Turn to the E-Market for Real-World Customers

communicationsThe oldest question in business is how to drum up more customers. It’s a question that can never be answered easily or conclusively due to the ever-changing nature of consumer behavior. However, the advent of the Internet makes it easier than ever for some companies to tap into new pockets of clients and customers. The holiday season alone accounts for $42 billion in online sales annually, as Comscore reports. How can you tap into an e-audience to improve your company’s bottom line?

Create a Discussion

Everyone enjoys having their opinion known, and the Internet represents the world’s largest forum. Having a detailed comments and reviews section for your web page or outlinking web pages ensures that more people are able to gain trust in a brand. According to Bright Local, only 15% of digital shoppers don’t take reviews into account when thinking about a purchasing decision, since the vast majority of e-customers put their full trust into a review that’s as short as a few words. Retail sales consultants especially need to take heed to customer reviews. A negative review will not necessary sink a product, but a lack of reviews indicate that nobody at all is willing to buy.

Turn Customers Into Sales Members

Few methods of expanding a customer market work as well as letting your existing customers sell the products to their friends and family. Not only do word-of-mouth customers cost significantly less to sign up, but they tend to be some of the most stable and profitable, and have higher elasticity, according to a University of Florida study. Generate e-leads by incorporating a referral system with your customers, providing them with the chance to get savings or rewards simply by passing along the brand to their networks. Specialty sales force members will find this particularly helpful for business-to-business (B2B) products or services.

Hunt and Gather

With a wealth of contact information floating around the Internet such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and social media links, there are plenty of dragnets out there working to harvest this valuable metadata. A sales associate with a high customer turnover rate, such as an insurance salesman looking for car insurance leads, can take advantage of leads profiling services that deliver the contact information for active, enthusiastic customers right to their doorsteps. These services reach out to potential customers, screening for location, demographics, or other information, and provide a sales agency with the resources needed to enlist new customers.

Social Spending

The lines between social media and online shopping have become blurred to the point where you can go to one site for both purposes. Generate new customers by incorporating social media information, hotlinking, and shares, but be wary of the pitfalls of this process. Since social media represents an active, dynamic medium of exchange, today’s users expect a rapid response to their inquiries—to the point where Lithium Technology reports that half of all average Twitter users want a unique response to their query within an hour. Create a compelling social media dynamic in order to recruit new customers, but keep the keyboards active and monitored in order to avoid the risks of losing customers before they ever pull out their credit cards.

How Typography Affects Your Internet Marketing

English: Example of Tahoma typeface

English: Example of Tahoma typeface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suvir Mirchandani, a teenager from Pittsburgh, recently came up with a way to save the government a lot of money. No, it doesn’t involve massive cuts to social programs or reductions in military spending. Rather, he wants to cut printing costs by changing the font the government uses for its publications. By switching the typeface for all publications to Garamond, Mirchandani estimates the federal and local governments could save millions of dollars each year. The reason: Garamond is a thin, light typeface that doesn’t require much ink.

Although his initial estimate of a $234-million-per-year savings is definitely off, Mirchandani’s proposal brings up some interesting points about typography. While switching to Garamond would save in printing costs, typography experts pointed out this typeface is much harder to read than others. Older customers, who are more likely to read print copies, would probably have a harder time making out Garamond than Times New Roman or Arial. This means that while the government would save money, the publications could lose readability.

Readability is an important consideration for all publications, whether they’re in print or online. While you may not think about typography when you’re optimizing your website, it can make a big difference in how readers view and understand your information. The right typography can really make your content pop, while the wrong kind can turn readers off. Paying more attention to typography during search engine optimization can really help you drive more traffic and boost sales.

Overview of Typesetting

Typographers use specific terminology to describe text styles. It’s helpful to know these terms when you’re discussing typography with your web design team:

  • Typeface: Text styles like Times New Roman, Tahoma and Arial are commonly called fonts, but the correct name is actually typeface.
  • Font: Font includes a certain typeface, plus the weight, width and size of the text. 9 point Arial bold is an example of a font.
  • Serif: A serif typeface has extra decoration around the letters. Times New Roman, Garamond and Palatino are a few examples.
  • Sans-Serif: A sans-serif font is without extra lines or frills at the ends of letters.
  • Line Length: This is the length of a line of text from margin to margin.
  • Leading: Leading is the amount of space between separate lines of text.
  • Kerning: This is the blank space between each individual character.
  • Tracking: This is the average letter spacing over a large group of letters or characters.

