How to Create Your eCommerce Budget for 2015

Creating a budget requires time for planning, looking at your available resources and a thought process that is geared towards avoiding any unforeseen costs and expenses. This rings especially true for those who are looking at starting up a successful eCommerce venture.

Shopping Cart Software

Image Source: ShutterStock.com

Many elements of your line items will appear self evident, but others are less obvious. In addition to initial startup costs of getting your web site built, tested and functional, there are other more long-term, ongoing expenses that need consideration and inclusion.

Here are six key elements to examine when planning your eCommerce budget:

#1 – Design & Development

In addition to the most obvious, number-one line item for your online business, some categories of design and development are often overlooked. For example, one will easily remember a “shopping cart” service, but what about the other elements that should accompany this buying platform? Customer loyalty programs, coupons, gift cards, shipping estimators, returns and exchanges are just a few functions and features that sometimes go MIA.

#2 – Visuals & Artwork

Once you look past the design of a business logo, your site needs other types of visual appeal, photographs and artwork. These are not necessarily “free” and to avoid any possible legal ramifications in the future, ensure that your images are all properly licensed (naturally available at an additional cost) or perhaps you will be using your own photography. Either way, decide which will work best for you and your bottom line.

#3 – Data Entry & Management

Someone will need to enter all your valuable product information into a database. While most developers will perform this service (again, for an additional fee), some startups will opt to do it themselves. Be prepared for a little training and a hefty investment in time, but this is also a valuable way to learn the ropes of your site’s management console. There is also ongoing data management and maintenance of product information, customer and sales information that require attention.

Data entry security

Image Source: ShutterStock.com

#4 – Hosting & Security

There are plenty of web hosting companies that are a real bargain, but you often get what you pay for in terms of speed, security and support. Online shoppers are impatient and fickle, so if your site loads too slowly or doesn’t appear to be secure, they will quickly move along to someplace faster and safer without blinking an eye.

#5 – Maintenance & Updates

What works today, might not work tomorrow — just think of how often Windows is updated. The same is true for you and your website. You’ll need to budget for things like upgrades associated with advancements in web browsers, advancing technology, enhanced security, new features and functions. Even tech startups can be caught off guard by these costs.

#6 – Marketing & Advertising

Traffic to your new eCommerce website will not magically appear out of thin air. You’ll need to promote your new business through effective marketing and advertising. Both of these come at a cost, either with your own time or payment to a third party. There are many different marketing options available but be prepared to pay for targeted advertising, effective SEO marketing and/or social media strategies.

In closing, think about this, remember playing hide-and-go-seek as a child? There were always a few rules and limitations as to where you could conceal yourself.

Budgets don’t play fair.

Guest Author: Megan Ritter

Megan Ritter is an online business writer and guest author based in Southern California. As an online journalist, she often covers social media marketing, ecommerce, finance management, and business communications. Follow Megan Ritter on Twitter to connect with her!

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How to optimise your landing pages and increase conversions

Apollo moon landing

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good landing.

Landing pages play an integral role in maximizing online conversions. Yet, a surprising number of small online businesses overlook their importance.  A good landing page should engage your visitor, generate a response, increase conversions, answer your customer’s information needs, reduce your ‘bounce’ rate and support your brand.

“Landing pages can be described as the entrance doors to a website that only selected customers are directed to” (Gay et al, Online Marketing, 2007)

Put simply, your landing page is the destination web page a customer arrives at when they click on a link – usually from a marketing communication or referring site. The landing page, the page on which your customer enters your website, is incredibly important as it is often the first impression that they get of your business.

Do you recognise this all too familiar scenario? You spend time putting together a fantastic offer and communicate it effectively to your customers via a great, targeted email campaign.  Your customer, enticed by your exciting offer, clicks on the link through to your website – then inexplicably exits your website immediately? So what might be going wrong? One possibility could be down to the web page you have sent your recipient to – the landing page.

Exit signBounce rate – how are your landing pages performing?

“In a nutshell bounce rate measures the percentage of people who come to your website and leave “instantly”. Thought about from a customer perspective rather than I came, I saw, I conquered, the action is I came, I saw, Yuck, I am out of here.” Avinash Kaushik

The bounce rate is a really useful measurement to use when you are evaluating the effectiveness of your landing pages. Your bounce rate is essentially the number of customers who arrive at your website then leave immediately – without looking at any other pages. The basic rule of thumb is the lower the bounce rate the better. A high bounce rate may suggest some issues with your landing page.

A good starting point is to look at your Google Analytics (or equivalent) Landing Page report and look at the landing pages with the highest bounce rate. From here you can visit those landing pages and review what might not be working so well – unrelated or irrelevant content, no call to action, confusing format and so on.

So what is an average bounce rate to measure your performance against? Actually, an average bounce rate is difficult to pin down as it will differ for industry and web page type (for example a contact us page is automatically going to have a high bounce rate due to the nature of it use – in fact a high bounce rate in this case would indicate your contact page is doing its job). However to give you a ball park figure , Google put the average around 40%-60% so this is probably a good starting point to begin with.

“According to Google the average bounce rate for most sites falls in the range of 40% – 60%.  If your site bounce rate is below 40% you are doing well and if it’s above 60% then you definitely need to find out why”. Anders Analytics

Welcome mat imageWhat makes a good landing page?

So, your hard work has paid off. You have successfully grabbed your customer’s attention and they’ve clicked through to your site. How then do you make sure you don’t lose them? The first thing to remember is that the page your customer arrives at may be the first experience they have had of your website. You need to make them feel welcome and reassure them they’ve arrived at the right place.

1. Create different, campaign specific landing pages

Often the first place that visitors are automatically directed to is the home page, and sometimes this is appropriate. However, the problem with the home page is that due to the broad  job it has to do, it can’t be very message specific. This can make  it difficult to develop a customer’s interest and elicit a particular response.

You need to consider where it is the customers is coming from – be it an email newsletter, search engine, social media site or a specific marketing promotion – and direct your customers to a landing page that is appropriate to the message being communicated. For example if your customer has been enticed by a special promotional offer, then you should have a specific landing page dedicated to that offer. The landing page should enable the customer to easily find out further information about the offer and there should be a clear call to action.

2. Think about it from your customer’s point of view.  

Before you write the copy for your landing page, think about what it is that will drive your customer to click-through to your website. What link has bought them to you – what are they expecting to find? You then need to write your copy accordingly. Your landing pages should provide additional, relevant information to your searchers based on the offer or referring site that they have just clicked through on.

3. Have a clear and specific message

Make sure that the message you are conveying to your customer is clear, targeted and specific. Don’t get distracted and try to be all things to all people. Keep your message concise, relevant and to the point.

4. Have recognisable and consistent branding

Make sure your landing page reflects your brand and is consistent with the rest of your website – even if your landing page is just temporary for a time-specific promotion. Remember, even if your ultimate objective is conversion, you must try to ensure all visitors (even those who choose not to convert at this time) have a positive experience. As we mentioned earlier, this maybe your users’ first time on your website and so you need to create a good first impression if you want them to come back.

5. Clear and easy call to action

Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to convert. Your call to action should be obvious and it should be easy for your customer to respond to. If you’ve got them this far, you don’t want to put them off with a complicated call to action or a request for too much information. The more straightforward it is, the more likely it is you’ll get that conversion.

6. Well thought out page design and layout

As with any other web page, think carefully about page design and layout. It should be easy to navigate, user-friendly (for example how easy is it for your user to complete an action?) and visually appealing.

I’ll leave you with some solid landing page advice from Web Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik on improving your bounce rate:

“If you want to have high performing web pages make sure that you:

1. Have a clear understanding of what the purpose of that page is and

2a. a clearer understanding of what drove customers to the page and

2b. what they want to accomplish to ensure that

3. #1 and #2 are in alignment.”

We’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so please do leave a comment.

Exit sign image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome mat image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to use images to improve customer engagement

Hand pointing at online streaming of imagesThe use of visual imagery is becoming an increasingly important part of online communication. The meteoritic growth  in social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram illustrates just how significant images have become in increasing engagement and interaction amongst consumers.

Indeed, research shows that articles containing an image have, on average, 94% more total views  than articles without an image, indicating the power of a good image.

Psychologically, consumers love imagery, and seeing visually appealing things creates positive emotions. Most people — between 65 and 85 percent — also describe themselves as ‘visual learners,’ forming meaning and organizing thoughts based on what they see more so than what they read.” Trend Reports

According to Forbes, image-centric marketing will be one of the top online marketing trends for 2014. Therefore, understanding the potential benefits of images and using them effectively on your website and in your marketing can increase engagement and interaction amongst your customers. Images can help:

  • Grab people’s attention
  • Convey meaning quickly
  • evoke emotions
  • Illustrate a point
  • Make text-based articles more visually appealing by breaking up reams of text
  • Convey complex information in an easily digestible format (think infographics)
  • Showcase a product effectively online.

