I often talk to clients about developing a electronic newsletter campaign. The goal is to always have it be interesting to the recipient. There are different ways to do this, but today I want to focus on one aspect.
The crucial factor in an email newsletter campaign is segmenting your market. This allows you to define characteristics of each recipient, giving you the opportunity to send focused, relevant content to each one.
For example, as a basic illustration, if you run a hardware store, you might highlight information on power tools to the men you send to, but focus on your interior paint matching services for the women. Furthermore, if you know that a particular recipient is a keen gardener, you know they are likely to be more interested in your special of terracotta pots. In fact, the more personalised you can make this communication, the better the result.
This is a great way to increase the value of such communication to the recipient, in turn making more valuable to your business.
This is a notion that would be familiar to most people who already engage in this type of marketing activity.
But is the most important aspect of market segmentation being missed. Anecdotally, I would suggest it often is. What is it? John Dodds sums it up nicely in his recent post, stating that unless they are receptive to receiving your newsletter, the whole effort is a waste of time.
He mentions Permission Marketing, a notion made popular by Seth Godin.
In fact, I would suggest that sending an email newsletter to someone who isn’t receptive, and who hasn’t given their permission actually does harm to your business.
Well think about the way you react to when your receive unwanted email – you consider it Spam, right? That kind of association harms your reputation, it just isn’t worth any potential short term gains.
So, what are you going to do to ensure you are sending personalised communications to receptive recipients?
[Bonus Link] I was honoured to be invited to submit a guest post over at the Small Business Owners blog, hosted by MYOB. My article was posted this morning, and is about how to get better IT support. Thanks to Paul & Megan over at SBO. Check it out!
I’m off to New Zealand tomorrow.
I’m going to have a good rest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and the excellent company of my in-laws (no, really!). Perhaps a few cold Monteiths also!
I plan to do some reflection on this year, and have a good think about how best to accomplish my goals next year and beyond.
For you (few) dedicated readers, you might find this presentation on new features in Google Analytics interesting. I haven’t listened to it all yet (in fact, I need something louder than my laptop speakers to hear it properly), but what I have listened to is really interesting.
Voice Recognition Software.
If are like me, you cringe at the mention of it. At least I did, until earlier today when I watched the video below.
I always thought it was a good idea, but I remember selling it years ago when I worked in retail computer sales, and I regretted selling it! It was difficult to use and to support. It caused many negative customer experiences. I certainly was never an expert on it, but these kind of experiences soured my perception of it.
But time has passed, and I heard that voice recognition software has gotten much better. So I took a look at the video Jon Morrow made on the subject. As you’ll see, Jon knows what he is talking about. He uses and relies on this software for his work.
My takeaway from Jon’s video is that Voice Recognition Software could be a really useful tool for me – easy to use and a real time-saver. Contrary to what I thought, VRS isn’t just for people with disabilities (anyone can save time with it), and it does lots more than just word processing.
Just a quick post, to make mention of some new features for Google Analytics I’m excited about. In particular, I think the Analytics Intelligence feature, with automatic and custom notifications of unusual activity or trends will be a big hit with small business people. Often it is a struggle for these busy individuals to monitor their web stats as frequently as desired, but this feature will help to keep them abreast of important happenings on their website.
As a brief aside, I haven’t posted here as much as I would like lately, due to “time and unforeseen circumstance.” However, I do plan to have to have some more info here in the near future, including some big plans.
[Bonus Link] I just found this great 5 minute video of Kathy Sierra explaining why and how you should be focusing on your users. Check it out!
I’m finding that in the current economic climate many business people are re-evaluating costs that are deemed to be non-essential. Owners and managers alike are questioning what value they receive from any expense that is not absolutely essential. Fair enough too; I’m no exception.
So when I talk to business people about gaining new business via their website, they are often enticed by the possibility of winning new business, but at the same time are sceptical that spending money in the current economic climate is a good idea. It is the same always, great potential versus uncertain outcome, just with a more pronounced inclination towards financial conservatism at this point in time.
In this post I’m not going to focus on design tips, writing relevant content or other similar elements that result in a good website. Instead I want to highlight the
need necessity of being able to test elements of your website (even comparing, for instance, one type of contact form with another), and be able to measure the results.
Why is this important, especially in an environment where businesses are scrutinising every expense? In a basic sense, you can track to see if your website is providing the results required to justify its existence. Or to put it another way, you can accurately track its return on investment. But there is much more! Instead of passively accepting whatever results are forthcoming, you can use the information to maximise the usefulness of the website to both the business and the customer. But before delving into some of the specific ways you can test and measure the results of your website, lets consider briefly some background.
Before the web was widely used for commercial means, business still had just about every other means for promotion and advertising open to them: print, television, telephone directories, direct mail, signage etc. None of these have disappeared, and can still play a useful part in the marketing mix. There are two problems with these traditional forms of advertising:
1. The results gained from these efforts were basically near to impossible to track in a meaningful way
2. The audience of most traditional advertising has been diluted, sometimes offering very little value at all.
Think about the telephone directories. You spend lots of money for an attractive, decent sized advertisment to be printed in the annual telephone directory. How do you know that it is working? How do you know if new business you are gaining is from this investment, or from another source? Sure, many people set up a dedicated phone number to track incoming calls to a specific number, and you can always ask the client how they found out about you. However, it is easy to see how this fails to provide complete, in-depth and vital information on how your customers are finding you. Importantly, it provides absolutely no information on customers who nearly bought from you, or even nearly contacted you.
To continue with the example of telephone directories (but I’d suggest this applies to varying degrees to television, print etc), we can also see that it doesn’t have the audience it once did. A recent survey revealed that “…one-third of people aged under 29 never used the printed version of Yellow Pages.”
Furthermore, the same survey highlighted that “…58 per cent of Australians would stop having the Yellow Pages delivered if given the choice…” (incidently you can opt out of receiving the printed Yellow Pages; details are here).
So, where does that leave us today? Well, we are all familiar with the many success stories of businesses that have experienced increased profitability, better customer interaction, and enhanced reputation by developing a really great website. But we are also very familiar with the stories of lacklusture performance, tepid results, frustration and wasted money by many when they’ve dipped their toes into website marketing.
How does one replicate the positive experience of the first group, while avoiding the pitfalls encountered by the second? While there is no single ‘silver bullet’, there is one part of the website process that is consistently included in the success stories, and often overlooked in the failures. It is:
TESTING AND MEASURING. Access to a Webstats package is an essential first step. This gives you the ability to see how much traffic you are getting, where you are getting the traffic from, what people are clicking on and much, much more. You can identify trends, negative design elements and specific behaviours that most often result in a desired outcome, such as a purchase or filling out a ‘Contact Us’ form.
Google Analytics is a great stats package, that has some really nice graphics to make everything easier to understand. It also happens to be free, which is nice. I work with Google Analytics a lot.
Three of the common problems that are easily identified by using a webstats package are:
1. Low traffic
2. High bounce rate (people who navigate to your page, only to immediately navigate away)
3. Poor conversion of of visitors from ‘observers’ to ‘participants’
Traffic is the number of unique visitors to your website. By being able to gauge if enough people are actually visiting your site or not tells you if you need to focus on generating more traffic (how to do this is a whole other topic).
You can have all the traffic in the world, but if you have a high bounce rate you are not going to benefit from it. You need relevant and compelling content, intuitive navigation and clear calls to action to ensure the people visiting your site stick around for a while. Just like a regular store, the longer a person stays in your store, the more likely it is they’ll find something they want to buy.
This leads into conversion – is the person just browsing, or are they going to engage with you? This can be a purchase, but often it starts out as filling out a contact us form with a question or request, leaving their email address to receive email newsletters, or even downloading some free information (often leaving an email address in the process).
The great thing is that you have hard and fast numbers for all of this.
Another way to maximise your website with the power of actual stats is testing different variations of your website to see what is most effective. Once again, Google have a product that allows this and it is the Google Website Optimizer. Yes, it is free too. I have not used this much at all, but it has fast become a favourite tool for web professional all over the world.
I hope this has been informative. I really believe that taking the time to assess the performance of your website, and tweaking it to make improvements is a beneficial activity.
I’ll be posting more in the future about this topic, and I intend on providing some real examples and giving some useful tips on how to make it work for you.
Need help with your website? Contact Stephen on 0438 999 911, or stephen at hamilton dot id dot au.
Paul Hassing was today agonising over pricing – one of the most important decisions a business must make. He gives some simple, real life situations and then asks some very simple, yet thought provoking questions.
I’ve commented, and some of the other comments are interesting also.
I have often been surprised at the haphazard manner in which many small businesses treat their pricing. Often there is little or no research, it is reactive, and there is rarely a plan. Without a plan the pricing decision is a one-off event rather than a process, and this means it will always be reactive.
Pricing is often considered part of the “marketing mix“, and this makes sense. But having a plan for developing your pricing can greatly help in the financial management side of your business also. In a very basic sense, a pricing plan answers questions like “What is the price now, and where do I want it to be?”, “Why is the price what it is now?”, and “What do I have to do to increase/decrease my pricing?”. Of course, you’ll also want to try to determine how your clients will react, and what they will expect as a result of any change.
By having a plan, you can do things like developing strategies to tie in customers payment performance. This would seek to improve profitability and also cash-flow. Of course, this needs input from both the marketing and financial types in your business.
This is all kind of obvious when you think about it, but without a plan to develop all aspects of your business, including pricing, you’re always going to be reacting to what other people – clients, competitors etc – are doing, rather than getting to where you need to be.
So, have you got a Plan?