C’mon venues – Wake up and hand out the free coffees!

Yes! Another day, another Mayorship in the bag for me! But honestly, who cares?

It’s a sad but true fact, those of us using Foursquare are diligently checking into venues attaining Mayorships, unlocking ‘Local’, ‘Bender’ and ‘Super’ badges, for nothing! Currently no venue is fully utilising it. With a reputed 1 million check-ins a day and growing, I can’t help but wonder why businesses are missing the opportunities to attract and reward customers that are practically being served up on a plate for them (see what I did there?)!  Are we, the user, ahead of our time?

Or is it as simple as, they just don’t get it? Just like they don’t get those funny things called Twitter and Facebook. It’s just something those crazy kids are doing.  The genius of Foursquare is that the Venue owner has little to do apart from creating a reward, the users, simply by checking in, control the game and the Venue gets all this beautiful free SM publicity. I’m using cafe’s as an example but Foursquare is not limited to cafe’s, I believe if your business has customers, there’s an opportunity there.

In the US, where it’s taken off (surprise surprise), venues have special offers for their Foursquare customers. It may be a discount on the specials or a free coffee. The customer checking in most becomes the Mayor of the venue.  Mayors are due special rewards and so have a slight kudos, people want to become Mayors. People are visiting venues to become its Mayor. Essentially it’s a loyalty scheme disguised as a game – Genius!

Despite its current reign in the ranks of Social Media it took years for Facebook to become mainstream, and then along comes Twitter and people are still sceptical about that. So, my concern is this, I am currently Mayor of FOUR different venues in Edinburgh, when are venues going to realise that Foursquare is here, and hand me my free coffee??

Karlie MacGregor (@KarlieMacG)

When you want to hide from Google

Really interesting article over at econsultancy about the retraining of online consumers to use means other than search to find deals.

In these recessionary times, now more than ever people love a bargain. I’ve lost count of the homes and offices I’ve gone into in the last year who’s bathrooms are stocked with those telltale brands that are only found in the low price foreign chain supermarkets. We’re all well past the no thought of price consumerism (are we?) of the early naughties and now the middle classes are just as comfortable in Lidl as those making do on benefits.

But discounting is a no go back cycle. If you’re offering stock at slashed prices with minimum profit margin you don’t want your cash rich clientele to know.  Loose out on the disposable income they would otherwise quite happily have spent. – not such a great positioning strategy.

So online coupon and crowd sourcing sites need to stay off the general search radar in order to win those heavily discounted deals from brands.  Hiding product pricing from Google as part of their business model means that they have to find other ways to get the attention and the conversions from deal savvy audience.

Enter email – how many times has it been written off only to rise again as a champion. Women are subscribing to email to find deals. Brand loyalty/reward meets targeted low wastage marketing. But don’t stop at email, think Facebook, Twitter and even geo location couponing.

It’s all to play for and how refreshing to look at business models where search visibility isn’t a major part of their tactical marketing!

Increase your Conversion Part 2

Back to tips on increasing conversion rates;

6. Encourage Customer Loyalty
Don’t forget the existing and returning customers. Remember the sales maxim, it costs 6 times as much to get a new customer than to keep an existing customer.

7. Test your Conversion Channel
Being able to analyse the progress of individuals through the conversion/sign up process and importantly the drop out rates can reveal some low hanging fruit.

8. Empathy – understand the need and be sure to fill it. If your selling point is uniqueness make sure this is served up to the visitor. If it’s a low price point communicate the value you’re providing

9. Urgency – use limited offer, seasonal sales, low stock warnings etc to get a conversion now

10. If they don’t convert there and then provide an opportunity to return – offer easy bookmark, a reminder service or an attractive reason to return.

Brand reputation and consumer decision-making

How do you get to be a futurist? Is there an application process or do you just keep ontop of trends and extrapolate forward like some kind of commercial sci fi writer.

The Society for New Communications Research has some futurists on their board and they’ve come up with some interesting research on how Web2.0 is affecting consumer behaviour:

  • 59.1% of respondents use social media to “vent” about a customer care experience
  • 72.2% of respondents research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes
  • 84% of respondents consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company
  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer care experiences shared online
  • 84% of respondents consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes
  • 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously
  • Search engines are the most valuable online tools for this research, according to respondents. Those rated of no value include micro-blogging sites like Twitter or Pownce (39%), YouTube (27%) and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (22%)

Nowhere to Hide

Web2.0 offers fantastic opportunities for brand engagement and positively affecting consumer decision making. It’s already being used to great effect by retail, travel, computing and lifestyle consumer goods (amazon, dell) where customer reviews, sharing of experiences and providing opportunities for good customer care increasingly being supported by marketing budgets.

Other sectors have been less successful and there are still many examples of this being done badly – corporate blogs writen by PRs, seeded reviews etc. With the deadline for web 2.0 no-tolerance on seeding coming up on May 26, the choice is either embrace Web2.0 and use it to create stronger relationships with your audience or climb back under that rock and hope this whole web thing is just a passing phase.

Increase your Conversion Rate Part 1

Once you get the traffic to your site, how do you get individuals to convert? Here are 5 basics which anybody should look at as part of increasing conversion.

