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Posts for May 2013

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Is your online network too big?

May 31, 2013 by Mike Southon

Is your online network too big?/social media network{{}}Assiduous networkers such as myself know that, every six months or so, it's time to do some radical pruning of the people in our online networks.

This may surprise anyone who has ever been to an event featuring a so-called social networking guru. Their message is simple: if you are not on several online networks, connecting furiously on a regular basis, you are dead to the world and your company is at severe risk of imminent bankruptcy.

This is utter hokum, as anyone who really understands the art of networking will tell you. Any network is all about quality rather than quantity, the depth rather than the breadth of your connections.

Business is about trust, and you cannot build up any sensible level of trust with a few instant messages over the Internet. Real trust only happens when people meet face-to-face, which is why all meetings should be carefully scheduled, and if they have a proper business purpose, run to a pre-agreed agenda.

There is a strong argument that we only really know 150 people, sometimes defined as Dunbar's number, named after the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who calculated a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

In networking terms, this represents people who, even if you meet them in a public place out of context, you would instantly recognise and with whom you would also remember the key elements of your business or personal relationship.

To this I would add the extra caveat that you also like them, to the extent that you would happily set aside some social time with them away from your busy work schedule.

Of course, we all have to spend some time with people we do not particularly like for work purposes, but the more we concentrate our business activities on those we like personally, the more we will enjoy life in general.

This is particularly true for salespeople, who are always encouraged by their managers to play what is called “the numbers game”. This is the simple premise that if you visit ten customers, you will have ten times more chance of making a sale.

But every experienced salesperson knows that the biggest single factor in securing a sale is that the prospect likes the person selling to them. This is about liking someone in the broadest sense, not just the personal manner of the salesperson; it also includes the overall premise of the company they work for, including product quality and value for money.

This is why the most expert networkers, such as very successful salespeople, may appear to have a very large network, but in reality work very hard indeed on a much smaller number of people. They are also aware that, as an extrovert, less people like them than they immediately assume. It is important for them to sense if they are irritating people with their naturally talkative style.

The converse is true of introverted or shy people, such as engineers and accountants. Rather more people like them than they first assume, and often the level of trust they have with customers is much higher than salespeople, who are often mistrusted when pushing for a sale.

So, my advice for all business people, whether they are expert networkers or more naturally reserved, is to go through your online address books and identify the 150 people you actually like the most, and make some quality time for them.

The mathematics is on your side. They also have 150 people they like and trust, which makes a total of 22,500 people in your close circle, or one degree separated. Whatever you do for a living, this is easily enough potential business for you and your company.

Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

 

Marketing automation - the future is already here

May 30, 2013 by John Fleming

Marketing automation - the future is already here/hand press button in data center{{}}Marketing automation will create a world where brands will know what you need before you do. However, there will always be a temptation to go one step too far.

Exploiting the power of big data, we're told, will deliver the marketer's holy grail and a promise of untold riches; delivering a VIP experience to consumers across all the channels they use. That means giving your customers a personal service highlighting the things that interest them via email, online, social media, mobile or geo-location.

Armed with the right tools, businesses are already analysing big data to predict what we’d like even before we’ve thought about it. Data is mined as we go about our daily lives and our behaviour is analysed —interactions made online, over email or through our mobiles. Put through a recommendation engine, our needs can be predicted then electronically addressed wherever we happen to be.

Marketing automation is here

The technology that makes this happen is already here. Marketing automation is acting as the glue that binds these elements together, helping marketers shift from manually creating campaigns to fully automating the majority of their communications with customers.

Take lifecycle marketing — technology is used to manage and send out emails or messages at calculated times using predictive technologies; sending the right messages at appropriate times:

  • When a customer makes an online purchase, this typically triggers a thank you email.
  • A notice of the delivery date for the order is dispatched, followed by a request to review the product.
  • Later you might find yourself on the receiving end of an email that recommends further products.

All of these are automated marketing activities, which are executed in the background and based on a series of events. Created once then forgotten, an automated marketing engine manages the whole process.

In the case of abandoned shopping carts where a purchase had not been completed, the automated marketing engine knows to send you a reminder some hours later, telling you how and where to pick up from in order to finish your purchase.

Automated marketing engines can be set to manage multi-step or single-step triggers; automating tasks so customers can be treated as individuals.

