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 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:
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.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) is a method of measuring the response to an online ad. It is taken in percentages and determined by dividing the total number of times the ad was presented to the user by the total number of times the ad was clicked on. It is applicable in a variety of online ad campaigns including banner ad campaigns, email marketing campaigns and Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns.
CTR is therefore one of the most important metrics for measuring the success or otherwise of any online ad campaign. A high CTR is something that many companies try hard to attain and increasing CTR in the course of a campaign is also a key objective. This is because the higher the CTR, the more likely that the conversion rate will increase. This boils down to increase in the profit margin. There are some techniques that can be used to improve the CTR of an ad campaign.
1.Avoiding Blatant Advertising: When you consider the volume of advertisement that internet users face coupled with that which they to face offline, they just develop ‘ad blindness’ after some time. Sometimes therefore, advertisements work much better when they do not look like ads. You can try using the ads in side menus or as a text placement within the site content. (more…)
Rewards programs have become an integral part of the marketing plans of many enterprises especially small businesses as it helps to not only attract new customers but also retain existing ones. Of course, creating a strong customer value proposition is also at the center of any rewards programs. A rewards programs could be simply built in-house by an enterprise to save costs but then if there is a budget for it, that function could be outsourced to a professional firm specializing in that field. The advantage of outsourcing the design and execution of your rewards program to a professional is the wealth of experience and long list of collaborators that the professional would have built over time. These would include third party companies and major merchants. The following advantages could accrue to a small business by virtue of such collaborative rewards programs:
i. Creation of a series of rewards that would have appeal cutting across the customer base
ii. In conjunction with partners, design a partnership plan that would have a long-term and strategic value.
iii. Infusion of the rewards program with innovative items such as experiential opportunities and local rewards.
iv. Reduction of offsetting of program costs via marketing activities that are co-funded, marketing exposure, co-branded partnerships as well as merchant funded rewards.
The fact remains however that reward programs, no matter how well designed, enticing and beneficial, still needs to be ‘sold’ to customers. There are therefore various incentives that can be used to encourage customers to buy into and participate in the reward program. Some of these incentives include: (more…)
Email marketing is one of the most effective means of strategies in contemporary marketing. Its efficacy is used in meeting various objectives such as customer acquisition, integration of advertising messages with emails as well as enhancing customer loyalty and goodwill. Studies have confirmed that email marketing has a Return On Investment of (ROI) of $57.25 for every dollar spent. These figures were provided by the Direct Marketing Association. It is therefore impossible to ignore this marketing strategy in the overall marketing campaign. In carrying out email marketing however, there are certain tools that will enhance its efficacy particularly as these tools help you automate the entire process thus saving you precious time. This automation tool is known as an autoresponder and it helps you keep in touch with your new and existing customers with ease. Of course, there are many of such tools out there but then it is very important that you select the very best of them to avoid having problems. (more…)
Direct mail is a marketing practice in which the promoter or seller of a product or service sends marketing messages directly to the prospect or buyer. The uniqueness of the direct mail practice is the opportunity it affords the seller of delivering the message without using another medium so that there is no loss of control of the way the message is delivered or presented to the prospect. Another point of differentiation from other forms of marketing is that the promoter also gets use one distinct opportunity to promote, pitch and probably make the sale.
There are different types or methods used for implementing direct mail and these include sales letters, catalogues or other pictorial marketing collateral, sales letters combined with brochures. (more…)
Online customer service has become very popular these days with the emphasis on internet enabled services. Enterprises are trying to ensure that they can attend more to their customers without having to go through the normal channels. However, even with this migration to the internet, a lot of challenges are still presented that pose bigger problems for businesses. Generally, customers tend to rate their experience in terms of the following:
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.
There are some basic solutions that online customer services make use of in order to deliver excellent customer service via the internet. These include the following: (more…)
Banner ads were one of the earliest types of ads that appeared on the internet and were certainly very popular. HotWired ran the first banner ad online in October 1994 for AT&T and subsequently became a source of revenue for online advert companies, generating estimated billions of dollars in ad revenue. Actually, banner ads became increasingly unpopular as a result of the roaring success of the paid search model popularized by Google. The standard measure of a banner ad’s success is the Click-Through Rate (CTR) and at its peak, banner ads had a CTR of 5% and above. These days however, banner ads command a CTR of just 0.2-0.3%.
In spite of the drop in the popularity of banner ads, it still remains a viable means of advertising and still appears on a lot of websites. Unfortunately, a great deal of the complaints regarding the efficacy of banner ads is as a result of the inability of the advertisers to observe the basic rules and changes in order to realize good results. There are some practices that can be incorporated into a company’s banner ad program that will have a positive effect on the campaign. (more…)