Category Archives: Planning

Nicola Peaty

Top tips on how to raise your search engine ranking.

By Nicola Peaty

search_engine_rankingWhere would we all be without Google these days?! As such a major force in our digital world, we have to play according to the big search engine ways in order for our online presence to be found by our target markets. Below are our top tips on how to help raise your website’s search engine ranking.

 

Start with your research: In order to really know how to attract your target visitors to your website, you need to know what search terms they are using when looking online for products or services which match those relevant to yours. You would waste a lot of time guessing or assuming certain terms and then finding you attract the wrong type of audience who immediately bounce back when they realise your site is not what they’re looking for. Wordtracker and Google Adwords are useful tools that will help you discover the exact words and phrases your potential customers are inputting to search engines. This kind of insight gives you real intelligence into how your market is searching and consuming relevant information to your company, so use it wisely and keep checking and updating accordingly.

Specify your search terms: Based on the keyword research, you will have a list of words, terms and phrases to form the basis of your SEO strategy. Make sure you use these keywords to match your company, products/services, but also where possible, specify the terms by using additional words to attract the absolute target audience. By this, we mean adding locality, product details and company information, so that a. your audience can see upfront exactly what they will view on your site and whether it matches their needs and b. you will avoid generic terms used by the big gun sites who will most probably rank higher and have paid for these terms through PPC.

Keyword your metadata: Use the list of keywords found by your research within the metadata on your website. The title metadata shows the page titles you can see in the web browser. The description metadata is your chance to give a succinct marketing push about the content visitors can find on that particular page. The keyword metadata is where you can use the research list of terms. It will also mean these pages appear by matching the terms searched by your prospective visitors and stand out with their relevant details compared to competing generic sites. Just don’t cram the titles full of keywords as this could well have the reverse effect and be completely ignored, so key the words concise but relevant.

meta-description-tag

Quality not quantity: Content is king as we all know in the online marketing space. Spiders love new and relevant content so keep updating and refreshing the information on your site. Use the keyword research on a regular basis to keep terms applicable and reflect in your content. Blogs are an obvious way of updating content and using social media to push this content out will hopefully then drive traffic back to your site. This increases the relevance and authority of your site. Monitor your content and know which is working and attracting the most views and comments, which can help you plan future content.

Online PR: Another way to get your content viewed and in turn raise your ranking, is to write and push out quality press releases. Again the word quality is used here, as the release has to be topical, insightful, have that grabbing ‘hook’ in order for journalists, other sites and viewers alike, to want to pick it up, link to it and view it. Value in your information will in turn give you value for your website and search engine ranking.

Links: Both inbound and outbound links play an important part on the authority and trust of your website, but again we have the quality not quantity rule to apply. Making sure you have fewer links that are all totally relevant and especially from other authority sites, is far more valuable to your ranking than hundreds of non-related small sites. It’s obviously easier to control outbound links from your site, but you can track inbound links from a range of programs such as SEOmoz and Google Analytics. This will give you an insight into who is coming to your site and where they are coming from. Another useful tip is to use specific and descriptive link tags which explains what content is to be found within the link, instead of generic terms like ‘click here’, which has no search engine value beyond the attached URL. If possible, you could contact these sites and ask them to do the same to help push relevant traffic your way.

Alt tags: Finally, once you’ve managed to drive visitors to your site, you want to keep them on there as long as possible. Therefore, use a variety of multimedia to keep their interest such as images, videos and infographics. Just make sure you don’t miss an opportunity by describing your media with alt tags (alternative text description). These can then be found by search engines and add a unique source of relevance to your audience. Below is a great example of how to post and tag images in an ongoing cycle which helps increase your links, add authority from other sites and keep your visitors engaged.

alt tag example

 

Nicola Peaty

How to create effective email designs.

By Nicola Peaty

Emails are still one of the many tools in the vast array found within the marketing toolbox. However, like all other marketing channels, emails must be carefully planned and thought-through to stand out among the competing messages and images sent to our inboxes. Recipients have a split second to decide whether to delete, view, click or share. So, you have to know your market, know your brand and be clear on your message in order to get the desired response from your email marketing. Here are some useful tips on what to consider when planning your email design and message together with some illustrative examples. Give Blood: We start with a great example of a striking design that you cannot ignore once you’ve opened this email. Perfectly laid out, your eye is drawn to the focal image and immediately to the call to action to make an appointment. Should you require additional information, there are three neat boxes at the bottom to supplement your needs and give you supportive facts and details. give blood email Apple: Due to the well known brand, Apple can afford to tease with simplicity, minimal branding and yet still attain the objective of a new store opening. All the details you need, albeit few, are present and correct. Clean and effective. apple email ASOS: Now that over half of us our opening emails on mobile devices, it would be madness to avoid tailoring email designs to suit mobile compatibility. See ASOS who have streamlined the images accordingly. Asos_Mobile2 New Look: Calls to actions play a major part in generating a response to emails. If you elect for a link or button, ensure they stand out among the background images. New Look have achieved this so well with two clear buttons for their two audiences. The message is also short but to the point, with the images giving examples of their World Cup clothing. It just shows that you don’t have to include reams of copy to communicate your message. new_look_good-blog-full Stitcher: Inviting interaction is always a clever way of drawing in your email recipient. The Stitcher email has plenty to click on to either listen, watch or even share. Plus they’ve been extra clever by tailoring the content for each recipient so that they feel Stitcher has taken time to select and personalise the email especially for them. Personalisation is key to emails so that recipients don’t feel spammed, so make sure if you include their name, the content must be relevant, otherwise you will lose their trust and interest. stitcher-email-example Cooksmart: This email demonstrates how to present a lot of images and information without cluttering and confusing the recipient. The list of daily recipes is complimented by the supporting images below and invites us to click on one of them to see the details. It also includes extra little links which draw us in to watch a video, download a menu or find out more about a particular ingredient. Plus, the additional calls to action ask us to post on facebook or forward to a friend. The overall design works well together and the clever marketing hooks are all there to entice the viewer. cooksmart-email-example Ballard: This design had to be beautiful in order to reflect well on the brand. Your eye is cleverly drawn down to the final and important call to action with a 10% discount. Simple and yet still effective. ballard email H&M: If you simply have a promotion to push, then H&M shows the bold and direct way to go about a less beautiful, but nonetheless effective, type of design. Two colours, minimal branding, clear message and call to action. Tick, tick, tick and tick! h_m_good-blog-full



How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

Understanding the Fundamentals of Marketing Analytics

By Nicola Peaty

“If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.” Words from the Marketing Director, which will stay with me forever since my days in a centralised marketing department. Gone were the times of ‘how can we spend this money on hospitality, glossy brochures and a few events?’. Now it’s all about accountability, budget justification and ROI.

Analytics have become the solution, largely thanks to online data. So every marketer should be equipped with the facts and figures, which hold the answers to all marketing activities. Every activity should be measured, monitored and assessed for its performance compared to its objective.

Before you immerse yourself in the vast world of data, take time to stop and decide what you fundamentally need for the business. What data actually matters and is meaningful to you? There is so much available you could spend a lot of wasted time tracking the number of everything, when potentially you may need to know the WHO rather than the HOW MANY. This is vital so that you can then set up exactly what you need in terms of data collation, the reporting process and the ongoing analysis to then understand implications and implement improvements.

Marketing activities: Website analytics are of course fundamental in understanding every part of activity that occurs in the main hub of your online presence. Understanding the effectiveness of your website will help feed into the all other activity you carry out online. Every company should have a definitive list of KPIs they require for their website. But when it comes to marketing analytics, the list of marketing KPIs can run on and on. See example:

web vs marketing

So it’s important to decide from the outset, which marketing analytics your company really needs. That comes down to the requirements of the marketing plan. Activities and their analytics should inevitably be chosen to meeting your company’s specific goals.

The next question is, does each activity have a target and if so how? Is this based on previous activities or are they aspirational figures. Setting realistic measures is vital for all concerned. Then you have a genuine basis to compare your data results.

Finding out as much as possible before launching into any activity will ultimately help you get the best results. Assessing all previous marketing will give you the insight to shape and determine the specifics of any campaign. For example:

* If you have set up an SEM campaign, maybe to a specific landing page, what are your aims in terms of traffic or a call to action? Who responds best in your market and what incentive or hook will trigger the required action?
* If you have an email campaign planned, do you know the optimum ways of getting the best results eg type of message to type of audience, sent at the best time of day, to get most response?
* If you are launching a competition via social media, which platforms will you include to draw the best response and interaction?
Knowing the answers to the above questions really build marketing intelligence and thereby demonstrates the importance of choosing the right analytics.

Market analytics: Understanding important data related to your market will also give you useful facts about your audience. Profiling your customers into the highest buyers and most valuable clients will allow you to focus different activities on them compared to lapsed and new customers. So looking at your data, or gaps in your data, do you know the following:

* who is visiting your site
* who is actually purchasing form your site
* who is the most interactive on your social media
* who are the advocates and share your content
* who prefers face to face meetings
* who complains to customer services
* who likes to receive emails
* who unsubscribes to promotional emails

Knowing your market also includes the competition. Research and market share can give the analysis to understand whether the market is shifting, if there are any new opportunities or potentially any loss or gain in certain products/services. Plus it’s important to gauge their marketing activity and online presence and what type of campaigns they are implementing to attract certain customers.

