Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who will be the next economic sacrifice?

The high street has taken a real battering over the last month. Some have gone down deservedly you might say. Woolworths has never really seemed to understand how modern retail works and I'm surprised that they have survived so long really.

MFI had suffered from it's appalling quality and customer service record in the past. Perhaps if they had renamed and re-branded a few years ago they might have been able to survive.

Although I don't grieve the loss of these retailers, who I didn't use anyway, my heart goes out to their staff and the many companies in their supply chain who will all lose out.

During my days in ecommerce I visited many reasonable sized businesses that were in the high street supply chain feeding goods to all of the famous high street names. I remember coming across a significant number of businesses that had one retail chain representing over 80% of it's customer base and, in some cases, 100%.

Most chains work on the 'just in time' stock principal. Which means that the retailer estimates his total supply requirements in advance. After an initial stock up, replenishment is by replacement only and it is up to the supplier to have the stock on hand to provide immediate turn around - with no commitment from the retailer to take the whole consignment if sales are bad, but penalties for you if you can't supply.

I don't know how they slept at night and I said just that to the MDs in question.

When we have a sharp economic downturn that level of reliance puts you on dangerous ground and your business can be wiped out even though your own business management and cash flow are sound.

As small business owners it is always attractive to accept business opportunities that give us 'security' by filling our order book for substantial periods. But it doesn't come without risk. I suspect there are hundreds of small businesses that spent more than 80% of their efforts pandering to MFI and Woolworths who will be left with virtually no business to speak of.

Perhaps our New Years resolution should be to spread our business across more customers and therefore spread the risk?

If you need help with a New Year sales and marketing strategy, particularly using the internet, I'll see if I can help.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm a sucker for motivating quotes

I've always be a bit of a collector when it comes to great, thought provoking, quotes.

One of my all time favourites is from the comedian Billy Connolly:

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes"

I heard a good one the other day which I will certainly hang on to:

" Your business is like a wheel barrow. It will only move forward if you push it."

Alloy CRM On-Line Sales and Marketing Specialists

The Next Generation Websites

I remember saying, a good few years ago, that the internet would end up like electricity. It would just be piped into every home and business and we wouldn't be using the 'Internet' as such.

It would be just part of every appliance we use in our every day life. Your fridge and microwave would be seamlessly web enabled. Most people who I said that to gave me that strange look that suggested that I lived on another planet.

Well perhaps I wasn't as mad as they thought. I read today an article about Web v3.0.

You may already be conversant with the term Web v2.0. If you haven't heard it then you are certain to have used it. It's the label given to the development of the internet that gave us interactivity - Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, YouTube and ecademy. Web v2.0 is that ability to interact with others online and influence through commenting and reviewing.

That was a major step forward in our use of the internet which had previously been simply an information and research tool to view only.

Now Web v3.0 is on it's way. It is the seamless integration of web services and information with every other means of communication and device.

One of the examples went as follows:

A business contact has just rolled into town and called you his mobile phone to tell you he's stopping overnight in a local hotel and is suggesting that you might want to meet up over dinner.

The call from the mobile is already logged through GPS so you know which hotel he's in. A couple of presses on the touch screen of your phone gives a list of nearby restaurants. A further click on your restaurant choice offers menu selections and available booking times. Once booked your car satnav receives the location and route in readiness. Meanwhile your friend gets the same but as walking directions for his mobile phone.

At the same time your fridge has just texted you to let you know that you are low on semi skimmed milk and then offers a new recipe that you might like with a list of ingredients - all of which can be added to your regular on-line supermarket order, due for delivery tomorrow, with one click.

A step too far into the future? It may not be.

Technology such as this relies upon integration of information systems. Currently that information resides on PC's and servers. We have already seen the first wave of internet based systems such as Google docs - the online Microsoft Office look-a-like and more on-line applications that are no longer reliant upon a specific PC or server are just around the corner.

I watched James May's 20th Century program the other night and he told the story of the guy who took us from a multitude of electricity power stations, each with its own voltage and wall plug configuration, to the unified national grid system.

That allowed us to have 'electricity enabled' devices such as vacuum cleaners, plug in electric fires and eventually the TV.

That was electricity's Web v3.0.

Enjoy your 20th century PC - I'm not sure it will be around for much longer!

If you need any help and advice on your bussiness use of the web Alloy CRM offers website profit programs to ensure you achieve Return on Investment

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Website profits

Many of us in business are in the service industry. That means our website strategy isn't straight forward.

