7 Tips for Choosing a Website Content Management System

January 5, 2011

A Good CMS Should Work Like a Well Oiled Machine

I’m back after a hectic festive season and hope that everyone who celebrates this period had fun and a good rest.

The need to help several clients update their websites has made me think about what makes a good website Content Management System.

So first, what is a Content Management System?

Content Management System – A Definition

A CMS is a software platform that enables an authorised website editor to access the website to make changes of various kinds. Depending on the complexity of the CMS, and the level of authority the website owner wishes to bestow on the editor, the following functions are possible. I’ll start with the most common functions, moving to those less commmon.

1. Add news stories, press releases, white papers. This is probably ‘level one’ in terms of authorisation.

2. Change the text of the actual website pages. For this the user should have copywriting skills or be working with a copywriter to maintain the house style.

3. Create new web pages

4. Specify the URL for the new page (this is handy for SEO reasons)

What Makes a Good CMS?

A good CMS will contain the following features:

1. A robust architecture. No matter your level of access, you should not be able to screw anything up in terms of the core design

2.It should be possible to easily find the page you are looking for. In-Context Editing, where the copy is viewable within the page design can help with this

3. The CMS should have been designed to help visualise the website both on the temporary (hidden) site and the live site. For example, you should be able to program a link on the temporary site to another page on the site and check it, and these links should also work when the site goes live

4. The navigation should be intuitive. You shouldn’t need to read a manual to work out the majority of the programming.

5. It should be possible to create a new page and to specify keywords within the URL for SEO purposes

6. You should be able to move page order around in the menus

7. It should be possible to move the running order of items such as news stories, case studies, technical papers etc on a page.

Whilst it’s more of a comment than a tip for choosing a Content Management System, it is worth noting that importing text directly from Microsoft Word can be problematic. It is therefore better (although slower) to move the text into Notepad first.

Wishing you all a happy, glitch-free 2011.


Why SEO Your Website?

December 15, 2010

SEO is a Key Component of B2B Marketing

Recently some clients have challenged me on the point of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) at all. The argument, phrased recently by one of my American clients, is as follows:

“We’re a B2B marketing business. Our clients know who we are, so why should we spend money on Search Engine Optimization improving our organic search listings?”

Here are some good reasons to reconsider this position and using SEO, or natural search as it is also known.

1. In the area in which you are most established, your main clients and contacts may know who you are. But what about the new areas that you’d like to mine for business? Your profile will not be as high in these areas.

2. Companies constantly hire (and fire) employees. The contacts you believe you have in key organisations can change at the drop of a fedora. How confident are you that everyone in the company – now and in the future – knows your company name?

3. Do your existing clients know every single service or product that you offer? If you sell denim but also poplin, it would be pretty sad if one of your biggest denim customers bought their poplin from another company simply because they didn’t know you offered it. This would also be a great opportunity for your competitor.

4. If you’re not doing SEO, your competitors might be. If a journalist wants to write a story on your industry specialism, where are they likely to do their research? Yes, the internet. OK, so Fritz from Glassblowers Weekly might have known you for years, but what if a new, younger reporter was tasked with covering the story?

5. Are you are as well known in all countries as you should be?

6. If you ever wanted to sell your company, where would investors look? It’s very likely that they would see how you compared on the search engines with your competitors. At this point it’s worth stating that poor web performance cannot be fixed overnight.

Quite simply, the internet is too big a showroom not to display a well presented, easy to find digital version of your company. If you get the SEO right at the beginning, and build your website right, it is easy to build on. Good use of Search Engine Optimisation will provide you with ongoing leads, PR opportunities and a raised profile that will bring all sorts of commercial benefits. For further thoughts on this, please visit my earlier blog, Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

It’s SEO. It’s giving people a map that takes them to your business. Isn’t it worth drawing a map to help people find your digital HQ?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Intelligent Email Marketing

December 8, 2010

 

In Email Marketing, One Size Really Doesn't Fit All

Email marketing is becoming increasingly challenging. We’re all receiving too much email, bacn (unsolicited but not entirely unwelcome mail) and bad old spam. As a result,  spam filters are re-tuned and email providers are moving towards preference based email management.

