Monthly Archives: July 2010

The downside of optimisation

Searching for information online is now fraught with problems and frustration.  Try it. Run a search for ‘b2b marketing’ on Google, Twitter, anywhere you like and see what pops up. Do you locate the best, most desirable suppliers and sources of information? Or the best promoters?

If we turn the notion of search engine optimisation on its head, it’s actually easy with a little understanding for businesses to rank well on search. How? By carefully manipulating certain keywords and running it through their meta structure, copy, content, sitemaps and tags and positioning themselves vaguely on those keywords even if it is only part of what they do and where they want to be.

There are lots of charlatans who understand how to do this, who jump aboard the bandwagon when it’s convenient to do so. It’s a shame that only now when b2b marketing is developing some cache are we seeing more experts, more specialists, more gurus and more agencies trying to cash in.

But then isn’t it like that in all walks of life?

Image http://www.w1searchengineoptimisation.co.uk

Doing it well or not at all

Launching a brand externally before you’ve prepared the company for the reaction…

Spending money on branding but letting regional managers do what they want with it…

Advertising your product but without  a compelling call to action…

Crafting the most enticing copy imaginable but using tired old stock images in your brochure ware…

Building a database but not using it effectively for relationship and business building purposes…

Sending direct mail but not following up by phone…

Building a beautiful website but not investing a little more in ensuring the world can find it…

Writing a blog but not using RSS, Twitter and your website to distribute it…

Taking space at a major trade show but failing to build an integrated communication campaign around it in advance to drive interest…

Everyone of these (and more) are a crime against marketing but are committed on a daily basis by businesses the world over. Is yours one of them? Isn’t it better to market well or not at all?

39 million users can’t be wrong

The BBC recently reported that over 39 million people in the UK now regularly use the Internet. That equates to around 60% of the population.  Of the additional 2 million users added in the last twelve months, half are over 50 years old.

Think about that for a minute. It’s spectacular. Most of these people use the Internet to search. To find information. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was some way of communicating with them, engaging with them, harnessing their opinion and input into design and being in the front of their mind when they need what we provide?

There is. It’s called marketing. For years, marketing has been treated contemptuously as a cost rather than an investment in business. Companies that have splashed the cash and media titles that have ridden the wave have up till now convinced most businesses not to market. Sales Directors have been revered whilst Marketing Directors have been reviled.

But there has been a sea change. Marketing is getting a better name. Sure, there is still an element of spin and seduction involved. But to be seduced, a prospect needs to play along. They need to be interested. They need to have a problem or a headache that needs to be solved. They looking to be engaged with rather than being sold to.

What does this tell us? If you are solving problems, treating headaches and fulfilling needs, 39 million UK users are telling you that the Internet is the place to be.  So, are you here?

Image credit Surfing Computers

My favourite quote and why

A recent Linkedin group discussion asked for member’s favourite quotes.  My answer to this question is always the same:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Henry Ford

The reason? It eloquently illustrates the great human paradox: needing to change but not fundamentally wanting to or being able to.

We see on a daily basis closed-minded business leaders and workforces unable to embrace change, despite change and the need to be nimble, creative and innovative actually being inevitable.

Do you agree? What is your favourite quote and why?

Ten steps to making Linkedin work for you

If you’re only using Linkedin as a platform for solely posting your CV, you’re missing out on its power to develop your personal brand and that of your business and its expertise. For free.

The real benefits of Linkedin come when you join in, when you engage and offer opinion and recommendation. If like me, you believe in karma, you’ll believe that good things happen to those who do good things. Clean up your profile in line with the tips below and allow yourself fifteen minutes a day to check in and keep it ticking over.

1. Profile name / account set up – Sounds obvious but secure your name or the ‘easiest to remember’ version of it. (Whilst you are at, do the same on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, SlideShare and any other content site you might prepare to use in the future).