How to make the most of images online

Your website

The use of visual imagery on your website is essential. Not only are images valuable in terms of SEO, they are central in terms of engaging customers. Nobody is going to find a solely text-based website enticing. Using photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, infographics and videos are all great ways to improve the content of your website and as a result, increase its appeal to customers.

Your product pages are a key area to focus on, since images are one of the most important elements in a customer’s decision-making process. So, ensure you are using high-definition images and spend time thinking about how to showcase your products to their full advantage. Research shows:

  •  67% of consumers say that the quality of the image is very important when they are purchasing a product.
  • 63% of consumers  saying a good image is even more important than product specific information.

social media like imageSocial Media

Social media and images go hand-in hand, just look at the phenomenal success of Pinterest in recent years. Think about how you can use images to enhance your presence on all your social media sites.  For example,  when you are posting an update on Facebook, always  include an appropriate image, be it an update about a new product, service, staff change, industry news, special promotion or competition. Including an image will make it far more likely for your update to capture people’s attention and in turn generate more likes and comments.

Blogs

Putting an image right at the beginning of your blog post is a great way to pull readers in. A relevant  image can help readers understand what your post is about, help illustrate a point and stir-up an emotional response. Images are also a great way to break up text if you have a long blog. And don’t forget, images can also be used when you promote your blog post on your social media sites and in your email newsletters.

Infographics also work really well in blog posts. They’ve grown in popularity over recent years as they present statistics and research in an interesting, relevant and engaging way.

Email and Online Press Releases

People tend to skim through emails and online press releases, picking out the salient points. Therefore, using images is a great way to help you get your message across quickly, break up text and create engagement at the same time.

You Tube on ipadVideo marketing

And finally, don’t forget the moving image. Using video  is a great way to boost your search engine rankings (search engines love video).  It’s format is engaging and it is a great tool to use  if you need to educate or explain something to your customers – think product demonstrations and video tutorials. Just remember to put it up on YouTube as well as on your website.

What makes for a good image

Where possible try to avoid using staged business photos as you are more likely to capture people’s attention and get an emotional response by using real people, real-life situations, humour, interesting visuals or stunning photography. Take a look at which boards get the most re-pins on  Pinterest  and you’ll get a real feel for the type of images that really work.

Make sure you  add Alt Text to your images. This is essentially a concise and accurate description of the image and is used as alternative text when the image can not be displayed. This is important as:

  1.  it makes the image accessible to all users, including those that are visually impaired as screen readers can read the alternative text provided
  2.  it one of the factors that can help improve your SEO performance.

Sourcing images

There are plenty of low-cost  and free images available on the web, but if you are not using your own photos or images then you must be careful about copyright and get permission from the author. Look for royalty free stock images that are for commercial use. I’ve listed a few of the low-cost and free websites we use for images and they’ll  tell you whether an image requires an author credit or not.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stock.XCHNG

Dreamstime

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Image streaming image courtesy of  nokhoog_buchacon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Like button image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net

Small business guide to marketing plannning Part 5: Implementing and measuring performance

triple jumpMaking it happen and measuring your performance

To conclude our ‘Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning’ series, we look at the final two stages of the SOSTAC marketing planning process – Action and Control. Action is the who does what and when of the Tactics (examined in Part 4 of this series). Control is how you measure your performance. How successfully have you achieved what you set out to do in your objectives?

Action – Who does what and when

The ‘Action’ element of the SOSTAC  is essentially the details of your tactics. It involves thinking about the specifics and practicalities of implementing your plans. You need to think about:

  • Tasks: What actually needs to be done? Think about all the tasks that need to be implemented in order for you to roll out your plans. For example, if you were planning  a series of traffic driving promotions in order to grow your prospects database, then what development needs to take place on your website first in order for you to data-capture the new names coming in? You need to think about all the tasks that your plans entail.
  • Resources: Who is going to be responsible for what? Will you need to outsource or bring in any external agencies?
  • Timescale: What timescale are you working to? What are achievable and realistic deadlines for your tasks?
  • Budget: Make sure you are aware of all the potential  costs – website development, promotions, design and so on.

