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Google Grant Implementation

Over the past few years at meetings with marketing colleagues in the Boston theatre community, I have found there to be more and more buzz about Google Grants.

What is a Google Grant?  It is in-kind Google AdWords advertising for non-profit organizations.

Online advertising still fascinates many non-profit arts organizations.  For some, it is still a great unknown or deemed a risky investment.  The traditional methods of direct mail, telemarketing, print advertising, and e-communications (yes, it is now well established and “old”) are used.  Budgets are tight and a high return on investment is needed.  This reduces the amount of risk marketing staffs are willing to take.

Also, I would speculate that many non-profits prioritize internet marketing strategy lower than more traditional or comfortable strategies.  That being said, when an organization is given an opportunity to use up to $10,000 per month in Google AdWords advertising, it is difficult to pass up.  Especially when the advertising is considered, for all intents and purposes, free.

However, just because something is free, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a valid opportunity.  Instead, like every other opportunity, it should be maximized for the fullest benefit in both the short and long term.  A Google Grant is a booster shot–a significant jump start—which, if implemented correctly, can provide a solid foundation for an internet marketing strategy, bolstering a non-profit organization’s web traffic and potential reach.

This is what Google has in mind, too.  An organization that consistently uses $9,000 of the $10,000 per month grant for three consecutive months may be eligible to have the grant increased to $40,000 per month in Google AdWords.

In order to maximize the potential long-term benefits of a Google Grant, a non-profit cannot only rely on the $10,000 per month AdWords spend. In addition it can invest in an overall internet marketing strategy which includes Search Engine Optimization.

Last year, Hubspot had an article on their blog “Stopping The Google AdWords Morphine Drip: How We Saved $183 Last Week”.  This article is reminds us all that other ways exist to drive traffic to an organization’s website.  At his talk, “SEO 101: Search Engine Optimization Basics” from the Inbound Marketing Summit, Dharmesh Shah, followed this comparison by reminding everybody that the Google AdWords system is a bidding system–meaning that as time passes the cost of having a specific ad appear as sponsored result will go up.

Google Grants has imposed some discipline in the bidding process for executing a grant with a maximum bid of $1.00 per click.  You can read a full explanation of all the restrictions here. Here are the key elements:

  1. Maximum bid of $1.00 per click.
  2. Relevant, mission-based keywords and advertisements.
  3. Ongoing, active management of the organization’s advertising campaign.

Google acknowledges that advertising on some words may not be possible.  Instead, the organization will have to find other relevant words on which to advertise.  While this may be a disappointment to the organization, it may wish to contemplate when the cost of other essential and important keywords may also become out of reach or above the $1.00 bid.  This is one of the key reasons why the Google-imposed $1.00 maximum bid provides an impetous for the organization to find other ways to be found online.  What the Google Grant provides is a window of opportunity for the organization to be found in a major search engine while it, at the same time, works on optimizing its website to be found through organic search.

In order to strategically implement a Google Grant, I would make the following five suggestions:

  1. Develop a keyword list through brainstorming how people would find your product through organic search.  When developing this list prioritize relevance to the organization’s mission over the traffic from the specific word.
  2. Strategically implement the Google Grant on a large number of relevant keywords maximizing the daily spend. Test your advertising text, consistently tweaking it for the highest click-through rate.
  3. Install a free analytics program like Google Analytics which will help you to start gathering data on how people find you on their website and what they do when they land there.
  4. From the beginning of your grant’s implementation, plan for the time when you will no longer, within the confines of the grant, be able to bid on specific keywords.  Do this through allocating part of your budget on internet marketing and search engine optimization.
  5. If you don’t have one on staff already, hire an internet marketing strategist to review and optimize your online presence, and your reach in Google.
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Abusing Social Media in Fast Company, November 2008

The November 2008 edition of Fast Company has a great article (“Abusing Social Media”) about how companies are experimenting with the latest technology tools and, instead of reaping the rewards, are embarrassing themselves online.

“Thanks for nothing, Web 2.0. With each sexy bit of social media that catches fire with users, lame companies get another fresh opportunity to pretend they know how to connect with customers without understanding what they’re doing. No business is abandoning traditional advertising in favor of these gimmicky, halfhearted efforts. They’re just abandoning any self-respect they once possessed. Whee!” “Abusing Social Media”, Fast Company, November 2008.

What’s unfortunate about these major failures and their use of social media is that other organizations are hearing their stories and are staying away or making the same mistakes.  Companies aren’t investing the time to learn how to do it right.

Take Twitter for example.  I am quite fond of this extremely popular microsharing service.  My recent tweets are posted on the sidebar of my blog.  Through using TwitterFeed, I’m able to link new posts on my blog to Twitter.  Facebook has an application where my tweets are posted as status updates.

All of this makes me more efficient in my distribution.  However, it doesn’t automatically make me a better communicator.  Improving those skills takes time.  I need to listen to what is being said to me and thoughtfully respond.  And, I do mean, thoughtfully.  With the constraint of 140 characters the requirement to be concise, brief, and effective is definitely a good thing.  I’m often teased for being long-winded.  I respond to those jabs with: “I just like being thorough in my communications and conversations!”

The Fast Company article brings up companies that are tweeting their press releases rather than using it to build relationships and community.  Note to companies: This isn’t building a relationship, it’s broadcasting.

The embarrassing usages of social media aren’t about how the technology isn’t good or an effective use of time (remember time equals money). Instead it is about forgetting how to communicate.

These companies as well as many non-profit organizations still believe that the internet is just a broadcast medium–if they put their information out there, of course, everybody is going to read or listen to it.  You can’t just “blast” it out there and hope for the best.  This isn’t a Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” medium.

What these companies have forgotten is that they have to do some listening to their current customers and some research to discover where they hang out online.  They have to spend time to cultivating the relationships.  It isn’t enough to just have your information or event posted online, you have to make sure your constituencies can find you.  To solve that, maybe you should do some inbound marketing.

Over the weekend I started reading Groundswell.  There was an interesting thought about ratings sites that I’ll paraphrase here:  If company starts to receive negative reviews about the product, it isn’t because people are out to get the company.  It may actually be that there are problems in the product.

The same holds true for internet marketing.  If you have an event on a social media site that only a few people have RSVPed for or you don’t have that many followers on Twitter, or your patrons are ignoring you online, it may not be because they aren’t interested or that they don’t like you.

Instead, it may be that there are problems with your strategy: You’re broadcasting instead of communicating and building relationships.

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A Vacation & an Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour

Last weekend I returned home from a week-and-a-half long driving vacation to St. Louis and Lake Michigan.

Accompanying us on our trip was Barack Obama in the form of an audio book.  Before I left, I downloaded Dreams of My Father from eMusic.  Listening to Obama’s story as we crossed the country allowed us to get to know him better.  While I’m normally not a fan of audio books (I prefer reading the real thing), I downloaded it on a whim the night before we left and was glad that I did.

The last time I had listened to an audiobook while driving it was on a cassette tape.  My father and I were driving from California to New Hampshire 12 years ago.  We alternated a Joseph Conrad novel Lord Jim with music and discussions.

This time, discussions with my parents were equally as interesting and important.  We were in St. Louis for a party ending what we joked was the “2008 Wedding Tour” and also visited some old family friends at a house on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Seeing old family friends and watching the continuation of the beginning of a new marriage while listening to the multicultural life story of Barack Obama made for some contemplation of hope and change.

From a marketing and storytelling perspective, one of the more interesting experiences was the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour in St. Louis.

I’ll gladly admit that I’m a beer snob.  I’d never drink Budweiser by choice.  In fact, there are times that I have opted for water or soda instead.  That being said, I had been told the tour was something that I shouldn’t miss.

They were correct.  The Brewery Tour was a marvelous example of the marketing of an American success story–a German immigrant creating a product and making it extraordinarily popular.  The brewery tour was as much about how they make beer as it was about how they have presented it to the public.  From the very beginning of the product, no detail was overlooked.  ”Budweiser” was chosen because it sounded ethnic enough but still was easily pronounceable.

Early in the tour, you meet the legendary Clydesdales.  You go into the historic stable and see their name placards.  During the tour, the language used by the guides was specific with every adjective carefully chosen to build up the anticipation of the beer you were going to taste at the end.

You were told about how rice creates a special flavor for the beer.

You were told about the aging process and what it meant to be cold filtered.

You were told about how keeping the beer fresh for delivery was of the utmost importance.

When you arrived at the end of the tour, you were eager to taste the beer.

When you sipped it, you found you appreciated it just a little bit more because you understood it better.  The cold, fresh beer pours out of the tap into the glass.

When you take a sip, someone says, “I think I taste the rice,” and “Yes, that’s the beechwood aging.”  You nod knowingly.

Now, I’m not saying that Budweiser will now become my beer of choice.  I can tell you about how they have created an experience that makes you feel that the product is special.

If I never drink Budweiser again (I am sure I will, sometime) at least I will have more respect for it.

For those curious, there was no mention of the InBev merger with Anheuser-Busch throughout the entire tour.  The only acknowledgment was that Stella Artois and another Belgian beer were available for tasting.  Locals who had recently taken the tour a few days before the announcement of the merger said the Belgian beers had not been available.

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