How social media is defining customer service in a digital generation

Customer service is a custom that costs nothing, but in value is priceless. It’s often a defining process of a transaction, for better or worse. It can also be argued that Social Media is also a defining component of this digital generation. So surely businesses must be aware that utilising good customer service properly on Social Media is imperative to achieving optimum business success? Well, it actually turns out that there is a huge percentage of businesses that aren’t prepared to view Social Media customer service as a priority, and a lot of them are ignoring customer inquiries and complaints on this medium entirely; much to their detriment.

From taking too long to reply, to not replying at all, the infographic below shows many ways in which businesses are losing customer interest and gaining a negative reputation simultaneously. According to the studies carried out, 6 out of 10 people are willing to name and shame a company to taint the brand via social media. With 1.15 billion registered Facebook users and 215 million monthly Twitter users, that’s a tremendous amount of people that can potentially affect a business negatively, whereas if you have an employee dedicated to customer service on your social media page, a lot of people can be appeased and kept as customers; not to mention also showing your audience that you are active and relevant in the online business world and that you’re willing to help your customers.

Over 15% of businesses lost customers and over 11% of businesses lost revenue due to poor customer service via Social Media. Yet despite this, 1 out of 4 companies have no protocol for dealing with customer complaints on social media and 1 in 4 have no plans to develop a protocol in the future! Don’t let this be your business!

Want to find out more? Read the infographic below to find out the sector that garners the most customer complaints, and all the other current and vital statistics on customers and businesses outlook on customer correspondence on Social Media!

The infographic below shows just how social media is affecting customer service.

How Social Media Is Affecting Customer Service Infographic

Guest Author: Stephen Avila

Stephen Avila is a lawyer of 13 years who specialises in law and media work. Currently the director of Legalo and based in the Suffolk area, Stephen is interested in all aspects of law, digital marketing and content writing. Enthusiastic and entrepreneurial, Stephen is always looking to help others however he can with legal and marketing advice.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

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How LinkedIn can benefit small B2B and B2C businesses

linked-in social networkMost of us probably think of LinkedIn as the go-to social network for B2B businesses, professional networking and recruitment. Certainly at first glance it’s not the obvious platform for small businesses and B2C focused companies. However, with steady year-on-year growth and 380,000,000+ registered users LinkedIn can offer  your business some real benefits.

“51% of B2C companies use LinkedIn as a marketing platform (far more than the 35% who use Pinterest).” LinkedIn Pulse 

More and more businesses are using  social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. So too are consumers with 52% using two or more social networking sites. LinkedIn is a key social networking platform and so we take a look at how small businesses can profit from a LinkedIn presence.

linked-in statisticsDon’t dismiss the numbers: LinkedIn statistics

380 million registered users in 200 countries

2 new members every second

3 million company pages

1 in 3 professionals are on LinkedIn

35% users access LinkedIn daily

LinkedIn has over 1.5 million groups

93 million monthly unique visits 

How can small businesses benefit from LinkedIn  ?

LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to strengthen your brand, extend your reach, support your content marketing efforts and better understand your market. You may already have your own personal profile (as we mentioned earlier one in three professionals does!) but LinkedIn also encourages smaller businesses to build a company presence. They offer helpful tips and advice about how to set up your company page and make the most of your businesses profile. Check out LinkedIn Small Business .

extend reach and drive trafficExtend your reach

When we think of LinkedIn we tend to think ‘business people’ but remember professionals are consumers too.  Of course you may need to adjust your tone and content to reflect a more business orientated environment but LinkedIn offers you an additional platform to reinforce your brand, drive traffic to your website and generate new leads. It provides the opportunity to reach potential new customers who may not be preset on other more ‘consumer’ orientated networks. Research shows that:

13% of LinkedIn users are not on Facebook

59% of LinkedIn users are not on Twitter

83% of LinkedIn users are not on Pinterest.

brandingBuild your brand

LinkedIn provides an additional channel for you to raise awareness, reinforce your brand and increase your business’ visibility. To do this, creating a strong Company Page is essential.

When you out together your Company Page think about how to best optimise your presence.  Use high-quality images for your logo and banner and think carefully about the keywords you choose for your description. You can also create separate Showcase Pages that link off your main page. You can have a number of different standalone showcase pages (up to 10 initially) that allow you to highlight particular products or services. To create a Showcase Page click on the ‘Edit’ drop down to the right of your company page and click on ‘Create a Showcase Page’.

You and your employees should also have up-to-date Personal Profiles pages  connected to your company page. It will help further promote your business and your brand personality.

Content marketingSupport your content marketing

LinkedIn offers a further channel to support your content marketing efforts and drive traffic to your website. You can post content through Status Updates on your company page. To make the most of your presence post interesting content regularly and where appropriate include a URL link back to your site. For example try sharing industry updates, blog posts, company news, new product launches, Videos and infographics

Research shows that 60% of LinkedIn users are interested in industry updates, therefore when you are sharing updates do bear in mind that what you might post on Facebook may not work as well on LinkedIn. Choose content relevant to the LinkedIn environment.

Don’t forget to try to include eye-catching images with your updates. High-quality visual content will help increase engagement.

LinkedIn Pulse is another way to raise your profile and help establish you as an expert in a particular industry or field. Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Although you can’t currently publish articles off you Company Page you can publish them from your (or your employees) Personal Profiles page. If you are interested in posting a blog article checkout this helpful video on ‘How to publish blog posts and articles on LinkedIn Pulse’.

networking on linkedinNetworking

Networking is central to success with LinkedIn. It will help you connect with potential customers, industry influencers, third-party suppliers and potential employees.  Keep active on LinkedIn through regularly sharing interesting content, following relevant companies and professionals, always responding to comments, reviews and queries and joining LinkedIn Groups.

Networking can help build leads for your business. Indeed, research from HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated their best visitor-to-lead conversion rates – three times higher than Twitter or Facebook. There are over 1.5 million LinkedIn Groups so chances are you’ll be able to find one relevant to your business sector and of course if you want you can even set up your own group.

balloons-874838_640Market research

LinkedIn is an excellent way to gather market intelligence. Joining groups can help you collect useful insights into your target audience and stay abreast of industry trends.

LinkedIn is also a great way to keep on top of competitor activity. Check out their company pages. What are they posting? Who are they following? How can you differentiate yourself?

Learn from other business outside your industry as well. Take a look at out the top sites with LinkedIn Best Company Pages 2014 and check out this link from the Content Marketing Institute for some great examples of how B2C brands are doing it.

Hopefully this article has shown that LinkedIn isn’t just for recruitment and B2B companies. Small businesses, including B2C, can also benefit from a presence. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using LinkedIn for your business, so please do leave a comment.

How to Use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase E-Commerce Sales

How to Use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase E-Commerce Sales

At the core of every business lies one intent – profits. A lucrative business always manages to make enough sales to rake in the desired revenues. E-commerce businesses are no different. Just like every money-making venture, e-commerce websites aim to improve conversion rates for furthering their business.

To do so successfully, it is critical that entrepreneurs pay attention to consumer psychology. It is only when you begin to understand your customers’ predispositions, and thought and behavioral patterns (when they’re either moving through your sales funnel or are exposed to your products and services), that you will be able to devise a plan that will help you generate more business.

Ever since we’re born, we’re conditioned to preserve and covet objects that display the potential to disappear/deplete. Further, we always strive to acquire that we feel we may lose out on, if we don’t act immediately.

Successful businesses recognize and understand this psychology and use it to boost their sales. They’re well aware that presenting products/services as scarce or under the threat of being taken away in a short while will immediately become more valuable to the customer.

Companies have been exploiting urgency and scarcity principles to increase sales since years now. E-commerce websites can learn a thing or two about them to increase their sales.

Let’s delve into the details of the two.

The Urgency Principle

Urgency comes with importance. Behavioral psychology explains it as a situation that cause us to abandon deliberate thought and act impulsively. It is a form of persuasion, which becomes even more effective when clubbed with promotional offers, thereby creating anxiety within buyers, which makes them feel that they may miss out the benefits if they fail to act immediately.

E-commerce can tap this emotion by creating a strong sense of urgency on their landing page and eventually turn customers into conversions.

Many a time, conversions are affected by cognitive friction. This happens when people take a long time to think about buying a product, or simply wait and don’t respond to the company’s calls-to-action. Companies minimize such delays by increasing the urgency level, which leads to conversions.

How It Works

How many times have you come across a webpage on an e-commerce site with words that go ‘Hurry! Limited Period Offer’ attached to their products. This is the perfect example to demonstrate how websites use the urgency principle to make customers act, thereby ramping up their sale figures. Urgency offers usually focus on a shortage of time (till stock lasts) and availability.

Apart from the above phrases, here are a few other common words and sentences used to express urgency –

  • Only
  • Just for today
  • Buy now
  • Act now
  • Rush
  • Last chance
  • Last day
  • One day only
  • Final close-out
  • Clearance
  • Now or never
  • Never again
  • Don’t miss
  • Don’t delay
  • Introductory offer
  • Offer expires
  • Once in a lifetime
  • Prices going up

Apart from these, non-verbal ways of expressing urgency include displaying images of ticking clocks, hourglasses, and countdowns.

Wondering how you can create urgency on your e-commerce website?

There are specific tactics smart marketers employ to raise the urgency level on a site. These include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

1. Setting a Deadline

Who doesn’t look forward to saving money and still getting the product they want? You can take advantage of this and offer discounts to encourage such sales. Make sure to set a time limit to the discount though, as indefinite ones will lead your customers to expect a frequent or permanent price cut. To evade the effect of depreciating the value of your product, and still leveraging the power of a discount, set a deadline.

2. Advertise the Deadline on Your Home Page

Ensure that your customers know that your special offers and discounts are time bound. Display the product and the discounted deal prominently on your website’s home page to arrest their attention and generate interest and urgency.

3. Restrict Deals to ‘Offer Open till Stock Lasts’

An alternative to having a deadline associated with a specific period of time, consider associating it to the amount of inventory available with you. This comes across as less contrived and more appropriate to create urgency as running out of stock is more natural than not extending your discounts.

4. Offer Daily Deals

Sometimes, being bold and aggressive in your approach can help you make sales. While we have already discussed time-bound deadlines in one of the above points, you can also consider being extreme with them. You could announce value deals or lowered prices for your products for a very limited period of time, say twenty-four hours, with the offer expiring post that.

5. Create Urgency on Cart Page

Many a time, customers go on an online shopping spree and fail to realize the total cost of their purchase until they see the list of items in their shopping cart. This can, sometimes, lead to sticker shock, which may lead the customer to abandon the cart. Help them fight this impulse by reminding them on the cart page that the special prices offered by your website are available only for a short while.

6. Provide Free Shipping for a Limited Period

This makes sense as shipping prices are only disclosed at the time of checkout, which can drive the total cost substantially higher. However, if your customers know that you will be providing free shipping for a limited period of time, they will want to buy within that period to save money on shipping.

7. Let Your Customers Know That Stocks Are Limited

You will do well to indicate to your customers that your products are available in limited quantity. This works at a subconscious level by creating a mental deadline in the customer’s mind.

Further, it also creates a sense of competition to acquire the product before others do and can spell the difference between a customer making a purchase or leaving your website.

The shopping cart is also a crucial point in the buying process. If the customer stops to think over the price or decides to postpone the purchase, you could be looking at the loss of a sale. Creating urgency at this point by indicating the exact quantities remaining coupled with using phrases such as ‘Hurry’ or ‘Limited Period Offer’ can increase the likelihood of a sale.

8. Use Holidays to Create Urgency

Certain orders need to be delivered by a specific date. This applies to holiday-gift orders the most. If your buyers want the product delivered within a specific time frame, remind them of the delivery deadline and enhance the chances of them making an immediate purchase.

The urgency principle becomes more effective when it is clubbed and used with the scarcity principle.

The Scarcity Principle

Scarcity implies any limitation placed on the sale of a product/service, with the intent to grow sales by placing pressure on the consumer. This principle states that when people think that they will fall short of something, they tend to want it more as its subjective value increases.

The fear of losing out on a great offer leads buyers to make an impulsive decision to purchase. This limitation can be time-bound or based on limited quantity.

The scarcity principle works best when combined with a certain perceived benefit, such as a freebie, a lowered price, or a sense of achievement stemming from buying something that others missed out. It also effectively boosts a sense of urgency among customers.

Scarcity can be created by manufacturers. If you’re a manufacturer, you can intentionally restrict your production or delivery of services in order to boost demand. For instance, if you announce to your customers that there are “only two more” of a certain product left in stock, the desire to acquire that product will increase because of the fact that soon it will not be available anymore.

How It Works

What do websites do when they realize that their products are not selling well? One may say that they cut prices in a bid to generate more demand. Doing so, however, can have an adverse effect on the bottom line. There is a better way to handle such situations.

They create scarcity, which works well by making customers believe that the product is in short supply and as human psychology would have it, people will want it more when they’re told they cannot have it. The fear of missing out on the benefits can be a powerful motivator.

And if you thought that e-commerce sites use this tactic only to push their slow-moving items, think again!

The scarcity principle can be included in the normal marketing cycle to boost the sale of products. Most e-commerce websites always display the number of items remaining to the customers. Indicators that convey that only a few of them are left often result in the item getting sold quickly.

So how can you apply the scarcity principle to your website?

1. Present Limited Time Offers

Probably the most widely used approach, this entails advertising sales with a specific time limit, post which customers have to pay full price for the same item. To stir things up further, you can announce an outrageous deal or a flash sale that lasts for a shorter period of time, for example flat 50% off for purchases made within a specific one-hour window. This is bound to create more buzz than a week-long sale.

2. Display Quantities Left

This is one of the most popular approaches used by websites to spur up their sales. All you will need to do is display a signage next to your products, which will alert the buyer that there are only a few items left, and there will be no more for a long time to come. Interested customers will snap up the item in question instantly.

3. Manufacture in Limited Quantity

Most fashion websites use this tactic to generate interest in their offerings. The idea is to present their products as unique and something that not everyone will end up owning. If most people end up possessing/sporting the same mass-produced items, then the novelty of owning the item would be lost.

When it comes to fashion websites, only the uniquely stylish items stand out. Show this to your customers and they will make a beeline for your offerings. Small businesses can employ this tactic to sell their products on their website. It’s as simple as producing a quality and a unique item in a limited quantity and selling it at a high price.

4. Make Your Customers Compete

If you’ve ever been to an auction, you would know about making customers compete for an item. This is one of the best ways to not only sell an item, but also get a premium price for it. You can apply this approach to selling on your website as well. If you’re selling used cars, for instance, show that their availability is scarce and have potential customers bid against each other to get the best possible price.

5. Highlight the Loss

When you highlight the loss, you bring to the awareness of your customers not just what they will gain by buying your product, but also what they will lose out on if they don’t buy it. So, for example, if you’re selling a high-speed laptop, tell them how much they will lose out by buying an inferior product. Juxtapose this with the advantages of owning your product. Ask them if it is worth saving a few extra dollars and they will realize that your superior product could be their best bet.

Conclusion

The concept of e-commerce and online shopping may not be new, but entrepreneurs need to come up with more and more effective ways to get customers to buy from them. The urgency and scarcity principles can help tremendously. This post should help you generate and increase your e-commerce sales. Feel free to apply these principles, either together or individually, to your website pages and watch your sales soar.

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Google Adwords: 7 beginner tips for small businesses and start-ups

If you are a small business looking to dip your toeGoogle Adwords into online advertising then Google AdWords is a good place to start.  PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising can offer an affordable advertising option for your business. But how do you get the best ROI when you are competing against big businesses with sizeable budgets? We take a look at 7 helpful tips to ensure small businesses and start-ups get the most bang for their buck.

Google is probably the most well-known and popular search engine so it makes sense to start your online advertising journey through Google AdWords.  In a nutshell, Google Adwords works by enabling you to bid to place you advertisement in front of  someone searching through keywords related to your product or service. You only pay when someone clicks through from the advertisement to your website.

Here is an example of ads that crop up when I typed ‘ Online French courses’ into Google. The ads are marked and appear to the side and at the top of the natural search results. Where you advertisement ranks depends on a combination of your CPC (cost per click bid)  and your ‘ Quality Score’ (relevance to the search, the quality of your landing page and click-through rate).

Example of google adwords ads

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses:

  1. You only spend what you can afford. There is no minimum spending commitment  so you can work out a budget to suit your individual business.
  2. You only pay when someone clicks through the advertisement to your site.
  3. With a bit of practice Google AdWords is pretty straightforward to use with plenty of guides to help you through setting up your account and getting your first campaign off the ground. Checkout Google Adwords Support.
  4. You can measure the success of your ads so you can continuously experiment and make tweaks to improve performance.

On the downside Google Adwords is not something you can quickly knock up and then leave to tick over by itself. It takes a while to get the best results and a fair amount of on-going commitment to get a good return on investment. You’ll need to spend time researching the best keywords, monitoring performance and tweaking your ads.

Here are 7 helpful tips to ensure your small business or start-up get the most out of Google AdWords

Google search engine1. Keep things simple to start. You’ll wield better results by keeping things simple at first and getting the basics right before progressing to more advanced options.  As we mentioned earlier it will take a bit of practice to get the hang of things and a fair amount or adjusting and tweaking to get the best results. With a small budget and a number of other roles to juggle it is a good idea for small businesses to  begin by advertising on Google Search before advancing on to Google Display Networks (these are other Google owned properties like YouTube and Google Partner sites like The New York Times). This way you have a better feel for what keywords are performing better before investing more of your hard-earned cash.

set a budget for adwords2. Set a sensible daily budget. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Think carefully about what a click-through is worth to your business. For example how many click-throughs become prospective customers? If you want to find out how to work out your maximum bid then have a read of this article by Marketing MO ‘How to Calculate your Max Bid Price’. Alternatively (although not recommended for any length of time) if you are finding it a bit daunting initially and your pushed for time, you can try Google’s automatic bidding option. You set yourself a 30 day budget and Google Adwords will set your bids for you. As you get more confident you should move to manual bids which will give you far more flexibility to optimise your performance.

3. Spend time on keyword research.  Having relevant, specific and targeted keywords is essential to the performance of your advertising and consequently your ROI. It really is important you invest time researching the best keywords for your business.

Keyword planner. Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start. Input the keywords that you think customers would type into a search engine to find your business. The keyword planner will provide a list of similar keywords and tell you whether the competition is high, medium or low and what the approximate cost-per-click is. The key for small businesses is to be specific. It is far better to have fewer clicks with people who are genuine prospects than lots of irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Group your keywords. It can be a good idea to group your keywords into keyword groups. I’ve put a very basic example below, but it can be a good way to help you structure your campaigns into relevant groups for better targeted advertisements.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.08.40

Longtail keywords. These are specific words or phrases and are usually lower cost as there is less competition for them. People are more likely to use them when they are nearer to the point of purchase. If we use the example above, the term silver jewellery is very generic so you could narrow your keywords down to something more specific- silver diamond engagement rings Hertfordshire. Of course it will take some time getting the right long tail keywords for your business but if you target them correctly you can get higher ad rankings without the big price tag.

4. Be as targeted as you can. As we’ve seen with keywords the key to using Google AdWords successfully is to be specific and targeted rather than taking a broad brush approach. Not only will it keep your costs down it will help you bring in more targeted traffic. You click-through rate may be lower but the quality of your visitors is likely to be higher. Here are some options that will help you more closely target your advertisements.

Location targeting: You can choose what geographical location to show you ads – by country, region, city or within a radius around a specific location. For example if you ran a pet grooming service you would be able to target the location where your customers live.

Custom ad scheduling: The default option for AdWords is to have ads showing all day and at all times. However, if you know your customers are likely to be active only during business hours then you can schedule ads to only appear during 9.ooam – 5.00pm.

Keyword matching options: Google AdWords matching option will help you manage the searches that trigger your advertisement. For example a broad match will bring in more traffic but the traffic is likely to be less targeted. Whereas exact match is more restrictive and will bring in fewer clicks but your traffic may be a better match for your business. There are a range of options:

  • Broad match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Checkout Google AdWords support to select the right matching options for your business.

good copywriting
5. Compelling copy for your PPC ad. With limited words to play with you need to make every word count. You can see from the example below the structure is fairly straightforward. You have a headline of a maximum 25 characters, your URL address, description line 1 with a maximum of 35 characters and description line 2 with a maximum of 35 characters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.01.02You need to make you PPC ad compelling as possible to your target audience and relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Try to include at least one keyword in your headline. A useful copywriting model to keep in mind is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Use your headline to grab attention, your description lines to create interest and desire – for example describe your product or incentive. Always finish with a call to action.

6. Optimise your landing page.  Your landing page is really important and needs to be relevant to your advertisement and the search query your visitor typed in. If it’s not your visitor will simply leave. There is no point spending you money on advertising if your landing pages are irrelevant or ill-thought out. Poor landing pages can be the reason behind low conversions and a high bounce rate. So spend some time getting your landing pages spot on.

7. Monitor performance. To get the best ROI make sure you keep on top of how your ads are performing. Monitor your CTR (click-through rates)and make adjustments to your ads as you go along, depending upon what you find is (or isn’t) working. Keep updating your keywords lists, removing any keywords that are performing poorly.  The more you measure and tweak the better your ads will perform.

Google AdWords can be a great way for small businesses and start-ups to drive traffic to their website and grow business. However to make the most out of Google AdWords and to get the best ROI it will need you to invest time and effort into making it work for you business.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of using Google AdWords, so please do leave a comment.