Category Archives: Tips & Resources

Simple Tips to Turn Visitors into Customers

Telephone Box

When running an online business, it can be easy to fall into the trap of prizing traffic above all else. Obviously attracting visitors to your website is vital but overall this means nothing unless they are buying. There are many guides out there for boosting traffic, in fact the entire SEO industry is based around the idea of attracting more online visitors. However, transforming visitors into customers can require a different approach. The following are just some of the ways in which you can achieve this.

Design

The design of your website can have a significant effect on visitors and their decision to buy. The overall layout should be simple and stylish with intuitive navigation. The design of your product pages is just as important, if not more. Clear and attractive product images should be included, with important details such as prices, features and delivery information. Try not to bombard your consumers with too many options on the one page as this has been shown to discourage some buyers. It should also be noted that your ‘Buy’ or ‘Add to Cart’ button should be strategically placed and in a contrasting colour in order to attract attention. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of designs which are unique or bold, these can help you to stand out from the crowd.

Encourage

Encouraging a customer to purchase from you, over another vendor can be difficult. It’s for this reason that companies can benefit from offering incentives such as discounts, offers and free delivery. Online shoppers have become incredibly savvy and will often search for offer codes in order to grab a bargain. Offers can also be targeted towards customers, whether via social media blasts or emails sent to subscribers. This way subscribers are given an early warning of a sale or other promotion and this works as a kind of loyalty scheme.

Review

Customer reviews have become a fixture of many online stores, most notably Amazon. Showcasing these reviews will allow consumers to gain a personal insight into the products they are looking at and this can be influential in the overall purchase decision. Many companies are now asking their customers to complete reviews in exchange for entry into competitions.

Another way that customer reviews can help boost sales is through search engine recommendations. Positive reviews on your products can place your website higher on search results and therefore more visible to customers.

Remind

Online window shoppers will often plan to make a purchase, even going as far as placing an item within their trolley and then change their mind. Many companies are now using this phenomenon as a way to boost sales by reminding consumers that they wanted to purchase an item. You can do this in a number of ways. Some stores will email a customer who has left an item within their basket and remind them of this fact. Others will even offer a discount if the customer decides to make this purchase.

The other method of reminding shoppers of a potential purchase is more subtle. A customer may be visiting a product page and then move on to other websites. When they visit social networking sites or those using Google AdWords, they could be targeted with an ad featuring an item they have previously viewed. This technique has the same effect of prompting the customer to think about the item and therefore consider buying it.

These are just some of the techniques which can help businesses to transform their traffic into revenue. With so much competition out there, the best way of attracting businesses is to offer something that nobody else is, whether that be products, services, promotions or customer service.

Cyber Security Tips for Companies of All Sizes

Cyber security is an issue that affects every company, however large or small. Within the past few years, countless organisations have fallen victim to hacking and fraud. As hackers grow more sophisticated by the day, protecting your business against intrusion is more important than ever before. Safeguarding your online infrastructure is essential but many companies neglect basic security measures, allowing hackers through the front door. Here are just some of the ways you can secure your business.

Passwords

It may seem like an obvious suggestion but many companies are still failing to utilise password protection as a viable defence against hacking. Passwords should be as complex as you can make them, this includes the use of capital letters, numbers and symbols. Try to avoid words or phrases which could be easy to guess, such as names, dates or common words. A technique which has become popular in recent years involves the swapping of single word passwords for longer phrases. The phrase doesn’t have to make sense, in fact the more complex and nonsensical, the better.

Another typical mistake made by many organisations is the use of a single password for many accounts. This may make it easier to remember your login details but should your password fall into the wrong hands your entire infrastructure could be at risk. Use different passwords for different accounts and change them regularly.

Security Software

Protecting your company can also involve the utilisation of trusted security software. There are many types of security programs available, including anti-virus software, firewalls and anti-malware software. It may be simpler to install a comprehensive software package which incorporates all of these tools into a single program. These can be quite costly but there are many free trials available for businesses who are looking to save money. Some vendors even offer their security software for free!

We are all aware of some of the larger security software companies but there are many out there. Try to stick with the well-known vendors but you can use tools and programs from other companies as long as you do your research first.

Connections

The way in which you connect to the internet is also incredibly important to the overall safety of your company and its online assets. Establishing a secure connection within your main workplace is vital but this is not the only issue. Public Wi-Fi hotspots such as those found at coffee shops or on trains can be unsecured and therefore open to intrusion. This should be kept in mind when accessing company files outside of the workplace.

Utilising a VPN or virtual private network will encrypt your data and therefore allow you to access public hotspots without having to worry that your sensitive information is at risk.

Vigilance

One of the most useful tips for ensuring cyber security is simply to remain vigilant. Hackers employ many techniques and will take advantage of any situation they can in order to infiltrate your system. For example emails can often be used as a way to trick users into revealing sensitive information such as passwords, contact and financial information. With this in mind, make sure your email filter is set to high. Also be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour, for example emails which ask you to input private details or even spelling mistakes within the body of the text.

Vigilance can also extend to your hardware as lost or stolen devices can be just as problematic as virtual attacks. Keep your devices on you at all times and consider installing a remote wiping application, just in case the worse happens.

How to Increase Your Email Productivity

A quick dip into your inbox is often like wading through quick sand. The word ‘quick’ doesn’t really apply as more often than not you’ll come back out an hour later wondering what it was you went in there for. More and more correspondence is now conducted via email.  It’s highly convenient for the author who can crack off an email to get something important out of their head, but to the receiver of endless emails, it’s a nightmare.  Instead of being a helping hand, emails have become somewhat of a nuisance.  They are highly distracting and are zapping our ability to work efficiently.

How many of you can ignore the ‘ping’ of a new email?  What could it contain? Is it that highly critical email I’ve been waiting for? Chances are it’s not but you’ll go and look anyway and then get distracted by the other highly unimportant emails that have made their way into the inbox in the ten minutes since you last checked.

Emails are slowly taking over our lives and with people spending an average of 11.2 hours of their working week reading and responding to emails, we’re under a massive threat of decreased productivity, which is not what we want for ourselves and certainly not for our teams either.

We’re putting ourselves under immense pressure by feeling all emails must be addressed as quickly as possible, which obviously isn’t the reality, and this undue stress can have a significant impact on our mental health.  Constantly delving into our inboxes means we are losing our ability to concentrate on the task at hand and when you combine this with the added stress, it’s clear to see why productivity is at risk. We’re losing focus on what’s important.

So how can we regain control of our time and our worklife and get the balance back on track?

1Designate time – When arriving at work the first thing most people will do is check their emails, but this can often be the worst thing to do. Designate the first hour, or more if you’re able, to heads-down getting things done time. Once that inbox is opened there’s no going back.  Likewise diarise time later in the day, perhaps after lunch, for the same.  This may take a bit of getting used to but you’ll soon wonder how got anything done without it.

Unless your job specifically requires it, or you are waiting on something extremely urgent make sure you switch your mobile email access off when you leave the office.  In order to be at your best for work it’s extremely important to get adequate downtime.  Constantly checking your work emails throughout the evening can actually be counterproductive and can lead to stress.  Office hours are exactly that.  Evenings are for a rest and to get you ready for the next day.

2Lessen distraction – This step will have a massive impact, but can you handle it? You can help reduce the addictive nature of emails by getting rid of the notifications that come with them. The obvious one is to turn off any audio prompts but you can also turn off any visual ones too.  Get rid of the little yellow envelope in the corner of your screen and once you get used to it you’ll feel liberated!  Look at your emails when you’re ready to, not when your computer tells you to.

3Set clear boundaries – Tell your direct reports and line managers what you’re doing and why and ask them to respect your new way of working. The aim is to increase your productivity which must be seen as a good thing.  Give people access to view your diary so they can see when you are not available to answer your emails.  If colleagues have something critical they need to discuss with you during your ‘non-email time’ then encourage them to pick up the phone or physically come and speak to you.

Another way of setting boundaries with colleagues and contacts is by not answering emails as soon as they arrive.  If you are always prompt with a response this sets future expectations of you, so do yourself a favour and hold off.  Leave it an hour or more and answer in your own time.

4Delegate – if you’re regularly in receipt of truly urgent emails and have the ability to do so, give a team member access to screen your emails. This will allow you to knuckle down safe in the knowledge you’ll be alerted should something require an immediate response.  For this to work you need to delegate to someone you trust to be reliable, and who has the ability to differentiate between critical and non-critical business.

5Speak to people – Some conversations that can take a week going back and forward over email can be resolved in a few minutes face to face or over the phone. If on the other hand the person you need to correspond with is a well know chatterbox then stick with the emails!

Getting Results from Social Media

‘Like it’ or not, social media has become a key player when it comes to promoting business.  Amazingly, a recent study carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK indicated that almost 80% of consumers would be influenced by a brand’s presence on social media and would be more inclined to buy more in the future from a brand known to be on social media networks.  From this, it is clear that customers expect to find businesses and brands on social media and will make purchasing decisions accordingly.  However, it is not simply a question of broadcasting advertisements on social media sites.  This is not sufficient to engage followers.  What is required is time and effort, as well as an understanding of the platforms available.  Here are some tips from experts that will be useful, especially to the smaller business not yet in a position to afford social media specialists.

 

FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORM

It is important to pick the platform that best suits your demographic.  Used Linkedin to market to businesses.  If you are pitching to consumers, Twitter or Facebook are good channels.  This is a very important step, because if you are using the wrong type of platform, the best posts in the world will do you no good, as they will not be read.

 

BUILDING SOLID RELATIONSHIPS

Just like relationships in real life, social media relationships take time and trouble to develop.  What SMBs (Small and Medium Sized Businesses) should be aiming for is loyalty.  Don’t try to gain a huge band of followers, but do try to build up a smaller group of loyal followers.  Create a community – encourage followers to talk to each other about your business.  Interactive content such as quizzes or live Q&A or even competitions will help to get your followers buzzing and get you noticed.  Once you’ve developed good solid relationships, these can be turned into sales by including special offers to generate sales.  Beware, however, of doing this too soon or too often.  It is generally considered that 80% interesting and topical content can be balanced by no more than 20% advertising content.  If you can devise ways to effectively direct your followers into your own on-line marketing programme, you may not need to promote directly on social media, whilst still gaining new customers on your own sites.

 

THINKING AHEAD

It is important to maintain a regular posting schedule.  Experts advise a minimum of two posts per day.  Of course, that means thinking of something to say that will appeal to your target audience.  You can get inspiration from the calendar.  Plan around national holidays such as Christmas, Easter, etc.  Find out the dates of niche days that are relevant to your company and/or products.  A beverage retailer could make good copy out of Hot Tea Month, whilst someone selling beauty products might comment on Bubble Bath Day.  Have a look on-line for special days and have some fun with this.

 

FIELDING FEEDBACK

Of course, positive feedback is what you are after but it is inevitable that sometimes there will be feedback of the negative variety.  It is essential to respond to such comments quickly and thoroughly.  Such a comment can even be considered a good thing, as if people are taking the time to give negative feedback, it means at least that they have an interest and it can become an excellent opportunity for you to show that you pay close attention to good customer service and are willing to make changes for the better as required.

 

PROMOTING EXCELLENCE

When you post interesting comments and answer queries thoroughly and knowledgeably, you are effectively demonstrating that you are an expert in your field.  If your contributions show insight and convey valuable information, your readers will feel they can trust what you are promoting.  If, for example, a garden centre shows it knows its delphiniums from its dahlias and offers useful tips on caring for both, your followers will feel confident in purchasing from your on-line or off-line site.

 

KEEPING UP TO DATE

You should avoid using any of your existing usual marketing material on a social media site.  What you need to do is think up new ways to promote your wares.  Keep it current and up to date and targeted specifically at the particular audience you are aiming for on each social media site.

 

MAKING SURE YOU ARE KNOWN

You can have the finest posts on social media, but they won’t do you any good if no one knows you are there.  Make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to make your social media presence known by including social media addresses in all your communications, including media advertisements.  It is a marketing maxim that no one goes to an event that they didn’t know was happening.

 

CHANGING IT UP

It’s an easy trap to fall into – posting the same type of content time and time again.  This will have a negative effect on your followers, who will soon perceive you, and consequently your brand, as out of touch with the times, boring and uncreative.

 

BEING CONSISTENT

Whether you are the person solely responsible for posting content to sites or if, as is often the case with medium to large outfits, other members of staff are also involved, it is important to be consistent in both use and messaging.  The best way to ensure this is to devise, and stick to, a strategy that includes guidance aimed at achieving a consistent voice.  Your strategy should include a posting schedule, guidelines on responding to negative feedback and a collection of brand-related images ready for use.  It is also useful to prepare a document outlining responses to frequently asked questions.  A word of caution, however – avoid presenting uniform, ‘one size fits all’ replies.  Your followers want to feel they are dealing with a real live person, not an automaton.  It is vital that all responses, particularly to negative comments, remain personalised and fresh, dealing thoughtfully with each individual.

 

MAKING SOCIAL MEDIA WORK FOR YOU

As we have seen, social media has become a very important tool for promoting all sorts of businesses and enterprises.  Included above are some tips which will help to make the best possible use of the various platforms available.  Remember to choose ones which best suit your brand and target audience.   Avoid the temptation to post on a host of networks – choose, say, two or three and keep up a regular and lively posting schedule on those.  It takes a lot of time and effort, but in the long term the results can be significant.  And most importantly, if you treat your social media followers the same way you treat your customers or clients on-line and in-store, you will reap the rewards.