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What Usain Bolt can teach you about getting ahead of your competitors

April 11, 2016 by Mark McCulloch

Usain Bolt{{}}To beat your competition, you just have to be 1% better than everyone else.

Don't believe me? Usain Bolt's nearest competitor was just 1% behind him in terms of time, yet no-one remembers who came second.

That is what a leading sport psychologist said at the Web Summit in Dublin in 2014 and it has stayed with me ever since.

I've also been inspired by the words of David McDowall, Brewdog's retail ops director. Speak at the Casual Dining conference in February, he nailed it when he said if you are not the best at what you do, then why do it? You've got to focus on what you are world class at, and you will outstrip everyone.

But how do you do this? You could spend your time becoming obsessed with all of your competitors, watching their every move, and then setting out to beat them in all areas. But this could be a long process.

Alternatively, waste no time and just dive in. You know who the best in your market are. Look at your business in comparison and focus on making every single person you hire, everything you make or serve and how you communicate 1% better than anything you have ever seen elsewhere.

Before you do this you must have your brand in place. Ask yourself:

  • What do you do? Keep it simple as if you were explaining it to your grandmother.
  • Who is your one type of customer that you can build your business on forever?
  • Why do people come to you?
  • Why are you better than any other competitor?
  • If your brand left the room, how would people describe it? How would it speak?

Add this all together to create a statement that describes your role in the life of your customers.

Once your brand is defined, this is the lens that you look through and how you approach strategy for all areas of your business – people, price, place, product and promotion. Be open and honest; you'll have to interrogate every inch of your business to find your 1%.

But once you get into your stride, you can turn that marginal difference into a landslide.

Copyright © 2016 Mark McCulloch, founder and ceo of WE ARE Spectacular.

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How online images can dramatically improve customer engagement

April 05, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

How online images can dramatically improve customer engagement{{}}The way businesses and customers interact is changing - and graphics, photographs and videos are making a bigger impact on consumers than ever.

If you are launching a campaign, looking to strengthen your marketing materials or raise brand engagement, you should consider whether you are making the best use of visual marketing methods. If you want to get a great return on your advertising, it might be time to up your game with visual-based marketing content.

Today's brands, big and small, are faced with the challenge of appealing to easily distracted viewers. Many consumers will look at an advert or web page for just a few seconds before moving on - if you don't capture their attention right away, you could lose their interest for good.

To build a loyal and engaged client base, pick your images carefully. That image is likely to be remembered and perhaps even shared by viewers. Studies show that we remember 10% of written information, on average, but when illustrated with a strong image information retention rises to 65%. An image helps to connect your audience with your message, and will strengthen your brand moving forward.

Marketing methods: visual versus textual

Many social media campaigns use image-based platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and even Tumblr to showcase their products; and the use of well-designed graphics can really enhance these marketing efforts. Studies have shown that for 80% of consumers, bright visuals are more attractive and lead to more conversions than text-based or simple image posts.

We've seen a dramatic rise in consumer engagement when presenting information in a visual style rather than as a textual piece. Employing a graphic designer to help with your campaign could also make a huge difference.

A recent Superbowl advert released through Snapchat by Gatorade received over one million views in its first 24 hours. This is similar to the audience reached by TV ads during the game - but the cost is significantly lower.

Businesses can make big savings on marketing while reaching the same audience - and online ads can be watched again and shared, increasing reach.

Brand relevance and image engagement

Adverts and marketing pieces that are accompanied by a relevant and appealing image are 94% more likely to be viewed, according to recent research. This means that the right image is more eye-catching than a headline and is the key to getting noticed.

Studies suggest that people are more likely to respond to pictures they can relate to, so images of people are usually effective. But graphics are also important as they can deliver a lot of information in a simple format.

You also need to understand your audience when choosing images. Instagram, for instance, has a young following that like bold, bright images; short clips and infographics also perform well in this environment. Facebook has a much broader market, with only 33% of users in the under-30 age bracket. On this platform, strong visual content works best when it’s accompanied by word-based content.

Sponsored post

Copyright © 2016 Swapnil Kulkarni, Marketing Analyst at He understands business objectives, and tries to stay informed on market trends and implement right practices by using web analytics and market research tools.

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Podcast: Dominic Irons talks to Chloe Thomas about his successful online business

April 04, 2016 by Chloë Thomas

In this podcast, Chloe Thomas talks to Dominic Irons, owner of Bureau Direct an award-winning mail order stationery retailer.

