In January of 2013 I attended New Media Expo for the first time. I have been to many conferences and this one was much better than most. I bought the content creator pass, went to tons of sessions, all of the keynotes and walked the trade show many times. I even bought the virtual sessions on-site so that I could watch the ones I missed when I got home. It was an engaging conference and I came away a satisfied customer who immediately blocked off the time to return to Vegas for NMX in 2014.
To put things in perspective, here is a little background about me. This blog is a side project for me and I don’t derive any significant income from it. I don’t drink or gamble and I am a big-time introvert. So going to conferences like this, especially in Vegas, are not my natural tendency and I end up footing the bill out of my own pocket. With conference fees, airfare, hotel & food I figure I spent about $2,000 to go to New Media Expo in 2013.
Fast forward to NMX 2014. I put in for my vacation time from work, bought my plane ticket, had the hotel and rental car all setup. Last time the sessions were a little overwhelming for me, so this time I just booked the trade show ticket with plans to again purchase the virtual ticket on-site. This way I could force myself to network more, not a natural thing being an introvert, and try to pace myself.
I was supposed to fly out on Friday night after work but mother nature had other plans. The weather in the mid-west, where I live, was cold but clear. However, the weather out east was another story as they were getting hammered with snow & ice. Long story short, after a six hour delay at the airport my flight got cancelled due to shortage of pilots. I stood in line for an hour to get re-booked only to find out that the earliest they could get me out to Vegas was Sunday night.
Since the conference last day of the conference would be Monday, I had to make the tough decision to cancel my trip. The airline refunded my money no problem. The hotel was very helpful and cancelled my reservation without penalty even though it was way past the cutoff time for that day. The car rental was no problem either after a quick call to India.
I sent an inquiry to NMX registration asking if they were going to make some accommodations for refunds due to the problems with the weather. On twitter it was very obvious that I was not the only one with this problem.
About a week later, when I still had not gotten a response I followed up with another e-mail, this time copying another contact at NMX from their contact us page. My expectations were that I would not receive a refund, but I just wanted a response. Any response.
After another two weeks of radio silence, I sent a third e-mail, this time to a completely different contact. I know there is someone working because their social media accounts keep churning out posts. However, I did not want to post anything publicly at that point, preferring to try to keep the dialog private.
It has now been six weeks and I feel like someone with one walkie-talkie. This type of response, or lack thereof, is very counter-intuitive for a brand that is built on engagement. And there is the point of this post, all of the brand equity that NMX had built up with me is now gone. Poof.
I believe when you except money from someone, they become a customer. And I believe that all customers deserve the respect of professional communication. Even if the news is not the answer they are looking for. As for me, I will likely not be going back to NMX. Clearly, I am nobody to them and that is fine. I don’t have a big audience, and I don’t have deep pockets. You see, in my day job I am responsible for a couple of small brands and we would never damage our brand by ignoring a customer. Then again, maybe I am doing it wrong.
In today’s age, social media is used for a variety of purposes. Among them, personal communication is probably the most popular way of using social media. Social media is an innovative way for people who are completely unrelated to connect, so naturally it can be used for many people and organizations.
Social media can also be used to promote businesses, both big and small. Social media is a great way for organizations to get the word out about the services that they offer because it is free and is also a current method of communication. To find out more the role of social media in promoting small businesses, and the impact of social media on these organizations, keep reading.
One of the biggest benefits of utilizing social media in the small business setting would be the ability to attract new customers. Not only are you able to reach out to new customers, but you are able to find these customers by reaching out to current ones. Offering a discount to new customers is a great way to expand your brand through social media. Additionally, connecting with current customers can be done by advertising the organization’s social media accounts at the physical location of the business. This way, satisfied customers are able to connect with the organization and also help spread the word.
Another way that social media can impact a small business would be reduced cost in advertising. Many traditional ways of promoting a business required a person to post an advertisement in a newspaper or other traditional medium. This cost, however, has been eliminated as social networking sites are free. Some of the most popular sites include Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Google plus and YouTube.
Open communication between the public and organization is a huge impact caused by social media. The business is now able to receive immediate feedback from customers through social media websites. This can be positive, even if the feedback is negative because it can be used as constructive criticism.
Creating and maintaining your brand can be a big reason as to why one should use social media. If the public has no idea what to expect from your business, social media can change that, and allow you to set the tone of your organization through status updates, colors and other content.
An example of some of the ways in which social media can affect a small business would be through the use of Facebook pages. A few months ago as I was scrolling down on Facebook, I noticed a fashion page that my friend liked. I then clicked the store webpage and was introduced to a great local business, just by using Facebook. As you can see, social media works every minute of every day to bring us content that we might light, which is basically how small businesses are advertised.
Social media has the ability to make or break a small business. If people like what they see through social media websites, a local business has the ability to go viral. For this reason, social media has a profound and often positive effect on the small business.
The internet today is a highly interactive environment. It’s no longer enough to simply post a few news pieces a month while running your business. Your fans, customers, and followers expect a higher level of visibility from you and your business, and you can use that to help your business grow naturally and effectively.
Sites like Youtube and Vimeo offer great options for your business to put out large pieces of video content to your customers. This can take the form of video blogs, showing everyday life at your business and what you have been up to lately. It can also include demos of your current project, or pieces that let you engage with your fans. A good example of this is how Google puts out full product demonstrations of their newest products and services on their Youtube page. Another example is Red Bull’s viral marketing videos that perpetuate the culture of Red Bull as active, athletic, and cool.
However, Youtube and Vimeo are not your only options for putting out video content from your business. Recently, services like Vine and Instagram Video have become very popular. These services allow you to record and post micro-videos from your smart phone. These videos can give tiny tastes of your company culture. Often, these videos are most effective if you use their miniscule lengths to comedic effect. Many video game developers use these services to provide small updates as to the latest build of their current game.
No matter the service you choose, the most important thing to remember is to show your business’ personality. Video is direct and personal, and if you remember that you will garner more customers through your content.
The internet has certainly changed the way business is conducted in the world today. The change that the world of business has seen however has been further enhanced in recent times by the advent of Google. This search engine has metamorphosed from just providing search results to providing various tools which enterprises can work with in the course of their online business. Google has indexed over a billion webpages and is by far the most popular search engine on the internet drawing traffic from all over the world. It is becoming virtually impossible to market your business on the internet without making use of Google. This is because of the sheer amount of innovations that the search engine has introduced particularly in terms of its contextual advertising model. According to projections by Piper Jaffray, internet advertising spending would amount to $55 billion. Jupiter Research projections for the US search and display advertising was $15 billion. All these go to show that the marketing model that Google operates will be heavily relied upon by the businesses on the internet far into the future.
Google’s popularity in the online search market has made it almost indispensable as most businesses move a significant of their operations online in an attempt to get to a larger audience across the globe. Recent statistics certainly prove Google’s preeminence in that market. It is estimated that 66% of the searches conducted on the internet worldwide in December were done on Google. That is two thirds of the entire number of searches conducted worldwide. Google has also introduced what it refers to as Universal Search. This simply changes the way search is conducted as it includes video, news, images and maps all in the same search, allowing you to choose the specific option you wish to get results on the search term. For instance, if you search for a particular enterprise, you can click on news to get available news updates on that enterprise or video results or even image results on the same enterprise. It provides you with a more complete experience. The importance of this to marketing your business is that you can aim at providing images, videos and news of your enterprise so that all will be found in the course of the search and with the convenience of a click.
One very important component of Google’s universal Search model is the Local Search. This allows people to find local business that pertain to localities using Google Maps. The emphasis today is on local search in order to enhance the visibility of businesses.
In order to put together a viable marketing strategy for your business, it is very important to include Google in the mix. The entire gamut of tools that Google provides can make a huge difference in the way your business is marketed online. Web Analytics, Adwords, Adsense, WordTracker, Buzz, Ad Planner, Google Local Business Center are just some of the tools available to you.
The success of eCommerce is largely a function of the company’s ability to integrate its online and offline efforts and provide the very best experience for its customers. The seamless integration of the various components of the enterprise’s operations is also dependent on the efficacy of the software platform it utilizes. These eCommerce software programs or solutions as they are known make it possible to create a seamless operation of the entire operations of the enterprise. There are a number of such solutions in the market but then their levels of effectiveness in different areas vary. Each therefore has aspects in which it is strong while there are areas in which it might have some weakness. Important areas include flexibility in design, database assistance, additional programming needs as well as product/shopping cart integration. We will examine some of these eCommerce solutions as well as their upsides and downsides.
1. 2CheckOut: Operating out of Columbus Ohio, this resource can be located online at www.2checkout.com. This resource presents a good alternative to PayPal. Its ease of use makes it very for beginners to make use of it although it may not be realistic to use it for thousands of products. Although it has higher fees than PayPal and less suited for an experienced web designer as it cannot be customized, it is still very ideal for beginners in eCommerce. (more…)
The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on the previous year and try to build on your successes. In this video I give my thoughts on how to approach goal-planning and discuss some of the techniques that have worked for me.
I would love to know your thoughts on goal planning. Please leave a comment below and let me know your tips.
Direct mail marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools in the arsenal of a small business. It combines the factors of cost effectiveness and precision with variability.
Typical advertising mail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The efficacy of direct mail as a marketing practice stems from the fact that the marketing message is delivered straight to the prospect thus cutting out the noise created by the other materials contained in marketing collateral such as brochures and catalogues.
Direct mail, while not being without its own disadvantages confers a lot of advantages on a small business. The biggest incentive for a small business to include direct mail is probably the lower cost of getting across directly to the prospects.
Direct mail also works with some tools in order to be effective. These tools include the following:
i. Sales Letter: This is one of the most fundamental yet potent tools in the direct mail marketing kitty. A great sales letter simply identifies a problem, presents a solution to that problem and then makes an offer to send something free to that effect. The sales letter is usually short enough to keep the attention of the prospect but long enough to provide the necessary information at that time.
ii. Flyer: This is one of the cheapest tools of direct mail marketing. It just requires that the small business owner print a simple flyer that will not discourage reading. It is important however, that you fold the flyer well so that it survives the postal journey. Additionally, the exposed parts of the flyer would need to contain sufficient information to entice the prospect to open and read further. These tactics are usually very effective.
iii. Postcard: Postcards are also very inexpensive but effective in generating leads in marketing. These days, postcards printing need not be done through conventional printing procedure as a small business owner can simply get a nice design and then order the print online via the internet. The size determines the volume of the marketing message that will be included on the postcard. It is however, important to note that a postcard is typically small so the marketing message has to be generally brief and direct. Make it a point to ensure that important information like your website address and phone numbers are very visible so as to encourage visits.
iv. Special Delivery: Well, special deliveries are really more expensive than ordinary snail mail but then it quite certainly guarantees that the prospect will read it. This is because a marketing material sent via express mail like FedEx or UPS indicates that the prospect is very special. It is also important not to overdo the marketing message, just keep it simple so that the prospects do not get turned off.
v. Invitation: This is also a bit more expensive than the usual mail. The incentive here is that it allows the small business owner to get very personal. For example, an invitation to a launch sent with a personalized invitation is more likely to generate interest and likely positive response.
A communications strategy is a well articulated approach to communicating with the organization’s internal and external audience taking into cognizance the organization’s goals, culture and values as well as foreseeable events. The following steps should be taken into consideration while formulating a good communications strategy for an organization.
The point of any marketing piece is to evoke a response. A call to action is how you illicit or direct that response. So one of the most important things to ask yourself when you are creating a new marketing piece is “what is the call to action?”. In this edition of MarketPain I discuss a simple technique for evaluating the call to action in your marketing collateral.
Online customer service is simply the internet based equivalent of the traditional customer service which takes place face to face or on the phone. The direction of traffic to online channels by enterprises as well as the immense growth in eCommerce has increased the load on online customer services. These days, customers are judging an enterprise’s efficacy in its online customer service primarily on three parameters:
i.The ease with which they get through their experience on the website
ii.The extent to which the site was able to satisfy their queries
iii.The ability of the site to provide the expected experience.
Customers now have far more choices than before and with that expansion comes the ability to switch from one provider to another on a whim. Bizrate.com, a rating site estimates that about 55% of shoppers simply abandon their shopping cart without entering into the actual purchasing process. Those that abandoned their purchase at the point of sale are estimated to be 32% and the major reason for these actions by customers is attributed to poor customer service. What amounts to poor customer service online includes inability to locate the product or information they are looking for or difficulty in getting round the purchase process. Sadly, when customers leave, they generally inform other people and if the old business saying is anything to go by, then the irate customer would tell about ten people. Unfortunately, the internet provides the forum for customers to leave comments and the number of people who will get to read the negative comments is simply best avoided.
There are however, some simple actions that can be taken in order to get a positive result from your online customer service.
i.Sales Process Automation: There are now a lot of automation software that operate both onsite and as installed programs. They send out mails as scheduled and these could be used to order confirmations as well as other notifications. Announcements of any promotions could also be done through this means.
ii.Ease of Contact: Apart from providing a reassurance to the customers about your authenticity, provision of contact information also makes it possible for customers to contact you easily. The contact information should be placed in a very noticeable position on your site so that the customers cannot miss it. Relevant information regarding who to contact for specific information or complaints will also serve to facilitate this contact with between the customer and the company.
iii.Email Segmentation and Personalization: The Click-Through Rates for personalized emails are almost double those of the non-personalized types but then only a mere 4% of marketers bother to personalize their email messages according to online research firm, Jupiter Research. It is therefore important that enterprises gather data regarding their customers to help them interact with them in a personalized manner.
iv.Provide a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Page: This should provide comprehensive answers to the kind of questions that people ask the most. This reduces the amount of queries that would have been directed to the customer service and saves valuable time. According to a study conducted by a research firm, Perolus Group, 42% of retail websites typically take as long as four to five days to respond to customers’ queries.
In the course of business, marketing its products or services is imperative to the success of every enterprise. The process of marketing however does not end with customer acquisition but extends to customer retention and beyond. Retaining customers is the aspect of the process where contact becomes necessary. In other words, it is important that a contact strategy be designed and properly executed for the marketing process to have a consistently positive outcome. A contact strategy basically deals with the utilization of data compiled regarding customer purchases, customer preferences and interests as well as promotion patterns to determine how often and in what order customers will be contacted. The data also helps to properly customize the company’s offers and how those offers are positioned and presented to the customer.
It is not sufficient to design a contact strategy, it must be very effective and in order for it to be so, the following characteristics need to be present.
i.Encompass customer needs, products as well as channels skills and capabilities
ii.Effectively addresses the interests of the company and the customer
iii.Recognizes the difference and uses of different channels
iv.Recognizes the extent of relationship for different customers and accommodates that fact within the strategy. (more…)
Email marketing is a subset of internet marketing and is actually used as one of the avenues through which marketing messages are disseminated online. The overall objective of email marketing is to deliver your marketing massages to your target audience, prospects as well as customers and thus drive traffic to your site as well as increase your business. Email marketing is a process that can be done by the marketer but then it is best automated. The need for automation is a direct result of the explosion in the volume of eCommerce on the internet and the attendant difficulty in coping with correspondence with customers, prospects and members of the target audience. Many firms have risen to the occasion and are providing great resources to meet that need. In order to effectively provide this service, these resources have some outstanding qualities such as:
i.Ease of Use: The user interface for an email marketing resource has to be user friendly and not resemble the cockpit of a space shuttle. The ease of navigation is a plus that makes the work of an internet marketer easier.
ii.Email Campaign Creation: It is also important that an email marketing resource provide HTML design and editing features. This is to help with the design of aspects of the campaign.
iii.Feature Set: Provision of a number of features that internet marketers will find useful in developing contact lists, create emails as well as examine results.
iv.Reports: Evaluation of the email marketing campaign is critical to the success of the program and this will be done by using reports. This feature is very important in any email marketing resource.
v.Support Services: Live support service and assistance as follow up to signing up for the resource is important for the internet marketer.
The following are five great email marketing resources: