Just when you think you’ve got your head around social media, along comes something new to add to the marketing mix.
In fact, there have been a number of new social media platforms coming to the fore in the past year. Embraced by the younger generation - who can spot cooler alternatives to Facebook when they see it - new platforms like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram have really taken off.
Now we have Meerkat and Periscope, two live video streaming apps that have been launched in quick succession (and in competition with each other). You may not have heard of these new apps or have any experience of actually using them, but what they have in common is native video.
Let’s focus for a minute on the safe ground that is Facebook. How many video clips do you see in your news feed? I’m guessing quite a lot - either clips of family life uploaded by friends, compilations of cats doing silly things, or live video streams from the brands or business pages that you have Liked and followed. All of these examples are native video.
And they are "native" because the video is uploaded or created directly on that social network and accessed via that network without being redirected to another site such as YouTube.
Video now accounts for almost 80% of all web traffic. And native video seems set to absolutely sky rocket, especially when you take into account the fact that video views on tablets and smartphones more than doubled last year alone.
Social media apps such as Periscope and Meerkat have now made live streaming video content incredibly accessible, and it opens up all kinds of new marketing avenues.
So Twitter is no longer just about choosing your words carefully, you can now publish video content of up to 30 seconds in length using Periscope. And Meerkat enables users to stream video directly on Facebook.
In short, video is big news; there are some three billion video views a day on Facebook alone, according to some estimates.
Savvy businesses are now adopting native video into their marketing strategies. Big brands and small firms alike have recognised that the potential of live video streaming goes way beyond cute cats and dippy dogs; it's a powerful marketing tool that offers a new way of directly engaging with their target audience - without expecting them to shift their attention from one online environment to another.
Copyright © 2015 Sarah Orchard
The Sales Executive Council (SEC) has found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here's what they found.
(As you read this, ask yourself two questions: "Which am I?" and "Which is best?")
Those two questions again:
The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.
But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customer thinking.
So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.
The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".
The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think "Well I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.
Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.
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It's time to start planning for Christmas and there are six key areas that business owners need to focus on: internal communications, audience segmentation, attribution, email targeting, display advertising, and affiliates.
Set up a cross-departmental "peak planning board" so that everyone in the business understands their role in the build-up to Christmas. It is especially important for marketing and fulfilment teams to be in constant contact as seasonal campaigns and promotions must be supported to allow the supply of high-demand items. Marketing teams can also help drive stock movement by creating promotions for items that are lagging behind in sales.
Businesses need a deep understanding of shopper behaviour in the build-up to Christmas so they can segment and target their marketing effectively. Using insights from previous years, it is possible to identify the frequency and value of a customer's purchases, whether they buy from you throughout the year or only at Christmas, or whether the type of purchase they make changes at Christmas. This information will help you determine the level of personalisation and the type of marketing message to apply to different customers.
Advanced attribution takes account of every touchpoint; every device, platform or channel used by the customer during the buying journey. And it can provide valuable insight into customer behaviour. It allows you to measure return on investment for individual channels and campaigns in near to real-time, which in turn opens up opportunities to adjust campaigns and divert resources on-the-fly to support successful channels.
The upturn in online spending in the build-up to Christmas brings an increased risk of basket abandonment as customers save products they see for comparison or purchase later. It is important to have a clear strategy in place for following up on abandoned baskets and incomplete purchases – including when to start offering discounts or other perks to entice shoppers back to their basket on your site. Consider shortening your usual timeline for this follow-up, particularly as Christmas gets closer. Email-based discounting campaigns can also be useful for implementing "contingency plan" campaigns in the event that revenue targets are not being met.
Competition for advertising space during the build-up to Christmas is intense and the early bird catches the worm. High-impact display advertising formats such as home page takeovers, billboards, pushdowns and skins get snapped up quickly – especially on sites with high prestige or traffic volumes. Seasonal campaigns should be planned and space booked in September, to run from November. This means that advert design and copywriting needs to be finalised by September.
It is important to think not only about special days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also about the January sales period. These slots also get filled up very fast by premium publishers.
Partnering with affiliates can be an effective way to increase the reach and penetration of your marketing campaigns; something that's vital to customer acquisition at Christmas when so many voices are competing to be heard by the same audience. To ensure maximum impact from your Christmas campaigns, you should begin working on partnership agreements with affiliates from September, so that they go live from November.
The popularity of online shopping in the run-up to Christmas increases every year and Black Friday has intensified and extended this period of heightened demand. This trend isn't going anywhere; retailers must act now to ensure they are adequately prepared.
Copyright © 2015 Luke Griffiths, general manager of eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions — EMEA.
Sooner or later, all businesses hit a brick wall. For entrepreneurs, it is a tough but salutary experience when they realise that the main obstacle to growing their business is, in fact, themselves.
It takes significant gumption to start and then bootstrap a business. You live from hand to mouth, go for any scrap of business you can and use your instincts to make tactical, rather than strategic decisions.
Once the business model is proven, then the enterprise takes on a completely different aspect. The focus is then on doing the same thing over and over again, rather than constantly changing direction by trying new ideas.
Each potential client should be judged on profitability and internal systems should be put in place to keep costs down. Any mistakes learned along the way should be studied and not repeated.
The only thing that differentiates outwardly similar businesses is the quality of the delivery people within it. It is a hard lesson to learn that the people who were the best performers in the opportunistic early days may not be the right people to deal with more systematic and bureaucratic clients.
For the entrepreneur themselves, it is important that they learn to delegate. Every successful entrepreneur, from Sir Richard Branson downward, explains that the biggest factor in their success was their ability to hire people better then themselves, and to let them get on with it.
All of these factors involve some serious soul-searching for the entrepreneur. They need to have a mentor who has experience of going through this phase, who knows them well, can spot their weaknesses and provide impartial advice on the right way forward.
The most effective mentoring I have myself provided over the last ten years has been for people going through this difficult development phase, typically from 25 to 35 people. I use psychometric testing, not to try and change the entrepreneur, but to help them to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
These sessions can involve some significant soul-searching; but once they break through this barrier the path to future prosperity and happiness is clear.
Copyright © Mike Southon 2015. 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.
Are you worried that your online competitors are stealing customers from your business?
If so, you're not alone. In our recent survey, 46% of businesses told us this was their greatest fear. Another 27% were worried that competitors' prices were lower; 18% reported concerns that their competitors have better marketing.
But business is competition, so how can your company gain the advantage?
In order to outperform your competitors, you'll need to think strategically about the differences between your business and theirs. Here are three steps you can take to make it easier.
Your business is your brand - without a strong brand and a solid reputation, you'll find it much harder to convert and retain customers.
Check out online reviews to see what customers are saying about you. When customers give you a glowing five-star review, what do they praise the most? When they're unhappy, what are the most common complaints? Many customers feel more able to voice their opinions online than in person, so this is an excellent way to learn what customers really think of you.
Understand your brand's appeal from the customer's point of view - why do they buy from you instead of your competitors? Does the customer perspective align with your company's presentation of the brand?
Once you've explored opinions of your brand, get to know your customers' needs and desires:
One of the simplest ways to discover this information is to conduct a consumer survey. As the majority of consumers use mobile devices, a mobile survey lets you reach them wherever they are and provides an easy way for them to respond.
It's important to keep track of what advertising and marketing tactics your main competitors use, from SEO and SEM to social networking and email marketing. Notice any changes in their approach so you can gain insight into their broader strategies.
Take the time to audit your competitors' online performance:
Subscribe to your competitors' email marketing campaigns to see how they're using this channel. Use a non-corporate email address for this, to avoid flooding your business inbox with competitor marketing campaigns or tipping off your competitors about your research activities.
Now learn more about your competitors' customers (and how they could become your customers):
Guesswork won't give you the insight you need to make the right decisions, but accurate data will.
To obtain data on your customers and how they interact with your brand, consider using lead conversion software. This can track key metrics including: impressions compared to click-through rates; conversion rates of different customer segments; conversion rates of different landing page designs; and how your chosen metrics change with the time of day, the day of the week or even the seasons.
Copyright © 2015 Paul Liascos, managing director of ReachLocal UK.
A strategic alliance is a loose partnership between non-competing businesses that can add profit to each other's bottom lines. This calls for commitment rather than investment but the right partnership can pay serious dividends.
Since strategic alliances do not have the backing of a legal agreement, it usually requires time to build up the relationship. This involves regular reviews to refine and develop the agreement. In short, partnerships are long-term strategies that also require short-term activity.
In fact, the reason strategic alliances are so often neglected as a strategy is because of the level of dedication and commitment they require.
Your mindset is also important; you do not want to think of this as "getting" something from your alliance partner. There is a powerful concept used in the BNI networks that they call "givers gain". It's best to think about how it is that you can help your alliance partner first, then you can think about how that partner can potentially help you back. Your alliance will flow much more smoothly as a result.
Just as you identify the characteristics of your target customers, you also need to draw up a picture of your ideal partner.
Start by considering other firms that supply your customer base. For instance, if you are a business-to-business company, potential partners could include stationery suppliers, accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, cleaning companies, business coaches and so on. If you are business-to-customer, think about other complementary retailers, service providers or local organisations.
Once you have a long list of potential suppliers, you need to whittle that down to the strongest contenders. Here's what to look for in a potential strategic alliance partner:
Their audience does not have to be exactly the same as yours, but it definitely should be a similar clientele. For example, if your target person is usually wealthy, then you want to target services that are more likely to have wealthy customers, such as financial advisors or high-end retail.
Your service should be adding value to their customers, not competing with their services. If your product is too similar to theirs, why should they want to help you promote yours when they can promote theirs? You will get the greatest benefit from those who have a distinct service from you but a similar audience.
Ideally, you want them to have a database of clients and/or prospects that you can easily access. It could work to your advantage if they are not making the most of their database. Imagine if you could offer to help them a) build their database and b) communicate with their prospects and customers with an offer in a positive way. That, in itself, is adding value to them straight away; but it also gives you access to new prospects.
This is an important point. If the potential partner is already satisfied with their sales and marketing and they cannot see much value from you, you should probably move on. Qualify all your potential strategic alliances the same way you would your sales leads. If they are not as excited about the partnership as you are, then it probably will not work out in the long term. They may look like a good prospect but they are just not that into you.
You need to be able to offer something that they want from you. Within the core products that you offer, there should be something that is valuable to your partner's customers. If you can identify that, then in the long term you can be a giver. And, as we know, givers gain.
Copyright © 2015 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.