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Four Tips for Online Marketers Implementing User Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is not a brand new concept in the marketing industry. However, most digital marketers rarely treated UGC as an exciting way for engaging with consumers, building brand awareness, and gathering customers’ loyalty. With the recent acquisitions of multi-million dollar content companies like Instagram and Tumblr, major names in online business are further demonstrating the enormous value of content today. In a January 2013, over 700 digital professionals identified content marketing as the single most significant trend in marketing today.

So, what’s the position of contents in today’s digital era anyway? Content, in short, is king, so it’s incumbent upon brands to make good use of it. However, it’s never as simple as it sounds. With its many shapes and forms, identifying the right content to engage your customer and doing it at the right time on the right channel, requires strategic planning and resources.

One possible solution is to allow consumers to create content for your brand. The rise of social media and mobile technology has made every consumer a potential broadcaster. It is easier than ever for brands to solicit, collect, promote, and analyze content that comes directly from your customer base.

Why?

Nowadays, user generated content is easily accessible for both brand marketers and consumers because of the prevalence of smartphones and tablets. These gadgets make it easier than ever to take photos, make videos, draw pictures, and otherwise broadcast our thoughts and opinions instantly through numerous social channels. When done right, UGC campaigns that make it easy for your consumer to market on your behalf will lead to higher levels of engagement and provide actionable consumer data. Here are four tips for digital marketers implementing user generated content.

1. A Clear Call-To-Action

Although UGC can be easy to accumulate from consumers, it is important for brands to present a specific call-to-action that identifies the objectives of your campaign and outlines the desired contributions you are seeking. It is also critical to recognize that many participants in your campaign may initially just be there to view content, and don’t intend to contribute to it. An inspiring call to action or value proposition will help convert those who were simply bystanders.

Also, you must realise that there are many different levels of contributions you can reach, and each type of content has a different target audience. For example: it is far easier for a user to give a “like” or submit a picture than to create a video. Target the masses with simpler requests. On the other hand, target a passionate community of enthusiasts with things that take additional time and effort like video creation.

Your call to action should include two things: 1) very clearly state the type of content you are soliciting, and 2) provide users with an incentive, such as the promise of status/fame, a prize or exclusive discounts, in order to participate.

In addition, you should use the thrill of competition to get customers excited and their competitive juices flowing. You can also increase the volume of participation and engagement by making it easy for participants to share the campaign across their social channels.

2. Maintain Your Quality Control

One potential risk when opening your brand to contributed content from customers is the potential for your usual quality standards not to be upheld. This is why it’s essential to set clear parameters and expectations at the outset of a user generated content campaign. Offering incentives for winners will also place a premium on quality content by tapping into people’s competitive nature. This is good for consumers because it helps them elevate the quality of their submission, while also preventing results that are off-brand.

3. Depth vs. Breadth

One of the biggest ways for marketers to drive results is by taking steps to ensure their user generated content campaign provides widespread marketing value. Therefore, a key question to ask when planning a campaign is how it can be valuable to more than just those who actively participate.

While you will naturally receive fewer entrants in a contest that asks users to prepare an entry, the entries you receive will likely come from those who are more passionate about your brand or the reward opportunity. This is might happen because the majority of people participating in your campaign will simply view or interact with content rather than actually preparing and submitting their own entry, it is important to incentivize both content submitters and content viewers.

4. Authenticity

Do you know that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family and 70% trust online reviews, while the vast majority view paid online advertising with deep suspicion? This trust factor is one of the most important selling points for a UGC campaign. It’s imperative for marketers to make it authentic and consistent with the brand’s persona. And due to the wealth of information and content available in today’s digital world, authentic content is celebrated and more meaningful.

Authenticity shines through in the entries as parents share details on everything from a simple smile that brightens their day to community service projects that can make a big difference. Harness a more authentic and meaningful experience for your customer by driving a two-way conversation throughout your campaign — from the submission stage, to social sharing, voting, and beyond. However, be keenly aware that transparency is critical as any problems in the experience can be broadcast instantly by digital consumers across social media.

Conclusion

Good content always drives good engagement. User generated content campaigns are not new, but with the rise of mobile and social tools present even greater opportunities for marketers to increase engagement among a passionate group of consumers. When done well, these campaigns will lead to significantly increased brand engagement.

Five Pillars of Solid Inbound Marketing Strategy

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Are you a huge fan of cold calls? What about the marketing emails that you never signed up for invading your inbox? How about TV commercials in the middle of your favorite show?

The fact is, these marketing messages tend to be frowned upon or ignored rather than delightfully consumed. Shockingly enough, these disruptive outbound techniques convert at a much lower rate than inbound marketing strategies, where someone chooses to engage with your brand and actively seeks you out.

Inbound strategies are all about being found naturally rather than aggressively pursuing leads through in-your-face tactics. Which person do you think would be more likely to buy a house? The person who received a message saying “Buy this house!” or the person who searched for and found the perfect house on their own?

Convinced that inbound marketing strategies kick ass for driving targeted leads and sales? Here are five elements of a strong inbound marketing strategy that you should be using.

1. Search Engine Optimisation

SEO (search engine optimisation) is a hard-to-control, waste-of-time tactic, right? Wrong: SEO is the process of optimising your website’s content and structure for search in order to receive organic placements on the search engine results pages or SERPS. Having a quality website and content optimised for SEO ensures that Google’s web-crawling technology is able to identify and index your site’s content to have it appear for free to people searching. SEO is a critical part of your inbound strategy because if you can’t be found, then you’re not going to get business.

