Bob Rains Q&A: The Value of Lists and Online Marketing ROI
Every other Monday, online marketing guru Bob Rains visits CAP with an exclusive advice column aimed at providing you with all you need to know about Internet marketing — from affiliate program best practices to search engine optimization, and all points in between.
Bob Rains Q&A for December 15, 2008
Question: Lists? Is it worth investigating buying and using lists?
Bob Rains: My gut response is no. I have always hated sig lists, and personally I think it is a slack-jawed response to dullness to use them. The conversions attained are seldom worthy of the time and cost needed to fully exploit the data received.
That having been said, a good friend of mine, a marketer in the online gaming space working for a well-known brand, has been singing the praises of the level of reactivation and response from some purchased lists combined with a great email marketing company. The reality I see, though, is that the Internet is clogged with dishonest "get rich quick" stories based on marketing to lists.
Here's a perfect example of what I hate about lists and the people who market them:
"I Made $41,000 in November 07' Using Your Lists"!!! - John
True Story!! John is working a Travel Deal, so he bought our combo email offer of Double-Opt Ins and PopUp Responders. He called in December to re-order and to give us feedback on his previous purchase from us – WOW!! That is some feedback.
WOW, that is some serious BS. Some fool dropped his business card in a fishbowl, or filled out some crap at a job fair, and we're expected to believe that our mystery hero "John" nailed 41k in extra income marketing to that person?
I do not recommend buying lists, unless you are working on a niche marketing campaign where you can get very clean, very targeted lists — and if you also have great converting programs or products. If any readers have different examples, please comment! I would love to hear your stories.
Question: ROI in social media? Should it be the aim? Or is it mainly brand building?
Bob Rains: Great question. I have always felt that all marketing efforts should be measured by how much they increase awareness of your brand, product, or service. Obviously, there must always be some component for gauging accurately how effective any media is in engaging and driving people into your conversion funnel — or at the least to your site, and on to your advertisers.
Social media should, however, be measured not only by how well it drives conversions, and in what time frame, but also the impact in helping increase awareness of your brand or partner product or service.
That being said, Andy McAfee, who is an Associate Professor at Harvard business School, was quoted recently as saying, "There is not enough ROI for figuring out ROI. It is an intellectually bankrupt exercise."
In other words, no marketing program has an ideal inherent value that can be measured separately or independently. The value of marketing is in its ability to help you implement a strategy. In the real world, as much as we may hate to admit it, marketing programs seldom have a direct impact on financial outcomes. Marketing relies on financial outcomes through chains of cause-and-effect relationships. Social media lends itself to successful cause and effect, and has some potential positive SEO effects as well.
So, I think that marketers need to spend more time answering the basic questions in the development of marketing, and a little less time proving ROI. Not that I expect you to ignore ROI altogether — I know my boss wouldn’t allow me to do so.
Here are some great questions you can ask yourself when looking at social media for developing marketing ideas, which hopefully will aid you in greater success (to the extent that you won’t have to totally sweat the ROI):
1. With whom are you trying to connect?
2. What factors are important to your success?
3. How can you better use technology to make your prospect’s life easier and express that you have a shared value?
4. Are you doing anything to make sure you are actually aiding your user’s advocates, as opposed to just helping them waste time or entertaining them?
5. How can you keep them coming back for more?
If you can get social media to accomplish these objectives, that’s a healthy ROI in and of itself.
We need your questions! Email Bob Rains your online marketing questions at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
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