It seems that every business is looking at apps and opting for a mobile strategy, but have you thought about why and how you are going to “go mobile”?
The online market is booming, and is only continuing to grow. The majority of retailers and SMEs have already opened online channels, increasing their brand visibility and capital possibilities. Yet, it is the mobile marketplace that is yet to show off its investment potential. In 2011, UK online sales reached £68.2 billion with a 16% growth rate (IMRG, 2011). Mobile commerce sales on the other hand represented only 1% of that figure (PayPal Report, 2011), suggesting that mobile services have a lot to learn when it comes to encouraging consumers to purchase.
There are 1.2 billion mobile internet users in the world (ITU World Telecommunication, 2011), but to target them successfully, a business needs to understand their individual requirements, motivations and behaviours. Otherwise, a business may embark on ventures that are needlessly costly. Many companies have already spent time and money on developing a mobile channel to no avail.
Of course a mobile channel can bring a number of benefits for any company. In fact, 14% of UK consumers are currently using their phones to purchase (Mintel, 2011). Those businesses that have not optimised for the mobile web will rely on the patience of their users to navigate their mobile website on the browser and conversion to sales are likely to be lower due to reduced ease of use.
Meanwhile, those businesses that have optimised their website for the mobile platform will be offering convenience, ease of use and efficiency to their users, factors which will lead to consumer satisfaction and intentions to purchase. Yet, it is those companies that have developed a native mobile application that will benefit from an increase in brand visibility, accessibility and convenience.
Having downloaded a mobile application, the user will not only have expressed their desire to view that brand, but will be subjected to the brand name on daily inspection of their mobile screen. In such a way, the brands message becomes more influential. This, combined with a mobile-friendly interface and efficient navigation, will be added factors of influence.
Yet, it is the user’s desire to view an app that will lead them to download. If a consumer does not recognise the necessity of downloading a particular app then they will not do so. Furthermore, if a business adopts a mobile channel without thought to design and the user’s requirements, then their move into mobile commerce will be ineffective.
Businesses need to be asking themselves some of the following:
If the answers point towards the development of a mobile app strategy, then market research into the requirements of the consumer is essential for successful design and content. A business should not jump on the app bandwagon without first understanding why. A different channel or strategy could be just what the company is looking for.
Thomas Coles is managing director at MSM Software.
Voucher sites have grown in popularity over the past five years, and the market has grown significantly. Whilst some businesses have overlooked them in their marketing plan, voucher sites can be good for business...if you choose carefully. Below are some tips to help you to get the best out of marketing on voucher sites.
Local deals help you to generate repeat business, which is essential for building good, long-lasting customer relationships. National deals are good for generating an influx of customers, which may increase your revenue during a short space of time. However, the local customers are more likely to return.
Most voucher sites charge you a commission per sale. Never take the commission quoted at face value, and always try and barter them down to the lowest price possible. Although most won’t admit it, there is a degree of flexibility — especially if they believe your deal will sell well. Alternatively, look for a site that charges a flat fee.
Do you run a hotel? Are you a shop that sells fitted shirts? Or maybe you are a lawyer? Whatever you sector you work in, ensure the site attracts your ideal customer. Most sites specialise in B2C customers, but there are a few that market B2B services.
When people feel like they are getting a good deal, they are more likely to spend more — especially if it was under their initial budget. Create add-on services and deals that customers can purchase directly from you.
Voucher deals tend to be hugely popular, so ensure that your staff can handle the demand. Confirm the dates that your deal will be running, where the point of sale takes place (i.e. on your website, or on the voucher site), and how long the deal will be running. Most voucher sites allow you to put a cap on sales so you can handle the volume of sales, but confirm this beforehand.
Denis Kondopoulos is the senior technical project manager of everdayoffers.co.uk, a B2B and B2C voucher site.
Branding - It's a word that’s bandied about a great deal these days. But what does it actually mean and what's changing within the world of branding? The Design Council defines a brand as: "a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation.
These associations may be intentional - that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example - or they may be outside the company's control." (Source: The Power of Branding: A Practical Guide, The Design Council)
While the value of branding is growing, many small businesses still overlook the relevance of its role in helping to increase leads and revenue.
In an increasingly visual world, it's surprising that so many businesses still view branding as being purely about a logo. While a powerful logo is still important, bringing branding to life in business means ensuring that the look or design of a company matches its overall strategy. Linking brand and design with your overall value proposition and business strategy is the way to make it work for a business.
Almost half of UK businesses believe that design contributes to some extent to increased market share (46%) and turnover (44%)
So why is it that many companies continue to miss out on the full benefits of branding? Is it possible to build a company brand that actively connects with customers and delivers a real return on investment?
