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In our socially-networked-always-on-demand world, it seems that brands themselves are simply not enough any more. Today we, as consumers, question the value of a brand, we scrutinise whether we’re getting our money’s worth and actually question whether the product delivers. Simply put, we don’t put our blind trust into that alluring logo and brand anymore.
How does that apply to you or me? With the internet, (of course), product reviews, recommendations and complaints are so easily and instantly available to everyone that the playing field is changing. Depending on your industry, it has changed already.
Let’s take a little step back for a brief moment. The definition of a brand used to be simple, it was the identity of a specific product or business that built up an emotional reaction. It was the psychological relationship you had with customers.
Now let’s look at a brand as a story. Maybe you haven’t thought about your brand or company in this way before. This story used to be told on a product’s packaging — you only need to search for “vintage packaging” on Google Images to see some brilliant examples from days gone by. The trend in today’s world is for packaging to be minimal and slick — Apple Mac for example with their white boxes, crisp and clean.
Getting back to our on-tap, on-demand, constantly changing world, we have to tell our brand story in a different way. We do this via online tools including Twitter, company websites, review websites, blogs, Facebook and Linked-In. All of these places and facilities are platforms, platforms for you to tell your brand story.
Why? Because just having a brand is no longer enough. You need to articulate your brand story. You need to know the background of your brand, its values, the promise it’s making and more. It’s about generating content to feed these platforms. That content can’t be one-directional, this is a two-way street with your customers. Open up, listen, engage.
Sian Lenegan is account director at Sixth Story.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, forums, groups, communities… With so much going on in social media, how can you be sure you’re getting the best ROI for your time?
It’s easy to fall into the social media trap and open profiles and pages on every network going. After all, everyone’s doing it, right? But, as my mum used to say: if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? I didn’t think so…
The real value of social media marketing is in the doors it opens for interaction and engagement with your end user. It’s about creating the opportunities to have conversations with your customers so you can better understand them and they can let you know how they feel. It helps us as businesses to better tailor our services to the needs and motivations of our target audience.
One way to think of social media marketing is as a dinner party (stick with me on this one); treat your activities as you would a dinner party and you can’t go far wrong! Here’s how:
If you want to engage with your target audience, it’s important to understand who they are and what they are interested in — and what you want to achieve with them. This should be the basis of your dinner party plans and will guide the rest of your decisions.
There’s no point holding your party in London if everyone you want to invite lives in Scotland — in the same way, there’s no point trying to engage on Facebook if the majority of your audience is active on Twitter. Select your party location carefully.
You wouldn’t serve meat to a vegetarian (not if you want them to have a good time, anyway!). Do your research to understand what your audience likes and what will provide them benefit, then identify the products you have in your business that appeal to those needs and add value to the party guests.
You’re the host of your party so you need to make sure your guests are comfortable and having a good time. Guide the conversation but don’t talk at them – your party is about conversation and everyone should be able to get involved.
Be available to your audience beyond your social media interaction – ensure there are ways for people to get in touch and find out more via your website and consider email marketing campaigns.
So don’t just jump on the social media bandwagon because everyone else is — make sure you’re making the most of your time and your investment.
Laura Hampton is a copywriter and online marketer at Zabisco, a digital agency in Nottingham
Find out more in our dedicated section on social media and online networking.
Linkdex recently ran a survey in the UK and USA to find out which tools were most important to small and medium-sized businesses when it came to marketing the products and services they sell.
Perhaps to validate the recent increase in online networking platforms, which work on the basis of peer-to-peer recommendation, the most important marketing tool for SME businesses is word of mouth. In fact a massive 81 per cent of the companies polled said that referrals and recommendations were the most important marketing method.
The second most important promotional method for SME organisations was “Google or another search engine”, followed by direct sales teams and PR.
The least important promotional method for the companies surveyed was passing trade.
In terms of trends, 60 per cent said that they would increase spending on email in the next 12 months, 57 per cent will increase spending on social networks and 54 per cent would invest more in SEO or being on the top of search engines.
These new marketing tools will gain at the expense of more “traditional” promotional methods. Thirty per cent of companies surveyed said they would spend less on print advertising and 26 per cent will spend less on directory listings, including the phone book.
The perceptions by companies match the changing ways in which consumers find information about the products and services they want to buy. Evidence suggests that search engines like Google and Bing are the first place people look. As smartphones like the iPhone become more popular and get faster and more powerful, searching on the internet becomes more integrated and immediate.
When these results are backed up by peer recommendation, consumers will trust them more and be more inclined to make a purchase.
It shows that search engine optimisation (SEO) should not be seen as a technical function, but an essential business capability that sits at the heart of the marketing mix. If 54 per cent of businesses plan to spend more on SEO in the next 12 months, then chances are some of those companies will be your competitors.
Making SEO part of your organisation’s workflow and measuring it alongside other key marketing goals can help deliver long term growth. It’s not about search results, but business results.
The world of business-to-business data is full of confusing acronyms and jargon.
For the uninitiated, data purchasing can be a minefield and if you buy the wrong list you can end up with a failed campaign and wasted marketing budget. The jargon doesn’t help. Here’s our pocket translation guide to help make sure that your direct marketing campaigns succeed and deliver increased sales.
This is the governing body for direct marketing. The DMA ensures that all members comply to best practice guidelines and the rules and regulations of gathering, storing and selling data. You should only ever purchase from data companies who are registered DMA members. Offers that are too good to be true usually are just that. A million records for £50 on eBay is the data equivalent of ”a bloke down the pub” and could end up costing you a hundred times that in fines for data misuse – leave well alone and stick to the straight and narrow with the DMA.
These are the Suppression services;
TPS — Telephone Preference Service
MPS — Mailing Preference Service
CTPS — Corporate Preference Service
Anyone who has registered with any of the above suppression services is off-limits as far as direct marketing is concerned. Aside from the fact it is against the law and will cost you thousands in fines (TPS), why bother wasting time and money trying to hook up with someone who is just not interested? It is damaging to your brand and your budget. Keep your self-respect, keep your money in your pocket and make sure all data you buy is screened against the relevant suppression files. This is standard for DMA members, so you shouldn’t need to worry – unless you speak to that bloke in the pub of course...
Data is usually sold on a lease. This means that the data owner leases you the data rather than sells you the data outright. Outright purchases are usually very expensive as data owners, understandably, want to protect the investment they have put into gathering, storing and maintaining the data. If they lease you the data then they retain ownership and you have to comply with the rules of the lease. There are two types of data licence; single-use and multiple-use for 12 months. These are fairly self-explanatory. With single-use you can only communicate with that business or contact, once. With multi-use, you can communicate with them as many times as you want within the 12-month period, depending on the precise terms of the license.
“How will anyone know I am using data when I shouldn’t be?”
The answer is data seeds. Every data file purchased has between one and three dummy records. These dummy records are called data seeds and they are there to monitor activity to that record. If you send an email, it’s recorded. If you send 20 emails, they are also recorded. If you use the data without a licence, the seed reports will highlight this mis-use and you will be charged. But if you comply with the rules you will be fine.
Now we are getting to the nitty-gritty of actually selecting your data. SIC Codes are Standard Industry Codes. Every business is given an SIC code according to what they do. You want to sell knives? Then the SIC for butchers is a good place to start. A good data salesperson should also advise you on other industries you could target that you might not have considered. For example; restaurants, catering colleges, specialist kitchenware shops and department stores.
Once you have decided on what industries or SIC codes to target and applied any other criteria such as business size or location; your data advisor will go away and get a data count for you. This is the total number of records that match your criteria, your “data pot” so to speak. From this pot you can decide on how many records you need for your campaign. In some cases the number of records will be less than you expected, in which case you can expand your criteria by targeting additional industries, for example, or by extending the geographical boundaries. Again, a good data broker will be able to advise on the best way to increase the data pot numbers while maintaining the campaign focus.
Powerful design enables you to connect with your ideal clients. It’ll help you attract, engage and seduce them into buying from you or working with you, and of course, it’s a wider thing than just design. It’s about your powerful design fitting into a powerful brand strategy.
How can you be sure, when you’re working with a design agency, that they’re going to provide you with powerful design and not just good design?
What is the difference that makes the difference?
Powerful design requires an in-depth understanding of your business, your objectives and your customers. Run a mile from anyone who asks you what colours you want or to sketch out how you’d like something to look.
Powerful design takes time. Coming up with creative concepts that will really connect with your audience and unlock something within them doesn’t happen in a matter of moments. It’s going to take time to develop those concepts and produce polished artwork.
Powerful design uses colour psychology to unlock your goals, values and message and also use it to authentically communicate with your ideal clients. There’s more to colour psychology than simply knowing that blue is calming and red can be aggressive. Colour psychology enables us to help our clients communicate coherently, authentically and with clarity.
Powerful design is creative. When we create powerful design we think outside the box. A business that works with large corporates should have a website that is bland and safe, right? Wrong! A designer must tap into a client’s brand values and company ethos to create a site that firmly differentiates their company from their competitors and enables them to connect with their customers. Oh, and win a whole pile more business.
Powerful design sweats the small stuff. Often the difference that makes the difference is the attention to detail. When you look through a powerfully designed website, it’s not just the homepage that looks lovely — that strong design runs throughout the site and reassures and engages.
Powerful design will cost you more than good design. You need to find a really good agency – one that has a firm understanding of not just how to layout a page, but typography, design trends and colour psychology. They’ll probably be very serious about investing in their team, which means that their hourly rate will reflect that. They won’t be the cheapest, but they will give you the best results.
Back in February I wrote about the growing fashion to buy up multiple keyword-rich domains — like “big-grey-widgets.com”, “small-grey-widgets.com” etc — in the hope of gaining higher rankings on Google. There was some evidence that this type of domain could indeed rank well, without requiring many inbound links. At the time, though, I cautioned against this approach. Google has a history of acting against such practices by de-emphasising the spammy element and wiping out any benefit gained. Since then, we have seen it do just that with links on article sites.
Now it seems that the big G may indeed be preparing to act against spam in domain names. In March of this year, Google spokesman Matt Cutts slipped the news into one of his popular YouTube videos. You can watch the whole video here.
So if you are one of those who bought up a raft of keyword-enhanced domains, now is the time to prepare for their disappearance. If you’ve being considering doing it, don’t bother.
This recurring pattern of action and reaction by website owners and Google does raise an interesting question. What will happen when every ranking factor that could be spammed, has been spammed, and Google has de-emphasised all of them? Theoretically we should end up pretty much back where we started, except that the whole web will be stuffed with spam.
It’s always tempting to look for the magic bullet that will fire you onto the top page of Google, and the potential rewards are obvious. Forty percent of external traffic to websites comes from search (source: Outbrain), and in the UK over ninety percent of that comes from Google. But to build a sustainable online business with rankings that will stand the test of time, you need to provide good quality site content that is useful to your customers; and invest in building a network of links from good quality and relevant sites.
Anything else is vapour.
Read more about SEO here: