Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When to Say No

Not everyone is a good candidate for PPC. It can be hard to learn when to turn a potential client away.

Reasons to tell a potential client not to do PPC:

1. They don’t have a completed website.

You can’t develop a decent PPC campaign without a website. If you are building the website internally, then you may be able to work with the developers on it and actually tailor the site to make a smoother PPC campaign. However, if all you have to go on are the client’s descriptions of products, it’s difficult to assess the feasibility of PPC. The client’s descriptions may be overly optimistic. They may describe something as a “gourmet gift basket” when it’s just sausage and cheese.

2. The product is a commodity, or otherwise not well differentiated or branded.

If there’s nothing outstanding about the product – whether it’s better or cheaper – it’s damn hard to sell it through any advertising medium. But if you have Acme Little Guy selling Acme way-cool widgets – and they are up against Big Guy Widgets, who is one of the names everyone thinks of for widgets, and up against Discount Widgets who are cheaper, and Universe of Widgets that has more kinds of widgets than have any sense existing - well, the chances of diverting some of that traffic to Acme are slim. You have to have something unique. This is a problem many internet retailers have. They see that there are many companies doing well in a vertical and think that they can jump in the market, without finding their own niche.

3. The site has no focus.

Any business needs to have a clear focus. People want to know that they are at a hardware site, or a gourmet food site. They don’t like to go to a site looking for widgets and also see caviar. The widgets and the caviar might both be quite good, but it throws people off. They don’t have confidence in the product. Yes, some big names out there have a broad focus, but they almost all started small, with a narrow product line in a brick and mortar store and built a name for themselves.

4. It’s a poorly branded product where the competitors are well branded, or in a vertical where people are looking for a brand-name.

This is partly the issue of commodification – as in the case with Big Guy Widgets in #2, but also a case of brand loyalty. Women, especially, are brand-loyal, and will rarely jump to an unknown brand. Things that are tied to traditions, as well, such as holiday or religious items can also face this issue. You are unlikely to get people to try a new brand of summer sausage for Christmas, when most of them buy one from Hickory Farms for their dad every year. To change people’s buying habits requires a strong branding campaign. PPC can have a role in this, but it’s not going to be a big money-maker at the outset.

5. There are no good, specific keywords which designate the product.

That is, the product is hard to describe, or not quite what people usually mean when typing in the relevant keywords. A good example of this kind of thing is gift baskets. A gift basket contains so many different items, that to get specific with search terms can be quite difficult. People who are looking for “smoked gouda” are unlikely to want to purchase a gift basket in which gouda is one small component. Another example is new technology. A combo widget-thingamabob might be a fabulous idea, but if few people know they exist yet, then few people are searching for them. People searching for “widgets” and people searching for “thingamabobs” are going to be difficult to convince to buy a combination item.

What is a good candidate for PPC? A well-branded, discount product with a unique benefit… that comes with something free. People love free.

OK, so not many of those come through the door. I’ll go into more detail about good candidates next week.


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