There is no doubt about it, the unrelenting rise of the smartphone and tablet cannot be ignored. Your customers are constantly on the go and being able to access their life in the palm of their hand makes it all a bit easier.
But does your website do the same for them? Have you tried to undertake your main customer website activities on a smartphone or tablet? Was it as easy as on a desktop device?
For many businesses, the answer is simply “no”.
A recent article by eMarketer indicated that in 2012 the global smartphone audience surpassed the one billion mark and will reach 1.75 billion in 2014 and continue to rise.
By 2017, smartphone penetration among mobile phone users globally is likely to be approximately 50%. Recent Deloitte research stated that the number of smartphone users in the UK has reached 72% — that means that seven out of ten of your customers may be viewing your website on a smartphone.
Will they like what they see? And how do you know whether mobile customers are important to your business?
If you look at your Google Analytics data you will see the constant rise of your mobile device visitor (you do check your GA reports, don’t you?). I’m certainly seeing this pattern across the website stats for many of my clients. Some business sectors are seeing larger shifts to mobile device visitors than others but I can assure you that every business is seeing these percentages on the up.
If you have a website that has a transactional element to it — so your user needs to complete a purchase or a task, like registration or sign up — then I think you need to consider developing a responsive design website. This is the gold standard in mobile web and means that no matter what device is used to access your site it will shrink and adjust how it displays content, making the user experience easy and enjoyable.
If yours is a brochure-style website, you can probably get away with what you have for the moment. However, I would highly recommend you test it on tablets and smartphone devices to see how it renders and if it is still usable. I have seen some absolute shockers in terms of what can happen to your beautiful website when viewed on a smartphone! If it’s unusable for your customer you are risking losing out on business.
I would recommend a responsive design website as a minimum and then consider if any part of your customer journey is suitable for translating into an app. Apps have many advantages — generally they do not need an internet connection, the user interface can be streamlined, and you can focus the customer on the task in hand.
But be careful not to get drawn into developing an app simply for the sake of it. You don’t necessarily need one, they’re not cheap (around £5,000 upwards) and they have ongoing development costs, so it isn’t a one-off investment.
As with all marketing tools, it depends on your target audience. Find out first how your customers behave online — are they increasingly accessing your site via their mobile devices. This should drive your decision to develop a more mobile/tablet-friendly online presence to aid website conversion and sales growth.
Business use of social media reminds me a little of the arrival of the mobile phone. While embraced as exciting by some, at the beginning, many found the idea of a mobile phone abhorrent. “Why would I want people to be able to contact me everywhere I go?” was a usual retort I often heard. Of course, over time usage grew and now most people would find it hard to live without their mobile phone.
There now seems to be a general acceptance among companies that social media is a vital marketing tool. And eventually companies will not be able to live without it at all. I think we are close to that situation already, although many organisations have failed to realise that this is the case.
However, while most businesses are embracing social media, many are disappointed with the results they are getting. Having created their Twitter, Facebook or Google+ accounts, they simply cannot understand why customers are not coming to them in droves. It is akin to signing up for gym membership and then waking up the next morning disappointed that you don’t feel healthier and you still aren’t sporting a six pack.
The benefits obtained by going to the gym take time. They are a result of using the equipment correctly and planning a proper regime of exercise, which is adhered to and monitored over time. Social media is no different. The benefits to a business will take time to appear. They will be a result of using the correct social platforms for that particular organisation, and strategically planning and measuring success.
While more customers and greater client retention may be outcomes that result from effective use of social media, they are not the main objectives you should be concentrating on. Quite simply, social media is highly effective in two areas.
Firstly, social media is an excellent engagement tool. It’s a way of obtaining attention in the marketplace and keeping it. However, this can only occur if companies provide their audience with value. Whether this is interesting information, easy shortcuts to get things done, games or competitions with great prizes, providing people with an interesting stage to voice their own opinions or making people laugh — your audience must get something out of the exchange.
The use of the word exchange is deliberate, because that is the nature of social media. In the first instance a company must provide value. However, social media should not be used as a broadcast mechanism. It is social. Therefore, when people take the time to contribute comments, ask questions and get involved, companies need to respond and make the communication two-way.
The reason why this engagement is so valuable to a business today, is that the most precious element in marketing now is to obtain people’s attention. In this multi-channel digital world, it is hard to get and easy to lose. The most successful organisations, however, have the attention of their marketplace. Today, before a company achieves share of wallet they need share of time. Social media can deliver this.
The second aspect in which social media can play a big part is in delivering a great customer experience. Many firms can no longer demarcate themselves by what they do. In the experience economy, the opportunity to differentiate comes from how a company delivers.
Whether it is meeting customer’s service demands, allowing them to have a voice in the development of new products and services or enabling them to share their own knowledge and practices with others, social media provides businesses with a fantastic opportunity for companies to enrich the experience they give to customers.
So how are you currently using social media? Are you trying to generate engagement and enhance the experience you provide customers or are you frustrated that having posted your profile on LinkedIn you haven’t yet received one enquiry?
Now, if you excuse me, I am off to sign up for some violin lessons. I should be a virtuoso by the morning, right?
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?