Frustrated with privacy breaches and ever-more-intrusive digital advertising, consumers are taking control over their ad experience like never before, changing their privacy settings, using ad blockers, and welcoming changes like iPhone’s iOS 14 rollout that will require apps to get permission before tracking users’ searches and other data. What does this shift in both mindset and technology mean for businesses that rely on an effective digital advertising strategy to reach their customers?

How Many Consumers Are Opting Out of Digital Advertising?

How many iPhone users will opt-in to data collection?

There are an estimated 110.3 million iPhone users in the United States in 2021. Of these, how many will offer up their information when the iOS 14 update requires apps to obtain permission before collecting data?

While it’s possible that some users will agree to share information some of the time, it seems that most people will simply say no once it’s easy to decline. Facebook expects a more than 50% decline in Audience Network revenue, and the company has expressed concerns about its own revenue when advertising becomes less effective.

“We know this may severely impact publishers’ ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14, and … may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS14 in the future.”

Facebook blog post

How Many Users are Employing Ad Blockers?

In 2019, almost 30% of internet users enabled ad blocking software at least some of the time. They cited reasons that include:

Ad blocker adoption is expected to continue a slow but steady rise.

Are Users Abandoning Social Platforms Like Facebook?

Facebook lost 2 million daily active users in the 3rd quarter of 2020, and its role in ongoing political and privacy controversies has since caused further erosion. Alternative platforms like (which promises no ads, no spyware, and no newsfeed manipulation) and (which is user-funded) have seen tremendous growth in 2021. 2.5 million users flocked to MeWe in just one week in January and Gab has been offline occasionally as it works to accommodate a continuous influx of traffic.

How Are Search Preferences Changing?

Although Google continues to dominate the search market, alternatives have grown in popularity as the tech giant has moved away from its “don’t be evil” code of contact and into far more revenue-driven territory. However, like Facebook, Google will need to make adjustments to its privacy practices in order to comply with Apple’s next update, and those changes are likely to impact advertisers in a negative way.

How Can Advertisers Counteract Ad Blocking?

Where do users of ad-blocking software find out about brands?

With less-targeted advertising poised to decline in effectiveness, marketers can turn to the above options to reach their target audience. While some options are costly and others will require a bigger time investment to succeed, they offer more organic ways to connect with users – without annoying them the way many digital ads do.

What About Paying Users for their Data?

Specific information freely provided by users is highly valuable to advertisers. Have we reached a tipping point at which platforms will begin to compensate users for their data? Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and lawmakers like Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) support granting people property rights to their data and requiring companies to pay for access. The Data Dividend Project, primarily based in California, is one such effort to pay people when companies use or sell their information.

In 2012, data buyers were purchasing in bulk at less than $0.01 per profile, but the Internet Advertising Bureau said the advertising ecosystem supported $300 billion in economic activity, making user data worth $1,200 per profile.

Similarly, Brave offers a browser that blocks ads while claiming to speed up load times and use less battery, going one step further and allowing users to earn rewards by viewing occasional ads that have been deemed safe by the site. The privacy aspects are similar to many other privacy-minded browsers, but when the rewards system is rolled out in full, it will be a unique difference.

Are you struggling to keep up with changing trends in data, privacy, and advertising? We can help you find an effective strategy to reach your audience – without making enemies along the way! Contact us today.

Consumer demand for sustainable solutions is undeniable. NYU’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business studied consumer habit changes between 2013 and 2018, only to find that 50% of growth in the sales of consumer packaged goods came from sustainable products. In addition, products that marketed their sustainability on the package delivered nearly $114 billion in sales, an increase of almost 30% over 5 years. And the demand doesn’t end with packaged goods. Consumers increasingly look for sustainability in everything from home builders and auto manufacturers to office equipment, electronics, and clothing.

Despite this well-known demand, many industries have been slow to make the change to more sustainable ways of producing, packaging, and transporting their goods or services. Typically, companies cite concerns about expenses, difficulty getting sustainability initiatives off the ground, and confusion about what really works when talking about why they aren’t doing more to go green. However, trade associations have an immense power to advance sustainable solutions for their industries – and an ethical responsibility to do what they can to make a difference.

Below, you’ll find 7 critical actions trade associations can take to drive industry sustainability.

1. Defining Sustainability for the Industry

Sustainability: to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

 –Environmental Protection Agency

Even based on that definition, “sustainable” can be a vague term for businesses. Associations can help define what sustainability looks like for their constituents and their unique industries. Some examples would include:

  • Achieving carbon neutrality
  • Zero waste to landfill
  • Conservation of resources
  • Eliminating or reducing pollution

2. Setting Industry Standards for Sustainability

In collaboration with member organizations, associations can help to set and streamline standards for reducing the industry’s environmental impact. The number of voluntary sustainability certifications and standards has grown exponentially since the 1980s, and companies need guidance to know where to focus their efforts to do the most good for the environment – and for their profits.

3. Sharing the Science Behind Sustainability

Associations can study and develop the science and technology to support sustainability within their industries. Though much controversy surrounds industry-sponsored research in general, industry associations are well-positioned to contribute positively to research that enables their members to work more efficiently while reducing environmental impact.

4. Tracking Sustainability Metrics for Member Organizations

The association can serve as a central repository for data on the metrics that matter for the industry. Because tracking sustainability efforts can be such a heavy lift for organizations, streamlining reporting and providing an effective method of tracking is a critical function of associations.

Environment and Energy Leader reports that only 33% of organizations are happy with the methods they use to track sustainability metrics. What’s more, when you look beyond energy use and consider other factors that influence a company’s environmental footprint, many companies fail to track important metrics at all.

Associations deliver real value to their constituents when they provide a way for them to track all of the metrics that contribute to sustainability.

5. Influencing Government Regulations that Impact Industry Sustainability

As you can see, nearly $3.5 billion dollars was spent on federal lobbying in 2020, and trade associations are one of the top spenders. Although lobbying has negative connotations, not all corporate lobbying is bad. Associations can lobby for changes that make positive contributions to sustainability within their industries. The right legislation and regulations can make it both easier and more profitable for companies to do the right thing.

6. Informing the Community About Achievements in Sustainability

Associations are already positioned to raise the profile of their member organizations to their target audiences. Sustainable achievements are a natural and important topic for associations to share. Press releases, presentations at annual events (online or in person), social media, and newsletters all provide options for associations to promote their members’ good works. News to share includes:

  • Reduction in waste or recycling improvements
  • Innovations in technology
  • Carbon neutrality
  • Sustainable partnerships
  • Unique uses of eco-friendly materials

Not only does sharing these achievements lead to positive relations with consumers, it also breeds competition within the industry and inspires other member companies to do better with their own sustainability.

7. Building Partnerships Within the Industry

Associations can assist member organizations in working together to reduce their environmental impact. There are so many ways companies in the same or related industries can do good when they work together, while also cutting costs, creating efficiency, and opening up new opportunities based on increased volume.

Ultimately, industry associations are well positioned to lead the way toward sustainability. If you haven’t taken steps toward greener practices already, there’s no better time to begin. We can help – contact us today to learn more about our sustainability consulting.

Save Money on Google Ads

According to a 2016 report by Disruptive Advertising, the average Google Ads account is wasting 75.8% of its budget. That’s a huge amount of money, especially for businesses that are struggling to stay afloat through the enormous economic challenges of the past year. We’ve talked before about how important it is to keep advertising during lean times, but spending wisely is more important than ever.

What is Wasted Spend?

Spending money on irrelevant clicks and bidding on keywords that don’t convert will quickly cause your Google Ads campaign to spend more than it makes.

Are you wasting money on Google Ads? Following these five tips can help you avoid waste and improve performance this year.

1. Improve Your Quality Score

Not unlike search engine optimization, Google Ads optimization too requires understanding a somewhat mysterious algorithm: the factors that shape your ad quality score. The quality score assigned to your ads will determine several important things for any campaign you run, including ad position, cost per click, and cost per conversion. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle since your ad position can then influence your click through rate and “tell” the algorithm that your ads aren’t as relevant as a competitor’s, so it’s important to improve your quality score as part of your efforts to spend more efficiently on Google Ads.

What factors influence your quality score?

While we don’t know the exact weight given to each factor, your quality score is calculated based on the following items:

  • Click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Relevance of your ad text to your keywords
  • Landing page quality & relevance to your keywords
  • Keyword relevance to each ad group
  • Google Ads account performance history

Pro-Tip: Since relevance of all kinds is so valuable, the best way to improve your quality score is to focus tightly on specific sets of target keywords that your audience would use to search for your products and services. Once you zero in on those keywords, make sure they have a strong (but not unnatural) presence on your landing pages and in your ads.

2. Pay Attention to Your Impression Share

Google describes your impression share as “the percentage of impressions your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions your ads could get.” Often, impression share used as an indication of how your ads can reach more people if you adjust your bids or budget. However, in our experience, impression share is also a good indication of whether or not your ads will lead to the number of conversions you need to achieve positive ROI.

For most of our clients, we’ve found that an impression share above 30% will generate the needed conversions to keep costs low and stay “in the black.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to increasing your impression share. Rather, there are different approaches to try depending on your goals, budget, and target audience. All of the following tactics can work, but they might not apply to you:

  • Narrow your location targeting. If your business is somewhere customers visit in person, consider narrowing your location targets in order to increase your impression share. Sure, some customers might come from 20 miles away, but reducing your scope to 10 miles should increase your impression share and get you in front of the most relevant audience.
  • Limit your ad schedule. Think about your target audience and your business; when do you think most people are likely to search for what you offer? Set your ad schedule to only show ads during that time. You’ll increase your impression share and people will find you at the most critical time.
  • Increase your bids. Find your most successful keywords (the ones that most often lead to conversions) and increase your bids for those terms. Higher bidding will make your ads more competitive and increase your impression share for the terms that matter most.
  • Increase your budget. This isn’t always a reasonable approach, but increasing your budget will generally increase your impression share. As long as you track your ROI closely, raising your budget can be a quick and efficient way to improve your campaign performance.

3. Make Sure Your Conversions are Tracking

According to a study of over 2,000 Google Ads accounts, only 29% were tracking conversions effectively enough to know if their ads were working. Without effective tracking, you have no way to see whether or not your ads are generating meaningful revenue for your business.

What Makes Tracking Effective?

If your tracking is working properly, it will give you insight into your sales from the time someone clicks on your ad until they become a paying customer. In most cases, this means tracking lead form submissions or phone calls and using an automated or manual approach to match those Google Ads leads to immediate or future sales.

Your tracking should be in place before your ads ever begin running, but it’s never too late to set things up. Google Analytics works well with Google Ads to track form submissions, and call tracking software like CallRail can help monitor phone calls that come in as a result of your ads.

4. Monitor Google Ads Campaign Metrics Regularly

If you aren’t regularly monitoring the performance of your Google Ads, chances are good that you’re wasting money on ads that are underperforming. Even worse, because of the way quality score works, your neglect could be hurting all your ads.

We monitor our clients’ accounts weekly and do thorough performance reviews twice a month to make sure our ads are performing as expected. These regular check-ins are the best way to make sure you notice small problems before they become big ones. Typically, the metrics to look at include:

  • Click-Through-Rate: How many people click on your link after seeing your ad? CTR offers a good indication of whether or not your ads are relevant for your users. As we mentioned earlier, higher click-through-rates will also help increase your quality score.
  • Cost-Per-Click (CPC): How much are you paying for each click? A reasonable CPC will depend on your industry, area, and competition, but it’s important to keep an eye on whether your costs are going up or down. If your cost per click keeps increasing, it will limit how many clicks (and thus, conversions) your ad can receive.
  • Conversions: How many people took action on your ads? Often, this means filling out a web form to express interest or calling your business for more information. The more conversions, the better!
  • Cost Per Conversion: How much are you paying for each conversion? To determine a good cost per conversion, you’ll need to consider what percentage of your conversions turn into customers and how much those customers spend with your business. When your cost per conversion gets too high, Google Ads revenue can turn from positive to negative very quickly.
  • ROI: What is the return on your Google Ads investment? You won’t find this information in your Google Ads dashboard, so you’ll need to calculate it yourself by comparing your ad spend to the revenue generated by your ads. Keep in mind that most campaigns won’t see positive ROI right away; it can take a few months or more depending on the average sales cycle for your business.

5. Take Good Care of Your Keywords

It’s not only important to monitor your target keywords and prune your list regularly when you see keywords that just aren’t getting enough clicks, impressions, or conversions, but it’s also important to curate a list of negative keywords – the search terms you don’t want to trigger your ads. For instance, if you’re advertising for your local music school, you don’t want to be found when someone searches “learn to play piano for free.”

Creating a list of negative keywords and adding to it when you see irrelevant search terms pop up in your Google Ads dashboard can create a positive cycle for your campaigns that leads to better overall performance.

Do you need help reviewing and revising your Google Ads campaign to avoid waste and increase ROI? We’re here for you! Email us to talk more about our PPC management services.

conquer your sales funnel

Last month, we wrote about the 5 Dos and Don’ts for Lead Generation in 2021. Today, we want to take a deeper dive into your sales funnel to explore detailed tactics that will help you master your funnel in the new year. We’ll be reviewing the four main steps that turn strangers into leads and then into sales:

  1. Understand the process.
  2. Generate new leads.
  3. Qualify your leads.
  4. Nurture your prospects.

Step One: Know Your Funnel

First, let’s look at the lead generation process that website visitors follow to become paying customers.

Quick Definitions:

Visitor: Your website visitors arrive on your website from a variety of sources. These include organic search, social media, paid marketing channels like Google Ads, referrals from other websites, or directly by typing in your URL.

Lead: When a person takes a desired action on your website and provides his or her information without making a purchase, you have a new lead (also known as a prospect).

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): Simply put, an MQL is a lead that is qualified, or has sales potential, based on the individual’s response to marketing efforts. This can include something as simple as providing an accurate email address, or something more involved like multiple website visits, downloading materials, or using a free trial.

Sales Prospect or Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Going one step further, an SQL is a lead that has been qualified as being ready to take the next step and become a customer. Sales Qualified Leads have been vetted by both marketing and sales and have demonstrated sufficient interest in further conversation.

Sales Opportunity: This is the big moment – the conversation that is designed to turn your prospect into a customer.

Active Account: Success! Your hard work paid off, and your lead has an active account with your business.

In the following chart, you can see what drives your visitors to continue down the funnel to become customers:

Step Two: Lead Generation

Lead generation can be expensive, so it’s important to understand where your organization can expect to find high-quality leads. The following chart illustrates where the best – and worst – leads are found. Keep in mind, even if a marketing tactic is associated with lower quality leads, it may still offer an affordable way to reach your target audience. The ROI may be worthwhile if the cost is low enough. As always, it takes a lot of testing to evolve a successful marketing strategy.

Metrics for Success

When you’re in the process of testing and measuring marketing efforts, it’s important to understand the benchmarks and metrics that will help you determine whether or not a campaign is working.

The average lead-to-opportunity conversion rate across industries is 13%, and the average time to conversion is 84 days. In the tech industry, the average lead costs $60 (and that cost is increasing quickly), while the average cost per lead for non-profits is $43.

Step Three: Qualification

Only 3% of new leads are ready to buy the moment they become a lead.

That means 97% will require more effort on the part of your marketing and sales teams to qualify and then nurture the lead until conversion. Many factors will influence exactly what this process looks like and whether or not you can expect your lead to become an active account.

Factors that Influence Lead Qualification

  1. Number of people involved in decision making: The more people weigh in on a purchase decision, the less likely a lead will convert. While there’s an 81% chance with a single decision-maker, there’s only a 35% chance with a group of six.
  2. Complexity of the sale: Direct sales have a short sales cycle and few influencers, while complex sales have a long sales cycle and many influencers.
  3. Response time: The chart below illustrates how dramatically success decreases just five minutes after a lead submits a form on your website.

4. Persistence: Sales teams that make multiple calls have much higher success rates. They also have a better chance of making contact on a Wednesday or Thursday as compared to any other weekday.

Sales teams who initiate one phone call have a 35% chance of making contact, but sales teams that call at least six times have a 90% or better chance.

Step Four: Nurturing Your Leads

Once your marketing and sales team has determined that a lead is qualified, it’s time to treat that lead with care until it turns into an active account. Don’t despair if the process takes longer than you anticipated; sometimes we’re surprised by how long the sales cycle can be for even a simple purchase. If the lead has met your qualifications, the right amount and type of nurturing actions can lead to that final conversion. Here are some common conversion rates to help you benchmark your efforts:

Main Methods for Lead Nurturing

  1. Social media
  2. Email
  3. Remarketing
  4. Sales representatives

Drilling Down on Email Lead Nurturing

Email is going to be the most cost-effective method of nurturing your leads, so it warrants more explanation. Email list segmentation and individualized messaging are the two most effective ways to personalize your messages, but there are numerous other useful options as well.

Good hooks to use in your emails include comparison guides, challenges to the status quo, data or surveys, and use cases. When you communicate, let your leads know how your product can solve their problems and make their work easier.

Marketing automation platforms offer a convenient way to nurture your leads on a consistent basis and respond to any actions they take on your website after becoming a qualified lead. There are so many marketing automation platforms to choose from, but some of the most popular include Marketo, ParDot, HubSpot, and Eloqua. All of these programs will allow you to track your leads, send out regular emails, and provide a customized experience to your leads when they visit your website, all things that should eventually turn your leads into active accounts.

Setting up marketing automation is an involved process, but once you have things in place, it’s easy to add additional email templates and other customizations to test out new strategies or messaging.

Are you ready to conquer your sales funnel in 2021 by implementing the best practices we’ve described above? Send us a message, and we’ll help you get started.