If I was selling TV's, DVD's or clothes the process is fairly simple.

Attract the punters in with compelling marketing.
Present them with a great website that takes them by the hand to the checkout page.
Make it easy for them to buy on-line.
Do the Math - Product margin less the advertising cost should equal profit.
Test and measure until you get the optimum sales volumes and profit.

Selling services can be a bit more difficult.

Our buyers probably don't buy a 'product' - they may buy a pick 'n' mix that suits their requirements and might need to talk to us first to discuss the options.

Folk lore tells us that we need to 'touch' someone 7 times before they buy. Face to face that's reasonably easy to manage. Gain their confidence, take their business card, keep in touch and sometime down the line you have a damn good chance of doing business.

When it comes to the internet, we have all these faceless people visiting our site. At this point we don't know if they are real prospects, people who landed there by mistake or even competitors. They may disappear without trace never to be heard of again. They might even buy from your competitor and you never even had the chance to do your sales pitch.

So the key function of your website should be to capture their contact details so that you can keep in touch.

'Gis us yur email' probably won't work too well, neither will trying to get their full name, company, phone number plus email address at this point.

So in that first visit to our site we need to be gentle and ask for just an email address. But, even then, they're not going to just roll over and give it to you because you asked. You have to give something in return.

Many sites offer a newsletter/regular tips subscription which is certainly an option. But maybe you are like me and have just too many regular emails in your inbox like that and reluctant to accept more. So, unless it looks absolutely compelling, I'll probably say 'no thanks'.

It's well proven now that most internet users are searching for information. When they visit your site why not try giving it to them? Plenty of knowledgeable and useful content will give them confidence that you know what you're talking about and keep then interested.

Then offer them, as a downloadable document/audio file/video, access to something covering really interesting,useful and appropriate information that is just an extension of what they've been reading - in return for their email address.

Successful ideas are '5 tips when choosing....', '10 things to consider...' or 'A guide to...'

What do you do with their email address? By far the best way is to use one of the well respected email autoresponder houses.

These on-line systems will handle the opt-in confirmation process to ensure that the recipient knows what they are getting, plus deal with bounced email addresses and subscription removal requests. But the biggest bonus is their ability to 'automate' your follow up.

The autoresponder facility will send out an number of follow up emails, at periods that you determine, each having a sales message to encourage the prospect to either part with a bit more information, contact you direct, or both.

Autoresponders are not expensive and have, if you use the right one, plenty of training to help you set them up to produce good results for you.

If you need help with your website sales and marketing or SEO contact me at AlloyCRM

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will you profit from the Google changes?

What is the point of having a website if it doesn't bring you a sale or at least high quality enquiries?

So we live and die by Googles' ability to index and rank our sites correctly to attract the right visitors. At any one time we can search ourselves on the keywords and phrases that we would like to be seen for and see exactly how we fair in the listings.

But according to search engine specialist Bruce Clay that's all about to change.

Google has, and probably always will, had to fight a battle with the 'black hat' SEO specialists who work hard to unfairly skew the rankings in their, or their clients, favour.

Google wants to maintain its standing as the leading search engine (over 80% market share in Europe) by offering the best, most useful and most appropriate web pages to us as web searchers. That's what keeps us coming back time after time.

Google has been experimenting for some time with ways to overcome the black hats by making each search unique. They are getting 'up close and personal' to help personalise each and every search that we make.

By using information gained from your previous search history, your location and a broad understanding of your 'intent' (are you looking to buy something or are you looking for information) they can create a different listing of web pages for you to view.

This is great for us as users as the results will probably be more akin to our requirements.

Google are also able now to interrogate video, flash and audio files on web sites and convert the spoken and printed word into text to help offer those in the listings too.

Overall, from a user point of view it's all good news.

How does this affect my website?

As a web site owner we still need to keep our eye on the SEO ball so that Google continues understand our site and knows when, and where, to rank it. Our problem is that we won't be able to check it's ranking for key words and phrases as that will vary from user to user.

This means that we'll need to study and understand the site analytics far more. How many people visit the site, from which keywords, how long did they stay, what pages did they view and did we gain something from them - some contact details or a sale for example?

With that information we are able to test and measure changes and influence the results without resorting to under handed tactics.

The other big change is the importance that Google is putting on what are described as 'Engagement Objects' - such as video and audio. These are seen as enhancements to the user experience and will give considerable weight to the ranking of a page. I have seen statistics that have indicated this for some time now so this element hasn't surprised me.

So the time has never been better to include video elements on your site as these changes will start to take effect during the first quarter of next year.

