I haven’t been here for a

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I haven’t been here for a few months; my new venture, converting wedding video to online video in a password protected space is consuming a lot of my time.

I have advertised for it in many different ways, and here’s a few answers to some of the questions you had above.

About the codes, you have to search online for the latest ones. They keep changing, but in an effort to make people aware and gain repeat business the online advertisers keep posting promo codes so people get a discount through free clicks. In my experience, after seeing my website traffic rates rise by using promo codes and free clicks, I have opted to purchase a paid account in every one of the promo code giveaway events. I did it because of the sheer volume of traffic sent to my website, even from the smallest yielding sites.

Yahoo just recently released their NEW search marketing because google was destroying and decimating yahoo’s search ad revenue. Yahoo was forced to look at google’s model and they are very similar. But over many months of spending money, changing options and making small changes I see that google sends twice the traffic that yahoo does. But they reach different markets, and more traffic is more traffic. If you can afford to spend money on the 4 major portals, you will get your traffic. Google, Yahoo, Looksmart, and MSN. With very simple numbers if MSN sends you 1 user, looksmart doubles that and sends you 2. Yahoo doubles that and sends you 4. Google doubles that and sends you 8. Again, if you can afford it then purchase all 4. In total you will get 15 users, from different sources. If you can’t then start with google or yahoo, whichever you prefer best.

But there is a very subtle distinction in the ad search type marketing, which usually defaults their non search traffic to your website. This non websearch traffic comes from the sides of peoples’ free e-mails, it comes from 1 person bloggers hoping to make their blog bring in some cash, and link farms created to collect cash from random clickers. To maximize your revenue and get accurate stats, you HAVE to turn this option off. The option is usually a checkbox, usually a very small font or hidden among the options menus. This non search traffic sends you thousands or hundreds of thousands of VIEWS. These are not clickthroughs, they are just people force fed your ad because it happens to relate to someone’s e-mail message, or something else on that page. This rarely sends you worthwhile traffic, for me it was roughly 0.02 percent. That’s right, of the few thousand lookers, 0.0002 times the number of views actually ended with people clicking on the link. And for the most part it is people who are thinking, "that’s cool". Tracking your website logs, you see they click onto your site, stay for less than 5 seconds and leave. So uncheck that non search option. While you might get some traffic, most of these are tire CLICKERS !!! Just clicking around, not purchasers or people who will commit to anything you are selling. The difference in online behavior for a potential future sale or someone who genuinely cares about your product/service/info is that they get onto your site, click around to different pages, and spend time at documents which interest them.

A very secret amount of data that you almost never hear about is something that magazines and bridal show marketers have become forced to use, called Lead Sheets. Again, you first have to spend money, but these are real leads. After you advertise at 1/2 – full page or become a bridal vendor, these places give you the leads sheet. This Lead Sheet is a list of current brides who sign up on their website, brides who want tickets to the bridal show or brides who sign up for their forums. So for the thousands or hundreds of dollars you spend, yes you get some square foot of space and greet people and intro your product, but you also get real leads from some brides who give out the correct info. What you need to be aware of are websites which claim that they have "thousands of users signed onto their newsletters, and new members signing up every day". Hey, I could do that too, if I never removed any of my old leads. The wedding industry is very specific in that you constantly need fresh leads. After all, these people are only interested in your product for a limited time, then their event passes, then they don’t care anymore. So it’s no use getting onto a newsletter which serves leads 5 years old to puff up their numbers. And I see the smarter bride/groom couples give me their e-mail addresses with a name like brideGroom062006@something dot com; they sign up with this address and don’t ever unsubscribe, so any spammer who gets a hold of it doesn’t bother this couples’ real email. There are so many free mail services, this is such a commodity that they don’t even have to look at this e-mail address once they stop caring about the vendor service they have purchased. The danger then becomes that you sign up with a website and pay per lead on their newsletter, and there might be a 10 percent bounceback rate. So dont just pay for leads, pay for fresh leads.

I have signed up for about half a dozen bridal shows in Chicago and nationally. Yes, they cost a LOT of money for each one, and I have NEVER gotten commitment right then and there at any of my shows. In Chicago it is laid out like this: they claim doors open from 11:30 until 4, and that there are 1500 people at these shows. But the trend is that brides come mostly for the fashion show main attraction. This show starts at 2 and lasts an hour. So the reality is that in my local market bridal shows actually open their door at noon, after brides line up and fill out comment cards for the lead sheet. You have from noon to 2 to push your product, service, or information. The actual brides in attendance is somewhere between 300-400 out of the total 1500 in attendance. The rest of the crowds are their tired hubby to be, dragged from booth to booth forced to endure flower, cake, and design pattern lectures. Lots of moms, some dads, some kids. And you can tell that about a quarter of the people in attendance are there for the freebies. Free food, free fliers, CDs, free gift giveaways. But the brides to be are really focused and interested, and they are hunting for ideas. You get into great conversations with some really cool people. The young people are bright, cheery, enthused, creative, and full of optimism. But there’s an undertone current of being overwhelmed. Some of the women will admit to it. With so many options and ideas and a limited budget, some brides don’t make eye contact with every vendor. There’s a feeling that sometimes the vendors will pounce, or force unnecessary services. And a lot of brides bring their friends, who carry the "BAG". These friends sometimes do the real talking, get prices, ideas, and then your stuff gets thrown into the bride friends’ bag. And then they feel like, "Next". But there is no better place to actually see whether your service, product, or information actually fits the market requirements. People are not shy about telling you what they want and how your product ranks in their minds. If you listen to the conversations people have with their friends while they peruse your service, you get honest details about the possibility of a sale. If people they know have recieved good experiences from past vendors doing something similar to you, you may have a chance at a future sale.

