Anna Smith's Posts (809)

  • More than an online store or informational resource, your website is often the first experience visitors have with your brand and products. The images your site contains directly affect the overall perception of the quality of your products and perceived trust in your brand. This is even more critical for high-end retailers and manufacturers who sell premium and luxury brands.

    Product photography — impacts brand perception

    • determines the perception potential existing customers have about your brand and will significantly influence purchase decisions
    • influences how long visitors will stay on your site, conversion, and repeat visits
    • must speak to your target market and their values to instill trust in your brand
    • can make your brand stand out from your competitors and help establish you as a leader in your industry

    Ultimately, high quality professional product and lifestyle photography that captures the right look and feel of your products will increase your customer loyalty, brand image, and sales. Do you have current imagery to build brand value? Is it the right message? Our clients tap into on our in house photography studio and digital design services. We welcome conversation, enjoy the creative process, and look forward to any challenge. 

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • What do your sales pipeline stages look like?

    How many do you have?

    Are they working, does your pipeline tell you what you need to know?

    If you’re like most sales organizations your pipeline stages are average. They do just enough for you to track sales, to manage opportunities and to provide a rough forecast. But, also like most sales organizations, when it comes to crunch time, when it comes to the end of the quarter, your pipeline fails you and you’ve missed  your number again. High or low, it doesn’t matter. If you miss your forecast substantially (high or low), you’re not doing your job as the sales leader and that’s because you don’t what’s happening inside your sales funnel.  A big culprit of this “blurry vision” — pipeline stages that are too big.

    When pipeline stages are too big, it’s hard to know what’s going on.

    When is a pipeline stage too big? When too many sales yes’s need to be achieved to get to the next stage, they’re too big. When too many sales actions and efforts are required or when the stages are wildly complex the stages are too big. When sales stages are too complex, when there is lots of activity, lots of moving parts, big sales stages become an abyss and it’s time to consider breaking them up. It’s almost impossible to accurately know what’s going on when a stage is too big and the result is an inaccurate forecast.

    Deals end up all over the place when a stage is too big!

    When a stage is too big you don’t have the visibility needed to know where the deal actually is. It’s hard to know if it’s close to moving to the next stage or if it’s still in the beginning. The key is to avoid big stages and break them down in to more manageable stages.

    A Good Pipeline Stage Size;

    Start with the complexity. If there is a certain complexity in a stage such as a demo, or a trial, consider making the demo or trial it’s own stage. This way you can separate the impact and data results from the trial from the effort required to get a commitment to the trial and from the review phase. The key is to make sure there aren’t too many complex sales efforts in a single stage.

    Also, consider length of time. If your sales cycle is a year long. Having a two sales stages that can take 5- 6 months each and two stages that can be done in a few weeks will cause you problems. Deals get stuck in a stage with little visibility and because the stages are naturally long, you don’t find out they are in trouble  until it’s too late.

    Activity can also play a role. Like anything, the more parts that are involved, the more points of failure. Consider building sales stages that don’t require too many activities. If there is too much going on in a stage, too many activities that have to be accomplished, one trip up can slow everything to a halt and you may have no idea what the problem is.

    Make sure stages align with the buyers journey, how your buyers’ buy. The best thing you can do is to break the sales cycle down so it aligns with the most important and impacting “YES’s” required from your buyers to get the sale. Each “yes” gets you closer and it’s more manageable. (this video breaks down the next “yes” concept.

    Let me be clear. I’m not a fan of big, 10 stage pipelines. I personally prefer no more than 6, unless there is a compelling, justifiable reason. But, at the same time, a pipeline with only a few stages that allows deals to become lost or wallow for months, does you or your sales people no good.

    Take a look at your current pipeline stages. Are they fluid. Do you find some take longer to move out of than others. Do you know your average “time in stage” data? Is it skewed to one or two stages?  It shouldn’t be. It doesn’t have to be equal, but if one or two of your stages is taking up the majority of the selling time, you have a stage problem and it’s affecting forecasting.

    To improve forecasting, you need to know the flow-through rate of your opportunities from stage to stage. If one or two stages takes a long time to leave, rest assured you’re losing deals and slowing down the process.

    Article Source

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  • Steer Your Online Business to Profitability

    A time-tested marketing adage is that gaining new customers is way more expensive than retaining old ones. With ecommerce, more conversions of site visitors into paying ones means better customer retention.

    Using data and understanding customers’ requirements acquired during the lead-generation and lead-nurturing phases play an important role in nudging, informing, exciting and enticing one-time shoppers to purchase again. The result is that your business’ bottom line gets a dual boost -- from the added sales and the savings in marketing costs.

    Here are five simple steps to take for your online business to improve its conversion rate and reap the accompanying benefits:

    1. Align the landing page's objectives with your marketing ones. This is derived from your business objectives. Clarity on this matter will lead you to design a web page that fulfills one primary objective: brand engagement, email gathering, sales generation or lead generation. Craft copy that captures a reader’s attention, piques his or her interest, fuels desire and encourages action. Remember, it begins with focus.

    2. Earn your visitors’ trust. The smartest copy and the most attractive web design can come to naught if you cannot evoke the trust of your visitors. Your free offer or download should be a valuable one. Avoid hype and fluff that aims to force visitors to take action needlessly; don't tout buy-now or limited-time offers when they aren’t really anything of the sort. Endorsers should be verifiable as should be any numerical figures used to bolster your claims. It's about relating to your customers, building their trust and an online community; as a consequence, visitors to the site will want to do business with you.

    3. Get consumers hooked from the beginning. Your heading or title has to inspire visitors to read on so they can understand your value proposition and take further action. The only way to find what really works is through consistent A/B testing. The testing should extend to all elements of a landing page, including the placement of the lead-capture form, the images or videos and the call to action. 

    4. Optimize your lead capture form. Research has established an inverse correlation between number of fields in a form and the sales conversion rate. Forms with fewer fields generate higher conversions. And that makes sense, in this age of identity theft and ceaseless spamming; people are cautious about sharing information.

    An email address and a name should suffice in most cases. You can start a communication with these two pieces of information and gather more as the relationship matures. An optimized lead form with fewer fields is also critical to a positive user experience and making your website mobile-friendly.

    5. Recognize that distractions hinder conversions. Visual overload can draw visitors’ attention from your message. Don't ask them to process more information than absolutely necessary as that increases the chances of their abandoning a page midway. The landing-page design should strive for a balance between text, images, video and white space. Don't try too hard to impress; simplicity is best.

     

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Make Your Own eCommerce Strategy

    Hiring the right people can make or break an ecommerce business. After all, ecommerce is a service business. Yet before you hire people, you must know what you want from your business and from your people.

    In this article, we examine how to craft a simple ecommerce strategy and how to recruit the right team to implement it.

    What is your ecommerce strategy? Is it to become the industry leader in women’s handbags? Premier designer of linen handkerchiefs? The coolest watch producer on the planet? Your values, company culture and vision shape and build your online reputation. So you must define what you stand for before you hire a single person. Everyone on the team will work toward that goal.

    Take a moment to jot down the following, replacing X with your goal:

    • We stand for X, and our people will help us make it happen.

    That statement should be somewhere on your site, in the About Us section, for example, so that it will be noted repeatedly via search engines. If you don’t stand for something specific, your message will be confused, and so will your employees and customers.

    Once you have defined what you stand for, drill down further:

    1. What will your pricing be in comparison to competing brands: premium, middle of the road or the lowest possible?
    2. How important is the service that you provide to customers?
    3. On a scale of 1–10, is product quality top end or the lower end for your customers?
    4. What extra value do you deliver to customers? For example, do you offer informative articles, a comprehensive analysis of product specifications or a free newsletter of tips to use your product in unimaginable ways?
    5. What is the one thing you want your customers to experience after they buy your product, such as making a fashion statement or being part of a community of like-minded buyers? Your customers should feel good about your brand and come back to buy more.

    Merchants must be more strategic, thinking clearly about their approach before opening their ecommerce store.  Walmart, for example, claims its ecommerce site is “the tie that binds the company together.”[i] If your store is already running successfully, revisit what you stand for and the above points.

    Click to Tweet Crafting an ecommerce strategy before you hire key people is the secret ingredient to ecommerce success.

    Recruit the Right People for Your Ecommerce Store

    You’ve got your ecommerce strategy humming along nicely — now you need to hire people to put it into practice.

    Start with listing your top three hiring priorities for the year. For example, according to Internet Retailer, 34.5% of surveyed retailers listed marketing jobs, 25.3% listed IT positions, 18.4% listed research/analytics and another 18.4% listed web design positions.[ii]

    Write down what you think is required to keep your ecommerce site up to date and marketed globally, customers happy and business flowing. Run it by anyone who has a stake in the enterprise. This is a team effort; you should never run the company in functional silos.

    Your list might look like this:

    1. Technology expert, who knows how to add the bells and whistles needed to sell product, measure results (analytics) and get paid
    2. Web designer, who can turn your vision into a well-designed ecommerce platform
    3. Strategy manager, who is responsible for strategic direction, planning and implementation
    4. Finance manager, to create income-balance sheets and profit-loss statements and determine working capital needs
    5. Marketing manager, who understands the reliance of technology on ecommerce and how to market the company and its products
    6. Customer service manager, who can service customer inquiries
    7. User experience manager, who can field customer inquiries regarding the sales order process
    8. Social media manager, who can promote the brand and field customer messaging
    9. Supply chain manager, who can make sure product is readily available, of good quality and at the agreed-upon price
    10. Web globalization manager, who can make sure the site is targeting the right audience in the right language, design and payment method
    11. Policy manager, who can ensure everyone complies with the company’s policies concerning legal, corporate, social media, returns and so forth

    Click to Tweet Steps to craft an e-commerce strategy and recruit the right team to implement it.

    Once you know your needs, it’s a matter of finding the right people to fill the open spots. Leverage your network, apply word of mouth and gather referrals from your constituency base. Broadcast your needs through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

    Who do you look for? People who can get the job done, blend in with the company’s culture (getting back to what you stand for) and bring great experience and value to the table. Seek the A-players. Hire individuals who:

    • Exceed your expectations
    • Are trustworthy
    • Are culturally intelligent
    • Know how to communicate written and orally, internally and externally
    • Are enthusiastic about your type of business
    • Are adaptable
    • Can serve as brand ambassadors
    • Are detail oriented
    • Are able to speak intelligently across all disciplines, from technology to marketing to supply chain management

    And it can’t hurt to have a few people on board who speak another language — Spanish or French, for example, especially if a high concentration of your ecommerce customers speak that language.

    Use this article as a guide. Once you’ve got the strategy down and people in place, present a unified front and be consistent across all customer touch points. You’ll be well on your way to creating a rich online shopping experience.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Don’t Confuse Risk With Unpredictability

    A client of mine was telling me the other day about the misconception people have of entrepreneurs. He said that people see entrepreneurs as being OK with risk. But, they’re wrong he said. He said being an entrepreneur isn't being OK with risk, it’s being OK with unpredictability.

    My client nailed it.

    I see sales the same way.

    Putting 50%, 60%, 75%, or even 100% of your income on the line in commission isn't risky. It’s unpredictable and it’s not for everyone.

    People with amazing sense of self, confidence in their ability and drive are comfortable with unpredictability. They trust and have confidence they will deliver and can manage the unpredictable nature of starting a business or selling for a company.

    Most people aren't in sales people or aren't entrepreneurs because they don’t like risk, it’s because they can’t handle unpredictability and that’s entirely different.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Ecommerce Industry is Getting More Social

    A new year doesn’t mark an inflection point in the course of business, but it does prompt one to think about the journey ahead. In that spirit, let’s see what 2014 has in store for global ecommerce. On the one hand, some of the trends I foresee are earlier trends gathering force. On the other hand, there are new winds blowing our way, and if these winds sustain, they could lead to a new tide in the ocean that is ecommerce.

    We’ll See a Spurt in Cross-Border Ecommerce
    So far, a lot of the cross-border ecommerce action has focused on the four BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Together, these four account for 40% of the world’s population and 20% of its GDP. After one has serviced the single largest economy — the US — these four countries naturally show up on the ecommerce radar.

    Setting up shop in a foreign locale may present serious challenges, but selling cross border is a relatively simpler proposition. I foresee a significant increase in cross-border ecommerce in 2014, and more countries will come into the radar of mid- to large-sized ecommerce players.

    If you have not yet taken cross-border ecommerce seriously, this is a good year to start investing some resources in exploring the potential of selling abroad.

    Logistics Will Shine
    One of the enablers of cross-border ecommerce will be reliable logistics services. More specifically, I see ecommerce logistics demonstrating:

    • Shorter Delivery Periods: Some expect logistics to reach a point where those much-hyped Amazon drones buzz around the cityscape, delivering goods instantly. That piece of science fiction apart, delivery periods are indeed getting shorter — be it next-day delivery in major cities or faster deliveries across borders.
    • Lower Shipping Costs: With the growth in ecommerce volumes, many logistics players have achieved critical mass on an increasing number of routes. As a result, we will see more affordable shipping costs in 2014 — especially when one factors in inflation of input costs for logistics providers.
    • Not Just Delivery: Logistics has never really been only about delivering the product. There is planning, analytics, documentation, compliance, disclosure, taxation, and a whole lot more. In 2014, logistics players will provide even more value-added services specific to ecommerce.

    If effective logistics is not your strength, then you need to make it one.

    Ecommerce Will Get More Social
    This trend manifested itself quite strongly in 2013. In 2014, I see an accelerated social influence on ecommerce. This will take many forms — from greater integration of online purchases with social platforms, to a higher correlation between your purchases and those by others in your network.

    As an ecommerce player, you cannot be seen as barely keeping up with expectations — such as only allowing Facebook logins and displaying the “Like” button on your website. Far greater social integration is expected.

    Advanced Analytics Will Become Accessible
    Data analytics is not a new field. All ecommerce websites have some form of analytics installed. But while extensive data mining and advanced analytics were the previously the privilege of the biggest ecommerce players, I predict that 2014 will witness a clear trend of advanced analytics becoming accessible to small and mid-sized businesses.

    Ecommerce players that harness the benefits of data analytics can develop a strong competitive edge.

    The Ecommerce Industry Will Consolidate Further
    I like to characterize the better part of the past five years as a phase in which ecommerce businesses bloated on investor’s money, and common sense economics took a back seat. 2013 demonstrated some correction to that insanity, and the ecommerce industry saw some consolidation. I see more consolidation in 2014.

    If you are not specifically facing a liquidity crisis, look around for outstanding acquisition opportunities.

    It Will Be About Multiple Devices and Multiple Channels
    In the past 18 months, mobile ecommerce has seen a nice spurt, with the greatest growth coming from tablet devices. But this observation does not interest most ecommerce marketers, as they have categorized it as a foregone conclusion. As a result, it has now become silly to advise ecommerce businesses to ensure that their websites are responsive — because that is obvious. What is not obvious is that classic physical retailers seem to have accepted ecommerce and showrooming (the practice of checking products at a physical store, while buying them online) as realities, and are now willing to explore multiple sales channels, with ecommerce being a big part of the plan.

    In 2014, no ecommerce player will be forgiven for ignoring mobile devices. At the same time, don’t think of the multi-channel approach as a strategy in itself. The real strategy is customer service. And since the customer buys through multiple channels, you need to be present in most.

    Startups Will Continue to Mushroom; Most Will Perish
    Setting up an ecommerce business for the domestic market was always easy; there are actually online guides that claim to help you set one up in 5 minutes. 2014 will continue the trend of more ecommerce startups opening shop and joining the gold rush. Sadly, I do not see most of them being able to deal effectively with the skyrocketing costs of customer acquisition.

    Setting up an ecommerce website is nothing. Setting up a business that executes its mission — while sustaining economic principles — is the challenge.

    Final Words
    All in all, 2014 looks like a promising year for ecommerce. In fact, ecommerce promises to be an oasis in an otherwise lackluster business landscape.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Elements within your ecommerce site can be skillfully used as conversion points. This means judiciously thinking about every image, hyperlink, and line of text. Every detail on your site ultimately influences whether your visitors will purchase, or look elsewhere.

    The following factors will largely determine your conversion rate, which is among most important metrics for a successful ecommerce site.

    1. It’s all about the shopper. All copy, navigation, ads, etc. should be customer-centric to create a positive shopping experience throughout your site. Also, make sure your online voice speaks to your visitors in a way that resonates with them.

    2. Shoppers are visual. Successful online retailers think about every visual aspect from their site design including text layout, formatting, and imagery, to convert visitors into buyers. Always consider your brand, present a crisp and professional visual experience to create a comfortable buying environment, encouraging your visitor to purchase.

    3. Clear Messaging. You want everything about your site, including your content, navigation structure, offers, product details, and policies to be crystal clear. The click ‘Add to Cart’ should be clearly visible with graphics visually appealing for effectively increase conversion.

    4. Shoppers often like what they see first. On traditional retail showroom floors, savvy retailers place their bestsellers front and center as you walk into their stores, since  customers are usually attracted to what they see first. This being the case, your best sellers should always be listed as first choices and featured products.

    5. Shoppers  like things they can touch. Putting your product in the hands of your customer to touch and feel is among the oldest retail selling techniques – and it works. Of course your site visitors cannot physically touch what you offer on your site. However, through well written, compelling product descriptions zoom, alternate images, and video, you can effectively stimulate the buying process, giving visitors better visualized ownership of your products.

    6. Clear and frequent calls to action. Make sure ads, offers, and product detail pages, all have strong calls to action. Provide visitors with reminders about the action you want them to take along the conversion path. As with traditional brick and mortar retail, you have to ask for the order – selling online is no different.

    7. Urgency converts into sales. When running promotions you should always have a clear end date. As a rule, the sooner the offer expiration date, the higher the conversion rate. Think in terms of two-day sales and flash sales for a limited number of hours. There’s no urgency to buy unless you create it.

    Apply these seven factors to your ecommerce site to help increase the number of visitors that click the ‘Add to Cart’ button. It doesn’t matter how much targeted traffic you drive to your site, unless they’ve had a great experience, easily found what they want, and can quickly purchase. What are you doing to influence your visitors to purchase from you?

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • An old man sits in a Spanish cafe. It’s late and warm, and he drinks brandy by the light of the cafe’s gas lights. While sitting within that light, the old man feels content, safe, and happy.
     
    Ernest Hemingway wrote this short story in 1933, called A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and it has been my favorite story since reading it as an undergraduate more than 20 years ago. I have always strongly identified with the idea of finding one’s own “clean well-lighted place” — a place that is a productive and an inspiring place for one to do one’s work (or live one’s life). In positive psychology terms as being in “flow” in his book Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.
     
    But this is a blog post about customer experience. How is my love of a Hemingway short story and the concept of “flow” relevant? It occurs to me that the most successful CX programs I have witnessed unconsciously include these two ideas. Using the title of Hemingway’s story as a guiding metaphor, I think it nicely summarizes some of the best practices customer-centric companies imbue into their work.
     
    Customer experience programs should have the following characteristics.
     
    They should be clean:
    • They rely on human processes that are documented and clear.
    • Their processes, goals, and vision are transparent.
    • Programs are disciplined and well run.
    • Messy problems are not left to get worse — they are dealt with, resolved, and measured.
    They should be well lighted:
    • Customer understanding is collected in a disciplined way.
    • Information is available and flows freely.
    • All aspects of the situation are illuminated — there are no dark corners where issues affecting customers lurk unaddressed.
    • People know what’s happening and can see what’s going on at all times.
    They should have place:
    • There is a place or virtual place where people come together to make decisions and plans about how they will continue to improve their ability to meet their customers needs (in an upcoming article, I cite the example of Commonwealth Bank in Australia and how its customer experience efforts were dramatically advanced by purposefully colocating with the technology teams).
    • This place is a true community that includes people from all areas of the business — not just customer experience professionals.
    • The place is also about time: Regular governance sessions and cross-discipline groups have to make the time to meet regularly, and ideally in person (some truly customer-centric companies build physical areas within their offices to house highly visible customer insights like live customer metrics or customer journey maps).
    While I have just covered a few aspects of good CX practices, my main point is that good CX extends from good human connections and processes.
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  • Consumers are funny about mobile. On one hand, they spend more time on their smartphones and tablets now than ever. On the other hand, they still have reservations about making purchases from those devices.

    The  third annual UPS report on consumer shopping behaviour, released this week, found that while more than half of consumers prefer online shopping, they aren't won over by the mobile shopping experience just yet.

    If you're building a mobile shopping app, take note: Almost half of the consumers surveyed said they will forego making a purchase on their mobile device and use a PC instead because the product image isn't large or clear enough.

    About a third of the respondents said product information isn't large enough on mobile shopping apps and 3 in 10 said comparing products was frustrating on a mobile device. Respondents were allowed to select more than one reason.

    Consumers also reported being worried about the safety of giving out their credit-card information out through a mobile device. And about a quarter of respondents said that checking out through mobile is too annoying.

    For the complete survey results on why eCommerce shoppers are still resistant to the m-commerce experience, check out the graph below.

    Why Online Shoppers Still Don't Use Their Phones to Buy ThingsArticle Source

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  • It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

    —Steve Jobs

    One of the most famous opinions from a highly opinionated man. Regardless of your personal view on this statement, it is remembered because of the implications that Jobs makes about customer feedback.

    Forbes called the quote ”a dangerous lesson.“ Even as someone who has presented ample research that customers can and do inspire innovation across multiple industries, I’m here to tell you that you should mostly agree with Steve Jobs’ sentiments, at least in terms of developing innovative solutions for customers.

    Let's look at a few split opinions on the quote, and compare the merits of focusing on internal innovation versus the insights to be gained from customer feedback.

    The Benefits of Sheltered Innovation

    Can the focus on the internal creativity of product teams really have a place in the business world? Should customers be ignored?

    According to Mario D’Amico, senior VP of marketing at Cirque du Soleil, the answer is, well, kind of, but not entirely.

    In a 2012 theoretical case study published in the Harvard Business Review, D’Amico was asked what he would do about implementing customer surveys and feedback if he were in charge of a world-class dance troupe.

    The scenario posed to D’Amico was this: a new marketing executive for the dance troupe wants to implement surveys in order to find out what customers want to see in upcoming shows. She rationalizes that knowing this will help the company grow.

    The theoretical company founder instead argues:

    Why do we want to ask what our audience thinks?
    We don’t care what they think.

    How can people tell you what they want if they haven’t seen it before?
     If we ask them what they want, we’ll end up doing Swan Lake every year!

    D’Amico is then asked: does customer feedback take a backseat when innovation is the primary objective?

    Working for a company that thrives on creativity (read more about Cirque du Soleil), he offers a surprisingly balanced take on the issue.

    First, he empathizes with the creatives as well as the founder of the company, who claim that the company’s core mission (and the reason for their success) is founded on doing what no customer expects them to do:

    Any innovative company struggles with how much to listen to customers. Most realize that you cannot trust them to tell you what your next new product will be.

    D’Amico argues in industries where companies thrive on innovation, asking customers what they "want" does not improve a company's competitive positioning.

    Apple’s competitive edge is perhaps that they have been able to avoid the sameness trap. When relying on consumer input, is it not inevitable that they will tell you to do what other popular companies are doing?

    How can you get ahead of the curve if your customer feedback only consists of today’s ideas?

    A tough question to fully answer. Let's first look at whether customer feedback is a valuable resource at all.

    Do Customers Know What They Want?

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

    —Henry Ford

    (Note: readers have mentioned that we've yet to find a reliable source for this quote. It is therefore very possible that Ford never said this. I'll keep it here only because it argues this point: that while customers can pinpoint problems, they don't usually envision the best solutions)

    With the problems in predicting future customer intentions, and the potential lack of clarity in feedback, one has to wonder if there is any point to listening to customers.

    D’Amico would argue yes, and I would absolutely agree:

    If the directors are smart, they’ll approve the idea of surveying customers. We use data to brief the members of our creative team, to help them understand who’s applauding when the curtain goes down. 

    We don’t tell them to use a red dress or a blue dress or [what to do] in a certain scene, but we do educate them. Then we get out of their way so that they can create.

    His statements are right on the money and, in my opinion, can be applied to multiple industries in regards to approaching feedback.

    The takeaway: Customer feedback can often guide entrepreneurs, product developers, designers and marketers towards problems, but feedback should not be used to dictate the solution.

    Customer feedback is great for telling you what you did wrong. It's terrible at telling you what you should do next.

