I have been looking forward to Taleb’s new book, Anti-Fragile. And I was right. Having read it, I think it is a core book that touches on an enormous range of books we cover with our clients. Everything from Loose, Brand Washed, Thinking Fast and Slow and Future Babble to Poke the box and Blink.
The importance of soul for credibility
Taleb does not like academics, marketers, bankers, managers and futurologists. He distrusts statistics, doctors and medicine, large organisations and large systems. He believes in applied learning versus theory and universities, loves entrepreneurs, thinks that honour and soul in the game are essential for credibility and that small is beautiful. He loves books, reflection and slow flow.
Anti-Fragile will most definitely make you think.
Lessons for business
Businesses should study the barbell approach (the middle is for suckers, better to combine super safe with very high risk). They should question their approach to innovation, look at the way they train staff and beware of the Lindy effect.
What’s the Lindy effect?
Old is not necessarily bad, the longer something has been around, the longer it will be around. The chair (as in furniture) does not need to worry. However, if I was Facebook, I would be very concerned.
Taleb says that anything that is non-measurable and non-predictable will remain non-measurable and non-predictable, no matter how many PhDs you put on the job. There is a limit to knowledge that can be reached, no matter how much you rely on sophisticated statistical and risk management science.
Provided we have the right type of rigor, we need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living, compared to the structured, fake, and ineffective life of an empty-suit CEO with a preset schedule and an alarm clock.
An old adage that small businesses use to remind themselves about the importance of customer service says that, “Every dissatisfied customer tells 13 people and every satisfied customer tells two”.
It seems as if the deck is stacked against you doesn’t it? But what this concept really says is that word-of-mouth is a powerful tool. And small businesses that take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing are successful.
Business Review has a handle on the effects of word-of-mouth. It reveals that “92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising when making a purchasing decision.” Since 2009, less than half the people seeing television ads, magazine or newspaper ads believe they are credible. These figures explain why online marketing is growing so rapidly.
The importance of customer service
However, businesses of all sizes need to understand what word-of-mouth marketing is. In its simplest form, Customer A is pleased with her purchase and confides in a friend who becomes Customer B. This is the desired progression of word-of-mouth marketing.
Of course, a lot goes into pleasing Customer A. The component of a business that impresses people is customer service. Strong customer service can even cover product deficiencies. If you expect to succeed with word-of-mouth marketing, you must have a strong customer service protocol.
And, of course, today’s word-of-mouth marketing should include mobile marketing and text (SMS) marketing.
The influence of social media
Consumer buying habits and shopping habits are changing dramatically — thanks to smartphones, iPads and cellphones. One of the more powerful means of word-of-mouth marketing is provided in social media.
Factbrowser recently published some interesting statistics about word-of-mouth marketing:
In addition, comScore 2012 reports that 20% of smartphone users scanned barcodes in 2011 and one in eight consumers ran price comparison tests on their smartphones while they were in a store.
Yes, word-of-mouth marketing is critical to increased sales. Just make sure you get the word to mobile users and social media. Only then will you be maximising your exposure.
Lewis Edward is a co-owner of The Office Providers, providers of office space, serviced offices and business centres.
If out-selling your competitors in 2013 is your goal, then here are seven simple tips to get you started.
1. Ring-fence your existing accounts
If you want to get ahead, and stay ahead, of your competitors in 2013, the very first thing you need to do is ring-fence all your existing customers. What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if a competitor had been in? And if they did, would you retain the business at the same price, or would you have to price match to keep it?
2. Focus your prospecting
The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are in 2013. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal for you than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find them out — and fast! If you’re really not sure, take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them purchase at the moment they did?
3. Become a “valued resource”
In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. Get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision-makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold!
4. Have a plan for your attack
One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition is to win some of their customers from them! Why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory, then create a call plan for getting in to see them, and focus on winning their business. Experience shows that focused approaches like these have a far better chance of success — and also put a big dent in your competitor’s motivation at the same time.
5. Increase your activity
Now, once you’ve targeted your prospecting, the next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity and the reason for this, is that the more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose! Purely by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
6. Keep motivated
We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.
7. Sharpen your sales skills
If you want to stay ahead of your competition in 2013, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills. This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources. If you get some internal training at your company, great! If your company invests in bringing an external trainer to help you improve, even better! If you’re one of those people that believes in investing in yourself (even if your company doesn’t), I take my hat off to you.
However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are lots of free or low-cost podcasts you can listen to and plenty of seminars you can attend without spending a fortune. Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.
Here are my predictions for four of the key trends that businesses will see in 2013:
Marketers as publishers
2012 proved to be the year marketers took a big step forward as content creators and publishers. Forward-looking marketing departments have established newsroom-style editorial teams tasked with creating engaging, relevant content that can be used across multiple channels.
As we look ahead, 2013 will be the year marketers refine how they distribute content outside their owned properties. The platform and solution providers who can provide compelling distribution options will be successful in the new year.
Native advertising will become a common practice in 2013 as marketers develop content they can use across a number of channels and advertising platforms become more context-aware. Native ads don't interrupt the user experience by popping up or getting in the way, they are part of the content and include everything from advertorials to product placement. Native ads will prove useful in reaching prospective buyers during the most critical times in the purchase decision process and content will create a richer brand experience for audiences. On an extreme level, specialty applications and useful tools will be developed for social networks and communities that blur the boundaries between advertising and business applications.
Big data goes deeper
In 2013, big data will migrate from broad-based use, such as retail and general online behavior, to more vertical-specific applications. In a vertical setting, marketers can use specific user data to go deeper, and understand purchasing behavior and the marketing tactics and programs that can drive sales and higher levels of engagement with the brand. Marketers will crave more vertical expertise and specialty tools to learn more about a specific, highly-targeted audience.
Social networks go niche
Marketing on horizontal, B2C-designed social networks will take a back seat in 2013 while niche, vertical networks and communities rise in popularity. Online communities tailored to specific sectors, such as Wave (for accountancy), SumZero (for investment) and Spiceworks (for IT) will continue to emerge and prove effective for marketers looking to engage with a specific set of buyers.
Communities will also drive much higher engagement levels by developing their own cultures based on passionate members with shared professional goals. This shift will give marketers a unique place to reach qualified professionals with significant buying power. Measurement and engagement tools will emerge to help marketers tap into these groups.
Adam Weinroth is the executive director of Spiceworks.
What can you learn from your competitors? When it comes to email marketing, I’ve been analysing the habits of the top 100 online UK retailers to understand what common good habits they have that enables them to get the best value from email marketing.
All email marketing has to start with an email address. If you’ve nobody to talk to the best message in the world won’t work. So gaining and maintaining quality data is a fundamental building block for all successful email marketing.
One of the best places to collect email permission is on your website. I analysed where on the page the subscribe form was placed. What I discovered was that top right is the best location to maximise sign-ups. It’s where consumers are used to seeing the sign-up and its immediate presence as soon as a visitor comes to the page means it’s going to be seen and increase the number of subscribers you gain.
This is, of course, prime real estate on your web pages and use of the space will be competing with other marketing objectives. You need to decide on what the smallest, easiest and logical first step a visitor to your website can be persuaded to make in their customer journey.
However, positioning the subscribe form at the bottom of the page is also very popular amongst top brands. Having the form here can work for those visitors who, whilst not ready purchase, have engaged with your content and scrolled through the page and are interested enough in your brand to know more and thus subscribe to your email programme.
Looking to maximise signups? The location is not an either or question, use top right and page bottom for best coverage.
This goes further too. The brands that are most successful in building their permission email database integrate their collection of email addresses in multiple places and channels. The more often you ask for an email address the more often you’ll collect one.
Work through all touch points you have, such as:
In all cases, giving a good reason for someone to hand over their email address makes the difference between good and great list growth. For example, these are not reasons for someone to subscribe:
Whereas using free, win, save type incentives are reasons, such as:
Good examples of brands getting it right and all the findings from the analysis of the top 100 brands is available for free download in three whitepapers.
In the current climate, not all businesses can afford to pay hundreds if not thousands of pounds to marketing or SEO agencies to improve the ranking of their websites.
However there are some simple steps businesses can take which will help drive your website up the search engines.
1. Make sure all your products and services are described in depth
Google’s search engine works on a very simple question and answer model. You type in what you want and Google returns the websites that best match your search. Therefore your website needs to include all the names and various terms (keywords) that describe your products and services. Google also likes to see your products and services described and worded naturally, with lots of support information that relates to that content.
2. Add new content regularly
If you read the newspaper every day and it reported the same news stories week after week, you would never buy it. View your website in the same way. Generally speaking, Google ranks websites that update their content regularly higher than those that do not. Why? Because Google wants to present current content to its searchers.
New content may include such things as better product or service descriptions, company news, market news, new clients, new projects, case studies, testimonials, guides, video, photo gallery, hints & tips, articles — you get the picture!
3. Generate some inbound links to your website
Why create inbound links? Because Google interprets this as somebody else endorsing the quality of your website, which is a big thumbs up.
Getting a link from another website to yours can be easy, but unfortunately these tend to be the ones that don’t carry any value. Links can be generated from lots of websites, including suppliers, customers, industry associations, industry magazines, industry news and articles, trade and general directories and portals.
There are also many different ways to achieve the link. With a directory it might simply be a case of adding your company details, which is why they don’t often carry any value.
With suppliers you might want to write a press release on a recent project endorsing their products. With a customer you could write a press release celebrating your longstanding relationship. With industry sites you may wish to offer your services to blog and comment on certain topics.
When you create a link within an article, where possible try to link from a keyword to the relevant page on your website. You may have to pay for some of your links, particularly in things like industry news websites or general news websites. If the website has a reasonably high page rank, then this is certainly worth considering.
4. Create a blog
As I mentioned, Google gives credit to websites that update their content regularly. Create a blog on your website that enables you to add comments and news information on what’s going on in your business on a regular basis.
5. Create links within your website
Google likes to see websites that are well structured and which help visitors navigate through the site effectively. Within the wording of your website, create links to other pages where people might wish to go for more information.
If you are in an extremely competitive marketplace, deploying these tactics alone is unlikely to get your website to the top of page one for your target keywords. Whilst the ranking of your website will certainly improve, to achieve the top positions on Google you will require the support of a specialist SEO agency.
Jonathan Scott is sales director at Northern Light Media.