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How to improve the online shopping experience for your customers

February 13, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How to improve the online shopping experience for your customers/Add to cart button on a keyboard{{}}Thanks to the internet, businesses can find themselves competing against competitors all over the world. As a result of globalisation, customers are getting bombarded every day with brand messages. Even when you have an excellent service or product, simply getting people's attention and having your company stand out is a challenge.

Changing patterns of behaviour

What’s more, people are busier than ever. Customers today know they have alternatives and won't hesitate to turn to them if you don't meet their expectations. All customers have to do if they're not happy is click away from your site, do a quick search for what they need, and then you're out of the picture. With more people shopping online, improving your customers' experience with your website is essential to maintaining a solid client base and getting referrals.

Keeping customers satisfied online

There are many ways to keep your customers satisfied online, depending on your operational constraints and needs. You could try the following options:-

Improve the online shopping experience

Customers want to be able to see what they've picked out from your site, not only to make sure they have everything they need or want, but also because they need to see what everything is going to cost them. Make it easier for your customers to see what they've selected, what each item costs, what the total expense will be and how much you're adding in taxes and/or shipping.

Flag up offers and benefits

Discounts need to be clear, too. They help customers feel like they're getting a good deal. Mention promotions and offers one last time, such as a reduced rate for spending more than a certain amount. This way, customers get a second chance and won't feel cheated if they find out about them after buying. In general, keep the shopping cart near the top of your page, because people tend not to scroll down far. It should be easy to spot and identify.

Track customer behavior

Customer service software, such as CRM applications, allow you to determine things like how long it has been since a customer visited your site or what they bought. This enables you to suggest other items or services, send reminders or even automate sales. Your customers often get a streamlined experience and at the same time, they feel as though you're treating them as an individual.

Follow up regularly

If you don't follow up with clients, they can get the impression that you are lukewarm about them — and that’s when competitors can easily attract their attention. Email is a decent way to follow up, but more and more companies are also using text. Remember, your customers don't just want confirmation of their purchases. They want to be involved, and they need a helping hand once in a while.

Ask for feedback and touch base just to see if their needs have changed. Offer more information, support or access, and send reminders about events, maintenance or other options. As Forbes suggests, testimonials and customer reviews work well because they build trust and inspire customers to take action.

Jack Bishop is an eCommerce guru, writing for Shopify customer service software solutions. He has a passion for helping small businesses run well with modern technology.

 

How to raise your profile as an entrepreneur

February 12, 2014 by Marc Duke

How to raise your profile as an entrepreneur/Richard Branson{{}}Every entrepreneur needs to focus on PR — as founder you are often at the centre of the PR story.

You have to make sure that as many people out there know about your product/service/company as possible and make this happen as cheaply as possible. PR is the answer. It’s cheap and its power immense. But the question is how do we do it? More to the point, what exactly are we “PRing”?

Image: Richard Branson, courtesy of Gulltagen on Flickr.

Technology start-ups

Many technology start-ups rush to appoint a PR bod or an agency to spread the word or to build the profile of the founder. I have heard many an expert tell me that for a start up to be successful the PR has to be great, even better than early revenues or a killer product. Get your company mentioned in Mashable, TechCrunch and VentureBeat and it’s job done.

But how? That’s the tricky bit. You love your company, in fact you live for it, that is why you are an entrepreneur. Chances are everyone you know will have heard the elevator pitch, even if you are nowhere near a lift. But to get PR your story needs to be different and relevant to your audience. What if you are whizz in developing a product, devising the strategy but don’t see yourself as a celebrity entrepreneur — then what?

PR targets

Think carefully. Before you appoint someone, think about payment for results and how you will use the coverage they generate. Exactly who do you want to speak to, and what publications/titles/sites do you want to appear in/on. It’s all about the targets.

One final point, you might not think of your story as interesting but the fact that you have the guts to be an entrepreneur is, without bragging, an inspiration to others so always talk to journalists about what you are up to. You never know where it will lead.

Marc Duke is the founder of Marc Duke Consulting.

Further reading: 

Posted in PR | Tagged start-up, PR, entrepreneur | 0 comments

Five marketing tools it is well worth paying for

February 10, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Five marketing tools it is well worth paying for/Details of keys on a computer keyboard{{}}Paid media and inbound marketing were once seen as mutually exclusive — and content arguably took centre stage in an increasingly competitive race to the top of the search engine results pages.

Certainly, businesses have come to love inbound marketing because it offers recurring gains for the initial investment in content; gains that can recur for years.

