2 years ago, we did a survey looking at how people expected the use of mobile to access websites would change in the future, and the overwhelming response was that they believed mobile and the development of mobile websites would become more important as we moved forward. So, 2 years on, what is the reality now? A review of a number of our clients’ websites shows 2 interesting facts:
Mobile usage has, in broad terms, doubled over the last 2 years
If we consider web views from mobile phones, this is still relatively low (ranging from 5-19%)
There is no doubt, the trend is towards increased use of mobiles, even in the more conservative B2B markets where we focus, and although the majority of web views are still from desktops, the levels of mobile usage can not be ignored in the long term. The other thing that has changed is the introduction of responsive web design, and the idea that rather than designing separate sites for desktop and mobile, you design one site that responds to screen size and optimises the display for the screen size that it is being viewed on. Although this approach makes a lot of sense, it also adds a significant degree of complexity (and hence cost) to the website design process. Is this additional cost necessary? It should be considered in light of the stats as to who is viewing your website, and on what devices (all available form Google Analytics). Our current advice in this area: “Take a look at your stats, and make decisions based on the actual audience. Although responsive design is definitely the future, whether or not you need to invest in make your site responsive is totally dependent on how YOUR website is used. If you would like to talk to us about this in relation you your site, we are always happy to chat
It’s a bit scary to think about it but this month, BSA celebrates it’s 30th birthday. We are a very different business to what we were in May 1984 with a small rented office in Manchester City centre. PCs were in their infancy (anyone remember 8.5″ floppy disks?), there was no internet, Fax was the new kid on the block as it started to take over from Telex and Yellow Pages was the big source of business information! Even writing it down, it all feels a very long time ago! Over the years we have seen a quiet revolution as we embraced technology, putting it to work on behalf of clients – always focused on making sure the tools were driven within a solid marketing framework. Some things never change; Business marketing still has the same core principles:
Have a clear business proposition
Define and understand your target market
Be sure your proposition delivers real benefit to your target market
Communicate this benefit to your target audience
Deliver your proposition profitably to both you and your customer
Get these five fundamentals right and you have a business. This was true in 1984 and is still true in 2014. The impact of technology has been on opportunity and tools rather than fundamentals. It is a shame that too often marketing technology is promoted as a fundamental rather than a set of tools. It isn’t surprising that this can leave people disappointed. Thinking that technology replaces the fundamentals is rarely likely to produce good results. Nevertheless, what technology has done in spades is open up real marketing to SMEs. In 1984 communication cost money:
Yellow Pages Advertising
You had to pay to use them all and the more you used, the more you paid. The internet has changed this with…
You can set up a website, optimise it and run email marketing and social media programmes all for free (if you ignore the modest cost of your internet access). With email, the more you do, the more value you get. You can do full blown marketing for no money! Admittedly most people don’t, they choose to pay specialists to perform some or all of these tasks but at least the money is spent with the goal of delivering something rather than simply allowing access to the communication network. One problem is that as marketing becomes more accessible, there is increased expectation that the results will come quickly and easily – and let’s face it, if they did we’d all be putting our feet up in the sun! It is as true now as ever that…
Marketing is a process, not an event
… yet with so many businesses offering a dazzling array of marketing services, there is a danger that a service is offered as a ‘quick fix‘ to business success. Just as in 1984, good marketing takes time but invest that time in a well thought out programme of engagement with your target market and you will have valuable platform from which you can reap benefits for the next 30 years! That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!
I’ve been doing quite a bit of networking recently and, perhaps not surprising, there are a good number of other marketing services suppliers out there offering their skills to the SME marketplace. Talking to lots of them, they generally seem to fall into one of two camps:
Planning or Action
I’m sure there will be people cry out ‘We do both!’ but in my experience although many (even most) say this, the reality is that their real focus is in one area or the other, even though one without the other is either a road to nowhere or a shot in the dark.
Planning is all good stuff but won’t deliver unless it is put to the test, and that can be scary. You’ve spent money on developing your plan, what if it doesn’t work? OK, good planning should be a process, not an event but that only works if it is integrated with implementation so not really what we are discussing here. Service suppliers who focus on planning tend not to drive action. Sometimes they’ll get away with it because your business has is own momentum – but does the planning actually do any good, unless you implement it? Sometimes a client knows they should be doing stuff to implement the strategy but don’t so they are happy to see it as their ‘fault’ that they aren’t seeing any benefit.
One thing about action, doing something always produces results. These may be good, bad or indifferent but you always know more afterwards than you did before you started. Good business is about managing risk. Action without planning can be hit or miss and a bigger risk than if you are working to a well thought out plan. I will always advocate doing ‘something‘, but don’t overstretch yourself and avoid digging a hole you can’t afford to fill! Don’t assume that one ‘action’ will deliver everything you need. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Clearly the best approach is to develop a plan and the put it into action in a structured, measured and joined-up way. It’s your business and service suppliers are there to deliver benefit to you. Make sure your processes are joined-up, even if this involves working with both planning specialists and action specialists. If you can create a joined-up team ethic between these various partners you can have a powerful resource to really drive your business forward.
Planning -> Action -> Review -> Planning etc etc
If I had to pick one I’d go for action every time – but joined-up is better!
I know ‘keeping in touch’ is at the heart of our business but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t! Over the past few weeks I’ve been asking the direct question to people I meet:
“Do you keep in touch with your contacts?”
Obviously I’m not talking about the people you are actively working with, it is all the others:
Enquirers where they don’t do business at the time
Sales contacts & prospects you have met/talked to
Contacts from networking
Referrals from customers and other contacts
Have a think:
“What has happened to all the business cards you have been given over the life of your business?”
Admittedly, some people do send stuff to their target contacts but this is normally limited to offers and promotions. They were always going for the short term sale rather than aiming to really engage with their contacts to build the relationships, understanding and trust that foster the strong, long-lasting business opportunities. Here are a couple of diverse examples that I have been given by clients recently. Each shows how really engaging with your contacts can have real, profitable impact:
Example 1 – The Industrial Equipment Supplier
We have been working with this client for several years. BSA designed, set up and implemented an e-newsletter programme to keep our client in touch with their contacts, giving them news, advice, company developments, case studies, testimonials etc, all intended to demonstrate how our client is an expert in their field of industrial equipment. While the e-newsletters were never intended to sell directly, they all clearly demonstrate that if someone was looking for the products and services offered by our client, then our client was a good potential supplier and worth talking to.
Although the e-newsletters consistently elicit response, a recent reply shows just what can happen: Our client received an email which was simply a ‘reply’ to an e-newsletter that had been sent over 2 years previously (who says email is transient!). the email was an enquiry with a value in excess of £100,000. By itself this represents a return on marketing investment of over 1500% – and then all the other business is free!
Example 2 – The Business Consultant
Not such a big company as the first example (but at least as important for the owner) We have been working with this client for many years and send out e-newsletters, only 3 or 4 times each year but enough for him to keep in touch with his list of around 150 key contacts and say ‘hello‘. By regularly ‘tapping his contacts on the shoulder’ they remember him and the work he does. The emails we send regularly produce business opportunities. Last week was no exception. He emailed me saying there had been service developments he wanted to let his contact know about. We put together his marketing email, he approved it and we sent it – all within a couple of days.
He started to see the response almost immediately with a series of replies which he expects to yield a number of opportunities – this time the ROI will be around 1200%
Stop Press, June 2014: Latest indicators show current ROI is at 4500% with additional potential for next year
In both of these examples the clients were making the most of who they know Do you make the most of who you know? There is good business in it!
Your site is your shop window – whatever your business your website should be substantial. Prospective customers WILL look at it. What does it show them about your business? Does it show that your business is substantial. To do so your site should be substantial too. Substantial Sites have 3 core elements:
Web designers like to design; they like to be creative. They tend to be project driven while a substantial website should be dynamic, continually evolving and updated. It should be a process not a project. I’m not sure that, by themselves, web designers are the best route to a substantial website. Too often, web designers design, create and launch – then hand over the site to their client while they move on to the next creative project. There is no real consideration as to how the site will evolve after it is launched.
Don’t get me wrong, good design is important but it is only part of the package. Most people focus on the ‘look’, the initial WOW factor, but design goes further than this. How easy is it to navigate your site? can visitors find the content they are seeking? A good web designer will build good navigation into their design. It is part of the creative process. Good navigation is a critical element of a substantial site but it is only the second element.
Good content is at the heart of a substantial website – and normally the element which gets least attention – often because it can be the hardest to handle and sustain. People usually see a website as a one off project/investment that they can contract to a web design specialist. A good deal of thought may be given to the initial content as the site is created but this content development is seen as simply an element of the site creation project. Do it then it’ll be good at least for a few years – like a brochure. To be fair, most website look good (or even great) on day 1 but what about after a year or 2? Brochures are all or nothing. You get them printed then you are stuck with that content until you do a reprint. A website can be (and should be) so much more. A substantial website should reflect your business as it is now rather than how it was on the day the site was launched. A bit of thought when the site is first created can include options for the easy, regular addition of new content….
There is nothing like getting someone else to ‘blow your trumpet’. It is one thing for you to say how great you are but so much better coming from someone else. Equally case studies can demonstrate you really deliver benefit. Some technical and niche markets can make it difficult to identify key customers or secure attributable comments but a bit of creative thinking can still deliver impact while keeping sensitive information under wraps.
You are an expert in your field so make your site useful to people interested in that field (i.e. your target market!) by giving some advice. I’m sure you won’t want to give away your trade secrets but giving relevant hints and tips is really appreciated by people and it can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise. A bit of altruism can also show that you do business reasonably.
Content management is not just an option
In the 21st century, you should not need to depend on external services for all updates to your website. Some form of content management should be available on all sites. You should be able to amend, add and delete content and images in house, whenever you want. The idea that changing an out of date picture depends on you tracking down the person who designed your site 2 or 3 years ago, getting them to do it, and then accepting a bill for £20-30 (or more!) is just so outdated. This isn’t to say you need to be a web wizard. Collaboration is the way to effectively sustain a substantial website – check out this post for more on collaborative websites
Wot, no SEO?
Many of you will know that we have a view about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) There are many companies who claim they can (for a fee) improve your ranking in search engines. While it may be true that they can demonstrate higher rankings after some work on particular search terms there is less consideration of whether this work actually delivers more visitors to your website (check out this experiment we did) – and isn’t relevant web traffic what it is really all about? Good SEO is so much more than rankings (and typically more expensive!) What is certainly true is that Google likes dynamic websites and substantial sites are dynamic. By regularly adding new content your site is updating which attracts the search engines and by making sure you include relevant content and search terms you will improve your search rankings – as a spin-off to keeping your site substantial. Having a substantial website is more about attitude and commitment rather than a collection of linked pages. Good design is important but only a part of the process.
With the wide number of programmes and email clients that your subscribers may be using to view emails, there are some aspects of layout, common in web design, that can not normally be used in the laying out of email. These include the use of email background images, although simple to implement in html, not all email programmes handle them in the same way, so to get them to display consistently, you need to do a bit of clever coding. In the past this has required quite a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge to implement, but now, thanks to a nifty code generator I have found, all this is done for you. The generator assumes that you are using tables to control your layout (pretty much standard for emails) and allows you to generate the code to add a background image to either an entire table or a single table cell. You will find the code generator here. To use it, all you need to do is upload the image you would like to use as a background to the mail system or web server (In mailchimp for example, you go to Templates from your dashboard, and then click the file manager button in the top right), then copy the url of the image and past it into the first box in the code generator. Then simply fill in the rest of the boxes on the code generator, all of which are fairly self explanatory I think. Once you are ready, simply copy the generated code, and paste it into the relevent part of the email HTML. That’s it, you are good to go. One big benefit of using background images is that you can overlay real text onto images, where the alternative would be to embed that text as part of the image, but that’s another post! something we will cover in the next issue of Marketing Matters.