Jenni Timony of Exponentially.ie attended “8 Ways to Sell More Stuff”, our recent conference for online retailers. This is her review of the event. We always welcome reviews of our events from attendees so please contact me if you would like to write a post about an event you attended. So over to Jenni!
Apart from the sales pitch from An Post, it was a relevant , insightful and engaging line up. [Ed: An Post were launching their new service www.iloveshopping.ie]
My key takeaways from Curiouswines.ie
- Interesting to note that they had NO marketing budget. All of their efforts are focussed on Social Media and email marketing.
- Mike talked about acquisition versus retention using the acronym AIDA. It’s about creating Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. Patience clearly required !
- Mike talked about discounting and how he would not do half price. Customers will think the product was either too expensive in the first place or you are selling at a loss. 5% no good either. Recommends a meaningful time limited discount of 15% plus.
- Love this one: Curiouswines sends a little welcome/ thank you token (such as a branded corkscrew) to new customers. In the post – not on Facebook or a blog. “ Just between you and me”. Personalise it.
- Regarding Marketing efforts. “Layer it, integrate it, repeat it.”
- Mike mentioned a white paper called “ The Darwinian Gale”, which I’m reading. It’s about recession relevant customer trends to drive loyalty and retention.
- Harvest the power of crowds and networks. Something like, “This deal is 25% off provided 150 people sign up. Any less and the deal is off.”
- Mike distilled it succinctly when he said that acquisition and retention is the real acid test.
Later came the chilled and charming Andrew Draper from Manpacks. I must confess that I had a particular interest in this as I’m launching a site called Frankley.com in January also targeting the North American market. It is a similiar concept but aimed at women, men and kids!
- Manpacks was launched quickly and the model is based on iterating from real world data.
- Makes a change to the site every day to increase conversion.
- Modeled heavily on Basecamp. But its PaaS instead of SaaS. ( Product as a service versus Software as a Service.)
- Things went mad when they got featured on Springwise.com, Inc magazine and more.
- 2000 tweets about Manpacks over nine months. Nice !
- The site gets great traffic but has a low conversion rate.
- They claim to have no outreach for PR. Hmmmm…
- Manpacks push the service, not the product. They keep a small range of stock as ‘men don’t like choice’.
- Half of their customers love to modify their order, the other half don’t.
- Big focus on user experience. “Don’t make me think”. They are making the site as clean, simple and intuitive and constantly tweak to achieve this.
- Also on UX (user experience) – they ask themselves “Is it usable? Is it useful? Is it credible? Is it desirable?”
And my favourite…
- “ The most important thing we did was LAUNCH. Be awesome and good things will happen.”
While the IIA is busy digitizing the nation this week, let’s roll back 25 years when a previous digital revolution was lapping our shores. Readers of a certain age will instantly recognize the picture of WordStar, doing roughly what Microsoft Word does today. I say ‘roughly’ as WordStar belonged to an era without touchscreen or Mice, and where users had to had to use ‘ctrl-s’ and ‘ctrl-d’ to move right and left. While WordStar users understood copy and paste to mean actual glue and scissors, it was so dominant that even as a business studies student in the ‘90s, we were expected to pass an exam in its use.
So why do you now (most likely) use Microsoft Word instead ? The answer is Windows 3.1. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even the first computer to use a mouse – but Windows was a revolution for mainstream computers. While there was (and still is) a version of Wordstar for Windows, when the dust had settled MS Word had came out on top.
Right now another revolution is happening as computing moves from your desktop to Cloud Services delivered over the internet. This time the revolution is bigger; Computers are more widespread, other devices (such as Mobile, iPads and Netbooks) are hooked up to internet, and the revolution will transform more sectors of the economy. It would be a pity if we digitized the nation, only to leave traditional software companies behind on the desktop.
The IIA Cloud paper shows as many opportunities as threats in this Software as a Service (SaaS) revolution. As a key driver of Exports, and export led jobs, Enterprise Ireland wants to help software companies to seize the opportunities. In the next part of the it’s ongoing SaaS activities (including the well regarded SaaS transition programme) Enterprise Ireland has two upcoming events to help Irish Software Companies;
- On May 19th, Companies can learn about how their business model needs to react to implement software as a service (Event: The Commercial Realities of Sofware as a Service). Speakers include John Appleby of SaasPoint, Gerry O’Connor of Zarion , Philip O’Doherty of eSpatial and Charles Cameron of Encore Ventures.