2. Profile content – Structure your content as follows:

Picture – Seems obvious, but people like to see a face, rather than a blank square or a company logo. Use a head shot, so there is some detail. Avoid glasses and hats and smile – this makes you more approachable. Avoid boring corporate styles.

Title/Description – Keywords are short and punchy. Make it about what you are and/or what you do and the value you add.

Career highlights – Add a few lines about each of your career positions, the companies you’ve worked for, your role, responsibilities and achievements. Keep them light but high impact. This means focusing on your impact on sales, brand launches, new initiatives, or improvements in quality, process, training or operations if you are not in a commercial role.

Links – Set up, and channel a Twitter account (more below). Link to your company website or your blog (if you don’t have one, set one up on a topic you are passionate about).

Personal information – Like a CV, add a little personality to your profile by displaying some sports or leisure interests. Remember people ultimately buy people.

3. Contacts – Once your profile is set, look up key people you’ve worked with at the companies you’ve listed. You should already start receiving connection recommendations in the top right of your profile page when you sign in. Linkedin generally recommends that you link only with people you know through specific parameters. I’d guard against spamming people in groups (see below) or prospective clients you would like to work with. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

A note on LIONs: Linkedin Open Networkers. These are the guys who think quantity supercedes quality. Personally I don’t. My view is that you are far better having close relationships with 100 people you know than 1,000 people you don’t. Linkedin has been flooded with recruitment specialists connecting with anyone and everyone. Though in theory, your status updates may reach a wider audience by appearing in a LIONs feed, I counsel against connecting with too many of them because they are not fundamentally into developing deep relationships.

4. Status – As the name suggests, update this at least daily as this information appears in the feeds of all your contacts and in email digests. Use it to position yourself in their minds. (What have been working on? Who for? Link to a new blog post).

5. Testimonials – Opinion is divided as to the validity of testimonials, but I think if you consider Linkedin as your professional shop window, you want to dress it up as credibly as possible. Ask a select few previous and current managers, and a few line reports (especially those who were managed to bigger and better things) to recommend your approach, style, creativity, organisation and all round management skills. The only harm is in having everyone and his dog recommending you. They need to come from credible sources.

6. Groups – Getting involved in groups of like minded people is the cornerstone of the Linkedin experience. There is a group for almost everything on Linkedin. Search and sign up for one to try it out. When you request to join, tick the box to received the daily email digest of activity. This provides links direct to new discussions, news, jobs etc within that group. Then, build your profile and credibility by adding comments to existing discussions, sharing interesting news and views from the Internet, and in time create your own discussions, ask questions run polls.

7. Liking / following – A new feature, adapted from other sites like Facebook and Ecademy, which can alert people to informative, relevant content. I’m not sure of this simply because LIONs can easily amass lots of likes/follows for fairly average content. The jury for me is out on this one, but using this functionality for others will undoubtedly raise your profile as you navigate groups and discussions.  The like/follow functionality now has a role in highlighting key weekly influencers in groups, so if your ego needs a boost, try it out.

8. Answers – Like groups, this is a great feature to really build your profile as an expert in your field. Selecting the Answer tab via ‘More’ in the top bar allows you to browse all categories and provide feedback and recommendations to questions posed by other Linkedin members, worldwide.

9. Twitter – Integrating Twitter into your Linkedin activity can be done well but I’d personally caution against automatically syncing all tweets through Twitter. With all the RTs, @’s, # hashtags, shortened URLs, it is like text speak. Done well, it can promote content being promoted on other platforms and develop your contacts across them. Be cautious, though, if you are using Twitter for leisure and Linkedin for business.

10. Linked applications (Twitter, WordPress, SlideShare, Amazon, TripIt etc) – There are a wealth of applications that you can easily integrate into your Linkedin profile. As well as Twitter, the most popular ones are WordPress blogs where recent posts can be displayed on your profile page. The same thing applies to Slideshare presentation and document templates.  Books you want to read, are reading or have read can be profiled and reviewed using the Amazon application. This provides contacts an insight into what your fields of speciality and interest. And Tripit can be used to keep them up to date with your travel movements. As ever, be cautious, especially if people have your personal contact details and address and you are planning on being away from home.

Take a steady approach and you should quickly find Linkedin to be an information rich resource full of interesting and experienced people, for the most part happy to help, advise and support as needed.

Hosepipe bans & lessons for business

When you are a business which makes half a billion in profit a year, surely continuity of supply shouldn’t really be an issue that risks serious damage to your brand reputation.

United Utilities, a business providing water to 2.5m customers in the North West of England (and which counts the English Lake District in its region) last week imposed a hosepipe ban and fines of up to £1000 on customers who are found continuing to use them.

The media and consumer rights groups have been vocal in their criticism of the company. There has been little significant investment in developing supply from the Lake District over a twenty-five year period, in infrastructure upkeep or in leak management.

They appear to be more interested in furthering their FTSE and global business aspirations and are more proud about the fact their business supports 25m people – thats 22.5m away from their core North West business.

As a United Utilities customer (no actual choice in that) it’s telling that the only communications I receive are either statements, letters to say my bill is increasing, or collateral designed to upsell other products like pipe maintenance and leak protection. I’m viewed solely as a revenue stream (pardon the pun).

United Utliities, like other major utility operators, has a contract of such colossal scale that it probably doesn’t have to worry too much about its reputation, as the barriers to entry for anyone hoping to succeed them are virtually unscalable. That it is a listed company at least provides some hope, but then again, as long customers can’t vote with their feet, will the share price be affected enough to drive change.

What can we take from this?

1/ If you’re not in a line of business where you’d benefit from privatisation and protectionism, you’d do well to find one.

2/ Be the best you can be within your core business before considering diversification or brand extension. Tesco didn’t risk their grocery business when moving into insurance, mobile phones, credit cards and banking.

3/ Communicate with, and keep customers happy. Lifetime customers who become advocates take a long time to create, but can be lost in seconds.

Supercharge your SEO

Search is the dominant tool information hungry consumers and professional buyers use to seek out suppliers, solutions and assess costs. And within search there is a growing preference for organic listing rather than pay-per-click advertising. We’re all just a bit more sceptical of ads than we used to be. Think about it, when did you last click an advert?

Search should be a critical part of your marketing strategy. Put simply it means your website continues to sweat while your office is closed. And what a waste of money a beautiful but poorly optimised site would be.

It is getting harder not to get sucked in by the ‘we can get you on page one of Google brigade if you spend £xxxx a month’ brigade. There is a way of actually saving yourself time, effort and money in the long term. And that involves getting your website optimisation right in one single swoop.

What is true is that the Google algorithm is getting ever more sophisticated as it seeks to protect the integrity of search. But by structuring your website right and with the search engines in mind, you can improve your organic ranking fairly quickly by considering these six steps:

1. Meta data, titles and tags – this is in the coding and text based structure that search engines read to index your site. Use the same keywords, provide a meta description, use the best possible keyword rich page naming structure and assign tags to all images and headings on each and every page.

2. URL indexing – add the home page URL to all major search engine indexes, eg by going to www.google.com/addurl.

3. Incoming links – target the most important high traffic sites and post incoming links. This could be social networking and filesharing sites like Linkedin, Facebook and YouTube, but equally relevant media sites, trade association sites, supplier and customer sites.

4. Sitemap – a sitemap is critical as it acts like a directory. Ensure it sits on the home page, if not every page.

5. Regular home page content – updating content ensures that the site is viewed as current and relevant. For this reason feature the latest news and/or blog activity on the home page. This plays a massive part in achieving higher organic search listing.

6. Use of Google location tools – whether you love or hate Google, you can’t deny how powerful many of its free to use applications are in promoting your business. Go to www.google.co.uk and click Business Solutions.