For years, two questions have nagged me: Why would anyone want to buy a pair of corduroy pants? And how can Google's AdWords technology effectively be used to generate more business for my company? Thank God I had the opportunity to speak to Chris Lindland.
Lindland is the founder of Betabrand, an online retailer that specializes in clothes such as corduroy pants, reversible smoking jackets and disco pants. Lindland uses Google's ( GOOG - news - people ) AdWords technology to help bring the joy and happiness of his fashions to the masses. AdWords is helping him generate lots of new orders a week.
How has Lindland had so much success with AdWords when many other small businesses, including mine, have not?
For starters, and contrary to what most marketing pundits may say, Lindland views AdWords technology as a short-term rather than a long-term marketing tool. "Look," he says, "I'm not using AdWords to nurture my customers or build a long-term brand. I'm looking for that guy who just has to have a pair of disco pants and has to have it now."
Chris doesn't look at AdWords technology as a way to sell more products. He considers it a way to bring in customers and build a community. Once people find his site, they tend to come back. Many become fans of his Facebook site too. "For anyone looking to play with AdWords technology, it's important that you first have a database to capture your customers that come to your site."
Getting names, and more important, e-mail addresses can allow you to build up a database of prospects for future products and special promotions. Lindland says that his e-mail newsletter brings in more sales than AdWords. You can continue to communicate with these people, whether they initially bought from you or not.
AdWords is getting Lindland three to five new orders a day, so he continues to do traditional public relations and marketing, like e-mail and some direct mail. He also gets a lot of sales form word of mouth, referrals and from people who read about his company somewhere else online or in a magazine. So, AdWords should be part of any good marketing plan, but not the entire thing.
Of course, keywords are critical, but smart users of AdWords technology keep them to a minimum. Lindland tested and played with different keywords, but now he's limiting himself to just a few short phrases, like "corduroy pants" and "smoking jacket." Lindland suggests that small-business owners keep trying, testing and changing keywords. AdWords even gives you a tool to see how popular certain keywords are. The more general your keywords are, the more page views without clicks you'll experience and the faster your budget will dry up. So, be as specific as possible.
Lindland also pays a lot of attention to when his AdWords are running. Google ( GOOG - news - people ) lets users suspend their campaigns and then restart them as needed. He found that Sundays during the winter have been the best days for online sales. "That's because people are sitting around with nothing better to do, and there's no better time to buy a pair of Karate Casual pants," Lindland says.
Every good marketer will tell you that metrics are key, and Lindland is no different. He's a heavy user of Google Analytics. This tool shows him where his customers are coming from, what keywords they're using to get to him, and how many hits and page views his site gets each day. Google Analytics pulls together activities from all over the Web, including social community sites like Facebook. He can see every website that's sending him visitors and then target advertising on those websites if he chooses.
Lindland spends a few hours a week looking at these numbers. The most important metric? "Bounce rate," he says. "That metric tells me how long visitors are staying on my site." Apparently, people looking for disco pants tend to stay on his site longer than others, and they buy more stuff.
Lindland says he spends between $100 to $300 per day on AdWords. But for me, spending $3,000-$6,000 per month is no small amount. But Lindland didn't start that way. He kept his budget very low at the beginning until he was comfortable that his efforts were producing some results. He told me to do the same.
Finally, know that using AdWords technology is a complete waste of time if your website isn't ready. "You need to have a decent landing page, preferably something with a big BUY button on it," Lindland says. Even for a company like mine that doesn't sell products online, Lindland advises a landing page should have a big CALL US button on it with an 800 number. He found out the hard way that when visitors were directed to his home page, people would start losing interest if they had to click through a couple of times to find the product they were looking for. So now when a visitor clicks on a link for a smoking jacket, he's going right to the smoking jacket page.
Because everyone needs a smoking jacket, right?
Gene Marks is owner of Marks Group, a technology consulting firm, and author of In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash--Simple Lessons From Smart Business People.