Put this type of data together with your customer profiles and you have yourself some powerful intelligence to keep your company, and marketing, ahead of the curve and of the competition.

The holistic review: A lot of time can be spent analysing the finer details of certain data, but it also has to be assessed as part of the bigger picture. This means pulling together the findings of everything that you have decided is important for your business and learning from the implications this includes:

* the marketing performance across all activities,
* the marketing performance across all channels,
* the response from marketing campaigns across all departments involved eg sales, customer services,
* the performance from past to present marketing,
* the response from segments in your market,
* the activity from the competition,
* the response of the market from activity from the competition.

All the above will feed into your future activities, plans and strategies. You can then test and evaluate new and existing ideas, based on solid facts and figures, and build on these as you develop more and more intelligence.

Process: The final part of the analytical equation is implementing the process within your company. Everyone involved must be briefed into their part of the process and how they feed into the overall data collation and objectives. Dedicated staff are now employed to handle data analytics, but other departments play their part such as sales, customer services, market research and even IT and accounts.

Technology is so advanced in helping with data collection, analysis and predictions, but you obviously need the experts to help manage and decipher the findings. You can use anything from Google analytics to content management scoring and predictive conversion rates to planned ROI. As long as you know the following, you can establish a basic but comprehensive marketing analytics action plan:

* exactly which data you need,
* how best to collect the required data,
* how to report on the findings of the data,
* learning and Implications of data findings for the business.

Here’s a useful infographic about the analytics based online marketing and how it works:

analyticsbased-online-marketing--how-it-works_50291ccca42e5_w587

How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

Top Tips for Successful Direct Mail

By Nicola Peaty

Think direct mail is dead? Well, think again. Yes, we have swung right over to digital marketing, but do not be misled in thinking that the DM channel no longer exists. Time for an Infographic to prove some results:

Direct-Mail-Statistics-2014-Ver2-WEB
Note the quotes at the bottom showing the benefits of direct mail: people are more likely to remember a message, direct mail is easier to take in than email and that it is a channel that shows value to customers.

So here are some tips to consider when planning and executing your direct mail to make it an effective channel in your marketing mix.

Quality data: No junk mail please! Just sending out a ton of leaflets to all and sundry and hoping that someone will respond, will not produce the best ROI. Using a carefully selected list of contacts to receive your proposed mail piece will give you the best chance of response. The best data is your own built up list from respondents who have previously interacted with your company together with intelligence details which allow precision targeting. If you have to purchase your list, it is worth being as ‘picky’ as you possibly can, to choose the criteria to meet your requirements.

Personalisation: As with most marketing now, customers want to feel like you are talking directly and specifically to them. So take the opportunity to include their name and tailor the message to meet their details. We all recognise blanket letters that have generic content which mostly end up in the bin. Be different and make yours stand out, it will always be worth the effort to get the respondent to engage with your message.

Creative: This leads nicely on to ensuring that the creativity also gives the right impact. The chosen font and colours should reflect the brand and tone of the message, but also be relevant to your target audience. That means considering the demographics (eg old or young, female or male) and whether it is consumer or B2B (eg beauty salons or financial services). The execution can be in many formats, be they brochures, letters or postcards. Just take time thinking through what will catch their attention and resonate most. Also, consider what the competition are doing and try to be original, but still relevant, to get the best response.

CTA: So you’ve reached the right customers, tailored the message and creative so that they’ve opened and read your mail piece. Now what do you want them to do? By including a call to action you will hopefully generate a response that you can monitor and drive the customer to the next stage of the purchasing funnel. Incentives like registering online to enter a competition or using a promotional code for a discount will allow you to track response but also give you the opportunity to engage with that customer.

Follow up: And engaging with your customer is what it’s all about. So once they have responded don’t leave them hanging. Follow up with your next point of marketing contact, whether that be by email, telephone or another direct mail piece. Keep the conversation going, move the customer relationship forward and build on what you have started. Just ensure to collate all customer details and actions on your database to build a useful profile.

Integration: One marketing channel is good, but it’s always more effective if a message is supported as part of a bigger campaign. So consider targeting the same audience with the same message via other means such as advertising, social media and email. It is vital to track each channel, and remember to use different channel promotional codes, to assess the overall campaign. Advertising could build awareness, while email notifies the customer to look out for the direct mail and social media could encourage discussion or get customers to post as part of the call to action.

Check, check, check: Never let any marketing go out before it has been through thorough checking, but especially a mail piece. With all the time and effort that has been spent on planning and execution, it would be a complete waste if there was a typo or the wrong details. Customers would lose respect and may disregard the message as a result. So ensure all branding, content and customer details have been verified and approved before anything is sent out.

For further tips and advice on direct mail marketing go to: http://www.dma.org.uk/

 

Nicola Peaty

How to market small businesses on a budget.

By Nicola Peaty

budget recession, deficitGone are the days of expensive advertising and glossy brochures for most marketing budgets. The positive spin is that we have been forced to think cleverly about how to target customers which can then produce more effective results and without incurring large invoices. Quite often it is the time, thought and effort that is more important than the amount of money spent.

Below are our suggestions for low cost marketing ideas which can be selected according to your specific needs or as a collective campaign.

1. Content. What else? We’ve discussed and explained the benefits of content in our other blogs. Quite simply, it can be free if you or a colleague can write content and it can give customers so much added value and position you as the expert in your field. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/

2. Social media. No surprise. Again if you’re in charge then it’s your time and no cost. Try to co-ordinate across the various platforms and encourage your biggest ‘fans’ to share and interact. See our related blogs on the various social media platforms; http://www.vgandassociates.com/facebook-as-a-marketing-tool-for-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/the-dos-and-donts-when-using-linkedin-to-market-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-use-twitter-for-your-business/    http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-pinterest-can-work-for-your-business/

3. Website. To be honest, any business these days can’t really exist without a website. It’s the first place people go to check out your ‘existence’ and credibility. All social media should link back to the website and your content updated to give Google fresh ammunition to drive traffic to your site. But it does not have to cost the earth. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make sure your proposition is understood and obvious. Good clear branding is essential so that customers know and remember you. Include clear calls to action and a response mechanism. Then you’re good to go. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/creating-an-effective-website/

4. Video. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg (or have his budget) to produce something which conveys your message in a simple but effective video. People are visual and love watching and listening more than reading copious amounts of words, so keep it short, to the point and interesting. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/using-video-for-marketing/

5. Infographics. Depending on your design capability as to whether you pay for these or not, infographics are so useful when communicating key points and messages to your audience. Whether it’s a specific explanation about something technical or an overview of a product, they help convey visually so customers understand quickly what you are aiming to put across. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/infographics-explained-with-a-little-help-from-some-infographics/

6. Database. Make sure that you have all your contact data in order so that it’s in the most effective state for your target marketing. If you have missing data, then fill in the gaps. Analyse the data so that you know exactly who are your most lucrative customers and who are your hottest leads. With your database ready to go, then you are in a much better position to ‘hit’ the right people with the right message.

7. Loyalty. If you find out from your database that you have a selection of loyal customers, then consider reward schemes and loyalty cards. Also, tap into these loyal customers to refer friends and give testimonials. You can even use them as successful case studies to demonstrate how your company works and get good results.

8. Networking. Mingle with the right people at the right events and it could be worth your while. Know who you want to meet and what you want to say before you go along or it could be a total waste of time. Be prepared with business cards and make sure you collect cards from useful contacts and then follow them up post event. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-for-successful-networking/

9. Host your own event. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate as long as the purpose and/or content pulls people in. Seminars with good content and no oversell will position you well. Customers are more likely to come for the content and as a result follow up with enquiries.

10. Email marketing. As long as your database is complete and up-to-date, then email marketing can be low cost and effective. Targeting the right customers or leads with the relevant message will produce the best results. Email can be used for promotions, feedback, competitions and even surveys. Design and delivery is dependent on your in-house capability and resource but in no way has to be expensive if you need to outsource. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/common-email-marketing-mistakes/

11. PR. Write a press release about your business or product/service, giving it as much unique individuality and then circulate to all local media. You never know you could strike lucky and one of the local press or websites will choose it as it relates to other content or they are in need of some local business information and news. Or, offer to write for a trade magazine or website that relates to your business giving your expert view, opinion or market update. This will certainly give you credibility and exposure. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-writing-a-press-release/

12. Related partnerships. Working with complimentary and non-competitive companies can have a mutual benefit. It gives you exposure to other customers and allows cross-promotion. By each company referring the other, you can only stand as a win win.

13. Business cards. We may no longer need glossy brochures and can afford elaborate literature, but the basic business card is one essential that any company still needs. They are functional and can be distributed throughout your company to give out to useful contacts in the field. Make sure they are fit for purpose, include all important details including website/contact numbers and have clear branding with strapline if applicable. Don’t overcrowd the card. If you have more information to include, then you may require a postcard or flyer to supplement the card.

14. Go local. Maximise what is on your doorstep. Use your local community and contacts. Do you have local social media and press you can use to promote your company? Are there local events, trade fairs, community gatherings and business groups you can tap into and take a stand or just network? Consider where your target customers may go in and around the area and hand out flyers in these places for them to find and pick up such as shopping centres, the library, leisure centres etc.

15. Try before you buy. Some people just need a little trial or taster before they commit to a purchase. An easy idea is to offer a small freebie or discount coupon. Everyone likes a bargain and if it persuades the customer and as a result they like your product, then you may have a new sale.

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