Here are some thoughts on improving your success rate and staying ahead of the curve.

  1. Design and Copywriting. Ok, this will probably surprise you. Keep it to plain text. 38% of recipients read emails using a mobile device and not all of these can read HTML. Do you want to lose this many of your targets? Entice and engage with the headline and provide links to more graphical content.
  2. Browser Testing. Ensure that your email is fully tested across all browsers.
  3. Relevancy. Seek relevancy in your communications. Subscribers will be most interested in your services at the point that they subscribe, so keep your relationship going from there.
  4. Test Frequency by dividing your contacts into groups and sending different numbers of emails.
  5. Personalise. Drop the ‘one size fits all’ model and respond to areas of interest shown by patterns of response to your emails. Companies that hook onto patterns of interest such as Travelocity have seen a significant increase in their conversion rates.
  6. Use a Good CRM which will enable an automated response to patterns of consumer behaviour, or at the very least, the ability to keep track of all this data. Check out Strongmail’s CRM offerings.

For further thoughts on e-mail marketing, check out my previous post, Eight Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing. Apologies for not linking to the companies and posts mentioned above. There seems to be a problem with WordPress but I’ll resolve this as soon as I can.


Social Media – Should Companies Adopt Avatars?

December 1, 2010

For Some Brands, A Social Media Avatar Could Work Perfectly

I had a great meeting this week with a bright project manager who thinks that corporate social media works best if the company adopts a character, a sort of avatar, unique to the company. So rather than setting up a Twitter account in the name of a company, it’s even better to use a robot, a games character, or some other type of identifiable personality. The theory is that this makes the company more approachable and more interesting.

Here are some ideas for social media avatars:

  • A robot to represent a technology brand
  • A cartoon musician to represent a music company
  • A young girl to represent a fashion label

Here are the pros and cons of this approach as I see it.

Benefits of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It’s good way to manifest your brand values. Really it’s no different to finding a good and memorable actor to represent your brand in ongoing TV advertising, for example Nanette Newman for Fairy, Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury.

2. It removes complexity around using real people. Real people come and go and may say that wrong thing. A social media avatar is completely controllable by the marketing or PR operation.

3. It can be more entertaining. You can take more risks with a social media avatar but keep it fully in the scope of the brand.

Negatives of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It can feel a bit trite. Especially in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and PR, clients often expect a more mature approach explanation of messages.

2. It has to work with your company branding. If you represent a fun, perhaps technology driven brand, this could work really well.

3. It may work better with the younger demographic. Younger clients might find it more entertaining and interesting. Older clients might find it a distaction.

4. The copywriting needs to be good. If you start something like this, you cannot adopt a classic corporate copywriting style. The style needs to sound like the avatar speaking to its audience.

So in conclusion, the success of social media avatars depends very much on the brand and audience. I hope you’ve found this thought-provoking. I’m off to find my robot costume and get my picture taken. Anyone joining me?


How to Market in a Recession

November 19, 2010

Let your Business Grow in Recessionary Times

Yesterday evening I attended a dinner which included a speech by the Chief Economist of HSBC, Stephen King. A personable and interesting speaker, King also writes for The Independent on Economics. Whilst his speech was wide-ranging, and drew much on the history of economics as the present day, it is clear that the route out of recession will be made up of careful steps.

In the meantime, here are some tips for marketing in a recession.

1. Explain the value of your goods or services

2. Give something for free, whether it’s a physical product or even information or a white paper. People appreciate free gifts even more when the economy is tight

3. Be relevant. Now is not the time for extravagant gestures

4. Use the best possible data to shape your campaign

5. Measure ROI from your campaign

6. Use partnerships to achieve more coverage without increasing costs

7. Use free media such as social media and blogs

8. Work on your Search Engine Optimisation skills – it will generate extra leads at no extra cost to you than your time

9. Keep in touch with your network

10. Demonstrate an understanding of financial constraints in your communications with potential customers

It’s a time for us all to embrace the new order. It’s certainly true that after this period, marketing will be very easy indeed, and we’ll be much better skilled as a result. Feel free to post your own best strategies for marketing in a recession too.


How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

November 14, 2010

Strategy Should Define Marketing Spend

It’s not always simple to define the appropriate level of marketing spend for a business. However, here are some considerations that should make it a little easier to analyse.

1. How long has your business been established? If your company is well established with a good market share, it may be possible to operate marketing at a stable, but not aggressive level. However, this depends on:

2. What are your competitors spending on marketing? Although these calculations will never be 100% accurate, you should aim to spend more than your competitors.

How is Marketing Spend Calculated?

The most common method of calculating marketing spend is a term coined by IDC called ”MBR’ or Marketing Budget Ratio. MBR is essentially, a ratio of your marketing spend to sales revenue.

So What is Normal Marketing Spend?

Marketing spend varies by sector, type of business and other factors such as product lifecycle and competition. Technology companies’ marketing spend ranges from 1.1% MBR for IT service companies, to software companies who spend an average 6.5% of sales revenues. Yet there are some quite dramatic exceptions even within this band. Dot com startups seeking rapid growth and market share can spend as much as five times their annual revenues on marketing, although this is only sustainable through investment and with a view to establishing their market position as quickly as possible.

Business to business companies also vary significantly from business to consumer companies. In the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector, it is common to spend 50% of net sales in the first year of a new product, reducing this to 8-10% within a few years. Conversely, B2B companies will typically spend a few percent of their sales revenues on marketing.

Although it only covers media spend, you may enjoy Paul Dunay’s excellent blog on how major technology companies only spend 0.2% of their revenues on media. As he explains, the bigger the company, the smaller media spend becomes as a percentage of overall revenues, making it harder for smaller companies to compete.

I’ve mentioned the importance of tracking competitors’ spend. It is also wise to think about the platforms on which you will need to promote your company. The online space is becoming increasingly crowded; competition for certain keywords is high. It is best to consult with an expert in online marketing before setting marketing budgets if these areas are important to you.

Finally, rather than allocating marketing spend on the basis of what is affordable, it’s perhaps important to take a step back and consider what will really move your business forward. How can you flourish in the competitive landscape? What are the important promotional routes to gain exposure? If the budget is not available, it’s worth considering outside investment or a change of product offering. Unfortunately a good product is not enough. It’s about making sure the market knows you have it.


Five Ways to Improve your Marketing

October 20, 2010

Improving your Marketing is Really Very Simple

We are living in times of thin resources, both in terms of time and money. It’s not always possible to have the team of marketing and PR professionals inhouse that you might prefer. So how, with limited resources, can you get better at marketing your company and improve your results?

Here is a guerilla-style guide to getting your marketing in better shape.

1. “My website isn’t performing well on the search engines” This is a common problem with many companies. The ranking of websites on the search engines is now an increasingly professional activity. It needs experts. Call in the experts (you can start with me if you like) and get your site reviewed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes. This will include a study of the way the website code is written, how the site is structured, the copywriting and design of the site. After this, there will need to be a study of the links to the site from other sites and a plan for how to improve the number of links. This is called Linkbuilding. For more information on this topic, please visit my blog post Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

2. “I’m not standing out from my competitors” It’s probably your branding. You may need some work on your branding to help it stand out from the competition. Branding is much more than just the development of your logo, it’s about the essence of who you are as a company. The colours, style and images used for your branding are really only a reflection of a deeper projection of your brand values. This does not mean throwing a bunch of ten pound notes at a wall to see what sticks with an expensive advertising agency, but it does mean developing a coherent approach to explaining who you are and reflecting this in your marketing.

3. “Our competitors seem to be everywhere” That’s probably because their PR and understanding of SEO is better. It’s important to develop an ongoing PR strategy that issues news on a regular basis. Trade press PR should be a monthly activity. Digital PR on websites and blog sites should be a weekly or biweekly activity. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) should be a daily activity. Sound a lot? Yes, it is quite a lot of work, but it will certainly help you get new customers.

4. “We need more customers” SEO should help significantly in this area. However, when you are trying to sell business to business services, sales activity is very important. There is absolutely no substitute for metaphorically ‘knocking on doors’, whether this means spending time at the right industry events, responding to online debates, phoning up regular customers and contacts or sending very personalised emails.

5. “Sales are so Patchy” That’s probably because like many companies, sales and marketing are not ongoing activities, but dipped into when business is quiet. Then -bingo! – it all comes at one time. Then goes quiet again. End your own personal cycle of boom and bust and give someone the role of seeking new customers on a weekly basis. Measure their output and performance and give them lots of support and encouragement. Make sure they are searching in different parts of the market and assess which areas are performing best.

It might be tough out there, but there’s no reason to let your competitors steal a march in these easy-to-fix areas. Good luck and feel free to ask any questions on the suggestions raised.


Five Considerations in Spending Your Marketing Budget

October 15, 2010

 

How Would you Spend your own Money?

 

About this time of year, marketing directors around the world are considering how to allocate their marketing budgets. Sometimes it is hard to decide whether the marketing methods you choose are reaching the right people and leading to new orders for your company.

Here are five considerations that may help you to decide whether the money is well spent.

1. Will it reach your target market? If you are in business to business marketing, as with B2C marketing, your target market will be those who have the need, and the budget, to buy your products or services. No one else matters. Awareness raising is all very well, but focus on the people who count.

2. Is it appropriate? If your business is selling car parts to automotive companies, your communications should reflect reliability and engineering prowess; if you are promoting your game development services to Electronic Arts, you are going to want to show creativity as well as technical ability. Does the route taken reflect your brand and people’s perceptions of it?

3. Is it measurable? There is often a way that you can make marketing activities measurable. Anything internet based can be easily measured and you should aim to select measurements that are as meaningful as possible. Also, due to the sheer glut of information available with a lot of website monitoring packages, try to reduce the number of stats you work to. Just pick the best, only use a few, and you will have memorable stats to refer to over time. For non internet based activities, try to think of ways to add in a call to action such as a website registration, a phonecall to your customer service team or a response paid postcard – or all three.

4. Is it creative? Even if you are using a tried and tested route, seek to be creative and different. Try to keep your branding moving on without destroying the brand ethos that people know and love.

5. Is it value for money? Read books on purchasing strategy and treat your marketing budget as your own money. Go the extra mile to get extra quotes and use more time consuming but cheaper routes. For example, if it will cost £1000 to airfreight an exhibition stand in three days but £300 to ship it by land three weeks earlier, plan ahead to make sure that this happens.

There are so many considerations to making the right choices with your marketing budget, but aim to get best value wherever possible. Try to imagine the route from an interested potential customer to the final order. How does it happen? What are the steps along the way? How can you make it happen quicker, cheaper, more creatively? We’re living in financially straightened times, let’s all get more creative.


How To Write a Marketing Plan

October 13, 2010

 

 

The Marketing Plan - Where Creativity, Marketing Expertise and Financial Responsibility Meet

 

Marketing plans are critical to the success of your marketing year and are the only way of controlling costs. As a company grows, it is essential to map out the intended direction of the company and how marketing plans and expenditure work in this context. If you have never produced a marketing plan before, October is a good time to start putting together your marketing plan for next year. In my next post, I will discuss how you decide which items are important to include in your marketing plan.

There are long articles on marketing plans and what they should include. I’m assuming that you do not have all the time in the world but need to create a workable document that can be built on year by year.

Here is a short guide to some of the elements that every marketing plan should include:

1. Introduction to the Marketing Plan

Even if this is the company’s sixth marketing plan since its growth from a tiny corporate acorn, it’s still important to summarise the objectives of your marketing plan. It helps everyone to focus and to put the plans and their associated costs in context.

  • What is your current market position? How much of the current market is serviced by your company? How do you rank against your competitors? Devote a section to each of your competitors and how you compare to them. Do a SWOT analysis.
  • Explain the company’s objectives. What is your desired position in the market? Where do you think it is reasonable to aim for by the end of next year? What are the longer term objectives?
  • What were last year’s sales figures? Where did you feel you succeeded and where is there room for improvement?
  • What were the results of last year’s marketing activity? Item by item, what would you repeat? How did your results measure up against costs?

Depending on the complexity of your product offering, it may be necessary to segment this section to cover progress across different products or business lines. This will help your company set targets and consider how marketing and sales can best work together going forward.

2.  Describe the Market

  • Estimate the size of the market for your services or products
  • Explain the approach that is needed to reach each target market in turn
  • Analyse the demographics and psychology of the market
  • Describe the motivation for purchasing your products or services and any key influencing factors
  • Explain the potential route to a purchase and where marketing can help to influence purchasers at each of these stages

3. Explain the Direction of the Plan

  • Summarise the key areas of the plan
  • Explain why you have chosen to favour particular activities
  • Discuss the results you hope to gain from them
  • Explain how these activities will be measured

4. The Plan Itself

  • Use Excel to create a line-by-line breakdown of all activity
  • List the activity and next to it, the budget in all relevant currencies
  • Show actual expenditure in a column next to the budget
  • Show the difference between real and actual expenditure next to the other columns, positive or negative
  • Breakdown bigger costs into smaller items. Where an item involves a large number of smaller costs, break these down on a separate worksheet and place the total on the main worksheet at the front
  • Total up all figures at the bottom of the spreadsheet so that you have a total spend in each currency, and over time, a total actual spend and total variance between the two figures
  • Set an agreed currency exchange rate. If you are working in different currencies, set an agreed exchange rate with your finance director

5. Managing the Marketing Plan

Over the course of the year, you should keep the actual spend updated and make a note of any items that you later decide not to proceed with. Do not remove them from the spreadsheet as you want to track your annual spend against budget – just put a zero against the actual spend for that item

I hope that this post has helped to demystify the marketing plan for those working in B2B marketing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


8 Ways to Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns

October 8, 2010

 

Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns or Disappear

 

Clients have expressed considerable concern at the challenges of delivering effective mail marketing campaigns in the current market. Yes, it’s a challenge. When I first started working on email marketing campaigns, so few people used them that a well put together campaign would achieve phenomenal results. Nowdays, most of us receive a lot of spam (or ‘bacn’ – legitimate but unrequested emails) and the ISPs are also working to filter email on our behalf. Google’s Priority Inbox is a good example of this, an optional feature that allows users to authorise Google to filter their messages by certain criteria.

Yet there is still a lot of very effective email marketing, and I thought I would share some effective tips to keep you in the inner circle.

Tips for Improving your Email Marketing Campaigns

1. Maintain a good list. This does not just mean a list of current addresses, but as much information as you can gather on who people are, why they might possibly buy your products, and their stage in the buying cycle.

2. Use email marketing software that gives you as much information as possible on who has opened and read your email, whether they have clicked through to your website, and then their route once they have landed on your website.

3. Ensure that for every email marketing campaign, you use a good landing page that is optimised for that campaign. Research has shown that customers feel much happier if they arrive at a website landing page with the same message as the email that led them there. Do not just route to the contact page.

4. Match your email campaigns to the current status of the target. Have they just signed up to your email list? Are they an existing customer? Map the behaviour of the target to your message – do they click through to read more? Have they ever requested more information? What is the potential timeline for a purchase? Where is the target in the buying cycle? Map all of this in your CRM system before you create any individual campaigns.

5. Use good copy. Employ the services of a professional copywriter if you can. I would recommend Laurence Blume at Freelance Copywriter.

6. Make sure that the design of your template looks and feels the business and that any images you use say exactly what you are saying in your copy, not just something close.

7. Test your email fully across all browsers and platforms.

8. Measure your results and follow up any hot leads in a timely manner.

I hope that the above suggestions to improve your email marketing campaigns have been useful. If you have additional suggestions, I’d love to to hear from you. There is plenty more to say on this topic, so expect further posts too.