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Bye-Bye Banner Ads. Hello Content Marketing.

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by David Garland in David's Blog, Interviews & Guests

Disclosure: This post is REALLY transparent. 100% naked. Fluff-free.

So, who noticed in the bottom right side of RISE (above “View Our Sponsors”) that banner ads were removed?


Wait for it.

I bet pretty much NOBODY.

Why? Because for lack of a better term, banner ads suck. They have really low response rates (way less than 1%). And are often annoying.

More importantly, Nothing is worse than NOT practicing what you preach or practicing what you actually DO. Meaning, I would never advise anyone to buy a banner ad and I talked about the soon-demise of static ads in the 10 Big Marketing Predictions For 2010. Also, I NEVER click banner ads. I just don’t.

But this isn’t about me. It is about all of you. The community and friends. I took a straw poll today asking people whether or not they click on banner ads ever. 98% say NO unless by accident. Wow is all I have to say and I’m not surprised.

Think about this for a second: When was the last time you told a friend (in person, on Twitter, Facebook, email, wherever) about some really cool banner ad they should check out?

I know, laughable.

We all share content, not banners or faceless ads.

I click products reviewed by trusted sources. I click sponsors/advertisers of sites that are displayed in other ways such as integrated into the content or sponsoring a series, but never banner ads.

And this isn’t theory, lets take a look at the history and facts:

The problem is banner ads try to replace a dying ad medium of static ads. Print ads for example. When they first burst onto the Internet scene, they worked. Because nobody knew what they were. People clicked. This was great because you couldn’t click on your TV, radio, magazine or print ad. But of course, everyone becomes more educated over time and this sort of lazy advertising continues to lose effectiveness. The industry average is far less than .02% (according to Businessweek) for a click vs amount of people that see it (essentially impressions for those new to ad-speak) and continues to drop every year.

We displayed banner ads on our sites for a few sponsors and affiliates. They were never what we sold, but sort of a bonus for folks that spent a lot of money with us (and some affiliates I liked). And I found the data to be similar even with our very targeted audience of business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers (We actually outperformed the industry average by 500% but still that is low compared to other ways of advertising).

There has to be something better than this for folks who want to advertise and sponsor something, right?

My philosophies on advertising/sponsorships

1. #1 importance is trust with the audience. Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. If you promote bad stuff, overly promote, or do it in a distasteful way, you will lose trust. Bad.

2. Products and services you feel comfortable promoting. This is inspired by Leo Laporte (This Week In Technology). He only promotes things he knows, uses or would use and trusts. I try to do the same and in fact sometimes have to turn down advertising.

3. More of a partnership than a passive relationship. A partner is a friend and both your interests are locked together. Simple, lazy advertising (ahem banner ads) doesn’t fall into the partnership category.

4. A Trusted Lab. Experimental. Over-delivering. Honest. When I work with our advertisers, I try to approach marketing like a lab. Some things will work really well. Some things won’t. The idea is to keep trying different things with the end goal of moving the sales needle. The key is to keep everyone’s best interests in mind: Your audience, advertiser and don’t forget yourself as well.

5. Disclosure. If something is sponsored, I say it. If I forget to say it (stupidly), then I’ll write it. Just because something is sponsored, doesn’t alter the impact of the content.

So, what do we do? Content Sponsorships

On The Rise To The Top, we do content sponsorships and occasional affiliates ranging from $1,000 to over $60,000.

Sponsorships on RISE are focused around content and experts. And these experts are normally entrepreneurs looking to reach entrepreneurs (a match made in heaven). We have several packages that our team sells (this year we finally got to the point where I can focus on content and we have a team selling…a glorious day).

The package we are close to selling out is the expert package. In this package sponsors get:

-An opportunity to tell their story on RISE via an interview with me. This isn’t sales pitch BS. Instead, it is an interview based around their company. Successes, failures, tips and of course how they help people. It isn’t pre-scripted or pre-determined in any way. Authentic. Real. Storytelling creates a personal connection especially since most of our sponsors ARE entrepreneurs themselves.

-For St. Louis-based sponsors, they have an opportunity to speak around their expertise at a St. Louis RISE Lunch. Again this is NOT a sales pitch. The goal here is to educate the audience and of course generate business from those that are the right fit as a result of speaking. If people know, like and trust you, they will do business with you. Nothing beats face-to-face. Plus the event is recorded and shown online as well.

-A Tip Series around their expertise. This is the newest thing and has worked really well for our long-term sponsors (such as Jeff Michelman from Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal P.C who is an entrepreneurial lawyer…you can see some of his older videos here. His new ones will be super spicy). Each sponsor will give a series of tips (short, unique videos) around their expertise which will be useful for our audience. For example: Tips on customer service, marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, productivity, SEO, online marketing and many more. In fact (spoiler alert), we are changing our TV model this year and will be inserting tips into all kinds of shows (with the goal being to introduce TV viewers to the brand and bring them to our site to find out more).  This is what we call selling around your product. Sure they want to generate business from it (hence…why someone would sponsor), but the idea here is to educate not to hard sell. If you like them or want to find out more, you can check out their websites, products, services or email them (never under-estimate one-on-one relationships).

-Plugs: I personally plug sponsors during our episodes (often at the end). This is part of some of the packages and I also do it where I see a fit. I don’t often say things like “go buy this NOW!” because I’m not a hard seller. My goal is to educate and also for you to check out what they have to say during their interviews and tips. If you like them and they solve a problem you are having, then you might want to buy.

-Outside-the-box stuff: Because I aim to always do business with people I would refer and I like doing referrals and helping people, this is an “unwritten bonus” I just sort of do. I recommend our sponsors (disclosing of course that they ARE a sponsor. No BS here) to those that might need help in a specific area since I get emails all the time. Someone looking for an IP lawyer? Of course I will recommend Jeff Michelman because I trust him, I use him AND he is a sponsor. This isn’t in the contract or anything, but for me it is just logical.

The idea here is good content spreads. It is sharable. It is tweetable. It is beneficial. And it is lasting. Plus data has already shown it is working (I’ll release the data soon as we REALLY get going). Posts and videos stay up forever. It isn’t a one night stand but instead a long term relationships with all kinds of benefits. Plus it is human. A real person! Not a faceless company.

Affiliates are the more rare of the two and based around products I use or have tried. If I like it, I will do a review and maybe have someone from the company on the show (Interview with Feedblitz founder Phil Hollows coming up soon).  But this is never an obligation to have someone on. I only do it if I think it will benefit our community. Then, I will approach the company for a special deal for RISE viewers. And promote that where I can (in episodes if there is a fit and in our new downloadable resources coming soon…much better storytelling than banner ads). If someone purchases via our affiliate code or link, I’ll get a payment. I’m super selective with these, because I really try to promote the absolute best.

Bottom line: The advertising and sponsorship game is changing. And it couldn’t be more exciting.

And of COURSE we couldn’t do this without our sponsors especially our presenting local sponsor Johnny Londoff Chevrolet. He is just about to announce a cool new program where they are partnering with St. Louis-based companies and you will never have to go to the car dealer again. They bring it to you (sweet!). You can check out Johnny and I talking customer service during a recent episode.

Also, Gateway Business Development. They are my outsourced lead generator. Meaning they hit the phones and more to generate leads for your business (especially if you are marketing business to business). And it works. I know first hand. Since I started using them, RISE income has nearly quadrupled. Seriously. Here is my interview with Jason Bahnak from Gateway on the art and science of lead generation.

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

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