Friday, December 28, 2012

5 Ways to Market Your Business Online

Intended Reader Level : Basic

End of 2012 and we are about to go in 2013. Time to reflect on achievements & to plan online presence for your business. It is not too late (though late) for businesses to get online and start building on it.

Undoubtedly, online presence is going to be an integral part of any marketing efforts for all size companies.

Having said that, it is not always an easy thing to figure out how to do that or at least how to get started especially for businesses small traditional businesses.

Google recommends five ways for all businesses to get online and build it from there.
These are very simple & basic but very powerful inexpensive steps those any size business can take to get seriously online.

Google recommends following

5 Ways to Market Your Business Online

Organic Search
Promote your website through free organic search results.
Best if you’d rather put work into your website instead of buying additional advertising.
Selecting the right text, images, and other content for your website can get your business
noticed by search engines—and customers.

Online Advertising
Be found by potential customers when they’re searching for products or services like yours.
Best if you want to show up when customers are ready to shop.
Online advertising gives you more control over when and where your ads are displayed,
so your ads may appear when searchers are ready to buy.

Local Online Marketing
Reach customers in your region, city or community with local business listings.
Best if you want to drive online customers into your offline location.
Most of people use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, and
local listings get your business in front of thousands of potential customers — often free
of charge.

Social Media

Build a community of customers with social media marketing.
Best if you want to build relationships with your customers—and their friends
and family.
Social media lets you get closer to your customers—start conversations, offer them
exclusive deals, and ask them to recommend your business to their social circles.

Email Marketing
Promote offers and updates to existing customers through email marketing.
Best if you want existing customers to come back for more.
Share promotions, product and business news to re-engage existing customers and earn
repeat business.

Mix and match these five ways to promote your business online and start reaching more

How Get Started ?
In next posts we will look at each way in detail with some useful and practical tips.

See you next year.

You may also go to Learning center for very interesting short videos about Online Marketing

Do Comment what you think. Many Thanks and keep in touch. Tariq 050 6532954

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Who should make your Business WEBSITE

Overwhelming majority of business websites are ineffective (Depending on the market, it ranges between 95% to estimated 98%). The reports confirming these stats have been published over and again with different markets in reference.

I have first hand experience of many years about Dubai businesses and have noticed a similar situation here.

The importance of websites (good effective websites) will keep on increasing with every passing day, as website are and would continue to be the central to all online activities, thus essential.

Today, i will like to address a critical part of this difficult task, that is "How to choose who makes your business Website"

Different options
  1.DIY or In-house
  2.Hire a freelancer
  3.Hire a website company

I recommend hiring a company (not just a website designing company)

What kind of company?

Do not blindly hire a website designing company, which claims having made thousands (even if that is true) of websites. Choose a company which has expertise of Marketing (Online Marketing).

What basic questions to ask before hiring?

   Would our website be visible to search engines?
   Will it be mobile compatible?
   Will it have a tracking code on each page?
   Will you optimize each page for Speed?
   Will it be all browser compatible?
   Will it be ready for online marketing?
   Would each page be unique (in terms tags etc.)?
   Ask for an example of such site they have made.

  Ask for at least one reference from a client.

 Finally, Get it all in writing and proceed.

These are all know as onpage optimisation factors. These have to be right for the website before you invest further in off page optimisation or any other activity.

This would certainly cost you more than option 1 & option 2. However, it is worth the investment.
I guarantee you that eventuality this will  be more cost effective.
If you have any questions or clarifications, i will be happy to answer.

Do Comment what you think.
Many Thanks and keep in touch.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Digital or Die ! How about print?

Recently, I asked one Question of many of my customers in Dubai.

Q. You seem to be quite busy with orders, why do you want a website?

Case 1-Reply was
Well, one of my dream customers refused to register my company as a supplier because i don't have a website.

Case 2-Reply was
My son won't join my family business unless i have my business website.

Case 3-Reply was
These days every one has it...

Case 4- Reply was
I am loosing business to competition.......... and so on

So all businesses, small or big are realising the importance of getting their business online. However, not many are sure of how?

That was demand part of it. So there is a demand.
(I used website as example because website are central to all our digital decisions & we are still strugling with the idea)

How about supply?

Almost all agencies are offering Digital solutions. 
One such agency, in posh new dubai have a beautiful website home page done with images (only). yeah, there is text but as a part of the images. How good is that? they don't exist for search engines, at least.

There are, however, real good agencies as well.

So there is supply....Some great, some good, bad even ugly!!

How about traditional media's?

All are adding online media (most have already done that) to their portfolio.Some monetizing , some not.

Now here is my point. How much should they (traditional media guys) believe in the saying
                "Go Digital or Die"? 

We recently saw a major regional print media player going out of business because they believed in this statement more than it deserved. 

All businesses in general, as well as Media companies/agencies need to have a plan for this transition.
In this region (Middle East), we don't have much data to rely on (doesn't mean we rely on US statistics), so we need to be in touch with the ground realities and review the offerings.Take slow but firm steps in a definite direction called DIGITAL.

Test, Analyse, Learn, Apply, Listen, Analyse, Apply, Test, Repeat......

P.S.Assumptions are costly

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Is launching a Loyalty program a Strategic move or Marketing?

This is the common expression which occurs when I asked the marketing managers or the decision makers in this domain.

What is the difference?.... is the next question I face from them.
Most of the companies in Middle East initiate a loyalty program because either they are following the loyalty band wagon or their marketing department has to come with “New initiative”.

This ambiguity in understanding the difference clearly reflects in their approach, when they hire an advertising agency to develop a loyalty program and far worse when they approach loyalty software and hardware vendor.

You must me thinking these are those small companies next door which you see operating a couple of stores,  but the matter of fact they are not whom I intend to talk about .

I am specifically talking about some of the leading organizations, banks and groups who are not short of resources.

The result is obviously a delivery of another frustrating loyalty program which the brand and the customer was better without.

A list of these loyalty programs like these can be quite extensive in this region. However my objective here is not to name and shame but to highlight the root of the problem which is the lack of strategic approach to this marketing element.

Customer loyalty should be a strategic approach evolving right from the bottom of the vision and mission of your company. Retailer should question why they are offering this loyalty program. It should be a part of mid to long term strategy of the organization to gain competitive edge in the market. 

Only when a strategic approach is adopted, the whole program dynamics takes a new dimension.

A classic example is the recent report by Strategy Analytics Wireless Device Lab on iPhone Owner Loyalty Declines: Is Apple Losing its Innovation Edge? which found that only 75 percent of iPhone owners in Western Europe say they are likely to buy their next phone from Apple, down from 88 percent in 2011. US repeat purchase intentions have also seen a slight decline, down from 93 percent in 2011 to 88 percent in 2012.

What does this mean to you?
Loyalty cannot be earned just by great marketing 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is your loyalty program Functional, Emotional and SOCIAL?

All this time and resources you have been spending in running your loyalty program but still your program fails to deliver?. For most of the companies in Middle East this is quite a common scenario.

Your company does not require a higher budget or resources to get your loyalty program moving it just needs the - STITCH

There are three basic elements which determine the success and failure of your  loyalty program. It  is its functionality, its emotional appeal and its Social reach.

Sadly, many programs are still mainly reward schemes that do not have the functionality and, sometimes the internal support to develop real customer loyalty. Reviewing several platforms I discover that they actually can deliver greater functionality than the program offers.
Customers and employees increasingly need more and more flexibility and speed in CRM platforms.
Employees want software that's as fast and easy to use and customers wants the points/rewards credited to their account immediately without additional delay or actions on their part. Failure to achieve this results in loss of transaction, data and ultimately loyalty.  

There is an emotional connection between a brand and an individual. It's what we talk about when we speak of "brand advocacy". It's what marketers’ dream of. And it's a mammoth task to achieve in a business/human relationship. All of us can name a few examples of companies that elicit this level of loyalty (think about Apple, Nordstrom and USAA, for example) and each of us has specific merchants and service providers that we're emotionally connected to.
Emotional loyalty doesn't require rewarding transactions, although that might be a component of a company's overall loyalty plan. So how do you make your loyalty program emotional?
The answer lies in the way a brand communicates with its audience online, offline, directly or indirectly. Just by sending a happy birthday message to your customer is not emotional communication but delighting him with a gift (without requiring him to make any purchases) will make your communication emotional. Do not forget Loyalty is a Human behavior and needs to be instigated.

This is one of the important elements of your loyalty program.
Many programs are now rightfully targeting their audiences through social media but this trend still needs to be adopted by the loyalty programs in Middle East. Global trends in access to mobile technology has meant that the better programs and platforms now provide sophisticated back-end links for messaging and communication with smart phones and social media sites like face book and twitter. This not only attracts the existing customer but also helps them making them your advocates to their friends and family. By giving them an easy tool to tweet, post pictures, videos or comments or pins you just make their life easier. It also reduces your communication costs, and your effort to acquire a new customer.
However you have to give your customers a reason to sing your praises. This sounds like common sense but is certainly not common practice. Influencing incentives (other than purchasing your product) is the key to trigger to social advocacy.

Combining all sets of data from transactions to interactions across all mobile and digital channels is more holistic way to truly understand loyalty of your customer.

So if you are successful in stitching these three elements seamlessly of your loyalty program you are sure to have got your basics right and will achieve a better ROI.