At the same time, “paid” became something of a dirty word. But paid media does still have its place, providing it’s used ethically and naturally as part of a holistic marketing campaign.

Let’s look at five types of paid media that are still worthy of investment.

1. Google AdWords

Google AdWords is the cornerstone of every paid media strategy and not just because of its phenomenal reach. AdWords provides crucial keyword data that’s impossible to glean through organic search due to the rise of keywords that are ‘not provided’. As such, AdWords still has a role to play in bridging paid media and inbound marketing.

2. Press release distribution

Press releases have been highlighted by Matt Cutts as a source of discounted links. But while a press release won’t do anything for PageRank, the press release is still an extremely valuable paid media tool for traffic building. Aim to use a distributor that gets the majority of its releases into Google News.

3. Facebook Exchange

Facebook is phasing out some of its advertising efforts and pushing Facebook Exchange as an alternative. Exchange (also known as FBX) is a retargeting system based on real-time bidding. While Exchange is initially slightly less accessible than Promoted Posts or Sponsored Stories, it represents a move to a more sophisticated type of paid social media marketing where content can still play its part.

4. Stumbleupon ads

On Stumbleupon, you can purchase paid exposure for content, giving it a second lease of life. Stumbleupon prices its Paid Discovery product on a pay-per-visitor model. Stumbleupon is sometimes sidelined — perhaps because it requires some effort to gain traction — yet it’s still effective. Incorporating it into a paid media strategy is the final piece in the puzzle.

5. Promoted Tweets

Practically every brand has a Twitter account; many have more than one. Promoted Tweets give brands a new way to leverage their content. Tweets are set up in advance and promoted to people who search for keywords. Twitter doesn’t offer sophisticated analytics yet, but the service is reasonably new.

By blending paid media and inbound marketing, you should aim to get the best of both worlds for an affordable cost. Your content marketing projects should also get a valuable boost from the paid media strategy you devise.

Alistair Norman is marketing manager at inbound marketing consultancy, Tomorrow People.

Marketing lessons for start-ups - from Julia Roberts

February 05, 2014 by Marc Duke
Marketing lessons for start-ups - from Julia Roberts/Julia Roberts{{}}

   Image: epublicist on Flickr

Do you remember the bit in Pretty Woman when Richard Gear asks Julia Roberts her name? Her response is start-up marketing gold dust: “whatever you want it to be”.

How many times have you heard a pitch from a start-up which goes along the lines of: “Our product is unique. No-one else does what we do.” This is especially common in business-to-business services. Ask the same start-up who their competitors are though and they often say: “We don’t have any competition as our proposition is unique.”

Really? I think not and here’s why: the customer.

The customer is king

The customer is king, and in their eyes you are not unique. Well you might be different but the customer still has to have some frame of reference to compare you against to make a purchasing decision. Given that they have to pay for the product/servi

ce they will have a very definitive say on how your product is positioned so you ignore their views at your peril.

Granted your product or service might be totally different to anything else out there but the customer has to position it against what they currently use. That way, they can then decide whether they want to purchase it or replace an existing solution. This is not a trivial decision — particularly in business-to-business.

As a founder of your business you see things very clearly. You know exactly what you do, how you are different, why you are better… The trouble is people outside your business don’t — if they do you are lucky and be, very, very nice to these advocates. But, for the most part, they have neither the time nor inclination to work it out. So you have to help them – big time!

The importance of positioning

In the IT space there is an old adage: “No-one gets fired for buying IBM”. The point is that we know what the company does and stands for. The challenge for start-ups then is doubly hard. First, you have to get to the decision maker and then you have to convince them to trust you and risk their money and reputation. If the product or solution is positioned in the customer’s mind in a way that reduces this risk, you are half to making a sale. Which brings me neatly to the final point — the pivot.

It’s a classic piece of re-positioning. There are times when start-ups create a product or service that ultimately no one needs or offers benefits that are of limited value. When this happens there are two options: quit or re-position.

I worked with a social networking start-up that was aimed at highly regulated industries. However, the offer of a social network was not particularly attractive to that audience. The start-up repositioned its product as a collaboration tool to reduce time to make decisions and support sales. Suddenly, it was much more attractive.

The product didn’t change but the positioning did.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant and founder of Marc Duke Consulting.

Is print dead?

February 05, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Is print dead?/letterbox with a red door background{{}}With the popularity of online advertising and email as marketing channels, the low cost of delivery has made the allure of e-media powerful. But it’s leaving many marketers asking, is print dead?

