Startups have always found Google AdWords to be the best medium to start acquiring customers. The advantages are obvious. It’s measurable, the absolute cost of experimentation is low and leads to immediate sales. These make it a favorite for customer acquisition.
But, is it really that simple? We are increasingly seeing brands failing to get the desired result from AdWords. The limited inventory that online search advertising offers makes it a crowded space. Even a layman will tell you that if your ad is not in the top 3, chances of you being noticed are minimal. So practically, if there are more than 3 brands vying for the same keyword, chances of AdWords not being effective for the 4th guy are quite high.
There are ways to tackle this problem. The advertising approach needs to change from only keyword search targeting to brand searches. Startups need to start thinking on the line of direct traffic and brand searches which in turn is enabled through performance oriented offline marketing.
Sequence of efforts
You need to have a multi-pronged approach that starts with SEM, understand the keywords being searched for, do strong SEO so that you don’t keep spending on AdWords, re-target customers who visit your site to reinforce your brand, ensure a great product experience so that the customer prefers your offering and comes to you directly the next time and then invest in offline advertising that results in branded searches on Google. The likelihood of a competitor taking away customers from branded searches is low.
For some reason, the psyche of a consumer is to put more trust in an ad they see offline than they saw on any digital medium. You need to capitalize on this. There are some very clear advantages to this approach.
For one, it gives you a broader canvas to explain your product better. It involves more than one of your senses as opposed to AdWords and that results in a higher likelihood of brand recall. Sure, a lot of the mass media are not contextual like AdWords and may even result in some level of wastage, which is why you need to use it along with AdWords, and not instead of.
The section below gives some idea of how offline media options are being utilized by startups to reach out to their target groups. These examples are based on experience The Media Ant had working with various startups.
Target Group: IT Professionals
Target Group: Homemakers
Target Group: HNIs
Target Group: Families with income level mid and high
Target Group: Travelers
Measurement of branding efforts
The biggest issue offline companies face with branding is that of attribution. If they do multiple branding and sales related activities in the same time period, they don’t know which activity resulted in a sales spike. They don’t have access to analytics data that online companies do. If you’re an online start-up, and I’m guessing most start-ups are online, you have access to a lot of data that can be used to measure the impact of branding. For starters, you have access to the sources of traffic (direct vs branded search vs generic search). If either direct or branded searches go up, it’s a good assumption to attribute that to your branding activities. Sales spikes over and above AdWordscan be attributed to branding and product optimization activities. The conversion rate of branded searches and direct traffic is also usually higher than that of SEM traffic.
Our only submission is, don’t fight a war on Google. Do something that takes away your customer from Google – simply because your competitor is there too. Create an asset that yields results instead of just spending invaluable start-up money on bidding for customers. That asset is a brand, a positioning for your offering. Let AdWords be one of the weapons in the arsenal, not the only one.
About the guest author:
The Media Ant is an online platform for information, planning and buying of offline media. It has helped over 200 startups over the last 2 years with their branding and sales efforts.
There are well over 5000 media and over 75000 touch points available on the site. If you look carefully, you may find many targeted media, some contextual and a plethora of branding options that will comfortably fit your budget.