Saturday, 27 October 2012

Is e-commerce the safest place to be?

Electronic commerce or ‘E-commerce’ has largely monopolised the consumer market over recent times. Using the growth of the internet and online networks, companies have been able to extend and reach out to a much wider market place. The likes of Amazon and EBay are prime examples of businesses solely reliant on e-commerce. However, the recession has provided added difficulty and competitiveness in an already driven consumer industry.

On the whole, the consumer market has taken a massive hit since the start of the recession. With nearly 500,000 businesses ceasing to exist in 2009, the majority of these small or medium businesses, the outlook has always looked bleak for the high street companies. The targets of maintaining rather than growth are seen as far more realistic and sensible objectives under the current climate.

Marketing consultants have outlined the need to retain your current customer and supplier base as they are arguably the most important assets when experiencing tougher times such as these. Nevertheless, there are signs that the consumer market is still a place where success is a genuine goal that can be accomplished.

As a result of all the negative press currently associated with the closing of businesses and loss of profits, it may come as a surprise that at the end of 2009, e-commerce experienced a rise in sales of 14%; this occurring at the peak of the recession. The desire for savings and ease of use has seen the consumer swap, or so it seems, to the online market place.

Many an E-commerce market consultant believe the ability to get free shipping and clear promotions can lead to online success. People are now looking for bargains and savings they once would not have; a task much more easily achievable in the comfort of your own home than walking up and down a high street. This changing focus of the customer is already being exploited by some companies and will without doubt be looked at by many more as they look for a solution to their current problems.

Furthermore, the evidence for new and growing e-commerce companies is there for all to see. Amazon is now a worldwide brand after its journey began when it was founded in 1994. With net income for the last quarter in excess of $130million, share prices rocketed up by nearly 15%. Nonetheless, it must be stated that everyone should not try and form a direct copy of The necessity to appeal to your own customer and be in some way unique is just as important if not more. It is crucial to function in a way that will add the most value to your consumer.

Simple Steps to a Successful Business Website

Internet marketing is fast becoming, if not already become, one of the most powerful tools to businesses around the globe. Some companies are now the largest in the world and rely solely on the internet as its source of business.

The marketing of companies over the internet is now part of our everyday life, spanning from banner adverts to emails filling our inboxes on a daily basis. Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO) are common phrases that are now regularly considered when setting up a website or beginning an online marketing campaign. Getting onto the first page of a Google search is a giant step to getting the attention desired. It is this visual status that will see a business grow and a vast rate of knots. How often have you looked beyond the first page of results produced by a search engine? Rarely, is often the case.

The problem most people have is where to start. We find ourselves in a continuously changing technology based world with new expertise needed all the time. However, there are some easy solutions to making internet marketing simple.

Make them find you.
Search engines will direct people to your website. The easier you make it for them the more likely they will find you. This is quite simply done through the use of specific titles, and arguably more importantly using keywords. Labels for images and descriptions are best off kept simple and specific and hence easier to find. SEO techniques are often complex and involve the help of trained professionals but if you keep your website regularly updated and linked to other high reputable websites it can make noteworthy progress in rankings on search engines.

E-mail – more than just electronic mail.
Although no exact figures are known, well over 1 billion people in the world today are the owner of an email account. Companies who already have a client base of some form have hundreds of emails at their disposal which they can use, if permission is given, to send newsletters with updates on offers, discounts and news.  Just be sure that they have selected or acknowledged in some form that they desire to be part of this marketing technique, or risk upsetting them and losing their business.

Social Media is a powerful ally.
As long as used correctly the likes of Facebook and Twitter are significant tools in taking your business forward.  Just be sure to keep advertising related to business matters as the risk of alienating a client base through sharing your opinions or beliefs on subject matter are substantial. Facebook has recently surpassed over 1 billion subscribers making it clear to see why so many small and large companies are endearing to its use.

Friday, 19 October 2012

How To Increase Online Sales

If your company’s online business is slow and nothing you are doing seems to be increasing your sales, it may be time to look at making a few changes. Whether it’s re-designing your website, tweaking your product range or maybe even getting in some expert help in the form of an online business consultant, this article looks at some steps you can take to get you through the low patch.

