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Old 07-09-2010, 03:41 PM
PapaBear PapaBear is offline
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Default Pre-Buy Cycle Research

Converting In The Very Early Buy Stage:
Shifting From Untroubled and/or Unaware To Aware and How To Interrupt At This Stage

The unaware stage is a pre-buy cycle phase, but one that should not be overlooked. This can be a very lucrative place to position ourselves as CPV marketers. Many marketers leave money on the table, only targeting those deep or mid-way into the buy cycle. Another common mistake is to assume that the only types of successful campaigns at this early stage are big budget branding campaigns. It's certainly true, the pre-buy or early-buy cycle phase is an excellent time for big brands to gain early traction, but there are plenty of other proven ways to monetize “surfers” in these scenarios also. The first step in monetizing people in this early phase is often referred to as making them “Aware”


Transitioning someone from an aware state is our goal as CPV marketers in this pre-buy phase and it can really be a lot simpler than you might think. The most common way to go about it is something called a “Run Of Network” campaign. A “Run Of Network” or RON campaign is typically a strategy reserved for big brand advertisers, but don't get discouraged just yet. Typically, a large, occasionally loosely categorized, but overall broad set of targets is selected based on the overall pool of traffic. That is, any marketer running a RON campaign on that network will generally receive a slice or portion of all the incoming, or in some cases, remnant traffic. RON campaigns are a great way for big budget advertisers to extend their brand, but typically it's not approached with a strategy to transition those surfers into the “aware” state and conversions can be quite low in many cases.

Question: So what's the difference between an Unaware surfer and one who's been transitioned to the aware state?

Answer: A 100X greater chance of conversion.

Question: What's the advantage of early targeting surfers early in the buy cycle in the context of CPV marketing?

Answer: Most CPV marketers have either never tried or tried and given up on early buy cycle targets and the competition is often non-existent. With the right strategies and testing, we can isolate some very low hanging easy to pick fruit targeting early buy-cycle domains and keywords.

Targeting In The Pre-Buy Stage

Targeting in this early stage in the context of CPV can be done in a number of ways, but let’s go over a few ideas right now. To begin with, one large group of targets we can completely ignore for the moment are “buy” domains and “buy” keywords. As we move further into the buy cycle “buy” keywords will be the only types of targets we want, but for right now we're not using them, so don't worry if you have no clue what I'm talking about. We're looking for surfers, people not looking to buy, not looking for more information. We want to interrupt their experience and ultimately convert them. We want people with no particular problem to solve right now. Why? Because they're cheap targets, but we do have to work a bit to convert them.

Facebook Research Method: Sit down at your computer and visit a few of your favorite portals, trend indexes and social bookmarks with totally open mind and no “information agenda”. Jot down about 20-30 of the most popular items you see. Don't be influenced by what you know, don't know or are familiar with, just follow the exercise. Once you have a good list log-in to Facebook. If you don't have an account now would be a good time to get one and I'll tell you why.

Facebook is one of the best early buy-cycle research tools out there and most people have no idea how powerful it can be for this type of research. Although things are changing all the time, social networking applications like Facebook and Myspace are currently still used primarily for communicating, networking and sharing information, much more so than outright buying. Although the Facebook marketplace is gaining some traction in the “information query” space, the fact is, right now it's still primarily a social network. Need further proof? Log-in to your Facebook account and create a new paid advertisement, then scroll straight down to the “Likes and interests” field. Start typing in a few standard “buy” keywords. You'll find a few “shopping” terms here and there, but that's about it. The real truth is that Facebook has no need for you to include “buy” words in your profile or queries, even with the development of its marketplace and other selling modules. Buy words aren’t always necessary to sell as we'll see shortly.

So how do people make money from Facebook advertising? Well, first of all, a lot of the ads you see on Facebook are used for branding. This should make perfect sense now and branding is really a great match for the traffic. We're mainly concerned with conversions though right? Yes, and that's why we let Facebook do what it does best. Facebook users may not be entering “buy” keywords, queries or even general interest searches for things like fan or community pages during their session. They may just be looking at pictures or chatting and we can't count on them doing anything else. For all intents and purposes, we, as marketers, should assume that most Facebook users are “unaware” (not in buy mode) during their session. The beauty is that these users are tethered to keywords that they're genuinely interested in. From a marketer’s perspective that’s done smart keyword targeting, the Facebook user is actually made “aware” when she sees that ad. Awareness is what we're after because it's a step closer to a conversion. Don't get confused by what I mean there. They are not aware because the ad did its job (we haven't gotten there yet). No, I'm referring to the fact that the surfer was not actively looking for information, but was still served a relevant ad, simply put, Facebook did its job. As simple and common as that is, it's still very important. Facebook transitioned the user from unaware to an aware state, making an association between the ad and the user based on data provided previously provided by the user, not an active query by the user for information. This is key.


So how do we make money from all this? Can't you just go out and create a Facebook campaign? Sure you could, but we're using Facebook for research only. So how do we implement all of this? Well first of all, dump all of those keywords you dug up doing your initial research into Facebook. Dump the keywords into the search box and see what pops up. Like a few of the fan and community pages you see, then watch the ads and recommended pages for a few days, click on them and make note of the conversion processes. When you have some good data, sit down and answer the following questions:

  • Which ads do you keep seeing?
  • How are the ads converting temporarily aware, but non-buy mode users?
  • What's keywords or interests are triggering the good ads?
  • What associations are being made with the subject of interest “Many who like Jersey Shore like this"
  • How is the ad engaging the surfer?

Once you've analyzed your findings you should be able to come up with some great campaign ideas, but before I share some of my implementation ideas with you, let's make sure we're 100% clear on what we just learned from doing this research.
  • We've learned that un-aware surfers can be transitioned into an aware state by making associations with subjects of their interest.
  • We've learned another way to discover popular subjects of interest
  • We've learned how to discover good ads that are converting people who are not in “buy mode” because they've been transitioned from unaware to an aware state.
  • We've learned how those ads are engaging the user and ultimately converting her.

Good stuff right?

Real World Implementation Examples:

Sean and I have already given you 2 really good examples of transitioning surfers into an aware state and converting them. Sean's IQ method and my fan club method both do this and do it well. You can find good examples all over the Google content network also.

A highly polarized fan club, like a presidential fan club could work on some very broad targets that have nothing to do with politics. Chances are, surfers in an unaware state, prefer one candidate over the other right? The downside to this approach is that we could be losing a large percentage of potential fan club members. Take this ad -“Join The Obama Fan Club” running over the target Wouldn't a poll have a better shot in this scenario? Sure would, that's why CNN runs them! A poll is a great way to funnel and segment a large user base into the categories where they belong. This approach will increase your chance of relevancy and conversion. This might be a better approach to the same campaign - “Do You Like Bush or Obama?”. We've now created a “lateral” form of awareness, based on a pretty good assumption that most people have a presidential candidate preference. You could then channel each user to the appropriate fan club or offer.

Big traffic portals like can be tricky though. They require that you either have a large budget, have time to monitor campaigns and they also require lot's of testing. Still, there are a number of ways to run that presidential campaign successfully. Let's look at a different example. We've discussed how platforms like Facebook do some of the legwork for us by automatically transitioning surfers into an aware state through interest associations. Let’s look at a few ways this is/was (some of these types of campaigns may now violate the Facebook advertising TOS) done well on Facebook .

Age triggers and associations: We all have our birthday, real or fake, associated with our Facebook accounts and smart marketers have taken advantage of that fact to create all sorts of associations. From teeth whitening services to zip submits, marketers have taken advantage of this trigger in a number of successful ways. “Age 37? Save On Teeth Whitening”. Remember, these people are not in buy-mode.

Geo-Targeting triggers and associations: Facebook is a great place to take advantage of location targeting. We all have to live somewhere, so like age, this is a blanket trigger for transitioning a user into an aware state. From real estate, to coupons, to local schools, it's commonly done based on location triggers. Remember, these people are not in buy-mode.

Give Us Some Examples!

As mentioned a bit earlier, we have already released 2 methods that allow us to capitalize on users in this stage:
The Fan Club Method
The IQ Quiz Method

In conjunction with releasing this research method material, we will also be providing you with yet another angle to capitalize on unaware buyers. This one is very exciting and has been asked for many times: Health and Beauty Offers and Aware Targeting With CPV. Now that you understand the mindset and how to find these people, head on over there for a specific implementation of converting these users into $$$$!


There are a number of ways to approach early or pre-buy stage marketing. We can go just for branding or we can go broad with polarized subjects or ones that apply to large segments of the population. Our other alternative is to move a tick beyond marketing to the unaware and place our ads on targets where users are made “aware” through associations with brands and subject matter. CPV is one of my favorite traffic sources because there are thousands of ways to creatively market to web surfers. You now have the first part of a great foundation to help you think of new ways yourself.

- lucas
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