3 ideas for Twitter polls

TWITTER_Maze-01If you’re a Twitter user, you may have noticed the “Poll” feature that was introduced in October. Twitter polls allow you to pose questions to your followers. Here’s a great “how to” link: How To Create A Basic Two Option Poll On Twitter. With Twitter polls comes great opportunity for businesses. Ranging from canvassing a general opinion to a bit of fun, Twitter polls could become a go-to staple in your social media diet. Here are some ideas:..

1. Preliminary market/content research

1           A Twitter poll can be used to conduct some very basic market or content research. Ideally, your Twitter followers will have some sort of interest in your business, be it a current or potential client or someone within a similar sector. Posing a simple question, such as the one above, can you give you a basic answer to a question.

2. Settle an argument/get an opinion

2           This maybe a bit more “tongue in cheek”. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of light hearted fun every now and again, especially on social media. You could post something as basic as the example above or you can give a bit of back story and ask people to settle a dispute.

3. Current event/general engagement

3           Using a poll in tandem with a current event is a good way to create engagement. If it’s in the news, Twitter users will most likely have heard or read about it. There may be trends on Twitter that relate to your business. Ask questions surrounding them.

Simple engagement

A big plus for Twitter polls is the relative ease by which you can create engagement. It’s easy for you to create one, and It’s easy for the user to vote, taking the just 2 clicks. Whilst you may not be able to see who is engaging with you as the votes are anonymous, they are a great and slightly different way of creating engagement. Polls can also encourage people to share (retweet) your content. If someone is scrolling through their Twitter timeline, they may scroll past or miss a normal text based tweet. A poll is more likely to pique their interest.

Twitter poll tips

  • You can have 2, 3 or 4 choices (answers).
  • Don’t overuse polls. You don’t want to be remembered as “the people who always do polls.”
  • Make the most of their versatility. Mix polls asking light-hearted questions with others looking at industry relevant questions.
  • Voting is anonymous.You aren’t notified of who voted in your polls.

Effective Promotion – What’s it all about?

Thought I’d jump on the Black Friday bandwagon to ask a question:

What exactly is the point of a promotion? 

MarketingPromotionIf we are talking Sales (Black Friday or whenever) then there used to be commercial business logic behind a sale, namely clearing out older inventory to make space for the new season’s stock. It was a win:win, the customer got product at reduced prices and the business cleared shelf and warehouse space ready for new ranges. It was also an opportunity for a business make a bit of a marketing splash. Nowadays, things have shifted. With 24-hour shopping and access to price comparisons on the internet, unless you have exclusive product where you can control supply (Apple!), the resulting free-for-all and price-transparency means your competitors know your ‘sale price’ almost immediately and everyone sees a ‘promotional’ price as, in reality. the real price you will always pay. If you can offer a genuinely discounted price, it is often only a matter of days, or even hours, until your competitors are matching your promotion. Customers are getting savvy too. There are a wide range range of smartphone apps which allow internet price checking even while they are out shopping! I appreciate there are rules about offering discounted prices but it just becomes a game where businesses rotate prices and stock recognising that in order to offer a discount they have to hold a ‘list price’ for at least 28 days – and during these 4 weeks they don’t really expect to sell any of those ‘list-price’ products When was the last time anyone bought a ‘list-price’ sofa from DFS?  So have promotions and offers been devalued to the point that businesses feel they have to do them simply to trade? Or is there another way?

Use promotions to genuinely influence behaviour

If we accept that, in many cases, a promotion is simply a convoluted way to build an advertising message around what is actually a ‘regular’ price, should you simply accept that the normal price is the normal price and refocus your promotion on actually influencing buyer behaviour? Rather than simply casting your promotion to all and sundry, here are 3 ways to use real promotions to engage with real customers and prospects:

1. Get someone ‘over the line’

E-commerce businesses are only too aware of the issue of the abandoned-cart. A potential customer puts product in their ‘basket’ but then never checks out. they were clearly interested in buying but, for some reason, never completed the transaction. There is an equivalent in Business to Business where a prospect asks for a quote but doesn’t go ahead. In both of the above cases, a genuine promotion, targeted at the specific individual can be the thing to get them ‘over the line’ and give you the business. OK, there are people (savvy customers?) who will deliberately hold-off from completing the transaction in the hope that you might come back with the offer of a better deal but by personalising your offer, you are more engaged with your customer, creating a better platform for an ongoing business relationship.

2. Reward genuine loyalty

We always like it when people say ‘Thank you’ and in business it is no different. Every now and again it can be great PR to say ‘thanks’ to a loyal customer and recognise their loyalty, This could be as simple as saying thank you when you speak with them. If you go further and offer a voucher or ‘additional service at no extra cost’, these can cement a good business relationship long into the future.

3. Encourage returners

It is the nature of some businesses that can be difficult to build regular, repeat customers but even here, promotion can be used to maintain engagement. I have a personal example of a company who sell Mediterranean sailing holidays. I had a couple of great holidays with them 10 years ago but then children came along and sailing around on a small yacht for a week didn’t seem quite so practical! Over the past 10 years they have kept in touch. Invitations to visit boat shows, details of new yachts they were introducing, and yes, offers on holidays. All of these are interesting to me (rather than just pushy from them!) and even though I haven’t been able to take up the opportunity yet, we have started talking about going again now the children are taller than me(!). When we take the plunge, this company will definitely be on my shopping list.

The value of long term

With so many promotions and so much marketing focused on quick returns in the short term, the significant potential benefit of long term, loyal customers is easily forgotten. Building long term loyalty in the B2C/ FMCG world is undoubtedly getting harder as the retail market is often its own worst enemy but in niche markets, whether B2B or B2C, using real promotions to engage with customers and prospects can deliver real, sustainable benefit to your business Are you simply grabbing your share now or building engagement with your customers to secure your business in the long term?

The nature of “Marketing” in the internet age

I recently received a newsletter in which one of the articles was titled

"4 Reasons Marketing Shouldn’t Control Social Media"

You can read the article here As I was reaching for my soap box, I thought maybe I should read it first. Whilst I still disagree with the basic premise, it brings up some interesting issues. Not least, the nature of “Marketing” in the internet age. Taking a look at the 4 reasons:

  1. Marketers simply use social media to mix holiday messages and discounts with standard sales and marketing content.” and this is not what customers want
  2. Social media practitioners (marketers) try to be all things to all people in order to keep their audiences engaged – Rather than doing this good brands must know their niche
  3. Marketing departments adopt social campaigns that do little more than offer discounts and coupons, training consumers to wait until that next discount is offered before they make that next purchase.
  4. Sales, customer service, product development, and nearly every other department bring something to bear in the corporate-consumer relationship that [this type of] marketing cannot

I have to say that I pretty much agree with all of these statements, but it suggests that in the eyes of the author, the definition of Marketing has somewhat narrowed to a point where it is not really marketing anymore. it is sales promotion.

What is Good Marketing

Marketing is about identifying the value that your organisation adds to its marketplace, and then creating and communicating that message in a manner that engages with your audience. Encouraging them to see you as the best supplier for their needs. A significant part of this long term, and is about building a relationship with a customer. However in the world of e-commerce, marketing has become highly transactional process:

A leads to B leads to C leads to a sale

and “marketing” is all about optimising this conversion process. Whilst converting people from not being customers into customers is key, in most cases things are not that simple. The “marketing” process outlined in the article suggests that its all about tinkering with A B and C to increase conversion rates.  Whilst good marketing is about introducing D E and F. Whist these in themselves may not directly impact the conversion rates, they create an environment which makes conversion more likely.

To use an analogy of Angling,

Fishermen use ground bait to attract the fish, and get them into a feeding mode. Into that environment they than place the hook. Increasing the likelihood that they will get a bite. The process outlined in the article suggests marketing is all about the hook, whereas much of good marketing should be about laying the ground bait! Although maybe angling is not a good analogy for the process of building a relationship of trust with your marketplace, hopefully you get my point! Ultimately marketing should be the custodian of the process by which a company:

  1. Identifies the value that the organisation adds to its marketplace
  2. Creates a message that communicates this value
  3. Communicates this message in a manner that engages with the  audience

As social media is a key tool in this process, I would suggest that good marketers are the perfect people to manage it.

Social media boundaries – Personal or Professional?

"Hmm… Should I have posted that to my business’ social media account?"

You might think it a given, that posting a picture of the family dog is a no-no but it’s surprising how much this sort of thing can crop up on a business feed. I’ve seen quite a number of posts recently that the author may have regretted. This happens because people remember they haven’t posted in a while and then suddenly rush into posting something.

If you have to think about posting, you probably shouldn’t do it!

The human side of a business Whilst there is a marked difference between what to post on professional & personal accounts, this doesn’t mean all the posts have to be uptight and ooze too much corporate…ness. It is just as important to maintain a human side to a business and have some fun. An occasional “office in action” or factory floor picture, never goes amiss, nor do stories about employees. If you are a small business, you should promote who is behind it and what they do. There are ways to do this without uploading a picture of your lunch to the company Instagram page. Remember You post to social media as either yourself or your company. As someone who works with multiple accounts on many platforms and also has a personal presence on social media, I use the two hat approach.

  • Home hat– Laidback, evenings and weekends, hobbies and pets.
  • Work hat– More focus on formatting message and what your business stands for.

There are obviously exceptions such as consultants, where work and home boundaries can get blurred, but even they should remember they are likely to be influencing potential or current customers. Remember to keep personal away from professional and always check the account you are posting to.  

Does telemarketing work?

Telemarketing calls in business are a fact of life but I received a call recently which lead me to ask the question:

Just how effective is telemarketing for B2B services these days?

telemarketingThere is no question that the telephone is a valuable and effective business communication tool but it is the WAY it gets used for much B2B telemarketing that made me stop and think. All too often calls are simply focused on nailing the lead rather than engaging with the market – a process through which, if the interest is there, they’ll probably get the lead anyway! Here’s the scenario: I was cold-called by a ‘typical’ telemarketer (you know the type) and her opening line went something like this:

“I’m calling from XYZ Accountants because our advert has been on ‘Local FM’ radio and we’ve had such a great response we didn’t want you to miss out….”  

So she was engineering a situation to justify her call!

She went on talking ‘at’ me (I’m paraphrasing a bit)….

“Our accountancy services can save you up to 60% on your annual accountancy fees”

Now call me old fashioned but I don’t just pick an accountant on price. I suggest that professionalism, competence and value for money (as opposed to cost) are more important considerations, but there you go! What’s more changing accountant is not something that businesses do regularly. A good relationship with your accountant is a valuable element of a successful business. So most of the time, most businesses are NOT looking to change their accountant so just randomly calling businesses in the hope of landing on an opportunity is statistically likely to be a lot more ‘Miss’ than ‘Hit’ Now here’s the point:

We were looking to change our accountant!

We should have been a lead; but the whole approach the telemarketer took just turned me cold. Even though her basic massage was promoting the idea of ‘Cloud-based’ accounting, she wasn’t interested in me, she was interested in getting a lead  – which she didn’t. If she’d shown more interest in me and talked with me rather than at me (using some half-baked reason for calling in the first place!), maybe she would have got somewhere.

A better approach?

These days, marketing is so much more about engagement than it is about selling. Since the rise of the internet, if we want to buy something (whether it is a TV or a new accountant) we can go online and research options and find where to buy. Marketing is about influencing our preference. Where and why a customer would like to buy something, and making it easy for those customers/clients to choose us! Cold calling is a leap into the unknown. Anyone making a telemarketing call has no idea of the circumstances for the people they are calling. They might be busy, sad, happy, annoyed, who knows? It’s pure port-luck. A good telemarketer can deal with what they find but the ONLY practical way is to empathise and engage. There is another way – and that is to bully. We hear of a lot of this going on in B2C telemarketing and telesales but I believe this approach should have no place, anywhere. So, back to my call. If the telemarketer had talked with me rather than at me, maybe she would’ve got further.

  • Are you interested in considering an alternative accountant?
  • Have you considered the benefits of cloud-based accounting?
  • Do you ever feel you are paying too much for your accountancy services?

A positive answer to any of these may have opened the door but just telling me why I should be talking to her didn’t cut it! Even if she got nothing but negatives, taking a reasonable approach always leaves the door open for

Can we keep in touch?...

…and this leads to the opportunity for ongoing communication and engagement, the essence of modern marketing.

So does telemarketing work?

In my example, the answer is clearly no, but I do believe if telemarketing embraces engagement as part of a joined-up marketing communication process, it can still play a valuable role in B2B marketing that delivers benefit to everyone. If you are thinking about using telemarketing in your business, I’d be happy to talk to you but, in any event, always remember to think about the opportunity beyond the sales lead.