Online Marketing Integration FTW

I’ve written extensively about integrating PPC with other channels, and using it to kick up your online marketing results FTW. I’m probably most proud of the success we’ve had at Fluency Media with integrated marketing for Travel Michigan.

Travel Michigan is the official marketing arm for tourism for the State of Michigan. Their website,, has been the #1 state tourism website for 3 years running. Fully 75% of their traffic comes from search.

Most of the search traffic is organic – and we handle SEO for this client. However, we’ve been able to successfully use PPC to inform our SEO efforts, focusing on the keywords that are most likely not only to drive traffic, but to drive conversions.

Michigan also holds the #1 spot for social media, according to a study by Gammet Interactive. Guess what? We also handle all the social media for Travel Michigan. Again, we make sure all the bases are covered – so if someone sees an event or a destination on Facebook, and then later turns to search to find it again, it’s there.

Integration sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. What’s key, though, is communication between marketing teams. We have monthly “All-Agency” meetings with Travel Michigan marketing staff, Fluency, Travel Michigan’s PR team, and McCann Erickson, Travel Michigan’s traditional media agency (who, by the way, created the award-winning Pure Michigan TV ads). At the meetings, we discuss what’s going on – events, marketing efforts, new ad campaigns, whatever. No item is unimportant – what one group may think is a small thing might turn out to be big if promoted in another channel or channels.

We’re really proud of the success we’ve had with this client. What integration efforts are you proud of?

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YouTube Ads

I finally saw my first YouTube ad today. These have been around for a while, but I hadn’t seen the popover type yet, until today.

It’s for Biggby Coffee, a local franchise started by a Michigan State grad. Great guy. And I love their lattes. But I digress. Here’s a screen shot of the ad:

And yes, I admit it – I was watching a godawful Charlie the Unicorn video. My 12-year-old twins love these things. I think the guys who make these are, well, smoking something. But again, I digress. (And I swear, this was work-related research. Really.)

This ad is clearly geo-targeted to Michigan, and possibly behaviorally-targeted as well, since I am an avowed Biggby customer and have visited their site before. Still, this is kind of cool. I’m not sure what the ROI on these ads would be, but it got my attention.

Anybody used YouTube ads like this? If so, what were your results? Would you do it again?

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Searchinig for Charity

Now that the bottom has officially dropped out of the US economy, people are looking for easy ways to help others. Microsoft has stepped up to the charity plate with its Search and Give website. Apparently this has been around for over a year, but I just read about it last week in my local newspaper. As stated in the article, “Search and Give generates revenue for participating schools and charitable groups” by donating a penny for every search done on the site. The reason this made the local paper is because one of the Lansing elementary schools recently received a check for $0.01 from the program. Nice.

And that’s what got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, while this is an interesting and easy way to generate money for your church, school, or whatever, clearly it hasn’t been promoted well enough to generate any buzz – or any meaningful money. My kids’ school participates in a lot of fundraising programs, but this one was new to me – and I work in the search industry. And there are 2 key barriers within the Search and Give program: one, you have to search from their website. Most people are used to going to Google or Yahoo, or maybe even Live Search, when they need to find something on the web. Getting people to change their habits is not easy, especially if you’re not promoting the benefits of changing. And for your organization to get credit, not only do you have to search on SearchandGive, you have to be logged in with your Windows Live ID. If you’re not signed in and you try to search, instead of generating a SERP, you get what is essentially an error message saying “Sign in now so your searches generate donations to your selected charity or school.” Ugh. While there’s a link to “just go to your search results,” this is what those of us in the industry call a “stopper.” If I get that box, I’m thinking “forget it, I’m gonna click that little ‘home’ icon and just go to Google.”

Secondly, even if this program ran off Live instead of, traffic volume is so low that it barely matters. We can’t get enough traction from MSN/Live for our e-commerce clients, much less traction for something that’s nice to do, but really isn’t going to move the needle for businesses or these worthy charities.

But I give props for good intentions. The donations are coming from Microsoft, and this really is a nice gesture on their part. And, if promoted correctly, it can be an easy way to raise some needed funds for charities who need it now more than ever. It’s just a shame that, as usual, Microsoft has made the tool just about as difficult to use as they possibly can.

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The Disney Marketing Machine

Last week, my family and I made our first (and possibly last) pilgrimage to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. It was a great trip and a lot of fun, but the entire time I was struck by what a monster the Disney marketing machine really is.

Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows that Disney marketing is everywhere – on TV, at the movies, in the toy aisle, etc. But nowhere is it more apparent than at the Disney theme parks.

We started planning our trip relatively late – we began considering it in late April. The first thing I did was send away for their free vacation planning DVD. It’s billed as “personalized,” but really the only thing that’s personalized is the cover letter that accompanies the DVD. Nonetheless, the DVD is brilliant – with information for everyone from small children to adults. Surprisingly, my 11-year-old twins had a lukewarm reaction when we told them we were taking this trip, saying it was for “little kids” – until we showed them the clip on the DVD that’s geared to tweens. The clip features 6 tween-age kids touring all the Disney parks and commenting on their experience. It’s interesting and well-done, and after watching it, my kids were sold and couldn’t wait to go.

Disney’s email marketing program is another brilliant point of contact. My DVD included a special link where I could view “personalized” information online, including “special” vacation package rates – so of course I went and checked it out. Email signup was prominent on the web site, so I registered for the mailing list. I wasn’t disappointed – during the 3 months leading up to our trip, I received several very relevant emails with helpful links for trip planning. Since I’d told Disney the ages of our children, we received emails with info and links geared to “big kids,” and were spared all the toddler stuff that we weren’t interested in. I found myself referring to these emails over and over again. A week before we left for our trip, we got an email with all kinds of great info, including a PDF for packing lists and meal reservations, as well as detailed information about our Disney resort, transportation, and theme park tickets. It was great.

The marketing magic really shone at the parks. Since we stayed at a Disney resort, we were surrounded by messages about Disney – in our room, on the Disney buses, everywhere. The parks are absolutely brilliant – we got there just before opening, and the way they open the parks is really exciting, with music and big announcements about the “magic” and all.

Then there are the major attractions. We rode most of the “big” rides at the parks, and while I thought most of the roller coasters were pretty tame, the marketing at the end of the rides is amazing. As you exit the ride, you’re plunged into a store filled with themed merchandise relating to the ride. You can get a t-shirt for every ride at the place, and purchase toys and trinkets too. You can’t leave the ride without walking past all this stuff, and of course your children will beg for every little thing, saying “that was the best ride ever – can I get a t-shirt?” We were able to resist and say no, but I saw hundreds of guests succumbing to the pressure!

There are a few instances where Disney stumbles, though. Their web site is awful – and I mean awful. I couldn’t even get several sections of the site to function at all in IE, and when I emailed their support staff, I received a reply saying that they have “known issues with IE7,”and I should try a different browser. OK, that’s fine for me as an SEM, since I’m used to working in multiple browsers. But the average layperson, I’m sure, has no clue what that even means. And hello, how about fixing the “known issues” instead of letting them fester? The site worked better in Firefox, but it’s so graphic- and code-heavy that I got tired of waiting for pages to load and finally switched to their “low-bandwidth” site, even though I wasn’t using a low-bandwidth connection. There were so many usability issues with their web site that it would take me far too long to detail them here. Suffice it to say that if I, an online marketing professional, found their site frustrating, I’d bet their average visitor gives up pretty quickly – translating into increased customer service costs and probably a lot of folks spending their travel dollars elsewhere.

The other big missed opportunity: no email follow-up after we got home. My entire family was so high on the whole trip experience when we got back – if there had been an email in my inbox with a survey, an invitation to share our experience in online Disney forums, or even to book my next vacation, I would have jumped on it (well, maybe not the “book your next vacation” part, but definitely the survey and stuff!). What better way to grab customer testimonials and feedback than right when they get home from their trip? What better way to keep the social network conversation going? But there’s been nothing but crickets from Disney in my inbox since our return. I guess maybe Disney doesn’t need any more testimonials?

All in all, it was a fun trip and a great lesson in superior customer experience. Rounding out email and online marketing would really put Disney over the top.

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