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December 14, 2008

Who says so? The rise and rise of referrals as a marketing tool

In a recent post on winning , The figures I used came from February of 2008, Information Week .

...Google held 23.7% of the US online advertising market, while Yahoo held 11.4% and Microsoft languished at the bottom of the table with 5.6% market share.
This was truly a surprise, I expected Google to hold about 70%, until I found out that globally they do. (According to a later article published in May .)

That means that the rest of them are duking it out for 59.9% of possibly the largest new market since the turn of the century. Why would that be? All of these are relatively cheap compared to display ads, or interruption advertising, and they are relatively effective... aren't they?

I see this as part of the whole "splintering of the world" phenomena that Google itself kicked off with Search.

We know from just about every credible source on the planet today that interruption marketing , as coined by Godin, is losing ground. Mass marketing, display marketing and even some of the vessels  that used to carry them.

Going, going...

In its place is a whole new movement. "Don't be where they are (the essence of interruption or display ads) instead be what they are looking for". I ran a post on this a while ago called SEO is a Fool's Errand. (And I ran it again in a different form in the Trust Based Marketing series in my newsletter)

The goal is simple - don't try to be where they are, be what they are looking for. Be the news not the ads, be so extra-ordinary  that people will feel compelled to speak about you, be on the tip of their mind, or be the obvious expert ... you get the picture.

So that should make Google Adwords or one of the other two viable search based marketing the wise choices right? I mean you look for something, you see an ad alongside it, it is related to what you are searching for and click revenue and opportunity abounds right?

Well... 59.9% of the US online advertising market doesn't think so...apparently. 

There are even more direct ways to be what they are looking for, even more direct ways to pump your message straight into their brains rather than past their eyes.  

Online alternatives

The pay-for-post phenomena seems to be dying down, or maybe its just the reaction to it that is dying down.

It's there. Sites like seem to be going well, Guy Kawasaki is a member there. Another is  which both tout themselves and their bloggers as ethical.

The goal - you are part of the news, not the ads. trusted sources, giving you tips and reviews to their readers.

Even if they slam you, which they have every right to do, you get seen by people who may disagree. (The no PR is bad PR rule)

And if they give you a good review...
A range of sites now also work with Contextual advertising. is one of these. The benefit is that people who host the sites get to charge and sell their own ads. Who would you rather buy from?

Google, the faceless, or good old Bob the Blogger, you know he gets a lot of traffic who are interested in similar stuff to what you are. And anyway, mass marketing is dying isn't it? Why try to get your name out on a dozen different sites, all with Adsense subscriptions, instead of one high quality site that you know others like you read? (Not how many but who )

These are all types of the trust based approach. An approach based on referrals, good will and trust. If you trust somebody's judgment you will probably take their advice about reading a blog, reading a book, or buying some other product. 

The more you look through the books you read, the sites you visit, the authors you read, and the companies you do business with (for example) the more obvious it becomes that you didn't actually search for them You were referred to them in some fashion.

What does this mean? I think it is going to take a lot more investigation before finding out. But I think it lends itself to wondering a lot more about the possibilities for Trust Based Marketing and what impact the growth of referrals as a force in this area.

Adwords is still the Gorilla in the room (by far) and permission marketing is still the number one way to convert Friends into Customers . But increasingly trust, and being referred by a trusted source seems to be taking on a whole new form.