Making your first impression

Networking is a real growth area in business development. If you want to get to know more people relevant to your business (whether as customers or suppliers, or both), networking, where you meet people regularly, can be very effective – and the key to networking is not just the people you meet but the people they may be able to link to you to as well. There’s no getting away from it, one thing that challenges most newcomers to networking is the idea of standing up and telling your fellow networkers who you are and what you do. But actually, networking is a great place to develop these skills. You are amongst like minded people who have all had to face their ‘first time‘ too! In a recent meeting of 4Networking there was a great talk highlighting some key do’s and don’t’s:

  1. Be yourself – networking is about building relationships with like-minded people.
  2. Be specific – your message probably won’t ‘click’ with everyone in the room but it may just really strike a chord with some.
  3. Don’t just talk about you – show how you have helped & benefited others.
  4. Connect with others in the room by saying thank-you for help or support you have received.
  5. Keep to time! – It can be a good idea to plan, practice and even work to notes – particularly as you start out.

Networking is not just about meeting people. It can also help you develop skills that you can take out and use everywhere! Network groups come in all shapes and sizes and are aimed at a dazzling array of different markets. Whatever your business, it is likely that there is a group that fits your target market – all you need to do is look. Don’t assume all networking groups are the same. If your first experience doesn’t feel right, look further. I’m sure you can find the group that is right for you. If you want to talk further about how networking can work for you, please give me a call

Google changes reward high quality, up to date web content

Content is King
Anyone who has interest in SEO, will know that Google has the habit of regularly throwing the cat among the pigeons by updating its algorithm to change the way it indexes pages. Well they have been at it again. Earlier this month with an update nicknamed “Freshness“, and earlier in the year with a second update: “Panda” – which was itself tweaked only last week. Both of these updates are aimed at ensuring that Google delivers search results that are considered relvant by their users. Without going into too much technical detail, the main thrust of these updates is as follows:

The Panda Update

Panda changes the way that Google rate the popularity of a web page, and what the user experience is like. Traditionally, they have done this by assessing the number and quality of links coming into the page, and how well the page is designed. They have now enhanced this by bringing in user experience factors like:

  • How frequently do people click on a site when it appears  in the search results
  • How long do users spend on a site after they find it in a search
  • How many people are referencing the page via social networking through Tweets, Facebook ‘likes‘ etc and of course the Google +1’s
  • How often do people go straight back to the search results after clicking on the page

So there is a real focus on the quality of inbound links rather than the quantity. Another nail in the coffin of “500 links for $50” link farms – no bad thing in our view! I don’t plan to say much more about the SEO technicalities, but if you want to know more about Panda, (including where the name came from – though it isn’t as interesting as it might be!), you might find this video interesting. I will talk a little more about the implications of Panda from a marketing perspective later, but first a little about “Freshness“, the second and more recent Googlke  update

The Freshness Update

Where the Panda update was all about ensuring that search results are offering the best user experience, Freshness is all about ensuring that search results are up to date. This is particularly relevant if your communications are time sensitive. If your content is about current news & events or celeb culture, then Freshness is going to have a big impact. But whatever your market, Freshness puts the focus on new content, so keeping your site fresh and up to date is now more important than ever. Again, if you want to know more from a direct SEO perspective, here is a video on the subject.

Marketing Implications

Enough of the technical stuff, the real question is what does this mean for your marketing, and how do our recommendations change in light of these updates? The simple answer is they don’t really! We have always advocated that the best approach to practical SEO is to ensure that your site is relevant, up to date and interesting for your target market. These latest Google updates reinforce this position. If your content is relevant and current, people will read it, share it and talk about it. This  will have a positive impact on your performance in search results. One thing I would add to this is that making your content easy to share by including Like/Tweet/Google +1 buttons on your site is now even more important. One final thing to bare in mind is that the Panda update seems to take into account behavior of non-search led traffic to your site. If users are activly seeking our your site, visiting it directly (not via a search) and spending time on it, this behaviour can have a positive effect on search performance. We have always advocated targeted email tied into good fresh website content as a great marketing approach. These updates strengthen this position through direct visits having a positive impact on your website search performance.

Panda & Freshness: Top Tips for your Marketing

Here are a few tips to consider when thinking about your marketing:

  • Make sure your site can be easily updated with high quality, fresh content
  • Ideally make sure that this content is available via an RSS feed (Following the freshness update Google now seem to be using RSS feeds more extensively in their serach results)
  • Use  relevant buttons and links to make sure your content is easy to share on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ etc
  • Monitor user behavior on your site. Are people browsing or just taking a quick look and going away never to return. This can be a indication of irrelevant or uninteresting content.
  • Look for ways to attract relevant non-search driven users to your site. make sure you promote your site in all your marketing activities (both on and off line)

We have always said that if you have an interesting site, relvant to your target market, that people will be happy to find on Google, then Google will want it to rank high in relevant search results. Our approach to online marketing has always followed this belief. If you would like to talk about what we can do for you, please get in touch. We are always happy to talk about marketing, because we love it!    