Why this matters to small businesses too

Of course, small businesses may not have the resources to exploit big data. But the principles remain the same. Overuse of email, for instance, with broad messaging that is neither timely nor relevant can harm your firm’s reputation. Persistent offenders will, at the very least, be unsubscribed and could be reported as spam.

A more focused approach — using audience segmentation and relevant communication — will pay dividends, not just by reinforcing positive brand but by driving more sales.

The shape of the future

Fast forward and imagine a world where businesses can reach you anywhere with a message to buy based on what you had been doing. Just around the corner there are a clutch of new technologies that will give marketers the opportunity to reach consumers anywhere and anytime.

Augmented Reality systems could open the floodgates for imaginative marketers and brands to bombard us with messaging 24/7 and potentially intrude in our private lives. But is it inevitable that someone might go a step too far?

It’s all about exercising restraint. Avoid bombarding people with what is unnecessary. Marketing automation with big data is going to deliver the actionable intelligence to tell us what we want, when we want but, if used correctly, it will also keep a check on that step too far.

John Fleming is marketing VP at Emarsys, the global provider of email marketing solutions and services.

Getting the most out of registrations

May 28, 2013 by Neil Cavanagh

Getting the most out of registrations/register now seal{{}}If you’ve just launched a new website, you may want to offer registration so that users can become a member and interact with your site, access premium content or to undertake a free trial.

Registration can help you identify serious users who have shown interest in your site as they have taken the time to complete the registration process.

The registration form

Ensure that there is a link to your registration form on almost every page on your site. And using a service like Google’s analytics, you’ll have some wonderful information at your fingertips — such as how the user arrived at your site and which pages they viewed.

A registration form should always be as simple as possible and ask for the minimum of information to fulfil the process; the more fields you include, the more likely you’ll put users off finishing the registration.

Verifying that the user exists

There are many organisations on the internet that target legitimate sites for spamming on forums or posts. A piece of software called a bot may try to register for your site to post spam links.

You can help reduce the likelihood of a bot attack by making a user confirm their email address through a unique link or by a captchta phrase that displays an image of usually two distorted words that only humans can read.

What should I do once the user has signed up?

The simple answer here is — wait and see what the user does on your website.

This information can give you a valuable intelligence for future marketing campaigns such as: which words to target for a PPC campaign and also identifying the areas of your website that may require more refinement or promotion.

Your routes of communication should be clearly outlined in your terms of use that the visitor should agree to before they register.

Better than cold calling

Once a user has registered, you’ll immediately have a warm lead that you can follow up. Not only can you get valuable information about your site, you may also have a good opportunity to sell your product or service and find out more about what the user is actually looking for and what other sites they have researched.

Top tips for registrations

  • Make sure your registration form is as simple as possible to complete;
  • Ensure that your privacy and terms of use policies tell the user that their data is safe and the future communication channels you may open with them;
  • Ensure the form is validated before it’s submitted;
  • Keep a track of your follow-ups to avoid pestering your customers;
  • Give them the facility to opt out of future marketing communications;
  • Seek feedback on your website and service, particularly during a new launch.

Neil Cavanagh is the managing director of Xpress Data Systems.

What is the future of business?

May 28, 2013 by Ron Immink

What is the future of business?/future business{{}}Brian Solis is the author of Engage and The end of business as usual. In my view, he is one of the best in social media and marketing. His latest book— What’s the future of business (#WTF ) — is an extension of his first two books and it expands on the constant feedback loop or what he now calls the experience loop or Dynamic Customer Journey (DCJ).

The experience

There is an unforgiving technology revolution, which is raising customer expectation to new heights. In the future, everything is experience. Not an experience, the experience.

Total recall

The future is total recall. Your brand is the sum of the experiences. For an average purchase, ten sources (mostly online) are checked. Customer feedback is the most prominent source. Every experience is logged, communicated and shared by Generation C — the connected generation — not as a demographic, but as a way of life. How are they talking about your business?

Generation C sharing everything

Generation C will share their experiences on a wide range of channels and media. So you will need to engage. Engage across all those channels and along the dynamic customer journey. Within that there are what Solis calls “moments of truth”; not only when customers are buying but also when they decide that they are happy or not happy with the buy and during the period when they are using the product or service. In the future, the medium is not only the message, the medium is the experience.

Brand is everything

The always-on moment of truth platform is your brand. That is where the marketers need to focus. Which makes #WTF a marketing book, not a social media book and in some ways is very similar to “The old rules of marketing are dead”.

Marketing is back

We give marketers a lot of stick. A lot of them are useless. New marketers need to walk in the shoes of generation C and map out the experience loop across all technology, across all the communication channels, across all touch points. They need to embrace the new metrics — loyalty, positive endorsement, advocacy, reviews and referrals — and engage with their audience.

The dynamic customer journey must be consistent with the brand you want to project.

Chief experience officer

If you follow Solis’s advice you will still be the CEO, but also now the Chief Experience Officer. If not, you might be the Chief Executive Officer of a dying business.

Ron Immink is the CEO and co-founder of Small Business Can and Book Buzz — the website devoted to business books.

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor

May 22, 2013 by Anthony Garvey

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor/chalk drawing{{}}You’ve given your presentation or made a speech. It has gone brilliantly — although you say it yourself. You ask if there are any questions … and over the next few minutes your smile begins to fade as you are caught off guard by a series of tricky and complicated questions from the audience.

Your failure to answer them convincingly undoes much of the good work you had put in during your speech. So how did it all go so wrong?

Here are eight tips to help you prepare:

  1. When you’ve finished preparing your presentation, sit with a blank sheet of paper and write down and answer some easy questions you think you may be asked. Then tackle some of the more awkward questions you can think of. Ask a trusted friend to listen to your speech and get them to ask you some questions too. Importantly you should also ask them to give you feedback on your answers to their questions.
  2. It’s important to anticipate the mood of the audience in advance. If you expect the atmosphere to be tense or confrontational, then give yourself more time to prepare for the Q&A session. 
  3. It’s a good idea to start off a Q&A session getting the person who introduced you to ask the first question, a pre-agreed question for which you are fully prepared. Another tip is to ask and answer the first question yourself. This allows you to set the agenda.
  4. Watch out for any hidden agenda questions. Don’t dismiss or brush off these questions. Listen carefully and you will be able to answer both their initial query and address the underlying problem.
  5. From time to time we are all asked questions we don’t know the answer to or even worse, are asked questions we feel we ought to know the answer to, but don’t. It is best in these circumstances to be honest and open, rather than bluff or waffle. A suitable response might be: “I don’t have that information to hand right now, but if you leave your contact details with me, I will send it through to you later today.”
  6. Pause. Pausing for a few seconds to consider your reply before leaping straight into an answer may feel unnatural at first, but with practice it can give you the extra seconds you need to formulate a coherent reply.
  7. When the Q&A session has finished ideally you should be the last person to leave the room, giving you time to address any final concerns people may have on a one-to-one basis.
  8. Finally, joining a public speaking club such as Toastmasters can be a great way to practice presentation skills in a safe and encouraging environment. In particular, taking part in impromptu speaking session (often known as table topics) where a member is asked to speak for up to two minutes on a subject they have not previously seen is great preparation for answering difficult questions. Taking part in these activities allows speakers to develop their ability to organise their thoughts quickly, an essential weapon in a speaker’s armoury when mastering the Q&A session.

Anthony Garvey is founder of Quinn Garvey PR and a member of Toastmasters International.

Posted in Sales | Tagged presentations | 0 comments

Boost your open rates - the best time to send your marketing emails

May 20, 2013 by Guest Blogger

It’s easy to make assumptions about consumer behaviour — many marketers believe that sending emails first thing in the morning benefits their open rates as they will be at the top of people’s inboxes when they arrive in the office.

In fact, our research shows that they really need to get to know their sector audience and be aware of unexpected trends — such as the habit people have for opening emails that they receive as the time pressures of the work day ease off on the commute home.

In fact, the best time to send an email is now as people are finishing up at work and heading home: over a quarter (26%) of emails are read if they are sent between 5pm and 6pm — 9% above average. 

Our research also shows that autumn is the best time of year to launch an email campaign. Over a fifth (21%) of marketing messages sent between September and November are opened, compared to a 17% average.

We regularly see high volumes of email campaigns being sent around key holidays but this research confirms that they’re not having the biggest impact. It’s worth marketers looking for times when inboxes aren't so competitive and recipients aren't distracted by holidays and festivities.

Based on the research, Pure360 has identified the peaks and troughs throughout the day of when consumers are most receptive to being sent emails. These include the “Hike of Hope” when sending leisure emails is particularly successful, and the “Practical Pinnacle”, the point at which sending finance emails is most effective.

Abi Jacks is head of marketing at Pure360.

Boost your open rates - the best time to send your marketing emails/Infographic{{}}

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