The secret is not about having a big budget, but about taking a well considered approach. Integrating branding within an inbound marketing approach allows companies to achieve this because inbound marketing uses technology that allows companies to research the demand that exists in their target market.
Business-owners looking for a brand with commercial impact may ask ask a design or branding agency to do the job for them. But in return for their fee they often recieve only a one-off logo or website design along with the significant level of consultation and cost associated with the rebrand. On its own this misses out on the bigger picture of branding, which is to make money for the company. Instead, it is very likely that the agency will focus on:
Great, you have a new logo, but does it reflect what your company stands for and your marketing strategy?
Even better, your branding agency or design agency is focusing on creating a powerful, joined up brand and overall design. But before you go there, take a closer look at what these companies are offering.
Do they link branding and design directly with Return On Investment (ROI)? With 7,099 design businesses in the West Midlands alone (Source: The Design Council), it's important to select a design or marketing agency that actually aims to look at what your customers want.
Despite the popular myths, your brand, your logo and your company look and design is not intended for you - it's intended for your target audience and, most importantly, aimed at generating visits, leads and sales. Here are some ways to build branding that actively boost company performance:
Make sure your branding is shaped around the demand in your existing market. Inbound marketing technology allows you to research the demand that is already out there.
Align your branding with your company's value proposition. This provides a better ROI and ensures that your branding shows what differentiates you from the competition. Combine the online research into your market with marketing persona research where you interview your existing customers, potential customers and even competition to find out what your target audience really want, what their business plans are and how your competitors sell.
Use a range of resources. Why leave your entire brand in the hands of a design or branding agency when you can have access to a wider range of resources to make it work harder for you? From heat mapping that allows you to see the demand for your services to mystery shopper facilities, inbound marketing gives you the insight to shape and create a more meaningful and profitable company brand.
You would think management is going through a bit of a revolution. More recent books like Hacking Work by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein, The New Normal by Peter Hinssen and Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar are sure indicators of a new way of thinking about how we should organise a business.
In What Matters Now by Gary Hamel, we are starting to get a better understanding of not only the need for change but also a sense of urgency. Now is the word.
Can you afford not to change?
In a world of relentless change, ferocious competition and unstoppable innovation, can you afford a centralised approach to decision-making? Can you afford bureaucracy? Can you afford decision-making that takes months, sometimes years? Can you afford to miss the weak signals from the marketplace? Can you afford for half of your staff to not be really engaged?
Can you afford not to be fluffy?
In a world of extreme transparency where the power is back with the people (read customers and staff), can you afford treating staff and customers as commodities? Can you afford not to work on loyalty and long-term relationships? Can you afford not to work on branding that is actually heartfelt and based on passion and values? Can you afford not to have a moral compass?
Can you afford greed, indifference, and incompetence?
Do you think the world can afford or will accept another economic crisis that was mainly caused by management and leadership losing all perspective on values, longevity, community and common good (instead we had greed, incompetence, deceit, denial, blind indifference to human cost, narcissism etc).
Centralised management got us into the current crisis and is as a result discredited. Staff, customers and society will soon no longer accept the current management practices. It is morally corrupt, it makes no sense and as an organisation you will not survive the onslaught of change that is currently taking place.
So is What Matters Now a good book? I’m not sure. Is the message important? Absolutely.
In some ways it is an extension of Hamel’s previous book, “The future of management”, but with a deeper sense of why and why now. What The 2020 Workplace is for HR, What Matters Now is for management. And that is saying something.
Which is why you should you read it. Now!
If you are an SME…
As a small and medium sized company, this is your opportunity to topple a giant. It is much easier for you to apply the principles and it should be closer to your heart. It makes good business sense too.
If you’ve been following the Donuts on Twitter this week, you’ll have witnessed a fascinating exchange between our very own Rory MccGwire (CEO of BHP, publishers of the Donuts) and a marketing consultant called Nigel Copley (aka @Marketing_Guy).
In short, since 2010, Nigel has been copying large swathes of content from Marketing Donut and passing it off as his own on his blog site. It’s a word-for-word cut and paste job, complete with our images, but minus any credits of course.
This content includes articles written by our in-house editorial team, by freelance journalists and also material provided by our band of experts — experts who have earned their reputation thanks to their skills, knowledge and integrity. I’m just saying…
By naming and shaming Nigel on Twitter, Rory galvanised lots of support and finally managed to persuade him to delete the content. Rory’s blog on Law Donut tells the whole vivid story.
But what does this very modern marketing saga teach us?
It’s good to report a happy ending to the saga. And we hope you keep reading and enjoying our content — on our websites!
Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut.
There’s some new writing on the wall regarding how search engines rank website and blog pages. The changes being hinted at seem designed to cut a swathe through content engineered to benefit search engine robots first and foremost, rather than the actual user.
