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The Globe and Mail

Technology allows marketing trial and error

Porter Airlines held a media demonstration flight in 2006, taking off from Toronto City Centre Airport, flying for about an hour up to southern Georgian Bay and returning.

Tibor Kolley

In the last column, CommunityLend CEO Mike Garrity talked about how new businesses should approach marketing, and the importance of being focused.

For companies seriously considering online marketing and advertising programs, Mr. Garrity offered advice on some of the most popular vehicles: Google AdSense, Facebook, and banner ads on Web sites and blogs.

While each opportunity has its merits, Mr. Garrity says there's no magic formula for success. Instead, he suggests that figuring out what works and what doesn't happens through trial and error in terms of targeting, messaging and even timing.

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"These services and Web sites are actually really good at putting you in the driver's seat of setting ads up and watching their performance," he says. "It can be disheartening at first as you scramble around trying to be a good marketer, but as long as you aren't putting your entire life savings at risk, you can learn and hone, or discover early that the site isn't performing for what you are selling and cut your losses."

A key part of the "test, test and test some more" approach is making sure your website has analytics set up so you can get a clear picture about where your visitors are coming from. (I'll be writing about Google Analytics next week.)

Another "marketing" option for startups and new business is trying to generate word of mouth or viral marketing. Mr. Garrity says it can be a very difficult exercise to "create" word of mouth marketing, although it is possible to encourage conversations using free tools such as social media services.

"Fostering word of mouth, in my experience, is a two-step process," he says. "First (and there is nothing new here), you offer customers a good product with good service. Second, use new technology to be ready to take advantage of word of mouth when it occurs.

"Let me give you an example. I love Porter Airlines. I fly economy class for less than most major airlines and they treat me like I'm flying first class. I was so pleased one time that I used my mobile Twitter account to tweet how much I liked them. I have about 800 followers and within five minutes, five of those followers wrote back about how much they love Porter too.

"Assuming that each of them has as many followers as I do, and that five of their followers also wrote something (and so on) then Porter just got between 20,000 to 200,000 positive word of mouth referral ads for doing nothing more than just being a good service."

Special to the Globe and Mail

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Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups – Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye – so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences .

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