Long Tails and Search Intent

Currently I’m taking some advanced training from Google. I’m learning more about Google Search engine and frankly, I’m stunned by what has been presented to me, prompting this month’s article.

But first, some back story.

I’m a fan of history as much as I’m a fan of advertising. I have books about advertising in my personal library that were first published in 1923. Why would I be studying such old books? Well, marketing and advertising is always changing. Some of the old – and I mean old – marketing methods, from before radio, are just as applicable today as they were back then.

But then again, there are new ideas and new sales methods being developed every year, and marketing and advertising methods need to change in lock step with the rest of the world. Just like when radio and television came on scene, advertisers began to embrace new media, and figured out how to adapt, change, grow, develop, master and capitalize upon new media.

Today, the amount of information that is available to an advertiser is over whelming. I talk with a lot of dry cleaners who call or email expressing an interest in promoting their own business, or having someone promote it for them. Many cleaners simply want to have an ad created, and ‘get it out there’ to start driving pieces and revenue into their plant. Well, back in the old days, and I mean, like, 1986, that’s pretty much the way it worked. But today, it’s a whole new world.

Google has shared a lot of information with me during this training course. Don’t forget, I’m a data miner; I’m used to lots and lots of information being dropped in my lap and having to make sense of it all, draw inferences, make conclusions, and then design strategies and marketing programs based on those inferences and conclusions. I have to admit, what Google has dropped in my lap is exciting, but even I’m over whelmed.

Like many of you, I come from the school of thought that supply and demand are pretty much the two main drivers of business…someone somewhere needs a product or service, and some business some place meets and provides that product or service; transactions occur, and business gets done. Marketing and advertising spreads the word of what a business offers, and customers then channel their patronage to those businesses for fulfillment. Well, that’s all changed in the information age.

A few months ago I made a presentation at a Provincial dry cleaning association meeting. Part of my presentation was based upon consumer’s browser sessions as they research purchasing a new vehicle.

Once again, in the old days, a person wanting to buy a car went around to the various car dealers, became educated to the vehicle models available for sale, what features each model had, all over a few more subsequent visits back to the car dealer(s). Eventually the customer narrowed their choice down to one dealer, one model with the features the customer wanted, and began the process of haggling over the price, ultimately resulting in purchasing the car and driving off the lot.

Today, a person wanting to buy a car starts their research up to a year BEFORE they are actually going to buy a vehicle. Typical car buyers conduct over 300 searches educating themselves to fuel economy, color choices, options, safety records, crash tests, OTHER CUSTOMERS (owners and past owners) opinions and experiences with their vehicles, maintenance and dealership relationships/experiences. Gradually, the potential car buyer narrows their choices down to a brand, a model and features, and then begins the process of researching price. Ultimately, the potential car buyer walks into a dealership near them (and near is a relative term….near used to mean same city…now it means within shipping distance or even the next state or province over), and simply states, I want this make model car with these features and this is the price I’m going to pay.

Notice the difference? All the education and research occurred well before the customer walked into the door and whipped out their check book.

Yeah, check book, remember those? <grin> You might be old too…

The car dealer is down to a one shot visit…the customer knows what they want, what they are willing to pay…the car sales person is now basically an order taker. And if the sales person can’t take the order, someone else in another business will…such as a Carvana car vending machine: https://www.carvana.com/vendingmachine.

You might be thinking: ‘Oh, but that’s a major purchase, of course someone will expend such an effort into a big dollar purchase.’ Well, Google supplied me with data of one woman’s journey to making a decision about what make up to buy. It’s a $7.99 purchase decision based upon 125 touch points with various businesses. Her searches widen and narrow as she considers multiple brands and even entire categories. Even though she eventually narrows her search to a certain brand, her searches widen and narrow once again as she considers which store she will purchase her make up from. A $7.99 purchase…

So, these people are freaks, or have too much time on their hands…are they really?

Back when I had my dry cleaning shop, I made a discovery about people and their clothing shopping/purchasing habits. I found that as people shopped for new clothes, there was an opportunity for me to get my dry cleaning store featured prominently BEFORE the customer needed to get their fine suit or fine dress cleaned. Shopping not only indicated a need for clothing, it signalled an INTENT to purchase dry cleaning services at some point in the future. So, if I could form a relationship with a clothing store and its sales staff, and become recommended as the ‘go to’ dry cleaner, I could influence the flow of business to my store when a customer needed to get their clothes cleaned professionally.

These days, there are way more touch points along the way as a customer makes their purchasing decision. There is a long journey every customer makes before they show up at your door with an arm load of clothes. We need to be prominent and visible at every touch point of that journey in order to steer that purchase decision to our store long before the customer actually makes the purchase. So, as Google’s data has indicated to me, its not just buying the vehicle, or buying the makeup, its everything AROUND and that goes along with owning the vehicle and using the makeup that factors into ultimately making the purchase. So, in the case of dry cleaners, the concept and strategy I discovered is we cleaners need to get the message out that the clothing you are considering buying today is going to require quality care tomorrow.

Gone is the day where we could live or die on the battlefield of – ‘when you need to get your clothes dry cleaned today, this is where you take them.’ The new battlefield is ‘when you are thinking of buying clothes, think about how they need to be cleaned, and here is the place you should consider as your dry cleaner.’ Search is signalling a customer’s intent…intending where they will likely be making a purchase, or where they will NEED to be making a purchase.

It’s a huge shift, and if you are on the wrong battlefield or miss being found at all the touch points a customer will be at along their journey to a purchase, you could very well end up losing a considerable part of your business. Or, conversely, if you are found at all the stops along the way to a purchase, you could be steering a considerable amount of business into your store BEFORE these customers end up at a competitor’s store.

If you don’t have a search engine marketing strategy, consider deploying one. If you do have one, are you contacting potential customers at the correct customer touch points in their journey?

Think about this. Read this entire article once again. I think you will find this as mind blowing as I have…

About Darcy Moen

Darcy Moen opened his first drycleaning shop at the age nineteen. Over the next sixteen years, he built his first 600 square foot plant into a chain of 5 stores, creating and testing his own marketing programs along the way. Darcy is a multi-media marketer, working in digital signage, video, print, direct mail, web, email and is a social media expert certified by Facebook for Pages, Insights, and Ad systems. Please visit www.drycleanersuniversity.com