Tag Archives: eCommerce

Blogging for Business

As we start to see business blogging becoming more main stream, it is time that we turn our attention to how we can best use it in business. Here are six reasons to blog for business;

  • To promote your business brand;
  • To educate your audience;
  • To increase findability;
  • To demonstrate Thought Leadership;
  • To engage with your audience; and
  • Drive website traffic.

The reason that we blog determines the way we blog, the length, style and content.

Promoting your business brand

When promoting your business brand, you need to know what your business stands for as well as the qualitative and quantitative brand attributes. Is your business funky or serious, does it stand for having fun, security or making money? These attributes will determine whether you use words like “phat” or “optimise.”

Your messages behind your blogs will also be determined by the brand attributes. What would a funky brand customer like to hear about – the latest dance party, fashion in shoes? What would a serious brand client find interesting, trends in your field, conferences you attended, interviews with speaker?

Educating your audience

Often, when you have an intangible product or service, it is difficult to get your concept over in 30 seconds or a print advert. You need to spend time contextualising your offering and explaining why it is important to your audience. Very often educational blogs follow themes that build upon each other and reinforce central concepts.

Increasing Findability

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not the only way you can ensure that your audience is exposed to your brand. SEO might help when your audience is using search terms to research the service that you offer, but what happens when they don’t know that they need you?

Your blogs should appear in places that people who need your offerings hang out on line, for example on Industry websites. They may not be looking for you, but if the blog is located in a place where they are interested in the category, they will become aware of your offering and may read on.

Generic blogging sites or websites are best for this. For example a general marketing website could be a great place to talk about the latest trends in CRM. Of course to get onto the general sites, your blogs must be interesting and informative, rather than biased and self promoting. Unless your blog offers value to the site’s reader, the site owner won’t publish you.

Demonstrating Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership is a powerful form of competitive advantage. It sets you apart from your more prosaic competitors, and if your customers learn from you, they are more likely to engage and eventually do business with you.

Generally, thought leadership articles have an authoritative tone and tend to be longer, sometimes even representing white papers. Are you in an industry where you sell IP? The thought leadership may also be part of your employees’ personal branding as thought leaders. Organisations that trade in IP tend to be an aggregation of individuals with high levels of IP and your audience will be interested not only in the content of the blogs, but also in the combined gestalt of all the thought leadership in your organisation.

To engage with your audience

Seth Godin is the master of engaging. His blogs are pithy and provocative. Audiences are encouraged to comment and share his copious wisdom.

Blogs aimed at engaging need to stimulate conversations not only between you and your audience, but also between the audience members themselves.

Driving website traffic

Driving traffic to your website is usually only the objective if you are

  • gaining new audiences;
  • your website is dynamic and constantly changing;
  • you are soliciting new members of a network or online community; or
  • you have an eBusiness where you can transact on line.

If your website is a bog standard brochure site, think carefully about whether this business objective is likely to result in bottom line benefits to your organisation. A high hit rate with a high bounce rate may be an indicator that you need to rethink your digital strategy because your audience doesn’t find any value in your site. Blogging is time consuming and resource intensive, don’t waste it chasing the wrong objective.

Getting the most out of your blog

In order to gauge whether your blog is working for your business you need to quantify the success indicators. Do you measure your blog on:

  • Findability – Number of hits?
  • Sharing – Number of times the blog is shared, pinged, retweeted, quoted etc. If sharing is your objective, make sure that your audience is equipped to do so with “share this” buttons, “follow me”, retweet or link with me etc.
  • Conversion into sales – if you have an eBusiness, you should be able to quantify your conversion of hits into sales. Increasing conversion ratios can indicate that your blogs are working for you
  • Commenting and engaging – sometimes the number of comments and quality are an indication of the value that your audience derives from your blog. Of course different types of blogs will solicit different types of comments. Provocative blogs may stimulate a conversation while thought leadership blogs may merely solicit a terse “nice post”.

There is no one right answer to how to blog, each blog must be designed to deliver on your specific blog and brand objectives. The one rule however, is to keep adding value, keep experimenting with what drives your objectives and results in you achieving material rewards for your efforts.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Digital Marketing Budgets

Internet marketing is concerned with creating a Digital Footprint which serves the organisation’s marketing needs. It consists four distinct elements

  • Providing information and education to the various stakeholders, whether they are potential customers, journalists, future employees etc. on the website;
  • Brand building through developing on-line communities, creating digital profiles etc;
  • Other on-line collateral to enhance “findability”; and
  • Direct response advertising.

Budgets need to be divided along the same lines for the best results.

Budgeting for a website

The budget for a website is normally informed by the website strategy as it translates from the organisational strategy. Most of us have built brochure websites in the past, and budgeting is relatively straight forward. The following components should be found in a website budget.

  • Scoping and specification in order to ensure that the site is fit for purpose and easy to use;
  • Design and development;
  • Hosting;
  • Software – there is some question of whether the software budget belongs with Marketing or IT. My suggestion is that if it is a discreet web based software that only relates to marketing, for example a bulk mailing app, then keep it in the marketing budget. However if it is an enterprise software like Microsoft’s’ SharePoint, budget for it in IT and reallocate the relevant portion to marketing, in that way marketing can quantify its returns more effectively;
  • Technical maintenance;
  • Content development and management – this is usually where most website’s fail, because this part of the budget is included in technical maintenance and allocated to the web company who it maintaining the site. Content generation and management is a marketing function, not a technical function and should be allocated to an internal marketing resource or an outsourced content management partner;
  • SEO – budget for the time for developing and tweaking the meta-data which is associated with the web page so that search engines can identify what your website is about and whether it is useful; and
  • Constant and never ending improvement, the modern website is in a constant state of flux and the organisation reacts or pro-actively engages with its environment. The website must be budgeted for in such a way that it can be dynamic and serve the organisation’s best interests.

Budgeting for Brand Building

On-line brand building is the use of social media to create communities, whether they are fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter or registered members of specialist communities such as the Pampers’ mums who blog and message each-other about all things baby.

These communities are used by marketers to create positive associations with the brand, to make the organisation more accessible to its target market as well as to educate them as to the brand attributes etc.

Brand building, while quantifiable is difficult to relate directly into sales generation and so we see fixed marketing budgets in this area. The budget can be determined as a percentage of sales or at the discretion of a pro-active marketer. Marketers do, however, need to understand that the investment is not only a Rand investment into design and development, but there is a far higher investment in terms of human resources. Maintaining healthy brand communities is a labour intensive activity and requires dedicated time to be allocated to the community. It is important to remember that on-line brand building creates a launch platform for enhancing the effectiveness of direct response marketing and increasing conversion rates, as such it is an essential part of the on-line marketing strategy.

Budgeting for “Findability”

A large part of creating a digital footprint is concerned with “Findability”, in other words, making sure that the brand is served up to the potential consumer on-line, at the point when they require the brand’s products or services.

The additional on-line marketing collateral that enhances findability includes blogs and thought leadership articles on specialist forums, the personal profiles of prominent employees on social media such as Linked-in, on-line press releases etc.

The budget for these activities is mainly concerned with the time that people spend on creating the content on the web which ensures that your organisation is found by the right people at the right time. There will be a direct financial implication if you outsource the management of any of these aspects to a professional content generation firm, in the same way as you can outsource your PR.

So far, the on-line budget has been very straight forward, it has included the financial aspects agreed to with the executive and the cost in terms of human resources who are allocated to these highly labour intensive marketing activities. But when it comes to budgeting for direct response advertising, we see an entirely new budgeting pattern starting to emerge.

Budgeting for Direct Response Advertising

The modern web offers numerous ways to create demonstrable and predictable ROI from direct response advertising activities. Well thought-out Internet advertising campaigns produce highly quantifiable results. The big opportunity for business is to recognise that a positive ROI from an advertising campaign means that profits should be maximised by investing more into the campaign.

Progressive marketers should not be constrained by limited budgets, rather, they should be accountable for revenues and net profits and any budget should be informed by the desired outcome. This is set to change the static, set-piece budget battles that marketers have had to fight with their financial counterparts in the boardroom.

In the past 5 years, advertising has been turned on its head by the rise of social media. This new media enables us to contextualise on-line brand messages and calls to action within our audience’s digital environment. According to Forrester Research, interactive marketing will represent 21 percent of all marketing spend by 2014. Those who understand and exploit the new marketing opportunities should not be constrained by a “percentage of sales” budget and be empowered to drive increased profits through marketing programmes that deliver predictable and demonstrable returns on marketing investments.

Advertising is becoming more complex and harder to execute. Audience fragmentation has accelerated making mass market targeting irrelevant to all but the largest brands. The democratisation of content in social media has replaced print, radio and TV as authoritative contexts where product advertising and endorsements drive sales and market share.

Direct response advertising is targeted and measurable. We can determine, with accuracy and predictability, the marketing ROI by campaign. It is the marketer’s job to quantify financial expectations and monitor the results very carefully. If you know you are going to make a profit from your campaign then the constraint is not a budget but the supply of profit drivers. On-line advertising enables CMOs to figuratively buy R100 notes for R50 each, by investing in on-line campaigns that create demonstrable profits at a predictable and repeatable rate.

Building marketing programmes with predictable and reliable profits is the original promise of Internet marketing. High performance marketers start with the premise that advertisers will reach the right customers (i.e., those who are in market with a demonstrable interest in the product or service). This enables advertisers to pay only for the action (click through, register, fill in the form etc.) that is positive proof that the potential customer is in the market and considering their particular offering.

In direct response marketing, the potential customer is interested in a product or service, the advertiser only pays for the click, proof that he is interested in the product or service. With the click, the conversation between advertiser and consumer begins. As long as an advertiser understands the profitability of each sale and the conversion rate from click to sale, he knows the value of each search click (Value of a click = profitability of sale X conversion rate of click to sale). As long as the advertiser is buying clicks from the likes of Google for less than the value of each click, he is guaranteeing a profit on his direct advertising spend. The new limits on marketing spend is no longer the budget, but rather how much can be spent while maintaining the conversion and sale values, or the capacity of the advertiser to deliver products and services.

While the principle is simple, execution is hard because online programmes have many key success factors. These include:

  • Managing a portfolio of multiple, evolving social media types with different conversion characteristics.
  • Purchasing the media so as to limit advertiser risk (e.g., CPA, CPC, CPL);
  • Targeting to ensure conversion rates and sale values stay satisfactory;
  • Developing creative for all consumer touch points (both advertising and user experience) that drive conversion;
  • Capturing, qualifying, and converting customer data. Advertisers need the right tools to transform customer information they gather into sales;
  • Responding rapidly to initial interest. According to an MIT study, responding to consumer interest within 5 minutes versus the following day increases conversion 100-fold!; and
  • Continuously optimising – Direct response advertising takes place in a dynamic marketplace, successful marketers will continuously optimise their media, creative, target segments and sales process to maximise profits.

For advertisers that understand well the value of a sale and how their advertising converts into sales, the marketing budget has been replaced with innovative, integrated marketing programmes that invest every Rand that drives a positive ROI possible.

The Internet has made marketing much more complex. But at the same time, it’s also much more measurable and accountable. Because CMOs can determine which parts of the marketing portfolio provide the greatest ROI, they can demand more from their marketing spend. Successful marketing is becoming less about bigger budgets and more about delivering ROI. Marketing requires being ruthlessly focused on delivering measurable profits.

Future winners in the on-line marketing space will understand that success means investing in continuous improvement that provide increasing and demonstrable profits.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

The smart website

Websites today are becoming a key asset to any organisation. Gone are the days when your website was a brochure that people could access on-line. Now days they are powerful sales tools and an indispensable way to manage relationships with existing and potential clients.

Your website needs to deliver on the same business objectives as every other function in the business.

For a long time now websites have enabled eCommerce and clients have been able to order products and services on line, but how do we create smart websites, that maximise your ROI?

The website as part of your sales strategy.

Sales are concerned with maximising turnover and margin at the lowest costs. Websites form an essential part of the modern sales strategy.

In the past they were marketing collateral, supporting sales by providing clients with information about your company and its products and services. Web 2.0 has enabled a crossover from marketing to direct sales.

To get the most sales out of your website, you need to analyse your overall business and sales strategies, and carefully align your company’s website to quantifiable business and sales objectives.

Meeting Sales Objectives

You need to manage your website as a sales channel by using the same measurement that you use for off-line sales, in order to maximise your return. Here are some ideas for relevant metrics that can be mapped to sales objectives.

Number of qualified leads generated. What types of leads convert into sales? How can you secure more of them?
New sales revenue. What is your cost each sale? Is this a number you can justify from an ROI perspective to secure new business?
Incremental sales revenue from existing customers may help you to reduce your “cost per up-sell” to current customers. This will help you measure the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your website.
Conversion rates are directly related to the source of the leads on your website. Understanding what types of conversions (new sales, up-sells, etc.) are happening and where they originate gives you the opportunity to go after those that deliver the greatest ROI.
Time to conversion speaks to the efficiency of specific leads to contribute revenue. For example, if leads that are generated through your website’s “product profile” pages convert twice as quickly as those that downloaded a whitepaper, then you can make sure those pages have the greatest visibility and easiest access on your website.

eCommerce

In the late 90’s many businesses were experimenting with eCommerce, but they neglected to take the physical delivery mechanism into consideration. In South Africa, our Internet penetration was too low to make the economies of scale viable. eCommerce sales were miserable and many companies soon abandoned them.

Today the numbers of South Africans who use the Internet on a daily basis whether from home or work has increased enough to make the business case for relooking the opportunity. Our potential clients are far more tech-literate and we know a lot more about how to make are sites intuitive to navigate and easy to use.

Managing Client Relationships

The website is not just a digital catalogue with a payment mechanism attached, we can now create interactive platforms for engaging with our customers and building loyalty. Our clients can be enabled to communicate not just with us, but with each other too. Imagine a jewellery design club around on-line semi precious stone website. They can create communities around how to use your products or provide suggestions to you on how you can improve your products.

Search Engine Optimisation

Few people access your website from the landing page, today most people search for what they are looking for and enter your site from where the search tool directs them. This means that you have to design every page to be found and easily navigated using search engine tools and process driven navigation.

Dedicated Management

When we are converting our websites into strategic assets, we must dedicate enough resources to manage the site and ensure that it is constantly improving and very responsive to our clients needs. Website are no longer just created and updated regularly. Now days they are dynamic, agile and engaging with our clients on a daily basis.

In South Africa, we don’t have the numbers to ensure that we create sufficient critical mass for our clients to create large enough networks to run by themselves. They do require interventions from humans to keep them interesting and sticky.

With the current economic slowdown, your clients will be looking at more cost efficient ways to go about their daily business. If you build smart website with a robust delivery mechanism that clients will trust and optimise it for search, you will build a robust web sales channel that delivers the returns you are looking for.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing