Over the last few months we’ve discussed how best to market your company online. Customer behaviour has changed with digital and mobile technologies increasingly playing a critical part in the success, or failure, of businesses.
Online your prospects can find everything they need to know about you, be it pricing, service, overall customer experience, level of expertise or, even, how your company treats its staff – the conversation has become digital and around the clock, which means that there is a heck of a lot of data (about you and your industry) floating about.
Knowing what that data means and how it affects your company is the key to pinpointing existing problems in your business and finding new opportunities to explore.
It’s easy to get lost in heaps of zeros and ones though and it can drive you dilly if you do not know what to look out for.
Used wisely, however, clear analytics could provide the rudder (and the oomph) your business needs to improve profitability, drive new sales and enhance customer loyalty.
Smart Data Drives New Sales
Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying; “The time to go into a new business is when it’s badly run by others.”
Not “knowing” your business or, rather, not knowing what available data is saying about your business does not necessarily mean you are running it poorly – but it does mean you are not, currently, running it as well as you could . . .
20% improvement in MROI. But wait, there’s more!
Respected research company, McKinsey & Company, analysed business practices of over 250 leading companies, finding that organisations that put data at the centre of their marketing and sales decisions improved their ROI by between 15% and 20%.
And while that may sound pretty good to you the increased return on actual marketing spend is just the tip of the analytics-powered-sword-of-opportunity.
According to Forbes Magazine the companies that succeed today do three things well.
- Use Analytics to identify valuable opportunities, often by performing micro-market analysis.
- Focus on the consumer decision journey to convert new sales or stop clients from defecting.
- Use “algorithmic marketing” to create more relevant customer interactions.
The snapshot summary of all the above is that, from an increased sales perspective, clever analytics allows you to (really) KNOW.YOUR.CUSTOMER.
Knowledge being power, now more than ever smart data use allows you to customise your offers, communications and general interaction with your clients.
Knowing what to offer, when to offer and how to offer a product or solution is the tonic that will lead to increased sales and more effective marketing spend.
The days of blanket bombing are done, dead and buried underneath the rubble of yesteryear.
Say hello to targeted, smart, marketing.
Say hello to better qualified leads, shorter buying cycles and improved sales.
Smart Data Boosts Customer Loyalty
“It’s easier to keep a customer than to acquire a customer.” How often is that mantra not repeated and, sadly, how often is that mantra not forgotten?
See, for yourself?
For a classic example of “getting it wrong” one has to look no further than our cellular industry players.
Often the service aspect is not what it should be and neither are the “upgrade options” available to long-standing customers, with better deals on new contracts offered as companies drive acquisition and leave retention on the side of the road to fend for itself in a dark and lonely world.
What often happens, of course, is that the “roadside refugee” is then picked up by someone holding out a far more enticing bag of sweets.
It’s sinful, considering how much money was spent marketing (and converting) that customer in the first place.
Grow Business from your Existing Client base
Business research and consulting firm, BIA/Kelsey found that, while many businesses do have loyalty initiatives, most of those were offline, meaning that companies were literally leaving masses of lost revenue on the table – purely because they did not effectively mine their existing client database and because their digital strategy did not adequately address shopper purchase preferences.
“Customer data gives businesses a great opportunity to reward clients with loyalty programmes that pay attention to their specific purchase preferences,” says Tyler Roye, CEO of e-gift card retailer eGifter.
“This can include the media / advertising / marketing channels viewed, types of products purchased, most active purchasing time of day and a whole host of other variables that allows businesses to offer the most enticing deals for customers, as and when it suits them.”
Think about it this way. If you regularly shop at your neighbourhood butchery you will, in time, establish a friendly relationship with the block man on call. He (or she) will know what you like and probably be able to upsell you on other products that they think you will like, or should try.
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Because you trust and value their opinion you give it a go and spend more than you intended.
Exactly the same principle applies in the digital space.
To Know Thy Customer is to Grow Thyself
There is, of course, significantly more where the above information comes from and we could talk the merits of using smart analytics when making key business decisions until the cows come home, but, if you take just one thing away from today’s missive it’s the following:
To gain deeper insight about the real sources of your customer value, the impact of your marketing cost and the future behaviour of customers you need clear analytics to light the path to increased prosperity.
Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes
A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.
“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Keeping it real is the new deal
Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.
32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.
Living the dream?
With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less. This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.
New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.
One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.
Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.
Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.
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The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity. This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.
All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.
Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.
The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.
Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.
Establishing a preparedness programme
Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.
Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.
Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.
If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.
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Building a digital foundation
In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.
To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.
Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.
There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.
When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.
Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.
Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.
Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.
There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.
Five variables to address ahead of a crisis
- Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
- What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
- How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
- What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
- Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.
Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)
Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.
Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
The Risks of Social Media
Lost Working Hours
The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.
With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.
Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.
15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.
The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.
It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.
This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.
How Can a Social Media Policy Help?
Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.
A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.
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