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.
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.
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…)
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.
A strategy lays the foundation for the success of any enterprise and the internet is no exception. The fact is that on the internet, given that the rules are quite different, there is a more pressing need for a marketing strategy and an accompanying plan to execute it. In all, a great strategy and the ability to execute it will guarantee success in the contentious scene of internet marketing.
In order to have a great strategy, it is imperative that a great product or service be in place. The strategy is after all, built around the need to successfully promote such a product or service. The product or service ought to be available on the internet and delivery via same ideally should be made possible. The uniqueness of the product or service is a very critical factor in its success. This is because of the need to reduce competition for customers.
In practical terms, when you have ensured that the product or service to be promoted meet high standards, you have to take some steps: (more…)
The term ‘web analytics’ refers to the collation, measurement, analysis and reporting of internet data. The objective of web analytics is to understand and optimize the usage of the web. Its use is not restricted to the measurement of internet traffic to a website but can also be used to carry out market and business research. Additionally, it can be integrated with a marketing campaign so as to understand the effects of the traditional means of advertising on the traffic to the company’s website. The fact however is that web analytics have become an imperative for the success of any online enterprise especially a small business as it gives the small business owner the opportunity to determine the response rates to the website’s online investments.
In carrying out web analytics, there are certain terms that are used widely, representing specific metrics. These include among others:
Hit: This refers to a request made on a web server for a file
Page View: A request made on a web server for a particular file representing a page on the site.
Visit/Session: While a visit is defined as a number of requests from a unique visitor for a page with a time lapse between each request of not more than 30 minutes, a session takes place when the unique visitor does not depart from that site to another within that same time frame of 30 minutes.
First Visit/First Session: This occurs when a website has a visit from a visitor who has not been to that site before.
In carrying out web analytics for your small business, it is important to take the following steps:
Collate Data: The first thing that you must do is to collect sufficient data and you can easily do this using any of the web analytics tools like Google Analytics. These data include among others, web logs, form to email requests and CGI requests.
Convert the Data: You will also have to convert the data generated by the web analytics tool to a format that you can easily work with. Luckily, most web analytics tools do most of the work for you.
Data Analysis: Bearing in mind that web analytics helps you discover trends, you need to analyze your data by looking for the following:
If there is a specific timeframe for some visits
The most popular pages on the site
Whether visitors browse more than a page before departing the site
The average time used by your visitors on the site
The source of traffic, if they come from search engines
The primary exit pages for your site
The sites linking to yours.
Integrate The Insights Obtained: Now that you have gotten answers to these questions, you have to integrate the answers into your efforts by remedying any deficiencies.
Watch The Difference: The purpose of the changes you are making is to create a better impression with your visitors. See how that works.
Re-evaluation: Web analytics is not a one-off activity. Once you have implemented the necessary changes, you need to embark on re-evaluation to ensure that all is right.
Adeptly address today’s business challenges with this powerful new book from web analytics thought leader Avinash Kaushik. Web Analytics 2.0 presents a new framework that will permanently change how you think about analytics. It provides specific recommendations for creating an actionable strategy, applying analytical techniques correctly, solving challenges such as measuring social media and multichannel campaigns, achieving optimal success by leveraging experimentation, and employing tactics
Ecommerce is the trend in the world today as enterprises try to make forays into domains that were hitherto inaccessible except with the huge financial investments. Today, small enterprises, even home based businesses have the opportunity to compete with other business on a global level via the platform provided by the internet. The statistics for ecommerce is certainly encouraging and as the evolution of the internet continues, the opportunities also improve. The retail holiday sales in the US were estimated at $39 billion as at 2007 while 70% of leisure travelers made some of their personal travel booking online. The figures for car shoppers online that started the process online stood at 53% while about 42% of the online shoppers said they use comparison engines online before making a purchase decision. The foregoing statistics go a long way in showing that ecommerce is growing and the competition will be won largely by businesses that take a lot of technical and business details into consideration. In all, there are a number of mistakes that must be avoided if you are to succeed in your ecommerce efforts. (more…)
As ecommerce continues to grow exponentially, more people are getting involved in it especially one of its facets; affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is simply the practice of promoting and selling the products or services of a merchant for a percentage of the profit accruing from the sale. As ecommerce grows in popularity and enterprises try to sell their products and services on the internet, many are turning to affiliate marketing to help them get an online salesforce to promote and sell their products. The field gets more crowded daily as more people join the affiliate marketing profession and as this happens, there is the need to strategize properly in order to succeed.
There are various techniques that can be applied in affiliate marketing to enhance the efforts as well as boost the chances of making actually sales. We will look at five of such techniques: (more…)
Customers are generally known to be careful about the way they spend their money. A lot of consideration goes into the purchases made by customers but at the end, the question they always ask is this; ‘what do I have to gain?’ They want to know why they should buy a product or engage a company for service in preference over others. It is never an easy task for a marketer to craft a value proposition as it is an encapsulation of so many issues that combine at the end to present a compelling reason for the customer to deal with a particular enterprise instead of others competing with it. Furthermore, this value proposition is usually just a statement that condenses so much for the customer to digest easily. Therein lies the difficulty and the potholes facing most marketers and their companies. We can summarize these challenges like this: (more…)
The concept of Permission Marketing in its present form was formalized by Seth Godin, Vice- President of Permission Marketing at Yahoo!, the successful web portal to which he sold his firm, Yoyodynewith which he pioneered the concept in 1998. The concept is built around the negative reaction of the average consumer towards undesired promotional messages which can be categorized as ‘interruption marketing’. This negative reaction necessitates a positive alternative which permission marketing provides. It is thus according to Seth Godin, “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them”.
The success of the concept of permission marketing is thus founded on certain conditions. The following are some of those factors why the concept has proven successful: (more…)
The concept of marketing goods/services using articles is not unique to the internet although its popularity is attributable to the internet. Hitherto, people hired Public Relations professionals to create buzz for their business and in the course of generating the desired publicity, they wrote press releases and articles about the business for publication in various print media. This enabled people to get a perspective on the business being marketed. One of the commonest objectives of writing such articles was positioning the business as experts in their market or field of operations. Article writing using the print media however has its attendant problems or disadvantages. It was a bit restrictive in that it was read only by people within its geographical reach particularly if it happened to be a local paper.
The internet has changed the way articles are published and propagated. Today, anyone can who can write can get an article published. There are however attendants issues as well and these include: (more…)