Attention is Expensive – Part II

by JC Hewitt on August 18, 2010

If you want sustained attention, you'll need to flash some cash.

In my last post, I discussed how merely creating SEO content is insufficient to drive sustainable traffic and build a brand.

Advertising and sustained media output have been the only ways throughout history to build and maintain a positive brand. All of the dynamics that are present with the web were also there in the past. It’s just that now, the web provides for more methods to objectively measure marketing trends than ever before. In the past, brands needed to use focus groups, surveys, and other methods to divine what customers were saying and thinking. Now, that same process can be conducted with a larger sample size by searching Twitter, Facebook, and the web as a whole.

Developing Intent

Web advertising is commonly described as a means of “harvesting intent.” Intent is a word that online advertisers use to encompass a general desire to purchase a product or service.

Unfortunately, many advertising buyers – sometimes those who manage multi-million dollar accounts – get this perspective backwards. They think that their advertising is best used to develop intent rather than harvest it. That’s an extraordinarily inefficient way to accomplish that. If the viewer has no intent to purchase, they will likely ignore the ad. You can hammer them over the head with the message, but it will take a lot and time and money to penetrate their innate resistance to being sold to.

Building SEO content can develop intent. So can interviewing potential customers to find out what they need. Social networking can facilitate that process. To create intent you must identify a common problem, develop a solution, and offer it at an acceptable price.

To tie it back into the title of this series, you need to provide reasons why customers should pay attention to you. Then you can spread that message.

The ideal market to advertise to is one that already has intent to purchase. It’s much easier to sell to an already-existing competitive market than to carve out a new one.

Harvesting Intent Through Multiple Channels

Once you’ve developed your customers and there’s a solid base of people interested in buying what you’re selling, you can start with your advertising campaign.

When people think of online advertising these days, they often think of only one thing – AdWords. Not that there’s anything wrong with AdWords. Far from it! It’s just that many online advertising managers have avoided taking a more diversified approach.

More bloggers and video bloggers are offering sponsorship slots than before. Andrew Warner’s Mixergy, for example, offers traditional sponsorship slots for businesses targeted towards online entrepreneurs.Television, radio, Facebook, and print still reach niche audiences – as long as you target and measure the campaigns properly. Once you’ve planted the seeds of intent, direct mail, display advertising, direct response, commercials, and PR are all methods for cultivating the brand.

Just running search ads without a supporting marketing campaign is like planting a crop without adding any fertilizer. It may still grow into a fruitful plant, but the rate of growth and overall rate of return will be lower. Hoping for your one-sentence search call-to-action to have a Svengali-like effect on your prospects is

Supercharging Your Ads

Traditional advertising has always been governed by three trade-offs: duration, impact, and breadth.

Now, thanks to the internet, increasing the duration of your campaigns is exponentially less expensive. If the New York Times mentions your company once, the article will stay on the web indefinitely. The mechanics of Pay Per Click also favor unusually extended campaign durations.

Impact and breadth are now much more expensive to achieve, however.

In the next and final part of this series, I’ll explain how gold-plated brands maximize those two factors in the modern media environment.

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