Content that’s engaging for users is likely to become more and more important. Content written primarily for search engines, full of long-tailed key phrases designed to enhance organic search rankings, is something which is more likely to be penalised than rewarded by search engines.
SEO (search engine optimisation) has been, up to now, about improving content for the benefit of search engines. However, with new changes looming at Google HQ, engagement and relevancy factors are set to become the benchmark for organic, as opposed to paid, ranking purposes.
This doesn’t mean that all SEO is going to go out of the window. You still need to pay attention to aspects of site/blog set-up that contribute to making your content searchable. Armed with a little knowledge and some common sense it’s quite possible to improve SEO for a website or blog.
Let’s consider some of the criteria search engines take into consideration when deciding which piece of web content appears higher up the rankings than another. Search engines like Google use algorithms to determine how pages are ranked for organic search. Algorithms are just mathematical checklists that Google applies to web content to reach a conclusion as to quality. The higher a quality score, the higher the ranking potential — or so the theory goes.
Here are a few suggestions you can implement to help maximise potential for meeting quality criteria.
1. Pay attention to details such as making sure you have descriptive titles. Otherwise, how are the search engines going to know whether your content is relevant to a search enquiry?
2. All images need to have an alt tag. These are descriptions that make images visible to people who are using screen readers to access information and also to search engine robots who don’t have eyes!
3. Clear and straightforward site navigation helps, so it’s easy for people to find the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. This has implications for drop-down menus, which become necessary if a site is particularly large.
4. Having a site map can help with navigation. However, it’s no good hiding the link to the site map at the bottom of the page, which is a common oversight.
5. Grammar and spelling are important. We all make mistakes. However, a site with little obvious care and attention to the basics will not score well for Google quality.
These the basics. Now we can now turn our attention to the actual words on the page. According to Matt Cutts, head of the web spam team at Google, their engineers are currently working on ways to seek out and penalise search-engine engineered content in favour of good, relevant, quality content that is going to be of value to the user. The idea is to level the playing field, which will help many small businesses who lose out in favour of big business with big budgets for ongoing SEO work, usually based on maximising results through use of key phrases.
In the not too distant future we’re likely to see a swing back to the old “content is king” approach, with more reward being given by Google to pages with engaging content, relevant to the user, rather than content generated with emphasis based on SEO performance.
So, now I get to stand on a little soap box of mine called Google Analytics. This shows you how users are interacting with your website/blog. The analytics results give you an indication of where to improve your content, to encourage better engagement. A word of caution — success should be based less on how many people visit a page and more about how long they stay on a page and where they go next.
Encouraging visitors to visit other pages on your website is part of the key to getting search engines to regard your site as being one of quality. If people are using your site as more than a “one-page-stop” then that’s some indicator for quality scoring.
Quality scoring by search engines for organic search engine ranking is what’s underpinning the current work in progress at Google. For that reason, if you haven’t got Google Analytics working on your website or blog I cannot recommend highly enough that you do something about that ASAP.
Acquiring Google Analytics is free and getting it installed on your site or blog is too, if you have the skills to do what’s necessary. If not, it shouldn’t cost you much to get a developer to get it installed for you. The trick is to make sure the Google Analytics account is set up in your name, not under the name of the web developer.
Another simple thing you can do to improve engagement is to provide links on pages, or blog posts, to other content on your site. Doing this presents the user with instant information, without them having to go back to the main point of navigation.
If your user can be encouraged to explore other pages then that’s considered a “tick in the box” by search engines. So, it’s not rocket science to grasp that compelling content and clear navigational links are a really good idea to get in place.
Links from other sites (back-links) pointing at content on your site provides search engines with more ticks as to the quality of your site — and that includes social sharing. You need to establish a presence on social media, if you haven’t already.
If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, or any other social media channels you’re working with, but don’t have social sharing buttons on your site/blog yet, then get them or lose out. Every time a user shares your content it’s another tick for quality. By “liking” or sharing web content a user is applying their own quality rating. That’s what Google wants to see — approval of content by content users.
There are still a lot of businesses who are kidding themselves that they can manage quite well without social media. I’m afraid that for many businesses, they are likely slowly to slide into oblivion in organic search engine results because their web content will not be generating those increasingly important social signals.
Perhaps the most important fact to take on board is that your web presence should be viewed as a constantly evolving medium. A quick fix, then ignoring it in favour of offline tasks is no longer an option if you expect to see online results that are not just a flash in a pan.
Change, when it’s good, is about improving things for the better and I think the proposed developments in search algorithms are to be applauded. I shall be interested to see how things develop. Watch this space.
Sue Collini is director at Website Wings.
Read more on producing valuable content for your blog and website to improve search rankings: