

This kind of sophisticated retargeting does require planning, such as the installation of tracking pixels, analytical tools, and cookies on the website. However, with the right set up, businesses can track web traffic by device and web pages, so they can then retarget audiences with personalized ads that remind them of what they’ve recently shopped for, even after they’ve left the website.

The best news? This kind of retargeting is affordable and available for businesses of all sizes. Even companies with modest marketing budgets can take advantage of these kinds of targeting tools and create highly specific marketing campaigns.

Beware: Make Sure You Know Exactly What You’re Buying

While there are many attractive aspects of OTT and CTV, the advertising sales process can be confusing. In fact, many sales reps don’t really understand the OTT and CTV differences. As a result, many advertisers have found that they inadvertently purchased one type of package when they meant to purchase the other. So, how can marketers be sure they got the right package?

The media rep should provide a detailed budget breakout with predicted impressions for CTV, mobile and desktop. The post-advertising report should match that proposal exactly, or clearly explain discrepancies, and offer compensation or refunds for non-delivery or alternate delivery of videos.

Right now, it’s a bit like the wild west out there. This is a new category and mistakes are made all the time. While it will take time for any marketing team to compare media proposals to reports, it’s the only way businesses can be sure that they got what they paid for. All products have their own inventory, pricing, and reporting, so advertisers must do homework and check all buys for accuracy.

The same rule applies for your CTV advertising campaign. Businesses must make sure their sales reps didn’t charge for a Connected TV ad campaign and deliver an over-the-top advertising audience. After the campaign has been running for a few days, advertisers are wise to request full site lists to check where the ads are running. CTV campaigns should list TV apps only. If the business sees that there are websites listed or reports on clicks, they’re running an OTT campaign.

The best ad campaigns are balanced

OTT and CTV ads are popular advertising options that are becoming more affordable and accessible every day. Both of these ad choices can be very effective. However, that doesn’t mean that marketers need to abandon other forms of advertising.

In the digital world, social media ads and search campaigns should continue to be affordable, effective components in a well-rounded marketing plan.

Print and newspaper also play important roles in balanced campaigns designed to reach a wide range of consumers and demographics.

Many of the most effective marketing campaigns have used OTT and CTV ads to support a growing social media presence. When set up properly, some over-the-top ads can ask audiences to click through to “continue the story” on other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Many print entities give short version or highlights on digital, and full stories and deep dives in print.

The key is to use each media in the ways that work with the platform and elicit consumer response. Running videos in search ads can be annoying. Conversely, including pages of text on social media ads is often ineffective. One of the keys to marketing success is identifying the time, place, and format that works best with each platform.

The Future of OTT and CTV

Today’s TV has changed so much in just the last decade. Streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu are common in today’s homes. Viewers are spending more time with CTV and less time with traditional cable TV.

People are now willing to pay for streaming, or subscription TV, like Netflix and Hulu, particularly younger viewers, according to research by Nielsen. As the number of people who watch traditional TV continues to decline, changes in TV viewership are sure to follow.

So, what is the future of OTT ads and Connected TV ad or streaming TV advertising? Here are a few scenarios to watch for;

  1. Scenario: The Rise of Addressable AdvertisingAddressable advertising is the ability to show different ads to different households during the same programming. That means that even if two neighbors are watching the same TV show at the same time, if one neighbors likes travel, and the next door neighbor prefers cooking, the first household will see travel ads while the next door household will see ads about cooking. Addressable advertising will force advertisers to forgo mass marketing in favor of personalized messages created for smaller groups of more aligned consumers.
    Addressable advertising will probably be paired with OTT’s super-targeted capabilities in ways that allow advertisers to deliver series of messages that really move the sales needle.
  2. Scenario Two: Real-Time Audience EnrichmentMarketing audiences and their needs change every day. But with new technologies, advertisers may be able to reach consumers at the exact moment that they need their services. As marketers get accustomed to having the ability to understand how each audience segment acts and reacts, they may be able to optimize campaigns in real-time based on improved audience data reporting. In the past, this kind of message optimization would take weeks to analyze and identify. With OTT, CTV, and the right tracking codes in place online, there is the potential to identify behaviors and predict needs immediately and accurately.
  3. Scenario Three: Amplified Predictive AdvertisingWe’ve already seen the power of some types of predictive advertising. Amazon is able to deliver relevant ads to users in real-time, continually adjusting with every view, every item added to a cart, and every purchase. These algorithms allow Amazon to continually cross-sell and up-sell. This ecommerce giant has pioneered predictive advertising using their own customers and shoppers as their laboratory.
    These kinds of predictive technologies, based on viewing, shopping, and purchase behavior will work their way into all parts of the internet, and over-the-top advertising and CTV ads will play a part.

