Saturday, 5 November 2011

6 essential skills for newbies in marketing

 There are a number of  skills that a newbie must possess to get a job in any domain, not just marketing. And the following soft and hard skills are important if you want to storm your way into this particular field. Do not worry, the majority can be easily learnt and assimilated, but others make up the passion for marketing and are part of who you are as a person. I'll start with the former. So let's jump right into it, shall we?

1. Analytics or statistics, as you might want to call it, both words hide more or less the same concept. And they are important because in my opinion marketing is a combination of science and (let's call it) feeling. And analytics is the science part of it.

2. SEO is a significant part of the XXIst century's marketing and I foresee a major increase in the role it will play in marketing, as search engines have become the most important source of information in today's society. Of course, we have to consider the fact that access to internet does not cover the whole globe just yet, and decades will pass until it does. But the majority of the target market of many-many businesses, first action in the decision process is to search.

3. Photoshop. Oh yes! The time when Photoshop skills weren't needed passed approximately when the Adobe started developing it. The only person who doesn't have to know how to create breathtaking images is the CMO, but you can't actually get there if you do not know Photoshop. Although it's probably something you learn so you can forget it latter, for newbies it is a necessity.

4. Creativity. Although you probably need to creative in any position, you have to be ultimately creative in the marketing field, because you are in charge of making your brand memorable, and only the shocking "advertisements" (and here I do not use it solely in the traditional sense) are unforgettable. In one hand your interviewer cannot measure you creativity, so let's say you can get a marketing job without being creative, but creativity will keep you from being dismissed latter on.

5. Smiling. Although this is an action, for me being able to smile with all your heart and soul to a customer or potential customer is a sign of having great people skills. But, do be careful, Pan-Am smiles won't get you nowhere, I am talking about crow's feet causing smiles.

6. Listening, understanding and acting. Although it is the sixth skill on my list, listening is the essence of marketing. If you cannot listen to what people say, to what you customers are saying, to what your competitors' clients are saying, to what those employees are saying who get in touch with the customers on a daily basis, and understand theirs feelings, motivations, dissatisfaction and so on, and act based on these, you will probably get fired (best case scenario) or bankrupt the company (worst case scenario). I do believe listening is a very hard thing to do for some of us, because the human nature is built in such a way in which it's primary concern is him/herself. So it is difficult to switch off our primary instinct, but with a little self-discipline nothing is impossible.

7. Social Media. I left SM for last because I consider it to be a combination of hard and soft skills. There are some aspects of social media that are basically science, you can easily learn it, but some aspects are related to your sociable side. In contrast with our "listening problems", humans are sociable by nature (yes, everything comes down to our monkey instincts as I like to call them). But the real challenge is to be popular on the world wide web, which is a totally different thing compared to real life, so not everyone got a hold of it, but we all will. Eventually.

Now all we have to do is to identify our weak spot and start building it up. For example my weakest spot is ... you guessed it: Photoshop :) If you're like me start reading this Photoshop manual (it is indeed for an old version, but the basics are the same and the information is fairly organized).

If your weakness lies in the first 2 points I highly recommend Hubspot's Inbound Marketing University. But if the 6th point is giving you trouble check out Carnegie's Secrets of Success for tips :)

If you would add some other skills as well, and you probably would, please do.

All newbies in marketing, I salute you! :D

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Google's new "user privacy" protection policy

You probably noticed that there was a big hype in the marketing blogosphere the past couple of weeks regarding Google's new privacy policy. This involved the decision not to reveal analytics programme users the keywords some of www surfers used in the search engine to get to their particular website.

As in any situation the glass is half full and half empty in this case as well. On one hand keywords appear as "(not provided)" in the analytics programme if the internet user was logged-in on a Google account the moment he did the search. This means Gmail, Youtube, Google+, and other accounts that are or will be under Google's ownership (see new acquisitions made by the giant).

On the other hand, Google AdWords users will have access to this particular information, so the keywords are not provided where organic search is involved. So the new "privacy policy" divides businesses in superiors and inferiors. How to get from one category to the other? Just pay Google, simple as that. Of course, there is an ethical issue in place as well, Google trying to hide the unethicalness of the decision behind the concept of "user privacy". Do not get me wrong, user privacy is an important issue in today's internet society, but if the giant would have really intended to protect users, he would have kept AdWords in the dark too. Plus, Google already offers an encrypted search functionality to surfers from 2010, so if users decide to stay hidden they can, but now Google takes that decision for them.