If you need help with video or how to make your site Search Engine Optimisation is up to scratch contact me at Alloy CRM - Sales and Marketing Strategists.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More thoughts on the Credit Crunch

Recent financial events leave us in no doubt that this will trigger employment difficulties in the near future as the effects bite into the supply chain.

The result will be, as it was in the similar period during the early eighties, businesses being very cautious about their spend.

However business hasn’t stopped altogether, it has simply reduced. It is at times like this that smart companies look for new, and cost effective ways to capture a greater percentage of the marketplace.

There are many channels to promote a business, each with its own level of required investment – some substantially more that others.

The internet provides a cost effective platform from which to attract potential customers.

Our research habits have changed out of all recognition over the last few years. The internet is now the first place we turn to for information and help. Any company that does not maximise its web presence is effectively giving away business to its competitors.

However the internet road is not paved with gold. It is hard work, just like any other marketing or advertising campaign.

The big advantage is that Internet Marketing is one of the few mediums that allow you to monitor results and Return on Investment very accurately. The ability to test, measure and modify the individual elements of the campaign on a daily basis means that you are unlikely to throw money away through a wrong decision at the beginning.

Tune up your Sales and Marketing Program or CRM with Alloy CRM

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

With tough times ahead, measure your advertising results.

For most advertising you may include in your marketing, it is notoriously difficult to prove a Return on Investment (ROI). Printed media or television, without clever tactics, it is difficult to prove results conclusively. This makes it difficult to determine where your next advertising pound should be spent – especially in our current turbulent times when you can’t afford to waste money.

For many businesses the answer lies on your computer screen with paid advertising programs.

Many of you will sigh at this point as you remember burning a hole in your pocket trying to make Pay Per Click (PPC) on Google work and produce some profitable business.

Well folks, I’ve done just the same myself in the past too!

The thing is, we didn’t know what we were doing then and were running blind.

PPC is a skill, just like any other, that needs to be learnt and understood. I waded through hours and hours of video and text tutorials before I took my Google AdWords exam. Even then, knowing the mechanics of the PPC system wasn’t enough. I needed the commercial skill and knowledge I have gained over the years to make it work successfully.

Put those together and you have a powerful tool in PPC. One that can bring absolutely the right people to your website. People who are looking for your products and services right now. All you have to do, once they have arrived, is keep them there and offer precisely what they need (but that’s for another blog post!).

The massive bonus gained from using PPC over other forms of advertising is the measurement, tracking and instant flexibility.

Setup correctly, a PPC campaign will tell you exactly what key words your customer typed into the search engine to look for your product, the advert that attracted them and the advertising cost to gain him as a customer.

Not only that, but you can monitor what’s happening, and more importantly, what’s not working on an hourly basis. That way you can change things before your marketing budget gets burnt to a cinder.

It’s probably that last point that caught us all out before. We didn’t check and analyse what was going on often enough. The result? A sizable hole in our pocket and a dislike of the PPC system.

But times have changed. More and more of us turn to the search engines as our first point of contact for knowledge and new suppliers. That means your business needs to be there for them to find you and PPC provides a manageable, measurable and cost effective way of getting new customers.

If you need to understand or investigate how a well managed Pay Per Click Sales and Marketing Campaign could work for your business then contact me to discuss your Sales, Profit and Return on Investment requirements.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The 2 Second Test for your Website and Advertising

When it comes to surfing the Web we are a finicky lot.

If you do keyword research you will discover that most of us type 'problems' or 'requests for solutions and information' into the search box of search engines such as Google. It is common to see significant numbers of searches that start with 'How do I.....' or something similar. Even if the searcher doesn't actually type in those first few human sentence construction words, that's probably what's going on in their mind.

So how does that affect what we do when preparing our website pages, or any of our collateral for that matter?

If we accept that an answer or information is really what is being sort then, if we are going to have any chance of success, we need to establish immediately that they are looking at the right page or advertising brochure.

Within 2 or so seconds of reading they will decide whether this is the right place to be to get the answer or just move on. The Internet is very susceptible to this as it is so easy to click back to the search listing and try the next one.

The secret, which isn't a secret at all, is making sure that the reader can instantly see that there is something worth reading further for.

Just think about your last visit to the petrol station. As you walked up to the kiosk to pay you had in front of you a large display of todays newspapers. Are they full of small type that you can't read without your glasses? No, they have huge headlines that they have written to , hopefully, entice you to get closer and read the next size text, the sub heading. If this is interesting enough we may well pick up, and buy, the newspaper.

