Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

You know, if I buy a product or use a service from a company and I’m genuinely happy with it, I have no objection to being kept up-to-date with the odd email. Sometimes it can serve as a good memory jogger, if I’ve been looking for a new pair of shoes and forgotten about a site I was happy with before, an email about their sale is more than welcome. 

Thanks to spam filter and opt-out clauses its easy enough now to make sure you’re not inundated with them too. My issue, though, is the timing with which these things are sent out. In relation to your initial purchase, that is. I received two today, that perfectly exemplify this.

I just booked my holiday yesterday. Very happy with the service and price I had no issue getting newsletters from the travel agent. This morning I get an email telling me: “You deserve a holiday!” I know I do, that’s why I just booked one with you less than 24 hours ago!

I recently collected my car from it’s annual service. It’s only a couple of years old and I’ve never had any issue with the garage, always great service so, again, happy to sign up to be kept up-to-date. The more deals I can get on servicing the better. So why, only a week after collecting my car from its service am I sent an email telling me all about the great deals they can give me on second hand cars. They’ve just had my car, serviced it and, in theory, ensured it’s usability for at least a year, and now they’re offering me a cheap used car.

It’s like offering someone a deal on a coach-class seat the second they’ve sat down in first. Or waiting until someone leaves the petrol station to say “need petrol? you should come visit us.”

Surely I’m not alone in this? Mine seem relatively banal and bland and are simply annoying, surely there must be some more amusing ones out there. 

I know for a fact how well you can drill-down into which of your market audience sees what message and when. To not pay attention to such things now, whe so many other companies are, seems plain lazy. It’s also more likely to see my cursor hover purposefully over the “opt-out” link. Either that or drag ’em to the Junk folder where all mail from them shall languish in future by glorious default.

For the last week or so I’ve been hard at work on a site dealing with International Removals. The idea has been to get some nice fat ranking results and use social to squirt some link juice on the “moving to..” pages. Working in the Social Media environment I’m all too aware of the facts regarding the user stats for Facebook yet, having also been using the site on a personal level long before a professional one, I was also aware of  how much of that whopping statistic is likely to be useless.

A short scurry showed how much I’d under-estimated the useless quota . Surely all those lovely groups would be a good way to garner information on what people want to know about moving to another country? Instead, it proved to be yet another lesson in the own-going education that this job is providing.

fbmarketLet’s look at the results for one search that were typical of what I found. The only difference being the destination: Moving To Canada. I, naively was hoping to find a few people trying to find out what they would need for their immigration dreams.

No. Try page after page of the displayed image. This is one of the very few screen shots available that didn’t involve racist, sexist, offensive and otherwise unusable images.

Whilst this manages to serve as an example of how fickle a certain nation can be – without wanting to offend any readers – it’s more an example of how little use Facebook can be for garnering market information. Not because of the type of group or search term, merely due to the lack of substance in the response.

Even looking at the image reveals that while these groups had thousands of members each, they’re all shedding images. Which means that not only is the potential market not likely to follow up on their statement, they’re actually retracting it.

There’s also the sheer proliferation of these groups. In theory there need only be half a dozen. Instead, rather than join an existing group that shared their feelings, they created their own. As is their right, don’t get me wrong. But if this principal were applied in the area these groups are dedicated there would be hundreds of political parties and not one of them would get anywhere.

THAT'S not ecommerce

THAT'S not ecommerce

While the idea of trusting market research has never been a sound one, the motivation in using social networking sites was to gain an insight into what the target demographic was feeling. However, with the ease of creation and user-control of such sites that makes these sites so successful and attractive, also makes them irrelevant from an information gathering point of view. Not only that, but the sheer amount of such groups and trolls puts it worryingly close to the domain inhabited by early network-sites (anyone remember Bolt?) and about as much use as the spam-covered Google Groups.

Of course, the lack of being used from a marketing point of view makes Facebook users happier. Creating a pool of target demographic information isn’t its goal. It’s there as a social interaction site etc and etc. However, if there is no intelligent qualitative market research available from it, how long before businesses stop paying attention? If they’re getting nothing from it by way of usable information are they really going to sponsor it with advertising cash? Especially when, as a user, I know how very little banner ads get looked at let alone clicked on.

I wasn’t even looking for an appropriate place to throw up an advert, nor was I looking to grab traffic or send people to the sites I’ve been working on. I simply wanted to know what they wanted to know. Marketing agencies and professionals (and I’m no exception) often suggest that Facebook, Myspace etc is a barely-touched pool of customer data just waiting to be tapped.  Problem is that if I were to use the information I gathered  I’d be building sites that provided information as to which political figures were in office in another country as information on Moving to Canada.

So with the sheer wealth of user-orientated sites and forums out there, where can accurate consumer information be found without having to wade through pages of the above? Or can it? I’m not talking about haranguing with questions and surveys either, just simple, “what do our customers want?” And, if there is no way for companies to hear the social-buzz on their product or industry, will they start looking to place their advertising and marketing budgets elsewhere and how long will the sites last then? Will the user-orientated, no businesses element that started these sites become their downfall?

Online marketing for SEO is a competitive game and there’s plenty of ways to cheat the system and use some “black hat” techniques. It’s the easiest way to get rankings fast but it’s also the easiest way to get punished fast.

I’m happy that I work for an agency and we pride ourselves on acheiving results without cheating, everything is above board, our hat is white and there’s nothing dodgy. There are often times when it could be tempting to market products in a way that while above-board in terms of technicality, are a bit questionable in the ethics department.

For example..

We also have a pretty strong product, it’s infallible infact. But, when a competitors ecommerce software fails, or you here chatter and there’s forum buzz about how let down its customers are. How do you use that to your advantage without being unethical.

For example, back in the 1970s when Pintos had a nasty habit of bursting into flames in rear-end collisions, did GM start pushing adverts saying “Explosion-free cars” ?

Now, is it because it’s unethical or is it because it would make them look unethical. In a cynical world it’s easy to think that they wanted to. That up in the boardrooms the CEO’s were sitting down with their ad agencies looking at mock-ups of inflammable cars but realised how this would make them look in the eyes of the public.

There’s ways of doing both though. Take the recent collapse of Courts. Wasn’t it nice of all their competitors to offer discounts to those customers that had lost money in Courts orders? It certainly made them look good and there’s no doubt it helped shift a few sofas and beds.

In the same way that car buyers want a car that’s not going to combust on impact and sofa customers want a sofa, an online business will want an ecommerce software that doesn’t crash at that most vital of points, the checkout.

Well, as with all things in advertising and marketing, it comes down to the copy. There’s no way to name your competitors failings directly and remain ethical or appear so. That would be like a competitor announcing “Courts are so terrible and useless they can’t get your bed so we will.” It’s like the marketing equivalent of a House of Commons debate where nothing gets resolved – the Tories stand and point fingers, the Lib Dems bemoan and quibble but nobody has an answer. Accordingly nobody really attracts the vote. Or the custom.

So if your competitor has a none weak point, no matter how famously weak, you can’t point it out. What you can do, though, is point out that you have a strong point there instead and you aim the pitch to the argument. If you know that customers are going to be searching for a product and are aware of your competitors failings you build your products strength into the PPC ad.

This is what we did, along with a good PR campaign simply emphasising our strengths in key areas that we knew competitores were failing without nameing or even suggesting that others had issues.

I don’t think I could resort to outright finger-pointing in marketing anymore than I could use “black hat” techniques. It’s like using the cheat codes on your computer games – you finish quick but there’s no real sense of award or achievement. People in online marketing and SEO will know that joy from seeing your hard work pay off with first page ranking. That and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

This week is a busy one in work terms. Thankfully work involves social media so I’m able to take time to blog.

I’ve been working on some content and collating testimonials for the launch of one of our own sites – NetDirector Auto.  NetDirector Auto is a platform that’s used by our automotive clients to create a digital dealership. The new site is to promote and sell ND Auto.

Part of my work on the site has involved collecting and collating the testimonials to appear on the clients pages. Testimonials are of huge importance in a competitive market place. When you’ve got a dozen or so companies all pitching for your business, if you’ve got one that can provide testimony to their results their more likely to get the job.  It’s all very well saying you can achieve, but where’s your proof?!

As transparency increases to play a role in the web, it’s important to provide sources for your testimonials too. We’ve all had those leaflets come through the post or stuffed inside the local rag from some double-glazing company or the like with “Best product EVER” type quotes with either no name or highly dubious A.Smith type citations.

Being great, we go one further and provide video testimonials too.

In my opinion, testimonials do a large part of a company’s marketing work for them and are an important element that I believe will see increasing implementation as the whole user-interaction trend continues to rise. Some sites I’ve seen feature customer feedback that comes in on a feed and is constantly updating as the feedback arrives. However, obviously I’m not the first to say this but, moderation is important in the same as it is with all things that allow users’ comments.

I’m not saying change what people say, or manipulate it. Just make sure that nobody starts filling your feedback pages with offensive messages and it goes without saying that negative feedback will only make your job harder if it appears. From a marketing point of view only the healthy testimonials are going to beneficial to you on your site (and in general).

I feel I (or at least my server) received just desserts today for trying to be too clever.

The importance and benefits of article distribution in terms of online marketing and garnering link juice cannot be overstated. I won’t prattle on about it but the exposure can be huge and as a writer and marketing exec for a web agency with a broad scope of clients and sites, the amount of possible articles isn’t exactly small.

So when I read this blog entry which mentioned articlemarkerter – which I already use – and a free article submitter that submits an article to hundreds of article distribution sites I was intrigued. If it saves me time then it’s worth a shot. I downloaded it, pasted up an article I’d written and set up a profile and clicked the ‘go’ button. It then asked how many of it’s sites I wanted to hit. Being a smart-ass and a tad impatient I selected “all.”

BIG MISTAKE! All is some 500+ sites. Of course the thing went mad, I had to fill in all those robot-catching image-captchas then I noticed my Outlook. I had new messages, more new messages, even more new messages and as the thing kept going and I kept proving I’m human the emails kept arriving. I’d forgotten to consider that all these sites needed verification and activation. Some 400 emails in my inbox with links to click through…. it got to the point that I had to just ignore those without an active link having spent ages copying and pasting.

Needless to say that was something I’m not likely to again. As with all things in marketing, targeting the right audience is key and I think the same goes for articles. More selectivity is required.

It’s undeniable how important brand identity is for marketing. In my mind it’s also very important in the automotive world on a corporate level. I won’t go into how I think the automotive industry needs to change (I’ve been reading the Lee Iaccoca autobiography) but in a world where so many modern cars look alike the identity of a brand is key in attracting customers and differentiating between vehicles.

Chrysler knew this which is why they spent so much in designing and adopting their Pentastar back in 1962 and the other major companies followed suit when branding up their dealerships.

With this in mind while marketing an automotive site I decided to do some research for articles on the matter with two brands in particular and the origins of their identity.

The first marque I looked at was Audi, for an article on its emblem. What do the rings mean? The olympics? No, it’s the four companies that made up the Auto Union when Audi, and three others were bought and merged. Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer.

While the rings are instantly recognisable as the Audi emblem, is it good to have an identity that isn’t clear in its meaning? Can people identify with something they don’t understand?

I’ve also discovered today what BMW actually stands for – Bavarian Motor Works. While the origin of the image within their emblem is debated between the Bavarian flag and the movement of a propeller, it is explainable and recognisable and associated with a certain cache of luxury. Their numerical naming system is also part of their branding. Having found out the designation for the letters – ‘l’ is for long wheelbase not litre or base model – I’m wondering if using numbers is a good thing in branding?

While it means a car is clearly a BMW if it’s called a 318i (regardless of age), is this a savior or hamper?

Knowing the debates that take place over naming of cars and its importance – would the Mustang have been so popular and important if it had been called the Cougar and had a less iconic emblem – using a numerical system avoids such issues and potential calamities. But is it a restriction? BMW have created some pretty amazing cars in terms of engineering and styling (the Bon loving Z8) but is the simple nomenclature hampering. It doesn’t conjure up any mental images.

With a car like the Mustang, the emblem and name of a wild horse meant that the marketing and advertising pretty much wrote itself. Simply hearing the name and the associations it created half sold customers, the fact that it was a great design simply sealed the deal.

Hear in good-old Blighty, motorways are prefixed with an M (as in M25, though that’s another blog) so when somebody mentions the M5 my mind immediately links to the motorway down in Devon rather than the turbo-charged 5-Series. Not neccesarily a good mental connection for a car.

Then again, an otherwise great car can be hung out to dry by a terrible name. There’s no BMW Gremlin for example. So while their method creates an identity as strongly as their logo, I think it might be a catch-22 in terms of marketing the cars themselves.

Anyone?