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With an increasingly competitive marketplace and an unstable economic climate, many established companies are using research to ensure they are meeting their clients’ needs — often in the form of a survey or questionnaire.
Research can now be done very cheaply thanks to free or almost free online survey tools. With marketing budget cuts, managers often take on this task without the help of market research expertise.
But is this wise? Although customer service research can be helpful when establishing the level of satisfaction within the business, it may not be robust enough for other areas — for instance when an established business decides to launch a new product or service. With any new launch, businesses need to canvas the opinions of potential customers as well as existing ones.
There are several reasons why established businesses often neglect to conduct viable market research when launching new products — cost, time restraints, lack of knowledge about the importance of objective research and the belief that existing customers are the most suitable respondents all contribute.
Good quality market research must meet the following criteria:
Market research can bring new insight into your company and foster innovation. By approaching respondents that are not your clients you can get new ideas and insight into competitors’ operations — something you may not be able to discover by speaking to your current client base.
Ensuring there is a lucrative potential market for your new products and services has never been so important.
For a while I’ve been looking at what a few UK-based marketing agencies, traditional PR consultancies, and fresh-on-the-block digital marketers are doing on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
And it concerns me.
Because I don’t see much innovation – which, by definition, means ‘something new, and contrary to established customs, manners, or rites’ in the mix.
Hardly anything new or exciting. Very little risk-taking, and nowhere near enough authentic conversation. It’s often a case of same old, same old. Such a shame, given the huge, positive, amazing potential that such platforms represent.
Corporate, safe, sterile, anodyne presences.
I can hear almost hear the comments in these Boardrooms, as social media engagement is discussed.
Comments such as, “let’s get a Facebook fan page”, or “make sure we get the newest Agency account executive to pop some content on a Twitter account” or even “cut and paste the newsletter onto a blog page, that’ll do” – without first asking that crucial question ‘why’ which should underpin all social media activity and engagement.
I’ve even seen – horror of horrors – a digital marketing agency engaging in direct marketing via Twitter. A scam-based ‘campaign’ designed solely to get hold of email addresses for future direct selling. Awful.
I blogged about it here at the time, seeing as I was one of the unfortunate individuals to be spammed.
Here are six ways to use social media with innovation in mind:
1. Take an interest in other people – and pass on their content. It will get you noticed – the Law of Attraction. It really does work: these people will notice you back, in time, and reciprocate.
2. Take risks – be authentic, speak with your actual voice on social media platforms. Get the vibe of your business or Agency out there: let people know what working with you looks like, feels like.
3. Be real – don’t tell me about how many new widgets you manufactured this month, let the person who actually makes them tell their personal story. Your business is brilliant, but you have to get this story out there – from each employee outwards.
4. Be selective – don’t set up a Facebook page if you don’t have to. Select which social media platforms are best – it may be that your business or Agency only needs a real presence on one or two – and focus your attention, effort, and energy there.
5. Be unique – don’t copy what your competitors are doing: show your audience the uniqueness in your business or Agency, give them your biggest unique asset, your people. Get everybody involved, to tell their stories in a way which makes your business or Agency so attractive, natural engagement form others will follow.
6. Stop talking and start listening – too many Agencies (PRs are the worst culprits) are so busy shouting about how brilliant they are, and how many industry (navel-gazing) awards they’ve won, they forget the audience. Less broadcasting, more listening please.
These six simple steps, executed over a few months, will transform and innovate social media engagement for you. Guaranteed.
How are you selling? Are you old school or new school? There is a lot of talk about sales targets, selling style and features versus benefits. But at the end of the day, your approach, tone and brand style should tie together with your approach to selling. Here are some questions you may want to think about as you launch into 2011.
Many business people fear that sharing their knowledge will empower their competitors and they believe they should keep their expertise close to their chest. It’s one thing sharing your knowledge and another thing applying it. Let me illustrate this. Tips on how to style my curly hair are great but I’m not about to attempt cutting my hair on my own. I’ll always need a hairdresser to do that. So don’t confuse the knowledge you can share, with the skill you have in applying it. The opportunity to apply your skills (sell them) comes up more often when you set yourself up as an expert.
Today authenticity is absolutely essential. We are bombarded with meaningless adverts, worthless pitches and annoying messages. Why not stand out and be yourself? People buy from people. Even when we buy from faceless large brands we buy from the people employed by them. How many times have you been to a big brand shop and experienced poor service and then slated them, avoided them or told someone about your bad experience? On the other hand, give me a good shop assistant who has some personality and I’m the happiest person. You can communicate authentically by developing an honest brand style and using social media to develop personable relationships.
So you are convinced you know what you are doing. But do other people believe it? This might seem blindingly obvious but many people are still not using testimonials. No one likes those people at parties that never shut up about themselves. So you can talk about your great products and services till you are blue in the face but if you’re the only one saying it then you are likely to go unnoticed. Your customers can help you sell by sharing the positive experiences they have had with your products and services.
Do people understand what you’re trying to say in your brochure or are they tripping over too many words, bad grammar and poor quality imagery? When people land on your website are they overwhelmed with mixed messages, flashing adverts or streams of useless blurb? Here’s a tip — if you give people too many choices such as multiple links on your website, they feel bombarded and run away! Your customers are busy and they need help making buying decisions. Make your communications (print and websites) logical and easy to navigate.
Who wants to be sold to all of the time? The answer is no-one. So why is this one of the biggest problems I experience today? Selling is an essential aspect of any business and I’m definitely not suggesting we scrap it. It’s about how we sell. People want personality, benefits and meaning. So avoid the kind of selling that is in your face, doesn’t shut up, tells lies and is a one-way street of blurb.
The best way to know what your customers actually want is to listen to them! Sounds simple? Then why are most businesses talking at their customers rather than listening? One of the simplest and most innovative things you can do is make your customers feel important by listening to them and trying to solve their problems.
Whether you have boxes of professionally printed leaflets stacked under your desk, or just run off a few copies on your home printer in time for a networking event or exhibition, the chances are that you’ll have at least one leaflet for your business.
The question is, how do you create a leaflet that works for you? You know, one that actually gets people to pick up the phone and book in a consultation? Or one that drives them to your website to buy? It’s certainly easier said than done.
When I started out in the print industry more than ten years ago, everyone starting a business got themselves a logo, some business cards and either a leaflet or brochure. Times have changed, and that mix tends to be a logo, a website and a business card nowadays. But despite the medium changing, attitudes to how you get your promotional piece to work for you don’t seem to have changed.
Over the years, I must have spoken to thousands of business owners with the same laissez-faire attitude to creating promotional literature. The idea seems to be: get the word out and the people will come. So it wasn’t (and still isn’t) uncommon to see a leaflet with a logo pride of place at the top, followed by reams of text (or perhaps bullet points) on why XYZ Company is great. Unsurprisingly, these types of leaflet don’t tend to win their owners much business.
Fast forward ten years and things aren’t much different on the web. There are numerous examples of great websites, but there are also an uncomfortable number of sites that follow the same format – focusing all on the company and very little about the intended reader. If you’d like your leaflets (or your website) to win you more business, here are five things you must do before you get them out there…
1. Set Goals: What do you want this piece of collateral to do for you? (Hint: for websites treat each page separately as well as looking at it as a whole piece — it’s more work, but I promise it will pay off!). I know this doesn’t sound like rocket science, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t sit down and have a good hard think about what they’re trying to achieve. Starting here makes it much easier to get people to do what you want them to.
2. Understand what would compel your reader to do what you want them to do. Why does your (potential) customer need or want what you’re offering? What happens if they don’t do what you want them to do? What’s the downside?
3. Write action-focused words that persuade people to do what you want: don’t talk about your business — talk about what’s on offer, why people need it, what’s in it for them and what the downside is if they don’t do it.
4. Create a piece of design that doesn’t just look gorgeous — it makes all the right things stand out and grabs the attention of the reader as well as reinforcing your branding. Much, much easier said than done — I recommend you leave this bit to the pros!
5. Deliver with a flourish: if it’s a piece of printed literature, get it in all the right places and deliver it more than once — three times in three months is my standard rule of thumb, but it’ll depend on what you’re doing. If it’s a website, you also need to promote its existence — think social media and offline promotion as well as traditional search engine optimisation and ad words.
Go on, give it a try! And let me know how you get on.
The internet is a virtual bonanza of potential customers and clients if you know how to advertise your business. There are a lot of companies online trying to get into your pocket by offering services that will promote your business.
Fortunately, you can do most of these promotional services for cheap, or even free.
It may seem like common sense, but it needs to be said. Your business needs a website to be competitive online. Without a website you will be facing a constant uphill battle. It will only cost you a few dollars per year for hosting and a domain name, and with that you can generate customers and sales.
Any business can get a massive amount of exposure by using online classifieds such as Craigslist. You can place free ads for your business online everyday and targeted people will stumble upon them. These ads can be anything from a one-day event like a garage sale to a service like photography.
Free search engine traffic is tantamount to winning the lottery. If you are able to convince the search engines that your website is the most relevant site for your targeted keywords, you will experience a consistent flood of search engine traffic. This traffic will naturally convert into revenue. You can either do the optimisation yourself for free, or you can pay someone to do it.
A successful article marketing strategy will drive traffic to your website as well as help with search engine optimisation, and it’s completely free. It can be a labour-intensive method though, writing many different articles for many different sites. All that labour will bring reward. A well-crafted article marketing campaign may significantly raise your rank in the search engines
Some businesses are perfect for social networking traffic and some are not. If you believe that your business will be buzz-worthy, you might want to consider creating a Twitter profile as well as a Facebook fan page. These accounts will allow you to interact directly with your online customers. You can let them know of promotions or events, and they can give ideas and suggestions to improve your business. It will also allow your business to grow virally through word of mouth.
If you are able to produce a few interesting videos that are related to your business, posting them on sites like YouTube and Vimeo.com could send you a steady flow of website traffic. These sites are free to submit to, and the potential traffic gain from them is astronomical. Make sure that you submit more than one video to maximize your exposure.
Online photo sharing is like online video sharing. If you have some photos that are relevant to your business, don’t be afraid to share them on Flickr. This will increase your website visibility and send more targeted visitors to your site.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising is rarely thought of as cheap, but it can drive a massive amount of high converting traffic to your site. You will have to find a balance between cost and revenue to make the best use of PPC advertising. While it can be very helpful for your business, it could also be a major drain on your budget if you aren’t careful. It might seem like a good idea at the time to pay for the top spot on Google, but if you aren’t converting enough sales it’s not worth it. You can purchase PPC advertising on almost all of the major search engines, as well as some sites like Facebook.
Email marketing has been stigmatised as spam. While much of the email marketing you receive is indeed spam, your campaign doesn’t have to be. The difference between a legitimate marketing campaign and spam is that people will actually request emails that are legitimate. So how can you make your email marketing campaign legit? All you need to do is create a massive email list of interested parties to send weekly emails to. Creating that list is a little more difficult. You will to give something away for free in order to entice people to provide their email addresses to you. This can be something as simple as a small report or document that is related to your business. After you have created your list, you can begin email marketing without the stigma of a spammer. It is important to allow your recipients to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
If you are promoting a bricks and mortar company, you should be taking advantage of the search engines’ local business listings. This will place your website on the front page with similar local services when someone does a search within your operating area. This can be a great way to get a fledgling business in front of the eyes of thousands of potential customers.
It’s true that most online directories are losing their usefulness when it comes to search engine optimisation, but you can still make use of local directories that target your specific area. You will get a small boost to your page rank and some traffic from the directory itself. You shouldn’t waste any of your time or money with a paid directory. They won’t provide enough traffic to make their service valuable.
There are many different ways to get your business’ name out there on the internet, and you should use all of them. For cheap, or free, you can drastically increase your customer base by tapping into the internet. There are new advertising methods popping up every day, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook chat programme Chit Chat for Facebook
Marketing consultant Helen Hammond explains that attracting customers online starts with talking to potential clients like real people…
I’m going to nail my colours to the mast. If you aren’t prepared to invest in great website copy then you might as well not bother. Yes, the design and functionality of your website are important… but if you don’t consider presenting what people want to hear in a way that works for them, then your beautiful website will be like buying a Ferrari that has a Smart Car engine in it.
I write a lot of website copy and the same problem comes up all the time. Managers are more interested in talking about expertise, services and values than in thinking about what the reader wants to read. Most ‘buyers’ take it as read that a lawyer knows the law, or a car salesroom sells cars. But what they don’t know is whether they like those people, trust them and ‘get’ their organisational culture. Yet, those are the elements on which buying decisions are made. Great website copy triggers these buying decisions rather than just confirming the things the reader already takes for granted.
In the majority of cases, however, I’m asked to embody values put down by the management, not by their consumers, and include trade directory endorsements out of preference to customer testimonials. The real test, however, is when you remove a logo from a website. If you did this, how many companies would you be able to identify from genuinely unique copywriting?
Great web copy talks to real people. Words have the power to put as much personality across as your visual branding does. To get your copy right, start by thinking about what triggers decision-making for your customers and clients. What values do they look for when making buying decisions? Then look online through sites of businesses in your sector for examples that present themselves well.
And, rather than simply checking out similar businesses, take a look at brands such as Tyrells crisps, Innocent Drinks, Bighams, Bensons fruit juice or Graze. They may all be food brands but just look at how they talk to specific types of customer in their own language. These businesses use words to build real trust and loyalty. Importantly, they all have distinctive personalities. Writing great web copy is as much about being brave and confident as it is about delivering information.
Helen Hammond, Elephant Creative Solutions