Furthermore, for the moment at least logged-in users represents only a smart part of searchers, but marketers should monitor the percentage of them (compared to the whole of incoming surfers on their website) for a longer period of time. Additionally, there still remain Bing and Yahoo searches to consider.

Marketers can just hope that Google will take into account our disappointment and turn this thing around. Until then, we can just express our opinion wherever we can - blog posts or comments. So I encourage you to comment on this issue on my blog or on Google's official blog.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

3+1 main differences between Outbound and Inbound Marketing

The first main difference between the two is essentially the way you get your brand known to the potential customers. While outbound marketing about buying (advertising), begging (PR) or bugging (sales) your way in to customers lives, inbound marketing involves earning your way in, by increasing visibility through information or content related to your activity and industry, which is considered to be valuable to your target audience, which includes your target market. Sometimes in B2B targeting your audience might be a hard nut to crack, or it might seem that way, but the only thing you have to consider is the personnel of the department you'll have to be dealing with from start to finish and the person that will make the decision.

While word of mouth was considered important before as well, marketers couldn't really "get a hold of it", not to mention analyse it's effects and results. Now with the technology that's out there today it is easier to monitor the word of mouth activity that unfolds on the net. Of course this is just a part of the whole WOM phenomena, but we do have to consider two aspects in this case:
A. The time spent on the internet - an eResearch Corp study shows that 71% of the questioned population (the study had included 16+ year old's in the Romanian urban environment) uses the internet in an average of 3 hours daily.
B. The interaction happening on the world wide web - another study (sorry I don't really know who conducted it) shows that 95% of the respondents are unsatisfied with the real time spent with friends and family and 58% prefer meetings with F&F on the internet, due to time-effectiveness.
As you can see the results are in favour of WOM that goes on the net, and I believe that these figures will increase in due time.

Inbound marketing is much more data driven than outbound marketing and this is thanks to, again, the technology out there, so do not forget to analyse, analyse, analyse. Of course outbound marketing uses and tries to monitor the impression of a campaign, but with inbound marketing it's much more easier to gather the data you need to, let's say, categorise you marketing activity of a given period as successful or stillborn. But, it is not enough to collect the data, it is vital to understand it and to act according to it. When it comes to data you might like to check out Avinash Kaushik's blog, as it is one of the essential marketing analytics blogs out there.

As you might have guessed it's all about tech - inbound marketing being more technology based and technology driven than outbound marketing, although the latter is changing as well due to technology developments. This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of inbound marketing actions are linked to the world wide web and presume that the target market uses "technology platforms" (if we can call it that) that are more spread like the PC or laptop and/or the latest entries in this domain like smartphones, tablets etc. Additionally, it uses blogs, social media, QR codes while the reach and impact of paper-based newspapers and magazines, of the telly and other traditional channels is decreasing. It is important to note that I am not saying that inbound marketing will replace outbound marketing any time soon or ever in fact, a successful marketing campaign will include both in different rates, according to the end audience.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Top 5 Free Internet Marketing Tools

The internet represents a a great platform for today's marketers and it also offers a variety of marketing tools to make marketing activities easier. I am always searching for new tools that can help in listening, research, content creation or any other marketing process, so I thought that noting some of these might be useful for you. Oh, and did I mention that they're free? Some of you might know a couple of them or all of them, and if you know some additional ones please share :) And here they are:

1. Google Insight - apart form providing alternatives for a given keyword (it also provides "hot keywords" - which have registered a high increase of searches), you can compare two or even more keywords to see the interest for them in a given period, and for a specific area. Even thought Google Trends uses the same data, Google Insight offeres much more information for marketers, so be sure to use it!
2. Website GraderBlog GraderTwitter GraderFacebook Grader - each of these generates a report for your website, blog, and social media accounts in which a multitude of aspects are graded. Additionally, if you are new to internet marketing you can figure out what you are doing right, what aspects you should improve or what to elements to further consider.
3. Google Alerts - a great monitoring tool, through which you can be up to date regarding content that incorporate certain keywords that you are interested in.
4. Google Keyword - is part of Google AdWords and it offers you alternatives of the keyword you choose to introduce in the box at the beginning, together with other scores as competitiveness and monthly searches for the respective keywords. Considering these aspects you can better target the keywords you want to be ranked for or when you have to create a payed search campaign.
5. Social Mention - it can be interesting for you to try it out, it is like Google Alerts only just for social media channels, it provides information on many aspects including sentiment and passion (which I personally found interesting), sources, top keywords, top hashtags, top users etc.
Bonus: Google Reader - now even if this is not exclusively related to marketing processes, I advise you to use this tool in order to always learn about the trends and news in the marketing field, especially considering that internet marketing is changing as we speak, new tools, methods and platforms appearing every day.

Again, these are just the main free ones that you definitely should use, many more being out there and many more being developed. If you know of others please do share :)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Leaders' Checklist

I've read a very interesting article the other day, although it's not about marketing, it is mainly about communication and leadership. The author - John Izzo -, transfers the idea of pilots' checklist on to leaders and comes up with a couple of items that leaders should check off at least on a weekly basis.

Probably you agree that leadership has become a buzzword in today's society, with very few managers becoming truly leaders. Maybe the reason behind this fact is that leadership is such an abstract concept in my opinion, I mean the definition ("Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen" - Alan Keith) and everything else about it in books and speeches is idealistic. But I believe that any manager who "abides" by the respective list can get closer to being seen as a leader, because it is very practical.

With that in mind I invite you to read the original article about leaders' checklist and I challenge you to check yourself off every item on the list every week.

Friday, 7 October 2011

5 basic rules in Email Marketing

Email marketing has become one of the essential marketing practices in today's world and as simple it might seem, creating an email marketing campaign takes time and dedication. Below you have 5 basic rules that I consider mandatory if you want to get results.

1. Send out content that is valuable for your receivers. Do not just send out promotional content, of course that is part of it, but it is definitely not all about it. But to actually know what is valuable to your customers, you first have to listen, which is the essential first step in any inbound and internet marketing strategy.

2. Plan, plan, plan. Don't just jump in head forward, you could for example send out newsletters periodically, but you can also plan what kind of content you send and in which order for the newcomers to your database.

3. This one is important, and I certainly hope you were doing this without reading this post. Triple check your content for grammar mistakes or misspells and use pictures and graphics that are linked to the text. Nobody reads emails from companies and suppliers if they are plain text, use pictures to make the receiver want to read it and to make in memorable. Additionally, it is highly important for the text to be correct from a grammatical and spelling point of view. Because if the customer or potential customer honors you with his or her time to read your content and finds mistakes of any sorts it will give the impression that you did not take the time to proofread it, which means that the email you sent is not valuable enough for you to invest your time in it, so the why should your customer waste time reading it?

4. Analyse. Now there are many email marketing products that gather the data for you (e.g. Constant Contact) - opening rate, click through rate etc., but the data alone does not worth anything if you don't understand what it means and you don't make good use of it next time you send out content to your list. The part of listening comes in at this point as well. The CTR gives you a hint which content was valuable enough for your reader to actually click on it to read the whole of it. Of course, you cannot get the data if the whole content is in the email. The whole content should be hosted on your website/blog, the email should contain only a part of it, which has the role to "sell" your content - so be careful what and how you say it.

5. Constantly update and grow your database. You have to find multiple ways to get new contacts every week - your website (which is probably the most used one), the social media tools you use, networking at different events, sweepstakes etc. And the updating part is essential as well. Maybe some contacts do not want to receive your emails anymore, so be sure to put an unsubscribe link at the end of each and every email you send. Maybe they changed their email address since they signed up, so telemarketing can help you with this part, and any updating need you might have.

Be sure to abide by these 5 rules, because they might make or brake your email marketing initiatives. If you are interested in other aspects of this marketing tool, there is an email marketing event coming soon in Bucharest organised by the Email Marketing Academy, you might want to check it out :)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dos and Don'ts @Conferences

Conferences are a great way to do some networking, to gather new insight in a domain you're interested in and so on and so on. Recently I participated in one of the most acclaimed business conferences in BraČ™ov (and maybe even Romania) - Business Days, and during those 2 days I felt extreme disappointment and excitement,both of which led to this post. Let's start with the don'ts.

A more than appropriate example in this category would be a real-estate company's owner, who was a speaker at the conference and in his available 10 minutes he chose to "play a game" with the audience. He told us to give his team members one 10 lei bill, from our own wallets, in one minute, without asking any questions and other limitations. After the bills were collected he gave 4 rules in sales, one being ask the price of your product/service with courage (with which I do agree), and another would be to not let the customer to ask questions (yes, this did take place in the 21st century). Afterwards, he gave each audience member a printed out "infinite" bill (which supposed to represent the infinite amount of wealth you can gain)...and then...that was it. Me and some of the people I'd talked to were outraged, even more the next day when they announced that the "infinite" bill can be exchanged at their stand, where you had the possibility to reserve a patch of land (if you payed another 50 lei, of course).

Another do not example would be when speakers advertise their product/service or make everything they speak to you about their product.

But do not despair! There were conference/seminar/workshop speakers who did provide value or at least new information to their listeners, who answered their questions in a direct, concrete and applicable way, not just reciting theory megalomaniacally.

So the take aways from this experience can be applied in marketing in general as well:
1. ALWAYS provide VALUE, not only in your daily activities, but in situations, like conferences, where you indeed have the possibility to make your brand knowledgeable, but this part is done with the fact that beside your name there is the name of your firm written as well. The hard part is getting the audience interested enough to read what is next to your name, and that is easy only if you offer value.
 2. Do not be an upstart, nobody cares what you did or who you are, if you do not provide insight in your experience/expertise. If not they will forget about you the moment you walked out the room.
3. Do absolutely not try to scam people, because they will remember you and keep away from you. You might fool them once, but you won't fool them twice, and which is worse, you won't even get to fool their acquaintances, not even once.

So I guess, you have three choices, to fall into one of the extremes (to be hailed or to be scorned ) or to be just not worthy to remember. Which do you chose?

Thursday, 14 July 2011 and the sorts

Not long ago deal sites had arrived to Romania as well. Hurray!!! Good for the Romanian customers, good for the sites and certainly good for businesses, right? Well, let's analyse this a wee bit, shall we?

First of all, you cannot argue the benefits it brings to customers. They get something (service or product) they wanted to buy anyway, but at a cheaper price. Well, that's partly true for Romanians though, because we react to sales in a more extreme way than other nations do, especially compared to Western peoples. This being an effect due to the prolonged communism, an era of "have not" that found it's way under people's skin, even after two decades from it's fall.

Secondly, it's good for the deal sites, no comment on that :)

But is it good for the companies that offer these reductions? Well it depends on the type of business they're running, their target market and the structure of the database the deal site has (age, gender, revenue and other characteristics of the subscribers to their "newsletters").  But of course, few sites can provide you with a structure of their database. For example, it might be effective for a beauty salon or a cake shop, but if your target market isn't the general public then be prepared to get a lower lead conversion rate. 

Of course, it can be considered a way of getting visibility to a group of people, from which a couple of persons might be in your target market, but the question is, is it worth the time invested in it? The answer: you have to try it out to know for sure. If the results aren't the ones you expected the first time, then you should turn to another marketing instrument and not look back.

In order to do this, first you have to know the product and the reduced price rate, then describe the product and the offer as appealing as possible, find a deal site (the easiest part), contact them and sign the contract, after they send you the preview of the offer confirm (or modify) and your offer is up and going. After it expires, you will get a document with the names and voucher codes and you just have to wait for the customers to contact you and from there you know what to do :)

I would make a few modifications to this whole process, though:
- when they send you the list with the customers they do not send a contact information, which is OK for general products and services, but some businesses it might be useful to have these. Thus, they can create that WOW effect and if the customer forgets to use the coupon the firm can remind him/her of this close it's expiration date, which is a win-win situation. Of course, there is personal data protection involved, but if a person purchases a voucher then (s)he obviously has the intention of contacting the firm in question. 
- why not offer a description of your database to the firm, so the person responsible can take an informed decision in choosing the right site for it's offer? Even if you loose that contact from the start, you have to consider that you will loose him anyway, because it's highly probable that he will be unsatisfied with the results. Plus, if only you do this, the firm will choose you anyway.
- I would introduce offers different from sales, cause price decreases are an entrepreneurs worst nightmare, a simple 10% reduction can have a great negative impact on profits (up to -50% if not more). For example, why not give something valuable for free with a particular purchase or why not give an upgrade?

To conclude, these sorts of sites can be good or bad for business, it's for you to decide when it comes to your company.