For example:

Products: It may be time to consider altering the range of products you offer on your website. Sometimes companies will try to cram too much in, in the hope of boosting sales through sheer volume. This can actually have the effect of confusing visitors and putting them off. Why not do the opposite and narrow your product range? If you offer just one or two specialised products with detailed descriptions and beautiful pictures, you will be able to target specific customer groups much more easily.

Good Copy: We can’t stress enough the importance of getting your website copy right. Think about what’s important to your target market: what you write should hone in on this. Be clear and succinct when it comes to product descriptions. The look of the text is important too: if there is something you want visitors to pay particular attention to, style the text in bold or italics. Finally, don’t use too much text because people tend to ‘scan’ when they’re reading things online.

Keep Contact: Once you’ve won a new customer, you need to maintain contact with them. Make sure you get their contact details so you can send them emails with details of new products or promotions. Just don’t bombard them with these as it will tend to put them off rather than encourage them to buy more.

Hire An Expert:
Sometimes, if all the tactics you’re tried just aren’t working, it may be worth investing in some expert advice. Hiring a business consultant can do wonders for your sales – partly because you have the benefit of a fresh, unbiased perspective. They can identify where you might be going wrong and suggest some new approaches. For example, they may advise you to improve your SEO efforts or recommend a SEO Consultant or perhaps promote your business offline as well.

Website Design: Perhaps you sales slump is owing to customers being put off by the look of your website. If it is over-complicated, many visitors won’t bother sticking around to search for products. You have to remember that a lot of customers will be browsing during lunch breaks etc. Rather than lots of fussy images and lots of different categories, what they want is clear text and images, simple navigation and an easy-to-find search function.

The Importance Of Local Marketing

You might think that the increasing use of the Internet to find products and services would mean that there is more onus on companies to extend their influence further afield. In fact, the opposite can be true. With the huge amount of competition out there, companies need to reach out to clients on a local level to build trust and differentiate themselves. Even the large global companies are hiring local marketing companies to boost their regional appeal.

It is not enough, however, to rely on word of mouth any more to promote a business on a local level. To rival their competitors, companies need to adopt a kind of multi-pronged approach, using a range of media and technologies.

For example:

Online: There are a number of online strategies you can use to improve your company’s visibility on a local level. When it comes to SEO you can, for example, include locations in your keywords to place in Meta tags or anchor text on links to images. All this will help if potential clients are dong online searches for local businesses. You should also get listed in online business directories and make use of local social networks.

Range Of Media: When it comes to creating awareness of your brand, marketing companies will tell you that it’s best to attack on as many fronts as possible. With that in mind, try and use as many forms of local media as you can. Send press releases to or advertise in local newspapers. Organise innovative promotional events and try to get interview slots about these on your regional radio or TV station. Whatever you can do to get your name well-known in the area, don’t be afraid to try it.

Use Traditional Methods: It’s important to keep up-to-date by promoting your company online or through the television – but don’t neglect more traditional forms of advertising. Sometimes a simple, eye-catching banner outside a shop can be far more effective at reaching out to local customers. The beauty of signs and banners is their immediacy and the effect they have on passing individuals. This is part of what generating local business is about.

Local Partnership: Another good way to establish a regional presence is to combine forces. Why not consider a partnership with another company in a complementary field? This way you can promote and recommend each other. You could also try doing work for non-profit organisations and charities in the area. This will present your company in a positive light, as one that cares for the local community, and also offers a great advertising opportunity.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Is Your Print Advertising Campaign Working For You?

Around 70 per cent of business owners who use ‘traditional’ print advertising methods such as newspapers, magazines, trade publications and directories to promote their businesses, do not know whether their advertising is working for them – or not.

Perhaps because of the high-pressure sales techniques of the telesales personnel concerned they feel compelled to keep on doing it month after month. Or maybe it isn’t so much to do with the persuasiveness of the salespeople, but simply because they can’t think of a better alternative. They know only too well that advertising is the lifeblood of every successful business . . . but here’s the thing . . .

If you are not 100 per cent certain that your print advertising is working for you, then please stop. Or at least consider some valid alternatives.

The main hurdle with print advertising is this:-

Because people tend to buy from people they like and trust, it can take a while to win over your readership. It has been suggested that businesses will need to run their ad between 7-10 times, before they begin to see any return on their ‘investment’.
This is why many print publications offer new advertisers a ‘write-up’ as a sweetener – an article about the company which sits alongside their ‘paid-for’ advertisement. The reader knows (or at least they should do), that these ‘advertorials’ are not written by unbiased journalists, but rather that they are part of the advertising package.

The fact is, press advertising is expensive these days and there will almost certainly be a more cost-effective option available to you.

For example, have you considered any of the following?:

Search Engine Optimisation 
Pay per Click Advertising                                                                                                                                                                                      
Direct Mail
Leaflet Drops/ Flyer Handouts                                                                                                       Telephone Marketing
Social Media & E-commerce
Online PR
Offline PR
Direct Sales
Shows, Exhibitions, Events    
Joint Ventures

These are just a few of the very many marketing opportunities available to you – both online and offline – depending on the kind of business you run and what your goals are.
Something you may wish to consider is starting an email list if you haven’t already done so. Done properly, this can be a useful way of locating buyers who are interested in what you have to sell. This can be achieved by adding a simple sign-up form to your website, or by creating a dedicated ‘squeeze page’ to capture your prospects email addresses – a proven way to extend your marketing reach. Particularly if you can provide an incentive for doing so.
For example, if you are a service business you might say: ‘sign up today for a free 45-minute consultation.’ If you sell products: ‘sign up now for 15 per cent off your first order’. A small ‘bribe’ can work wonders in building your first list!
That’s not to say you should give up press advertising altogether if it’s a medium which genuinely works for you. The point is to know exactly how much each of your advertising forms costs you. And what that medium delivers in terms of sales leads and revenue.
Would that be money well spent? Or could you do better elsewhere?
A marketing or business consultant could help you with monitoring and gaining more from your advertising and marketing budgets.

Cadbury And Oreo: The Benefits Of Combining Strengths

Sometimes, when long-established brands are failing to command the sales, a wise marketing strategy is to use the time-honoured philosophy of ‘strength in numbers’. Mondelez International, the snacks company spun out of Kraft Foods which owns the much-loved British brand Cadbury, is one of the latest examples of this method in action. It has created a new chocolate bar combining Cadbury Dairy Milk and the US brand Oreo.

The new bar, called ‘Dairy Milk with Oreo’, is now available and yours for just £1.42 per 120g. It consists of a milk chocolate bar containing a creamy filling with Oreo cookie pieces – thus combining the elements for which each brand is most famous. It is expected that there will be a significant marketing investment in this new product over the coming months.

This kind of combination approach works because the holding company is already one step ahead in terms of marketing. In this case, the holding company Kraft does not have to establish an entirely new concept but is instead trading on the existing popularity and renowned quality of Cadbury and Oreo. But the combination is a clever twist as it allows consumers to look at each of these brands in a new way. In one stroke, the manufacturer has managed to rejuvenate the images of both brands and get a new product launch off to a flying start.

Kraft has already seen some success with this strategy, when in March this year it launched a new product to rival the global giant Nutella – a combination of its Philadelphia cream cheese spread and Cadbury’s chocolate. It has even customised this product to suit individual market tastes. In Germany, for example, the cream cheese is mixed with the highly popular Milka chocolate brand.

It could be said that confectionery producers in general need to find new ways to generate interest in their brands right now. Annual sales of chocolate bars fell by over six per cent over the past year. This may perhaps be down to increased awareness of the need for healthy eating, or perhaps to growing costs of ingredients such as sugar, corn and cocoa.

Added to this, it is well known that the Kraft takeover of Cadbury was not without its controversy and this caused the food giant to post a fourth quarter drop in profits of 24% in 2011. Clearly something fresh was needed, and this fusion with Oreo may well give the brand the boost it needs.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Five Ways To Spot A Bad Online Marketing Consultant

More and more people today are turning to the Internet to buy products, find local services or get information. Sadly, the number of people looking to exploit this fact has also grown. With this in mind, beware that if you are looking for an internet marketing consultant there will be a lot of dishonest people amongst the genuine professionals. The bad consultants will have very little real knowledge of the world of online marketing and will very likely charge you a lot of money but give you few results in return.

To help ensure you find the best service, here are five tips for avoiding the bad consultants:

Vague About Services: If a consultant uses vague terms to describe what they can do for you, be very wary indeed. Using ‘technical’-sounding language to talk about their services without actually telling the potential client in clear terms what they can do for them is a classic tactic of the charlatan. Another way to spot a chancer is that they will be reluctant to set concrete goals so it is hard to quantify what they have actually achieved for you. It’s a good idea, before you talk to them, to read up a little about internet marketing first so you can be ready for them if they try to blind you with impressive-sounded terms.
Wild Promises: If an internet marketing consultant tells you they can guarantee you number one search engine rankings, never hire them. It is extremely difficult, particularly in highly competitive markets, to achieve this position and it is never certain that you will be able to do so. True, it is easier in some niches where there is very little competition, but even in these cases it would be foolish and unprofessional of a consultant to make any such promises.
Cagey About Their Past: Be on your guard if the consulting company you are talking to is reluctant to give you any information about past clients. A good firm should be happy to provide you with references and also to show you examples of their previous work and where it has succeeded. If they can’t offer you this, how do you know if they have ever had any successes at all?
They Are Always Right: A good consultant will be keen to sit down and listen to what you want to achieve from using their services. Rather than tell you what you need without first finding out what your company does, they will want to adapt a marketing strategy to suit you. If they are reluctant to discuss any concerns you have, or make changes if you want them to, they are not providing you with the service you deserve.
They Won’t Talk Prices: This is so important: always, always agree on a fixed price for services before you sign any contracts. If, during early talks, a consultant keeps avoiding the issue of what their services will actually cost, run a mile! You can be pretty sure they are trying to avoid the issue and get you hooked so they can charge you over the odds and add plenty of hidden clauses to the contract so you end up paying far more than you should be.

How Does SEO Help Businesses?

We’ve all heard how SEO can help businesses boost their online profiles by improving their search engine rankings. There’s no doubt it works, if done right, but there are many different strategies and technologies involved these days so getting it right as a novice can be complicated. Hiring a specialist SEO company to do the job for you can considerably increase your sales and your standing amongst clients or key stakeholders.

The first point to remember is that SEO does not work over-night, so persevere with it. Whether you are hiring an expert is this area or attempting to do it yourself, there are a lot of different facets involved. Firstly, keywords: Ideally, when somebody types your keywords into a search engine you want your website to appear on the first page of results. To do this, you have to carry out some keyword research. Identify your target audience and find out what kinds of terms they are most likely to use. It is easier to improve your search engine rankings with keywords if you work in a niche market where there is slightly less competition.

Once you’ve found your keywords, you need to get the density right. Keyword density is the percentage of times your keyword appears on the web page compared to the total number of words on the page. If you get this right you will achieve higher search engine positions, but if your density is too high you may be flagged for what is called ‘keyword spamming’.

Links are also used  as part of an SEO strategy. These can be internal links between pages of your own website to increase the visibility of important sections. Another method is to create reciprocal links with another website to ensure mutual traffic, but this is less widely used today. Website owners also often submit their sites to website directories which will then include a back-link. Basically, the more genuine back-links to your site, the better your rankings will be.

Social media links are gaining popularity as more and more businesses turn to sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to build business contacts and improve their visibility. Use Twitter as an example: of course you shouldn’t include a link to your website every time you tweet, but if you are posting a particularly useful bit of information or promoting an event, it is perfectly ok to give a link back to the info on your website.

Keywords and link building are just two examples of the wealth of SEO tactics at your disposal. Other areas, such as metadata, can be more complicated. We would recommend hiring an SEO Agency, at least initially, to help you understand how strategies can be successfully implemented. In time, if you are patient, you should begin to see the results as your search engine rankings climb and your website traffic increases.