- On June 16th, it’s the turn of the Mananged Services (Event: Managed Services and the Cloud). Alongside speakers from Finance and PA Consulting, with be Gerry Power, Chair of the IIA’s cloud working group.
A guest post from IIA Social Media Working Group Member Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications. You can check out Eoin’s blog here. (I particularly like his most recent post at time of writing about the implications of using multiple usernames across social networks.)
IIA Member Company SimplyZesty recently ran another successful measurement camp. The session itself was attended by less than normal but ran to a familiar structure with two presenters followed by a group activity based on three case study scenarios.
Overall although online is much more measurable than traditional media the demands to quantify it financially have not been met to date. The first wave of measurement has been around physical numbers i.e. numbers of followers, number of posts. These give a topline indication of engagement but translating this into actual worth is tricky. How much is a follower/friend actually worth? Sure it’s great to get some “thumbs up” and “love” but what are these actual measures worth? For property owners such as bebo this poses real challenges. Engagement models are generally built around the pushing and advertising of the page profile but savvy brand holders want more. The burden of responsibility is getting pushed back to the property owners as marketers want more metrics to gauge success while platform owners need agreement on values attached to elements so that they can build charging models. Currently the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertising model is the main charging structure used. If the platform owner is charged with the financial delivery then they need to have full control over the creative, which again would pose problems.
Philip McCarthy now ex Bebo gave a good overview of some campaigns that they have run and admitted that measurement is still at an early stage. Bebo does engagement very well but an experience with Coca Cola Burn posed interesting questions about what he should have charged. Current values are around 3 euro cost per thousand which would indicate a value of €60k for the Coke campaign that achieved 20m impressions. The campaign achieved 17,000 visits to the site, 126 comments, 7 photos, 70 quizzes, 679 skins used.
Engagement is something that social media does really well and according to Philip there must be a value to it.
Philip debated using traditional rates that are charged for advertorials, something that is pretty much set and understood with traditional media. Basing digital charging models on established off line models has merit in that brand owners understand them but is probably not the best starting point.
The establishment of a base line measurement was discussed that could be used across other media but no one has yet taken this step to any great degree.
Where this gets particularly difficult is in getting values on things like thumbs up, love and other signs of engagement used on different social networks. It’s great to get them but what do they really mean and what value could be put on them?
One of the areas discussed that could help on measurement in the real world was the use of redeemable bar codes. The idea being that rather than a virtual present that people could send a ‘printable’ bar code or even one that could be displayed on a phone. This could be taken to an outlet and redeemed. This could help track social media activity to actual sales. For example a coffee shop could build an app that allows users to send a coffee to friends. The friend could print out or show the barcode that would be scanned through at an actual coffee shop. By doing this the coffee shop could measure the actual sales generated by the voucher and social media activity. Some good work in being done in this area by IIA Member Company Zappa but problems still exist for terminals to read bar codes on screen.
The overall feeling from the event was that some leadership needs to be established in measuring the value of online campaigns and that the current metrics, while good, are not financially based enough for brand owners. The UK Measurement Camp has also suffered from similar problems.
My own observation is that once criteria that are reasonably sound are established Klout, TweetLevel for Twitter, or Technorati for blogs could start to become industry standards. At some point someone needs to take a brave step. The online community will undoubtable respond and some progress could be made.
Harry Goddard, a Partner in IIA Member Company Deloitte, has submitted a guest post below. Deloitte have relesed the results of their recent Chief Information Officer Survey and are interested to hear your thoughts on it. You can leave comments below or on their own site.
We’ve just released the results of our first survey of CIOs and IT managers in Ireland in what we hope is the first in a new series of annual surveys dedicated exclusively to the state of Irish IT. The survey provides some good insights and indicates that, at best, a return to ‘business as usual’ for CIOs and IT departments is still some way off or, more likely, that business as usual is changed for good.
A couple of key findings emerged from the survey – enabling business cost reduction is the number one priority for IT departments through 2010; however, for many organisations, this will be done against a backdrop of falling budgets. It seems also that IT cost reduction has not gone away and the challenge for CIOs and IT managers will be achieving incremental and sustainable IT cost savings beyond what they have achieved in 2009. What also came across loud and clear is that IT needs to deliver value to the business – IT is still not seen as a strategic partner.