We get a staggering amount of digital communication each day, and every message is easily replaced by the next tweet, email or status update.

Print, however, is tangible, high-impact and high-ROI — and it stands out in today’s increasingly cluttered online universe. Direct mail provides a tactile response that stimulates the senses, creating more positive brand associations and making the communication more memorable. And it’s impervious to spam filters.

But it’s not about abandoning one for the other. By merging the digital world with the world of print, the success of both increases.   

Print marketing: the secrets of success

In order to get the best return on your investment, your print marketing should contain these three elements: 

  1. A targeted message: You need to know your audience. It won’t matter how well-designed or creative the direct mail piece is if the message isn’t targeted and appropriate for the audience. Using the customer’s name to customise each piece of mail is a good start, but don’t stop there. Use search and purchase history to customise images based on the individual’s interests, gender, occupation, and point in the buying cycle. For instance, if you know a person has already made a purchase, follow up with a personalised piece that directly refers to her recent behavior.
  2. A compelling message: You need to understand your customer’s needs and present a compelling solution and reason to act. How does your message help your customer or prospect? It needs to be extremely clear why and how she should contact you. This correlates with the personalised message we just talked about. In any follow-up correspondence thanking the customer for her purchase, you could include an offer to refer a friend, a reminder to purchase a complementary item or flag up an upcoming sale.
  3. An interesting or interactive format: Your print piece needs to engage the customer with images and messaging that demand interaction. This can be achieved through innovative folds, personalised messaging and attention-getting post-press finishing, such as foil stamping, die cutting, embossing, UV coating, metallic inks, scratch-off and dimensional mailers. For instance, Kohl’s has had success by sending postcards with scratch-off coupons and Staples distributed a back-to-school piece that featured a die cut stapler that doubled as a coupon.

The companies that are the most successful at integrating print into their marketing mixes are masters at crafting a cohesive campaign across all marketing channels with personal, relevant materials.

Andrew Field is the ceo of PrintingForLess.com.

Four marketing must-dos for 2014

February 04, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Four marketing must-do's for 2014/To Do List{{}}I love the fresh-scrubbed feel of a new year. It’s a great time to set goals and it inspires me to charge ahead.

I do more looking forward this time of year than looking back, but it is important to pause and take stock of where I’ve been. It helps me avoid making the same mistakes twice, and reminds me of things we did that worked well, so that we can try to repeat them.

To that end, here are my top four marketing must-dos in 2014: 

1. Define your marketing goals

With clearly defined goals, you have something to aim for and a way to measure your progress (or lack thereof). Throughout the year, I can easily analyse the numbers and see whether I’m on track; if I’m not, I know I need to address any problems.

Goals include how many followers or connections you’ll gain on your social media networks, and how many new subscribers you’ll sign up for newsletters. Sales may be a number you take into account, but remember — sales are the result of a comprehensive strategy of which marketing is just one component. 

2. Develop your own marketing database

Building a database with email addresses and relevant information about former, current and prospective clients is absolutely essential. It allows you to communicate with them, reminding past customers of all you have to offer; strengthening the confidence of current customers; and encouraging prospective customers to move toward a sale.

If you’re just getting started, create a database of all the people you know who might be interested in hearing from you including friends, family and all your business contacts. Your communications should not be sales pitches; they should offer valuable, helpful and relevant information.

Grow your database by including a “call to action” on your website — an invitation for visitors to share their contact information in exchange for something that benefits them. That could include free reports, how-to videos or subscriptions to your blog posts.

3. Maintain your marketing budget — even when sales slump

The first thing some people do when income declines is minimise expenses by whacking their marketing budget. Huge mistake! In fact, you need to pay more attention to marketing when sales drop off.

The new prospects you develop today, and the prospects you’ve been establishing relationships with, will be your paying customers tomorrow. If you allow that stream to dry up, you’ll be in even more dire straits a few months from now.

4. Use every marketing tool available to you

Today we have more tools than ever for communicating the value of our service or product. Many of them cost you nothing. Today I can jump on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and the other social media networks and reach a potentially far larger audience for free.

Speaking engagements may be old school, but they’re still effective; personal, face-to-face experiences create lasting impressions. Traditional media — radio, newspapers and magazines, and TV — are also still powerful and carry the additional benefit of giving you credibility. That implied endorsement from journalists can set you apart.

Creating a great website accessible to millions of potential shoppers doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can ramp up its value by using it to showcase your publicity.

Use everything at your disposal to share your message.   

Marsha Friedman is the ceo of EMSI Public Relations and author of Celebritize Yourself.

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