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Responding to users — not just devices

August 11, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Responding to users — not just devices{{}}The responsive web can be more than just a tech solution; it can also be about responding to users’ needs by serving the most relevant content, in the right place at the right time.

So, here’s the question: what are you reading this on right now? Or maybe the question should be what could you be reading this on right now, and why?

Taking a quick glance at my desk as I write this, there are three devices I use to consume content on the web — my desktop, tablet and phone. Actually, there are four devices if you include the printer — yup, some folks still like to print web pages and read them the old-fashioned way.

A multi-device world

For me, these devices represent a slightly different way of using the web — my desktop computer is the default for the full experience, the tablet is generally used for pure media consumption and I most often use my mobile to look something up (an address, phone number, train time) when I’m out and about.

This multi-device, multi-use situation challenges website owners and developers with choices as to how we present and deliver our web content. Do we:

  • Run with the increasing trend of true Responsive Web Design (RWD), using fluid layouts that adapt and resize the full site according to device screen sizes;
  • Target specific devices with a separate site, designed to only be shown when a users visits on particular hardware;
  • Take a hybrid approach, with a responsive framework that hides or shows levels of content depending on size;
  • Or ignore the whole thing and hope it goes away?

Obviously the last option’s not going to work — given that there are now more mobiles than people on earth. The other options need some careful consideration however, and this is where content strategy also comes into play.

Serving the right content

We recently worked with one of our long-term clients to take their existing website to “phase two” — a more engaging, interactive site with in-depth research papers and current key market data. They also wanted the site to work on tablets and mobiles.

The depth and complexity of some of the content immediately threw up an interesting question: does a user visiting the site on a phone need (or want) to access a research paper or sort through multi-column market data while on the move?

The hybrid model

We decided to test the theory using the “hybrid” responsive option — the same site, resizing for ease of use on a mobile, but with conditional content that hides or simplifies below a certain screen size. The result is a cleaner, more direct site at the smallest size, but still containing all the core information about our client (what they do, the benefits they deliver, how to get in touch) streamlined to suit the likely needs of the user.

Clear messaging also encourages them to visit on a tablet or desktop to access the full content. And, to check our reasoning, we’re tracking data and talking to users to make sure they’re getting what they need.

The app approach

For another client, we’re in discussion about a mobile-specific hotel room booking site in addition to their main website. In this case, specifically targeting mobiles will allow us to deliver an app-like experience to the customer, with the site performing very specific identified tasks — useful to the traveller on the go, who doesn’t need the complete history of the hotel and multiple sub-pages about events planning or conferencing.

As these examples show there isn’t yet a one-size-fits-all approach to responsive and mobile web design — the option you choose should be based on user analysis, content relevance, behaviour, functionality and many other factors.

Content is king

The most important thing to remember when choosing your path is that content is king. Never lose sight of why your users are visiting your site in the first place and what they want to find when they get there. Then you can make decisions about responsiveness — tech or otherwise — from an informed standpoint.

Let’s respond to user need, not just their devices.

© Dan Howard, digital director at Valiant Design.

How to use content to influence customer thinking

August 04, 2014 by Grant Leboff

How to use content to influence customer thinking{{}}In a digital world, your greatest marketer is no longer you. Rather, it is the community of customers, prospects, suppliers, partners and industry experts who engage with your business. They share links, give you mentions and, in turn, prompt others to engage with your business.

In other words, marketing today is no longer a means to an end; it is an end in itself. Effective marketing provides value, regardless of whether someone purchases from you or not.

Content is a major mechanism for providing that value for prospects and customers. It can come in all sorts of guises — competitions, top tips, games, insights, white papers, videos, articles, podcasts and more. However, the common theme is that it should provide value for the audience regardless of whether they make a purchase or not.

Attention-seeking tactics

Ultimately though, a commercial business requires marketing to lead to purchasing somewhere down the line. The logic is simple — the more people who are engaged with your business, the more attention you will have in the marketplace. So, when people are looking to purchase, this visibility should lead to your company being one of the suppliers considered.

If your value proposition and the other aspects of your offering are attractive, this should lead to business. Moreover, in the digital world, if it is clickable it is trackable. Therefore, businesses can be tracking all the data to ascertain what marketing is effective and what is not. In this way, an organisation can be constantly striving to improve results.

So far so good; but is there more a company should be doing? The short answer is... yes.

In most markets, prospects use information to learn about the different products and services available, latest trends, the experiences of others and so on. Your business should be providing content of real value — insightful, educational and which prospects will share, not overtly promotional.

Influence customer thinking

You can use this material to create competitive advantage when the moment to choose a supplier occurs. Content can influence how a buyer thinks about a product or service — use yours to emphasise the importance of the particular criteria that differentiates your business from your rivals.

Of course, different criteria will appeal to different buyers — which is why there is often room for a number of suppliers in any particular market.

Criteria of purchase is vital in deciding the supplier a customer will eventually choose. It is the ability to influence the criteria of purchase, while at the same time providing real insight and value, which gives every business an opportunity to tip the scales in its favour when a buyer is making a purchasing decision.

This is an aspect of content marketing too often ignored by businesses. So, ask yourself, how effective is your content marketing? Could you make it better?

Copyright © 2014 Grant LeBoffexpert contributor to Marketing Donut and CEO of the Sticky Marketing Club.

Get the most out of Pinterest

July 31, 2014 by Sarah Orchard

Get the most out of Pinterest{{}}Recently, I’ve been talking to some of my small business clients about Pinterest and I have discovered that many of them are still in the dark about its potential value to their businesses.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media site based on images. Completely free, users create online pinboards featuring themed collections of pictures and/or videos.

It tends to be somewhat female-biased (though not exclusively) and is perfect for lifestyle, home décor and interiors, weddings, food, fashion — it’s all about ideas and inspiration.

But Pinterest is great for any consumer ecommerce businesses and has been proven to drive better online sales conversion than the mighty Facebook.

How can Pinterest help my business?

Pinterest can actually help build greater brand awareness for your business and help you engage with your customers.

Think of it as an alternative to a Facebook business page — if you have a Facebook page you’ll be familiar with adding posts that are designed to drive traffic to your website. Likewise, with Pinterest you can pin pictures to your boards showcasing your products (possibly with other complementary products) or bringing what you do to life if you provide a service.

You can also show customers using your products and feature customer case studies or completed projects — anything that will generate interest and drive traffic to your website where they can get the full picture of your product range.

How you use your boards is up to you. You could consider creating a photo-based competition or crowdsource ideas by inviting users to add suggestions or ask for their votes for new product ranges.

If you go to events or interesting venues, why not share photos before, during and after the event. It’s all about making an impression, giving an audience insight into your business and showing them why they might want to buy from you.

So what works best?

Pinterest is very mobile-friendly and most people use it on their phones — as a result, pins with a vertical aspect ratio work best.

It’s also worth thinking about how you’ll describe your pin. Pinterest is a visual tool but words are powerful for search. Take time to explain how a particular product will be of benefit to customers by writing helpful descriptions. Better descriptions will also help your pins show up in on-site searches as well as Google.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when writing your descriptions. If you’re selling wedding hair accessories, for instance, write about the ideal length of hair or hairstyle that a particular hair clip will suit.

The more you explore Pinterest, the more click throughs to your website you’ll get, as well as repins that will ensure your products are seen by more and more people.

Copyright © 2014 Sarah Orchard. Sarah is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

How to run successful meetings

July 28, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to run successful meetings{{}}Let’s start with two indisputable facts about meetings:

  • Most aren’t very good
  • Most are prepared using a similar process.

Conclusion: the process doesn’t work very well. So don’t do it.

And what is this process?

“I want to discuss topic X. So let’s get all the relevant stakeholders in a room, so we can hit everyone at once. Let’s also cover all the relevant topics on the agenda, so we can hit everything at once.”

Does that sound familiar? As is the usual result: meandering, boring and too few resulting actions.

A better approach is to prepare using PALM:

  • Purpose. Identify exactly what you want to be able to do after the meeting (in other words, focus first on what the meeting is supposed to cause, not cover).
  • Agenda. List the key decisions that need to be made, in order to achieve the purpose.
  • Limit time. Don’t say meetings will last an hour, or they will. Instead, say they will last “a maximum of 45 minutes”. Most meetings are too long anyway. And saying “a maximum of” means that people expect it to finish earlier. So it often does.
  • Minimise attendees. This may sound weird; but you want to strip out as many people as possible. When two people meet, there is just one agreement: person A agreeing with B. However, when four meet, it shoots up to 6 agreements (AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD). When it gets to 8-12 people, the number of agreements rockets up even further.

You can use this PALM approach widely:

  • In your diary invites — start with a purpose, then agenda, then say it will last “a maximum of”.
  • In all of your communications before the meeting.
  • In your introduction at the start of the meeting. “Thanks for your time today. The reason for this meeting is so that, after it, we’re able to do X and Y. We’ll finish as soon as we can”.
  • In the printed agenda — put the purpose at the top.
  • In your follow-up email confirming actions.

What simple changes could you make, so that everyone looks forward to coming to your meetings, rather than arriving late? Or not at all.

Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, 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.

Tagged Meetings | 0 comments

Vine — the six-second commercial for gen Y

July 23, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Vine — the six-second commercial for gen Y{{}}When Erik Qualman — social media magic man and author of the hugely successful book Socialnomics — released his latest stat-packed YouTube video he did a great job of highlighting the power of social media in the modern age.

This three-minute clip is a shining example of clever video marketing. Considering that it’s a sequence of facts and figures strewn across the screen, the video drives home its point in a compelling way.

It just goes to show how a smart design combined with eye-catching infographics and a Daft Punk backing tune can hold a viewer’s attention for 180 seconds.

It’s even more impressive if you take into account one of the video’s stand-out statistics — the average person has an attention span of seven seconds.

It sounds extreme but I’m inclined to agree with that — mainly because as soon as I’d read it I immediately started wondering what I should have for lunch. But also because we, as consumers, are being so overloaded with advertisements that we tend to disregard anything that doesn’t appeal to us within the first few seconds.

This sort of consumer behaviour has shifted the way content marketers approach advertising — and that’s where Vine comes in.

The influence of Vine on advertising

In his video, Qualman describes the six-second Vine as the new 30-second commercial. This makes a lot of sense. Apart from anything, no-one’s buying into traditional marketing anymore — just 14% of consumers trust advertisements, according to Qualman.

With Vine, viewers are getting are short, snappy, engaging clips primarily intended to entertain while hinting at a brand or business — it’s the gentle approach to advertising.

On the grapevine

One big business that is using Vine cleverly for content marketing is Ford. Ford has only been using the platform since early 2014 yet it has managed to accrue a substantial following by recruiting the help of more established Viners. It has asked these influencers to produce Vines in which Ford cars play a part — but this is more like product placement than traditional advertising and it’s better for it. Re-Vining the clips using the influencer’s handle, as opposed to Ford’s, also encourages more user engagement.

In addition, the playful and irreverent humour in its clips attracts the attention, trust and respect of a younger audience that would typically be less interested in corporate commercials.

Given that Qualman says 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, then gen Y is the largest and most social media-dependent demographic out there.

So, if you want to tap into this pool of potential customers, it would be worth taking a page out of Ford’s book and start harnessing the power of Vine in your content marketing strategy.

Copyright © 2014 Shelley Hoppe, managing director at Southerly.

Tagged Vine, Twitter | 0 comments

Getting to the top of search results

July 21, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Getting to the top of search results{{}}Let’s be honest, running your own business can be a nightmare sometimes and, inevitably, the biggest challenge is prioritising what’s important and what can wait.

When the inbox starts to overflow, it can be easy to simply set aside tasks that are deemed non-urgent for a later date and, for many, online marketing fall into this category.

But I’ll let you into a secret: clients (along with service providers, staff, suppliers, and so on) will never stop throwing curveballs. You will, however, learn to manage them with greater efficiency.

But the fact is that organic online marketing can’t wait — it takes time and the later you start, the later you’ll see results.  Online sales are now forecast to make up 21.5% of the retail market by 2018, a rise of 8.8% from 2012. Without a hard-working online presence, you could be missing out on a substantial amount of potential business.

Too good to be true?

If you have set up a new online business then you’ve undoubtedly prepared an online marketing plan already. And you’ve probably also had lots of calls offering services that will guarantee your website a top five organic placement on Google within six months. Trust your instincts on these and steer clear of quick wins — as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Online marketing is about earning trust and it will take time — that’s why it is prudent to start early and focus on the long term. While there are numerous resources available to support beginners with SEO (such as moz.com and our own Donut guides), the greatest challenge for small business owners is time.

Opting to work with a respected search agency can provide a more holistic approach — using their resources to manage multiple elements concurrently rather than jumping from task to task. Alternatively, many search companies will be open to completing certain elements of your own strategy such as social media management or content provision and dovetailing this with your own activity.

The power of pay-per-click advertising

While this work continues in the long-term, an effective way to make more money and drive traffic to your website in the short term is to use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) such as Google AdWords.

In short, you create adverts to be placed on relevant results pages of Google. To do this you need to create adverts that Google deems good quality “answers” to search “questions”.  PPC offers flexibility both in terms of advert content but also in terms of spend as you will need to ensure that you are targeting relevant phrases and bidding effectively to get a decent return on your investment.

As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay every time your advert is clicked on but if you choose the wrong terms and the wrong bids, your budget can disappear pretty quickly and with little to show for it.

Like SEO, PPC is a task that can be done by your team but, again, it can be time-consuming. And conquering Click through Rate and Cost per Acquisition through trial and error can be expensive. Many search marketing companies offer campaign start-up packages and monthly management plans, enabling you to get a strong presence in search results.

Copyright © 2014 Hannah Jackson, managing director of Search Marketing Group.

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