When it’s done right, predictive advertising is interesting and helpful. When it’s executed carelessly or incorrectly, it can feel annoying, invasive, or even insulting. Facebook has already run into issues with predictive advertising and has had to restrict targeting options for some classes of advertising including housing, credit, and financing.

As an example, a childless couple that gets ads for a daycare center for babies is quickly annoyed. However, if those same ads are delivered when they have a newborn in their home, the ads become relevant and valued. On an even more granular level, in the near future, advertisers may be able to send ads for sales on heartburn medication to people within one mile of a drugstore with a history of chronic indigestion who have eaten at Mexican restaurants in the past two hours.

Final Thoughts on OTT, CTV, & Video Marketing

There’s no doubt about it. The number of OTT-enabled devices is on the rise, and traditional TV advertising is on the way out. The use of Connected TV is exploding, and marketers are eager to find more cost-efficient ways to reach their consumers. The growth and flexibility of over-the-top ads and Connected TV ads or streaming TV advertising means that businesses shouldn’t ignore this media when examining marketing and advertising options.

Today, one size does not fit all. With so many customized options in the marketplace, and more developing every day, it makes sense to create a customized marketing approach. It is also a good idea to have a set of videos created to target a variety of people, needs, and situations. Today’s advertisers have a wide choice of targeting tools. The messages viewers receive will continue to be more relevant, personal, and when done correctly, more enjoyable.

If you want to explore your marketing opportunities in CTV, OTT, video production, and programmatic advertising, the LNP Media team is an experienced, affordable place to start.  We’d love to hear more about your goals and needs. Call LNP Media today at 717-291-8831, or click here to drop us a line. Our video and digital experts will be happy to help you market your business effectively in an ever-changing media landscape.

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An Easy-to-Understand SEO Overview: Search Engine Optimization

An Easy-to-Understand SEO Overview: Search Engine Optimization

 If your Lancaster County business wants a successful online presence, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is critical. Search Engine Optimization describes all of the strategies and tactics deployed to encourage search engines to rank your page highly against relevant search terms.

Many business people believe that if you’ve built a website, it’s already optimized for search engine rankings. However, few web programmers “automatically” include SEO in the project.

However, strong SEO tactics are an essential part of a successful website. SEO strategies increase your website’s visibility by helping your organization appear near the top of the search results.

How important is it to show up at the top of a search page? According to research from Backlinko;

  1. “The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR (clickthrough rate) of 31.7%.
  2. The #1 organic result is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to a page in #10 spot.”

Not only will top-ranking businesses get more clicks, showing up at the top of a search page has many other advantages as well. Ranking at the top of an online search is a great way to increase brand awareness, build relationships with prospects, and position your organization as a leading expert and resource in your industry or community.

At first glance, showing up first seems almost impossible. After all, research reports that billions and billions of online searches are conducted every day. However, your company doesn’t need to show up in all of those searches. Instead, your organization must show up in the right searches. You want to get in front of people in your area who are looking for your services.

For example, if someone searches “Gas Grills for Sale near Quarryville,” they are looking for businesses that rank for those keywords. They don’t care about gas grills in London. Nor do they want to look at Automotive Grills in Quarryville. That’s why Google has spent so much time indexing location terms on websites (such as Quarryville, Lancaster County, or Pennsylvania) to make sure each person gets the results that match their needs and are located near them.

Once the search engine runs out of perfect options that match all the original keywords, it will start showing locations that are not so nearby (gas grills in Baltimore) or they’ll start showing you the next best options (charcoal grills in Quarryville.)

The only way Google and other search engines can achieve this type of decision-making is by gathering enormous amounts of data. Google continually evaluates billions of websites over and over, to develop algorithms that can select the most useful and relevant sites in each search.

Search Engines send code (called crawlers, spiders, or bots) to move through the internet to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate websites. And they start by analyzing the text on your site. Not only should your content match users’ search terms, but it must also be formatted in the correct ways. Your site must use keywords in the right places, formatted with the proper code, and mentioned at the optimal frequency. Too few keywords, and you won’t rank. Too many keywords, and you may get flagged for keyword stuffing.

Search engines want to make sure you’re hosting a credible, responsible site, with useful content. In addition to assessing text and images, they are also evaluating how your links work, if your site displays properly on desktop and mobile, how your site is designed and coded, the volume of your web traffic, where your web traffic comes from, the inclusion of images and videos, and much more.

Search engines intentionally use many different tactics to evaluate your site. They do this to make it very difficult to “trick” them into giving your site a higher ranking. In the SEO world, “white hat” SEO refers to people who are trying to get good rankings using honest, straightforward strategies. “Black hat” SEO refers to people who are trying to trick the system, bend the rules, or get people to their site using deceptive or unethical practices.

Filling your site with keywords in ways that interfere with readability, called keyword stuffing, is a black hat SEO technique. Showing one set of content to users, and another to search engines is another black hat SEO trick. Duplicate content, plagiarized content, or hidden content (cloaking) are all black hat techniques. Even poorly written or wildly outdated content can be bad for SEO (and they’re not great for your business, either).

To thwart black hat SEO practices, search engines change their methods of evaluation and their ranking algorithms regularly. Search engines can be secretive about the exact nature of these changes. SEO experts must keep up-to-date on ever-changing requirements to ensure that their clients’ sites meet search engines’ demanding and rather complicated requirements.

SEO Experts Use a Range of Techniques

Because SEO is complicated and every business is different, there’s no silver bullet that can magically change your search engine rankings. SEO is neither quick nor easy. Instead, it requires a slow and steady approach for long-term improvement.

Because no single process or tool can improve your search results rankings, digital marketers and SEO experts use a range of techniques. We explain some of them here.

SEO Starts With Keyword Research

Effective SEO starts with keyword research. In order to make sure your website shows up in the right searches, SEO experts start by examining the words people use when they do online searches for your products and services. The first step is identifying and researching a range of words, phrases, and search terms that people enter into search engines while looking for a similar subject. Sometimes this is one word, but more often it’s a set of phrases.

Using a variety of industry tools and techniques, SEO experts will determine which words and phrases are used most often by your customers, so these words and phrases can start being used in the right places on your website.

Mobile-Friendly Sites Boost SEO

More and more people are using smart phones as their primary internet tool. As a result, if your Lancaster County business has a website that was only designed to look good on desktop screens without paying attention to how it looks on mobile, then your site visibility is likely suffering.

If your site doesn’t adapt well to mobile, you may be losing a large number of potential customers. For this reason, search engines don’t want to promote sites that are incompatible with mobile. If you don’t make sure your site works on all platforms, you may be hurting your search engine rankings. Your site needs to look great on mobile, and be programmed in ways that benefit users and are search engine approved.

According to Google

“A non-mobile-friendly site requires users to pinch or zoom in order to read the content. Users find this a frustrating experience and are likely to abandon the site. Alternatively, the mobile-friendly version is readable and immediately usable.

“In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.

“Mobile is critical to your business – whether you’re blogging about your favorite sports team, working on the website for your community theater, or selling products to potential clients. Make sure that visitors can have a good experience on your site when they’re visiting from their mobile devices.”

If you’re not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, visit this Google site to get an instant (and completely free) evaluation.

SEO Doesn’t Work Without Website Optimization

Search engines send out crawlers to evaluate websites. If these crawlers can’t read parts of your site, they won’t index them correctly. That may mean your site ranks lower in searches. When digital experts work on website optimization, they make it easier for crawlers to find your website and index every part of it, so you can get the best search ranking possible.

SEO experts may recommend tactics such as improving page speed. Search engines have reported repeatedly that site speed is a critical factor when ranking websites. Large images, complicated graphics, or even programming can slow your site’s download time.

