How to Improve your Digital Marketing

1. Be a critical consumer of marketing material

When it comes to Digital Marketing business owners have to be critical consumers of marketing material. What this means is that owners need to ensure that they are examining the digital landscape for best practice and strong strategies for digital marketing. This might involve investigating companies within your industry or brands that you admire and analyzing what they are currently doing in the digital marketplace. In order to launch your own successful digital marketing campaign business owners need to be aware what current digital marketing works and be able to identify what makes a good or bad approach by being a critical consumer who analyses the good and the bad on any approach they find themselves exposed to.

2. Target your audience not everyone

Like conventional marketing you can’t possibly distribute material that will work equally with the entire potential market. Digital marketing depends upon your ability to segment out your customer base and analyse the demographics of those that are most susceptible to your service or product. To do this it is vital that you engage with your customers and record vital data about your interactions. There are a few ways to do this:

A. Seek feedback on your product or service through a means that is easy for customers to engage with such as verbal post booking sales, email surveys (short) or quick post trip phone calls. Easily captured, concise information in large quantities is the best kind of information.

B. Engage with customers across the entire digital landscape such as forums, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, TripAdvisor, Pinterest), email or through blog/website comments. It is vital that you store the information you gather.  Useful tools for monitoring your social media are Hootsuite, Sprinklr and Sprout Social.

C. Have a positive and consistent approach to dealing with complaints.

D. Conduct marketing research (small in scope, looking for specific answers) and feasibility assessments. A great set of tools for conducting small scale yet excellent market research are Google Trends and Google Surveys.

A digital marketing strategy that has all of this information at its disposal is that much more likely to have a higher rate of conversion and thus a higher chance of increasing your profit.

3. Talk to your customers the way they like

This point ties closely into targeting your audience however it is vital as there really is no point conducting a digital marketing campaign that isn’t seen. While most internet user surveys show that people prefer to receive marketing material via email as opposed to mail outs or phone calls there are large swathes of the population who find applications with ‘push notifications’ (Popup notifications about sales and discounts) and social media sales (limited time period) to be the best sales method. Those types of marketing systems target the often untapped market of the millennials.

4. Understand how Google and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) impact your digital marketing

Fully understanding how websites are ranked and tracked by the various search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo etc) is a complicated subject area. With that being said a company doesn’t need a huge budget to improve their SEO. Below is a list of four methods that any person with an intermediate level of web design knowledge could look at to improve their websites Search Engine Optimisation.

  1. Structure: It is vital that your website contains the standard structure of most websites this includes such things as a site map, about us section, contact us section, services page. A great thing about this particular element is that most website design tools such as WordPress have templates that come stock built with the basic structures required for beginning web design. A further improvement could be to look at where your users are landing and to improve those major draws; this can be investigated using a tool such as Google Analytics.
  1. Content: A simple and yet hugely effective method of improving your SEO rankings is through producing high quality content on your website. This could be as simple as producing a high quality blog that utilises excellent industry keyword usage or more advanced methods like unique, branded tags and page descriptions. A great article that talks about the simple ways to improve SEO is provided by Xero the cloud accounting software provider. Click this link to check it out SEO For Small Business.
  1. Keywords: Keywords and how to use them is something that always comes up during any discussion about SEO and often there is too much value assigned to them. It is important to note that using too many keywords can be just as detrimental if not more so than using not enough to your websites ranking and search mapping. Keyword usage should be treated strategically; every page should not be stuffed with keywords that may not even make sense in the context of the page. Keywords should be used correctly, in context and only when it’s appropriate. A great way to use them is to tie them into the meta-tags on pages or include them in the content tags/categories and in image titles.  If you aren’t sure what keywords you should be using tools like Keyword Planner or Google Trends as mentioned earlier could be a great beginning step.
  1. Ease of access: The final short tip is to ensure that your website is accessible through the most common browsers and devices. In particular there has been a recent shift in SEO algorithms to prioritize those websites that have a functional mobile website. This is because recent internet statistics have shown that the mobile web browsing volume is growing at a substantially quicker rate than traditional web browsing.

