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QR codes should enhance user experience

April 07, 2011 by Zabisco Digital

QR codes are a relatively old technology but one which has really started gaining momentum in recent months, according the Search Engine Watch. So, with more and more social marketers taking an interest in QR codes, how can we make use of them?

The key has got to be in adding value for the target audience. QR codes shouldn’t be there “because they’re cool”, nor should they appear to help you “look innovative”. I believe the true innovation will come from the use of QR codes to enhance reality and create a better user experience both online and off.

Quick fad or valuable tool?

Consider what a QR code actually is and what it does. A QR code is a quick and easy way to reach a URL destination or other piece of online content. What it does, is to make engagement easier by saving people the time and effort of writing down a URL or typing it into their mobile device.

Next, consider whether or not your end user would actually benefit from QR codes. There’s no point using a QR code if the majority of your audience doesn’t use a mobile phone, right? And if it would benefit them, where and how would it do that?

My prediction is that QR codes will become really important for retailers selling physical products to consumers by including them on barcodes and labelling. So, let’s say I find a pair of shoes I love but they don’t have them in my size; imagine if I could scan a QR code to find out when they will be in stock and also to browse other colours or suggested alternatives — my offline experience has been enhanced by online!

Social validation will also continue to grow in importance, so imagine I’ve gone into a mobile phone shop and I’m thinking of getting myself the new Samsung Galaxy. I hear everything I need to from the salesman, he gives me all the specifications and pricing and even lets me have a go. If I’m sensible, I’ll go home and find out more about the phone and read all the tech reviews.

But why wait? A QR code on the phone could lead me to a tech review plus some real, personal reviews from other people who actually own the phone. It could even tell me where I can get the phone at the best price.

There is a whole array of other potential uses for QR codes but essentially it really needs to focus on adding value for the end user.


Laura Hampton is a copywriter and online marketer at Zabisco, a digital agency in Nottingham.


For more information, read our guide to QR codes.

The five most common email marketing mistakes

April 06, 2011 by Georgia Christian

There is a lot of advice out there to help ensure that your email campaign is beautifully created, sent out successfully and, most importantly, well-received.

What many people tend to forget — and this goes for seasoned email campaigners and newbies alike — are the common mistakes that are all too often made when you are developing the perfect campaign.

Here are five of the most common email marketing blunders. If you successfully avoid them, it will ensure that your content is relevant, good to look at, grammatically sound and entirely logical:

  • You want and/or expect instant success. Banish the thought from your head immediately. With email marketing your aim is to develop a relationship with your customer and this takes time, sometimes more time than you think you have. You’ll need to have patience and a strong resolve. You and I know, understand and accept that Rome was most certainly not built in a day so don’t be in such a rush to get that campaign out “like yesterday!” Make sure you are 100 per cent happy with it and it has been tried and tested before you send it out. You won’t regret it.
  • Your message isn’t clear. You want it to be powerful, concise and with a strong call to action. If there is any doubt in your mind that it lacks these points then you need to reassess it, even if it sets you back time-wise. It will be worth it in the long term, believe me.
  • You aren’t entirely sure you have permission. If in doubt, here’s a quick question you can ask yourself to check: “Have they specifically requested to receive my emails?” If the answer is “no”, then you have to go back to the drawing board and work on building up your subscriber list. It’s a simple enough task and will ensure that your emails aren’t deemed spam.
  • You have subscribers on your list that haven’t heard zip from you in six months. Go through the process of getting them to remember you again. Send a friendly “remember me?” email and guide them to sign up to your newsletter again. It’s the best way to ensure that your subscriber list remains entirely “opt-in” and therefore more valuable.
  • You buy an opt-in list. I have one word for you here and that’s “unscrupulous”. Your target audience is specific and so is the product or service that you are trying to market, so sending your campaign out to 20,000 people who you don’t know and who certainly don’t know you is not a good idea. Neither is getting blacklisted for spamming, which is what would probably happen if you took this unsavoury route. 


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


Balancing the personal and professional on Twitter

April 05, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

I regularly give talks for entrepreneurial businesses on how to make their marketing pay. Top of my list for most is to try social media as part of their marketing toolkit. And within that, I almost always recommend Twitter.

Particularly if the business in question is one where authentic one-to-one relationships count (which is most).

Despite being on public display, Twitter is a remarkably intimate medium — in as much as people seem willing to share all sorts of personal information. Now, I don’t mean those girls who seem intent on sharing everything… that’s what the block button is for. I mean business people being willing to share that they’re having a bad day, or that their children are ill or that they’re not in the best mood, or whatever. And, vice versa, people share great news from a child winning a painting competition, to their love of the view from their window, to closing a fab new business deal. Which is why it is such a great tool for building genuine relationships with real people.

But, there’s a balance to strike. Now, this isn’t an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using Twitter as a business tool, I suggest a mix of about 80 per cent professional and 20 per cent personal. And, of the professional tweets, I’d make at least half of that sharing content that is not your own. Of the personal, remember your audience.

I have a few rules to keep it comfortable:

  • Be yourself. Don’t try to effect an image or give an impression of someone you’d like to be, be yourself. Talk honestly about your business, your goals, and what’s important to you. It’s much easier to maintain being yourself than to put yourself under pressure to maintain some sort of character you’ve created.
  • Don’t Tweet when drunk or angry! I know it’s tempting with smart phones to always be online, but there really are times when it’s best to keep yourself to yourself.
  • Would you say it at a networking event? I think of Twitter as a bit like a professional networking event. So, I might talk about the dresses on Strictly, who won X Factor, or the weather… I might even talk about something interesting (!) But, I personally tend to steer clear of religious beliefs, deeply political conversations, or flirtation.
  • Would you be happy for your most important client to see it? If you Tweet it, it’s out there. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable for your most important client to see it, don’t say it.

So, should you show a bit of personality? Yes, definitely. People like talking to real people. Should you use it as a confessional or dating service? No, not if you’re using it as a business tool.


Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is Chief Clear Thinker at Clear Thought Consulting.

The truth is, nobody cares about your blog...

April 04, 2011 by Chris Street

…well, that’s what you’d believe if you listened to the traditional marketers, online sceptics, and old-school business brains.

But – actually – there is a grain of truth in the shocking statement. Nobody cares about your blog.

Unless you give them one, two, or all of the following things:

* Useful information, such as ‘How To’ guides

* Proven case studies highlighting a return of some kind

* Open, engaged topical discussion without a hard sell

* Real-life experience and expertise in your niche for their benefit

* Passion and knowledge, packaged up in readable chunks

Or, alternatively, are you banging out a flog blog? Sell sell sell? Broadcasting, not listening?

If so, then of course nobody cares about your blog – after all, how are you really, truly, genuinely helping the reader?

Think give give give, and see what comes back – in time.

This may seem like obvious stuff, but there are a surprising number of flog blogs out there, and when you consider that 70% of all newly-launched blogs fail/quit/end within their first 12 months, you’ll see the importance of a giving ethos to ensure that your audience cares about your blog.

And, rather than being a blog death statistic, wouldn’t you rather care about your audience? If you care for them, they’ll take care of you. And that’s one guarantee careful blogging can give you.

One of the main things to remember is to forget yourself.

Posted in Online marketing | Tagged Blogging | 4 comments

Three affiliate marketing trends for SMEs in 2011

March 31, 2011 by Liane Dietrich

The challenging economic climate of 2011 has created an opportunity for SMEs to capture business from their larger competitors. Entrepreneurs and business owners in all sectors are taking advantage of the situation with hard-hitting marketing and direct communication tactics to make sure they are front of mind with their target audiences.

For SMEs to achieve cut through and generate buzz around their businesses, they need tools that are as flexible and fast-moving as they are. As a result, one of the most popular tactics emerging in the sector is affiliate marketing. Its ease of use and accountability make return on investment transparent and straightforward to track, and the range of tools and publishers available mean that campaigns can be highly targeted.

These are my top three marketing trends to watch for 2011:

  1. Mobile linking: there is now a wide range of m-commerce tracking technologies available to help advertisers and publishers reach and accurately measure the buying behaviour of mobile consumers. With mobile take-up still increasing and handsets becoming more sophisticated by the day, mobile will be a key play for SMEs throughout 2011, as they expand their current digital marketing campaigns to take advantage of the new consumer content consumption habits.
  2. Dynamic-rich media: the future is feature-rich and consumers of every shape and size are more likely to respond to messages and advertising that is eye-catching and engaging. As a result, we’ll start to see increasing use of HTML5, Flash and Javascript technologies as well as dedicated widgets to encourage a higher level of interaction with the end-consumer.
  3. RSS: RSS feeds will start to be more widely used to share information about particular products and services with target customers. Not only does this help to drive higher conversion rates, it also helps make marketing more targeted and relevant which will in turn drive increased traffic to a site and improve sales.

There’s a huge opportunity for SMEs in the current market — and digital tools are an ideal way to help them punch above their weight in the marketplace of 2011.


Liane Dietrich is the managing director of LinkShare UK.


Want to know more? Check out our guide to affiliate marketing.

Targeting your Royal Wedding merchandise

March 30, 2011 by Rachel Miller

Lots of small firms are getting in on the act when it comes to the Royal Wedding. From bunting to condoms and sick bags, it seems there are no limits to the products that can be given a royal Wedding twist. And that includes not-the-Royal Wedding memorabilia too.

But how much appetite is there for Royal Wedding merchandise? Well, it may all depend where you live, it seems. Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, has conducted an audit looking at how many street parties are being planned in the UK.

The results make interesting reading for anyone looking to sell Royal Wedding merchandise. The broad trend is that southern areas are more likely to be hanging out the bunting while huge swathes of the north are showing little interest.

Kent is the council with the highest number of applications (54). Other places that are getting into the Royal Wedding spirit are: Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, South Gloucestershire, Bromley and Scarborough.

But altogether, a third of local authorities have had no applications from residents at all.

There’s a deafening silence in Middlesbrough, Bradford and Hull where not a single person has applied for permission to close a street and celebrate the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Even the residents of the Scilly Isles, many of them tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall, have no plans to put on a street party. And while David and Samantha Cameron are planning a bit of a do in Downing Street, elsewhere in London, no licences have been requested in Haringey and the City of London and there is only one application in Islington.

It must be noted that, with two weeks to go, there may well be a late flurry of applications.

All the same, this is certainly good market intelligence for anyone trying to sell Royal Wedding merchandise. My advice would be to target your marketing and distribution in the places where it is likely to be best received.

Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut.

Read more about how the Royal Wedding could be good for your business.

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