Online marketing may not be quick, but it’s effective

Alice

As the recession deepens (and all those BNI types who still testify that there isn’t a recession, wake up and smell the coffee), businesses are starting to appear a mite desperate. This is when marketing gets a raw deal, especially if the CEOs don’t really understand what marketing is all about.

Looking around and reading the signs, it is beginning to be obvious that companies are waking up that they need to market more online. But their lack of understanding shows that although they furiously update their websites with fancy new designs, they omit to think about the content or how they can communicate better with their customers, namely by interacting with them and getting their feedback through social networking.

If your company is still bogged down in the dark ages, the difference between marketing and sales will still be hazy, muddy and out of date. There is a new concept going about now that may not only confuse, but worry CEOs and Marketing Managers. There is this thing called customer relationship marketing (CRM), and the worst thing is that it happens over a long period of time!

But their balance sheets and cash flow statements are crying out, and the Accounts department report doom and gloom. What to do? The immediate response is to bombard the online marketing world with PPC projects, sales objectives and buy-now strategies. Money is pumped in to make a fast buck – and yes, it works! But only for the immediate future.

But they have forgotten about this CRM thing, which is apparently a real bind because it takes so long to happen. It’s may be really boring, but it is proving to be necessary. Gradually it dawns on them that marketing is a long-term affair, and communicating with prospective clients to really get to know them, understand their needs and desires, work out how they can help them, so that the company becomes a benefit rather than another faceless corporate identity, will have long-term results that can be worked on for many years.

And another thing, it doesn’t cost that much either. Certainly cheaper than a quick blast of PPC when they don’t really know what they’re doing. The ROI may be slower, but the graph is constantly rising, with no signs of those drastic peaks signifying boom and bust, or as Chantal puts it, feast and famine. CRM with its cousin data management will allow further marketing endeavours for future objectives.

And if you know more about what your customers are doing, thinking, saying or whatever, isn’t it easier to adapt your marketing strategies around this? And when the penny drops about social networking, Marketing Managers will begin to realise that here is a place to find out this data with the minimum of fuss and expense, with marketing research tactics at their fingertips and somewhere where people can exercise their natural tendency to chat, communicate, strike up a conversation and create a relationship. With all this at very little cost (except the time taken to monitor it), perhaps this online marketing lark isn’t so far fetched as it previously seemed.

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What does a website review involve?

Alice

I’m doing several website reviews this week. The main brief is to find out whether each website attracts the right kind of customer, and whether the right message is being put across.

The first thing I look for is whether I understand what the main subject, niche or industry the website is representing. This may be obvious, but some businesses get so bogged down with trying to describe what their business is all about, flourishing as many jargonised words as possible in order to appear impressive, the true concept can be totally clouded and almost impossible to comprehend.

I have seen some websites that don’t even mention the actual subject, eg the word ‘marketing’ on a marketing site, within the first paragraph – in some cases not even on the front page! This is because the authors are so full of their business, they omit the keyword that matters most; it’s almost that because they have the subject in their brain, they assume the website visitors will also have it in their brains too!

The next thing I look for is what the website can offer me. Just me, an everyday, ordinary person who just happened to come across their site. This doesn’t mean banging on about how wonderful the business is, how long it has been running for, how much experience it has, bla bla bla – it’s about what the business can offer me to make my life better.

To be honest, visitors don’t give a tinker’s toot about your business, they only want what they can get out of it for themselves. Customers are notoriously selfish, self-centered and greedy, therefore you must take advantage of these traits and change the way you deliver your product or service. This means you must work out the benefits of what you are offering, and plug those in an easy-to-understand language and layout.

For example, if your business is about printing, why not work out, through marketing research, exactly what your customers want, and give it to them. Such as, offer a simple ordering system for quick and easy business cards, or for several thousand leaflets to promote a pizza bar; adapt your services to make it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want.

Then I assess the website’s call to actions. This involves how visitors respond to these three options:

1) the visitor goes further into the site to find out more (a conversion from the index page);

2) the visitor signs up to something such as a newsletter or gives their contact details for a special report or e-book (collection of data for future communications);

3) the visitor disappears (a bounce).

Of course the website owner doesn’t want the third option to happen, so how the index page is constructed should be geared towards the visitor deciding on one of the first two options. This means the main content should act like a signpost to the benefits the website is offering, how the business recognises the pain or problems the customer has, and what solutions it can provide.

The navigation should be designed so that the visitor doesn’t have to think about what to do next, he just clicks on an obvious link to find out more; and the sign up forms for the contact details need to be so compelling and accessible, combined with the necessary incentives, the visitor provides his information effortlessly, and receives his prize quickly and efficiently.

So, take a look at your website and see if it complies with these criteria, and if it doesn’t, then get in contact for a website review.

What’s added value in marketing?

Alice

In one of the questions I answered in LinkedIn, one responder asked me what I meant by added value. He thought it referred to the difference between the cost price and the manufactured price of a product. It may do, but when you use the term added value in marketing it takes on a different meaning – also nothing to do with Value Added Tax and other hideous things like that…

Added value in marketing is simply something you can give to your customers that is of high value to them, but of low cost to you. It appears as a complimentary additional advantage, an enhancing of your product or service by giving the customer what they really want or are looking for, something that improves its performance or makes it look nicer (such as professional looking packaging or a slick presentation).

It can be as simple as offering advice on how to use a product more effectively, suggestions for alternatives uses, complimentary accessories they cannot do without, or discounts for return custom or referral to another customer. It can even take the form of quality assurance: reliable delivery from a trustworthy company, complete with a courteous driver, and a telephone call to say when they will arrive at a convenient time.

The idea is that the customer perceives the increased worth of what you are offering them, in the guise of excellent customer service or quality of your product’s features, all of which goes towards gaining customer loyalty and repeated business. This all depends greatly on undertaking relevant and effective marketing research to find out what your customers really want and what will make a difference to them.

This customer perception of exclusivity ensures that added value makes your company different from your competitors, especially when you can offer guarantees to gain customer confidence and reduce buying resistance. Your added value will separate you from the pack, your business will instantly become more attractive, and if customers take the bait (in the form of a prize in exchange of their contact details), you will be able to influence them through further relevant marketing communications to offer them more products and services with more added value.

And if you thought one effort was enough, think again – capitalising on customers’ greed will mean constantly changing or improving on your added value, but it will be worth it!

Social Media: how can it work for you?

Alice

In response to Chantal’s post Is Social Media a Waste of Time?, I felt a need to highlight certain elements of social networking that would make the experience more positive, manageable, worthwhile and rewarding.

One good reason to social network is to increase your or your business’s online visibility. Nowadays, if you can’t be found on the web, you practically don’t exist. Therefore the need to maintain this level of exposure, especially since social networking knows no boundaries, makes it all the more vital to keep ahead of your competitors.

Use Google Alerts and Twitter Search to keep an eye on what people are saying about you (also called monitoring, commonplace on Twitter) and also to be aware of what your competitors are doing. This means you don’t have to stalk them (heaven forbid), but use this knowledge to your advantage: congratulate them on their achievements, note any developments they are making, find a niche they’re not pursuing which you can.

Work out a marketing strategy before you start. What are you goals? – more traffic to your website; more emails requesting information; more activity in your e-shopping cart, more requests to speak at events… then you can measure these conversions and adapt your methods for better results.

Use social media as a method for marketing research: discussions (Twitter, LinkedIn Q&A, Facebook business pages), polls and surveys (GoDaddy, blogs, LinkedIn groups, Survey Monkey), questions (Twitter, LinkedIn Q&A), finding knowledge through keywords (YouTube, Twitter, blogging networks) – the list goes on.

It’s so important to engage with your followers on social networking. Take an interest in what others are doing: interact positively, retweet and share, listen and provide valuable information. Write your entries in easy to understand language (no jargon, text speak or confusing acronyms), and certainly include links to relevant resources to back you up or show respect to other experts.

And one last point: consistent activity in small bursts is far more effective than a massive marathon and then nothing for a few weeks. Social networking, especially Twitter, works on the concept of ‘now’, so a maintained presence works better than an occasional show.

10 top tips for Twitter

Alice

These tips were compiled for a social networking seminar given last week, so I’m sharing them with you:

1. Write quality tweets

It’s extremely important to write good content. If people read contributions that are relevant, educational, entertaining and useful, they are more likely to follow you. Build up your audience from worth-while tweets and try to write in full; not everybody can read text-speech easily.

2. Share content

Retweet (RT) anything you think is valuable; it’s both sociable and polite, as well as increasing the tweet’s exposure. If you want your tweets to be retweeted, write them in no more than 120 characters to accommodate your username at the beginning. Remember to acknowledge anybody that retweets yours.

3. Be sociable

Join in conversations if you’ve something good to say. Don’t just lurk in the shadows watching the world go by; make yourself more visible by contributing and people will answer and maybe even follow you. After all, Twitter is a ‘social’ networking site.

4. Monitor mentions

It’s natural to want to know if your username has been tweeted, especially as a reply to your tweets. There are various methods of monitoring this, and this phenomenon can be used for other usernames, keywords and hashtags as part of your marketing research; perhaps for a competitor, a particular service or product, a location or an event.

5. Keep to your subject

Focus on your niche or area of expertise, don’t stray into tittle-tattle or irrelevance. As you gain in experience then you’ll know how to cross over the lines, as that’s part of being sociable, but never lose sight of why you’re social networking or who you or your company are.

6. Maintain your profile

It’s important to complete your biography with a weblink and a suitable up-to-date picture. The picture ideally should be the same which you use throughout all your social networking sites to aid recognition. The bio should be succinct and contain all the relevant keywords necessary to promote your business or cause, and maybe your weblink should go to a specific landing page for your Twitter followers.

7. Be consistent

I read somewhere that the optimum number of tweets a day should be 13. This is better than tweeting furiously one day and then do nothing for the next few days. Automate your tweets to space them out through the day, and pop in now and again to acknowledge any responses and to add in extras that are relevant.

8. Get more web traffic

You can automatically feed your blog into Twitter to increase its audience, and vice versa: your latest tweets can be recorded on a blog widget on your sidebar. The more exposure you give your website’s and blog’s URLs, especially with incentivised calls to action, the more people will visit and hopefully interact. All this increased activity will heighten your SEO levels.

9. Don’t sell

Twitter is a social networking site, so don’t adopt the hard sell, or you will be blocked by other users. The idea is to make and form relationships with your followers, so that they learn more about you and you about them. Make yourself useful by tweeting linked information that would be interesting for your followers, which hopefully will be retweeted to a larger audience.

10. Find and follow

Use the friends follow pages to find new contacts. Follow someone you admire and then follow who they follow; some of them might follow you back, particularly if you have good quality tweets. The more followers you have, the larger audience your tweets will have, which makes you more attractive. You could also use Twellow.com to find more corporate followers if that helps you with your marketing research.