Here are the ten communication “errors” that I see most often. Do any feel depressingly familiar?
Do these things happen in your business? If so, the solutions are simple:
Back-to-back meetings — stop having them, finish early.
Pointless communication — stop creating yours. Stop reading others.
Too irrelevant — when preparing, ask people what content they want you to include.
Too boring — always ask yourself: “what can I do to make this more interesting?” and include it (you’d be amazed how rarely people do this).
Too long — put detail in the Appendix and irrelevancies in the bin.
Too selfish — look at your communication through the recipient’s eyes. If you don’t think they’ll like it, they won’t.
Wrong channels — consider the best channel for this communication; don’t just do “what we normally do”.
Wrong person — go to Person B, not through Person C (and, whenever possible, don’t let other people use you as a middle-man).
Poor cascades — don’t include/be a middle-man unless the middle-man adds value.
Onerous pre-reads — strip them right back. Aim for one page; two as a max. Remember: they’re not just reading yours.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
In today’s online marketing world, I’ve been wondering if the old marketing divide — above or below the line — still applies. Are these distinctions still relevant or has the line blurred?
Back in the day, above the line advertising — in print, on billboards and on air — was all about driving awareness and brand-building. Meanwhile, direct marketing — such as mailshots and telemarketing — was all about personalisation and conversions.
Today, email newsletters and social media straddle this line completely — they allow us to talk to the world and have a one-to-one conversation. Online marketing has to achieve both widespread awareness and real results — all at the same time. So, is there such a thing as above or below the line anymore?
Recently, I got an email from a business contact asking me if I wanted to get together for a catch-up. The subject line had my name in it and the title asked if we could meet up. But as I read on, I realised the email was a standard (albeit personalised) message that had been sent to lots of people.
This is a classic case of blurring the lines. Yes, email can be a form of direct marketing but when you send a standard letter to a group of people you are no longer marketing one-to-one. You are broadcasting. And your message must reflect that. You can’t have it both ways.
It’s exactly the same when I get an email from someone who I don’t know from Adam asking me to connect with them on LinkedIn. It looks like a personal message but the truth is that this person has probably sent hundreds if not thousands of these requests. They are broadcasting. And I hit “ignore”.
Twitter allows you to respond directly to people, retweet their messages and build individual relationships — all while sharing your thoughts with a larger group.
So is Twitter above the line or below the line? The fact is that it’s a mixture. To get it right you need to apply the rules of above the line advertising and adhere to new, more personal, social mores.
It’s the same with email marketing. If you send a newsletter to a niche group, you can personalise it, target your messages and use a friendly, conversational tone of voice. But you know, and your recipients know, that you are broadcasting. And there’s nothing wrong with that — unless the one person you really want to reach would rather hear from you directly.
Businesses once spent shed-loads of money devising, testing and rolling out ad campaigns that would raise their profile and build their brand. Now they can broadcast thousands of online messages every year — and the main cost is time.
At the same time, though, social media “broadcasting” can be thoughtless and boring. It’s so easy that many businesses forget to be strategic.
But attitudes to social networks are changing. There was a time when businesses, much like teenagers, sought to attract as large a following as possible on Twitter and Facebook — going after so-called “vanity metrics”.
But it can be tricky to hit the right note with large and disparate groups of followers. As Jonah Peretti, ceo and co-founder of Buzzfeed has pointed out, bland messages to these general audiences tend to get a “so what?” response. You can read more about these trends in this blog by Angela Everitt.
Recent research by Pitney Bowes has found that 60% of UK consumers would abandon social media sites like Facebook if mass marketing were to bombard their personal wall.
In addition, the arrival of “dark sharing” or private messaging seems to support the idea that social media users don’t necessarily want all their online social interactions to take place in public.
It seems that after the initial attraction of the “above the line” broadcasting possibilities offered by the likes of Twitter and Facebook, “below the line” opportunities — targeting messages, attracting niche followings, building one-to-one relationships — are now coming to the fore.
There’s no doubt that online marketing platforms straddle the old marketing divide. But valuable lessons learned over many years around above and below the line marketing are still relevant today. The media has changed but perhaps your messages — no matter how you send them — should sit firmly on one side of the line or the other.
Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut.
Unfortunately, when it comes to email marketing there are many bad habits and we’ve all seen them — both as marketers and consumers. Here are some of those bad habits that need to be addressed and — importantly — how to do it.
As consumers we have all received badly targeted email, often for products we would never use. When they fill our inbox we view these organisations as a nuisance; even if we have previously used them, it could even deter us from future dealings.
Remedy: Use the information you hold on your existing clients to better target them and future new prospects.
When selecting or sourcing a distribution list for your email marketing, it is important to appreciate that sheer volume of data is not the key to a successful campaign. Sending to large volumes of email addresses not only suggests that your targeting is weak, but it can have a detrimental effect on the number of Inboxes you reach overall.
Remedy: Send your emails to a smaller, higher quality list to yield better results.
Buying inaccurate (often cheaper) data is a real issue in the industry and the reason some inexpert people say “never buy data lists”.
Remedy: Use a reputable supplier whose data is relevant, up to date and accurate — they can also help you select and target the best prospects.
People are often disappointed in the results of their first email campaign, but you shouldn’t pass judgment too quickly — a single email can be only so effective.
Remedy: Your email campaign should be part of an ongoing series of communications, by both email and other media, to generate and nurture leads.
Most marketing professionals will use a platform suitable for email communications. However, we do still come across some organisations that try to use systems such as Outlook to send mass email. This causes issues with limited send capacity and spam filters blacklisting your company, as well as creative limitations. On top of that, without being able to monitor open, click and other response statistics, you never know exactly how your email and list is performing.
Remedy: Use a dedicated email marketing platform.
This may seem an obvious point, but putting significant effort into both the design and content of you email will pay dividends. A poorly designed email and content that doesn’t appeal to your target audience will damage your reputation.
Remedy: Generally speaking, if you are promoting a product, less is more in terms of copy; make it easy for the recipient to glance over then read more detail if the content is of interest.
When you send your emails, the timing can be as vital as the design — but the best time to send will vary, depending on your target audience. Get it wrong though and the response will be disappointing.
Remedy: The best way to ensure you send your email at the most appropriate time is to test (and test again) — then opt for the one or two times that you have found give the best open and click results.
If you don’t even reach the Inbox of your client or prospect, then your email campaign will not deliver results.
Remedy: Make sure you are aware of spam filters and what they react to, ensuring your content is not blocked from reaching the intended recipient.
Virtually everyone is aware that email is not a high cost mode of communication, so it does not automatically make a client think “this is a reputable company” when they receive an email — especially if you are displaying any of these other bad habits too. This is another reason that email should be just one element of your marketing and communications arsenal.
Remedy: Combine email with direct mail, social media, web presence, print/TV/radio and any other advertising medium that is appropriate for your business and budget.
In the end, every business and product is different; hence you may find that email promotion is not right for a particular product in your range or a particular branch of your business.
Remedy: Always monitor and respond to results and tailor your media as well as your messages.
Tim Holt is the managing director of Data HQ.
Mobile conversion optimisation can be challenging. It forces you to focus on priorities. With limited screen real estate, you need to ensure that your online content is well structured, persuasive and accessible.
Websites that split-test are getting an increasing advantage over their competitors. By steadily increasing their conversion rate, they’re able to get higher returns for the same advertising spend and that means they can invest more in advertising and grow their market share.
This is especially relevant with mobile commerce. We’re at a stage where most companies will have a mobile version of their website. But few websites are split-testing their mobile sites. And as mobile commerce grows, companies that split-test have a huge advantage.
Here are eight recommendations for users starting out with mobile conversion optimisation:
Even if you don’t have a mobile or responsive version of your website, you can still optimise your mobile conversion rate. Choose one page (a high-traffic landing page works best) and create a mobile version of that one page. Split-test this, so 50% of your users see the original, and 50% see the new version — then track the impact on behaviour. If you see a significant increase in the conversion rate, you can build a business case for optimising the entire sales flow.
If you’re using Google Analytics, it’s simple to build a report that shows your sales funnel across devices. Look for differences in behaviour between desktop, mobile and tablet, as these will often pinpoint the biggest opportunities to increase sales.
Use on-site survey tools like Qualaroo to capture feedback from your mobile users. If you allow users to switch between a mobile and a desktop website, ask them why they’re switching — this will often highlight missing or broken functionality in your mobile site.
Tools like Crazy Egg will show exactly where your users are clicking on your desktop website. These heatmaps are ideal for prioritising content on mobile. As you have much less screen real estate, you need to ensure that the most valuable content and elements are towards the top of the page — ideally above the fold.
Mobile users often behave differently to desktop users — and that’s not just because of the device. They may have a different goal for their visit (and this can be revealed by qualitative feedback). For example, a flower delivery website may discover that mobile customers are significantly more likely to purchase same-day deliveries, which means that this content needs to be prioritised.
Mobile usability testing is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get feedback. Services like Usertesting will connect you with members of the public who will video themselves using your website on their own phone.
Business cards are a similar size to mobile screen sizes. So rather than sketching mobile designs on A4 paper, use a blank business card instead. It’ll force you to prioritise the content needed to convert users.
Websites like Airbnb, Target and Homedepot are excellent at mobile conversion. Their focus on simple, accessible content with a frictionless checkout experience means they’re getting a significant advantage over their competitors.
Stephen Pavlovich is the ceo of the Conversion Factory.
Further reading: IT Donut: is responsive web design the future?
One of the most frequently asked questions I hear during my “What’s the point?” series of social media talks is: “How do you find the time to do all this?”
My initial answer is, I’m abnormal. Don’t expect to do what I do — I’m not an average social media user.
My daily routine involves switching off my alarm and checking Facebook, Sky News, LinkedIn and Twitter on my smartphone. I have the same routine before I go to sleep. A couple of times a week, I’ll also look at Google+ and Pinterest. I might also look at Instagram at weekends.
I check in several times during the day — depending on where I am and what I’m doing — usually mid-morning and just after lunch, as my newsfeeds contain the most new content at these times.
But if I was a “normal” social media user, what would I recommend?
You need a plan. You need to know what you want to achieve and identify the best tools to enable you to achieve it. It’s far better to use two or three tools really well than to attempt them all.
First, spend time planning your content. Using a calendar to plan evergreen content frees you up to focus on the real-time stuff.
If you spend time planning, you can maintain an active and effective social media presence in just ten minutes a day.
This gives you time to check your newsfeed or timeline, share timely content, and engage with connections or followers — say thanks, like or add a comment.
Social media needs to become a habit, just as email use became a habit 10+ years ago. Technology is here to make our lives easier. It’s not fundamentally changing what we do — just how we do it.
It takes just 21 days to form a habit. In three weeks, social networking can become a part of your daily life.
Research suggests the following posting frequencies work best:
Facebook: three to four updates each week
Twitter: four to five times a day
Google+: two to three times a day
LinkedIn: two to three status updates each week
Once or twice a week you should check out who has viewed your profile on LinkedIn and participate in a group discussion. Regular participation will ensure you soon have a manageable habit to acquire news and information, and to engage in meaningful conversations.
If your timelines are filled with information that’s not of value, you need to reset your filters. Don’t be afraid to “unlike” and “unfollow”. You can use Twitter lists to organise the accounts you follow into manageable groups, then select which lists you view and when. Your LinkedIn home page allows you to customise the updates you see regularly.
Start forming your social media habit today — the chances are you’ll wonder how you managed without it.
Some common themes came out of the recent New York social media show in February. Here are my top five predictions based on what I learned there:
You can reach too many people. Surely the holy grail of social media or any form of digital marketing is as wide a reach as possible, right? No, says Jonah Peretti, ceo and co-founder of Buzzfeed.
Peretti’s message was that if your content is in front of the wrong people it could actually be damaging. No-one wants a “so what?” response. This boils down to audience research and targeting content. He also stressed the importance of taking time to get your content right — the quizzes on Buzzfeed that are so popular right now actually evolved over six years of experimentation and tweaking.
Quality content is also fundamental to the trend-setting Gen Y audience, the 20-somethings who embrace new platforms and bring them to the fore. Markham Nolan, managing editor of the Gen Y global social news network Vocativ.com, pointed out that one of the biggest misconceptions about this demographic is that they prefer “shallow or simple content”.
A much-used phrase throughout the week — vanity metrics describes the idea of getting as many Facebook likes, Twitter followers or +1s as possible. For many Facebook social users, there’s a competition to see who can get the most friends. It’s the same with Twitter followers. And it is the same story for many brands. But do you really know who 90% of those people are?
The focus has shifted and it comes back to quality not quantity. The emphasis is now on top quality content targeted at the right audience who will engage with it, the aim being to build a lasting relationship that’s going to translate into brand advocacy or loyalty.
If your site is not mobile-optimised, then you are missing out on a serious amount of traffic generated not only by unique visits but social media shares too.
Adam Ostrow, chief strategy officer at Mashable, revealed that 45% of the site’s users view it on mobile. “And that number is growing. The article page is the new homepage — 75-80% of our traffic comes from articles that have been shared on social.”
According to HubSpot, posts with the word “video” in them are shared 30% more on Facebook than posts that do not. And this is set to increase. Buzzfeed has just set up its own production studio in Los Angeles to make its own entertainment videos — where one goes, others will follow.
Jonah Peretti suggested that messaging apps would be the future of social media as early adopters who once flocked to Facebook and other more visible platforms get sick of sharing their lives openly and opt instead for private messaging, or “dark sharing” between closed groups. Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition of WhatsApp suggests that he thinks so too.
Angela Everitt is writing on behalf of content marketing agency, Southerly.