Stamp prices on the rise – time to look at alternatives?

UK postal charges are increasing significantly at the end of April. A standard first class stamp is increasing 30% from 46p to 60p and second class increasing 39% from 36p to 50p. Here is a link to the new Royal Mail Price List In business these days, the post tends to be used consistently in three areas:

  1. Deliveries of physical goods
  2. Marketing communications
  3. To send out invoices to customers

Although email is not much help in the delivery of physical goods, it is actually a great alternative for the other two:

Marketing Communications

Using email to keep in touch with customers & contacts is increasingly becoming our bread and butter, with a growing number of clients seeing the benefits of regular email marketing. On top of savings on postage costs you are also saving on print, envelopes and fulfillment so that resources can be focused on the important thing, the message. furthermore, because costs are reduced, the idea of sending messages regularly becomes practical.

Its not just a  theory

We highlighted a great example of the benefits of email a couple of weeks ago in this case study. The original project was planned to include both email and mail,  but the success of the emailing phase of the project meant that the mailing campaign was dropped, thus delivering the objectives of the campaign, significantly under budget. Again the cost savings can be significant. If we take our basic emailworks package at £59 which allows you to send up to 1500 emails per month, this is equivalent to mailing only 100 people, and that is ignoring costs of stationary & print. Furthermore, because email is interactive, it is much easier to measure results and develop campaigns based on feedback. If you would like to talk to us about how email marketing could help you, please give us a call.

Send your invoices by email

Where volumes of invoices are not high, emailing invoices rather than sending them by post is simple. All you need do is print the invoice to a pdf using a free tool like Primo PDF rather than to a printer and then attach the invoice to a standard email. If your invoicing volumes are higher and this solution is not practical, then there are many online invoicing systems available. Although these do usually carry a charge, if you are sending large numbers of invoices this cost will be offset by the reduction is postal charges. Although this is not intended to be a review of online accountancy systems, two systems that we have had experience of,  are:

  • www.kashflow.co.uk – UK bases system that offers invoicing and a full accountancy package on line for around £16/month
  • www.freshbooks.com – US based system, and probably one of the market leaders – costs around $30/month

So if you are sending 20-30 invoices a month, either of these becomes cost effective. Alternatively, if none of these tools match your requirements, we have developed a bespoke email based invoicing system for our own use and would be happy to discuss the possibility of building a similar system to meet your needs.  

BSA Marketing website goes mobile

BSA Marketing website goes mobileFollowing hot on the heels of the new BSA Marketing website launched 2 weeks ago, the site has now gone mobile. There is no question that more and more people are accessing the internet on smartphones and tablets. While a tablet screen doesn’t normally present too much of a  problem to display a regular website, this is not the case with a smartphone where the small screen size can really limit the amount of information that can be displayed. Even with the latest high resolution retina display on the new iPhone4S you might be able to get a great deal onto the screen but it can be too small to read! Another factor is understanding how and why people access your website on their phone. With the possible exception of major e-commerce and social media sites where strong small-screen functionality is important, most smartphone based website searches are people looking for addresses, directions or contact details rather than traditional browsing. With this in mind I believe that a mobile website can and should concentrate on clear delivery of this core information. This is certainly the approach we have taken. We have also included a link to the blog so that visitors can review the latest posts. Take a look at www.bsamarketing.com on your smartphone and you will be directed automatically to the mobile version. This development demonstrates the power of the WordPress platform. From start to finish the BSA marketing mobile site took less than 6 hours to build and launch. If you’d like to discuss the options for taking your website mobile, give us a call

Cloud Backup – Is it a Practical Solution?

Cloud computing seems to be THE buzzword of 2012, and in particular the idea of Cloud storage as a backup medium. As marketing is increasingly all about data and the intelligent use of that data to make decisions, it seems like an appropriate time to have a closer look at the phenomenon of cloud backup. Whether it is email/contact lists/database files or website files, if  disaster strikes and your file server goes down, the cost of losing all that data does not bear thinking about. But does cloud backup offer a real solution? On the face of it, it does:

  • It is simple to use
  • It is secure (assuming you select a professional service provider)
  • Backups are automatic and done in the background
  • It is becoming very cheap (for example JustCloud now offer unlimited capacity for under £5 a month)

But is it practical? I think this is the big question and one which could be a deal breaker for some people. If you consider a data backup requirement of 30GB (not out of the ordinary, I am sure), even on the fastest broadband connections, this is going to take days to transfer onto the backup servers. OK, once the initial back up is done, day to day backups will be fine as they are only uploading files changed that day to the servers, but the real problem comes if trouble strikes. If you accidentally delete a file or two and need to recover copies from your backup, getting these files from your cloud server should be quick and easy, but what if your hard drive fails, or your computer is lost or stolen? Now you will need to restore all your data from backups.  To retrieve the entire 30GB of backup, is again going to take days to transfer so it could be days before you are up and running again. Compare this to the couple of hours it may take to restore a local back up and you can see the problem! Although I am certain that cloud backup has a rosy future, and for the backup of relatively small amounts of critical data, or for archive storage where you are not likely to need to retrieve the entire archive at once then it may be a great solution. For backup of large amounts of data that is used on a day to day basis, then I think local backup systems still have an important role. Nevertheless, local backups should still allow you to keep your backed up data away from your PC. A backup on an external hard drive that gets stolen along with the PC is not much help! It could be that a combination of local and cloud backup might fit the bill?

Say Goodbye to the Keywords Meta tag?

We all know that metatags are an important part of on page SEO, but a couple of  clients have recently asked questions that suggested it may be worth revisiting this subject, in particular relating to the Keywords metatag. There is no question that the Title and Description tags are vital for a well optimised webpage. Not only do search engines (ie Google) use them significantly in their indexing algorithms, but they also form the basis for your listing when your pages appear in Google Searches. However there is a third Metatag that has traditionally been the focus of SEO on page optimisation, namely the Keywords tag. Originally, this was one of THE tags that Google used to decide which pages to index, and thus was very important. However, because it has been totally abused by SEO spammers over the past 10 years, it is now pretty much ignored by Google, and has no effect on SEO for Google. Although some minor search engines do still use this tag, in our opinion, it is no longer worth focusing on when optimising pages, and thus we tend not to include it on our pages. At this point, I must distinguish between the idea of keywords embedded in your page text, and the keywords meta tag. The discussion here is purely about the Keywords Meta tag. There is no question that the appropriate use of well though out keywords in the body of your page text is vital for effective on page SEO. As always on these matters, the one voice I trust 100% is that of Google’s Matt Cutts so I will end with his take on the subject.

“We went ahead and did this post on the official Google webmaster blog to make it super official, but I wanted to echo the point here as well: Google does not use the keywords meta tag in our web search.”

Matt Cutts

You will find Matt’s comments on the subject in full, here on his official blog

Flip-Books – an alternative to multi-page PDF files

Flip Book from BSA a great way to display online documents Flexible, Professional, Cost Effective Printed brochures have been key marketing tools for years but increasingly people are looking at the cost of print – and the fact that these days brochures are often out of date the moment they are printed. There is no question that sometimes a printed brochure is still the best option but having your brochures available to download from your website – or to give to customers via email, or on a memory stick – gives more options to both you and your customers and can mean you need a significantly smaller (and cheaper!) print run. Furthermore, online brochures can be easily and quickly updated. When it comes to holding brochures online for download, PDF is becoming and increasingly universal format. PDFs are very stable. They display consistently across different browsers and platforms. Unless your PDF document is only 1 or 2 pages, the main issue is readability layout which can make it more difficult for readers to browse your document. This is less convenient for them and less professional for you. The PDF Flip-Book is an emerging technology which takes a PDF  document and gives it the presentation of a printed brochure. Here are links to a few examples:

Magazine Flip Book
Brochure Flip Book
Technical Flip Book
  You can buy software to create flip books yourself but, unless you plan to do a lot, this can be expensive. The other thing to watch out for is that as Flip Books normally use Flash, there can be problems displaying them on iPads and iPhones. BSA offers a service to create Flip Books for you. You supply us with a PDF version of your document which we convert and supply back to you with a complete, ready to go, package of files ready for you to add to your website – or we can hpost your online documents as well if you wish. Get in touch to find out more

Meeting Wants and Needs – The essence of a strong business proposition

Your business proposition is key.

Maximise your proposition strengthWhether you are pitching to an investor, bidding for a big contract or developing a more general marketing plan, one thing is sure: if you have a strong proposition, life is much easier. Your first consideration: Be sure that your proposition is clear, and highlights the real benefits it offers to clients. It is also important to understand customer motivations that may lie behind a purchasing decision.

 

Wants v. Needs : Aspirations v. Requirements

Motivation for buying broadly falls into two categories: Want but don’t need: The group you are targeting wants, but doesn’t particularly need your offering. Much consumer marketing is aspirational, and falls into this category. Few people need that “new Car”, “new Sofa (even with 4 years’ interest-free credit!)”, but they want it, and believe that it will improve their improve their life. Need but don’t want: Here, you are dealing much more directly with  what the customer needs in order to achieve an objective. This is true in much B2B marketing where products and services tend to be bought on a less emotional level, focusing more on the real benefits the purchase can bring to the business and ultimately to the bottom line. Buyers would usually rather not spend the valuable resources, and why should they unless they can be convinced of the benefit. So in this case it is important to recognise that you are marketing to people who “Need but don’t want” what you have to offer. OK this is a generalisation , but considering whether your market falls into the “Need but don’t want” or “Want but don’t need” category  can be a real benefit when considering how to present your proposition to maximum effect.

Defining a proposition – key selling points

So how does all this affect how to present a proposition? I mentioned sofas earlier, so let’s take the example of selling a sofa. Sofas are normally bought as a consumer product so tend to fall into Want but don’t need: it’s all about the aspirational benefits the sofa will offer, for example:

  • Bright colours or patterns will stand out and make you look more ‘individual’
  • Big sofas allow lots of your friends/family to sit together showing how social you are
  • Recliner sofas convey extra comfort and have the ‘ wow’ value of a gadget

So your marketing is all about presenting these aspirational benefits to customers, and convincing them that their life will be better with your sofa in itEven if they already have a perfectly good, comfortable sofa! Whether they actually need  a new sofa is another question entirely – and the answer is probably no! This is why making sofas so easy to buy (4 years interest free etc) is an important part of their marketing. Selling a sofa into a business is quite a different proposition. Now we need to show customers that ours is the sofa they Need because it will offer the best overall value:

  • The colour/pattern looks good but importantly it will not show stains so shouldn’t require too much cleaning.
  • It is constructed from quality materials so should last a long time
  • The colour/design/style/quality reflects well on the company giving confidence to prospective customers who may sit on it leading to more business – and profit!
  • etc

So in this case your marketing is all about showing prospective customers that their business Needs your sofa because business may be affected if they don’t have it.

Your own proposition

Once you have a clear picture of what motivates your customers, the final stage in developing your offering involves identifying and presenting the benefits you are offering. What these are will be entirely dependant on where your potential customers are coming from  (“Want but don’t need” or “Need but don’t want“). Understanding their motivation will help to identify the relevant benefits, and when considering these, simply ask one of 2 questions:

  1. Will this make them “want” it more
  2. Will this convince them that it meets their “needs”

A strong proposition should get a definitive “YES” to at least one of these questions depending on which group your market falls into. If it doesn’t, than maybe it is time to go back and develop your proposition further!  

Make your search listings stand out

“Be Heard… …Be Valued” is our motto. Enhance your value by becoming recognised as an expert in your field. There is an established marketing adage that “People buy from People“, so ensuring that your name is connected to relevant content is a great opportunity. Here’s the good news! Google has made this easier by bringing the “by-line” into the internet age. You can now tag your pages & articles with a link to your Google Plus Profile, and if you use the tag rel=”author” in the link, Google will include your authorship in its indexes. Better than that, Google will also add your Google plus profile picture and a by-line to your page listing, helping to make it stand out in search listings. Rather than repeat instructions that are freely available elsewhere on the net, you will find full instructions on using the rel=Author” tag here. http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/how-to-implement-rel-author If your site is in wordpress, it is even easier. You will find wordpress specific instructions here: http://yoast.com/wordpress-rel-author-rel-me/ If this looks too complex, please get in touch, and we will be happy to advise you. I would like to thank Richard at Aardvark Safaris for bringing this to my attention. If you are after the holiday of a lifetime, and you fancy an African Safari I can thoroughly recommend this organisation.

I'm on a tight budget, can I do this myself

Yes you can. We are quite happy to work with people who would like to run the programme themselves, and yes this does bring the on-going costs right down. In these circumstances, we would suggest that we work with you to ensure you have everything in place to maintain an ongoing marketing programme. We would then be on hand to offer support and advice should you need it.

What sort of budget would I need to work with you?

This is a difficult question to answer,  and depends entirely on what level of services we provide. Although we can work with people on budgets as little as £10/month, as a rule of thumb, we would recommend that you should be willing to invest a few hundred pounds per month on your marketing. This said, we ask for no long term commitments, and continually review both what we are doing, and how effective it is, to ensure that your budgets are being wisely spent.