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The essential ingredient that marketers overlook

August 21, 2014 by Richard Edwards

Flowers{{}}Business advertising spend in the UK hit a new high of almost £14bn in 2013 and is set to increase to £14.8bn this year. But are businesses getting their money’s worth?

Personally, I doubt it. And the reason is that most businesses will miss out on one essential ingredient: experience.

Experiential marketing helps consumers contextualise the narrative behind your product and service.

Let’s take perfume as an example. Perfumes are, functionally speaking, a mixture of ingredients that produce a pleasant smell.

But people don’t wear perfume for the constituent parts; they buy it for the experience, they buy it in the hopes that they will feel attractive and desirable, and they buy it to give them a sense of confidence.

How is this experience achieved? By creating a holistic experience of the product.

It starts with advertising. Perfume ads usually feature a model sauntering around looking sexy; there is usually a husky voice saying abstract words like “adored” or “eternal”; and there is either lots of colour, for fun adventurous brands (think Joop!), or black and white, for brands that focus on being sexy and powerful (such as CK).

Next comes the in-store experience. The bright lights of each perfume shelf, the imagery displayed nearby — all are designed to continue the experience.

The bottle is also key — it takes the experience from store to home. Some are rough and jagged, others are sleek and curved.

And every time the customer uses the product, they experience that vision.

How does this translate to my business?

You might say: “But my business is in accounting software, not perfume.”

But you can still apply the same thinking. Experiential marketing relies on bringing together five distinct dimensions into one holistic experience:

Feeling. What will it feel like to use your product or service?

Sensing. How do customers physically sense your product?

Thinking. The experience still needs to take into account the rational, logical value of your product or service. How obvious can you make the benefits of your product? Can you illustrate its potential with a demo?

Acting. What behaviours will your product help to facilitate? Changes in behaviour can be highly motivational and empowering, such as Nike’s classic Just do it tagline.

Relating. How does your product or service link the customer to others, or even to a projection of their future self?

As the Chinese proverb goes: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?

August 19, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?{{}}Social media platforms such as Twitter give brands a free and invaluable way to connect with clients (both current and potential), spread brand warmth, monitor competitors, manage customer service, gain customer insights and drive website traffic — what’s not to love?

Yet, many brands are jumping feet first into the social media realm without understanding the basics; in particular, how to post content. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, yet many brands still don’t understand the fundamental rules of social media. Yes, social media is integral to your brand, but going out all guns blazing with no planning or strategy may do more harm than good.

And what’s the biggest faux-pas of all? It’s using social media channels to broadcast rather than engage.

Beware broadcasting

If used in moderation, broadcast messages on social media can be effective. You can flag up new website content including blogs, news and articles. And you can attract more fans and followers by positioning yourself as an industry expert.

Yet, this must be done in moderation. If you continuously broadcast marketing messages via your social sites, people will soon switch off. Mix these messages with engaging third party content, network with customers and work to build strong lasting relationships with your followers. Social media is a long game but over time you will see results.

You wouldn’t train your in-store staff to constantly shout out brand messages in an attempt to sell to customers — apart from looking unprofessional, it would drive people away. So why do brands do this on social? The best sales people get to know their customers, they engage them in conversations, find out what makes them tick and then provide a solution to match their needs. The same should go for social media.

Twitter tactics

A report from Brandwatch shows that 25% of top brands continue to use Twitter for broadcasting purposes only. If you’re constantly broadcasting marketing messages, your content is without context, no trust is built and ultimately no sales. This can also make your brand look uncreative; your social media sites are supposed to show the human face of your organisation, to show your personality. If you’re only pushing brand messages, your business looks dull and uninspiring.

The real value comes from engaging your followers in two-way conversations, interacting with them and showing them that you care. Over the years, many brands have created a huge sense of brand warmth via their humorous and engaging social media posts; and their messages are retweeted, spreading their brand messages much further than those brands who broadcast. So come on guys, get some personality.

Are your posts falling on deaf ears?

We all know the saying; if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Well, the same goes for social; it’s all well and good endlessly posting but if you’re not engaging your followers then these posts will fall on deaf ears. If you’re constantly pushing out messages, people will soon switch off. Instead start engaging in conversations, joining in with the chatter and building up a strong sense of brand warmth and rapport with your followers.

Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

Seven benefits of using SMS for order updates

August 18, 2014 by Dan Parker

Seven benefits of using SMS for order updates{{}}Have you given much thought to how you communicate with your customers once they have ordered from your online store?

For many businesses, email is the obvious option; it is cheap, everyone else does it and all of your customers have an email address. But that is exactly the problem — because everyone else uses email, your communications get buried.

According to MailChimp, only 17.35% of ecommerce emails get opened. So, if you currently use email for order updates, then these communications are potentially reaching less than one in five customers.

