Thursday, 2 September 2010

Why Businesses Get it Wrong on Twitter

Or are they getting it right?

For me the jury on this one is still out.

Twitter tends to be used in two ways by serious users on Twitter - i.e. not spammy idiots who are trying to get you to sign-up for a free laptop.

1. Usually used by business and is a broadcast medium sending their followers links to their new products or to their blog posts.

2. Communication between like-minded individuals about topics they're interested in, or maybe just their social lives, fun stuff etc. May consist of catching up or posting of links about topics they're interested in.

The ideal for business is to use Twitter how real people use it and actually have conversations with customers. But what so too often happens is that businesses revert to a broadcast marketing communications stance with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and vainly try to encourage participation from their Followers, but rarely succeed.

Yet they will get followers, don't get me wrong, and there is a positive outcome to being able to distribute broadcast messages via Twitter as people do pick them up and even retweet them if they are compelling enough.

But probably the best most businesses can hope for is to provide links of interest to like-minded people, hopefully some of whom might be prospects or customers too. The alternative is to really get under the skin and try to really be part of a potential twitter community that is interested in your type of product. But to do that you need pretty-much dedicated Twitter marketers, which is hard to justify with the prospect of uncertain returns.

One better and longer-term strategy is to not try to broadcast or engage directly, but to create content, products, that will get others talking about you on Twitter. Then you're going viral and you're onto a winner.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Email Marketing Best Practices

If you are thinking about marketing via email for the first time, or if perhaps you need a refresher on best practice for email marketing, here are my top tips for creating email marketing campaigns that work:

  1. Do cover yourself for unsubscribes and data protection - make sure you have a clear and easy to use policy, and most importantly process any requests straight away.
  2. Get your message across quickly and in a non-spammy but compelling way - that's the real art to email marketing. You want people to open the email, read the key message and then go and do something - preferably order or request more info, or get a free sample perhaps.
  3. Short and sweet, but informative subject line - helps get that message across before they open the email.
  4. Put your main message in the first line and then repeat the message using different wording before your sign-off - and repeat the same links too. Some people click straight away or get bored with long stretches of text, so don't allow them to get bored and close your email. Get them clicking instead.
  5. Make it personal without being cheesy - talk to your customers like they're humans not idiots or computer manuals. Also treat them with respect and make the email personal - it should come from a real named person and they should be encouraged to email you back with queries. 
  6. Less is more - an email is not supposed to be a catalogue or all-encompassing brochure. Get your message across simply and clearly so that your target audience take the appropriate action. 
  7. Don't worry about fancy images too much, but do make sure your email looks formal enough to not be rejected as spam. Company logos and professional clean design will add to your email.
  8. What ever you do don't make your email into a single image - this straight away looks spammy and also will lose you a lot of read email as often email software asks users if they want to download an image first. Who is going to download an image without being able to read the text? Well only a nosey marketer like me, or a moron, that's who!
I hope you find these tips useful. Hopefully you will have understand my clear message and taken the appropriate action!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Patience in Marketing: The Addiction of Instant Gratification

It's so very easy to get distracted by all that's going on in social media these days, just on a personal level or as a consumer. But this dangerous distraction is also something that can afflict marketers too.

With tweeting and other social media updates to keep on top of for today's marketer, it's very easy to lose touch with your longer term plans and even to plan campaigns and marketing initiatives that have a life of more than a few days (or hours!).

That's why I think it's always a good idea to be patient and set aside sometime for planning your marketing objectives. Set reasonable milestones that can be measured at regular intervals - months rather than days down the line.

But even more important than that is to main consistency between the everyday marketing frenzy of communicating directly with customers by email, Twitter or Facebook, and your core visions and values. Each time you use a short-term communication method, I think you need to consider whether this fits into the overall vision for the company and the brand that you are promoting. Be wary of getting too excited about short term gains, such as Twitter followers or click-throughs, and actually look at how your marketing activity is creating value for your customers and your brand.

If it's not is time to get some help for your social media addiction?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Is Google Caffeine a Threat or an Opportunity for Small Businesses?

Caffeine is the new technology Google have created to produce faster search results of more current content for its search engine. It's an important part of Google's strategy to stay on top of faster real-time social media and news content. Caffeine is also an attempt to claw back traffic from those social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, which are threatening to take a large share of Google's market. Internet users now often start their internet experience in a social media site.

So why is Caffeine of importance to small businesses? Well it could fundamentally change the search results that users of Google see. It's very likely that small businesses keep pace with Google's changes they may find their websites attracting less traffic from Google.

I am not going to explain the in-depth technicalities of what Caffeine does, but it might be useful to briefly go over some simple points about how Google's search engine works, and how Caffeine has enhanced it. Here are a few principles of how Google search operates:

  • When you do a search in Google you are not searching the web, you are searching Google's index of the web. What Caffeine has done is to improve the currency of this index.
  • Google works out what is on the internet by sending out what are called bots to crawl through websites which they are allowed to access (you can code you website to refuse access if you want to).
  • These bots will crawl a site depending on a number of factors, but if the website is more popular and regularly updated it will get crawled more often.
  • Once the bots come back with all the website info, this data is uploaded to Google's search engine index. And this is where Caffeine is going to change things big time.
  • Instead of updating the index on a regular, but fairly infrequent basis, the Caffeine system enables Google to update the index on a much more frequent basis, which means there will be a lot more current content in there. 

Here's a quote from the Google blogpost about Caffeine, which explains this:

"With Caffeine, we analyze the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally. As we find new pages, or new information on existing pages, we can add these straight to the index. That means you can find fresher information than ever before — no matter when or where it was published."

Now what this actually implies is that Google are likely to be a lot more selective about what they prioritize when crawling and updating their index. If you do a search now you will see a lot more hits that are from news sites, video sites, images, respected sources and social media - so results from Twitter for instance. In the past the ranking of results would depend more simply on relevance and PageRank. But now Google want to make their content as current as possible, so if you have content that is on a slower refresh cycle you could suffer.

This quotation from PC World is informative on the subject:

"Not every change on every site will appear immediately, though. Google looks at factors such as page rank to determine which sites to crawl faster, Cutts said. It also checks news sites and blogs more often than other sites, he said."

Some feedback on the web from SEO gurus suggests that Caffeine is preferring content that is updated very regularly - i.e. at least daily, so a clear preference for news and social media sites. Blogs are also favoured, but I suspect only if they are very regularly updated, for instance a blog like Boing Boing which is updated several times a day. But many individual and business are updated weekly at best.

So what should small businesses do about it? Here's a quick action plan based on common sense and the advice of SEO gurus (although as with snake oil merchants everywhere it's sometimes best to take their advice with a pinch of salt!)

  1. Engage with social media - link to your content from a variety of social media platforms as this will increase the chance of your content being in the search results and also improve the PageRank of your main site.
  2. Update more regularly - perhaps staggering rather than batching content updates if possible to keep your site as fresh as possible.
  3. Engage with multi-media content, if possible on your main site, but also from sites such as YouTube and then link back to your main site.
  4. If you blog, blog more often!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Even Apple is Guilty on Mass Un-targeted Marketing

Thanks very much Apple for your offer, but I'm not a student and you're wasting my time!

I even checked their website in the hope that I could get the discount anyway even if I wasn't a student but the TOCs are quite specific that you have to be. And if you delve further you find out that actually getting your rebate is moderately complex:

To redeem under this offer Qualifying Education Customers must:
  1. Submit the claim online at ; AND
  2. Mail the printed online claim output with a proof-of-purchase consisting of a copy of an Apple Retail Receipt or Online Apple Store Invoice or Shipping Confirmation (order acknowledgments, packing slips or purchase orders will not be accepted); AND
  3. Return the EAN Bar Code labels from the Apple product boxes with (i) and (ii) above.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Key Sales and Marketing Metrics for Every Business

I wrote before about the fallacy of measuring Marketing ROI.

So what should all businesses be measuring?

Well that partly depends on your business. But here are some key metrics that should be relevant for nearly every business that also relate closely to your business finances.

Sales Metrics

  • Volume and Value % compared with plan and prior year
  • Volume and Value % compared with competition

Marketing Investment Metrics

  • Marketing budget % expenditure compared with plan and prior year
  • Share of Voice % compared with competitors: could be in actual advertising spend or equivalents if PR coverage. One could also measure Social Media coverage as well here?

Bottom Line

  • Profit by business/marketing unit or brand % compared with plan and prior year
  • Share of market profit % compared with competitors

Getting marketing metrics for competitors

If you are a big business  then there will be whole teams, agencies and market research companies dedicated to this kind of analysis. But if you are small, perhaps with just a handful of marketing staff, what do you do?

Rather than ignoring competitors altogether there are some quick and easy ways to get the above data:

Competitor Sales Data:

Do a survey of mutual or prospective customers to establish their purchasing of competitor products. You don't have to survey the whole market - a reasonable sample of between 50 and 100 will do if you compare with your own products.

Competitor Share of Voice:

You probably know which outlets will act as advertising or PR mediums for your product. Simply survey these for a period (depending on publication frequency) and note details of your competitors adverts and editorial copy. If you can also monitor social media and channels such as events as well. By spending a bit of little bit of effort you should be able to get a good snapshot of your competitors' marketing activity and how much they are spending. It's probably worth maintaining this ongoing to see what they change. For instance it would be useful to see if they are investing more in marketing a product that directly competes with yours.

Competitor Share of Profit:

A really difficult one to do, but in the UK you can get copies of accounts from Companies House and these will give broad brushstroke data on profitability for any Ltd company.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Make the Most of Google News Search RSS to Get Ideas for Blog Posts

With Google's new search engine getting more appropriate search results is even easier, and you can also easily choose what type of content you want to view. So rather than doing a general search for the topic you want to blog about, now you can actually choose different medium, whether they be News, Videos, Books, Blogs, Images etc.

Particularly good for blogging ideas are the News and Blogs categories. I slightly prefer News as this really gives you the most up-to-date developments in your subject area. What is more you can also generate an RSS feed from your specified News search, which means you can keep up to date easily with the latest stories and then turn these into ideas for blog posts.

Here's how you can generate News search results and turn them into an RSS Feed:

1. Do your search in Google - get as specific as possible if you can - you might want to set-up a number of RSS feeds to get better coverage.

2. Specify the Medium, in this case News websites.

3. Right click the RSS link and copy the link address

4. Copy it into your chosen RSS Reader and Hey Presto you can get the latest news for your topic area updated right in your RSS Reader

If you choose Blogs you can only get an email alert at the moment - not sure why, but probably worth seeing what the blogosphere are saying about Paperclips as well!