    —Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote

    The Real Utility of Feedback

    When Ron Johnson, former VP of retail operations at Apple, became the CEO at J.C. Penny, a lot of controversy ensued with, arguably, much of it relating to knowing one's customer base.

    After Johnson came on board and reformed operations at J.C. Penny, company sales dropped by double-digit percentages and stock plummeted by over 40 percent.

    One of the most ambitious parts of Johnson’s overhaul, the elimination of discounts, was questioned by colleagues who wanted to consult with customers (and gather feedback) about the new changes before implementing them.

    Supposedly, when asked why he bristled at this suggestion, Johnson responded:

    We didn't test at Apple.

    Did Johnson ignore conventional industry wisdom and move too abruptly to impose practices inspired by his time at Apple? One lesson certainly learned is that J.C. Penny is a different beast when compared to Apple's innovation.

    However, this situation doesn't have to be an either/or. Why not find a happy middle ground in regards to using feedback; one that promotes using customer's behavior to simply pinpoint problems.

    We’ve seen how D’Amico at Cirque du Soleil, another highly creative company, has stated that understanding your customers’ wants and pains is a pivotal part of building a better product — and that it doesn’t have to restrict your innovation.

    If Jobs’ situation at Apple was supposedly unique, how can other highly innovative companies implement smarter ways to find out what their customers want without sacrificing their ability to innovate? How can they fight the “sameness trap” while getting a better handle on what customers really need?

    Some would argue that the answer is quite simple: Find out what customers want without directly asking them. Well, simple to say, but much harder to do.

    With the dance troupe example, it is obvious that asking customers exactly what they want to see in a show will result in generic answers, and end up stifling creativity.

    So, don’t ask that! Far more important avenues of questioning to create an innovative dance performance might be:

    • What sort of things move customers emotionally?
    • Which shows did they have trouble understanding?
    • What visual elements left a lasting impact?

    Add in demographic information, and you’re well on your way to understanding customer expectations and insights — all without resorting to telling your team of creatives to “go with the red dress instead of the blue one,” just because customers said so.

    I would argue that all businesses should view feedback in this way. Feedback doesn't have to control your product's road map, and you can incorporate feedback into your creative process without doing “Swan Lake every year."

    Observe, don't just listen and blindly follow feedback.

    Perhaps this is the truth behind Apple's innovation — Steve Jobs did actually listen to customers, but only to find out which problems they faced, and to identify the biggest points of friction they had. He did not listen to customers' proposed solutions because his belief was that the best, most innovative solution had to come from the company.

    Customers might help identify the destination, but you can't listen to them on how to get there.

    Put another way, it isn't the customer's job to tell you how to solve their problem; feedback is most useful in identifying which problems actually exist.

    With these types of goals in mind, companies can gather valuable feedback from their customers that need not interfere with their creative process, or dictate how they should approach developing the best solution.

    But that's just my opinion... what do you think?

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • The Changing eCommerce Trends

    Trailblazers in the industry came together to touch on everything ecommerce at this year’s Internet Retailer
    Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) June 10-13 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 10,000 people attended the world’s largest ecommerce event, and Pitney Bowes had the chance to speak with many attendees as they streamed through our newly-designed booth. We talked about everything from growth in international markets, to the increasing importance of customer personalization.

    Want to hear more about the latest industry buzz from the show? Read on for a recap:

    International markets
    The topic on everyone’s mind is an increase in brands looking to enter new international markets. Emerging Asia-Pacific markets like China, India and Indonesia, are all looking for traction in the U.S. They see North America as a market that shows additional potential for growth, along with Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.

    In expanding globally, small businesses and business formerly stuck in niche markets are improving their competitive capabilities. The Alibaba Group, a company that already has a major presence  in  the Chinese ecommerce market, is one of them, announcing the beta launch of its first online storefront in the U.S., 11main.com.

    Customer experience still paramount
    It was clear at IRCE that the customer experience should remain to be the focus for all retailers. In the keynote address at IRCE, attendees heard about the emergence of new customer engagement opportunities for retailers. The key will be for retailers to learn how to leverage customer data to help personalize communication with consumers. Doing so will help businesses earn customer loyalty and, in turn, a competitive advantage. For retailers like newbie Alex and Ani, data-driven personalization boosted sales by an impressive 3,569%. Personalization is going to be one of the most important sources of competitive advantage over the next few years.

    Multi-channel ecommerce
    Modern communication channels, like mobile apps and tablets, continue to emerge as opportunities businesses to shine in the ecommerce space. Consumers might check an offer on a smartphone during a work meeting, browse retail shops on a computer or tablet computer while watching TV, or stop by a store to see an item in person. In 2014 alone, consumers made $204 billion in purchase on their smartphone or tablet with a projection of $626 billion by 2018.

    In particular, video is a crucial ecommerce opportunity for retailers. More than 188 million people in the U.S. watched 46.6 billion online content videos in March 2014 alone. What’s more, the influence of video on consumers’ purchasing decisions is actually 18% higher on mobile applications, than on the Web. Retailers need to be everywhere at once, to fully engage and capture consumers’ attention on all channels.

    The only constant in ecommerce is change
    The retail environment is always evolving. Retailers constantly need to tackle new technologies, channels and opportunities for growth to stay ahead, and Pitney Bowes has the latest ecommerce solutions to help these businesses succeed.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • If you’re like most owners of e-commerce companies, just thinking about writing your “About Us” page is enough to make your head spin, your knees buckle and cause you to take to your bed for a week - or even two - with a cold compress.

    OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but crafting a powerful pitch and a compelling story ain’t easy.

    That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that you only have one chance to make a great first impression - one chance to build a relationship with your customer and gain his or her trust.

    The About Us page of your online store is extremely important and if you use it right, it will help you increase sales. E-commerce shoppers want to know more about who they’re buying from and the only place they’re really going to get that information is on just one web page - your About Us page.

    The bottom line: People want to buy from companies they trust - companies that tell their honest stories and show why they stand head and shoulders above the competition.

    These 10 tips will help you craft a sizzling e-commerce About Us page so you can stay ahead of the pack.

    1. It’s Your story, So Tell It - Honestly

    Your customers want to know what your e-commerce company is all “about,” so your About Us page should tell them what you do and why. Give consumers the information about your company in a compelling, yet honest way. Make them laugh . . . or cry. Let your customers know where you’ve been, where you are and how you got there. What problems did you face? How did you overcome them?

    Don’t forget to explain to consumers how your e-commerce company solves their problems. Keep in mind that it’s not important to detail your top company values or your mission - but you can talk about your goals using easily digestible language. Tell customers about the products you currently sell and your plans for the future of those and other products. Remember, just be real. If consumers believe in your story, then they’ll become your customers. They’ll buy your products, listen when you have something to tell them, and recommend your e-commerce company to their family and friends.

    2. Find Your Voice - And Use It Consistently

    Finding your tone of voice really has nothing to do with what you have to say, but rather how you say it. It’s the words - 50-cent words or $5-words, your choice - and how to you construct your sentences. Your voice and the words you choose offer your potential clients a window into your personality. The copy for your About Us page should be clear, consistent, distinct and, of course, relevant to the people you want to convert into paying customers. But that voice has to be consistent with the voice you use on the rest of your website; when you write emails; and craft press releases, white papers and other content.

    3. Plug Your People

    Customers want to know the names and faces - so include their photos - behind the companies whose products they buy. Who’s on the team? What do they do? What are their backgrounds? What are their qualifications? Do they belong to professional organizations? Have specific product-related certifications? These things let consumers know that they can trust the people behind your product.

    To keep those bios interesting for your potential buyers, you can also offer some offbeat details about your team. For example, is your marketing manager a champion ballroom dancer? Is your CIO a whiz at solving the Rubik’s Cube?

    4. What Your Fans Are Saying

    In the B2B world, customer testimonials can be very effective additions to your About Us page to help you build rapport with potential clients. Certainly, for SEO purposes, it makes sense to have a separate page dedicated to the good words your favorite customers have to say about your company. However, it’s still a good idea for your potential customers to see your B2B e-commerce in a positive light when they’re reading your story. So let them hear from one or two of your best clients - it could help turn them from potential customers in paying customers. You can also put links to any awards your company has received.

    5. Illustrations, Photos, Videos - Oh My!

    Instead of just crafting an About Us page that’s purely text, jazz it up a bit. Try adding illustrations, videos about your product (s)- video is even a great way to feature a customer testimonial - and photos. Pull out a quote from your customer and feature it prominently on the page. Be sure to integrate these elements in a way that makes sense and enhances your story. Don’t just throw up some pictures for the sake of adding photos.

    6. Keep in Touch

    Always include a way - or two or three - for your customers to get in touch with the right people in your company. Include names; email addresses; department information; as well as office and mobile phone numbers so buyers can call rather than send emails if they need fast answers.

    7. Follow the Social Media Icon Buttons

    By including social media icon buttons for sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn on your About Us page you can enable users to help promote your business on social networks and generate some buzz. Customers expect to see this information on the page that talks about your company. So, even if you include these buttons on other pages, you should add them to your About Us page, as well.

    8. Don’t Play Hide ’N Seek

    Make your About Us page easy to find for people. They shouldn’t have to search high and low for it. Of course, you have to balance the need to make sales with your company information. So design your homepage to feature your current promotions, and links to your products and services, but be sure to add a simple link to the About Us section. It could be at the top of the page - right or left, in a left-hand navigation column or even at the bottom of the home page. Just remember not to hide it.

    9. One Size Does Not Fit All

    There is no template or sample About Us page. Why? Because no two companies are alike. So stay off the search engines. Even if there was a template, why would you want to craft an About Us page that’s the same as the About Us pages of a million other e-commerce companies - boring. Your About Us page should reflect the personality of your company.

    10. Update, Update, Update

    One of the worst things that can happen is for your potential customers to get information that’s outdated or no longer accurate. The info on your About Us page should also match up with your messaging and your products. Take some time every couple months to check that the details on your About Us page are still applicable and correct.

    Finally, if you follow these 10 tips and take a page (pun intended) from these peachy-keen About Us pages, you’ll be showing the world the awesomeness of your e-commerce company in no time.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • I have always maintained that the real tragedy is not being unable to attract qualified traffic to your ecommerce website. Instead, it is getting traffic but not being able to convert it to sales. And a high shopping cart abandonment rate is the gravest of those tragedies.

    Every ecommerce business owner knows what shopping cart abandonment is. But to set the context, let me define it as the act of a customer discontinuing the purchase process after adding goods to the shopping cart.

    The reason this is so tragic is that you, the ecommerce business owner, managed to get the customer to do everything: visit your website, navigate it, locate the right products, and add them to the cart. But at the last stage when the customer was to checkout, they chose to abandon you. If that is not a tragedy of epic proportions, I don’t know what is!

    Simple Fixes That Can Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment
    Here are some ideas that are easy to implement, yet can positively impact shopping cart conversions. Figure out which ones are relevant to you, and implement them right away:

    1. Allow Customers to Purchase Without Registering
    There are many benefits of having customers go through the complete registration process, but that is from your point of view. If the customer is not sure that they will buy repeatedly from you, or if they do not care about the benefits of registration, then they might abandon your shopping cart if you force them to register before checkout. Allow customers to purchase as a guest, without going through the complete registration process.

    2. At Checkout, Don’t Shock Customers With Levies, Taxes, Shipping, and Other Costs
    If a customer encounters unexpected costs at the checkout stage, they are not only more likely to abandon the shopping cart, but they may also develop a dislike for you. I remember the time when third-party sellers listed several books on the Amazon.com marketplace at a selling price of $0.01. The catch was that there would be exorbitant shipping costs added later. So, while browsing by price, the buyer would choose the 1-cent book, but abandon the shopping cart upon discovering that there was a $50 shipping cost!

    Of course, there are legitimate costs that you may need to add. But find a way to do so transparently, without making the customer feel that you were being sneaky about it.

    3. Be Sensitive to International Customers
    One of the greatest opportunities in ecommerce is to sell cross-border. To this end, the least you can do is to avoid alienating international customers. Here are some of the common irritants cross-border customers face at checkout:

    • While entering one’s address, there is a dropdown for “State,” but all the states listed are U.S. states!
    • The price is mentioned in a currency that is foreign to the buyer, with no indication of what the customers would end up paying in their own currency.
    • None of the shipping options seem to be relevant to the foreign buyer.
    • And worst of all: there is no indication whether the online retailer sells offshore at all!

    Put yourself into the shoes of customers from across the globe when you are designing the checkout process. Even if you do not actively target international customers, chances are that 5-10% of your sales originates abroad. Imagine how much this number could scale up if you made it easier for international customers to buy.

    4. Offer Many Options to Close the Sale and Nothing Else
    At checkout, present customers with as many options as possible to assist them with checkout. But all of these options should only be related to closing the sale, such as:

    • Shipping options
    • Payment options
    • Delivery date options
    • Gift-wrapping options

    Other than that, do not distract the customer with anything. Though the usual web design mantra is to have a uniform website template, it is best to remove most of the navigation at the checkout stage except for action buttons that guide the customer to pay up rapidly.

    5. Make the Call to Action Button Easily Accessible
    Buttons such as “Proceed to Checkout” or “Pay Now,” should be easily visible at all points of time on your website. It is unforgivable to make the customer search for these buttons. A fixed button on the top-right of the screen usually works.

    6. Make Them Feel Secure When You Ask Them to Part With Their Money
    First time buyers who are not too familiar with your brand might hesitate to enter their payment details into your website. In some cases, this reluctance could cause them to close the browser window, thereby abandoning the shopping cart. Here are some steps that will lower the level of hesitation:

    • Make sure that everything about your website feels professional, including the language, layout, and icons. A professional looking website is more likely to be perceived as “legit.”
    • Prominently display badges and other symbols of security related to the payment process.
    • Mention warranty, returns policy, money back guarantee, privacy policy, and other terms that could instill confidence.

    7. Don’t Close the Transaction When the Browser Window Closes
    Despite your best effort, a significant proportion of customers will abandon the shopping cart. To the astute seller, this should not mark the end of a potential transaction. You can resuscitate an abandoned cart in many ways. Here are some of them:

    • If you have captured the email address of the customer, you can email the shopping cart to them, with a message such as “the following items in your shopping cart are ready to be delivered as soon as you checkout.”
    • If your cost structure permits, you could have a customer service executive call up customers who abandon their shopping carts, offering them assistance with completing the purchase. I know of an ecommerce player in the health niche who uses this method with spectacular results.
    • Using the retargeting (or remarketing) advertising technique, you can ensure that when customers visit third-party websites, they see your ads with the specific products in their shopping cart. This would serve as a reminder to customers and increase the likelihood that they will return to your website to complete the transaction.
    • Just because the customer abandons the shopping cart does not mean that you should abandon the customer. Retain the customer’s products in the cart, so that on the next visit they are reminded of the products added to their cart earlier.

    Final Words
    Reducing shopping cart abandonment is not about quick fixes. You have to ensure that you have great products that are priced well. Also, you should have a strong brand that inspires confidence, not to mention a track record of impeccable service. But if you also implement the simple fixes mentioned in this article, you will notice an improvement in your shopping cart abandonment rates.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Business forecasts indicate that ecommerce is exploding, which means now is the perfect time for startups to firmly establish their online stores. There are numerous tactics for nurturing a new online business. If you're just getting started, now's the perfect time to make sure all the elements for your online success are in place.

    Let’s review 10 crucial steps to capitalizing on this trend:

    1. Carefully target the online audience. 

    Ecommerce depends largely on a reputable, accessible online presence. To be recognized as such, businesses must make themselves available to those who are most likely to notice. Identify the demographic characteristics of consumers who will benefit from relevant products and services, and base marketing strategies on these details.

    2. Create high-quality content and deliver it at high speed.

    High-quality content is described as relevant and engaging information that encourages site visitors to return in the future. Content should reflect the given brand in tone and style, and include the company’s mission statement, services and policies. It should also offer industry education and urge interaction with consumers. This may take the form of asking questions, answers to which can be provided in online comment sections. Interaction can also take place via surveys and contests.

    But Internet-based businesses live and die by their online visibility and credibility, and they’re judged by more than just consumers. They’re also judged by search engines, which play a major role in bestowing that credibility and visibility. In the wake of recent security vulnerabilities making national headlines such as the HeartBleed bug, secure web hosting which thwarts vulnerabilities is essential for maintaining credibility, and speedy website load times are essential for delivering a positive user experience, maximizing sales conversions and optimizing from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective.

    Amazon reported a 1 percent revenue increase for every 100 milliseconds improvement in load time. Furthermore, Google has stated that fast load speeds are indeed a factor in the ranking algorithm. In response, VPS hosting is quickly becoming more popular among new businesses looking to maximize site speed, as opposed to traditional, shared hosting services.

    3. Personalize content.

    Visitors know that unique, individualized web experiences are possible, which is why they expect such features. Take advantage of available technology that can generate shopping selections based on personal preferences. While some of the larger websites (Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.) have apps built into their system that identify users and track their online movements, small businesses might focus on smaller CRM solutions. Batchbook, ContactMe, and Zoho are perfect CRM software solutions for small businesses, each costing less than $20 a month.  

     4. Invest in mobile capabilities. 

    Consumer use of mobile devices is greater than ever before, which is why a robust mobile ecommerce platform is crucial. Available solutions include mobile sites, responsive sites, apps, click-to-call tools, maps and real-time notifications.

    5. Integrate sales channels.

    Enable consumers to experience the brand similarly across all channels of interaction and methods of shopping. Promotions, products, services, company information and policies should be available both on and offline.

    6. Consider subscription. 

    Subscription commerce occurs in various forms. For instance, the replenishment model allows for a product to be sent to a customer every month or other regular basis. The discovery model provides for new and exciting experiences with each delivery. These may include customized or rare items. It’s up to the company to decide which form of subscription works best for them, and to implement that into their sales and marketing strategies. Most CRM software and programs organize consumer data that can be used to delineate and track which model each customer prefers and whether the customer has subscribed or not.

    7. Remember logistics. 

    Scalability is integral to growing a business. To accommodate growth, third-parties such as UPS, Nippon Express, or DB Schenker can be depended upon to manage large and complex transactions. Costs will vary based upon the size of the transaction, the size of shipments, the distance that products need to be shipped or the complexity of the transaction. Third-party logistics become more cost effective as a company grows and handles larger transactions. Reverse logistics -- the efficient handling of product exchanges and returns -- is significant as well.

    For Internet-based businesses, website speed, security and infrastructure are important foundations of not only logistics, but also SEO. These aspects of online business translate to better search engine visibility, resulting in more traffic, leads, brand credibility and sales. Speeding up your website is crucial for online logistics.

    8. Skip the middlemen.

    Thanks to the Internet, small businesses can reach consumers quickly and easily. Also, manufacturers are increasingly eager to work directly with small businesses because they realize small brands are likely to bring new and innovative products to the marketplace -- they are less limited by minimal shelf space and complex supply chains.

    9. Sell Internet-only merchandise.

    Although essential to maintain continuity across multiple sales channels, it is still possible to offer products via the Internet only. Doing so builds an exclusive brand with ecommerce as the core distribution channel. By offering certain products in only one arena, it is possible to maintain greater control over margins.

    10. Curate a proprietary selection.

    Proprietary selection refers to a strategy dedicated to “curating” a deep but narrow array of exclusive products in a specific segment. These areas give the relevant merchandise the allure of distinction due to original characteristics and the difficulty of locating such a selection elsewhere. 

    One of the main goals of any business is consistent growth. Through careful strategic planning, quality marketing campaigns and a healthy combination of the steps outlined above, conversions are likely to increase steadily. 

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • It's many a business owner's dream to get the product they're so proud of in the hands of a star. In many cases a bit of stardust can have a huge impact on the success of your product, as celebrity watchers keep a close eye on these influential trendsetters. And with the right product, preparation, and persistence, a celebrity could be showing off your items on the red carpet. So, where do you start?

    First you'll need a list of target celebrities, a database of media contacts, and a one-paragraph summary of your product or company for a press release. To grab attention, make sure your release includes the celebrity name, event information (when there is one), a paragraph about your product (plus cost and where to purchase it), names of VIPs (even local) or celebrities who have used it, your contact information and website, and your logo to reinforce your brand.

    Then, use great packaging to capture attention. When Film Fashion was purchased by mega PR company Rogers & Cowan, my desk was positioned next to the great publicist Alan Nierob. Alan represents some of the biggest stars in the world, including Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, and Beyoncé. Before I saw it for myself, I wouldn't have believed how much stuff his clients got with every day's mail. This is why branding your product and the package it's delivered in is so important: You want your gift to stand out for the very reason a celebrity wants to stand out amongst his or her peers--to be memorable.

    Next you must locate a publicist, costume designer, or stylist to get the ball rolling. Here are my best tips to reach them and the best approach to take with each one.

    Publicists
    The celebrity's personal publicist is always the first place I start. Large public relation firms like Rogers & Cowan, Baker/Winokur/Ryder, IDPR, Ken Sunshine Consultants, Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, and 42West represent hundreds of celebrities. You will also come across boutique agencies and a handful of independent publicists. Websites like IMDbPro.com and WhoRepresents.com, can help build out your target list as well. These sites charge a fee to join, but your money will be well spent if celebrity marketing will skyrocket attention to your product.

    Once you send the product, it might sit in the person's office for a few weeks before he or she will forward it to the client, so follow-up is essential. I follow up every two weeks, and sometimes am asked to resend my materials (so you'll want to e-mail descriptions and images before sending anything). And be sure to let them know whether you are loaning or gift away something, or inviting them to an event right up front.

    Stylists
    You'll find that publicists will often offer up the names and phone numbers of stylists, which will help you build a database of stylist contacts to approach. You can also contact agencies that represent wardrobe stylists, hair stylists, and makeup artists. A quick Google search will yield some of the bigger agencies.

    I even study magazines to pick up on who the hottest stylists are. I read the small print usually found along the side of the photo. If you do this for a while, you'll become familiar with many stylists' names. Stylists need fashion merchandise for their busy clients. Anyone can find Chanel, but stylists must dig deeper to find undiscovered product that might put a celebrity client in the fashion media.

    Costume Designers
    Costume designers are so valued in the industry they have their own award category at the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards, and their own annual Costume Designer Guild Awards. And the best news? Costume designers have a budget for purchasing any wardrobe used for a project. The easiest method of locating them is through the Costume Designers Guild. The guild will charge a fee to send information about your business to all its 900-plus members, but it could be well worth your while. You can also research the names of the people you want to reach on IMDb.com. Then, send information on your brand through snail mail to the studio, care of the show or film and the person's name. Alternatively, you can look them up on Twitter and Facebook.

    Overall, I suggest starting with a celebrity's publicist, but realize this person might refer you to the next person on your list. Don't give up. Sometimes I've even been referred to a best friend, spouse, or sweetheart. There is always someone on the star's team who is responsible for his or her image and who will be interested in your gift.

    To find out whether a celebrity is using your product, follow the star's comings and goings on entertainment websites like WireImage.com or GettyImages.com. These are other services like PR Photos, Splash News, FilmMagic, World Entertainment News Network, Pacific Coast News, Patrick McMullan Company, and Elevation Photos, where you can access the latest photos of celebrities at events. If you know in advance that you've snagged a celebrity to wear your product on the red carpet, these are also the photo agencies you'll contact so you will own your own image. Chances are good that they will be sending a staff photographer to cover the event anyway, and when you call, you can confirm that they have the credentials secured already.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • To the recent past, the concept of optimizing a website for marketing meant big expansion. Extending audience reach was the foremost goal of any online marketing campaign. Since the introduction of the Google Penguin penalty system, the realities of over-optimization have been pushed to the fore. Now when a marketing professional builds an online marketing strategy, one of the best things they can do is consult with a webmaster, web developer or designer in building value into a website, rather than promote losses with extensive inbound linkage.

    Preparing for Domain Over-Optimization Triage

    If it has been determined that a website is over-optimized the next step is to control for future penalty risk by conducting comprehensive triage on the domain. Prior to establishing the parameters to a new marketing campaign, testing of potential backlinks and other causes leading to Google penalties for ensures that time invested is not wasted.

    After a website has been evaluated for penalty causing over-optimization channel marketing magic can renew a site once again. The best link building strategy adds to content marketing value rather than subtract from website performance. Once a marketing strategy goes live, continuous monitoring of performance is important to eliminate the risk of future over-optimization. Here are fifteen ways a website may be over-optimized, accompanied by tips on how to diagnose and ultimately avoid penalty issues stemming from keyword content, SEO advertising circulation, and backlink distribution:

    The 15 Ways That You Might Be Over-Optimizing a Website (and how to fix them)

    1. Domain Address Length

    Websites with long domain names can over-optimize a site if keywords are part of the address. The best addresses represent brand identity. When adding blogs and other static content, the organic nomenclature of the brand can be integrated as an anchor in a unique address, in place of arbitrary reference. This manages two risks: 1) visitors will be able to locate content externally or in a search; and 2) over-optimization will be null.

    2. Website Inner Links

    Excessive page navigation on a single website will inevitably induce over-optimization. While it still serves to have a few pages with standard anchors to map inbound links to a website from external SEO advertising and other marketing collateral, the danger of creating a plethora of inner links is obvious.

    3. Duplicate Page Content

    The replication of page content on a single website domain can lead to over-optimization in Google. The When designing a website, text content should be distinct per page. This will assist in reducing search engine crawl and flags leading to penalties. The challenge of course is consistency in brand presence. When adding new news and other content that has a time capsule, avoid repetitious verbatim.

    4. Language Syntax

    Natural language helps in this case, so as to not introduce duplicate language structure across a single website domain. In sum, cut out the old keyword string to eliminate excess traction. Footer overload and multiple links to content on the site, or to external websites can add dense over-optimization. Select from a limited number of footer links that provide value to the organization or cause.

    5. iFrames

    Web developers using Javascript and HTML programming of website content often employ iFrames to embed content within a page document. If an iFrame is scripted as a separate object, Google or other search engines imposing penalties for keyword over-optimization will not be triggered by crawling.

    6. Multi-media Embeds

    The integration of external multi-media content with an embed is a fast and easy method of inserting content to a website. If adding a video from YouTube or other widely circulated site, it is always best to embed the code in a secondary page to reduce signals to Google that the value is native to the ‘client’ website’s domain.

    7. Keyword Density

    The risk of heavy keyword density on website articles and external content linked to the homepage of a website is relevant enough to review marketing collateral twice before posting to the Internet. Keywords can also create havoc surreptitiously. If a website is part of a link exchange set up for a time capsule relationship and was forgotten about, the former backlink to a domain can generate negative Google ratings.

    8. Keyword Misplacement

    Google AdWords has instituted automatic keyword recognition, which is why SEO and parent sites are ranked according to organic content. Now that everything is indigenous, the rest is up to marketing professionals to follow the new format. Simply rely on title keywords, and add H tags to subtitles to expand the value of collateral. Good content counts, and not against a domain. Loosen up, and write freestyle.

    9. SEO Harvesting

    The fact that advertising can now work against top-level, first page visibility, makes it imperative to evaluate old SEO ads that may be linger on the Web. Too many ad posts will generate negative Penguin results. Designate content according to online marketing channels to reduce aggregation. This is especially important for advertisers posting across Facebook’s multi-channel ad infrastructure.

    10. Social Media Under-optimization

    Social media profiles also provide a relatively standalone approach to retention of the benefits of search engine optimization. The fact that social media profiles are subject to internal search abduction makes it safer to post news and other marketing activity in social media, rather than on a website. Internal search results are always top level within social media, making it less likely that external content will be clicked on. With only one integral link to a social media profile on the homepage of a website, customers, fans, and followers can be seduced without extensive penalties.

    11. Social Media Moderation

    The concept of social media moderation is actually one closer to mediation. Managing SEO and other digital content relevant to a website in a manner that will adequately control risk takes some planning. There are on site, social media tool tricks that can be used as well. Ads and other content media placed in Facebook’s news feed, rather than the traditional right side panel, will enable an advertiser to avoid negative inbound linkage to a website, as well as significantly boost mass circulation of the event.

    12. Volume Link building

    Apps are over-optimizers when supporting text generation activities on an e-Commerce site. Some Web-based apps networks can create hundreds or even thousands of new links per week. The two Vs, volicity and volume are the key. If it appears that a website is suffering from app linking overload, call it quits.

    13. Affiliated Link Exchange

    Threads can unravel the entire fabric of website integrity. Mass link exchanges contain an entire roadmap of arbitrary links. Great for sourcing connections, not so productive in an over-optimization scenario.

    14. Malicious Backlinks

    This includes backlinks set up by competitors without a website’s owner. SEO harvesting of a site can literally kill it. The mass circulation of search engine optimized ads on the Web can induce another penalty every time a spot is clicked.

    15. Plug-in Script Overload

    Like space junk, plug-in scripting is tertiary, but can slow a site down. The credo garbage-in, garbage-out must be reduced to a minimum to ensure that a website domain is not hosted on, resulting in subsequent over-optimization from third party data capture activities.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • How To Keep Your Audience Emotionally Engaged

    A misconception many of us have is that blogging is an easy matter: you sit in front of a screen and type away until your document is filled with these long fabulations about the world, declarations of personal truths, and outbursts of joy or frustrations – all showing who we really are.

    Aside from the personal aspects of (business) blogging, the possibilities it holds are endless and businessmen and women have been turning this tool – that is believed to be created for narcissists and those self absorbed – into a means to a profitable end.

    The real conundrum is how far you can go in your attempt to inspire your readers – is your personal life a go-to place for inspiration, and can you incorporate social and emotional aspects of your existence within content that you write so that readers become more emotionally invested in your content?

    Think about it, the majority of internet shoppers are emotional buyers and they will always decide on a buy after considering logical criteria, which they will end up ignoring due to an emotional aspect of the purchase (the product reminds them of someone, they root for the content writer, etc). What you write, if done correctly, can convince people to part with their money.

    Recommended Reading: Writing Content That Converts Readers & Delivers Sales

    Making That Emotional Connection

    Connecting with your readers on an emotional level is no task for the faint of heart: you need to be relentless, perceptive and most of all you need to keep going even if it doesn’t work out right away. Emotional writing is difficult and leaves you vulnerable, not because you are freely giving ammo to those who may want to accuse and criticize you, but because you have to be accountable for all you say and do.

    Decide whether it is something you are willing to do before you try it out for size. The questions below should help you out:

    • Are your readers in touch with your businesses’ stories?
    • More importantly, are you and your employees in touch with your story?
    • What exactly defines you as a company and which stories are most relevant when trying to engage emotionally with your readers?

    The true issue content marketing faces when it comes to connecting to its audience is that it makes readers feel absolutely nothing.

    Content should go about not only making connections but also following them. What your audience connects with is what they identify with and what they make their own. And since the pure information that content marketing usually consists of has no possibility of making your audience trust or build a rapport with the company, it’s clear that you’re off to a bad start from the get-go.

    How To Be Emotionally Engaging

    So what can you do to improve your odds of emotionally engaging your audience?

    1. Add A Personal Touch To Your Articles

    Although being overly dramatic isn’t advisable, there are some aspects of your personal life and your business’ stories that you can evoke so that your readers can understand how your company came to be, how life is as an employee in your company and how much dedication and love goes into your product.

    Take your readers through funny events that you and your colleagues always laugh about around the water cooler and tell them with your own personal twist, so that they start to feel like a part of your world.

    This will enable you to create your own voice that faithful readers will never be able to forget. They will also learn to trust you more. As far as businesses are concerned, emotional writing will show them your human side, and help you brand your business more easily.

    2. Appeal To Natural Curiosity

    Human beings are curious by nature, so fiddling with that string may bring tremendous success, if done correctly. Instead of creating articles, create stories that people would be interested in reading and sharing.

    Consider rewriting titles and subtitles, so that they relate to personal stories rather than statistic information. For instance, replace a title such as “Treatment options for obesity” with “How I overcame being overweight”or “Rediscovering myself after conquering my condition”titles that will appeal to your audience’s curiosity and will make them actually want to read your content.

    They also give readers hope and it’s an example of how you were able to do what you are preaching. You are the living testimony. Such writing can be personalized for every need you may have, regardless of the niche your company finds itself in.

    3. Spark Meaningful Conversations

    Open questions and controversial posts make it almost impossible for your readers to not become actively engaged in conversations about certain topics. By appealing to their emotions, you can actually improve your products.

    Imagine a twitter post about something you sell where certain followers express concerns or dislikes. This does not only give you the opportunity of improving your product free of charge (much like a beta test) but it also gives you the chance to address unspoken concerns your customers may have and openly discuss your policy and views. This way followers can see how much thought goes into creating the product you are selling.

    4. Draw Attention

    Your posts have to be able to catch the eye of possible readers and potential customers and this means that they have to be up to the task. Optimize your headline. Make them sensational and provocative, so that someone who stumbles across an article or post of yours cannot not read it.

    Cleverly choose images since they are what attracts traffic the most. Make them relevant and consistent with your brand

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • There's a very simple one-word question missed by almost all sales people: "Why?"

    The "why" will identify your prospective customers' dominant motives. Once you do that, you will almost always make the sale.

    People buy things only to solve a problem. This is true even with emotional purchases. When you buy your wife flowers or jewelry, you do so to solve some problem. "No" you say, "I love my wife and that is why I bought her a dozen roses." Look a little deeper and I assure you there is some problem you are trying to solve. Why do you think people say: "A happy wife is a happy life?"

    Figure out the problem your customer or prospect is trying to solve and not only will you make the sale, you will make it quicker and it will be more profitable. The "why" is the fuel for every sale, what I also call the dominant buying motive.

    Sometimes even your customers are not clear about their motivation. It is your job to clarify this. Getting them to answer the why will crystalize the reason they are doing business with you. Here are some specific questions that can help you get to the "why" of a customer's potential purchase:

    • Why are you here today?
    • Why do you have interest in this product?
    • Why is that important to you?
    • Why did you agree to see me?
    • Why did you decide to do this now?
    • Why would you make this kind of investment?

    Let's look at the "why" behind the kid who borrows money from the government to go to school. The obvious reason is to get an education, but behind the obvious you will find the real why.

    Let's try it out:

    • Why do you want to go to school?
    • To get an education.
    • But really why?
    • So I can get a good job.
    • You can get a job without a degree. What's the real reason?
    • I want to become a lawyer.
    • So why did you pick this school and why now? Why not wait?
    • My best friend is also applying here and we want to go to law school together.

    Bingo. Now we finally got to the real reason: the best friend. Find the motivator, the why, and you will know how to close the deal.

    Once I was working with a high-end watch store. A customer rushed in at lunch time asking for a specific watch. He had a type A personality and knew exactly what he wanted. When we put it on his wrist and shared the price of $57,000, he looked at it in admiration and asked what kind of price he could negotiate.

    Before the sales person gave away the boutique's profits, I jumped in.

    "Why did you come here today?" I asked. He said he wanted to see if we had this specific watch. I pressed further.

    "Why did you stop here today?" He didn't know what I meant.

    "Do you not want me here?" he asked.

    "Of course we do. We appreciate you stopping by, love the fact that you know what you want and have such a great taste in time pieces. I'm just wondering why you decided to stop in today, not yesterday or last week or next week." I knew digging deeper would get to the real "why" and then it came.

    "Well, this weekend I am going to my best friend's wedding in Santa Barbara and I'd love to have a new piece to wear."

    Boom. There's the real why, the real motive and the $57,000 reason for my final question: "Would that be Amex or Visa?" He bought the watch and never brought up a discount again.

    Someone serious about a $57,000 watch doesn't really need to negotiate. There are other things they value more from the purchase. Once I showed him we were both clear on why he wanted to make the purchase, it was made without hesitation.

    We see this dynamic in sales all the time. No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time. People buy things to solve problems. The cost of the item isn't what matters. Once the buyer is able to see the problem the product solves, their decision becomes much easier to resolve. Get to the "why" and the sale will follow.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Uber solves a problem. You always needed a reliable way to get from a to b, and Uber does that, in many ways better than a cab.

    Lady Gaga solves a problem. You have neophilia when it comes to music, and she'll bring you new music to satisfy your curiousity.

    Same thing goes for Zara. They solve the 'what's new in fashion' problem for a lot of early adopters.

    On the other hand, Uggs created a problem for people who aren't necessarily fashion forward but want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Once "everyone" was wearing Uggs, these fashion-laggards had a problem—if they wanted to keep up, they had to go buy a new pair of boots.

    In most successful business-to-business selling, the big wins come from creating problems. Once the competition is busy using your new innovation, the other companies have to buy it to keep competitive. Once other brands are using your social medium, the laggard brands do too—not because you've solved their problem, but because you've created one. The people in a traditional bureaucracy buy something new when they have to, not when they want to.

    (It's interesting how we recoil from the idea of creating problems. Of course, progress is about creating opportunities, and opportunities always bring along their close colleague, problems.)

    Or consider the case of a non-profit seeking to raise funds or gain government support. Without a doubt, they have to create a problem in the mind of the donor, or there will be no funds or no support to solve that problem.

    It is clearly more fun (at first) to solve problems because everyone is happy to see you and the discussion is simple indeed, "You know that problem you used to have? We just solved it." The innovations that change the world, though, often create (or highlight) problems before they solve them.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Lead Scoring Methodology Overview

    “A solid lead scoring approach not only helps to rank prospects against one another, but can smooth the lead  flow and serve as the baseline for building a range of business rules that include ownership, role and activities. ”

    There are different kinds of things you can track with scoring:

    • Fit: Fit score is based on the demographic and firmographic attributes that tell you how well the prospect compares against your ideal buyer profile – things like job title or role, industry, and company size.  In other words, how attractive is this potential lead to me?
    • Interest: Interest score is based on the prospect’s engagement with your campaigns and content. This can include things like reading the blog, attending webinars, downloading papers, and even social behaviors such as sharing your content on their networks. Interest score tells you how attractive you are to the potential customer.

    Anyone who has ever gone on a date can tell you that you need both fit and interest to have a relationship – you need to be interested in them and they need to be interested in you.

    The ROI of Behavioral Lead Scoring

    So it makes logical sense to track fit and interest.  But does this actually drive more revenue?  It turns out that data from the Marketo Benchmark on Revenue Performance can help answer that.  Here’s what it shows:


    I find this result amazing.  Companies that are using Fit-only lead scoring are seeing essentially no improvement from lead scoring.  But companies that use Fit and Interest see 12% points higher revenue growth and a whopping 17% more sales time spent selling [TWEET THIS].

    Timing Is Everything – Buying Intent

    But it turns out that even Fit + Interest is not enough! You could be interested in someone, and they could be interested in you… but they could be married.  So ideally you will track additional factors that will indicate timing. This will help you know whether someone is an early-stage prospect that is just looking to be educated or entertained – or an active lead that is considering a purchase of your product or solution.

    This can take the form of BANT criteria (budget, accountability, need, and timing) that you get explicitly by asking the prospect. Or it can take the form of implicit factors that you track.  For example, at Marketo we’ve found that there are some behaviors that are highly correlated with prospects moving into a buying cycle with us.  These include:

    • Visiting our detailed pricing pages.
    • Registering to watch our detailed demos.
    • Downloading mid- and late-stage content such as How to Select a Marketing Automation Company
    • Using “Marketo” as a keyword in a Google search.  (You see the same thing in consumer products.  Using a generic word such as digital camera or marketing automation suggests early-stage research; using a keyword like Canon EOS 6D or Marketo suggests someone is closer to buying.)

    By scoring identifying “active buying behaviors”, we are able to be more relevant when we follow-up with a lead.  If someone has a high score but low buying intent, we know we need to be more educational; but if someone has high buying intent, we know we need to “Act Now” since they are more likely to be interested in a fast-track to talking with sales.

    Get Started Fast

    One of my most frequent pieces of advice regarding any marketing automation or lead management implementation is to “Think Big, Start Small and Move Quickly”.   The idea is that getting some fast wins on the board, and then evolving in an agile fashion towards the full vision, is almost always going to drive better results than trying to build everything at once.

    So the next question is, “where should I start”?  Where are the quick wins? This will vary by business, of course, but I’ve often seen that the biggest bang for the effort comes from implementing some of the basic behavioral lead scoring ideas discussed in this post.

    At the simplest level, this means letting the sales team have insight into who is opening emails, visiting the website, and responding to campaigns. Even that basic insight helps sales representatives focus their time and energy on the customers that are actually engaged and want to talk to them. I’ve seen time and again that this quick win not only improves sales productivity and revenue, but it also is a great way to build sales and marketing alignment and to get the sales team on board with your marketing automation investment.

    Where have you seen the quickest wins from lead scoring?

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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