You mean you don’t have an eCommerce site yet?

me

A guest post by Matt Chatterley of MattchedIT Ltd – thanks Matt 🙂

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Over the last few years (or perhaps more accurately, months), we’ve watched the way we interact with each other online change drastically through facebook, twitter and various other less-known services and tools. But how many of us have really sat down and studied the impact these changes could have on our businesses?

Once upon a time it was hard to set up an online shop. They were few and far between and they were major undertakings. That certainly isn’t the case now – we have the technology, you might say.

It’s probably harder to choose the solution you want to use – or to find a reputable developer amongst the masses – than it is to actually go through the motions of planning, implementing and opening your store.

Sadly, many would-be virtual shop-keepers learn a hard lesson shortly after they open – although laying the foundations and opening a shop is pretty simple, making sales is something else entirely.

Marketing is a serious business

You’re reading my scribblings on Nikki Pilkington’s blog – so you must already know that she is well known in Internet Marketing circles, for all the right reasons. I’m sure she and I will agree on this point – the toughest job which lays before you with your shiny new online shop is going to be bringing in customers and making sales.

I don’t mean to gloss over the importance of making sure your website is going to make sales – that’s clearly critical too, but you need an audience before you can even find out if it’s laid out in a manner which will tempt them to buy.

Instead of telling you about the importance of a marketing plan or about all the things you should be doing, I’m going to suggest some ideas for your site itself – some of the things which we are busy incorporating into the in-house eCommerce framework which we use to build sites.

Three ways to engage customers, get referrals and to save those sales!

Engage Customers – There is so much you can do to increase the level of customer engagement your site permits.

Sure, it might make recommendations for similar products – thats nothing new. But how about sending an existing customer a quick tweet when you add a new product the system thinks they’d like, based on their past purchases?

Hi @you! A new book has been published by @your_favourite_author..”

Get Referrals – If you can get your customers to recommend you to their friends, particular over social media, you’ll be tapping into one of the most powerful and effective marketing resources in the world. Perhaps you could offer a discount code if they perform enough “social shares” – or you could issue them with an affiliate code and hand out a share of the cash if one of their friends makes a purchase.

A recommendation from a friend is always going to be stronger than any advertisement you can issue yourself!

Save those Sales – don’t you hate it when the product you want is out of stock? Particularly if it’s a high demand item – by the time an email notification of new stock arrives, the odds are it’ll be sold out again. So why not return to twitter, facebook and other “instant gratification” messaging services?

Get it right and not only will you be able to make your customer feel important with their notification – you might draw in a few of their followers, too!

Social Networking is for life, not just for this year

Perhaps I should say “Social Marketing” rather than “Social Networking”. It’s not going anywhere – and it’s only going to get more important. Sure, like anything online, it’s going to change quickly and we’re all going to have to run to keep up at times, but fortune favours the brave!

That’s why as we push ahead with our development schedule, finding new ways to integrate with and get the most out of social networks is going to remain high on our list of priorities. Is it on yours yet? And if not, why not?

Matt Chatterley is an experienced software developer and one of the directors of Mattched IT Ltd, a web development company based in Hampshire which specialises in providing tailor-made web and software solutions to the business market.

You're not blogging for YOU, you're blogging for THEM!

268/365 - Default StateIt's a common mistake, and a common question:

Nikki, I find it really hard to blog – I'm running out of things to say about my business!

When you start a blog you're usually all gung-ho – you'll blog every couple of days, there's loads to say about your accountancy services / nappy website / building company etc etc. And at first it's easy. You blog about your great products and services, new clients, special offers and more. But then it gets a little harder – every blog seems to be the same, the readership has trailed off, comments have come to a halt and you wonder why you bother.

One morning you sit down in front of your blog to update it and your mind is blank – you have nothing left to say! It's all been said, so what can you do now?

You've fallen into the classic trap of blogging for YOU, not THEM. THEM being your audience, your readers, your market.

See, blogging isn't JUST about promoting yourself and saying how great you are. Really it's not. It's about engaging your audience, it's about attracting your target market, it's about attracting the right kind of people. No-one wants to read about how great you are, day in, day out (except maybe your mum, and I'm pretty sure even she's bored with your blog by now if that's all you've been doing!)

Think about your target market – what interests them? What things are they reading about, looking for, talking about, asking questions about? THAT'S what you should be blogging about. If you start doing that, you'll be promoting ourself by default – the difference is you'll have an audience to promote yourself TO.

So let's take the 3 examples I used above – the Accountant, tyhe Nappy website and the Building company.

Here are 3 example blog headlines for each one:

Accountant

  • Can I claim entertainment expenses against my tax? Answer questions your clients are asking – give something away for nothing. These types of questions are always being asked, and the answers can be found on Google – make sure people are finding YOU, and the more good advice you give the more likely they are to come to you when they need an accountant.
  • Free Tax Year Calendar – again, give something that will help – brand it with your logo and contact details and offer it as a free download
  • The Budget in Plain English – use what's in the news to create blogs that people want to read. If the Budget is big news, write about it, if it's close to a tax deadline, write about that. Use what's going on around you to generate blog headlines.

Nappy Website

  • Congratulations to X, Y Z on their pregnancy / baby's birth – celebs are popping out babies all over the place – it's easy blog fodder and people like to read about it. (ahem.. apparently)
  • Our thoughts on … – read the online newspapers, there's always some 'expert' or another spouting off about the latest childcare fad / parenting skills / how it was different in the olden days – use it. Take an article that's in the news and write about it – give your thoughts and opinions, and publish them.
  • A review of … – review someone else's product – this obviously works better if it's either a glowingly fantastic review or a spectacularly negative review – find something that's related to your product and review it. In this case it could be baby clothes, a nappy sanitiser, baby bottles, whatever – review it and then let the product owner know you've reviewed it. If it's a good review they'll want to tell everyone!

Building Company

  • Be thankful your builders aren't like THIS – there are loads of cowboy builder stories and videos out ther e- use them
  • How to… (fix a wall that's falling down / plan an extension / etc) – free advice always goes down well. Turn it into a PDF, stick your branding on it and offer it as a download.
  • X Questions to ask your builder – again, free advice. Give people information and they'll love you for it – you could also take the opportunity to answer the questions, from your point of view, putting you ahead of anyone they're thinking of using. Take the work out of it for your potential customer and they just might use you.

So there you have it., Pretty generic, but I hope you've got the gist – stop blogging about you and for you, and start blogging about the things your audieence is interested in and looking for.

Let me know how you get on 🙂

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Creative Commons License photo credit: helgasms!

How to get customer testimonials that work

Here at NikkiPlkington.com we’re great believers in getting testimonials from customers. It’s important to us, and it helps us to:

a) Know we’re doing well for our clients

and

b) Show potential clients that we are as good as we say we are.

So it was nice to come across this blog by Emily Cagle Communidations – Ten Steps To Better Customer Testimonals.

In the post, she talks you through getting and using testimonials, with the following steps:

1. Ask promptly
2. Ask personally
3. Name names
4. Get permission
5. Tell a story
6. Illustrate the decision making process
7. Keep it short
8. Use them creatively
9. Keep them current
10. Be honest

We’ll certainly be taking a few of her pointers on board, as should you if you want to include customer testimonals on your website!

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