A focus on design, great products and excellent customer communication has enabled Dominic to grow his online stationery business and now he's getting up to 3,500 orders per month.

Dominic and his team want to make their customers feel part of the family and the communication strategy includes a weekly e-newsletter which, says Dominic, really embodies the values of the business and "has taken on a life of its own".

In this interview, Chloe also finds out how Dominic is growing the traffic to his website using SEO and pay-per-click advertising.

Tune in to Chloe's latest podcast below to hear from this successful online entrepreneur.

Copyright © 2016 Chloe Thomas of eCommerce Masterplan.

How can small business leaders make the most of their brand?

March 29, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

How can small business leaders make the most of their brand? {{}}A strong brand drives growth but many marketers complain that business leaders don't understand what branding actually means for their business - and research backs this up.

The recent Brand Experience report from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals that two-thirds (67%) of marketers believe their leaders fail to fully embed their company's identity and values throughout their organisation and in relationships with customers.

Small firms need brands too

For a company to understand and implement brand values, I believe the motivation needs to start at the top. But this is not just an issue for large companies - it's important for businesses of all sizes, including small firms.

One SME that successfully achieves this is Herdy, which creates gifts, homewares and accessories inspired by Herdwick sheep and supports sustainable rural community projects through the Herdy fund.

Spencer Hannah, co-founder and director of Herdy, strives to ensure that brand is integrated throughout his company and believes it's a necessity for leaders to not only present the importance of the brand vision, but to make it one of their top priorities and really live it and breathe it.

People power

In practice this means recruiting people that show a passion for the Herdy way of being. Employees, customers and social communities are all part of the Herdy family. In order to maintain this family atmosphere, Spencer holds weekly informal meetings where everyone has an opportunity to share what they are working on.

This ensures that the Herdy brand vision is aligned across the company and provides its leaders with an opportunity to engage and hear the views of members of the team and make sure they feel that they are working towards a common goal.

Communicating brand values

Marketing is not just about the external selling of a company's products or services, it is about creating a brand that can be communicated to customers through all of their interactions with the business.

For me, it is really important that small business leaders take responsibility to ensure that their company's values are integrated across the organisation, to help ensure their brand isn't superficial and to unlock its full potential to drive value for the business.

Copyright © 2016 Steve Woolley, head of external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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What's next for Twitter?

March 21, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Twitter{{}}Twitter turns ten this week, but it continues to suffer a difficult year, with share prices plummeting, key executives jumping ship and new user growth stalling for the first time in its ten-year history.

Last year, co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as ceo to try and bring the company out of a tailspin that has left it with a two billion dollar deficit and a product that seems increasingly unsure of itself.

Rumours of an impending takeover by Facebook or Google have been rife in recent months, but Twitter's long-term prospects depend on it sorting out several key issues which have left it losing ground in an unforgiving marketplace.

So what are Twitter's problems?

Lack of monetisation

Social networks tend to build a large pool of users first and worry about how to monetise them later. Nobody wants to join a new social network that's plastered with ads. Twitter amassed a huge user base - currently around 300 million active users - but has struggled to find an advertising product that doesn't push people away.

Twitter's ad products were always designed to look native. Promoted tweets, trending topics and recommended accounts are nestled among organic results. But advertisers have been disappointed with the in-stream ads Twitter has offered.

Twitter's ads underperformed against Facebook's, despite the average CPM being five times as expensive. The fact is that Facebook's network reach dwarfs that of Twitter, it offers a far more diverse demographic and its users share things ten times as much. Twitter needs to work out a way of offering real value to advertisers without scaring off users. Not an easy task.

Great expectations

Twitter is an important part of modern culture. It's a place where revolutions are born and where vital information gets spread during good times and bad. Hashtags and live-tweeting have changed the way we communicate. Virtually every president and prime minister on earth has an account.

But none of this necessarily makes Twitter profitable. And tech investors are losing patience with social networks whose dazzling valuations are now causing worries of a second dot com bubble.

In a February earnings report, Twitter warned that user growth will continue to stall and profitability is unlikely any time soon. Its focus is now on making itself indispensable again.

User confusion

Twitter has never been an easy sell to casual users. Dorsey recently conceded that "new users may initially find our product confusing", noting that there's a "perception that our products and services are only useful to users who tweet, or to influential users with large audiences".

The constant tinkering with its core product certainly hasn't helped. The possibility of changing the two features that have defined the platform since its launch - the 140-character limit and the chronological presentation - don't inspire confidence in the platform's staying power against other, more visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Twitter is doing the right thing in trying to make its product simpler but it risks losing its identity by becoming a noisier version of a Facebook feed. The Lists feature is a great way to split your timeline into categorised groups but without a third party application you can't see them all at once. Twitter is the only social network that gets more frustrating the more you use it.

A bad atmosphere

In addition, Twitter has become an increasingly hostile environment, with countless cases of individuals being publicly shamed on the platform. The dark side of Twitter's collectivist ecosystem is the "snowflake in an avalanche" effect that creates a diffusion of responsibility amongst those who participate in mass shamings. Nobody takes the blame, apart from Twitter itself.

Twitter's reporting system is notoriously difficult to enforce on a platform that encourages handles over real names and requires only a fresh email address to create a new account.

Anyway, editorial censorship is likely to cause a backlash from users who would see it as a slippery slope towards letting people silence any negative attention, however justified. And yet the difference between simply posting a negative opinion about someone and bullying them is difficult to judge even by humans, let alone an automated process.

So what's next?

Making headlines and getting celebrities and world leaders to use your product is great for attracting new users, but it won't keep them there unless you offer them something that's both enjoyable to use and provides genuine value - the huge number of dormant accounts is clear evidence of that.

Twitter is likely to sink more money into R&D and acquisitions in order to overhaul its product. Buying Periscope, a live-streaming video service, was a good start.

But there are still problems with its advertising product and the only way it can fix them is to put its users first and advertisers second. The recent acquisition of cross-platform tech company TellApart, which allows advertisers to remarket to users who aren't logged in or don't have an account, is concerning.

Jack Dorsey recently announced a big restructure of Twitter's staff, slimming down its team and pledging to recruit new top talent. A bit of downsizing isn't such a bad thing for the brand. Perhaps Twitter could benefit from changing its identity from "the big idea that was meant to change the world" to being just another quietly efficient tech company.

Copyright © 2016 Rob Diggle, digital marketing manager, Databroker.

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How to build trust in your online brand

March 21, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to build trust in your online brand{{}}Trust is an essential component in the success of any business. It's key to converting a prospect into a lead and turning a lead into a satisfied customer. When you are operating an online-only business in a high-ticket market, it becomes the single most important consideration.

For Carspring, this high ticket is a car, which, on average, is the second largest lifetime investment a customer will make after buying a home. Carspring launched in Spring 2015 and its main focus has been on building trust through transparency. Reaching that take-off point is dependent on building trusting relationships with customers.

Trust starts with a strong brand

This is undoubtedly a marketing cliché but a unique visual feel and voice helps guide people to the product you sell. Without a strong brand, people can't remember you and they'll struggle to trust you. All the usual suspects apply here: a great image, an emotional connection, brand consistency, reciprocal consumer relationships and memorable messages.

Conquer the customer journey

This is all about communication. Every single one of your consumer interactions has to help with establishing trust, whether it's a transactional email, your customer service team or your website.

Most importantly, it has to stay human. It has to feel like a personal one-to-one interaction. And if your product has a long research phase, great content that informs customers and institutes expertise in your brand is really crucial. FAQs and a blog, for example, help you reach your target audience early on in the purchasing journey.

Focus on your market's weakness and turn it to your advantage

An online business that sells high-ticket items has to work that bit harder to convince people to complete a purchase with you. One way of doing this is by creating some great USPs that go above and beyond those of the traditional offline players.

Network and build partnerships

There's nothing more powerful than forging partnerships with big players. Being able to use a known brand to leverage your own business gives your brand legitimacy and credibility. Take a look at your wider market - are there any established brands that you can partner with? If so, try approaching them with ideas about how both of you can benefit from such a relationship.

Great PR is critical

PR is an essential tool for building trust, especially when you get positive mentions in reputable publications. When you receive recommendations from reliable sources, this builds belief in your brand. One big media mention can be more influential than multiple exposures across lesser-known titles. And, thanks to Google, this coverage is often discoverable when people search for your brand, giving your name a valuable stamp of approval.

Use customer feedback

There are an ever-increasing number of channels for customers to provide feedback. Facebook, TrustPilot and others are key in making your brand appear real and genuine. Customers love reading about other people's experiences. Shout great reviews from the rooftops, tackle negative comments head-on and use every bit of feedback you get for FAQs. It shows that you are a brand that listens and learns.

Sponsored post: copyright © 2016 Selin Burt, Carspring.

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