Monthly Archives: April 2010

Why quality social networking beats quantity every time

If you read this blog, I think you’re savvy enough to have a number of active social networking accounts up and running in your name.

They’ve steadily grown over a few years. You’ll have a mixture of good friends, colleagues, customers and clients, suppliers and distributors and a healthy number of people you know only in cyberspace.

And if you’ve moved jobs or moved company, you probably picked up a number of recruiters, agents and other professional services contacts that were relevant at one time or another but not necessarily now.

The unwritten rules of ‘social networking’ (which if you do it in a business context make the very name a little absurd) seem to focus on quantity not quality. Social networking experts suggest you build an audience quickly and then take the time to refine it over time. Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook as examples of mainstream platforms all offer recommendations, make it easy to search and invite lots of contacts to connect, follow or become a fan.

I disagree with this well preached approach for two pretty fundamental reasons.

1/ Who ever bothers to or has the time to conduct a spring clean? Have you ever actually tried it? If you started out with a numbers game in mind, it’s a nightmare job to undertake.

2/ More importantly, don’t you want to be engaging with the like-minded niche? Isn’t marketing about being targeted, about being relevant? If you adopt a ‘connect with everyone’ approach in social networking, what message are you conveying? How are you going to be perceived – as a professional or an opportunist?

Some will disagree but personally I avoid the list builders on Linkedin (look out for the LION), avoid high follow and spamming Twitter  networkers (the clues are there in their numbers and tweet content) and look for people that inspire me, offer something interesting or different, or can give me information.

I propose anyone starting out now on their digital journey to do the same.

Marketing metrics 3: Five steps to great online advertising

There is a great misconception in digital marketing that because you can access statistics and track online journeys it is a better medium to use. Whilst the data that can be provided is undoubtedly impressive, most marketers get bogged down in irrelevant figures and consequently give a distorted view of return on investment to their board.

Indeed, the only KPI that matters in online advertising is the enquiry or conversion that is effected by a click-through on one of your advertisements elsewhere. Nothing else pays your overheads and provides you with profit. Check out this previous post if you are in any doubt.

To give your advertising the best chance of success consider these five steps.

1/ Ensure your planning of an online campaign follows the same process to offline. That means picking websites based on audience demographic, frequency and size data and matching your offering with their needs. Demand as much information as possible relating to audience so you make informed decisions.

Do you need to target a specific decision maker by job role, geography, company size? Lots of sector specific sites as well as mainstream sites like Ft.com, timesonline.co.uk provide a wealth of data about their audience because their content is increasingly being locked behind registration and log in, or in a growing number of instances, is actually paid for content. These sites might cost proportionally more but you are getting access to customers who have registered an interest in the content for that site and are going to be more relevant – so increasing your chances of interest and conversion.

Invariably, the best websites and portals are affiliated to the most widely read magazines in your sector, so if your budget needs a little stretching opt for negotiating a deal including offline and online advertising and perhaps try and add some additional opportunities in email newsletters etc. The key word is negotiation.

2/ Design your adverts to be targeted and attractive. Ask a leading question or propose a thought provoking solution. And tell them who are you. Web users are less likely to click on an advert if they don’t know where it is taking them. Apply good aesthetic design principles as you would to a print advertisement and ensure there is linkage to your established brand using the right fonts, colours, logos and photography style if appropriate.

3/ Make sure you give your online advertising the best chance of success by ensuring that they can click through to a specific landing page on your website, or a campaign specific landing page if preferred. Don’t abandon them on the home page when they have clicked through with a specific need. That just infuriates visitors and you lose them, even your click-through statistics may appear to be high. And ensure your site is loading quickly and can handle the increased volume of traffic that advertising will create or the click-through statistics provided will be inaccurate (see below).

4/ Demand data from media owner and cross reference against your own web statistics. The numbers of click-throughs and visits will be different for a number of reasons and you have to take a calculated view on the success of your campaign by looking at both data sets. We all know that we can click on an advert and realise why we don’t want to load the page, the page can take too long to load, or we can arrive on the landing page and quickly leave. Only paying for the clicks you receive if especially important if you have negotiated this route with your media partner.

5/ Ensure you follow up promptly on all leads and enquiries you receive. This backs into your sales process and you need to ensure your sales teams are fully briefed on the messaging and logistics of the advertising campaign so they understand what was seen and where and be able to act quickly to convert. Automation can help in this area but don’t forget the personal touch can have a greater effect on conversion.

As online advertising gets more targeted, look out for forthcoming posts which will cover targeted advertising on platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook.

Minimizing social media risk

The brand building and sales potential that social media sites like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook can provide to even the smallest enterprises naturally make them a very attractive addition to the marketing mix. But before you go off all guns blazing, opening your company, customer base, employees, products and services up to the world, make sure you are covered.

As the use of social media increases in work time and on workplace machines, employers and employees are facing increasing dangers and are falling foul of a rising number of legal precedents and need to protect themselves.

In recent months Virgin and British Airways staff have been sacked or suspended for activity on social media sites. And in a prominent High Court case, a former employee of UK recruitment firm Hays was ordered to hand over some Linkedin contacts nurtured during his time the company using company assets.

A survey recently conducted by solicitors Pannone reported in the Manchester Evening News last week suggested that 79% of companies did not have a social media policy, 62% failed to actively manage their online profile and 73% thought that staff spent too much work time networking online when they should be working.  66% of managers were concerned that the business could be damaged by inappropriate comments and content whilst 1 in 5 were weary of how openness on Linkedin could risk customers and staff loss. Breaches of confidence, data security, bad reviews and spurious claims were all major concerns.

But how do you minimize the risk?

1. As an employer, create a policy, even if you only need a statement. Social media should fall within your acceptable Internet usage policy, but be drafted with marketing and business development in mind.

2. Outline the benefits but be clear about what is and what is not permissible. Is access during office hours accepted? Is using office computers accepted? Make it plain that references to the business when using social media risks disciplinary proceedings if it is deemed to be negative.

3. Have visibility of who is active on social media, platforms they are using and, if necessary follow them to keep a handle on what they are saying.

4. Have a statement that clarifies the ownership of the outcomes of social media use (ie Linkedin contacts, blogs) when an employee comes to leave the company.

5. As an individual, be very clear about what you choose to post using social media. Once you post, you post to the world and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to retract.

Don’t risk your company’s hard earned reputation. Don’t risk your job.

Marketing Metrics 2: Getting the most from offline advertising

Advertising. The premise is to immediately attract attention, to resonate and stimulate interest. It’s forged on the notion of interrupting a prospective customer and taking their attention away from something else they are focusing on. That alone makes it a risky way to secure new customers. It’s also expensive, despite best efforts largely untargeted, relatively unsophisticated and consequently difficult to measure.

Offline advertising in whatever format (press, trade, poster, billboard, TV or radio) can be effectively neutralised, ignored and not acted on by media savvy buyers.

So, how do you combat this and make advertising work as a revenue generator, even though the experts say advertising is more about awareness than conversion?

Consider the following:

1. As a marketer consider why you advertise? Is it to build, protect or defend your brand share? Is it to promote specific products and services in a timely way to a specific audience? Is it because your company always has? Is it because your think it makes a difference but don’t really know how or why?

2. Identify a good advertiser. Follow the lead of the companies that do it best – that’s financial services and insurance and mobile phone companies right now. Give every piece a unique reference code, use specific campaign telephone numbers, set up specific internet landing pages, offer promotional rates based on contact window.

3. Demand more from the media you use. Demand accompanying editorial, demand companion buttons on the website, demand reference points in email marketing and demand response data.

4. Ask relevant people what they think. Test concepts before you run them live. Run online polls and focus groups to assess their advertising. At a less expensive and time consuming level this could involve asking your colleagues, sales teams, customers and prospects to feedback.

5. Brief your sales people, especially telesales, to validate the source of enquiries as they come into the business. And use a drop down on all website enquiry forms so advertising can be logged as the primary method of attribution.

Learning from bad managers

The funniest, and perhaps most disturbing aspect of the David Brent character in The Office is that we’ve known one, worked with one, or worse worked under one. I’ve been fortunate to know a few and as a result I unashamedly expect as much from my manager as they do from me.

These guys undoubtedly have enormous pressure heaped upon them, especially in commercial business environments, but what is often true is that they have been promoted way beyond a level where they made their name or added value, and are consequently poorly equipped to drive a strategy, act and be inspirational and effectively manage people.

Worse, some notorious cases forget the basics on the rise to the top. Do any of these seem familiar? Failing to give junior team members the opportunity to present to key customers. Talking over them in meetings. Showing a scant regard for customers by presenting what you think they want rather than what they actually want. Using phones, checking email and pacing in meetings. Parking flash cars outside the office with little forethought of the impression it creates.

Sounds negative, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and here is the rub. People buy people, and bad managers are inevitably found out. If you’re honest and good at what you do you will be fine. Match self-preservation with a desire to add value and pre-empt their expectations. Look after the people you come into contact with on the way up, they are often the kingmakers and the people who will go the extra mile for you.

Observation is an innate human skill and can be incredibly insightful. Watch and learn. Learn what not to be. Learn how not to be behave. Learn how to be inspiring.

Marketing Metrics 1: Why measure?

With the post Principles of Marketing 13: Evaluation becoming the most read blog post on this site in the last nine months, I figured it was time to explode the subject in more detail with a series of blog posts dedicated to measuring marketing effectiveness

This is an area where marketers often struggle and is a primary reason for marketing not being taken seriously at board level in many businesses. A strong correlation needs to be made between marketing investment and return. And it’s no surprise that companies that do well also integrate marketing into their business development and sales strategies.

Whilst online marketing provides a level of traffic and conversion evaluation, more traditional approaches along with the latest viral and digital techniques are more difficult to quantify in terms of ROI. The explosion in the popularity and ease of networking and sharing content online adds to the problem.

Just how do you possibly track back brand awareness, brand and market share, and return in investment to these activities?

Blog posts upcoming include advertising offline, advertising online, direct mail, exhibitions, conferences, websites / blogs, emarketing, social media – Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook, brand / brand value and financial ROI.

Keeping focused

If you’ve run a WordPress blog you’ll know that the statistics are amazing. Now I’m at the level where I’m receiving 6,000+ reads a month on the blog alone (not accounting for subscriptions and syndicated reads on other social networking platforms), I thought I’d look and see what the most popular topics have been.

Why? It’s good practice to monitor what you are doing and ensure you are providing what people want and come to expect from you. So, for me, I’m interested in learning if I’m providing enough information, opinion and recommendation to stimulate readers to review and improve their own marketing planning and implementation?

Based on posts read on the blog page, the top ten topics to date are:

1. Agency related posts

2. Evaluation & control (metrics, measurement)

3. Planning, especially setting objectives

4. Strategy

5. Understanding customers

6. Business development, winning pitches

7. Social media, networking and engagement

8. Online marketing

9. B2B marketing

10. Comment on marketing, business news

Consequently, you can expect more on working with and getting the best from agencies, a whole series on evaluation, control and measurement, a new series on cost effective marketing approaches for SMEs, and lots of tips and recommendations on making the best of all available media to propel your brand to success.

A great many people have shared, re-tweeted and commented on the blog over its nine month life so far.  Hope you continue to stop by.

Image http://www.blog.bigwebapps.com