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Seven benefits of using SMS for order updates

August 18, 2014 by Dan Parker

Seven benefits of using SMS for order updates{{}}Have you given much thought to how you communicate with your customers once they have ordered from your online store?

For many businesses, email is the obvious option; it is cheap, everyone else does it and all of your customers have an email address. But that is exactly the problem — because everyone else uses email, your communications get buried.

According to MailChimp, only 17.35% of ecommerce emails get opened. So, if you currently use email for order updates, then these communications are potentially reaching less than one in five customers.

The benefits of using SMS

Using SMS texts for customer service is a brilliant way to add customer value post-purchase for seven reasons:

1. It gets seen

SMS communications have a staggering open rate of 98%. Sending text messages ensures that your customers stay updated at every stage of the ordering and delivery process.

2. It is instant

At a time when customers have handed over money and they are eagerly waiting for news on their order, there is no better time to use SMS as a communication tool. 90% of texts get read within five minutes. Your customers will appreciate the instant updates.

3. It is personal

Mobile phones are very personal devices. Communicating through SMS to provide order updates shows you care and will build deep trust and loyalty.

4. It aligns with changing behaviours

With the growth of mcommerce, more and more consumers are buying goods through their smartphones. So communicating with them through a method that is more smartphone-friendly simply makes sense.

5. It doesn’t rely on internet access

Some smartphone users turn their internet off in order to save battery. Others simply don’t have 3G or 4G signal. SMS overcomes these technological issues.

6. It’s different

SMS makes your brand stand out from the crowd. With so many ecommerce businesses communicating solely through email, SMS is a great way to reach your customers.

7. It opens the door for future marketing opportunities

Once your existing customers have received customer service texts from you they are more responsive to future promotional texts that add value. For example, you could send a loyalty coupon with an embedded URL code to your online store.

The end result

SMS gives you a greater ability to keep customers informed in a way that’s personal and relevant to them, enabling you to engage with them throughout the order process. This not only leads to increased satisfaction — but also increased sales.

Copyright © Dan Parker 2014. Dan is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the marketing director of FireText.

How to find time for social media

August 13, 2014 by Sara Drawwater

How to find time for social media{{}}If content creation and social media is an important aspect of your marketing, you’ll know how much time it can take. This is probably the most common problem that SMEs face. The vision may be there but the ability to make it happen with limited resources is incredibly challenging.

Social media won't work if you don't allocate enough people and time resources to it. Here are six tips to help you manage content creation and social media effectively based on my own experiences running two businesses and attempting to manage three websites, four blogs and more than ten social media channels!

  1. Delegate some of your existing roles. If you are the person managing and/or delivering content creation and social media then you may need to restructure your role. Be realistic and understand that this work will take time. For example, I have recently delegated email enquiries (30 minutes a day), book-keeping (two hours a week) and meeting transcriptions (three hours a week). That equates to 7.5 hours a week or a whole day that I can now apply to this work. Delegating is a real discipline. You need to spot areas of work that someone else can do, select the right person to help and equip them to be successful by ensuring they have the knowledge and time to deliver. It will take time to reassign the work but after that, you'll have more time. If you don't have a team in-house, look at how virtual assistants can help you.
  2. Get your team on side. If you are a sole trader, then you are the team! But if you have a team, it’s vital that social media is not a one-man crusade. Get the rest of your staff on side and create a social business that understands the value of building relationships and social selling through attraction marketing. You will also need to assign clear responsibility with strict time scales and train staff in content creation and social media delivery.
  3. Plan your delivery. Do not underestimate the value of planning. Know your business goals and how this applies to content creation and social media. Understand the needs of your audience and create content accordingly. Create a content calendar that defines what content needs to be created, by whom and by when.
  4. Get into a routine. Figure out how you and your team work best. A fixed routine is best. Some people say they need to be in a creative mood, but what if that mood never comes? We have a habit of pushing back the work we fear or don't want to do. So try to do key tasks at specific times.
  5. Use social media management tools. Scheduling your social media posts will help you manage your time. Explore tools like Buffer, HootsuiteTweetdeck and others. But remember we are talking about social media — so as well as scheduling your posts, check in regularly to respond to people and join other conversations. You can also use social media management tools to listen and inspire your next piece of content. My preference is Buffer for scheduling and Hootsuite for listening.
  6. Get external help. If you've put all the above into place and you are still struggling to turn the vision into reality then it's probably time to look at getting external help. You'll need to explore the pros and cons of an apprentice, a new member of staff or a marketing and communications consultant.

Sara Drawwater is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy, Something Beckons.

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.

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