When SEO comes to mind I think keywords, code, website structure, link-building, and then my head starts spinning. SEO can actually get very complicated, quickly, so what should you be focusing on to get started? Start by identifying and utilising the most important keywords to your leads. Of course you want to ensure these keywords have high enough search volume and user intent to attract the most relevant audience.

2. PPC

Most people think that PPC is a paid tactic and aren’t paid strategies against the inbound methodology. Unfortunately, it is technically still part of the inbound marketing family since search ads appear when a user is actively searching for something, therefore PPC ads are not interrupting another activity. Not all aspects of PPC will quality as inbound (like display ads), but ads on the search network are certainly one of the strongest elements of a strong inbound strategy, because search queries show so much intent.

So, how is PPC different then SEO? With paid ads you’re paying for the placements on the SERPs rather than appearing organically. Why pay when you can appear organically? For multiple reasons. With SEO:

  • You have far less control over when and how you appear on the search results page.
  • A tweak in the algorithms can ruin your organic visibility.
  • Seeing results often takes a long time and isn’t guaranteed.

With paid search you’re able to pay for the top placements where people are more likely to see your ads, and bid on specific keywords to attract qualified visitors. You have the control to adjust your budget, pause your ads during irrelevant times, target mobile searchers, easily measure your ROI, and the list goes on.

Moral of the story is that you should be doing both SEO and PPC to get the highest volume and quality of leads.

3. Content Marketing

Now that you’ve warmly welcomed them in the door through PPC and/or SEO you need to provide them something to drink, aka content. Oftentimes marketers think of content as the sole component to inbound marketing strategy, and while it’s certainly not the only aspect, it is a very critical one. Without fresh and useful content there is no chance of keeping and converting your leads. Your content should come in multiple forms with the goal of helping your audience answer a question or solve a problem. The key to content marketing is that your content needs to stand out.

So, where to start?

  • Create a blog: You should already know this, but a quality blog is one of the most effective ways to market a business. Blogging will help you attract new visitors, gain returning visitors, and convince warmer leads. A blog is a hub to keep your audience informed and prove that you’re a thought-leader in your industry.
  • Create guides, e-books, and other downloadable content: This will help your nurture your leads with longer-form content where you can sell how your products or services will help them.
  • Gather customer testimonials and create case studies: Case studies and customer testimonials will help convince leads that are further down the funnel. Hearing from someone like them will instill trust and up the chances of conversion.
  • Create a content calendar: to ensure you stay on top of publishing fresh content regularly.

4. Social Media

So you’ve created phenomenal content, published it on your site, and now you’re lounging on your beach chair enjoying a glass of wine? Well, you’re certainly not going to get profitable results with that attitude. You need to be attracting new and returning readers by sharing and promoting your content on social media. Creating the content is only a small piece of the puzzle. Ensuring the content reaches relevant people is where social comes in. This is inbound marketing because only people who want to see your content will follow your brand, and it’s a great way to “subsidise” your organic traffic if you don’t have great rankings yet.

Nowadays, anyone who’s anyone is on social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram, or Periscope; your audience is likely on multiple of these channels. Determining which platforms are most relevant to your buyer personas in a task in itself, but I can guarantee that several of your leads are spending a significant chunk of their time consuming content through their personal social channels.

Spend time creating a social media promotion plan to distribute your content to the right people, analysing your top performing content, and paying to promote and gain even more traffic to the content that’s resonating with your audience.

5. Landing Pages

Your landing page is where your leads land after clicking on your call-to-action (another important element of your inbound marketing strategy). Whether it be a product page, a form fill-out to download a whitepaper, or a subscription service page, you need to ensure your landing page is top-notch unless you’d like to jeopardise potential conversions from coming in. Some important elements to keep in mind.

  • Relevancy: You need to make sure that the landing page is relevant to the call-to-action. For example, if your visitor lands on your page from a paid search ad advertising birthday cakes, you wouldn’t send them to a landing page selling Christmas cookies, right?
  • Focus: What is the goal of your landing page? Is it to “Sign Up for this E-Newsletter!” or “Download this Guide Today”? Make your landing page’s purpose singular. Ensure the CTA is big, prevalent, and above the fold. Also make sure to restrict the navigation to other pages and keep forms short.
  • Design: This is a major component of keeping visitors engaged. Using videos or images, testimonials, and trust signals are all design elements that can help improve the conversion rates of your landing pages. Run A/B tests to decide on the best designs for your landing pages.

Ten Essential Tips to Build A Better Website

 

A website is the spearhead of your company’s online marketing strategy. It provides the first impression of your company to your customers and prospects. However, crafting a good website is somewhat easy once you know several fundamental principles. By making a few simple adjustments, you can make a wonderful website that attracts visitors, converts prospects into paying consumers, and helps you to grow your business on the next level.

Here are ten fundamentals you should include on your site:

1. Invitation To Friend / Follow and Subscription On Social Media

Social media is more than a trend that you can use to build a fanbase. It is as important as the website itself, and just having a social media “presence” is not enough. You must let people know you are active on social media by inviting them to interact. There are many ways to accomplish this. The simplest way is by adding an invitation button like “Follow me on Twitter” and include a link to your page.