The importance of your domain name

This is a subject we have covered in the past, but a situation that arose this week and this post on the e-consultancy Blog made me think it is a subject worth revisiting! If you are serious about using the web as part of your marketing then your domain name is key. If you are starting out in business, the availability of a .com or .co.uk domain name (and yes, I would HIGHLY recommend that you go for at least one or prefereably both of these domains) that fits with your company name is vital. The availability of a suitable domain should be a significant factor in naming your business. If neither .co.uk nor .com for your preferred domain are available, I would recommend you seriously consider a different name, or at least a different trading name. If, as is more common, you already have a business and own the domain name, then make sure that you hang on to it. Domains need to be renewed on a regular basis, and if they are not websites & email will go off line and the domain will become available to other web users & once taken, it is virtually impossible get it back without their consent. Some domains can be renewed for up to 10 years and there is a view that a domain registerd for a longer time can perform better in search rankings. We take the issue of domain retention seriously. We ALWAYS set clients domains to autorenew so by default domains will renew until we are requested to cancel them. This can occasionally mean we end up with a domain that a client no longer wants. Even so, we are happy to stand the cost of this to ensure that domains are NEVER lost by mistake. It may seem obvious but think of where your domain is the primary route by which people can contact you:

  • Letterheads
  • Websites
  • Business cards
  • Advertising
  • Leaflets & Fliers
  • Sign written vehicles

And the effort you may have taken in developing a presence for the domain across the web:

  • Registration with web directories
  • email addresses
  • Search engine listings
  • Your website

Lose your domain name and you will need to start from scratch and potentially someone else can pick up the benefit of all your hard work. Here are key points to make sure your domain is safe:

  1. Make sure you own the domain – A simple Whois search using the free tool on www.dnsstuff.com will tell you the name of the registered owner. If this is not you then you need to get it changed. We and any good Internet company should be happy to register the domain in your name. Then  if the worst happens & you fall out or loose contact with the company hosting the domain, you can always retrieve it via the registrar. This will be nominet for .co.uk domains. A Whois search on www.dnsstuff.com will tell you the registrar for .com domains
  2. Make sure that your key domains are set to auto renew – Again any good Internet company should be happy to do this, and even if it means you have to pay for an extra year should you no longer need the domain, the cost of this is insignificant compared to the cost of losing your primary domain name.

Follow those 2 simple steps & you should never be in the position where you lose control of your domain. If you are concerned about the security of your domain, give us a call and we would be happy to talk things through.  

Company focussed 'Pages' Launch on Google+

This week, Google have launched ‘pages’ on Google+. A ‘page’, which looks very similar to the Google+ personal profile, will allow you to have a business presence on the network (Similar to the Facebook pages) and to engage with your customers on a company (or brand) level rather than just an individual level. Setting up a ‘page’ for your business is pretty straight forward once you know where to go. To get you going, here is a link to the system for creating Google+ pages. NOTE: you will need to be logged in to your Google account I have also found this useful overview of the new service. The big question is:

Is it worth getting excited about?

As I have said before only time will tell but as it has Google behind it, it’s hard to ignore, at least for the time being. Setting up a page is very straight forward, and will give you another route through which to communicate your message, so I would suggest that it is worth checking out. We will be sure to keep you posted on developments with Google+, so follow us on Twitter, or add us to your Google+ circles & we will keep you updated.  

Email Marketing Response – what to expect

Source: BSA Marketing
I received a call from a company who had taken the plunge to start an in-house email newsletter. They had pulled together a modest list of around 50 of their best customers and drafted, then redrafted, then fine tuned the email newsletter. Finally after running a couple of test sends, they pressed the button….and waited to see what would happen…. They then couldn’t understand why over half of their carefully honed emails hadn’t even been opened, never mind any links clicked or enquiries received! I decided that maybe a post on the subject might prove useful……

The difference between warm and cold lists

At BSA Marketing we emphasise the importance of making the most of people you know. It’s well established that it is easier to get business from people who know you than from cold target contacts, and if you don’t have a good process for keeping in touch with your prospects and past customers, what happens to all those new clients you are trying to build……? We find the response you might expect from emailing to ‘warm’ lists is roughly double that from colder lists though this is somewhat a simplification. Typical open rates for ‘warm’ lists can be around 20-40% and there is no question that regular emailing coupled with strong, relevant content is an ideal combination. In our experience, well targeted retail emails to existing and past customers with strong content and offers tend to produce the highest open rates. For a ‘cold’ list, 10% can be considered a respectable open rate while some of the poorly targeted cold lists that can be bought on line can yield open rates of less that 5%. The figures above are for ‘unique’ opens, i.e. we discount cases where one person opens the email several times. And remember: just because someone opens your email, doesn’t mean they appreciate it. A poorly targeted message that the reader finds irrelevant, coupled with their ability to comment on Twitter, LinkedIn etc. can be really negative to your business.

Don’t expect too much

Getting your email read is a good start but it would be wrong to suddenly expect your sales line to be ringing non-stop. Email marketing is about building relationships. The more people know about you and what you offer, the more likely they will be to come to you when they find a need – when the time is right for them. A beauty of e-newsletters is that you can keep in touch with your target contacts cost effectively – so you can sustain your contact. It is important that you don’t take a look at initial results and immediately dismiss a campaign if you don’t see lots of enquiries straight away. Take a look at the graph above. This is a snapshot from a current campaign that started in August 2011. Over 2 months, the open rate has stayed pretty consistent at 20-25% while the unsubscribe rate is dropping off down towards 1% – but look at the click rate. Over 2 months, the click rate (that is the number of people engaging with the email) has almost doubled from 10% to nearly 20%.

Deal with the negatives positively – and keep them in perspective.

There is often a concentration on the negatives of email marketing, the bounces and unsubscribes, but it is important to keep them in perspective – and to realise that they have a positive aspect. The number of bounces tends to be more of an issue with ‘cold’ lists as there isn’t much you can do about them other than go back to the source of the list if they gave any sort of deliverability guarantee. With your own, ‘warm’ list it may simply be a question of revisiting your email list and updating email addresses from your master data (Accounts system, Outlook etc) or even calling your contacts and checking details directly! Secondly, unsubscribes. It is a fact that people unsubscribe from email lists! So long as it is only a handful (say less than 2-3 % – though higher is not a problem if it is the first or second time you have emailed people) then don’t worry about it. For every 100 emails you send, 97 or 98 people are NOT unsubscribing! If you do see a higher unsubscribe rate then you should probably review your content. Whatever people say about Spam, EVERYONE makes on-the-fly value judgements on the emails they receive. If they like and value the content, they do not consider it as Spam – no matter who or where it has come from!

It’s not just about enquiries

Good business comes from good relationships and a key feature of e-newsletters is the opportunity to build rapport with your market through regular contact where you can make sure people remember you and effectively promote your business proposition and set out the real benefits you deliver to your clients. The clear increase in click rates shown above demonstrates this process in action. By receiving regular, relevant contact, customers and prospects see what you have to offer and as you reinforce the benefits to them, their confidence in you grows. As this happens they are happy to engage with you further. This is first reflected in the growth in clicks which can then lead on to enquiries and ultimately more business for you.

It’s a process

So much marketing is approached as a one-off project, be it a mailshot, telemarketing campaign or the placing of an advert etc. etc. Marketing should be a consistent and sustained  function of your business that carries on. Sure, it is important that your marketing is reviewed and refined regularly but making sure that you do keep in touch with people rally can pay dividends. Happy Marketing!    

Free tool to easily export contacts from Outlook

With many people embracing email as a de-facto standard for day to day business communication, MS Outlook – in it’s various guises – is where most people hold their email contact data and, perhaps not surprisingly, Outlook is often where people may take their first steps into email marketing. Whilst Outlook is fine as an email client, it really doesn’t ‘cut the mustard‘ as a tool for businesslike email marketing. For more details, check out our post on what to look for in a good email marketing tool. One of the biggest barriers to using e-newsletters to keep in touch with customers, prospects and other contacts can be building a database to use as a list. I have seen numerous cases where people have been MANUALLY retyping data from one computer list to another – simply because they don’t know how to access the data electronically. While I don’t recommend Outlook for email marketing, equally I don’t think having to retype reams of data is acceptable either. The export tool in Outlook is OK but it can be a bit unwieldy – and if you have a system where you use public folders to make information available to all team members, Outlook Export does not directly recognise these – not ideal! There is however a simple, free Outlook plug-in which talks a straightforward ‘select and click‘ approach to Outlook data export. With CodeTwo Outlook Export installed, you simply select which data group you want to export (in our case this would be ‘shared contacts’ ), click the CodeTwo button: – on the Outlook Toolbar,  select which fields you want to export then click GO – and your selected data is dumped to a standard, comma-separated file which can be manipulated (normally in Excel or similar), opened, or imported to another programme (e.g. your email marketing system) as required. You can download the plug-in here Installation and use is straightforward but if you have any questions, feel free to give me a call