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The Reality of Being Online

The challenge facing brands today is harnessing and exploring the best digital techniques and channels available to them to deliver truly relevant, engaging solutions to business problems. But where to begin?

Prakash Patel

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Everyone wants to get involved in digital marketing these days. You’re told your brand will cease to exist if it is not online, the endless potential digital marketing has – from building awareness, driving engagement with your brand through to retention, and loyalty – and if done correctly, you’re sure to reap the rewards.

However, fewer explanations have been offered as to what tools are available and – most importantly – how they can be used to improve the way business is done. In this article we take a look at some of the most basic digital tools and how each can be used to meet the various marketing and business objectives.

Advertising has gone through the most fundamental transformation in its history with the emergence of digital marketing and will continue to do so, with the explosion of social media, advancement in technology and the mass adoption of digital engagement by user and consumers alike.

Strategy, strategy and strategy

Like all other advertising media, digital is no different and the first thing brands need to consider is establishing an over-arching digital strategy starting with the following three basic questions:

  • Who is my target market? eg. starting with LSM types, local, international etc.
  • What is my business objective? eg. build awareness, create online  presence, create an online booking system, configure a car during research stage
  • What do I want my prospects/customers to do? eg. contact the call centre, book seats online etc.

From this you have a plan as to why you want to embrace the digital channel. For example, a small flower shop previously only placed ads in local papers, but more and more customers now want to be able to order online via a website and/or mobi site.

So how do brands demystify the digital landscape into a practical digestible plan that meets their digital objective/s? Here are some of the top digital techniques you need to know about:

Creating a virtual business hub online: A place consumers can engage with your brand from browsing through to purchasing your products or services.

Websites: Many businesses underestimate the value of using their company websites as a marketing tool or revenue-generating ecommerce platform. They sometimes see it as a digital brochure or worse, a site where people will just come with no advertising or awareness. Let’s start with the basics – think of your website as your digital headquarters or your virtual showroom/shop front from which you can implement your digital marketing activity across multitude of platforms.

These include social media, email marketing, SMS campaigns – all using your website as the central hub where your customers can interact with, engage with, browse and learn more about your brand and product offerings. Any business that wants to embark in digital marketing must have a port of call, a central hub that can hold and drive any marketing activity. It can be the one central place any type of customer can go to engage with your business, including shareholders investors. It can also be the business itself (eg. an ecommerce business).

A platform like Twitter for instance, only allows 140 characters to get a message across but can be used as a pull to your digital hub where you can finish the conversation.

As part and parcel of building your website, you should invest in SEO (search engine optimisation). Internet marketing or SEO simply means that whenever a consumer uses a search engine for a product or service you offer, you will rank higher than your competitors, which positions you as the stronger brand.

There are various ways of keeping your search engine rankings high, like a regularly updated blog linked to your website. This is a practical way of keeping customers and stakeholders up to date on company news. Insightful content is a must. If you already have an existing website but no SEO, perhaps it’s time to step back and start afresh; it’s never too late to refine your competitive edge.

Mobilising the masses: Putting your brand into nearly 50 million hands covering over 6500 different mobile devices giving anyone a rich and engaging brand experience

MobileThere are more than 55 million mobile phone SIM cards inSouth Africa for a population of nearly 50 million. Approximately 32 million of those SIM cards sit in devices that are capable of access the mobile internet, whilst over 14m currently do. Therefore it is fundamental that a business anywhere – and in particular in Africa/South Africa where more people have access to a mobi site than a website – has a mobi site. There are more people picking up their mobile phone every morning than a newspaper and it’s not only to make calls or send texts – they are reading the latest gossip, checking the weather forecast or booking movie ticket via mobi sites or mobile apps.

Mobi sites can be considered as a compressed version of websites and accessible from most available handsets (if built correctly). They allow you to access all the information that is on the website on your mobile phone. A mobile app is a piece of software specifically developed for smart phones. The user is able to install the software on their device and access information without the browser – unlike mobi sites. Benefits for brands are similar, the key word being “mobile”, which means you are where the consumer is 24/7/365.

No more turning customers away when it’s time to close shop. The latest mobile payment facilities offer today’s users the convenience of making a purchase without having to be in the physical store environment.Mobileoffers seamless one-on-one interaction and engagement while on the move, and can push traffic to your digital headquarters – your website – for a more in-depth experience or engagement.

Driving traffic with a call to action: Market your customer base electronically with targeted, relevant and personalised communications

Email and mobile marketing: If you have an email database you have a group of people who want to hear from you. Email communication allows for immediate action such as direct inquiries, which go far in terms of strengthening relationships, and creating awareness of special promotions and limited offers. It is also a great pull to the businesses website. A trend most businesses have adopted is to send a mass email from a “no-reply” email address, which takes away the convenience of hitting the reply button.

Sending customers on a wild search for the correct email address could cost you the relationship. It’s all about convenience. Make it easy for the consumer to interact with you. Remember that every email communication you send out generates a heap of actionable data you can use to refine your approach and messages. The mobile version of this is the use of SMS or MMS – again an opportunity to market to your customer base using SMS/MMS in a cost effective and efficient way. It has been proven to be more responsive than any other medium.

 

Where virtual and real worlds collide

Quick response codes: Increasingly being adopted by mainstream businesses, QR codes are two-dimensional codes that can be read by a dedicated barcode reader installed on your smart phone. You can encode text or URL information which, when scanned, will instruct the device to perform a specific action ranging from opening a mobile or web page to redeeming a special offer voucher.

Considering the mobile penetration in South Africa, QR codes can be used as a call-to-action or interactive engagement such as free downloads, or to prompt the user to want to find out more about a specific product. But be aware this still hasn’t reached mainstream adoption and/or know how as to how it is used in South Africa vs the rest of the world like Japan (where it originated) or America/Europe. An alternative is simply driving people to a web address and/or mobi site, which can be more seamless and memorable but without the novelty factors lots of brands/agencies are driving.

 

Augmented Reality: Augmented reality is a live view of the physical, real-world environment whose elements are amplified by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, and graphics. It can be loosely translated as to where the “real world and virtual world meet”.  Using a practical example, if you aim your smart phone or tablet at something in your physical presence (like a can of baked beans) you will see the embedded images on the packaging come to life.

Augmented reality gives a multi-dimensional effect to what the naked eye would typically view as one dimension. It is still in its infancy stage here but leading brands with higher LSM reach are investing in it as a way to extend the engagement between a brand and its target market.

Social Media

When you hear the words social media, the first thing most people think about is Facebook or Twitter. But social media isn’t just about Facebook or Twitter; it is about bringing together people with common causes and interests. Mobile + Social media = uncontrolled connectivity and mobilisation of the masses. Social media is like a global 24/7 community of dialogues, conversations and engagements, where you can either start a dialogue (e.g. by simply blogging, tweeting), control (by hashtags, register etc.) or just simple partake as an observer, editor or creator.

It has been said that consumers are starting to change their views about traditional advertising as being trustworthy and now look to social influencers (friends, family and other consumers), as more trusted sources. We have entered new ground where the consumer is now shaping (not controlling) the brands we market and businesses cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this.

Social media is helping us catapult the importance of digital within the marketing mix at a level that wouldn’t have been possible before. But let’s not forget that digital isn’t the new holy grail of marketing mix and social media isn’t the holy grail of digital marketing. It just presents a number of opportunities that could become your secret weapon if done correctly.

 

Consumers are ready to speak out.

A final word of advice to any business that wants to succeed is to remember that, whether or not you choose to engage in digital platforms, the consumer is already there. You need to have a plan in plan in place for when someone tweets about the bad experience they had with your customer. What’s the plan of action?

Just as in real life when a customer walks away from your company with an opinion they’re likely to share with friends and family, the increasing digitisation of South Africa now means they’re also likely to share that opinion on their web forums – making it crucial for businesses to have an online reputation management (ORM) strategy in place. ORM protects your business’s reputation online.

While a real life complaint is likely to be a one-on-one exchange with the customer, a dissatisfied client on social media can tarnish your business’s name to a wider audience much faster. Traditional “word of mouth” has been replaced with “word of click”.

Prakash Patel, chief executive officer for Prezence Digital, has more than 18 years of international integrated marketing experience and in particular over a decade of digital experience that includes Strategic Planning, Integrated (online and offline) CRM/eCRM, Website and Database Design & Build, as well as Data Planning and Analysis. www.prezence.co.za @PrakashPatel_1

Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Online Marketing

Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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Online Marketing

How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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