Marketing Automation vs Personalisation

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The question of automation vs personalisation for a company is all about saving time and money whilst increasing efficiency. Whereas the perspective of the customer is about receiving good customer service and feeling valued.  So the question is “What does your business value more? – Costs or Customers?”

Advantages and Disadvantages

I’d pick personalisation over automation every time, but as a business grows they must consider all options on how to communicate effectively with their customers. Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of automation and personalisation:

Automation benefits:

  • Cost reduction
  • Saves time
  • Reaches a high volume of customers

Automation negatives:

  • Error prone
  • No human contact
  • No personalisation
  • Just another number

Personalisation benefits:

  • Customer service
  • Individual attention
  • Deliver bespoke products/services
  • Increases chances of repeat business

Personalisation negatives:

  • Time consuming
  • Costly to scale

Automation vs Personalisation is simply the choice between quantity over quality. I always like to place myself in the shoes of the customer – what type of service do they expect? Customers are individuals and expect to be treated accordingly, how special do you feel knowing you’re just another number receiving generic marketing communications?

Small Business vs Big Business

How can big businesses connect with a vast volume of customers without using automation? – More often than not, they simply can’t. Can you imagine the amount of money, time & employees that would be needed for a company with thousands/millions of customers to connect on a 1:2:1 basis? But that’s acceptable, as long as time and money are being saved – the customer is last on the list of priorities.

Small businesses on the other hand don’t have the resources to connect with a high volume of customers, personalisation is necessary.  Let’s take email software as an example, rather than sending 1,000 generic emails with a 1-2% response rate, try studying 10 customers and sending personalised emails with bespoke offerings relating to those individual/business needs. Guaranteed your ROI improves, your responses will increase and you’ll develop a reputation for being a customer-centric business. If more small businesses take the time to connect with each individual customer, rather than applying a mass-market approach, then this can be used as a distinct competitive advantage.

Achieving economies of scale isn’t the holy grail of business, growth must be accomplished over a longer period of time, growing too big too fast can and will destroy many businesses. Focus on what you have now, your strengths, your weaknesses and most importantly your customers. By being a customer-centric business you can personalise almost all Marketing communications which results in customer retention, recommendations and an increase in overall customer value. Perhaps customers of larger companies wouldn’t be so keen to move to competitors if they feel valued – personalisation over automation every time.  🙂

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The Dissection of Social Media

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To understand what Social Media is, you must firstly separate and analyse those 2 words – Social and Media. The star of the show in Social Media has to be the Social element, it’s all about people. People drive, develop and ultimately control what Social Media is and will shape the future of how it looks and how we use it.

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Social Media gathers individuals into groups and communities of likeminded people with shared interests and cultures – In Social Media terms it’s all about connecting, engaging and sharing.

Regardless of your age, Social Media is used by all, young and old. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is 55-64, whilst on Facebook and Google+ it’s the 45-54 age group. Such statistics demonstrate that Social Media isn’t just for the young ones.

Younger generations adapt much quicker to Social Media, they’ve been doing it since they were born and will be leaders in future Social Media trends. It’s common knowledge that younger Facebook users have been switching to new platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest. They’re the trendsetters and will be the driving force in how Social Media evolves in the future.

The volume of information on Social Media excites me but how we learn and communicate scares me.  As a recent graduate I know how much studying is required, reading, reading and more reading – but can the Social Media generations learn anything other than fast moving smaller bursts of information? Can they/we concentrate on more substantial methods of learning? Does Social Media enhance or hinder human communication?

Social Media surely improves access to information, friends and family but does it make us less sociable and lose focus when learning? Whatever the answers are, it’s the people who use Social Media we must understand to adapt to their preferences.

Media

Media simply facilitates communication and our consumption of information. The internet enables us to communicate and consume information but Social Media has spread onto multiple media channels. Watch the news on TV and you can contribute via Twitter, Newspapers, Billboards and Radio encourages us to “Find Us on Facebook” which demonstrates how Social Media functions across a multi-media network – not just the internet.

More niche interests will be accommodated in Social Media in the near future resulting in the Social element of Social Media shaping the media we use to communicate. As Social Media evolves the larger generic platforms like Facebook will make room for niche platforms based on the varying interests of smaller groups and geographical locations. More regional platforms and groups will be born to accommodate people’s interest in specialist products/services and preferences – Small is the new big.

Social Media may comprise of 2 core elements, but we must remember that understanding the Social element will enable us to understand the entirety of Social Media and its future.

What’s your opinion? Does Social Media make us dumb and hinder how we communicate?

Social Media: You Can’t Teach Until You’ve Learned!

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The sheer raw beauty of Social Media is its ability to enhance how we communicate where we talk, listen, learn and develop. It’s rather sad to see so many businesses large and small mistake Social Media as a channel where they think shouting is how to be heard. If those very culprits understood how to share information and inspire people to learn they might realise the potential of Social Media

Sourcing Information

Rich or poor we all love getting something for free and on Social Media there’s all the free news, information, guidance, tips and tricks you can possibly find the time to consume.

If you want access to relevant, current and topical information then Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook publish news quicker than traditional news channels. A recent Pew Research study found that 1/3 of U.S. adults’ access news via Facebook which demonstrates the shift in how people source and consume information.

The tragic Boston bombing springs to mind for me as I learned more from Twitter quicker than any news channel could offer. What’s the point in turning your TV on when you can access news and information whilst talking to your friends on Social Media?

Pick any industry in any country and I guarantee you that you’ll find free information on any topic you want to learn about. Therefore small businesses need to learn that by offering their time and knowledge freely to customers helps to build trust, credibility and relationships which are the first steps in winning new customers.

Change How You Think

Isolation is one of the most commonly cited problems of small businesses, particularly new start ups. The world is a big place and you’re only isolated if you choose to be, so change how you think and learn from different cultures and ways of thinking.

Connect with companies and people in your own industry in other countries. How do people in your industry solve common problems? How do their opinions differ from what you’ve learned in your own country? What do they do differently to achieve the success you crave?

Creativity and innovation are difficult to achieve if your approach and way of thinking is the same as all your local competitors. Your customers and competitors might not be in India, Italy or North America but what can you learn from their experiences and opinions?

How Do We Want to Learn?

How we learn as individuals is subjective – we learn at our own pace, digest information differently learning from a variety of methods. Some people absorb information by reading text, some via infographics, frameworks and videos.

Therefore if we understand that learning is subjective and people respond to a variety of teaching methods then small businesses should be poised to take advantage of this fact. Offer your audience a variety of methods to deliver that free information and guidance you share on Social Media. Be creative and offer video guides, podcasts, diagrams and images. Measure and listen to what your audience prefers and adapt how you communicate according to what your market demands.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t use Social Media to source information or learn then there’s no place for you on Social Media. Communication involves listening and talking so less shouting and more listening leads to a greater understanding of how people use Social Media to source information and learn – you can’t teach until you’ve learned.

Social Media: The Evolution of Communication

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Wherever you are right now reading this article whether it be in the office, at University or in a Cafe just lift up your head and look around you – you’ll see someone clicking their thumbs on a screen.

How human beings communicate has undoubtedly changed forever and Social Media plays a significant role in altering the dimensions of communication.

Developing an understanding of how people communicate on Social Media will help small businesses to connect, engage and build relationships with prospects and customers.

How we Communicate

Social Media has helped to evolve communication from speaking, to clicks, photos, videos and short bursts of information. A video, image or post on Social Media can be viewed and shared by a multitude of people – yet talking is merely a by-product of social sharing.

Language has also changed as we now shorten words and abbreviate to save time, space and to send our messages within seconds. Communicating in such a fast-paced environment means our attention spans are becoming increasingly diminished as we process vast quantities of information.

People like to live their lives on Social Media by capturing the moment to share with friends, family and colleagues. On Social Media communicating is instantaneous, personal and most importantly capture moments of real life untainted by the influence of commerce.

Changing the Culture of Communication

For us oldies reading this article we’ve had to adapt to new technology, new media and embrace new methods of communicating. For the younger generations communicating on Social Media is the norm. Therefore generations both young and old with their prolonged exposure to Social Media begin to create a culture of communication fuelled by Social Media.

TV shows prompt viewers to tweet mid-show, Vimeo, Pinterest and Instagram capture snippets of our lives and Facebook is ingrained in conversations. People will say “did you see what John posted on Facebook” or “I’ll friend you on Facebook, let’s arrange to meet up” and so on.