But here’s the magic. For the price of your admission to a magazine ad or a wedding show you get the LEADS sheet. This is a list of addresses, names, wedding dates, and e-mail addresses. This list is a real list of current brides who made the effort to show up. They are interested; they are spending their Sunday doing research. And if you actually want to know, you get to do it yourself. Get the list and create your own e-mails. Line up all your few hundred e-mails and create your newsletter. Then send out VALUABLE information every 4 weeks. And track it to your website. Unless I do the work myself of collecting the leads, sending it out, and tracking it, I am not satisfied by looking at other peoples’ stats. By doing a lot of the groundwork and gruntwork I can see my lead percentages in actual purchase revenue. I’m sure as I get older or my business gets larger, I can delegate. But right now I don’t have people. I make my own coffee, anwser my own calls, write my own code, track my own leads, and have a budget where I need to make the best decisions to increase my prospects. The magic of these Lead Sheets lies in the fact that less than 10 percent of your fellow vendors track their prospects. So these websites and magazines and bridal show producers go to all this trouble and prepare all these names, and people dont even take advantage of it. So if you are part of the 10 percent who does use it,you are already ahead of your peers. (this 10% number comes from a conversation with a bridal show organizer as we were packing up, and he was being very generous with his info; he wasnt looking at a stat sheet, so I understood the number to be fairly small, not exactly ten percent — but I am signed up for the newsletters, and I can see from the amount my fellow vendors send out email marketing how small it is)

Track it, by creating links like this one: http://www.sharingmyjoy.com?fromVideoMakerOnlineAd If you look at this link, you will see the question mark. A web server log does not apply any special value to the question mark or anything which comes after it, but you get to track your links. Each time someone comes to your website your link is tracked. You can change your tracking link each time you put it in a different medium. For my wedding shows I create a Promo Code. Each promo code gives a discount. And then I get to track whether a particular show was effective, based on how many promo codes people used to claim their discount on my website. If you are spending this much money in trying to attract people, you have to make sure you know where they are coming from. I currently know whether people are coming from each of my different newsletters, online ads, forums, wedding shows, magazines. I know because each has a different tracking code. And I am pretty active about following up. I’m not trying to force into anyone’s privacy. I just want to know where my ad dollars are most effective. Right now I can honestly say that bridal show leads databases give back customers. Also, online non picture ads from search engine marketing give me back customers.

The last piece of insightful info. When you speak to a magazine ad sales rep, bridal show rep, online ad rep, or any other sales person, they tell you the number of people they serve. This doesn’t mean you will get all these people to be interested in your service. The disconnect happens right about here, for new vendors or people who just take the word of sales reps. As a business person you need to cut through the marketing between eyeballs and purchasers. There is one in between step I use to explain it to myself: Eyeballs –> Interest –> Purchase. This is my non marketing, non scientific approach. Street talk, not business degree mba talk. Take 2 percent of what they tell you, and these will be the interested people. Then take 2 percent of that and these will be the absolutely random, non influenced purchasers of your service. So, from 10 thousand people who are exposed to you, you will get 0.02 * 10,000 people interested in your stuff. That’s 200 people. Now take 2 percent of that; 0.02 * 200 to get the actual sales. Your result? 4. You get the math? Approach ten thousand random people, and you can make 4 sales. It’s a disheartening numbers game, but don’t despair. 2 percent is a very average marketing and sales figure, but that number goes down or up depending on lots of factors. Like if people have friends and they all really like what you are doing. Or many people recommend you. Or you have superb customer follow through and great customer service. When your customers repurchase or give great word of mouth your percentages increase a lot. If you are new to the game your numbers may be a percentage point lower.

I do think that websites like Knot and WeddingChannel are reaching a saturation point in their vendor sections. Just looking at these make me uncomfortable, even as a web developer. Because I can’t grasp a logical, easy to navigate space. Eventually someone has to get the business. But just try to find a vendor by clicking one of these websites. There is so much raw data and color competing for your attention, that you just click the first few clicks, then want to leave. It will get worse in a few years when they stuff a never ending loop of wedding video with audio there, competing for your audible attention as well as your visual attention. Here’s a preview of what will come in the future, not just in one section, but video which will follow you around on every page:
http://weddings.theknot.com/theknottv/knot_tv_live.aspx
Even at bridal shows they limit the vendor types, because of this problem. If there are 8 photographers then each one will have a harder time, and the ones at the end won’t even be looked at. But online website developers seem to think they can just keep stuffing advertisers on their neverending pages. People won’t scroll endlessly to find exactly what they are looking for, just because there are no tangible limits.

Be realistic, and find your own figures. And if you really want to succeed, prove my numbers wrong by getting a lot better in your own numbers.

For your own curiosity, ask yourself the question: how many times have you clicked the ads to the right? I think the advertisers will be happy to get a 2 percent return. Telephone Yellow Page rates are more like 0.05% that’s why I don’t advertise in the local yellow pages.
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