Readability vs. Aesthetics

The most obvious way typography affects your site is in terms of readability. Numerous studies have found that certain fonts are easier to read, though there isn’t a clear consensus on whether serif or sans-serif typeface is better. Many believe that serif typeface is easier to read in print and sans-serif is easier on-screen. If you have a book close by, pull it out. What kind of typeface is used? The best-selling Harry Potter book series used Garamond, a serif typeface, as do many popular novels.

On the Internet, some people advise to only use sans-serif. Others say serif is better for headings, while sans-serif is better for body copy. The reason for this is headings need some extra pizzazz. Here’s an example of a serif heading with a sans-serif body, as seen on the Starbucks website.

coffee-typography

Jezebel does the opposite, though, by using serif copy with sans-serif headings.

jezebel-typography

This logo from Warren CAT uses a sans-serif font, but also incorporates a stylized ‘W’ to make it stand out.

warrencat-typography

As mentioned above, several studies have suggested that particular typefaces are better for general readability. However, the most legible typeface is not always what readers prefer. According to a study done at Witchita State University, Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were the most often preferred typefaces. However, Times New Roman and Arial were read the most quickly, and Arial and Courier were the easiest to read. Ironically, Comic Sans, one of the preferred fonts, was actually least legible.

The study also determined size mattered. Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were preferred at 10, 12 and 14 points, respectively. Also, Tahoma was the most legible font at 10-point, Courier at 12-point and Arial at 14-point. Ultimately, having a readable font is important as it makes it easier for you to convey information. According to a study done by Microsoft and MIT, reading more legible typography can improve mood and cognitive function.

Font Personality

Readability isn’t the only consideration when selecting a font. Otherwise, participants in the Witchita State study would have always selected the most readable fonts as their favorites. The font you choose can add a certain style and personality to your site. It may even make readers more likely to take you seriously.

According to an experiment done by Errol Morris in the New York Times, certain typefaces may carry more authority. In the experiment, participants were given an excerpt in one of six fonts — Baskerville, Helvetica, Comic Sans, Computer Modern, Georgia and Trebuchet. They were then asked if they agreed with the excerpt, and to what degree. The typeface used made a big difference in users’ responses. People were most likely to agree with the argument when it was presented in Baskerville. They were most likely to disagree when it was in Comic Sans or Helvetica. It’s also worth noting that reputable news websites, like the New York Times, often use an elegant serif typeface.

While there is no clear answer on which typeface is best for your website, using the right one really can make a difference in how readers perceive and remember information.

What kinds of typography do you think are most effective online?

About the Author

alilawrenceAli Lawrence is a content specialist for a web design company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Hot in Social Media, Yahoo! Small Business, and Business2Community.

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Thoughts on #Socialnomics 2014 by Erik Qualman

Erik Qualman is at it again, with an updated 2014 installment of his #Socialnomics video (see below). If you are still unsure of the impact social can have on your company, consider these statistics from the video:

  • “53% of people on twitter recommend products in their tweets”
  • “93% of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media”
  • “90% of consumers trust peer recommendations only 14% trust advertisements”

Whether or not your company is using social networks, your customers are — in order to inform their purchase decisions and opinions about your brand.  Being active on social media gives companies an opportunity to listen, connect and contribute to the opinions consumers form of their products. Or as Erik states “Goodbye 4Ps – hello 4 C’s of digital: creating, curating, connecting culture”.

What do you think?

How to Get Your Company to Go Viral on Facebook

Facebook Thumbs UpFacebook ads are the least expensive form of advertising, according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute. With just 25 cents, companies can reach an audience of 1000. Compare this to the average cost of $32 per 1000 viewers for newspaper ads and it’s easy to see why online marketing has increased in popularity. As more and more companies adopt online marketing, you’ll begin to see a rise in competition. Stay afloat by using Facebook’s new content sharing algorithm to go viral.