If you’re not sure how quickly your site is loading, visit this Google test site to get an instant, free evaluation.

Another way digital marketers can improve your search engine results is by making sure web crawlers can fully access and comprehend your website. Once your site has been analyzed and issues have been identified, digital experts then follow best practices in coding, structure, and content, to make it easy for crawlers to review and index your website.

Interlinking and Inbound Links Improve SEO

Crawlers will move through your site in unpredictable ways. They may come to the end of a page and stop, not find a link to another page, and leave. When this happens, only one or two pages of a website are indexed. However, digital experts can add links that lead to other parts of your site to make it easier for crawlers to evaluate ALL of your content. They can also create and manage off-domain links to improve your website’s authority and visibility with search engines, resulting in higher rankings.

Create or Optimize Meta Tags to Increase Visibility

Meta tags are the source code that describe pages. Sometimes they are visible, but often they exist primarily in coding. If your web development team didn’t specify meta-tags, they may have been automatically generated, often using a random combination of words and numbers, or even left blank. One of the ways SEO experts optimize meta tags is to work on title tags, the text you’ll see at the top of your browser. Search engines view this text as the “title” of your page, so it’s important to ensure that your meta tags contain relevant keywords and are unique to that page.

Get Found More Often with Local or Near Me Optimization

Many people search for nearby or “near me” businesses. According to research conducted by Google, 46% of searches have a ‘local intent’. This means that people are searching for stores, restaurants, banks, or entertainment close by. In fact, search engines often show local resources first, even if it’s not specified. For example, if someone in Lititz searches for a plumber, they are more likely to be shown plumbers in the surrounding areas, but plumbers from Philadelphia or even Boston may appear. However, if they search for plumbers “near me” the results will be limited to plumbers within a close radius.

An SEO expert can optimize your site’s code, structure, and content in ways that help you appear higher up in local-intent searches. One tactic is to help create or claim your business’s Google listing. This can help you gain the search engines’ trust with local information consistency and location optimized content. Another tactic is to expand your online business listings and create content that helps search engines identify you as a local business in the areas you serve.

SEO Provides More Benefits Than Higher Rankings

The wonderful thing about SEO, when done properly, is that there’s added benefits beyond simply increasing your visibility in search results. All the work done to add content throughout the website and to optimize your pages for relevant search terms also provides value to your customers. SEO can help your website guide visitors to take action, turning them into leads and customers at a higher rate. This also improves the result of all your other marketing efforts, providing you with more for your money.

SEO Success via Trust, Transparency, and Patience

In order for you to achieve improvement and lasting growth through SEO, you need to cultivate three elements in the relationship with your digital specialists, whether they are a hired agency or your internal marketing partners. Those key elements are Trust, Transparency, and Patience. SEO is a confusing process for many businesses with all the terminology, behind-the-scenes-coding, and the time it takes for results to be evident. Full trust and collaboration will lead to better content and the ability to adjust over time.

If you’re in need of such a relationship, then look no further than LNP Media Group. Our digital experts will not keep you in the dark. Instead, you’ll be involved in the SEO process every step of the way. You’ll know what we’re doing, when, and why. This includes monthly reporting and ongoing communication.

Not Sure if You Need SEO?

Many organizations believe that if you’ve built a website, it’s already optimized for search engine rankings. However, this is seldom true. If you’re not sure if your website needs SEO, we can provide a free evaluation. We’ll let you know what aspects of SEO are in place, and which areas need work.

Whether your new or you’re trying to earn and maintain the top spot on Google, every business can benefit from SEO. The results are in constant flux from search engine ranking algorithm changes and shifts in search patterns to the SEO efforts made by your competition, there’s always the need to improve your online presence. Let us help.

Don’t Have The Patience For SEO?

While we believe SEO is a critical part to online success, we also understand that you need customers in order to fuel your marketing budget. We offer other services that can provide immediate leads, such as Paid Search (also known as PPC) [link to PPC service page].

And, in fact, leveraging both PPC and SEO is the path that our most successful clients have taken in achieving their long-term growth. Let’s talk about a marketing plan that best suits your goals and your budget

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