There is no use having a wonderful strategy and great tactics if you haven’t looked at how and when you are going to get your plans underway. You need to think about your available resources and consider what is a realistic timeframe. Outlining exactly who will be responsible for what and setting agreed deadlines will help ensure your plans are rolled out successfully and within the timeframe dictated by your objectives.

desk calendarSchedule

Creating a schedule is the best way to ensure everybody is clear about who is responsible for what and what the agreed timeframes are. Remember, if  a task falls behind schedule it is likely to have a knock-on effect on all your other deadlines.

You can easily put together a perfectly adequate schedule on excel – just remember that it is a working document and should be kept updated, referred to and amended accordingly as your plan progresses. Outline each task, who is responsible and what the deadline is. Circulate your schedule to everyone involved (this includes external resources if you are outsourcing) as it will ensure there is no confusion about who is taking responsibility for what. And, even if you are a one-man-band and planning on doing it all yourself, creating a schedule is still important as it provides a useful and detailed action plan for you to work to.

Control: How do you measure your performance?

It is really important to be able to ascertain whether you achieved what you set out to in your objectives. And, if you haven’t achieved specific targets then it is essential you understand why. Otherwise, you risk repeating unsuccessful tactics over and over again wasting valuable time and money. It is only through measurement and analysis that you can understand how to improve on your performance.

So, first you need to decide upon how you intend to measure your performance. What KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) do you intend to use? Of course this will depend on what your objectives were, but could include analysing  RoI, number of new leads, conversion rates, traffic sources, new visitors to your site, page impressions and so on. Think about what are the most suitable metrics and measurements to enable you to assess the success of what you have undertaken.

Web Analytics

As an e-commerce site it is inevitable that some of the measurements you will be using will be web analytics. This is why it is important to get to grips with some of the common metrics – they can tell you an awful lot about your business!

“Web analytics is essentially about monitoring how visitors are using different pages and features on your website” (EConsultancy, Web Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide)

Web analytics are useful metrics to help you better understand your performance – in terms of both your website and response to specific campaigns. There are many useful metrics but if you are just starting out then the ones listed below are probably the ones to familiarise yourself with first.

  • Traffic source: This tells you where your traffic is coming from – through direct traffic (existing customers, offline campaigns), search engines, referring sites or campaigns (email, banner ads, social media campaigns and so on)
  • Visits: Basically how many visitors are coming to your site. You can find out the percentage of new and repeat visitors.
  • Page views: Number of page views can be an indication of how engaged your visitors are by telling you an average of how many pages they visited. You can also find out the average duration of visits.
  • Bounce rates: This is often used to measure the quality of traffic coming to your website. It tells you who visited only one page of your site and then left immediately. Take a look at Avinash Kaushik’s article on just how useful bounce rate can be.

If you are just starting with web analytics then there are a lots of helpful free resources available. We like:

Customer satisfaction

Of course don’t forget there are other more qualitative ways to measure your performance. Customer feedback can be invaluable. Monitoring customer satisfaction through taking note of customers views and opinions can tell you a lot about how your performance through the eyes of your customers.

ShopIntegrator’s Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning

This is the final part of our Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning. Hopefully we’ve been able to show you that by using a simple marketing planning framework like SOSTAC, you can create a useful and relevant working document. We really believe that investing time and effort into putting together a marketing plan for the year ahead will pay dividends in the long run by helping give your business clear direction and focused objectives  in order to move your online business forward.

  • Part 1 : Introduction to Marketing Planning and the SOSTAC framework
  • Part 2 : Situational Analysis: Where are you now?
  • Part 3:  Setting Objectives and formulating Strategy: Where do you want to be and how do you get there?
  • Part 4: Tactics: How exactly do you get there?

Triple Jump © Denys Kuvaiev | Dreamstime.com

3D desktop calendar image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts in this post, so please do leave a comment.

Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning Part 4: Tactics

Soccer tactics on chalkboardOur Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning has been looking at how using a simple marketing framework like SOSTAC can help guide you through all the elements needed to make a marketing plan a useful and relevant tool for your business.

  • Part 1 discussed the value of marketing planning for small businesses and looked at SOSTAC as a planning system.
  • Part 2 examined situational analysis and the importance of understanding where your business currently stands.
  • Part 3 talked about how to write SMART objectives and formulate your marketing strategy.

In Part 4 of our marketing planning guide we look at tactics and the communication tools we can use to achieve the targets we have set our business for the year ahead.

Tactics: How EXACTLY are you going to get there?

So, the market analysis you’ve undertaken means you know where your business currently stands and consequently, you have formulated your goals and objectives. You should have good idea of where it is you want to be. Your strategy has looked at how you are going to achieve your objectives. So the next step is tactics – how exactly are you going to get there? What digital communication tools are you going to use to support your strategy in order to achieve your objectives? The tactics element of your marketing plan is really the detail of your strategy;  it is here you outline the tools you are going to use.

Benefits of digital marketing tools

Digital marketing has brought with it a number of benefits for small online businesses, making it possible (with a bit of investment in both time and effort) to market on a more level playing field with some of the bigger competitors. Digital marketing offers SME’s the benefit of:

  • Lower costs: there are a number of digital tools that small online businesses can utilise without the cost associated with some of the more traditional marketing methods. For example social media, SEO and email  are all tools that smaller business can use without having to incur high marketing costs.
  • Creativity: digital marketing has made it easy to be creative with your marketing – social media, video, games etc. can all be used to pull in potential customers through engaging online content.
  • Interaction with customers: the interactive nature of the web has provided an excellent environment for developing customer relationships. For example, blogs, discussion forums and customer reviews have all made two-way dialogue with customers far easier. Rather than just throwing out messages,  digital tools enable you to pull customers into your site and engage in more meaningful communications.
  • Easier measurement: the digital environment has meant the introduction of online tools like web analytics that can help you measure your performance with more accuracy. Web analytics are simply the tools we can use to measure, collect and  analyse data to better understand our online presence. By using metrics such as traffic source, conversions, bounce rates and so on, small business can more effectively measure the performance of their marketing activity.
  • Immediacy: if you’ve got something exciting to say, you don’t have to wait to shout about it to your customers. Email and social media can be instantaneous. For example if you have something that is time sensitive sending an email promotion to a customer is far quicker (and lower cost), then its offline direct mail counterpart.

Digital Marketing Tools

Obviously the digital communication tools you decide to use will depend on your objectives and strategy alongside available budget and resources. But as a small online business, the key digital tools you may want to consider are likely to include:

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  the process you go through to increase your page ranking on search engines in order for you to increase you business’ visibility and drive traffic to your site. SEM essentially divides into two,  increasing your ranking through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and through paid advertising (PPC). Search engine optimisation requires time, effort and commitment but is an essential part of building your business’ presence online.
  2. Online PR: sending out press releases to relevant media can be a great way not only to promote your latest news and developments, but also keeps fresh content coming into your website for SEO purposes, increases inbound links to and builds brand awareness.
  3. Online advertising: interactive online advertising essentially means you advertise your business on a third-party site through a banner ad. Although there are likely to be costs associated with online display advertising, it can be a useful way to increase awareness of your brand and generate direct response from potential customers.
  4. Email Marketing: email is an essential channel for both acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers. Despite worries over the increase in spam, email remains an effective marketing tool. The costs are low (in comparison to direct mail), response can be immediate, it can be quick to deploy, and can be tailored to specific customer segments easily.
  5. Social Media: Engaging with your customers though social media is a great way to give your business and brand a personality. Used thoughtfully, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can help promote your products, help you gain valuable customer insight and help drive new traffic and increase inbound links to your site.
  6. Online sales promotion: Online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons can be a great sales promotion tool. They can help increase sales, drive traffic and reward customer loyalty.
  7. Content Marketing:  We’ve mentioned it over and over again in previous blogs, but content is the cornerstone of online marketing – it is absolutely central to everything you do. Think about ways to keep content on your site fresh, up-to-date, relevant and interesting. Perhaps look at ways you can increase your content such as through blogging, video demonstrations, customer reviews and competitions. For ideas, I suggest you take a look at a The Content Marketing Matrix from Smart Insights.
  8. Online partnerships: Identifying ways in which you can work in partnership with a third-party to promote your online services can pay dividends by opening your business up to a stream of new and relevant customers. This could be with affiliates, suppliers or complementary businesses and associations.

The final part of our marketing planning guide will be looking at Actions and Control the final two elements of the SOSTAC marketing planning framework.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Soccer Game Strategy image by Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Small business guide to marketing planning part 2: situational analysis

SWOT signpostIn Part 1 of our guide to successful marketing planning we discussed the importance of putting time aside to plan your marketing for the year ahead.  We looked at the SOSTAC model as a simple and effective framework to follow when creating a marketing plan for your online business.  Part 2 of our guide looks at situational analysis in more detail. Situational analysis is the  first step in putting together a useful and relevant marketing plan.

Situational Analysis : Where are you now?

Before you rush headlong into creating your marketing plan for the year ahead, you need first to have a thorough understanding of where your business currently stands. Without this knowledge you are unlikely to be able to formulate a successful marketing strategy or steer your marketing activity in the direction it needs to go in order to support your overall business goals. Carrying out a situational analysis will provide you with a solid base from which to build the rest of your plan around.

Situational analysis essentially involves reviewing your internal and external environment through carrying out various useful analysis exercises. Including:

  • Customer Insight
  • SWOT
  • PESTEL
  • Competitor Analysis

Customer Insight

Customers should be the central focus of any marketing. Understanding your customer’s characteristics, behaviours and needs is fundamental to whether your business succeeds or fails long-term. Only through having a thorough understanding of your customers can you deliver what they want and achieve customer satisfaction.

Gathering as much data as you can about your customers is important. This could be through quantitative data such as demographics from registration forms, online behaviour from web analytics or more qualitative research such as feedback from social media interactions or lifestyle questionnaires. The more information you have the more you will be able to segment your customers into target markets with shared characteristics and offer more relevant and personalised communications, which in turn is more likely to lead to a higher conversion rates.

SWOT

A SWOT analysis involves looking at your internal environment by  identifying your businesses strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats provided by your external environment. A simple SWOT matrix like the image below  is a useful way to list them : 

SWOT matrix

Performing a SWOT enables you to identify and compare your key strengths and weaknesses alongside opportunities and threats from the external environment. This way you can ascertain the areas you are strong, the areas you can potentially improve, opportunities to exploit and threats you need to manage. Essentially it is about taking advantage of the strengths and opportunities which are going to help you achieve your objectives and identifying and managing any weaknesses or threats that may hinder you achieving your objectives.

PESTEL

A PESTEL analysis looks in more detail at the influences of the surrounding external environment and is a great exercise to get you thinking about external factors you may not have previously considered. PESTEL stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal – obviously some factors will have more of an impact than others:

  • Political – monitoring legislations from national and international governments is important. For example Government’s approaches to the Internet and its use could have a huge bearing on how online businesses operate.
  • Economic – economic factors from different countries can have a wide-reaching impact on the spending power of both individual consumers and organisations – for example what effect might a steep rise in interest rates or changes in exchange rates have on you or your customers?
  • Social – What social trends are occurring? For example the last few years have seen a significant growth in the older generation going online – what opportunities might that offer your business?
  • Technological – changes in the technological environment are often rapid and can have a knock on effect on your business. For example the massive rise in m-commerce has made it imperative that online business are multi-device friendly.
  • Environmental – Ecological and environmental factors may affect how a company operates. For example consumer pressure for fairtrade, sustainable and ethically produced goods may offer opportunities but could also drive up costs?
  • Legal – changes in law can effect how  your  company has to operate. For example how would changes to the data-protection act change how you collect and store customer information?

Once you have brainstormed all the relevant external factors, you can then classify them as high, medium or low impact and identify whether they are a potential opportunity or threat that needs to be managed.

Competitor Analysis

Keeping abreast of what your competitors are doing is of paramount importance as it enables you to gain competitor intelligence that can be fed into your strategy and planning. Competitor analysis is simply the  process of monitoring assessing your competition. We’ve examined competitor analysis in detail in our posts Getting To Know Your Competitors and Competitor Benchmarking – How to Compare Competitors Online, so take a moment to look at these posts as they’ll help you identify your competitor landscape and show you how to gain competitor insight through digital analysis.

Spending some time thinking about and indeed, carrying out some of the analysis we’ve discussed will help ensure that the foundation of any strategy or planning you are undertaking is an accurate reflection of you businesses current situation. It will make certain that your marketing objectives and strategy  are all pointing in the right direction to grow your business and support your business goals. In Part 3 of marketing planning we’ll be looking at  SMART objectives and formulating a marketing strategy.

SWOT signpost image courtesy of Scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Marketing for small business: Getting started with Pinterest

The Pinterest PhenomenonPinterest logo

For the last year or two, this social media phenomenon has been the buzz word on every marketer’s lips. It is already massive in the US and looks like set to take the UK and Europe by storm as well. So as a small business what does Pinterest mean for you? Should you be including it in your social media portfolio?

Impressive Pinterest Statistics

There is no doubt that Pinterest has seen meteoric growth since it launched in 2009. Here are a few statistics to give you a feel for the sort of growth it has experienced in the US  – a trend we are likely to see replicated in the UK:

Push pinSo what is Pinterest all about?

“Pinterest helps people collect and organize the things they love” Pinterest

The easiest way to think about Pinterest is as a sort of social media pin board or scrapbook.  People share their interests by ‘pinning’ them to ‘boards’. It is a social media platform with a strong emphasis on the visual and people connect to each other through feeds and by following boards that has content they find interesting.

Pinterest explains the ‘Pin Cycle’ as follows:

Pin

For example, lets say an unusual piece of jewellery on a website catches the eye of someone on Pinterest. The pinner pins the image onto their ‘unique accessories’ board

Repin

A follower of the pinner likes the pin and repins the jewellery onto their ‘stylish jewellery’ board.

 Discovery

Someone browsing their feed or searching for ‘stylish jewellery’ or ‘unique accessories’ will find the pin for the unusual piece of jewellery

Click through

As more people discover and repin, the more people click-through to the source of the pin – the original website

Benefits for small businesses

As we mentioned at the start of this post, statistics indicate that Pinterest is growing and is likely to be here to stay as a social media platform, so there is value to getting on-board. If you are concerned about time and resources, then perhaps a good starting point is to think about how easily you business lends itself to Pinterest.

If  you are in retail – particularly B2C you’ll probably find Pinterest is an easy step to make without too much effort. B2B can work well but it may require a little more creative thinking at the start. For example, if you are already generating content in the form of say a blog or video then these can work really well. In fact here at ShopIntegrator our first board was our Small Business Blog as it was an easy first step into Pinterest for us.

If you are able to commit some time to Pinterest then it offers an additional opportunity to engage with and learn about your customers. It also provides a good way to help build your brand and develop your brand’s personality.

A few useful tips for getting started

1. Get a feel for Pinterest

Before you dive in setting up your own presence, spend a bit of time getting a feel for how Pinterest works. What are other businesses doing? This way you’ll get an idea for what works and what makes a  pin popular (how many times a pin has been re-pinned is a good measure of popularity). Check out  your competitors and those businesses in a similar market that are popular and have a good following. Pinterest also has some interesting  case studies that are worth looking at for some inspiration.

2. Think about your target market

You should be thinking about your target market when you start creating your presence.  What are your customers likely to be interested in? If you sell kitchenware for example, you’d expect your audience to be interested in cooking and food so your pins could include recipes, seasonal produce and new food trends. Make yourself a bit of an expert in the areas associated with your industry or market. Look at your customers own pinboards – what are they pinning and who are they following. This will give you an insight into what it is your target market is likely to value and find interesting.

3. Create and organise boards

Once you have got a feel for who it is you are pinning and creating boards for, you can get started on generating ideas. There are all sorts of popular boards that you can create in addition to product boards. Here are some popular boards that could help get you started: client showcase boards (showcase your customers latest products), fan boards (customers can pin images to a board that show your brand off in real life environments) employee recommendation boards (get your employees to set up their own boards perhaps with employee recommendations or top tips)  how to boards (give your customers ideas and tips for using and getting the most out of your products), blog boards, seasonal boards and contest boards. Pinterest is a great way to get creative.

4. Follow other boards and repin

Like any social media Pinterest is all about interacting and engaging with the community – your customers. So, to make the most out of your presence be active – follow other people’s boards, repin, like and comment on pins that relate to your business area.

5. Promote your Pinterest presence

Promote your Pinterest presence on your website and emails by adding the Pinterest button. Don’t forget you can also use your other social media to help promote your boards.

Useful resources from Pinterest

The great thing about getting started with Pinterest is that it is all pretty straightforward to set up and use – we’ve put some useful support links from Pinterest below that will help you make the most of your Pinterest presence:

Pinterest Set up: http://uk.business.pinterest.com/setup/

Guides: Pinterest guide for Business http://business.pinterest.com/best-practices/

Useful Tools: Pinterest analytics, Pin It Button, rich text pins http://uk.business.pinterest.com/rich-pins/

Pinterest Business Blog:  http://businessblog.pinterest.com/

Happy pinning!

Image: Single pin image courtesy of  Master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net
 

We would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment