Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Social Media Marketing–Keeping the Traction Going

There are those organisations that have totally ‘got’ social media, embraced it with open arms and have integrated it with their other marketing and PR activities. At the other end of the spectrum there are those who still think that social media is not for them, do not understand the term ‘viral marketing’ and probably think that for the most part the customer is wrong, or at the very least somewhat of a nuisance.

The most active voice in the marketplace today is that of the consumer, because whereas a short while back a complaint formed a letter by snail mail or phone call now a complaint is public property, instantly, and the less opportunity a business gives a customer to be heard the louder their voice will be online.

Social media is here to stay as an unstoppable force. To that end every business needs to make use of the opportunities it offers, no matter the size, and the glory of it all is that the one man band can make just as much noise as a large corporation - all it takes is a little bit of effort.

One of the most important aspects of social media marketing, and this applies to everyone, is that you have to keep the traction going. You cannot tweet once and then leave it for a few days, not bother to post on your Facebook Page every day, not bother to update your page icon or wall photos, however there are a surprising number of successful businesses who are doing just that. Business who employ people just to run their social media campaigns even.

If you are a small business and you want your voice to be heard this is your golden opportunity. A few days ago I was discussing a competition for www.thesiteguide.com with a cashmere company (and watch this space) who thought I had a whole room full of ‘back-room boys’. ‘No’ I said ‘there’s just me’. And as everyone who knows me knows I can be exceedingly noisy………..

So join in the chatter regularly and get talked about, good or bad you want to know. Pretending social media doesn’t exist will get you absolutely nowhere. And it ain’t going away either anytime soon.

You’ll find me at :
- http://twitter.com/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
Linkedin - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Creating Trust Online–Why it Matters So Much

chris colour for home pageOne of the things that many online retailers don’t seem to realise, particularly those that are not household names, is that people are more likely not to trust them then to hand over their credit card details without thinking.

There are far too many websites out there who expect visitors to trust them and buy from them for no reason. There are thousands of fraudsters out there as well and the number of both is growing. You simply cannot sit back and wait for people to come to you and buy, (I know I’ve said that before), you have to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy at point 1 when they arrive at your website so that they're in no doubt at all.

payment logos

If you’re a household name then of course people will trust you. If you’re not, you need to show in any way you can, and as obviously as possible, that you are to be trusted.

So show the payment methods you take. The security measures you have in place. Your membership of any accreditation schemes such as ISIS from IMRG (Internet Shopping is Safe) and any awards you have won. And do that as soon as possible. Don’t take anything for granted, particularly where trust is concerned.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

It Ain’t Broke so Stop Trying to Fix It–5 Tips for Small e-Commerce Websites

Yesterday I was asked to help with two new or recently launched websites. One ticked most of the major boxes – layout, usability and picture quality but fell flat where range was concerned and as for SEO? Well not really…….

The second had such a confusing home page that even I couldn’t work out what you had to do to buy something. Great products, lovely pictures but if I couldn’t find them I’ll bet you couldn’t either.

The fact is that there is absolutely no excuse for wannabe successful online retailers to get it so very wrong. The examples are out there with clear templates for success, from the largest websites to the smallest. If you do not follow the basic principles of online retail you will fail, it’s a simple as that, and the smaller you are, the easier that is going to be.

To be successful in online retail you need to do the following:

Check-out what your successful competitors are doing – learn from them. Do that first.

Make sure you have enough of a range to launch – too small a range and you will get very little interest. Not only that but visitors will not hang around on your website.

Take clear pictures with several detailed views of each product. If your pictures are bad your products will not sell. Better to go for high quality ‘stills’ photography using a system such as Cubelite rather than a cheap model (if you’re in fashion). Do not use amateur models or someone’s friend or daughter. You must have high quality pictures to be successful online. Do not try and run a shoot if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here you will need help.

Make sure your site navigation is crystal clear with signposts all the way. Do not try and be clever here. You don’t need to. Let your products sell themselves with great pictures, a clear layout and concise, friendly copy.

Learn about SEO if you cannot afford someone to do it for you. If you are a new or small online retailer it’s much better to do it yourself. It’s not rocket science, however much some people tell you it is. You need to optimise your website for natural search before you start paying for ads.

These are just five tips. There are far more. If you’d like help please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Customer Service–How to Get it Right


I recently wrote about Zappos – the customer service driven US online store about which I have yet to hear a complaint.  Tell me if you have one.  Their model is built on customer service, they started that way, it’s their mission statement and apparently they deliver in spades.  And they are hugely successful.  That’s not to say there are not many online and offline retailers who try and do the same, it’s just that this one I seem to hear about all the time.

Today made me think about the whole customer service issue and why it matters so very much.  Boringly (or not if you ever need one) this is about plumbers.  I had a leaking hot water cylinder.  One plumber wanted thousands to replace the whole thing (it’s a huge cylinder) the other came along this morning (Sunday) with a new valve, replaced it, mopped up the floor which I had been paddling in for the past two months and then charged a ridiculously small amount.

The former will get no praise from me and is unlikely to be allowed to darken my doors again, in other words I will never ‘shop’ from him again.  The latter will not only get more work from me, but will be praised and recommended far and wide and no I’m not going to give you his name.  So I will not only ‘shop’ from him again but my ‘customer review’ will go out through personal recommendation to people who will again recommend him on.

The short sightedness of some stores in not realising just how important great (forget good, I mean great) customer service is, is frequently breath-taking.  Some larger stores do not seem to realise that they are only as good as their most junior employee – if they allow that employee on the shop floor, that is, or to answer the phone.

Here are my main tips for Great Customer Service

Respond Fast – to any call, query or complaint.  The faster you respond the less likely you are for your customer to a) go elsewhere and b) complain about you online.

Have your best people as respondents – not your most junior.  Put your best, most knowledgeable people on the phone, responding to customer service emails and any other social media activities such as Twitter and Facebook.  Make sure they know your products.  Customer deserve quick, knowledgeable and intelligent response.

Answer the Phone and Email personally – Voicemail is more and more annoying. Be bothered to answer your phone and talk to your customers.  Don’t send standard ‘we will respond within 24 hours’ email responses unless you absolutely have to.  You will lose customers that way.

Let your Customers have their say by allowing them to publicly review your products and service.  This will not only improve your conversion rates but demonstrate transparency.  You cannot lose by doing this.

Go the Extra Mile – Don’t try and win an argument with a customer, you will be the loser in the end.  If you have a complaint go the extra mile and do something unexpected – send a gift voucher or a personal message.  The aim is to turn customers into friends.  Strangely enough handling a complaint intelligently can help you achieve this.

Competition is everywhere, following up closely behind you and breathing down your neck, particularly in the world of retail.  You may have a great product range.  You may offer excellent prices. Your online store may be beautifully designed.  But if you don’t score at the top for customer service you will lose out to someone who will go the extra mile.  Put your customers first.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Help them.  If something goes wrong do that little unexpected thing that will turn them from an unhappy shopper to your loyal friend.  And don’t let juniors answer the phone or answer customer service emails unless you totally trust them.  Customer service has to come from the top and go all the way down the line.  Business building is not a matter of luck.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

SEO Tips–Optimising your Website–First do your Keyword Research


Chris colour wider for home page2There’s no shortcut to good keyword research and the more landing pages you have the more you need to do.  Someone said to me yesterday ‘I guessed what people would want to find here’…….well guessing will get you nowhere fast.  I liken it to standing in a cupboard with the door shut, as opposed to arms outstretched in the light shouting ‘here I am’.  The number of websites with closed doors is astounding.

There are, of course, a number of large companies who will do your research for you, but a) they are likely to be very expensive and b) do they really know your business, or is that hyper intelligent sales person going to hand you over to a junior to do the research on your website who really doesn’t understand your customer, your product and how to marry the two together?

Your keyword research will provide you with invaluable information about who is searching for what and then allow you to optimise your site for the search engines, and there are two places to get results from.  The first is your competitors’ websites – ie what keywords are they using and how much competition is there for them?  Secondly (and there’s no short cut to this) you need to use a keyword tool and trawl for gold – those words and phrases that are being searched for by a high number of people and where there is less competition (again).  This can take you a while, but it’s worth doing for every page on your website.  Start with your home page and go on from there.

Don’t think that finding out what keywords your competitors are using will provide you with all the answers, it won’t, but it will give you very useful information which you can then add into the mix when you use your keyword tool.  I use the Google Keyword Tool – it’s free and easy to use and will show you everything you need to know. 

Then you can start to create your title tags, descriptions, headers and copy. 

First do your keyword research.

If you  have any questions on the above or would like any help with your keyword research, creating title tags or optimised content then please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com.

This is the first in a series:  The next post will be ‘SEO Tips – Writing your Title Tags’.  Please follow this blog to make sure that you receive it.