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Loyalty schemes — the elephant in the room?

June 17, 2011 by

ElephantNow and again at SellerDeck we get asked whether our ecommerce software includes functionality to support a loyalty scheme. The answer is no, and there are very good reasons why we have not developed it. I thought the rationale would be worth sharing more widely. If you’re considering developing a loyalty for your own site, it might just persuade you otherwise.

Firstly, loyalty schemes don’t produce loyalty. Most people have multiple loyalty cards, and use them promiscuously. The level of reward — usually about one per cent — is pretty minimal. One special offer can save more money than the loyalty points on your entire weekly shop. So people take advantage of the schemes because they are free and painless to use. But they don’t influence where people shop on any given occasion.

Consequently, the term loyalty is a really misnomer. If loyalty is what you’re looking for, a loyalty scheme won’t deliver that.

The main advantage of loyalty schemes to the large chains is in the data they make available. Every time you present a reward card you identify yourself personally at the checkout. This enables the company to track a huge range of data, both for individuals, and for particular demographics. Your supermarket knows how often you shop, and where. It knows your average weekly spend. It knows your family diet, what items you purchase regularly, and how often. In consumables and FMCG, this enables large companies to follow market trends very closely, react to changes quickly, and target their merchandising according to local and temporal preferences and trends.

That’s great if you are a large chain with multiple branches, a website and maybe a mail order channel as well. If all you have is a website, it’s pointless. You can already identify regular customers from your orders database, and mine the same kind of data directly from that.

So given that a loyalty scheme doesn’t deliver loyalty, costs time and money to operate and doesn’t give you anything that you don’t already have – doesn’t it start to look like one huge white elephant in the room?

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.

Read more in our dedicated section on customer loyalty.

Posted in Customer care | 1 comment

Feeding the beast – five quick tips to satisfy the content generation monster

June 16, 2011 by Sonja Jefferson

There is a growing recognition amongst the business fraternity that the days of the static, brochure-style website are dead and buried. All hail the living, breathing, regularly-updated website and resource hub — packed full of up-to-the-minute news, views, opinions and downright valuable content.

No doubt you can see the benefits of this kind of approach — loved in equal measure by your contacts, clients and Google’s spiders too. So you work really hard to set up a new updateable website, populated with said news, views, opinions and good content. It looks great, clients say they love it and you start to see traffic and leads.

And then it dawns on you — the hard work doesn’t stop here. You’ve got to keep on feeding the monster: new blog articles; fresh ideas; latest case studies; daily tweets; monthly newsletters; emails; resources; downloads; writing and so it goes on.

You’re facing the challenge of constant content creation. It’s a strategic problem that every company will need to think through in the coming years. How do you ensure that you continue to come up with high quality written content on what you do?

There’s no easy answer but the following ideas should help you:

1. Little and often

Make time. Recognise that this is of vital importance to your business and set aside time every day or week to write. Block time out in your diary, switch off your email and phone and hang a large “Do not disturb” sign on your door. Get the writing done.

2. Share the problem

Portion out the work to make it more achievable. A very organised, clear-thinking client of mine has set up a content writing rota. Each of his designated subject matter experts takes his or her turn to produce a new article every two weeks. With six subject matter experts that is one post every three months – now that’s achievable.

3. Shortcuts to good content

Make the task of creating content easier for yourself. Mix it up – share other people’s opinions alongside your own or invite good guest bloggers to contribute.

Another shortcut is to repurpose existing content. Remember – you don’t always have to start from scratch. Sales proposals for example are a fantastic source of inspiration for your articles, and you’ve already done the hard work of answering client queries. Repackaging some of this content for an article takes half the time. Find a way of writing more efficiently.

4. Create a content writing role

Make this someone’s job. Add the role to the your organisation’s structure chart.  

NB: Finding someone who can write well is not enough. This person will need enough insight, empathy and curiosity to ask the right question, to understand and respond to your customers’ issues and deliver your unique message. It’s a fascinating job that will really bring benefit.

5. Outsource the problem

Another approach is to engage the services of an external content expert. (You had a feeling I’d put this in, didn’t you?) Their independence will give them objectivity. The right freelance content writer will come up with a fresh approach to delight your customers and get you maximum exposure.

Choose carefully. You’ll get the best results from a long-term relationship with someone who quickly understands your message, recognises the needs of your target audience and communicates this with interest and clarity. Oh – and it helps if they are easy to work with too!

What is your strategy?

Don’t bury your head in the sand. Constant content generation is a growing necessity for professional businesses in today’s web-based, social media driven world. So, how will you feed the content generation monster?

Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and marketing consultant for Valuable Content.

Read more on writing website content:

In social media, listening is key... but only if you act on it

June 14, 2011 by Emily Leary

So social media isn't about broadcast. OK, yes.

Social media is all about listening? Ummm, well yes but…

It's not just about listening, it's about acting on it too, isn't it?

Think I'm being facetious? (I am, of course, but bear with me).

You can use social listening to work out what the overall sentiment is about your brand, to understand what customers want and to see where your industry is headed etc. But all of that hard “listening” work is for nothing if you're sticking those learnings in a folder marked “insight” somewhere instead of acting on them promptly.

If you see a flurry of customers report on consumer forums that they're unhappy with your new product because it's developing a common fault. Do you:

a) Act quickly to turn their perceptions around with apologies, fixes, refunds and/or replacements, as appropriate

b) Quickly put in place a procedure to make the fix/returns policy much simpler for customers, so they rarely feel the need to vent online

c) Head off any potential (social) media storm by preparing a statement on what went wrong, that you're sorry and all that you're doing to fix it

d) Feed your learnings from customer comments back into the product cycle, to improve the product itself as quickly as possible

e) Collate all your learnings from the whole experience, and use that to do better business in future?

The answer, in my humble opinion, is a, b, c, d and e. 

I could say this about any form of research/insight, really. Listen, and be ready to act. 

Emily Leary (formerly Cagle) is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a communications consultant and blogger.

What every SEO can learn from Drayton Bird

June 14, 2011 by John Straw

Twenty years ago I discovered Drayton Bird and his book Common Sense Direct Marketing.

What I loved most about direct marketing was how developing direct relationships with prospects could be scientific, measurable and very accountable. What you could then do it use a combination acquired knowledge, best practice and creative marketing to maximise on-going response and revenues.

So what has this got to do with you? Paid search experts use these skills every day. They may not know they are using 30-year-old skills, but at least they are using them. The same is true of email marketers.

In my opinion, SEO experts and especially link builders are not aware enough of these skills and how direct marketing can help them beat the competition, and they should be.

What I am suggesting now is that every business should reconnect with Direct Marketing and Drayton Bird now, and here is why.

How do you maximise link-building response rates?

The main method of outreach for a link builder is email. Direct mail professionals will tell you that the ingredients that define what kind of response you’re going to get to your attempt to engage with another individual in order of importance are:

  • List
  • Offer
  • Timing
  • Creative

Let me take each of these in turn and apply them to SEO with a view to increasing your SEO performance.

The list

Generating a list of backlinks from the common and openly available link list providers gives you nothing more than a poorly targeted cold call list capable of generating you a poor response rate to any offer or creative you approach them with.

Why? Because you’ve not been able to clean, profile and segment the data according to criteria that are important to your specific campaign. A process used and perfected by direct mail specialists when most of us reading this were at school.

So if you work through poorly qualified lists of links, STOP. Think about how accurate, segmentable, and responsive those lists really are. Would be better-spent using much better data sources?

The offer

Matching what you want to say to sell to the target audience has a huge impact on conversion. If blogger outreach is your strategy, aren’t you better just talking to bloggers that have a history of linking to sites like yours? If you want to get links from curated resource pages, aren’t you better off talking to webmasters of sites that create and curate resources? You get the idea.


When I planned press media, Monday was the best day for response and it reduced in a straight lined as the week went on. I’ve seen some email marketing data to suggest a similar thing happens. I also know some brilliant PPC specialists who adjust campaigns by month, week, day and hour to maximise response.

I also know that PR specialists are very time-aware. They think a great deal about when is best to place a story, taking into account the new agenda of the day or week, the seasonality of a specific market, or the editorial agenda of the publication being targeted.

Time is likely to apply to your efforts the question is how and can you use it to maximise each campaign’s effectiveness.

The creative

Finally we get to the creative— whether you’re sending out emails, press releases, or even commenting. What you say and how you say it will matter hugely. It’s of no surprise that Drayton has also written a book on writing sales letters that sell.

What are you saying and is it really going to get the best response rate possible? Are you testing and measuring different techniques for achieving your goals?

Which brings me back to where I started. I think we can all learn from Drayton, and I think we should invest in the best data available to pitch relevant offers at the right time with smart responsive creative. We should then measure the response rate and carry on engaging with our new link partners. All Common Sense Direct Marketing!

John Straw is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder and VP of Business Development of Linkdex.

Want to read more about Drayton Bird?

Drayton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. Here are a few of his inspirational articles and blogs:

Have you got an addiction to discounting?

Are you talking to me? Getting the right tone of voice in your customer communication

35 things I have found to be almost always true

How much can you afford to spend on marketing?

Want to get results? - ditch the jargon

Enough about me — let’s talk about you

But what about us?

June 13, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

About us written on hand

Chances are the most viewed pages on your website are About Us and your client list. Who are you, and who trusts you with their business? Two key things that potential clients want to know before getting in touch.

Client lists are self explanatory — names, logos, testimonials, and soundbites all linked to case studies add credibility to your business.

But what about your About Us? The section is a chance to let potential clients see the real you, and to show a bit of personality. But what bit of you, and how much personality? There are infinite ways of doing it, and we thought it would be useful to outline an approach we like.

Tips on creating a powerful About Us page

Do see the page from your potential client’s point of view. Your golfing prowess might be awesome, but how does that help them? Write about your approach to the business, not your hobbies.

Do think about the page as part of your business story. Write about how your role fits and contributes to that story. “Before joining x I worked as a sales consultant for fifteen years. My understandings of what can make or break a sale help my clients succeed.”

Do share your mission. What do you believe, and why? Define your audience — what kind of people can your business help?

Do interpret your data with your offer clearly in mind. So don’t just say, “I worked as an accountant for 20 years before starting my payroll business,” write “20 years in accountancy showed me how crucial payroll services are to business success.” Keep asking yourself “why is this relevant?”.

Don’t write too much. Remember the rules of good web writing. Short and to the point is good. Strong headlines will draw people in, so link to further pages if there’s more to say. 

Do make sure the whole page links well to the rest of your site. Relevant About Us copy will make natural links to your clients and services and approach, so embed them in the site. Fire enthusiasm, and lead people seamlessly to the rest of your content.

Do use good professional pictures of you and your team. People like to see who they will be working with.

Don’t be too obscure. You might feel that you’re best represented by a picture of a lovely smooth pebble or a snap of Kermit the frog, but not everyone will get it. (However if you do want to go down an alternative visual representation route, make sure your explanation is easy to find and written with wit.)

Don’t be boring but…

Don’t be “wacky” or “zany” or anything that could be remotely interpreted as something Timmy Mallet might do. Nothing along the “you don’t have to be crazy to work here…” lines, please.

Do ask for help. An independent view can be really valuable in helping you see what’s most relevant and most compelling for a potential client.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Four ways to reduce the dreaded email churn

June 10, 2011 by Georgia Christian

Email @ envelope

Email list churn could be considered one of the few “givens” in life (next to death and taxes that is). No? OK fine, it’s not that dramatic but it is something that most marketers have to deal with on a regular basis.

Email churn refers to the number of subscribers who are lost to your list over a given period and it’s measured by the number of hard bounces, unsubscribes or spam complaints you receive. On average a marketer experiences 20-30 per cent of list churn every year, but you can work out your rate with this simple equation:

Tally up your hard bounces, unsubscribes and spam complaints for the time period you’re interested in and divide this total number of lost subscribers by your current list size. A quick example looks like this: 3,000 (lost subscribers) / 10,000 (current list size) = 0.3 x 100 = 30% list churn rate.

It is inevitable to a certain extent but there are steps you can take to reduce list churn. They aren’t quick fixes, but if you make a concerted effort to employ these tactics you’ll start seeing positive results:

1. Be honest with your subscribers

When your subscribers first sign up, tell them exactly what they can expect to receive from you, and stick to your word. If you have a few different newsletters, then set up an email preference centre where they can update their profile and change their preferences whenever they want. This is also a good time to disclose your privacy policy, in layman’s terms, which means letting your subscribers know that you aren’t going to sell, rent or disclose any of their details to anyone else.

2. Learn from your mistakes

If someone unsubscribes, politely request feedback about why they’re opting out and what you could do better, and then do what you can to implement the suggestions into future campaigns. It all helps with customer engagement and you should use the constructive criticism to adapt your strategy and help ensure you meet the expectations of the next customer who signs up.

3. Make things easy for your subscribers

Initially, they want a quick and simple opt-in and unsubscribe process along with reliable contact details, so make sure these aspects of your campaign are optimised for this. Incorporating a simple preference centre also makes for a better user experience. Not only is this a good way of engaging with your subscribers, but the data is hugely beneficial to you too, because you can use it to segment your audience and target them more effectively.

4. Re-engage inactive subscribers

Inactive subscribers (those who haven’t opened or clicked on any of your emails in the past six months) also affect your list churn. Don’t despair! Rather see it as an opportunity to re-engage and get them interested again in what you have to offer. Assuming these subscribers are bored with your email offerings, your reactivation campaign needs to jump out at them and offer something truly irresistible that’s going to guarantee a high open rate.

Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.

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