2. Professional Quality Logo/Header

The world of Internet marketing is vast and competitive. While you can create your own blog header, you should probably leave it to the professionals. Make an investment in your brand and your business by creating a strong, relevant header and logo to reflect your business.

3. Simplicity

Make sure your visitors can find their way around your website in a quick and easy way. If you are not sure about how to accomplish this, then study websites that you visit often. Notice how they guide you through the site. Do they provide cushioned navigation tabs? Does the flow of the site seem logical? Is there a search function so you can head directly to the page or information you’re looking for?

4. Interaction / Comments

Your website should be able to invite visitors to comment on your articles and blog posts. One of the best ways to not only measure engagement, but to also create it, is to take a look at the level of interaction on your site. If you are using WordPress, you can manage the comment section by turning it on and off. You can also allow comments for a specific period of time. Engage them in conversation and invite interaction and comments. Do these and you will build a loyal community of customers in no time.

5. Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking not only adds value to your visitors and prospects, but also helps boost your traffic and brand awareness. By adding a social bookmarking function to your site, your visitors can bookmark using the bookmarking service of their choice. There are several top quality WordPress plugins that make social bookmarking easy. You can add buttons for the primary sites like Digg, Delicious and Reddit. When someone bookmarks your site it’s added to their account, where other users can browse, vote, and share.

6. Good Quality Content

This is the most important thing you can do to have your site hit the top. Make a good quality content. Make sure they are daily updated and topical. You’re not creating content about something that happened five years ago or even five months ago. You’re creating content about what’s going on right now. And catchy content varies depending on your niche and your audience.

Consider the voice and style you want to communicate to your readers. Are you serious kinda guy? Funny? Controversial? What makes your content interesting, different, and valuable to your reader?

7. Article Archives

This function is particularly important if you have a blog or other WordPress based website. Make finding information easy for your visitors by creating archives. Archives are essentially directories for old content.

No one wants to search through page after page of old content just to find something they’re looking for. They want to be able to find what they need with a few clicks of their mouse. Use keywords that accurately describe the subject of the content to organize your archives.

8. Search Field

It doesn’t matter what the foundation is for your website – Joomla or WordPress or anything in between – it is important to make it fully usable by anyone who visits. One of the simple tools you can use to make this happen is a simple search field. It was briefly mentioned in Item #3 above, where navigation was discussed. There are different search tools you can use.

For example, Custom Search Plugin is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create custom searches. Maybe you want people to be able to search for quotes or tips on your site. You can use this tool to add functionality to your website and to help separate your business site from your competition.

9. Inquiry Form

What do you want people to do when they’re at your site and they have a question? You might already have a FAQ page (hopefully you do), but what if the answer to a visitor’s question isn’t on that page? Ideally, you want your visitor to be able to reach out and ask their question. This keeps them engaged and connected to your business.

To make this happen, it has to be easy for them to contact you. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to have a contact form or an inquiry form on your site. They enter their email address, subject line, and ask their question. You or your customer service assistant receives the message and can promptly respond.

10. FAQ Page

Including an FAQ page on your website helps make it more user friendly. Create a list of the most common questions you receive and turn it into a separate page on your site. Make sure that like all your other valuable pages, this FAQ page is easy to find and read. As you receive more questions, you can add to the page. Also, consider occasionally linking to other important internal pages. This can accomplish two things simultaneously: first, it can help keep your visitor on your website longer, and at the same time it can help to boost the rankings for the page you’re linking to.

Five Inspiring Life Lessons From Steve Jobs For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

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Steve Jobs might never launched two of the most valuable companies (Apple and Pixar) if he follows the conventional rules all the time.

Jobs has struggled through many obstacles to get Apple and Pixar off the ground. However, Jobs had a unique way of crafting his own reality, a “distortion field” that could persuade people that his personal beliefs were actually facts, which is how he pushed his companies forward. He also utilised a mixture of manipulative tricks to ascertain his victories.

Many consider Jobs a genius, yet there’s no reason we could all learn a thing or two from his tactics.

In today’s post, we will explore five important points that Steve Jobs has done throughout his career. His life and working ethic is inspirational and every serious entrepreneurs should take note. Here is the first wisdom words from the man himself:

1. “Work hard, and others will respect you. Respect is a crucial first step to getting what you want.”

By 1996, Apple had a serious issue: it was pinning its hopes on a new operating system that wasn’t and wouldn’t even solve Apple’s needs. So it looked for a partner to build a more stable operating system: in the end, it came down to two companies: a company started by Jean-Louis Gassée called ‘Be,’ and NeXT, Jobs’ computer company that was struggling at the time.

When it came time for the two companies to pitch to Apple, Gassée acted too nonchalant, whereas Jobs didn’t hold back. Amelio described Steve’s sales pitch on the NeXT operating system as ‘dazzling. He praised the virtues and strengths as though he were describing a performance of Olivier as Macbeth.’

When Jobs eventually returned to Apple and he was still leading Pixar, he says he worked from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. He suffered from kidney stones. However, he insisted on motivating both companies by consistently showing up and pushing people to make the best products possible, and they respected him for it.

2. “Pitch with passion. People can be influenced by strong displays of emotion.”

Pitching was a key part of Jobs’ repertoire, and it should be part of yours, too. The process of selling — yourself, or a product — is the key to getting others to buy into your ideas.

In a pitch to the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Jobs wanted to show off everything iTunes could do — he was recruiting musicians at the time in hopes of corralling the record labels into going along with the iTunes plan. Marsalis said Jobs talked for two hours. ‘He was a man possessed,’ he said. ‘After a while, I started looking at him and not the computer, because I was so fascinated with his passion.’

He also pitched his marketing gurus with a similar passion, to ‘ensure that almost every ad they produced was infused with his emotion.’

3. “Disarm people with seduction and flattery.”

Whether they’re working for you, or you’re working for them, people continually seek approval for their actions so they respond very well to affection. And if you keep giving it to them, they will eventually crave it from you. From Isaacson’s biography:

‘Jobs could seduce and charm people at will, and he liked to do so. People such as (former Apple CEOs) Amelio and Sculley allowed themselves to believe that because Jobs was charming them, it meant that he liked and respected them. It was an impression that he sometimes fostered by dishing out insincere flattery to those hungry for it. But Jobs could be charming to people he hated just as easily as he could be insulting to people he liked.’

4. “Claim all the good ideas are yours — and if you’re reversing your position, get behind the new idea with full force. Memories of the past can be easily manipulated.”

Jobs wasn’t right all the time, but he was a master at convincing people he was. So how did he do it? He stood firmly in one position, and if your position was actually better than his, he wouldn’t just acknowledge it: He’d adopt your position as his own, which would throw you off balance since he wouldn’t let you know he ever thought differently.

Bud Tribble, a former Mac engineer, had this to say in Jobs’ biography:

‘Just because he tells you something that is awful or great, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll feel that way tomorrow. If you tell him a new idea, he’ll usually tell you that he thinks it’s stupid. But then, if he actually likes it, exactly one week later, he’ll come back to you and propose your idea to you, as if he thought of it.’

An example: When Apple decided to open retail stores for its products, Jobs’ retail SVP Ron Johnson came up with the idea of a ‘Genius Bar,’ which would be staffed ‘with the smartest Mac people.’ At first, Jobs called the idea crazy. ‘You can’t call them geniuses. They’re geeks,’ he said. ‘They don’t have the people skills to deliver on something called the genius bar.’ The next day, Apple’s general counsel was told to trademark the name ‘genius bar.’

5. “Make decisions quickly and definitively. You can change things later.”

Unlike other companies, Apple rarely considered studies, surveys and research when it came time to making new products. It was also rare for a major decision to take months worth of meetings; Jobs tended to get bored easily and was quick to go with his gut.

In the case of the first iMacs, Jobs immediately decided Apple would release the new computers in multiple colours. Jony Ive, Apple’s chief of design, said ‘in most places that decision would have taken months. Steve did it in a half hour.’

On the same computer, Jon Rubinstein tried to argue that the iMac should come with a CD tray; but Jobs detested CD trays and he really wanted a high-end slot drive. On that particular decision, Jobs was wrong — burning music could only be accomplished on CD trays, and as that trend took off, the first round of iMacs were left behind. But since Jobs was able to make quick decisions, the first iMacs shipped on time, and the second-generation desktops included the CD drive that could rip and burn music, which was the necessary peg Apple needed to launch iTunes and the iPod.

How To Create A Successful Kickoff Meeting

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The Kickoff Meeting is the first meeting with the project team and the client of the project. It sets the precedent for the entire project.

The meetings are not just about generating ideas — they’re also about setting expectations and minimising surprises later on. There’s also the group aspect to kickoff meetings. They are where you determine how you and your teammates will interact throughout the project, and they provide the opportunity to size up each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

However, without careful planning and right collaboration, kickoff meetings are just expensive people discussing obvious things. In this post The Website Marketing Group will discuss the details of what makes a successful kickoff meeting. You will learn the philosophy behind them, explain how to conduct helpful design studios to get your creative juices flowing, and discuss kickoff activities and templates to get you started.

The Philosophy Behind Kickoff Meetings

The kickoff meeting is more than just a business meeting for solidifying goals. Don’t forget about the relationship building. It is the opportunity for the different members to get to know, to interact and to mingle each other. Forging these bonds early on will make collaboration easier throughout the rest of the process. Try to maintain a casual atmosphere, while simultaneously staying focused and on point.

All the key players gather in the same room (sometimes via teleconference) and unite under the same goal. Treat the kickoff as a special meeting where everyone feels energised as the team sets the initial course for the best possible product. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In reality, kickoff meetings can feel like a drag as certain people try to talk over each other or push their own agendas. The key to success is involving people instead of just reviewing documentation.

Treat documentation as tools that create context for the kickoff activities. Review the documentation to get people in the right direction, then dive into the activities and let the ideas flow. This is exactly what Amazon does, since they actually make their product manager write a mock product press release for discussion during the kickoff and beyond.

The VIP Guest List

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Kickoff meetings are necessary to avoid this kind of misunderstanding.

As for who to invite, the size and range depends on what the key decision-makers are comfortable with. For the following list of essential attendees, use your best judgment in determining the level of seniority for each:

  • Product Lead. Usually the product manager. This person may also dictate the requirements based on feedback from the rest of the team.
  • Designers. UX, UI, interaction and visual designers
  • Developers. technology experts (someone who can interpret and provide feedback on technical requirements)
  • User Researcher. whomever is in charge of customer development and persona analysis (usually a usability analyst or UX researcher, but could also just be the designer)
  • Expert on subject. an advisor on the specific type of project (if you’re designing a new employee portal for mid-size businesses, you might invite your own HR Director)
  • Data analyst. someone who knows product metrics and can ground the discussion in quantitative evidence

While these are the essential members, invite as many relevant people as possible. This means copywriters and even marketing operations, not just the people who could fire you. Remember that you always want to address concerns as early as possible, and you never know who might uncover the fatal flaw.

Kickoff Meeting Process

The length of the meeting depends on the amount of talking points and activities you have planned, but you should aim at around 2-3 hours, give or take. This provides ample time to flesh out ideas, without testing people’s patience and concentration.

Let’s take a look at an ideal kickoff process:

  1. Introductions. A natural place to start. If you’re collaborating with people from other product teams, explain some of their past relevant projects. Most importantly, focus on project roles, not just job titles.
  2. Review initial project roadmap. A good ice-breaker is to review all the previously distributed documentation and discuss what works and what doesn’t. If there are any questions or concerns, now is the time to address them. This will also set the seeds for defining a more concrete project roadmap later in collaborative tools like Asana, Trello, Confluence or Aha!.
  3. Discuss goals. Have a list of questions ready beforehand, but you should also open up discussion topics to the floor for new insights. To set a tone of honesty, open with a tough question about the product’s purpose.
  4. Conduct ideation exercises. They can range from ways to help people concentrate to artistic tasks to explore concepts.
  5. Assess risks. With the more meatier topics already out of the way, it’s time to move on to the project’s threats and how to minimise them. If anyone at the table has any fears or concerns, they should mention them for creative problem-solving. This is a perfect example of why collaboration is important — diverse mindsets and expertise directs attention to problems that may surface in more dangerous times later.
  6. Understand the timelines. Remember to thoroughly investigate logistics, and consider any potential limitations inherent in the tools or processes. This step fulfills the objective for creating a rough plan. Just remember the plan should be rough, as it will likely change as you test your designs and course-correct for the market.

One of the most important phases here is step 3, the discussion phase. This is where all the important stakeholders weigh in with their expertise (and of course, opinions).

As such an important phase, here are some common discussion points here, to help inspire you to think of your own:

  • End Goals (KPIs): the project’s objectives
  • Priorities: agree on a prioritised list of the end goals
  • Review Target Users: explain the results of your research so far, including typical behaviors, workflows, pain points, and frustrations
  • Information Architecture: for digital products, this refers to how the product will be organised (e.g. navigation)
  • Content: a basic approach to content, including layout, themes, and tones
  • Aesthetics: general creative approach, including atmosphere and any inspiration (refer back to any sketches or mood boards)

Feel free to amend or add activities or talking points to suit your needs. This is just one agenda that’s proven useful, but it’s by no means the only way to conduct a kickoff meeting.

Conclusion

It’s always hard to get VIPs in the same place at the same time, so make the most out of this opportunity by coming in prepared. Know beforehand what you want to get out of the meeting, and invite everyone whose presence you think would benefit the project. Follow the agenda based on your needs, and make a good kickoff meeting.

Spying on Your Competitors: 6 “Ethical” Tips

ethics on spyingThe moral or ethical issues on the subject of spying are a bit dodgy. On the extreme end, conducting industrial espionage may be illegal. Hiring someone from inside the enemy camp and transforming him or her into an industrial spy may violate all sorts of commercial and legal laws. It can be a constitutional violation, criminal, federal or whatnot.

But those days of finding a willing insider and turning them against an organisation, they’re long gone. Today, you can spy on your competitor—by yourself—without leaving your desk. Or your home, for that matter. You don’t have to hire someone from the enemy camp and offer him or her heaps of rewards to reveal the enemy secrets. The Internet has changed all that. In this era of digital revolution, a lot of online tools exist and are free for you to use.

Here are six tips to spying on your competitors, with the corresponding tools, of course.

1. Keywords

A lot will depend on keywords. Knowing the keywords your competitors use will give you a clue to what is driving their traffic and leads to their website. Most websites include the keywords in the coding of their pages.

Go to your competitor’s website and look at their pages’ source codes. To those who don’t know how to do this:

  1. For Chrome, click the browser’s menu, then go to ‘More Tools’ and click ‘View Source’. A new window will open showing your competitor’s website code.
  2. Find the word ‘keyword’. You should find the keywords with the tag, meta name=”keywords”.
  3. Analyse and compare it with your own site’s source code and see what you’re missing.

view source
2. Load Time

Examine the load time of your competitor’s website. There are plenty of tools that will give you this information. Here’s one that’s really reliable.

Useful tool: Google Pagespeed Insights

http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

With this tool, you can analyse the loading speed of any website, including your competitors, on both platforms: desktop and mobile. Aside from analysing the loading time, this wonderful Web developer tool suggests how to improve site performance in terms of loading time.

It would not hurt to try inputting the URL of your own site. You might even learn how to improve the loading speed of your own website.

pagespeed insights

3. Indexed Pages

The more indexed pages, the better performance in Search Engine Results Page (SERP). To find out how many indexed pages your competitor has is to determine how many you should have to level out the playing field.

Useful tool: Google Query
site:[competitor URL]

indexed pages

4. Code Accuracy

To access your competitor’s technical skills is to see how solid their codes are. You can use a free Web service to do this.

Input the URL of your competitor and see how many errors their page shows. You can also use this on your page to improve your page’s code accuracy.

validation

5. Twitter Presence

Of course, you have to assess how strong are your competitors’ social media presence. Find out who’s tweeting about them.

topsy

6. Ads

One way of checking out your competitors’ ads is by using a free online service called Moat.com. See what your competitors’ ads look like.

moat

 

Conclusion

Knowing the enemy is half the battle. The knowledge you obtain about them will be your ticket to stay on top of your game, and conquer all competitors.

Like this article? Check out my other articles here.

Burberry: A Success Story Of Digital Transformation

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This British luxury fashion house is a $1.7 trillion valued business. Consumers from all over the world purchase 19 billion items of clothing each year – a third more than they bought 13 years ago – and women are disposing of four times the amount of clothes per year than they were in 1980.

The emergence of fast fashion (the low cost, mass-produced collections that mimic luxury fashion trends) which sold at giant retailers like Zara, Topshop and H&M have contributed to the fast moving customer’s attitude. Fashion style revolves in and out of stores and websites as quick as every three weeks. The surging popularity of fast fashion retailers has seen high-end designer labels, whose price point is often tenfold that of Zara, facing an uphill battle to stay relevant, engage customers and ultimately generate sales.

For consumers, one question remains: why pay $1500 for a trench coat when a replica is available in over 2000 Zara chain stores across the world for one tenth of the price?

However, despite the popularity of these ‘fast fashion’ stores, one luxury label has managed to dominate social media and bring their brand back from the edge of doom. Currently, we have Nike, Adidas, Converse and Burberry dominate social media. While it’s easy to understand how the sportswear labels have succeed (due to their widely accessible price point) and developed such a large cult following, the same reason can’t be applied to Burberry.

So how did it get there?

In 2006, Angela Ahrendts was brought in as CEO of Burberry, with the company seeking a complete revamp of its historic brand after seeing revenue increase by only 2 per cent per year. In the first year of her reign, Ahrendts placed 60 per cent of Burberry’s marketing budget into a digital strategy, which ultimately saw the brand triple its annual sales in five years.

The first move for Burberry was to refocus the brand on what set it apart – it was British and had a history that dated back 150 years to a single trench coat. These two features set the tone for every piece of marketing, seasonal collection, fashion show and story the brand would tell going forward.

Burberry is one of the few luxury brands that inherently understands the need to transform a brand into a diverse social platform in order to survive in a digital landscape. In 2009, Bespoke came to life. Basically, it is a platform where customers design personalised trench coats, customising them right down to the buttons. Later, Artofthetrench.com was launched – a photographic platform that celebrates the iconic item and the people who wear it while giving customers their 15 minutes of fame. Harnessing the growing popularity of fashion bloggers and street-style photographers saw the user-generated content on Burberry accumulate 2.5 million visits to date.

The most recent big move from the British powerhouse was to seamlessly integrate their online and offline experience. Off the back of this, Ahrendts and her team launched London’s flagship store in 2013. The Regent Street space was to be a physical manifestation of Burberry.com. With art, entertainment and storytelling at the core of the idea, the store opened donning a 38-square-metre screen that live-streams catwalk shows and viral social media campaigns, iPads and digital screens featuring the heritage of the brand and microchip clothing that can be scanned for a background of where the garment came from.

For the future, newly appointed Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey says, “Content drives the company as a leading fashion icon.” Thanks to Burberry’s success, it now seems all too obvious what luxury brands needed. Burberry World sells you the Burberry feeling.

Perhaps it’s time for Australian fashion labels to listen up. Start your own customised digital strategy today.

A Guide To Pricing For Our Projects

pricingPricing demands a lot of experience and perspective. It is perhaps one of the most difficult stages in every project. It cannot be just a business negotiation, for a major mistake in pricing often determines the success or the failure of any project.

There are many types of pricing, all of which involve time and scope: scope of the project and number of man-hours to do it. Even experienced business negotiators sometimes err in this very important and delicate decision. The important thing to remember is that every aspect of a project is variable, and can either be directly or indirectly dependent on each other.

Here are some pricing methods that can help you get pricing perspectives.

The Fixed Package

When the project has a fixed-price, both the client and the agency agree up front on the cost of the project. Usually, we arrive at the amount by estimating the number of man-hours necessary to complete the project and multiplying the figure by the hourly rate. The cost arrived at will be what the client will pay, regardless of the actual time spent.

The variable factor here is defining the scope of work. Clients’ objective is to get the most deliverables that they can get and they push hard for this while ours is to finish the project as fast as possible. Less time spent for us means greater profit.

But what if the client keeps on pushing for add-ons and other extra stuff, which may not be included in the original scope of the project? Clients tend to ask for such things. From a business perspective, it is their right. Unfortunately, sometimes the extra stuff they request can be unreasonable, in terms of additional man-hours. To prevent this, it is necessary to: (1) put a strict timeline on the project; and (2) define what’s included and not included in the project.

Since the project has a fixed price, we already know how much cash is coming in. And that will help us in pretty much defining what we are required to do. Again, it is necessary that at the beginning of the project, we define the actual scope and boundaries of the project and make it clear to the clients what they are getting for their money.

Hourly Rate

As the name suggests, hourly rate simply means we get paid by the hour. In our line of business, hourly pricing connotes that what’s really being paid is not so much as our deliverable but more our service and expertise. This means the work is finished when the client tells us.

Since clients pay by the hour, their tendency would be to question if what they are making us do is worth the money they are spending. So the hard decision of deciding what to do falls on the client. We, on the other hand, just work by our hourly rate. The longer and bigger the scope of the project, the more profits for us.

A big disadvantage to this method or pricing is we can only earn as much as our hourly rate dictates. To get more profits from clients, we need to increase our rate. Another problem with this method is that since the budget is normally not an issue for the client, they will not be in a hurry to complete the work.

If the project is delayed due to the clients’ inability to come up with decisions, then our work is interrupted and we lose money. Again, this must be defined clearly at the beginning of the project in order to avoid loss in terms of project delays.

Periodic Rates

This is similar to hourly rates but with a distinct difference. If we are being paid by the week or by the month, clients pay the same amount regardless if there is an actual work done in the project. The good side of this method is that most companies operate by weekly or monthly project deadlines. We, as contractors, are incorporated in the clients’ schedule. That simply means the clients include us in their working schedules. If clients don’t work on weekends, they will make sure we get enough work to do.

Working on the same page as the clients makes cost estimation easier. We are encouraged to work as efficiently as possible since our weekly or monthly rate is already covered.

Value of Work

Value pricing is perhaps the most difficult to establish. This is where lots of perspective and experience come into play. This is almost always a fixed price. The difference is that unlike in fixed package pricing, where the client pushes for more deliverables, the value pricing puts a price on every piece of work that the clients ask, limiting the clients’ options in making us perform works that are clearly not on the project scope.

All in all, the value pricing is perhaps the best method of pricing a project. It clearly defines what is to be done and what is not. By having a checklist of the tasks on hand, with corresponding prices for each, our work is clearly defined for us, with minimal loss as to the hours spent by the staff. This method allows us to properly delegate tasks to our employees who are best cut out for the project discussed.

In summation, pricing can be tricky. But with proper planning and perspective, we will be able to pin down the correct price for every work we do.

Remember: Pricing can determine the success and failure of every project so it is best to get it done proper at every start of the project.

Utilising Online Influencers To Build Your Own Personalised Audience Base

brand-influence

When advertising becomes a null effort, influence is offering another opportunity for business owners.

Nowadays, companies want audiences, no matter what kind of business they run, and one of the effective ways to connect with those audiences is by leveraging influence of their brands. With the popularity of social media, it’s becoming simpler for them to find and cooperate with talented influencers who create and share branded content for their products or services, and come with their own built-in audiences.

The truth is, if you like and trust someone’s opinion, you’re more likely to follow it. Influencers can have a huge effect on brand loyalty. Even if you’re creating high-quality content that’s worth sharing by yourself, it’s quite hard to attract attention based on the content’s quality alone, especially when it’s estimated that about 1.7 multibillion new pieces of online content enter the picture every day. A good piece of content could take two to five years to naturally gain a large audience, and most businesses don’t have that much time to wait. This is where influencers come into the picture.

Here is just one example: Popular Instagram users often team up with companies to create an image featuring a certain product, which then gets posted to the influencer’s feed and seen by thousands of followers. Photographer Nathan Michael has 77,000 followers on Instagram and has shared images tagging Negra Modelo USA, Pizza Hut, and Verizon. Each image gets about 1,500 likes. Other brands give an influencer full control of their feeds in an “Instagram takeover.” Guest Instagram users can post on a brand’s account throughout a day or week. Photographer Adam Senatori was one lucky guest Instagram user, as General Electric offered up a free trip to the GE Aviation facility and asked him to document the trip for his 879,000 followers.

Besides gaining a new audience, this strategy can increase the “cool factor” of a brand, especially when they focus on newer social networks like Vine. TWhen they partner with a well-known photographer or videographer, marketing suddenly becomes more subtle and less about advertising.

Influencers marketing isn’t just for B2C companies. B2B companies will also find that such partnership with industry leaders can be mutually beneficial as well. These influencers post relevant content on your platform weekly and share it with your followers. In turn, it drives new traffic to their site every day, and hopefully will lead to new customers.

1. Finding The Appropriate Influencers

social-media-influencers

Brands interested in playing this game must find the right influencers first. While there are newly created agencies that specialise in pairing influencers with brands and helpful sites like Traackr or Followerwonk, a lot of searching and a good feeling can provide the similar results.

The influencers in your industry are the ones with the most popular blogs and the most followers on social networks like Twitter and Pinterest. While the numbers are important, it’s also important to pay attention on the content’s quality as well. Decide if this influencer feels like the right partner. The person might has a lot of followers, but is he/she actually interacting with their community consistently? Does her voice fit with your brand? Will he/she be passionate about what you do? Even if you’re a small brand, you can significantly increase the size of a small audience by finding relatively small influencers. The good news is that an influencer with a following of twenty thousand or less may not cost you anything. They might be thrilled to get a free sample.

2. Forming a Strong Relationship

brand-influencers-relationship

Partnering with influencers takes a little bit of effort. One personalised email could be enough. Otherwise, it could take months to approach the desirable influencer. A great way to introduce yourself is to schedule an interview for an upcoming article or ask the person to speak at a company event.

Other strategies include organising an informal “influencer-only” event like a blogger breakfast for your product’s new launch. You can also compliment on the blog posts and retweets their content. If you’ve already worked with other influencers, you can utilise a “name dropping” technique.