The inspiration for this blog was born from a scenario I experienced with 2 of my good friends. 3 of us in a room, nobody talking to each other yet all 3 were communicating on Twitter and Facebook – The culture of communication has changed. I’ll let you decide if it’s for better or worse.

What does this mean for Business?

We constantly hear about the importance of producing interesting, relevant and engaging content. Whilst this is vital, businesses must understand how to grab the attention of their audience. The creative elements of Social Media such as images and headings must make an immediate impact – people won’t read your content if you don’t grab their attention.

It’s also time to dump traditional methods of communication on Social Media, people have grown wearisome to one-way sales messages and advertising saturation. No more corporate mumbo jumbo designed to manipulate us into buying what we don’t need or want – genuine engagement with personalised and relevant interactions between 2 human beings.

This is where small businesses can trump the big boys – be genuine, interact on a 1:2:1 basis by using Social Media as a tool to facilitate relationship building.

Do you think Social Media has hindered or enhanced the way we communicate?

6 Tips on how to Integrate your Social Media Strategy

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If your Small Business is active or considering being active on Social Media, then start by ensuring you integrate your strategy. Embed Social Media into wider organisational strategies, business functions and processes.

By integrating your Social Media strategy you can connect with your prospects & customers across a variety of touch points in the customer journey.

1) Integrate Social Media with wider Marketing & Organisational Strategies

Social Media should not be used as a stand-alone strategy and must be integrated with your wider Marketing and organisational objectives.

Involve employees from all levels to use Social Media across a range of business departments to help achieve wider organisational objectives.

2) Integrate Social Media Accounts

Link all your Social Media accounts to each other to suit the individual preferences of your market. Let your customers find you on the Social Media platform they prefer to use – be part of their journey.

3) Integrate Offline & Online Marketing

Include your Social Media details on all forms of offline Marketing such as:

• Magazine & Newspaper advertising
• Leaflets, Brochures, Flyers
• Business Cards
• Direct Mail
• Radio advertising

All offline Marketing must include your main website and main Social Media accounts, leverage the Facebook or Twitter brand to appeal to your customers.

By integrating Social Media with other digital and offline Marketing you are able to connect with customers at a variety of touch points gaining maximum exposure and brand awareness.

4) Integrate Social Media with company Processes

Make Social Media a daily activity – Spend at least 45-60 minutes a day checking your comments, new followers, engaging and posting fresh material. If possible dedicate as much time as possible to Social Media activities – it’s addictive and time-consuming.

By dedicating time in your daily schedule you’ll reap more rewards than merely playing around for 10 minutes a day.

5) Integrate Social Media with email Communications

Add Social Media buttons or links into your company email signature. For those people who prefer not to communicate frequently by email, Social Media may be their preferred choice of communicating – make it easy for your company to be found.

6) Integrate Social Media with your Website

People will spend more time on Social Media than they do browsing your website. Include Social Media buttons and/or widgets making it easy for people to follow your company.

Also include a link to your website on every single Social Media platform you have an account with. By directing people back to your website, you’ll be more in control to lead the customer from interest to sale.

It’s important to integrate your Social Media strategy otherwise it’ll lack direction and is fundamentally flawed. Realise the full potential of Social Media by embedding your strategy into different departments, processes and wider strategies.

Do you feel like you’re just bumbling along with your approach to Social Media?

The Versatility of Social Media

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Social Media can be incorporated into a variety of different business functions – in fact it’s versatile enough to be used as a tool across ALL business functions.

Social Media can be used as a Tool for:

• Customer Service
• Market Research
• Networking
• HR
• Target Marketing
• Selling

Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Customers like to ask questions on Social Media about your company products, opening hours and even to complain. Their questions and complaints are public and this may scare some businesses – the key is to deal with all customer service issues promptly.

Turn any negative feedback into positive by resolving issues swiftly and demonstrating your ability to make improvements to your company. As a small business you have the advantage over larger competitors who struggle to deal with individual issues.

Social Media as a Market Research Tool

Ask questions and run polls on Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google + are all good platforms to gather market research. If you want to know what your customer wants – ask them and use Social Media as a tool to gather important statistics and opinions.