The benefits of using SMS

Using SMS texts for customer service is a brilliant way to add customer value post-purchase for seven reasons:

1. It gets seen

SMS communications have a staggering open rate of 98%. Sending text messages ensures that your customers stay updated at every stage of the ordering and delivery process.

2. It is instant

At a time when customers have handed over money and they are eagerly waiting for news on their order, there is no better time to use SMS as a communication tool. 90% of texts get read within five minutes. Your customers will appreciate the instant updates.

3. It is personal

Mobile phones are very personal devices. Communicating through SMS to provide order updates shows you care and will build deep trust and loyalty.

4. It aligns with changing behaviours

With the growth of mcommerce, more and more consumers are buying goods through their smartphones. So communicating with them through a method that is more smartphone-friendly simply makes sense.

5. It doesn’t rely on internet access

Some smartphone users turn their internet off in order to save battery. Others simply don’t have 3G or 4G signal. SMS overcomes these technological issues.

6. It’s different

SMS makes your brand stand out from the crowd. With so many ecommerce businesses communicating solely through email, SMS is a great way to reach your customers.

7. It opens the door for future marketing opportunities

Once your existing customers have received customer service texts from you they are more responsive to future promotional texts that add value. For example, you could send a loyalty coupon with an embedded URL code to your online store.

The end result

SMS gives you a greater ability to keep customers informed in a way that’s personal and relevant to them, enabling you to engage with them throughout the order process. This not only leads to increased satisfaction — but also increased sales.

Copyright © Dan Parker 2014. Dan is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the marketing director of FireText.

How to find time for social media

August 13, 2014 by Sara Drawwater

How to find time for social media{{}}If content creation and social media is an important aspect of your marketing, you’ll know how much time it can take. This is probably the most common problem that SMEs face. The vision may be there but the ability to make it happen with limited resources is incredibly challenging.

Social media won't work if you don't allocate enough people and time resources to it. Here are six tips to help you manage content creation and social media effectively based on my own experiences running two businesses and attempting to manage three websites, four blogs and more than ten social media channels!

  1. Delegate some of your existing roles. If you are the person managing and/or delivering content creation and social media then you may need to restructure your role. Be realistic and understand that this work will take time. For example, I have recently delegated email enquiries (30 minutes a day), book-keeping (two hours a week) and meeting transcriptions (three hours a week). That equates to 7.5 hours a week or a whole day that I can now apply to this work. Delegating is a real discipline. You need to spot areas of work that someone else can do, select the right person to help and equip them to be successful by ensuring they have the knowledge and time to deliver. It will take time to reassign the work but after that, you'll have more time. If you don't have a team in-house, look at how virtual assistants can help you.
  2. Get your team on side. If you are a sole trader, then you are the team! But if you have a team, it’s vital that social media is not a one-man crusade. Get the rest of your staff on side and create a social business that understands the value of building relationships and social selling through attraction marketing. You will also need to assign clear responsibility with strict time scales and train staff in content creation and social media delivery.
  3. Plan your delivery. Do not underestimate the value of planning. Know your business goals and how this applies to content creation and social media. Understand the needs of your audience and create content accordingly. Create a content calendar that defines what content needs to be created, by whom and by when.
  4. Get into a routine. Figure out how you and your team work best. A fixed routine is best. Some people say they need to be in a creative mood, but what if that mood never comes? We have a habit of pushing back the work we fear or don't want to do. So try to do key tasks at specific times.
  5. Use social media management tools. Scheduling your social media posts will help you manage your time. Explore tools like Buffer, HootsuiteTweetdeck and others. But remember we are talking about social media — so as well as scheduling your posts, check in regularly to respond to people and join other conversations. You can also use social media management tools to listen and inspire your next piece of content. My preference is Buffer for scheduling and Hootsuite for listening.
  6. Get external help. If you've put all the above into place and you are still struggling to turn the vision into reality then it's probably time to look at getting external help. You'll need to explore the pros and cons of an apprentice, a new member of staff or a marketing and communications consultant.

Sara Drawwater is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy, Something Beckons.

Responding to users — not just devices

August 11, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Responding to users — not just devices{{}}The responsive web can be more than just a tech solution; it can also be about responding to users’ needs by serving the most relevant content, in the right place at the right time.

So, here’s the question: what are you reading this on right now? Or maybe the question should be what could you be reading this on right now, and why?

Taking a quick glance at my desk as I write this, there are three devices I use to consume content on the web — my desktop, tablet and phone. Actually, there are four devices if you include the printer — yup, some folks still like to print web pages and read them the old-fashioned way.

A multi-device world

For me, these devices represent a slightly different way of using the web — my desktop computer is the default for the full experience, the tablet is generally used for pure media consumption and I most often use my mobile to look something up (an address, phone number, train time) when I’m out and about.

This multi-device, multi-use situation challenges website owners and developers with choices as to how we present and deliver our web content. Do we:

  • Run with the increasing trend of true Responsive Web Design (RWD), using fluid layouts that adapt and resize the full site according to device screen sizes;
  • Target specific devices with a separate site, designed to only be shown when a users visits on particular hardware;
  • Take a hybrid approach, with a responsive framework that hides or shows levels of content depending on size;
  • Or ignore the whole thing and hope it goes away?

Obviously the last option’s not going to work — given that there are now more mobiles than people on earth. The other options need some careful consideration however, and this is where content strategy also comes into play.

Serving the right content

We recently worked with one of our long-term clients to take their existing website to “phase two” — a more engaging, interactive site with in-depth research papers and current key market data. They also wanted the site to work on tablets and mobiles.

The depth and complexity of some of the content immediately threw up an interesting question: does a user visiting the site on a phone need (or want) to access a research paper or sort through multi-column market data while on the move?

The hybrid model

We decided to test the theory using the “hybrid” responsive option — the same site, resizing for ease of use on a mobile, but with conditional content that hides or simplifies below a certain screen size. The result is a cleaner, more direct site at the smallest size, but still containing all the core information about our client (what they do, the benefits they deliver, how to get in touch) streamlined to suit the likely needs of the user.

Clear messaging also encourages them to visit on a tablet or desktop to access the full content. And, to check our reasoning, we’re tracking data and talking to users to make sure they’re getting what they need.

The app approach

For another client, we’re in discussion about a mobile-specific hotel room booking site in addition to their main website. In this case, specifically targeting mobiles will allow us to deliver an app-like experience to the customer, with the site performing very specific identified tasks — useful to the traveller on the go, who doesn’t need the complete history of the hotel and multiple sub-pages about events planning or conferencing.

As these examples show there isn’t yet a one-size-fits-all approach to responsive and mobile web design — the option you choose should be based on user analysis, content relevance, behaviour, functionality and many other factors.

Content is king

The most important thing to remember when choosing your path is that content is king. Never lose sight of why your users are visiting your site in the first place and what they want to find when they get there. Then you can make decisions about responsiveness — tech or otherwise — from an informed standpoint.

Let’s respond to user need, not just their devices.

© Dan Howard, digital director at Valiant Design.

How to use content to influence customer thinking

August 04, 2014 by Grant Leboff

How to use content to influence customer thinking{{}}In a digital world, your greatest marketer is no longer you. Rather, it is the community of customers, prospects, suppliers, partners and industry experts who engage with your business. They share links, give you mentions and, in turn, prompt others to engage with your business.

In other words, marketing today is no longer a means to an end; it is an end in itself. Effective marketing provides value, regardless of whether someone purchases from you or not.

Content is a major mechanism for providing that value for prospects and customers. It can come in all sorts of guises — competitions, top tips, games, insights, white papers, videos, articles, podcasts and more. However, the common theme is that it should provide value for the audience regardless of whether they make a purchase or not.

Attention-seeking tactics

Ultimately though, a commercial business requires marketing to lead to purchasing somewhere down the line. The logic is simple — the more people who are engaged with your business, the more attention you will have in the marketplace. So, when people are looking to purchase, this visibility should lead to your company being one of the suppliers considered.

If your value proposition and the other aspects of your offering are attractive, this should lead to business. Moreover, in the digital world, if it is clickable it is trackable. Therefore, businesses can be tracking all the data to ascertain what marketing is effective and what is not. In this way, an organisation can be constantly striving to improve results.

So far so good; but is there more a company should be doing? The short answer is... yes.

In most markets, prospects use information to learn about the different products and services available, latest trends, the experiences of others and so on. Your business should be providing content of real value — insightful, educational and which prospects will share, not overtly promotional.

Influence customer thinking

You can use this material to create competitive advantage when the moment to choose a supplier occurs. Content can influence how a buyer thinks about a product or service — use yours to emphasise the importance of the particular criteria that differentiates your business from your rivals.

Of course, different criteria will appeal to different buyers — which is why there is often room for a number of suppliers in any particular market.

Criteria of purchase is vital in deciding the supplier a customer will eventually choose. It is the ability to influence the criteria of purchase, while at the same time providing real insight and value, which gives every business an opportunity to tip the scales in its favour when a buyer is making a purchasing decision.

This is an aspect of content marketing too often ignored by businesses. So, ask yourself, how effective is your content marketing? Could you make it better?

Copyright © 2014 Grant LeBoffexpert contributor to Marketing Donut and CEO of the Sticky Marketing Club.

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