1. Get the numbers right
Review your analytics software and tracking codes. Analyse year on year figures to identify seasonality and ensure that the tracking is providing you with information which is useful in building up a picture of your traffic, their motivations, behaviour and barriers to conversion.

2. Understand your audience’s motivation.
Why do individuals in your sector use the web? If they are goal oriented e.g. its a time saving channel, make the messaging and the conversion process reflect this. Get them to a specific page and create call to actions which communicate ease of purchase. If on the other hand there’s a longer decision-making process, provide information required before allow them to print, download or bookmark pages and provide conversion calls to action.

3. Reduce anxiety of purchase.
Simple things can make all the difference. Provide your users with peace of mind through professional design and architecture. Ensure that your privacy and security information is easy to access and comprehensive. Even things as simple as an out of date copyright footer can put prospective customers off.

4. Communicate your Value
The value of your offering should be clearly communicated. It should also as close as possible reflect the motivation of your target audience. Value messaging could be about cost, quality, shipping, brand statements, benefits to indivudual, something which sets you aside from your competitors. Using split or multivariate testing as part of refining your conversion rate can help you identify value offerings which work best.

5. Incentives
Linked very closely to the value proposition above, include incentives in your messaging. This is the online version of sales promotion. Incentives can be anything from loyalty points to discounts offered for buying on web, buying quantity or buying within a specific time period.

This is an area which I’ll be coming back to later with more tips for increasing your conversion rate.

The Jam and Jerusalem

The combination of the impact of the net on the US Presidential race and a plethora of articles on 1968 and radicalism, you can’t help but wonder why the UK political establishment is 1) so reticent about embracing the net 2) forays into it are so staged and so disappointing.

Maybe it’s the two decades of focus groups and consensus that have moved everything into the beige and the bland. What a shame! Especially when we have all these 40 something yr olds in or around the halls of power, or what is now being known as The Jam Generation – you can’t help but feel disappointed that the energy of the late 70’s and early 80’s of their most formative years isn’t being directed online. Instead we’re getting spin from the conservatives (Cameron) about how they grew up with The Jam’s “Eton Rifles” and left inspired musos such as The Smiths and Billy Bragg.

John Harris (don’t you love John Harris) has a great article in The Guardian today – a musical parallel on why there’s such a disconnect between digital potential and UK politics.

“If we ain’t getting through to you, you obviously ain’t listening.” Town Called Malice, The Jam 1982.

Google and accessible digital marketing

Almost a year on, but Google can finally go ahead with the Doubleclick acquisition. You’ll remember that both Yahoo! and MSN argued that the purchase was anti competitive. Europe has ruled in favour of Google who has always maintained that display advertising DoubleClick was complimented but Google’s text ads.

On another note, Google has launched Google Ad Manager , a stripped back, easy to use ad server for publishers. From a digital marketing point of view, Google can only be applauded for their release of products which allow even the most neophytic online marketer access to tools that will help increase their effectiveness. In the last year or so Google Analytics with it’s joined up tracking, Ad Sense and AdWords interface changes, the expansion of webmaster tools, Google sites and docs has had a really positive affect on how site owners view digital marketing, making things less confusing, more transparent and reducing the barriers to marketing success for many smaller companies.

Digital Marketing in a Downturn

What happens if the credit crunch becomes the marketing budget crunch where wrestling with the CFO becomes a grim weekly reality? God forbid!

A lot has changed since the dark, fearful days of the last recession at the end of the 80’s, early 90’s. Back then it was the era of faxes and regurgitated Kotler and McLaren. But from adversity comes success. Recessions can be a breeding ground for marketing innovation in the face of tremendous financial challenges.

Online marketing wasn’t really around during the last recession, nor for that matter were most of Britain’s online marketers out of college (or indeed secondary school!).

Very probably the cost effective aspects of digital marketing would take a larger share of the overall marketing budget in a time of recession. Here’s a few aspects to ponder on.

Metrics – The good times and bigger picutre marketing go hand in hand, a down turn is a time of detail. If you’ve only been giving those stats a cursory look, it’s time to get into the detail. Mine it for the gold.

Competition – Keep a good weather eye on the competition through online tools and be opportunistic. Remember they’ll be feeling the pinch too.

Brand Equity Marketing – inevitably a target of the brown suits in accounting but a refocusing of brand spending to online and more granular activity of Social Media Optimisation will help.

Consumer Decision Making & search – test going against the usual agency SEM mantra of investing in generic keyowrd paid search. Refocus on terms which show a clearer intent on purchase e.g. “value egyptian cotton sheets” rather than “bedsheets online”. Measure the effect of this over a quarter in terms of both ROI and revenue.

Natural Search – it’s cost effective and sustainable if you spend some time getting it right. 90% of all site visits in UK have an element of search engine so make sure your infront of your potential customers when they are looking for you.

Online Inventory – harden up on your online media buying. Relook at the basics of time and geography, layer on context and investigate behaviour opportunities in large networks.  Negotiate!

Social Media Optimisation – can be very confusing for most marketers at the start. Invest in putting a strong strategy together and you’ll find that for ongoing minimal effort will reap strong returns.

Email – get into the detail and segment your database. If your email set up doesn’t give you the detail you want invest consider investing in software or move operations to an online emarketing provider. Focus on building loyalty and repeat sales with existing customers by creating incentives that match their behaviour/interests.