Writing your collateral and web pages is no different.

Attract your visitor by confirming that this is the right place to be and then draw them into your document.

On the Web you only have around 2 seconds to do this - or they are gone.

There is an excellent publication on this subject here:
Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

If you need help with your Sales and Marketing program and message and wording contact me at Alloy CRM

Using Themes in SEO

Using Themes in SEO

The Search Engines use a number of algorithms to determine the natural listing position for your site and pages. By helping the search engine understand the theme of your site it is better able to decide when to display a link to your pages in response to a users search query.

There are 5 key factors that influence the theme of a site:

The Domain Name
The Page Title
The Meta Tags
The Page Content
The Anchor Text of Inbound Links

If we look at a fictitious site about mobile phones and see how each of these can be used to our advantage.

The first step is to determine the best keywords and phrases to use. Let’s assume that the most appropriate for our site is ‘mobile phone’.

The Domain Name

It is always beneficial to have your main keywords included in the domain name, so mobilephone.co.uk would be a good choice.

The Page Title

The Title in the page code should be one of the first lines that the search engine robot sees when it ‘reads’ your site. This is the wording that appears in the uppermost line of the browser window. Something like ‘Mobile Phones at fantastic prices’ might be suitable and links to the domain name.

Another consideration with the Title tag is that of users adding the page to their favourites. This process takes the Title tag as the default description which makes it easier to understand when looked at in the list later.

The Meta Tags

These tags are of questionable use from a search engine ranking point of view now as it thought that these are no longer of interest to them. However the Description is used by the search engine to give a snippet in the listings to help the user decide if this page is worth viewing and, therefore, the wording is picked up by them. A 2 or 3 line paragraph that started and ended with ‘Mobile phone’ would be worth while from both a visual user point of view and to add to the ‘theme’

The Page Content

It is accepted that pages should be content rich and appropriate to the subject but including multiple references to our keyword ‘mobile phone’ would emphasise the theme once again. However it must be remembered that a human will read the text ultimately and it must therefore read fluently to ensure that a site conversion is achieved.

The Anchor Text of Inbound Links

It is widely accepted that links to your site from other sites is a key factor in determining its ranking. It has been common practise, in the past, to gain vast numbers of these from ‘link farms’ – sites set up simply to provide one way inbound links from otherwise worthless websites. The search engines have wised up to this practise and now value inbound links by the Page Ranking of the originating site. So for example a site such as bbc.co.uk, which has a Page Rank of 9/10 would provide an extremely valuable link to you. At the opposite end of the scale are sites with zero page rank which could in fact harm your own value in the eyes of the search engines.

So with that in mind there are some good ways to enhance the value of your good ranked links.

Typically links to your site would simply be the web address with a hyperlink. In our example of mobilephones.co.uk that’s not too bad at our key word is included in the domain name, but that’s not always the case.

A better alternative would be to have a short piece of text, describing your business and including your keywords, with the whole piece hyperlinked. This reinforces that the destination site is about mobile phones.


The processes described here are not ‘black art’, they are simply logical steps to ensure that the search engines understand exactly what you are trying to promote and give them guidance as to when they should be display your site as a suitable link.

The search engines ultimate aim is to provide its users with the best and most appropriate links to ensure that they keep coming back, using them as their search engine of choice.

All you are doing with themes is helping the search engines with that process.

If you would like help with making your website produce sales and marketing the results from SEO, SEM and PPC you are looking for call Roy Gough on 0777 556 1664 to discuss the cost effective options available.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How are you coping with the recession?

How are you coping with the recession?

Are you taking the media line that it's a dire situation and that sales have all but stopped?

Or, like me, have you looked around the shopping malls and supermarkets? They are still very busy with shoppers returning to their cars with armfuls of shopping bags.

Now don't get me wrong. There are some sectors, like the estate agents, who are having a really rough time. Most other industries are seeing some effects but is it the complete meltdown the press seemed to revel in?

I am in no position to pass expert judgment on the situation. All I see is that business doesn't just stop completely, even in the worst of times. People don't stop buying nor are we, yet, ditching our monetary system in favour of bartering or accepting only gold pieces.

If we accept that then there is still business to be had. It might be harder to find and even harder to win, but it's still there.

To survive we need to work smarter and harder. We need to be a bit more creative in the way in which we market ourselves and we mustn't fall into the trap of switching off all our advertising and marketing budgets as that would certainly fulfil the prophesy of failing because of the downturn.