We have created a dedicated results Deloitte.
A big thanks to Laura Kelly from IIA Member Company AXA who submitted the following review of our recent event “Driving Self-Service Online”. A special thanks for her patience as I grappled with the recent blog issues while her concise review languished in my inbox. Her review shows that this event did not stop at examining online customer service. Of course this is exactly how any customer service should be: multi-faceted. I also attended an event similar to this by IIA Member Company iQContent at their Bootcamp last summer and agree with all her points. (But I would, of course, so it’s nice to get an unbiased opinion!)
Colin Bentley of iQContent proved to be a worthy guide on the journey through the topic, warning us all from the outset that it’s not as easy as we like to think!
Starting with the link between self service and customer experience, Colin gave us some great examples of online customer experiences that worked, and more importantly and often remembered those that don’t (all companies shall remain nameless here!)
Key Steps in the Online Self Service Journey
- Convince your CEO that online self service is right for you,
- Really listen to what your customers have to say, and understand the areas in which they seek help
- Be clever about the medium you use to answer your customers questions. Examples include forums, avatars (e.g. Anna for Ikea) and Twitter
- Understand more about the type of tasks you want to provide online, and how appropriate it is for the user and you. Tasks can range from useful, to usable, to lovable where companies really go the extra mile.
Finally Colin finished up a very informative half day by discussing the promotion of online self service, including educating staff and customers, as well as less subtle strategies such as financial incentives for transacting online.
A very informative and well presented seminar – my thanks to Colin Bentley from IQ Content and Irene from IIA.
– Laura Kelly, AXA.ie
(And the appropriateness of a CAR insurer writing a review of DRIVING Self-Service Online has just dawned on me. Ever the quick one on the uptake, Roseanne!)
I always try to encourage event attendees to write reviews of our events for the IIA Blog. Niall Mc Henry of IIA Member Company SaveAFewBob.ie lept at the chance and wrote the following review of a recent event. If you would like to write an honest review, check out our guest blogger guidelines and have at ye!
In the meantime a big thanks to Niall!
The event Niall is reviewing was titled “Get Straight to your customers with Email Marketing” and included presentations from denise cox of newsweaver, Irene Gahan of IIA Member Company Rehab Bingo and Gary Davis, Deputy Data Protection Commissioner. The slides from the presentations are available in the Resources section of IIA.ie If you attended the event and have anything further to add please leave a comment or trackback below – thanks! If you would like to hear about future events please either sign up for our free newsletter and events alerts or subscribe to our Events Feed.
Over to Niall:
As a novice e-mail marketer about to embark on an e-mail marketing campaign, I recently attended the seminar on email marketing organised by the IIA. There were some excellent learning points to take from the session which I hope to build into our own company’s newsletters. For those who were unable to attend, here are some of my thoughts which you may find helpful.
Of all the online marketing tools available to businesses, email marketing is the only mechanism which affords marketers full control whereby we can push information to our customers. With all other online marketing tools, the user/customer is in the driving seat, dictating what information they are looking for and where and when they will search for it.
Email marketing allows us to get in front of our customers with our message at the time of our own choosing. This is a golden opportunity to communicate with people who are genuinely interested in our product/service. We should be grateful for this and respect the fact that we have permission to contact them. (Yes, you do need their permission!) It is imperative that we consider the parameters within which we are operating when planning our Email Marketing Strategy.
Denise spoke of the 7 Critical Steps to Email Marketing Success. Below I highlight the key points which we hope to integrate into our own newsletters.
- Set clear objectives and goals
- Build brand loyalty
- Encourage readers to visit our site
- Reward members with prizes/giveaways
- Offer alternative promotional channel to advertisers
- Invite readers to sign up to follow us on Twitter/Facebook
- Look your best
- Design should be consistent with existing branding
- Clean design: a few short paragraphs with prominent headlines
- Not too wordy, easy to scan
- Light and engaging in tone
- Visuals can be effective
- Include great content
- Content is king (and it builds your reputation)
- Relevant and timely
- Quality as opposed to quantity
- WIFM: What do your customers want to read? What’s in it for them?
- Short snappy paragraphs – readers are time poor
- Have strong calls to action
- Email Us
- Download this
- Click here (include hyperlinks to specific landing pages)
- Follow us on Twitter
- Avail of this exclusive offer
- Get into the Inbox
- Best to use a professional email service provider
- Check compatibility with different browsers
- Test prior to sending
- Keep your database clean and up to date
- Stand out in the Inbox
- A good heading can ensure higher open rate
- How can you stand out from the crowd(ed) Inbox?
- Can you create instant recognition?
- A personalised email creates trust. Avoid sent from info@, no reply@
- Measure and test for best results
- E-mail marketing is an iterative process
- Learn about your audience. What are their preferences?
- Segment your database if appropriate
- Study metrics, what was opened, which calls to action were answered?
- What can be improved the next time?
Hope this helps. Happy Email Marketing!
Case study put together by the IIA International Strategy Working Group reviewing the success and experience of Irish based entrepreneurs internationalizing their businesses
Synopsis of company
Mathieu Gorge is CEO of VigiTrust, a specialist solutions provider in security assessments, compliance and security e-learning. Founded in Dublin in 2003 by Mathieu, VigiTrust is rapidly building a global reputation as a niche leader specialising in Cyber-crime, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and ISO 27001 focusing on human aspects of security including social engineering and awareness training. VigiTrust already works with and leverages references from Blue Chip clients. It advises numerous tier 1 banks and retailers as well as government departments on how to design, develop and implement durable security strategies. Mathieu’s articles are published in the ISSA Journal and Computer Fraud Security Journal
VigiTrust is based in Dublin with US offices in NYC.
1. Why internationalise – what were the drivers?
A desire to be an entrepreneur
Mathieu’s and VigiTrust’s story is not unlike many other entrepreneurs and start-ups. He had an overriding drive to set-up his own business, coupled with a passion to bring something new to the security market. He had spent several years in the corporate world, acting as a sales person, project manager and product manager in the security re-selling space building a reputation as an industry expert.
Responding to market demands
VigiTrust started out as a service provider, with a focus on data protection. Back in 2003, there was much less emphasis on data protection, more on firewalls and anti-virus software and solutions. As Mathieu leveraged his existing network and reputation, he quickly found he and VigiTrust were being sucked back into the security re-seller space. It would take another few years for the market to mature to the point where VigiTrust could offer a differentiated service around its initial ambitions for data security.
A global play
In the meantime, VigiTrust was generating revenue and gaining a reputation as a thought leader. VigiTrust was delivering security workshops in Dublin and London and consulting on governance and compliance.
At the same time, the market was moving to greater demands for governance and compliance – driven in the very early years by the Worldcom and Enron scandals, more recently the Bernard Madoff debacle. It was clear that VigiTrust would need to have a global reputation and be a global player if it was to be successful in this space and give itself a future exit option. The US was leading the field of governance and compliance: it would be a key market within which to gain a reputation as a solutions provider and the launch pad into other countries.
As the business model matured, VigiTrust exploited the opportunity to productize its offering through its e-learning tools and build real IP (intellectual property) in the company.
2. How did you win your first client? How influential was winning your first client in developing the market?
Winning that all important client (not necessarily the first client) was enormously influential in setting VigiTrust on the path to internationalization and success. Like many others before, it was down to a mix of previously established reputation, hard work and luck. In 2004 it won a tender with the Dept. of Justice, which opened up a lot of doors. In mid 2005, a small German company was looking for security experience to manage the inherent dangers of using multi-functional printers. Mathieu’s reputation and google key word search won VigiTrust the gig. As it turned out this company was the path to VigiTrust’s first multinational, corporate client, HP. A one day consulting contract with HP quickly lead to 100 days to eventually allow VigiTrust to becoming HP’s Imaging and Printing Group de facto external security consultants. At one of those early meetings with HP EMEA, one of the HP IPG’s senior executives said to Mathieu, “This is going to be very successful for your company”.
“Success brings success”, says Mathieu Gorge. VigiTrust leveraged the HP client reference which then helped it win a contract with MasterCard in New York.
3. What needed to be in place?
- A differentiator: technology and subject matter expertise. It’s important to identify your USP (unique selling point).
- Positioning as a thought leader with deep experience in the security field.
- A strong understanding of the competitive environment: your ideal and “no go” customers: the decision makers and decision making process.
- A relevant market offering.
- An understanding of one’s strategic position.
- Understanding the requirement to think about strategic development whilst progressing on day-to-day basis at a tactical level (long term vs short-term goals and ambitions)
4. What were the main challenges / obstacles?
Lack of experience as an entrepreneur and in running a business.
5. How did you overcome them?
Tapping into all the support structures and expertise that is available in Ireland: Enterprise Ireland, Dublin Enterprise Board (mentoring and coaching), Dublin BIC.
6. What activities were most successful in achieving success?
Mathieu is an evangelist for the work of EI and believes the Irish brand, particularly in the space of security and e-learning, positions Ireland (and Irish companies) on the global map for expertise.
7. What are your most effective routes to market and why?
Growth for VigiTrust is predicated on building sales through local Channel Partners. While VigiTrust’s current model has the opportunity of being a pure internet play – doing business through the internet, enabled by web-based applications and SaaS (software as a service), a sales process supported by reputation, client references, white papers, webinars, web demos, VigiTrust believes that it will need to have a physical presence in each of its key markets to substantially build its revenue and support its Channel Partner Distribution model.
The Channel Partners will give you the cultural plug-in.
8. What markets did you focus on?
As previously noted, the US is a key market for VigiTrust. It now has a sales office in New York.
Even though Mathieu is French, he says Enterprise Ireland’s support, in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Paris, has opened the French market much more so than his French nationality.
Contrary to popular perception, VigiTrust has not found the UK an easy market to penetrate. This is not least due to strong competition and limited resources to dedicate to opening up and maintaining a presence in several countries at this stage in its maturity. VigiTrust believes that the decision making process and buying patterns in the UK are different to that of other western countries.
9. What were the key learnings? (legal, tax, language, culture)?
As a small, but growing company, managing marketing materials and websites in several languages is difficult. For now, VigiTrust’s main website and marketing material is in English, with front page local language websites to come shortly in French and German. This includes website translation (at a minimum), localised sales and marketing materials, local SEO, creation of press packs etc.
Mathieu delivers his conference presentations in English and French. For German speaking audiences he uses slides in German and delivers either in German or English. He can participate in conference Q&A in these 3 languages. He believes this gives him a cultural edge.
Channel Partners (CP)
One must be committed to one’s CPs. Continual training and support of the CP is essential as is a CP programme. Mathieu praises Dublin BIC for the support they give them in developing a CP programme.
It is easier to recruit CPs when you have reference clients in their respective markets.
The exchange rate can have an impact on one’s sales and marketing budget and the opportunity cost of opening up new markets: eg UK is now more cost-effective to target as it was when exchange rate was GBP 1 = 1.5 Euro. Young organizations need to understand the opportunity cost and not just focus on the size of the market.
Finance & accounting
Get yourself a good management account: an outsource model works well. You must understand the tax system (in different countries).
Cash is king. Having an early understanding of accounting is valuable – P&L, Balance Sheet, Cashflow statements.
The importance of having a Business Plan from the outset and revising at least yearly.
Scale and market credibility
In the US, large buyer organizations like to meet their supplier shareholders. If you are a HPSU, (High Potential Start-up) with EI as a shareholder, use it!
10. What marketing initiatives have you used to support your internationalization?
Building a public profile
Much of Mathieu’s marketing efforts were focused on writing articles and white papers (in English, and French – 2 languages in which he is comfortable), attending conferences, and eventually, being invited to present at conferences in the US, UAE, Hong-Kong, Germany, France, the UK and Ireland.
Participating in the right networks
It’s easy to waste time in the early days networking in the wrong places. Identify the business and subject matter networks for your industry: for instance the PCI council (there are only 3 or 4 Irish members – 79 in Europe).
The Irish American business community and networks are very powerful.
Leveraging client references and testimonials
Some SEO activity in local markets.
11. What advice would you would give companies starting out on internationalization?
- Recognise where you don’t have skills: work with people who’ve done it before.
- Be mindful of what is realistic for you to achieve.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices but be aware of the impact of your entrepreneurial zealousness on your family and personal relationships: understand family obligations.
12. What are your future plans with respect to internationalization?
VigiTrust has identified its Tier 1 markets as: US and Canada to be followed by Tier 2: UK, Germany and France and Tier 3: Brazil and Australia.
It already has sales and clients in the US, Canada, Ireland, Germany and France.
VigiTrust is building an international business to give itself a 3 year exist strategy.
Last month App School was mentioned here on the IIA blog and since then it has had its first run. There was a really great cross-section of students from all over the industry, which included professional developers, a CEO, a third level student and a staff member from an Institute of Technology. Most had never programmed on any Apple system before, and a few did not even own one, but by the end of the week everyone had made a lot of progress. A few days in a couple of students managed to get a 2D physics simulation going, with a button rolling around the screen and bouncing off the edges! On the last day we had a couple of Twitter clients working (and that’s including profile picture support!)
Some of the students were developing their own personal or business applications during the course, and now there are four apps (that I know about at least) on their way to the App Store from App School students. Some of these apps will display information to users that they would normally access through a website, but what can an iPhone app do that a website can’t? Well, there are few obvious ways that the user experience can be enhanced for your customers with iPhone-specific features.
Looking at the very tip top of the iceberg:
- The iPhone can store data to be made available offline. This has worked out very well for Patrick Collison‘s Encyclopedia app, which gives users access to Wikipedia when they do not have internet connectivity.
- Apps can use the iPhone’s GPS location to find information local to your customer. This is core to many travel apps, restaurant review apps, hotel reservation apps, and social networking apps.
- The user can take photos and upload them to you. Yelp‘s app allows users take photos of restaurants and upload these for other users to see. Just about any Flickr app will let you do this too.
- With a bit of effort, the multi-touch screen and the 3D graphics support can be leveraged to allow customers interact with your business in a way not possible on a desktop computer.
While on the topic of interaction, people enjoy using their iPhones and this can really help if you rely on user-submitted data for you service (“Web 2.0”, if you like to call it that). Above, I mentioned getting the phone’s GPS location, and getting access to the phone’s camera. You can go beyond GPS co-ordinates, photos, bits of user-entered text, email address/phone numbers selected from the address book though, and upload data-types specific to your service. Ocarina is one of my favourite apps and allows users play music by blowing into the microphone while pressing “holes” on the screen. This lets the iPhone work as an ocarina, a wind instrument. Music played by the user is uploaded to some server, along with the user’s location. Users than then explore a 3D earth and hear songs played by users from all around the world.
If you allow customers upload this information to you, what could you do with it? Can you think of how that could add value to your service?
There are so many exciting possibilities with this platform. If you don’t have access to an iPhone or iPod touch to try out some apps for yourself, there are plenty of video demonstrations online. There is definitely something there for everyone… after all, the App Store really does have an app for everything!
This is a guest post from Ann Donnelly of O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development who are IIA Members based in Clonakilty, Co. Cork
This week there was a big buzz online about an article posted on Tech Crunch “The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO”. In the opinion of the anonymous guest author: “Due to Google’s dominance — and the fact that it controls such an enormous amount of consumer behavior through paid and organic search listings – the company in essence governs commerce on the web.” This is a topic that has come up time and again over the past few years in webmaster forums and search industry conferences, but in many cases the complaint comes from those that are looking for short cuts to get results through search engines or those that are focusing on one aspect of online marketing success instead of developing a full, well rounded online marketing plan.
A small number of these people are using techniques that some would consider unethical to promote their own websites, or are using these techniques to provide such services to others. Some are using ethical techniques, but using dishonest or hard sell marketing to promote their services. This sort of behaviour happens across all industries (we all trust used car salesmen, right?), but in our industry the consumer is particularly vulnerable, as he often feels he doesn’t have the technical knowledge and doesn’t listen to his own common sense – and there is such an enormous amount of bad advice out there.
It may sound harsh, but those people that have knowingly chosen these methods will probably laugh at what I am saying here and will continue in the same manner, full throttle, and may get very rich from it. On the other hand, I have met a number of people in the industry that honestly feel that these are legitimate methods and don’t see that they are limiting the type of results they will get from their businesses. Why do I care about these people? Their behaviour causes consumers to distrust the industry as a whole. A customer that has had a bad experience shopping online will avoid shopping online again. A business that has gotten poor results with their website because the web developer they chose was inexperienced, will just feel that online marketing won’t work at all for them.
There are also a large number of young men and women, as well as those recently made redundant, that are starting up their own businesses and are looking to those of us already established in the industry for guidance on the way to go with this.
It’s up to each business owner to decide what sort of methods he will use. Do you want to sign on a large number of customers that will use your services once or over a short period of time or do you want to develop longer term relationships built on old fashioned, good service and hard work?
If you choose the first method and are tricking people into signing up for your services, not providing good value and are not getting results for your customers the bad news will get around quickly enough and you may end up out of business. This is especially true with so many people using social networking web sites. News of bad service travels much faster than good reviews.
Are you providing the best products and services? If not, are you providing better value for what you do? Do your customers fully understand what they are getting for their money? Take a look at your business and see if you can develop a business model that’s good for your customers as well as for yourself.
Let’s go back to “Big, Bad Google”. They state on their Corporate Overview page: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They do this by providing “an easy-to-use free service that usually returns relevant results in a fraction of a second.” Looking just at the search side of Google’s businesses the changes they have made over the years have all focused on returning “relevant results” not because they are really nice guys, but because that is what makes people come back to use the Google search engine again and again. Focusing on this has brought about the “dominance” that is resented by their competitors and search marketing professionals that are looking for short cuts to success.
This resentment is even stronger now that Google AdWords have brought financial success as well. Google has made their products and services easy to use, with full documentation and helpful videos. They now have staff speaking at most industry conferences and using social networking tools to more fully communicate and assist users of all of their products.
This shows the importance of setting the right mission statement for your business and, once you have done this, maintaining your focus on that mission to bring best results for your business. What do you want to achieve in your business? Are you looking to just make a living or are you looking for greater satisfaction in helping others achieve their business goals; or do you need to be the best (in number of sales, awards, publicity)? Are you looking to build up your business to a point where you can sell it on to another bigger business? Your goals are going to be based on the type of products/services as well as what your personal needs are. I am not judging any of these goals, just saying that it’s important to define them and remain focused.
By developing the best mix of products and services with the right pricing structure you then have a business that is financially viable and, hopefully, lucrative with a base of happy, loyal customers (as well as happy, loyal suppliers) that are with you for the long term and referring you to their friends and colleagues – working with you to build a successful business that is around for the long term. Just have a look at “10 Things Google Has Found to Be True”.
Her business O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development specialises in Search Engine Placement &
Offering a full line of Online Marketing Services:
– Web Design & Development
– Shopping Carts & Payment Processing
– Search Engine Placement
– Email Marketing
– AdWords Campaign Management
– Social Networking (Blogs, Forums, etc.)
– Online Customer Service
This week’s Social Media Case Study is written by Niall Devine of MyCharity.ie. He is also a member of the IIA Social Media Working Group. In his case study he writes about some of the social media they have used and the decisions they made about how they would implement and what they learned from those decisions. He writes also about how recent change to a popular platform (Facebook) made some aspects of their social media forays difficult but happily not impossible for MyCharity.ie.
Background – what do we do.
Mycharity.ie provides online fundraising services to charities. We will enable and process more than €2.5M euro worth of charity donations to our 250+ charity customers. It is key to our business that our customer base (the charities) know that we exist and what we do. It is also key that the charities “customers” i.e. fundraisers and donors know that that we exist and what we do.
Viral Marketing – it is essential for us – how do we make it work?
We are very lucky in the way that our business works. Through email, it virally markets itself. If someone creates a fundraising page (sponsorship card) on the mycharity.ie site for a charity, they then email all their friends with the link to the fundraising page looking for sponsorship. All their friends now know about the site and what it does. Multiply 5,000 fundraisers a year x say 50 friends per fundraiser and you can see the 250,000 people viral marketing affect.
Viral Marketing – using social media
While we count ourselves as very lucky in the way that our business works from a viral marketing point of view using email, we recognise the huge contribution that social media can make.
As we all know search engines and their ranking mechanisms like video. So mycharity.ie commissioned a video from Media Concepts Ltd (a video production company) and placed it front and centre on our home page www.mycharity.ie. The text about our video says “Click here to see a short promotional video about who we are and what we do, and what our customers say about us.” It does exactly what is says on the tin and saves us having to answer the phone all the time to explain what we do saving on office admin overhead. It works very well for us as an SEO ranking tool. It cost us approx €2,000 and was well worth the investment. We can’t quantify exactly in figures what is has done for the business, many of our current customers tell us they watched it and were impressed. It all helps with getting new customers on board.
Search engines also like blogs because they create new content all the time (if maintained) and if the information is interesting and relevant it will create lots of inbound links to your site. Let’s not forget that people also like new content that is interesting to them and relevant. The search engines are just set up to reflect what people like.
So mycharity.ie has implemented WordPress Multi User on the mycharity.ie site. We have yet to upgrade the live site with it but it is coming soon. We can’t speak of what has actually happened yet, but we can tell you what we anticipate will happen.
We are giving ourselves our own blog, and we are giving all our charities their own blog for free. We will put our latest daily news, musings, funny stories etc on the blog and if people like it they will tune in. We will also use it to garner our customers thoughts and opinions on various questions that we may have, such as what services would you like to see next on the site etc.
We are also giving all our customer charities their own blog to do exactly the same as described above. But the key for us is that ALL the blogs are hosted on our site. All the inbound links and all the new and updates information will be found on our site, and hence our search and ranking, and the traffic to our site increases. It’s important to point out that we are not “stealing” traffic from our customers sites. They are of course free to implement their own blogs on their own sites. But by us doing it for them (for free remember) we get the benefit of the traffic and increased search engine ranking.
Social Networking Sites
These are very powerful if you can make them work for you, and we are doing our best to make them work for us. Lets explain what we have already done and how we did it, and then explain what new stuff we are doing now and why.
Old Facebook – Facebook changed in terms of its look and feel in October of last year (2008). Unfortunately we started to build a facebook application for the mycharity.ie site in September 2008. We ended up chasing a moving target. The application was designed to allow users of the mycharity site to post a mini version of their fundraising page to their facebook profile. The idea being their friends could see it and donate to it. We chased the ever moving facebook and eventually got there. We used a designer for cost purposes based abroad. We got the application built for approx €1,200, and it did what we asked for. However the language barrier and time zone difference proved frustrating much of the time and we had to put in many more hours into the project than we wanted to. Also their knowledge of the abilities of Facebook as a site wasn’t brilliant so we had to tell them what we wanted rather than them telling us what we could, should or might do. We soft launched the application to the charities on the mycharity.ie. It’s free at the moment because it’s not viral enough as far as we are concerned (more on that in a bit). It’s actually the users (the public) that are asking for the FB functionality to be switched on for a given charity rather than the charity themselves. The requester recognises the benefit to them to their fundraising efforts.
New Facebook – This is where it’s at. Now that FB have more or less finished messing about with their site we have a non moving target to hit. Always helps! We have engaged an Irish company to develop further FB functionality for us. No language barrier, no time zone issues, and they know so much about what FB does and is capable of, that they are able to suggest to us what we should and can do. It’s in development at the moment. We hope the new application will be far more viral. At the end of each process on the mycharity.ie site (sponsor a friend, donate to a charity, create a fundraising page) the user will have the option to “share” what they have just done on the mycharity site with their friends on facebook (and Bebo, Twitter etc). “Sharing” might be a message on the users Wall saying “I have just donated €20 to Jane Smiths Women’s Mini Marathon Fundraising page in aid of the ABC Charity”. The message is posted to the users Wall on Facebook for all their friends to see, and hopefully follow suit and donate. Many FB users would have 200+ friends in FB. So once again the viral affect of promoting mycharity.ie, the charity and the fundraiser is huge.
The cost of getting the development done is Ireland is higher but the expertise, if you find the right company, is well worth the extra cost. They will also be able to tell you if your business / business model is likely to benefit from this kind of marketing…or not as the case may be.
So mycharity.ie uses email, video, blogs, and social networking sites to good effect to promote itself. We will in the future bring the ability for users to post pictures and or videos to their fundraising pages using www.flickr.com and www.youtube.com . There are other aspects of social media such as podcasting that we may yet use. Imagine you got an email or a message on FB from a friend with an audio file of their verbal request for your donation to their fundraising effort. Personal, fun and very different. Might just get you over the line to make a donation. Our strategy is to look at everything to see if we can make it work for us. You should too!