Change Your Marketing Strategies

Instead of posting repetitive, generic content, reach your target audience with meaningful posts that will pique curiosity and, in turn, increase views. Advertising Age warns of a gradual decline in organic reach and says that companies will have to counter this by spending money on sponsored ads or post trending content that is relevant to their brand. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to pay for views or alter your marketing strategies.

Create Relevant Content

For a post to reach an audience of thousands in a matter of minutes, it should be clickable, engaging and current. In other words, before pressing “share,” make sure the content is relevant to your target audience. For the Sharpie brand, relevant content for this company would consist of DIY crafts that use their products, office humor, inspirational quotes and workspace organization.

Think outside the box when crafting a new post and keep your company’s mission statement in mind. Take into account any trending news and always put yourself in your consumer’s shoes. Ad Age sums up the importance of content relevancy: “If you’re going to inject yourself into the conversation, make the interruption worthwhile.” Before your post goes live, ask yourself this question: is this something I would personally want to share with my friends?

Keep Track of Consumer Data

Recently, new features have been added to Facebook Page Insights, including an easy start- and end-date slider, advanced filtering and post-clicks statistics. But the most dramatic change gives administrators the ability to see how many fans are online any given day of the week as well as the average number of fans who see your posts per hour, says Social Media Examiner. Use this feature to your advantage by updating during peak days and hours to increase views.

Share Across Social Media Platforms

Sure, you can identify a successful post by its number of likes, shares and comments on Facebook, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Go global with your sharing by updating across other media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. You can turn the photo that accompanied your Facebook post into a Pinterest pin to redirect users to your company’s Facebook page. Or follow in the footsteps of Lifelock, which shares LifeLock videos on Facebook that have been uploaded to YouTube. The trick here is to work smart, not hard.

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What You Want to Know Will Dictate What You Measure

Google Analytics Hacks

Google Analytics Hacks (Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog)

With so much data, it’s so easy to get caught up in all the numbers. Looking at the wrong numbers will result in faulty analysis and recommendations — you may fix things that aren’t broken, or not fix things that are. Or you may think you have the right solution to a problem, but not even be looking in the right place. While it may seem obvious, taking a step back to understand what you want to know first will help you choose the right measurements.

Step 1: State What You Want To Know

The first step is to state what it is you want to know — without using any measurements or metrics at all. For example, if a website has several links to its Careers page on the homepage, ‘We want to know what place on the homepage is sending the most traffic to our Careers page’. This is quite different from ‘We want to know where the most traffic is coming from that enters the site on our Careers page’. One is about the design of the homepage and the marketing there — the other is about external marketing efforts to the Careers page. We’re going to stick with the first for our example…

Step 2: Refine Your Data Needs

Now that we understand what we want to know, we can further refine our data needs to see if we have the right measurement in place. When we look at the homepage, we can see that there are actually 4 places that someone could click through to the Careers page: 1) Menu at the top of the page 2) Linked text in the middle of the page 3) Ad box in the sidebar 4) Menu in the footer of the page. Ok, so now we know there are 4 possible links a visitor could click, so in order to answer our ‘what we want to know’ question, we have to be able to tell the difference between each of these 4 links.

Step 3: Know Your Technologies

Unfortunately, the next step is fairly technical. In order to know if you can distinguish between the 4 links, you need to know 1) how your analytics package collects data and 2) how the links have been coded. In the case of Google Analytics, it treats all data that goes from one page to another as the same, if the links are the same (with a caveat explained in a second). This means that to Google Analytics, it can’t distinguish between the 4 links on the homepage in terms of how much traffic each sent to the Careers page. But there is hope… Google analytics allows you to add tags to links that can help you distinguish where traffic is coming from to the same web page. Which means that if the links were coded with these tags, the data will already be available. And if not, it can be if they are added. Other analytics tools may collect data differently and your content management system (CMS) can also impact how this works.

Step 4: Zero In on the Right Information

So now that we know what we’re trying to measure, what data refinements we need, and how our web technologies work, we can zero in on the right information in our analytics tool. In Google analytics, we’d look for traffic to the Careers page from each of the 4 tags on the homepage to provide information about what place on the homepage is sending the most traffic.

Good Measurement is In the Details

While this may seem complex, the first step — knowing what you want to know — is really vital for communicating your measurement needs to those that may help provide you with the metrics. Without this refinement, you may get back the wrong metrics, or your technologies may not be setup properly to provide them in the first place.