Still, the best strategy is simple: Have a clear and comprehensive strategy before you speak to them. Invite the influencer to join the conversation and decide how this partnership can benefit the both of you. Set your goal: Do you want to increase brand awareness? Or sell a product? Or increase attendance for an event? Then decide how you can best reach this goal together. Is it content co-creation? Is it an event sponsorship? Is it an “Instagram takeover”? Think about these questions carefully.

3. Measuring Your Success

measure-your-success

There’s no doubt that influencers with a big number of followers will give a lot of positive contribution for your business. The question is,  did those followers convert?

In the future, you’re going to see consultants who are able to craft a much more personalised content strategy with smaller, more engaged audiences. Size doesn’t matter that much—the degree of activation matters. That’s where finding the first step comes back into play: finding the appropriate influencer. The number of followers an influencer has will be less important than the percentage of those followers who engage with your brand. Keep your eye on this metric and act upon it, as some influencers will perform better than others when it comes to your target audience. You just need to find the right one. The right influencers are respected by your audience due to their experience and track record, and they are often viewed by your audience as trusted advisors.

Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends for 2015

technology-strategy-trend

2014 will be over in a few days. Are you ready to deal with 2015?

A good, strategic technology trend is the one with potential for significant impact in the next three years. Factors that direct significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technology trends impact the brand’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives.

In short, the top trends for 2015 should encompass three big themes: a) the merging of the real and virtual worlds, b) the advent of intelligence in every sectors, and c) the technology impact of the digital business shift.

Without further ado, here is the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2015:

1. Computerised Process

As mobile devices continue to multiply, there is an increased focus on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on devices alone. Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space. Increasingly, it’s the overall environment that will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organisations as they lose control of user endpoint devices. It will also require increased attention to user experience design.

2. The Internet

The combination of data streams and services created by digitising everything creates four basic usage models:

  • Manage
  • Monetise
  • Operate
  • Extend

These four basic models can be applied to any of the four elements of Internets. Companies should not limit themselves to thinking that only the assets and machines has the potential to leverage these four models. For example, the pay-per-use model can be applied to assets, services, people, places and systems. Any type of industries can utilise these four models.

3. 3D Printing

The worldwide shipping for 3D printers are expected to grow 98% in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016. 3D printing will reach a tipping point over the next three years as the market for relatively low-cost 3D printing devices continues to grow rapidly and industrial use expands significantly. New industrial, biomedical and consumer applications will continue to demonstrate that 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.

4. Analytics

Analytics will take an important role as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data from the inside and outside the company need to be properly analysed. Every app now needs to be an analytic app. Organisations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data from social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere. Big data remains an important enabler for this trend but the focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions and big answers first and big data second. The real value lies on the answers, not the data.

5. Context-Rich Systems

Ubiquitous embedded intelligence combined with pervasive analytics will drive the development of systems that are alert to their surroundings and able to respond appropriately. Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge. By understanding the context of a user request, applications can not only adjust their security response but also adjust how information is delivered to the user, greatly simplifying an increasingly complex computing world.

6. Smart Machines

Deep analytics applied to an understanding of context provide the preconditions for a world of smart machines. This foundation combines with advanced algorithms that allow systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously. Prototype autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors already exist and will evolve rapidly, bringing in a new age of machine helpers. The smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.

7. Cloud Computing

The convergence of cloud and mobile computing will continue to promote the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. Cloud computing is the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style. While network and bandwidth costs may continue to favor apps that use the intelligence and storage of the client device effectively, coordination and management will be based in the cloud. In the near term, the focus for cloud/client will be on synchronising content and application state across multiple devices and addressing application portability across devices. Over time, applications will evolve to support simultaneous use of multiple devices. The second-screen phenomenon today focuses on coordinating television viewing with use of a mobile device. In the future, games and enterprise applications alike will use multiple screens and exploit wearables and other devices to deliver an enhanced experience.

8. Software-Defined Applications and Infrastructure

Agile programming of everything from applications to basic infrastructure is essential to enable organisations to deliver the flexibility required to make the digital business work. Software-defined networking, storage, data centers and security are maturing. Cloud services are software-configurable through API calls, and applications, too, increasingly have rich APIs to access their function and content programmatically. To deal with the rapidly changing demands of digital business and scale systems up/down rapidly, computing has to move away from static to dynamic models. Rules, models and code that can dynamically assemble and configure all of the elements needed from the network through the application are needed.

9. Web-Scale IT

Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting. More organisations will begin thinking, acting and building applications and infrastructure like Web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. Web-scale IT does not happen immediately, but will evolve over time as commercial hardware platforms embrace the new models and cloud-optimised and software-defined approaches reach mainstream. The first step toward the Web-scale IT future for many organisations should be DevOps — bringing development and operations together in a coordinated way to drive rapid, continuous incremental development of applications and services.

10. Risk-Based Security and Self-Protection

All roads to the digital future lead through security. However, in a digital business world, security cannot be a roadblock that stops all progress. Organisations will increasingly recognise that it is not possible to provide a 100 percent secured environment. Once organisations acknowledge that, they can begin to apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools. On the technical side, recognition that perimeter defense is inadequate and applications need to take a more active role in security gives rise to a new multifaceted approach. Security-aware application design, dynamic and static application security testing, and runtime application self-protection combined with active context-aware and adaptive access controls are all needed in today’s dangerous digital world. This will lead to new models of building security directly into applications. Perimeters and firewalls are no longer enough. Every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting.