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:
The gravitation towards eCommerce has increased with the rapid and continuing evolution that taking place on the internet. Almost on a daily basis, new enterprises emerge, leveraging on existing or novel technologies and ideas to operate. In many instances, these new enterprises have grown to become successes although many eCommerce enterprises have folded up. We will take a close look at some eCommerce enterprises that were able to design and execute a plan that ensured success.
i. Carl Stuart: UK based company; Carl Stuart is in the business of supplying laboratory and field equipment, process filtration technologies as well as full technical support services to their clients. The company’s client base comprises Governmental organizations, institutions as well as companies in diverse industries across the UK and Ireland. Seeing the opportunities that the internet and eCommerce offered them, the company decided to leverage on that in order to make sales online through B2B trade accounts with manageable credit limits. They also needed integrate their offline sales and procurement efforts with the eCommerce software while reducing the cost per transaction and raising turnover through customer accounts automation. Using a platform designed by an eCommerce provider, the company was able to integrate trade account functionality with their website thus allowing customers set up and manage their own accounts online. This ensured that the company’s sales team became free to focus on business development. The benefits that immediately accrued to the company included opening of new streams of revenue and cost reduction per sale while increasing efficiency and providing up to date customer information. Customer experience also became significantly enhanced resulting in a better relationship with the company.
ii. Dell: This was one of the earliest success stories in eCommerce. Launching its eCommerce model about 1994, Dell excluded retail outlets and middlemen while selling directly to customers over the internet. The company took little time to register its mark as the first company to record a million dollars in sales online. Dell’s success in due in large part to the model that it adopted in making the customers a part of the purchase process in terms of choice and control. The company’s website allowed buyers to click through and make their own choices of the components of the computer thus virtually assembling the computer on their own. By the last quarter of 2002, Dell had logged a billion page views on its website. This choice and control given to the buyers also made it possible for Dell to feel the pulse of its customers regarding the functionality of the site as well as what exactly the customers wanted. The company does not build a computer until the buyer has ordered so it did not have to own a central warehousing facility rather it ships the computer directly to the customers depending on the geographical origin of the order from its plants in Ireland, Tennessee, Brazil, China, Malaysia or Texas. Dell also ensured that their B2B customers had a special interface that allowed them to customize the computers ordered to suit their company’s needs. By 2002, about half of Dell’s revenues were derived from their website and this amounted to about $16 billion.
CRM solutions are fast becoming ubiquitous these days as even small businesses adopt CRM to enhance their service delivery. There are generally two types of CRM solutions; hosted and web- based. While the former are installed on and operated via the enterprise’s local network, the latter is hosted on the Application Service Provider’s server and accessed via the internet. Online CRM which is web-based is also known as OnDemand CRM, Browser Based CRM, Hosted CRM and more recently as SaaS (Software as Service).
Online CRM solutions have some distinct advantages that accrue to the user. Its use is also dependent on the peculiar needs of the enterprise. The advantages that online CRM offers include the following:
i.Speed of implementation.
ii.Ability to get automatic updates.
iii.Comparatively less cost of procurement and complete acquisition
iv.Swift sharing of information within the enterprise
v.Reduction in procedure as backend systems are not required
vi.Easy accessibility as it is internet based
There are also many online CRM solutions in the market but then some are more proven than others. Some of those outstanding CRM solutions include the following:
i.InfusionCRM: This CRM solution is well suited to small and medium sized enterprises as it offers reliability, comprehensiveness and sophistication. Tracking and consolidation of sales information within the single system is one of the key incentives to use InfusionCRM. It includes autoresponders, product information, order history, payment plans, lead tracking, customer details and much more.
ii.ACT: ACT is classified more as a contact software but then when viewed from its capability to help enterprises keep in touch with its customers and also track orders, it falls within the CRM class. It also compatible with many mobile phones, supports customization as well as third party software thus adaptable for many small businesses.
iii.Zoho CRM: This CRM solution is cloud based and offers features very useful to small businesses. Some of these features include sales forecast, role-based security, reports and dashboards, sales and marketing integration, inventory management. This CRM solution also supports third party software such as Microsoft Outlook. This works very well with small businesses that are just starting out because of its ease of use and adaptability. It is also quite cost effective as it is usually free for the first three users and payment commences from the fourth user at a reasonable rate.
iv.Relenta: This is a relatively new solution and has a lot of features that would integrate easily with a small enterprise’ business process. It incorporates email marketing with its core CRM solutions and for internet marketing firms, it could be very ideal. It also integrates with popular applications like Aweber, Salesforce, Outlook and Constant Contact.
v.iContact Pro: This solution combines contact management with email marketing functions. It very easily makes the tasks inherent in small internet marketing businesses like email newsletters distribution, email marketing and sales lead monitoring much easier. The price is also quite affordable, starting at $9.95 monthly depending on how large your email list is.
E-Business is a natural extension of the internet. The concept refers to the transaction of business via an electronic means, usually the internet or any of its mediums. E-business has certain characteristics and these include the following:
i. The use of the internet for the full transaction of its business.
ii. The combination of traditional model of running an enterprise with actionable business information obtained via the internet.
iii. Combination of traditional means of running an enterprise with an online selling platform.
iv. Business models that work to compile data on various customer and market segments and then make this information available to third parties for a fee.
v. The use of technological devices to facilitate financial exchanges or other kinds of exchanges.
vi. The adaptation and modification of traditional models with IT facilities.
E-marketing is a subset of e-business. It is the means through which a business promotes the products or services that it is offering on the internet. The practice of running an enterprise on the internet and promoting its services or products using e-marketing tools or resources presents that enterprise with distinct advantages. These include:
i. Reduction of overheads as the enterprise does not have to invest huge funds in warehousing or high office rents.
ii. Potential increase in sales
iii. Access to global markets and presenting the firm’s products and services to the market across the clock
iv. Opportunity to carry out market segmentation
v. Provision of convenience for customers and seller alike
We will take a close look at a few businesses that have successfully implemented e-marketing.
1. Anthony Nicholas Group: This company deals in jewels and having discovered that the internet presents a veritable means for showing its products to its target audience, the company decided to invest in the necessary infrastructure to make this possible. The challenge was in providing a reliable full back office system to replace the existing one. Two websites also had to be designed to cater separately for the Irish customers and the American customers. A web-based interface for customer interaction had to be developed and then supported with an accounting system that replaced the existing one, all technology based. The websites were also built to serve as marketing tools for the promotion of the products of the firm.
2. Dubarry:This company specializes in footwear designed for sailing. It decided to delve into the e-business world in order to leverage on the opportunities provided by the internet to bond with its customers. The company succeeded in its objectives as a result of three factors; a critical assessment of its internal operations and how it can work as a an e-business model, the possible challenges it will face as it alters its traditional business model to suit the internet and then how it can harness the opportunities therein. The website it built and uses as a platform to reach out and interact with its customers and target market has now served to reduce the administrative load involved in dealing with its various distributors. Customer interaction and also been an advantage of this switch to the new model as well as streamlining the process of ordering products from the company.