5. Understand Pay Per Click advertising

Pay Per Click advertising is an excellent tool for targeting specific audiences based off their keyword searches. That being said it can be costly, business owners must very selective on the market that they want to target and how much they want to invest. Below is some useful information regarding Pay Per Click advertising:

  • You are only charged when a customer clicks on your ad and follows through to your website.
  • You can track the source of each click in detail due to a tracking code.
  • You can be very specific on who your ad targets.
  • You can trial a variety of keywords for minimal cost.

One simple but often overlooked complication about Pay Per Click advertising is the fact that while a customer may land on your website the conversion rate of that traffic to sale and therefore profit is dependent upon your website content.

This article is just a small taste and reminder about the basics to digital marketing. For further information regarding this topic it might be worth going back and reading the below articles:

1. Mass Marketing With A Twist: Data-Driven Electronic Direct Mail (eDM) Campaigns

2. 5 Great Ways to Improve your Social Media Presence

Mass Marketing With A Twist: Data-Driven Electronic Direct Mail (eDM) Campaigns

In the digital age, everyone is bombarded with information in particular email information. With that in mind, it can be difficult for businesses launching email based marketing campaigns to distinguish their campaign from the countless others that are sent to people on a daily basis. How businesses can make their campaigns stand out and increase their business’s sales and profits is by launching a data-driven Electronic Direct Mail (eDM) campaigns.

What is a data-driven eDM Campaign?

An eDM is a campaign that targets a group of prospects or clients and is focused on developing relationships or generating leads for businesses. While this may sound similar to a standard email marketing campaign it is actually much more rigorous. An eDM is not simply about emailing as many prospects as you can and hoping for natural conversions from the sheer number of targets. An eDM campaign is about distributing personalised marketing material to a targeted group of prospects generated from data (point of sale data, purchase histories, demographics, supplier incentive programmes etc..) analysis or a strategic objective and then using the data captured from your emailing to engage the prospects with other marketing tools. Emailing is just the first step in an eDM campaign that looks to turn leads into profit for a business.

How does an eDM Campaign use data?

At the initial and most basic level an eDM campaign will allow businesses to examine the opening habits and click through rates of their prospects from their emailed material.  While this may not seem very useful it can be an exceptionally powerful marketing device when you consider the implications of this information when implementing other lead conversion tools such as direct sales calls, SMS notifications, physical mail outs, traditional advertising and remarketing. To better explain the importance of using data to drive an eDM campaign we will use an example of a travel agency although any business that captures customer information through their point of sales system or transactional data would be a prime candidate.

A simple example of an eDM campaign

For the example let us consider a travel agent that wants to run an eDM campaign that targets past customers who have booked flights and hotels to Europe two years ago (This is called list segmentation, an important step to any marketing). The initial step might  be that the business owner sends out an email campaign showcasing specials, discounts and advertising related specifically to Europe as they know these individuals have an interest in the region. After the emails are sent business owner “Sarah” notices that of all the links within her email a high percentage of individuals click through to her website or the campaign page about “European Bus Tours” and the same users also click through on the 2016 European flight specials. This tells Sarah two things, firstly there is an interest by customers in bus tours in Europe and also a potential opportunity to package flights plus bus tours.

Sarah upon analysing this data decides to then takes initiate a two-pronged direct calling and mail out campaign targeting those two products(Europe flights and bus tours) for just those individuals who clicked through on the links. At this moment the campaign is highly segmented, personalised, targeted and driven by genuine interest in a product, all signs are good for a decent conversion rate. Sarah keeps her sales team busy and probably sees a fairly decent return on investment.

You might be thinking well that all sounds great but it sounds a little difficult to do what with organising mailing platforms, graphics, list generation etc.. or it doesn’t seem like there is much data analysis actually going on…Well, that’s because this brief scenario is only the very tip of the data analysis possible with eDM campaigns. A business intelligence company such as Resurg could in fact further enrich the campaign by providing an even higher level of data analysis. For example with enough expertise in data analysis, it is possible for even more highly segmented lists to be generated based on a business’s point of sales data and it may also be possible to use some predictive analytics to qualify prospects.

As mentioned previously where the true value of using data specialists unfolds is in when complex analysis occurs across your segmented list to provide predictive scores for each targeted customer. What this would look like is that instead of having a list of 100 hundred prospects who all clicked on your email links and are segmented to match your campaign, you would have a list of 100 prospects all ranked against each other based on captured and available data to predict which prospects would be the most likely to participate in your campaign and or those that would possibly provide the largest yield for your business.

This article has been to provide a brief look at the potential eDM campaigns have for shaping and changing the way your business conducts its marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you are a travel agent, retailer or specialist vendor; anyone that captures customer data can reap the financial benefits of data-driven Electronic Direct Mail campaigns. Don’t settle for long standing, less effective marketing methods to grow and develop your business, engage with the revolution that is data-based marketing.

Thanks for reading,
Resurg

Predicted Business Trends and Practices For 2016

This article will focus upon listing some of the business trends and practices predicted for 2016 by various media and business groups.

1) Same Day Delivery and On-Demand logistics companies will continue to grow as larger companies (Uber, Amazon, Woolworths) test their capabilities in this growing industry.

2) There will be a large increase in the number of businesses up for sale due to Baby Boomer’s reaching retirement age.

3) Customers will wield even more power over businesses through social media technologies that are focused on product/business reviews.

4) Customer relationships developed through personal relationships and human connections will continue to play a vital part in repeat and return business despite the growth of technology that limits this factor.

5) Businesses will be looking to increase both their cyber security and their data security capabilities.

6) There will be continued large-scale adoption of cloud computing for large and small businesses alike.

7) There will be an increase in the number of businesses that use mobile ‘beacon’ marketing or mobile location-based marketing.

8) Businesses will have more reasons to develop their mobile marketing and websites as search engines weigh mobile friendly sites much more heavily in their ranking algorithms.

9) Businesses will utilise applications that are mobile friendly and cloud based to help them run their front, mid and back office. The ability to work from your mobile will be a growing trend within 2016.

10) Data analytics will be the focus for small businesses in 2016, while emotional and predictive analytics gains ground within the business world.

11) The costs of cloud computing will continue to fall but the cost of cloud management and analytics will remain steady as demand grows.

12) There will be an increase in top-level domain names in 2016, such as those that are delineated by location “.syd” or by profession/field “.lawyer” or “.it”.

13) Businesses will need to update their payment systems to utilise the many online and alternative payment methods (Square, Bitcoin, Apple/Google Wallets, NFC Technology, mobile payments and EMV chips etc).

14) The small and medium business world will see a huge increase in the “software as a service” market. Applications such as Office 365, Google Apps or Okta will see a significant amount of growth within the SME marketplace.

15) Technological accessibility (huge supply and low costs) in the realms of PoS Systems, CRM Software and Marketing Platforms will help support the continued growth of start-ups and small businesses.

16) Adapt or Die will be a trend that gains more traction within 2016 as businesses that do not familiarise themselves with new technologies and growth areas such as cloud computing, data analytics and ‘software as a service’ will suffer the consequences.

17) Increasing employees social engagement within businesses through social programs and charity programs will be increasingly popular to building healthy work cultures during 2016.

18) There will be a resurgence of the traditional marketing fields of relationship building and word of mouth marketing as the market becomes further saturated with social media marketing.

19) There will be a huge increase in the amount of targeted marketing carried out by businesses in all industries to combat the mass generic marketing that is the stable of the digital age.

20) Small businesses will utilise modern tools such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Smallknot, Rockethub or Youtube to build hype and access funding for development directly from customers. They will also use these platforms to offer genuine and mutually beneficial communication.

21) Video marketing and real-time customer feedback will be a huge growth area through platforms such as Periscope, Meerkat and Twitch among others.

22) There will be continued growth of “Re-Marketing” within the advertising world and small businesses may come to rely on pay per click advertising schemes.

Innovation In The SME Environment: Success As A Workplace Culture And Hurdles To Innovation

Rather than being ‘nice to have’, innovation should be a vital element in the way SMEs conduct business, collaborate and deliver to their customers.”
Joined-Up Innovation: Culturing Success, p. 3; Pip Marlow (Managing Director – Microsoft Australia).

Part 1 – Barriers To Innovation For Laggard and Cruiser Companies
Just as Pip Marlow stated in the research paper preamble we at Resurg firmly believe that innovation should be at the heart of business practice. This is part of the reason that we strive to offer our clients services that will innovate their business practices and provide tangible results. We do this by offering our business coaching and work groups services that offer business owners opportunities to discuss and implement best practice and innovation with the help of experts and their peers. On top of this we also aim to arm business owners with the data and information they need to drive change and improvement in their business through our benchmarking and dash boarding services. That being said enough about us; lets talk about how workplace culture and purposeful strategic decisions can encourage and discourage innovation and growth.

In the Joined-Up Innovation: Culturing Success research paper Microsoft surveyed and interviewed over 500 SMEs and their employees. This research made them categorise 33% percent of the sample as Leaders in innovation, 43% percent as Cruisers and 24% as Laggards. These numbers while just a small sample of the Australian SME environment highlight a surprising fact, innovation is actively pursued in 76% of companies interviewed. What this means is that just wanting to innovate and having an idea or two isn’t setting you above the curve, in fact it makes companies just average. So if that is the case let’s talk about the differences between Leaders, Cruisers and Laggards as Microsoft characterises them and how they can transition between those categories.

The Laggards
Microsoft characterised a Laggard as any company that had little to no desire for innovation. These companies may be profitable and they may even have a modicum of success which gives them little perceived incentive for innovating. That being said three common factors holding the laggards back were:

  • A lack of trust between employees and leadership,
  • Business structures that are linear and traditional
  • A sense of apathy.

To begin with let’s talk about the Laggard’s lack of trust. This element is primarily to do with organisations not trusting their employees expertise and as a result not allowing them to think creatively and critically to find new solutions for fear of failure or detrimental impact. Not allowing employees time or resources to explore ‘out of the box’ solutions diminishes their self perceived value in the workplace and makes the culture of the organisation potentially one of blame sharing. What this means is that when something goes wrong (And they will when innovating!) people produce excuses out of fear rather than taking ownership and creating solutions. This lack of trust can only truly be combated by fostering an open and communicative workplace where experimentation is encouraged and where all ideas are considered and valued. A method to encourage this failure free and open environment could range from providing an employee ‘suggestion box’ to holding team or company meetings where problems and goals are discussed.

The second issue regarding linear and traditional business structures is really about companies failing to allocate resources for innovation.  What this usually looks like in companies is that budgetary funds and personnel are often given to those individuals or departments that are purely assessed on KPIs. Often these business structures will have a very top down organisation where upper management dictates methods and means for staff to fulfil their jobs, diminishing their expertise. It is often the case that these traditional structures mean that money and resources are often dedicated to purely short term benefits (current deliverables) and not to providing or improving long term benefits (future deliverables). This cultural and structural issue links directly into the last barrier to innovation within Laggard organisations which is a deep residing sense of apathy. Two methods of fighting this particular barrier is to experiment with flat and more transparent management structures, where there are high levels of communication between leadership and staff. The second method that might work is simply creating a metric or policy where small amounts of time are dedicated to innovation or self reflective job journaling. Many large and highly successful multinationals especially within the technology sector now provide employees with up to or more than an hour a day of time to work on personal projects they think might benefit the long term goals of the company. One such company that employs this non traditional business structure is Google, a company that does not suffer from apathy for innovation, that is for certain.

It is the apathy for innovation which can be most difficult to remove from a Laggard company. This is for the simple fact that it requires not only changing employee’s mindset in regards to their roles but also changing the psychology of the leaders of the company. The apathy is created when the leadership of the company and its staff see no reasonable incentive to innovate (profit or reward) and they only perceive potential negatives at attempting to innovate (fear of failure and loss of resources). This barrier would be most aptly described as the “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” barrier. Companies that operate with ‘relative’ success or profitability, control a niche market or demographic or are simply small will often suffer from this mindset. In fact it was found in regards to company size that from the paper only 35% of businesses with up to four staff conducted innovative activities in comparison to 63% of companies with 20-199 employees. These relatively successful, niche and smaller companies are missing out on potential revenue by not looking to grow and improve their services. While apathy is difficult to cure especially if the ambition isn’t there it can be diminished by simple things such as incentive programs to reward innovation.

The above summarises the major barriers to innovation for companies that have little to no interest in innovation based off Microsoft’s research, which was a minority. The largest group in the study the Cruisers face interesting challenges in their own right.

The Cruisers
While the issues of the Laggards may seem difficult even ‘successful’ innovators are faced with issues, in particular the issue of delivery.  The Cruiser companies were characterised as having significant interest in innovative practices and may even have significant plans or ideas for the business underway but struggle to execute those plans (For the phases of development for working on an innovation project read this article). The reasons that the Cruiser’s innovation and changes often fell apart were broken down into three specific issues, which were:

  • Issues with the delivery pipeline
  • A frightened workplace culture
  • A lack of transparency and stability for employees

The first barrier regarding issues with the innovation delivery pipeline was characterised as often being due to the lack of resources and commitment. To use an old adage, the Cruisers very rarely gave it “110%”. Companies that were branded as Cruiser’s often showed an unwillingness to divert resources and expertise from regular workloads and projects. They did this often because they saw only the maintaining and growing of their traditional incomes as the priority for their business models. Inextricably tied to this particular issue is the second issue regarding a frightened workplace culture. This is twofold in that it pertains not only to employees being afraid of making mistakes on potentially costly innovative undertakings but it also relates to leadership being afraid to potentially sacrifice staff and income for “potential” long term gains from ‘risky’ innovative activities.  Companies that do not surmount this one-two punch of unwillingness to commit and being afraid of failing are often eventually relegated to being Laggards, as each successive failure or budgetary blowout for a new project is seen as evidence for the failure of innovation rather than a price of being cutting edge. This then slowly but surely entrenches the “let’s stick with what we know” mentality which eventually coalesces into a deep abiding sense of apathy.

At the end of the day an unwillingness to commit and a fear of failure on a companywide level can only be combated by two things; courage and planning. Any successful innovation project will only occur if it is planned, evaluated and implemented at a high level in a holistic and macro level. As to the courage part of the solution the answer is both simple and terrifying, as Winston Churchill the famous British politician said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is courage to continue that counts”.

The final barrier to innovation within Cruiser organisations from the research report is both a structural issue and a cultural issue. Employees who lack an understanding of how their roles fit into the overall strategic mission of the company or project will not feel a sense of purpose or assurance of job security. By communicating to staff the objective of any innovative undertaking and creating a clear picture for staff that they are vital in that undertaking companies are opening up a number of positive opportunities. Firstly they are confirming for staff that they are necessary and valued team members whose work has greater meaning to the company other than immediate deliverables. Secondly they are providing employees with the ability to not just look at their tasks in a micro and isolated manner, they are allowing them to look at the whole problem and potentially use their prior knowledge and expertise to solve the much larger problem or objective. Indeed some of the greatest innovations can come from employees being given greater understanding of a company’s strategic plan and allowing them the job security to explore solutions to problems without the threat of being fired or reprimanded for it. One example of this in the business world would be Google’s recent development of an interface that allows users to determine if their house is a good candidate for solar panels. This was a side project by a engineer who saw that Google wanted to expand their environmental engineering contributions and used his knowledge of their mapping technology to make this possible.

So now that you know what the Laggards and Cruisers within the domain of innovation look like, let’s have a look at the Leaders. In the next part of the article we will be briefly outlining some of the strategies used by those who Microsoft characterised as Leader’s of innovation.

Part 2 – The Leader’s of Innovation

So far we have talked about two of the major categorising groups presented in Microsoft’s research into innovation; these were the Cruisers and the Laggards. From now on the article will be focusing upon talking about what makes the business practices and workplace culture of the top innovators (Leaders) so successful. The Leader’s in the research paper were characterised as being companies who are actively innovating within “dynamic and open workplace cultures” (p. 7). The paper further characterises Leaders as those who have an awareness of the need to innovate, a drive to innovate for the betterment of their customer outcomes not just their profits and those who have the internal structures and resources to effectively collect and deliver on ideas from staff and customers. With that brief explanation out of the way bear with us as we explore the often nebulous and tricky world of navigating and managing and implementing workplace culture and strategies to foster success and innovation.

Whenever any business writer or consultant is looking to talk about workplace culture there are always a number of reactions these range from boredom to confusion or frustration. All of these myriad of reactions are due to the fact that workplace culture is one of the most integral factors to a business’s success and it is also one of the hardest to manage and change. Now rather than begin with a rather wordy and over complicated explanation of what an innovative workplace culture should look like, I’m just going to present some deceptively simple dot points and then discuss them. So without further ado here are just seven of the most vital elements to a workplace culture as displayed and reported by Leader’s within the SME environment in regards to encouraging success and innovation:

A SME that is characterised as a Leader of innovation will possess a culture that is/has:
1) Non traditional leadership and communication hierarchies

2) Open communication pathways

3) No fear of failure

4) Flexible work agreements and conditions

5) A business vision that is clear to employees

6) A clear innovation project planning pipeline from start to delivery

7) Employing creative and team friendly staff

All of these elements are integral to fostering a work culture which will maximise a company’s ability to safely and successfully innovate their business practices and as a result improve outcomes for themselves and customers. With that being said some of those strategies are exceptionally broad and business owners may find it confronting when planning how to enact those changes in their businesses. With that in mind the next section will now be seven dot points which will provide one suggestion for fostering that change in your business. Some of them may seem simple or even familiar  as they may have already been discussed earlier in the article or in previous articles here.

1) Flat management structures or micro structures where the staff roundtable ideas and planning with leadership. This is an innovative structure popular with smaller companies as it reduces middle management and facilitates more efficient and healthier communication with staff to those that dictate company strategy.

2) Daily or weekly micro meetings discussing objectives, goals and problems; these meetings should be upon supporting collaborative problem solving. These meetings should also be held relatively informally to foster a safe and relaxed environment to brainstorm and problem solve within. Lastly and most importantly staff should feel free to express ideas as there is no such thing as a bad idea as one of my old university lecturers was fond of saying.

3) Always start any brainstorm or problem solving meeting yourself with an idea or a question for the other members. This will engage them and show yourself as an active participant rather than a judge. It is also important to use the time tested positive-negative-positive system when providing feedback for ideas. This method will diminish the self esteem hit staff will take if an idea is off target or disruptive. It is also important to not shut down that member if possible but offer them a means to save face by posing your improved suggestion or redirect as a question that is seeking their opinion.

E.g. “Your idea for improving sales speed is great because it….But it doesn’t really take into account “X”…That being said perhaps we could move from that and look into “Y” to improve the process?,  What do you think?”

While this may seem like a lot of work the value of having staff who aren’t afraid to share their ideas cannot be underestimated.

4) Allow staff to telecommute or work at flexible hours if appropriate. For example letting employees telecommute or allowing early leave on some days for appropriate reasons can be an easy way to foster positive relationships and to motivate employees to work at optimal levels, just make sure you monitor their performance as normal.

5) Include staff of all levels in your broad strategic planning and objectives outlining, obviously they don’t need to know everything but breaking down what’s pertinent for your staff will help them identify their wider role in the company and potentially boost productivity by granting clear meaning to their work.

6) See this article

7) Aim to have a diverse workforce. Injecting some young staff fresh from high school or university while initially presents a training cost due to their inexperience it can lead to real gains from their technological knowhow and fresh perspective.

To read the original Microsoft Joined-Up Innovation: Culturing Success report go to: https://www.microsoft.com/enterprise/en-au/business-leaders/joined-up-innovation/articles/read-the-report.aspx#fbid=4OWOw9AnO-q

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