I seem to remember reading that, during the Second World War, Cadburys chocolate continued its advertising even though most of its production had been taken over to support the war effort. The payoff came later when chocolate production returned to normal and the Cadburys brand was still so well known.

Times are tough, no doubt. Look for ways to market your business more cost effectively and through a medium that allows you to test, measure and track results.

Used correctly, the Internet gives any business an excellent advertising platform to work with. Could that be the route for you to prove the media wrong and buck the recession?

If you need help with your Sales and Marketing Strategy, SEO, SEM or PPC I would be pleased to help.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's Your Business - Really?

Chating to a potential customer today reminded me of something I read in Michael Gerbers' excellect book The eMyth Revisited.

This book outlines the principles of running your business as a business rather than being a technician IN your business. The difference between baking cakes and making profit from a business that happens to bake cakes.

Michael quotes Ray Crock, the founder of McDonalds, as describing his profit generating business as Real Estate. That would be a surprise to most people who would have thought his answer would be 'selling hamburgers'.

He may have done that at the very beginning but he soon realised that the real profit was in buying and leasing restaurant sites to franchisees. It is the franchises that sell hamburgers.

I'm as guilty as the next man in this. I love getting involved, learning how to do stuff, finding out how it works. The trick is then to pass the real job onto someone else so that you can grow the business and make money for you, your fellow directors and your trusted employees.

So ask your self - What is your business?

If it doesn't fit with Ray Crocks answer then read Michael Gerbers book to work out how to change.

Need some sales or web marketing help? Sales and Marketing Strategy Programs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Selling is all about the numbers

Selling is all about the numbers

"Make a better mousetrap" they said, "And people will beat a path to your door"

Hmmm... Well, woe betide anyone in business who thinks that philosophy alone will make them their first million.

The business world is littered with fantastic ideas and products that would knock the socks off the competition - but have died a painful death through financial ruin. Yet, conversly, there are any number of second rate offerings that continue to thrive.

What's the difference?

The second created sales opportunities for themselves, the first just sat back and waited for the sales to come to them.

And how do you think those successful businesses 'created' sales opportunities?

They went out and got their sales message across to as many people as possible. The more they speak to, the more they sold.

I suspect, at this point, there are some folk out there wagging a finger at me saying 'Work Smarter, Not Harder'.

I absolutely agree. Working smarter means making sure that all of those people you speak to are of the right calibre to be your customers, so that you are not wasting time on people who are never going to, or able to, buy.

But make sure you talk to as many people of the right calibre as you can! That's smart, but it's also damn hard too.

Getting to speak to the right people or attracting them to your website in significant numbers is vital to your business success.

If you need help, talk to me about my Sales Accelerator Program to Increase your Sales and Profit.

Are you Main Dealer or Garage around the Corner?

When your car is a year or two old and comes to the end of it's warranty period you have a choice as to where you have your servicing and repairs done.

You can still go to the (expensive) main dealer with it's comforting customer service facilities and friendly smiling service folk, or you can go around the corner to a nearby trading estate to a non-franchise garage.

The garage around the corner probably hasn't got the smart reception area with coffee, sky news and comfy chairs. Instead you are possibly confronted by a chap in greasy overalls who's decidedly lacking in customer service skills.

But they are a lot cheaper and, potentially, know a great deal more about your car, its know problems and how to fix then quickly and cheaply than a spotty apprentice in the main dealer who just plugs it into a computer and changes what it suggests.

Faced with this dilemma we, more often than not, opt for the safe option of the main dealer and pay the price.

What's this got to do with business and sales?

When someone visits your website, or sees your advertising material, they will make exactly the same judgement, and possibly come to the same decision too.

Do you give the impression of being Main Dealer, or Garage Around the Corner?

Compare your sales collateral and website with your competitors.

If you appear Garage Around the Corner in comparison, change it and see what difference it makes to your sales conversions.

If you need help with Sales and Marketing Strategy, on and off line, contact me at Alloy CRM

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As a member, and current Chapter Director, of a local BNI group I had my 10 minute presentation a couple of weeks ago.

Wishing to create an impact I did something a little out of the ordinary.

Rather than stand up and talk at my fellow members I created a 9 minute video that shows the type of work I do through my Sales and Marketing Strategy business, Alloy CRM, and my business web video work through Alloy Video

Welcome to my new sales and marketing strategy blog.

My plan is to give my readers useful and informative tips on sales and marketing strategy to help them increase sales and profit.

More information is available on my sales, marketing and CRM site.