Ask your followers on Social Media their opinions on new products/services to meet their tastes and preferences. Involve your customers at R&D stages in a process called CO-CREATION.

Social Media as a Networking Tool

Use Social Media to network with peers and industry leaders to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your field.

Connect with people on Social Media before meeting them, I find this helps to break the ice a little as you know a little about the person before meeting them.

Network internationally too, you’ll enrich your own learning experience by understanding a variety of views, experiences and opinions from a variety of cultures and people.

Social Media as an HR Tool

Do your homework on Social Media to analyse potential employees – their Social Media profiles and activities often reveal more in depth information about people than a simple CV.

Create closed groups for your employees and use Social Media as a tool for internal communications. Gather feedback from your staff on new products/services and listen to their opinions on the strengths & weaknesses of your business.

Social Media as a Targeting Tool

Identify prospects and customers using the variety of search functions on each Social Media Platform. In particular the search bar on Facebook can be used to identify and target potential customers based on a wide range of variables.

Target people and companies based on your existing customer base.

Target based on Location, Demographics and Lifestyles.

Social Media as a Sales Tool

Selling is the primary objective of any business but on Social Media it should be the last in a series of stages. Always remember that people are on SOCIAL media for SOCIAL reasons and this should be respected.

Post new products/services, special offers and discounts on Social Media but limit this to around 20% of your overall posts. Try to understand the demographics of the users on each Social Media platform and tailor your messages to suit each audience.

Have I missed out any business functions? How do you use Social Media?

10 Steps to Social Media Sales Success

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Can Social Media Marketing lead to Sales? – YES!

Unlike traditional/online advertising where an immediate sale is sought, Social Media Marketing requires the commitment of time and the ability to nurture relationships with individuals.

Social Media can be used like a “sales funnel” to help guide prospects from initial contact to the end sale by following these 10 simple steps:

1) Identify

Build up a list of potential targets by using the search functions in the various Social Media platforms. Target people based on their location, age and interests to help build an audience of relevant and interested followers.

2) Post

Refrain from posting only sales-orientated content by sharing blogs and articles from external sources that provide rich content which adds value in some way to your audience – Give them something for free – Interesting, Relevant & Engaging Content.

3) Like/Follow

Follow & be followed. If you’ve implemented steps 1&2 correctly then people will follow you because you’re relevant to their needs & interests. Once prospects have liked or are following your company you’ve got them – Don’t let them go!

4) Ask Questions

If your company is able to solve problems experienced by your audience then you have a higher chance of converting the sale by satisfying their needs & demands.

Ask your audience questions – ask them what problems they experience, what they like/dislike about certain products/services. How do you know what your customers want if you don’t ask them?

5) Engage

This is where the magic of Social Media happens – 2 parties engaging and being social. Ensure that any communications are 2-way – people are tired of 1-way Marketing communications. Keep asking questions and seek clarity where customers have sought answers from you. Be friendly, approachable & social.

6) Offer

You’ve engaged with your customer, established what their needs are and overcame their uncertainties – Now it’s time to introduce your own products/services.

Never make an offer generic, make your offer relevant and personal and make the customer feel like you understand them and their needs.

7) Signpost

To facilitate the sale it is recommended to lead the customer away from the Social Media platform and to your main company website. On your website you’re in more control and can start to signpost your customer towards their preferred sales channel – Do they want to buy online, by telephone or in your shop? Signpost customers to the sales channel of their preference.

8) Enquiry

You’ve made a relevant offer to the customer, lead them to your website – but they won’t buy just yet.

The customer will want to know more information about your products/services – How much does this cost? Does the offer fit my exact needs?

9) Inform

One of the most common reasons for failing to convert an enquiry into a sale is the customer has doubts or unanswered questions.

You know this individual so tell them the benefits of your products/services according to their needs. Don’t tell them about the wonderful features or technical aspects – tell them how your offer can BENEFIT them.

10) Convert – SALE!

So many people are scared to sell, you don’t want to be seen as pushy – but all you need to do is ask for the sale.

Do you want to buy 1 egg or 2?

That’s £500 in total – Do you want to go ahead?

Simple questions – Just ask.

If the customer doesn’t commit then return to step 9 and overcome their objections.

And there you have it 10 simple steps to Social Media Sales Success.

What problems has your business encountered when trying to sell on Social Media?