Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Evolution of Online Advertising

There are changes occurring in online advertising. Google is experimenting with pay-per-conversion advertising, wherein advertisers will only be charged when a prospect actually takes a desired landing page action (e.g., filling out the lead capture form) and winds up on the site's thank-you (i.e., "conversion") page. This will take of click fraud. It is also a more meaningful way of charging for online advertising. Expect Yahoo and others to follow Google's lead on this.

Another innovative approach is "pay per call" advertising introduced by Ingenio. It works in much the same fashion as current PPC advertising. You create an ad, set your bid price for calls, and then your ad appears across the Ingenio Advertising Network which includes AOL Search and other sites. However, you are only charged when an interested prospect actually calls you!

Search engine advertising, which is the fuel driving Internet marketing, is evolving. Just look at recent innovations in local PPC advertising. What's exciting is that this change is being driven by both technology and customer demands. I think this is a good thing. It will benefit all small businesses by letting us get more "bang for the buck."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Business Plan Sanity Check

For a small business or start-up, getting a "sanity check" for your business plan from an experienced consultant can mean the difference between success and failure. The small expense of having an experienced person review your business plan (or simply your strategy, whether it's written down or not) is more than recovered by the insights gained and the avoidance of costly pitfalls.

And for those of you who do not have a written plan that has been scrutinized by someone who is "business knowledgeable," recognize that you are winging it! Are your goals realistic? Are they achievable? Are they even the right goals for your business? And do you have realistic action plans to achieve your goals? Are you leveraging your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses? If you don't know the answers to questions like these, you may already be headed for serious trouble.

Too often, start-ups and small businesses don't even see trouble coming until it is too late to do something about it. That's the purpose of a well-thought-out business plan - to look ahead and increase your odds of success by avoiding likely speed bumps. The failure rate of businesses who don't take the time to think through their objectives and strategies is dramatically higher than those who accomplish this upfront and perform at least annual reviews.

Without a roadmap for your business, how will you know if you're going in the right direction? If you don't have the experience, aptitude or skills to prepare a business plan, then employ a knowledgeable consultant to help you put one together. It will be the best money you ever spend.