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.


PPC and When to Use Paid Search

September 29, 2010

There are Right and Wrong Ways to Use Search

Paid Search advertising has its place in the marketing professional’s armoury. In fact, as search engines prioritise paid advertising more and more on their search results, it’s route that cannot be ignored.

However, it’s not a panacea and it is important to plan any paid search advertising carefully to avoid wasting money. It’s also true that search engines such as Google cannot be trusted to support your interests 100%. Ultimately search engines exist to sell advertising opportunities and it is best to seek independent and qualified advice.

Advertising with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft

This depends on your product, but in business to business marketing to which this blog is dedicated, the considerations are different from consumer marketing.

First the negatives. Theoretically paid search advertising is brilliantly targeted as only those who are interested will click on your ads. However, if your product has a narrow and complex business proposition, advertising on Google or Yahoo, for example, is likely to expose your company to time wasters. In addition, advertising rates are likely to be more expensive if your product cannot be clearly and easily defined. Whilst it is possible to pick up interested potential customers by advertising on the major search engines, it is important to remember that attracting the attention of the right people is sometimes hard.

On the positive side, there are times when advertising on a major search engine is the right approach. Business to business purchasers use search engines just like everyone else. Additionally, as a matter of course, companies should allocate PPC spend to buy their brand names as keywords. It is unthinkable to have competitors using your trademarks in their PPC campaigns and stealing the benefits of advertising you have gained elsewhere.

Where you do choose to advertise through the major search engines, it is worth utilising the services of an independent PPC professional in order to achieve the best results. A good PPC agency will spend your money wisely and will prevent badly executed campaigns from damaging your ratings with the search engines. Be cautious in using the services of a search engine representative as they may make searches too broad and increase your costs.

Tips for Advertising with the Major Search Engines

  • Don’t prioritise reaching the ‘number one spot’, as second and third positions often work just as well
  • Use ‘long tail keywords’ – that is, very specific search terms, to filter out time wasting clicks and reduce your Cost per Click (CPC)
  • Work hard at your ads to ensure that they are creative, original and reflect your product or services accurately
  • Ensure that your landing pages use the same language as your ad otherwise you will confuse and lose potential advertisers
  • Include the location of your company in your ads and use geographic targeting. Internet users like to know where suppliers are based. Taking this approach will increase your Click Through Rate (CTR) and save you money too
  • Use negative keywords as a filter to reduce unwanted enquiries

Facebook Advertising

Facebook is another growing advertising platform. However, Facebook’s ads appear depending on the location, age and interests of the member. It is not really ‘paid search’ advertising but paid contextual advertising. Great for the right products and services but not really a business to business proposition. Facebook advertising is best restricted to local and personal services.

LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn is another option and better targeted than Facebook. LinkedIn has 75 million members from a professional background and as the advertiser you can present your ads to very specific audiences. Again, this is not paid search but a very proactive form of contextual advertising which is ideal for business to business marketing.

Similar forums in Europe are Viadeo in France and Xing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In summary, PPC advertising is worth exploring but should be handled with care. It is too easy to become excited by the sheer number of potential customers on the internet and to forget about targeting. Essentially, the same rules apply online as offline – it is important to ask, “Who is looking?” and “Are they the people who will buy my products?”


How Google Instant Will Change Search

September 24, 2010

Google Instant Defines Where We Look

You may have noticed the evolution of the Google search bar to incorporate a form of predictive search display. This new technology, known as ‘Google Instant’ may be turned off to the right of the search box, but as this function is controlled by a cookie, if you clear your cookies it reinstalls.

Despite attempts by Google to downplay its significance, Google Instant is likely to have profound effect on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies. Google is marketing this feature as a timesaver but in reality, it’s a process of channelling our thoughts.

Essentially the predictive text element of Google Instant will narrow the search terms that people use to search for goods, services and ideas. This will increase competition for these search terms and the price that they raise on Google’s paid search service, AdWords. This is particularly significant combined with the increased prominence of paid search ads on the Google search pages, making it even more important to rank in the first few natural search listings.

From a marketing perspective this could mean the need to spend more on paid search with Google (we knew there was another revenue model in there somewhere!) and increasing competition for placement within this narrower group of search terms.

It gets even more interesting and esoteric when you start thinking about PR. It is now commonplace to optimise press releases for keyword terms. As never before, it will become important to build brand values around appropriate search terms and build these into our writing and corporate messages. The end of free speech? I hope not. It’s just a case of playing the game.


The Importance of SEO

August 11, 2010
SEO Helps Users Find Businesses

SEO Helps Users Find Products and Services

To those in the marketing and digital community, the following article might seem too obvious to write. However, as marketers, we’re guilty of assuming that everyone has their head in the digital marketing space on a day to day basis. For some very successful companies in a variety of fields, SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation to use its full name, is a new and relatively unknown field.

Put simply, if you have a website, it is now the shop window for your business. No other single piece of marketing communication is as effective or important. So would you rather your website is in the digital equivalent of Park Lane or Little Common Lane? At the top of an imaginary pile of papers on someone’s desk or somewhere near the bottom? What if a new company, that doesn’t know how to serve customers or deliver product as effectively as you is at the top of the search engine rankings, while you are languishing somewhere on page 25? It’s time to set the record straight. It’s time for search engine optimisation.

SEO encompasses a number of different techniques to help you reach the top of the search engine rankings with Google, Yahoo, Bing and the other search engines. The most important of these techniques is to help search engines recognise the importance of your website to someone searching for a specific keyword. This is achieved by adding the right keywords in the right frequency to your website. Too little mentions and the search engine will judge your site as irrelevant. Too many references to keywords and search engines are likely to delist your site. Achieving the right balance of keywords is critical to reaching the right ‘page rank’, or positioning within the search engines.

Second, a site is judged by its popularity amongst other websites. If your site contains a lot of links from respected websites, it will be judged to be popular and this will help its search engine rankings. Linkbuilding should be the second keystone in your SEO strategy.

Finally, the actual design of your site can seriously influence its success with website visitors. A great deal of research has been conducted into improving results by changing the use of colour, copy, offers, images and content. SEO also involves experimenting with the design of your site to help retain and convert visitors.

This is only a very short summary of the reasons that SEO is so important to websites. There are of course many other strategies which make even more impact. However, for those who have never seriously considered SEO, I would strongly urge a full SEO audit of their site compared to competing websites. Make sure that your business gets the recognition it deserves  – it’s a crowded marketplace and SEO helps you stand out.