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Just Like Anything, Internet Marketing Takes Patience

Zen Beach Stones at Home

Zen Beach Stones at Home (Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography)

In this instant-on world, where we can get access to just about any constant with a google search or an ipad app, we sometimes forget that not everything is instant. Good internet marketing is about providing the right message to the right people at the right time. Researching and figuring out what tactics and channels to use to find the right people takes time, and sometimes experimentation. Even with tactics in place, it takes time to build reputation, audience, and reach, all which may be in vain if the timing isn’t right. While internet marketing can provide results faster than many other channels, it still requires patience in execution.

Research Required

One of the benefits of internet marketing is the access to information that previously was either difficult or costly to attain. This valuable information can provide insights into where your audience is online, what they care about, and what they need.  Taking time to do research will help you tailor your messaging, tactics and even products to align more closely with what your potential customers want and need.

Experiment & Collect Data

Because the Internet moves so quickly, there is an opportunity to constantly experiment and collect data. Most marketing is a best guess based on research and previous experience. Internet marketing tactics allow marketers to test their theories relatively quickly and cheaply and collect data to improve results.

Analyze & Improve

The downside of so much information and data is that you can easily become overwhelmed with what to focus on. Analyze the data that provides direct information about how well your marketing is working — these should be your primary and secondary key performance indicators. Ask the ‘so what?’ question about each metric to move from a number to a recommendation on what to improve.

Patience Takes Dedication

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to give up on marketing efforts before they have a chance to provide results. By being dedicated to patience and controlling expectations, internet marketing tactics can have the opportunity to show what they can do. Constant measuring and analysis along the way will help provide data that tactics are moving in the right direction.

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Leveraging Social Networking for B2B Lead Generation

Banking District

Banking District (Photo credit: bsterling)

Businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) typically have much longer sales cycles than companies that sell to consumers (B2C). The products and services that are sold are usually much higher in cost, which requires more hand-holding during the sales process.  Salespeople are invaluable to B2B companies because they nurture relationships throughout the sales process. B2B companies, even when they do use social media, tend to overlook it as a relationship builder and a lead generation channel.

B2B Relationships Online Matter Too

If you’re building relationships with a customer in-person, and they’re online, that’s another opportunity to listen to their concerns, learn about their needs and provide value to the relationship. If you’re also online and your customers are connected to you and you’re not listening and responding, that can impact in-person relationships as well. In lead generation, referrals are often the best source, and social networking provides an opportunity to build relationships with those in your customers’ networks.

Your Customer’s Customers Are Your Customers

In B2B relationships, your customer also has customers. Social networking provides an opportunity to connect directly to your customer’s customers. This will help you understand your customer’s needs and wants and can help you provide them with valuable information for their own marketing and sales. Needs often will trickle up the sales channel, and social networking can give you advanced notice of benefits and features you need to build into your own products. In some sales channels, knowing when your customer’s customers are looking for a product can generate a lead for you that a customer may need a product or service from you.

Building B2B Brand Preference

Because B2B is built on relationships and trust, brand preference can be a strong driver of sales. Using social networking can help you build your brand’s reputation by helping your customers with questions and problems, as well as their customers. Increasing your reputation will help generate referrals.

Provide B2B Lead Generation Opportunities

One of the most difficult aspects of lead generation is knowing when a customer or potential customer is interested in your products. It’s obvious when they call or use a contact form, but there often is interest well before those touchpoints. Providing lead generation opportunities online and with social networking can help you tap into those who are earlier in the sales cycle, allowing you to provide valuable information to move them closer to a sale.  The easiest way to provide these opportunities is to build content that is valuable (hint: lose the marketing speak and opt for benefits and value instead) for those considering a sale and providing it through social channels, not only by posting on your online profiles, but by offering it directly to those who seem to have a question.

Closing the Sale

Just like in-person sales and marketing in B2B, social networking for B2B lead generation requires time and patience.  It means listening and responding to customers in a timely manner. If social networking is treated as an extension of in-person networking, it can be an extremely valuable lead generation tool for B2B companies.

How do you use social networking for B2B lead generation?

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