Category Archives: Observations & Answers

Building a Successful Online Advertising Strategy

Marketing has always been an important – even back when it was adverts in the newspaper or billboards. However, we now live in an online world in which the vast majority of consumers are permanently plugged in to the internet via smart devices. The online sphere has completely changed the way in which businesses approach marketing, offering an incredibly powerful tool at their discretion. However, online advertising involves so many different factors and it can be daunting to know where to begin.

Goals

One of the main pitfalls when creating an online marketing strategy from scratch is attempting to do everything and, in the process achieving nothing. There are many avenues to choose from- SEO, brand recognition, Google, viral marketing, content, lead generation and the list goes on. Going in to the process without setting out a plan isn’t likely to garner success. Preparation is key and deciding which aspect or aspects of advertising that you’d like to employ will not only streamline the overall process but will also help to save time and resources. Map out the campaign ahead of time and this will offer a clear roadmap to follow.

Target Market

Who are you selling to? That is a vital question when designing an online marketing campaign. The vast majority of businesses will have some sort of idea on their target audience but precision is important. Relying on broad categories such as gender, age or location are unlikely to focus marketing in the way that is required. A much clearer, more detailed insight in to the target customer is required and this can only be achieved through research. Whether it’s the use of surveys, test products, analytics or ideally a combination of everything, research is paramount. Interestingly, companies are often surprised to find out that their actual customers differ from their target customers and have to adapt accordingly.

In-House or Contracted?

Choosing whether between in-house marketing and outsourcing to a dedicated agency will depend on different factors, namely the scale of the campaign and the budget. If you’re looking for a multi-pronged approach that will require a heavy investment of time and effort, it may make more sense to employ a third-party marketing agency. They will have the experience and resources required but this will obviously require a hefty budget. If budget is an issue or if your project is smaller, then in-house is best. A dedicated marketing team is a massive advantage but not always tenable, especially with smaller companies. Tailor the project to you and the resources available to you.

Search Engines

Search engine results are an important aspect of marketing, whether it’s through the use of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The overall aim of the majority of companies is to rank high on search results- namely Google. The organic way of accomplishing this is to encourage searching through high quality content or brand awareness. This isn’t always easy so many opt for SEO, which involves the use of keyword rich content in a way to boost your ranking in results. This is a viable approach but takes time and effort. Conversely, you have PPC adverts which are bumped up in search results but obviously these are paid for. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that businesses only pay for the advert when a consumer clicks on it. Both techniques have been very popular in recent years but there’s definitely a shift happening towards more modern, organic approaches.

Social Media

Social media is the single most valuable tool for marketers. This is because it provides a direct connection between the business and the potential consumer. It’s also a platform that allows for a variety of marketing techniques- whether it’s traditional PPC adverts, content publishing, viral posts or just brand awareness, social media is incredibly versatile. However you choose to utilise sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, a continual and vocal presence is paramount. Post often and engage with visitors and this will boost your overall social media strategy.

Review

Planning and launching a marketing campaign is only half the battle, continual assessment ensures long-term success. Not everything is going to work and that’s fine but evolution needs to happen in real-time. Utilise analytics, customer data and feedback in order to gauge which aspects of your marketing campaign are hitting the mark and which aren’t and change accordingly.

How can remarketing help my business?

Companies invest huge amounts of time and money in to marketing in the hope of directing new customers to their website. Whether its banner ads, viral marketing or social media, the eventual goal is to convert leads in to sales. However, whilst many forms of marketing will be successful in getting people on to a website- that doesn’t automatically lead to a sale. There’s a whole host of reasons why this may be the case, but the overall outcome is the same. In situations such as these, remarketing may be the ideal solution.

When a customer leaves your site without making a sale, they could potentially never return. In fact, a whopping 96% of visitors will leave without making a purchase and on average, it will take 9.5 visits before a person will actually complete a transaction. Therefore, the time, resources and money that was invested in to attracting the visitor could be potentially wasted. This is where remarketing comes in. It’s a technique in which companies will follow visitors who have left their website, showcasing their own banner ads on other websites and apps that the customer visits. Often the ad will be specific, advertising the individual product that the customer was viewing.

Some of the most popular vehicles for remarketing are Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Whilst the majority of remarketing is done using cookies, user IDs and mobile advertising IDs, you can also utilise email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses. It’s also worth noting that many companies are now utilising social media and apps more as they receive so much traffic.

The remarketing process falls in to two different camps, self-service and 3rd party platforms. Self-service tools such as those offered by Google and Facebook, are cheaper and offer more control but require more time, effort and skill. 3rd party platforms are more expensive and offer less control but are easier to use. Both routes offer their own advantages and disadvantages but it’s worth noting that self-service platforms tend to be more popular.

There are many benefits to remarketing with the obvious one being that it can lead to an increase in sales. People get distracted when surfing the web and the gentle reminders provided by banner ads can lead to visitors returning to your site and making a purchase. This is especially likely if the visitor was close to making a sale before leaving the site. Another often overlooked benefit to this type of marketing is the effect it has on overall brand awareness. Building a brand identity using traditional methods can be time consuming and expensive. Remarketing allows companies to push certain products or services, but it also helps in showcasing the business as a whole. With banner ads continually in the periphery of potential customers, it’s a very subtle but effective approach to boosting overall awareness.

When discussing remarketing, the focus tends to be on traditional banner ads but there are other techniques at hand. Another form of remarketing which tends to be particularly successful for generating sales is to remind customers that they have items within their basket and then offer them an incentive in order to complete the sale. This usually comes in the form of a discount offer or free delivery, sent via an email. An offer which has been specifically targeted in such a way can make all the difference for customers who are on the fence.

Clearly, there are many upsides to remarketing but there are some disadvantages to consider. One of the major pitfalls is the “creep factor” – as many customers dislike the idea that brands will follow them to other websites. It’s all part of the growing unease with companies collecting so much of our data, often without us noticing. The best way to combat this idea is through moderation. For example, don’t be too aggressive with remarketing in terms of the frequency of ads. Also, don’t remarket to customers who have already made a purchase, instead aim at potential customers who are close to converting.

It’s also worth noting that many experts believe that the “creep factor” is overblown and the numbers back this up. Remarketing is still a very powerful tool, and this wouldn’t be the case if customers were being alienated by the technique.

As marketing become more sophisticated and companies have even more access to customer data, it’s likely remarketing will evolve further, offering even more benefits in the future.

Is the B2B Telephone Dead?

There have been countless changes within the business world in recent years- many of which have been game changing. It’s fair to say that one of the driving factors behind so much change is the progression of technology and the changing way in which we interact with technology. Smart phones in particularly are really transforming practices. One such way in which business is being influenced by technology is the way in which we use the phone- specifically talking on the phone.

There has been a notable shift in the way in which people communicate, both in and out of business. Talking over the phone is being replaced with texts, emails, instant messaging and video chat. Ironically, It’s the rise of the smartphone which has caused the slow demise of traditional phone usage. This trend is widespread, with many people opting to disconnect their landlines and rely solely on their mobile phones. Obviously, this is mainly because mobile phones are much more convenient and consumers are opting to forgo the extra cost of a phone line they no longer use. Whilst we are placing this in a domestic context, it’s also happening in the corporate sphere.

Companies are experiencing a faster pace than ever before and text-based communication offers an attractive alternative to talking. It’s quicker. easier and allows us to get much more done within the working day. Not to mention, talking on the phone is a dying art, especially with younger people. So much so that research has shown that a majority of younger workers (25 and under) actually report a fear of talking on the phone. This is understandable considering they’ve grown up in a world in which smartphone and text-based communication is standard. This is an important point as we are moving through a generational shift in the which workforce is going from a baby-boomer majority, to a millennial majority. Therefore, the way in which businesses communicate will likely be going through a major overhaul in the coming years.

So, if workers aren’t making voice calls, how are they communicating? It’s actually quite a varied mix of techniques, ranging from texting, email and online communication such as VOIP and Skype. Whilst these methods may be more convenient and cheaper than using a traditional landline- there are disadvantages to be considered. For example, online communication requires bandwidth and as more people use it, more bandwidth is required. There are concerns that the infrastructure isn’t prepared for this shift away from voice calls. Another issue is security, which can be much more precarious when communicating via the internet. Considering the rise of hacking, data theft and attacks, security is more important than ever before.

However, one of the main downsides to the decline of the phone is the unique experience that it offers. Talking on the phone can facilitate a warmer, less formal interaction which can then be beneficial for creating stronger business relationships.  It’s also worth pointing out that although fewer people are making phone calls, they aren’t dead yet and are still incredibly popular with the 50+ age group.

We may be heading for a situation in which phone calls are so rare that when they happen, the mean more. For example, day to day interactions happen via text or email but when it’s an important business deal or a new client, then a phone call is used. Therefore, the customer feels special, in the same way in which post and letters have become rarer and more meaningful.

Whilst it may be premature to declare the death of the business telephone, it’s clear that change is coming. It’s probable that the phone won’t die but will evolve and companies will adopt a more multi-faceted approach to communication. Whereas in the past, the majority of businesses utilised mix of phone and email, we now live in an age where many forms of communication exist. Therefore, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, companies will choose according to the specific situation and what benefits them at that time.

Why do companies lack data analysis skills?

The majority of businesses have woken up to the importance of big data. Companies collect massive amounts of information on their consumers and potential consumers and this raw data is invaluable. Not only can this information be used to ascertain the current climate surrounding the company but it can actually be used to predict future patterns. This may sound like the perfect opportunity for businesses to stay ahead of the curve however many organizations are failing to utilise big data in any significant way- for a number of different reasons.

Before we get into the issues of expertise and resources, we need to point out that some companies simply refuse to utilise big data to its fullest potential. Many business owners cite the same reservations when it comes to big data, namely accuracy, expense and the actual usefulness of the data itself. For example, companies are worried that the data they do collect will not be completely valid and even if they do want to use it, it will be too expensive to go through the process of collecting, storing and analyzing the data.

Although these issues are still held by many business owners, it does seem like the majority of companies are waking up to the wealth of benefits that big data have to offer. Unfortunately, even when companies want to embrace the full potential of big data, they are hitting a wall when it comes to data analysis, due to a lack of skills within the industry.

A study by Forbes Insights and Dunn & Bradstreet found that even when companies are using big data, they aren’t adopting complex analytics. The study showed that 23% of companies are still using a spreadsheet as their main tool for data analysis, 17% only use basic dashboards and 19% use basic data models and regression. What this shows is that there is a severe lack of expertise when it comes to data analysis and many businesses are losing out on the potential benefits.

The main problem is that more and more data is being collected but the amount of data analysists available to process this data isn’t increasing- therefore there is a shortage of talent. In fact, 40% of companies have admitted that they find it difficult to find and retain data analytics talent.

We have seen an increase in higher education offering courses that will train people within this area, however it isn’t producing enough professionals to match the massive demand.

The use of data is only going to increase in the future, therefore this problem isn’t going away. It also seems like many companies are taking more of a holistic approach towards data analysis. Instead of expecting everything to be done within the IT department, some businesses want all of their employees to have at least some knowledge within this area. This is actually a very forward-thinking idea as it’s likely that in the near future, data analysis and projection is going to be much more common in every office.

So, what can businesses do in order to combat the lack of talent? The short answer is to invest in the future. As well as recruiting from universities and colleges, they also need to make the career path attractive and this can be achieved through internships, benefits and student projects. It’s obvious that the current infrastructure isn’t large enough to produce the number of analysists required by the industries, therefore business owners should look into creating their own infrastructure. This mean supporting talent throughout the entire process, from their first day as a student, all the way up to their position in the workplace.

The corporate world is changing dramatically and whilst some jobs are falling by the wayside, other careers are popping up to take their place. It’s becoming more and more obvious that data analysis is position that is only going to become more important in the future and now is the time to lay down the foundations.