Are you ready for mobile? Your customers are…

In digital marketing, the golden rule is to always start with what you own, make it work harder and better for you, and then expand.

Self-owned media includes your website and email. You already know that using every day email branding is a powerful marketing tool to drive traffic to your website, social media platforms and newsletter subscriptions.

But, and this is a big BUT, did you know that up to 35% of emails get opened on mobile?!

Given statistics and consumer behavior across the globe, it would be safe to say that, 2012 will probably turn out to have been the year of mobile. Most of the big brands either already have a mobile Web presence or are launching their mobile websites while you are reading this.

Scrolling up and down and from left to right and zooming in and out on websites not optimized for mobile usage is a real pain in the neck. And I’m sure that you – just like me – and 99% of all mobile Web users (according to research) have abandoned such sites, purely because they are impossible to navigate.

So, imagine the seamlessly positive experience you can offer your clients and prospects if they could just breeze through from their email on mobile to your optimized mobile website.

Put some QR codes into the mix and your marketing possibilities, incorporating your mobi site becomes endless. Including QR codes in your print adverts, brochures and business cards bring these seemingly static hard copies to life, and allow your clients instant access to your mobile website.

In Africa alone, there are more than 650 million mobile users and globally, 40% of mobile users are browsing the Web on their handsets.

Optimizing your website for mobile today – and doing it the right way – will give you a real advantage over your competitors. Plus, it will show your valued customers and site visitors that you are doing everything within your power to make THEIR lives easier and provide them with an enjoyable and positive browsing experience.

I know time and money are your most precious commodities, but fast and affordable mobile conversion solutions now exist and your business and brand can be at the fingertips of millions of prospects on mobile within 24-48 hours.

Your clients and prospects may be abandoning your website on their handsets as we speak . . .

Halo Media
Anna Pauw is head of media and communications at themediagenius.com and is dedicated to helping small and medium sized businesses to perform optimally through purpose designed marketing and management business solutions.
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Website: www.themediagenius.com
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/themediagenius
Facebook: The-Media-Genius
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Protect your online reputation

Online reputation management (ORM) has become critical for most companies or establishments in their public relations strategy. With the advent and entrenchment of Social Media even more online conversations are happening today. At this moment, are you aware of what is being said about your brand or your company?

Whether right or wrong, what is being said online will undoubtedly have a major influence on how others perceive your company. I am of the opinion that online reputation is one of the biggest dangers for any company’s future success.

A negative review or comment about your business can cause serious damage online. Your reputation is everything. Trust, credibility and the value you offer are essential on the Web. One negative review or comment can destroy the trust you’ve spent years building and drive away potential customers.

The question is how to set up the right strategy to help protect your brand from negative influences? Dealing with these issues on behalf of clients on a daily basis, I have put together some pointers which, in my experience, will help you to maintain a positive online reputation.

1. Don’t be caught off guard

Ensure that you are aware of the flaws in your products and/or shortcomings in your service offerings.

Major reputation crises don’t just happen. They’re often caused by company weaknesses that get amplified and exposed.

You might not be able to correct these immediately, but be sure to identify these problem areas, as you can then be better prepared in the event that they become the focus of a negative sentiment or reputation attack.

Various issues can result in customer resentment and make its way onto the Web. Don’t be caught off guard. Know your shortcomings and anticipate the criticism.

2. Expect every little thing might make its way to the web

You should assume that every conversation you have, every memo issued, and every comment you make might be published on the web.

Your company’s online reputation is not just about what you put online, but as much about what others put online about you. The internet has a very wide reach and a negative sentiment about your company can go viral in a matter of minutes. So ensure that your company remains transparent in its dealings with employees and customers alike.

3. Create a great on-line impression

We meet with many groups that suffer from a poor online reputation, only to discover they’re neglecting their biggest asset – their own website content.

Prospective customers, partners as well as marketers and future employees are just a few of the parties that will turn to your own website when determining the reputation of your company. Ensure that they are able to find all the relevant information they would most probably need. It also helps having additional info which they might usually search for somewhere else. Link to reviews of your products and services, publish positive reviews, upload audiovisual elements, and make sure all content is social media shareable.

4. Choose the right social network

While social networks are great for building brand loyalty, you need to be selective in your approach.

Use the social networks where you are most likely to encounter conversations about your company or industry–and then create your social network profile there.

It is also of vast importance that you realize you would have to keep at it. Social Media, even more so than other marketing channels, requires engagement on a regular basis.

Setting up, for example, a Facebook or Twitter account and not actively managing these could in itself result in negative sentiment. By “actively managing”, we don’t mean posting or tweeting irrelevant info just to show activity. Supply relevant content that fits your target audience and respond timeously to requests or comments from you community.

Growing your community on these platforms are vital and your strategy needs to be incorporated across all your marketing channels. One of the most effective channels (regularly overlooked) to drive traffic to your social media platforms is your everyday email.

We use the Rocketseed Mail system distributed by Clikit Media and find it highly effective in growing these communities. (See example below).

If you don’t feel up to the task or don’t have the time to actively manage you should either hold off on Social Media (at your own peril) or contract someone to manage this on your behalf.

5. Google reputation

Google is not just a search engine; it is also a very powerful reputation engine. Where do prospective clients turn to first for information about your company or establishment? Yip, it’s Google.

By creating content with a positive sentiment now, it will ultimately ensure that in the event that negative sentiment about your company is published to the web, it is much less likely to make it to the first page of Google.

6. Monitor your online reputation

The digital highway is a two-way street. Your customers can reach out as easily as you can. And what they say about your company online can have a serious impact on your image.

The Internet affects every company’s reputation. Some companies are cheered as champions of innovation. Others become synonymous with bad customer service. It’s your responsibility to monitor what people are saying about your company and respond when necessary to keep your image in good standing.

There is a multitude of online reputation monitoring tools to choose from, but you need to ensure that the solution is the right one for your industry. We use a software service for our clients that specifically meets the unique needs of the hospitality industry (for more info click here). It ensures that our clients are able to access, monitor and receive reports across various platforms on the web. Invaluable in managing your online reputation!

Another great way of measuring customer service levels is by incorporating “service rating” banners within your everyday email. The Rocketseed Mail system allows our clients to track and respond to feedback in real time, ensuring that they can resolve any negative feedback prior to it becoming an even bigger issue (Example below).

This also bring us to our next point, the need to:

7. Respond Quickly

The moment you become aware of any negative sentiment or reputation attack you should take action immediately. The key is to respond quickly, address the situation and apologize if need be. Take these measures and you should hopefully be able to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

8. Consistency

Consistency is a vital component for any reputation management strategy. Your clients will forgive an isolated failure, but if you’re not consistently delivering the goods, they’ll find a company that does.

Halo Media
Dorian de Clerck has been in the Sales, Marketing and Hospitality industry for 18 years and is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Active Ice Studio. Active Ice Studio specializes in Digital Media design, development, online marketing and project management.
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Website: www.activeice.co.za
Twitter: twitter/ActiveIceStudio
Facebook: facebook.com/activeicestudio
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If branding doesn’t matter, what’s up with peacocks?

5 ways to maintain a strong brand in a tight economy.

If you are a business, a product, or even an individual, your branding matters. The truth is that first impressions DO count, so creating and maintaining a strong brand is crucial to how you present yourself and your company.

But times are hard and you may be pressed to find budget for developing/maintaining your brand, so we’ve put together a list of things you do can do right now, on a low budget, to supplement your marketing and promote your brand. Like most things, if you set up a good foundation, then you save in the long run.

The key to a strong brand is consistency. Look at Apple Inc., what I call the iPhenomenon.  They were a specialist computer company from the 70’s which were pretty much limited to a select audience. Following a sequence of events in their corporate history, they turned their image around in the late 90’s and reached the status of the world’s richest company in September 2011. Whilst the obvious element here is their product range, how far would they have gone without promoting their “iBrand”?  By keeping it consistent in the minds of their existing clients, the Apple brand become a desirable commodity.

With that in mind, we’ve picked 5 core visual elements which we feel you should pay attention to in order to make your brand go further.

  1. Have a brand guideline. Ideally this should be created by your branding consultant when they develop your logo. Your brand guideline should include all uses for your logo in application (fonts, colours, application etc.) and can go so far as discussing your tone (in articles, image styles and so on). If you don’t have a brand guideline, make your own mini version, and stick to it…
    1. Logo – have one version, don’t deviate from it. Make sure it’s the right quality, in the formats you require and don’t stretch/squash it when using it.
    2. Choose your font: If you are doing this yourself, choose a simple font that all computers will have so that you don’t have future issues or need to worry about font copyrights. We recommend web safe fonts as all users should have them.
    3. Colours: Choose no more than 3 colours and try to resist using more, it might end up looking like a box of crayons! Bear in mind that commercial printers and sign writers use CMYK and Pantone colours, so keeping it simple can reduce costly errors at printing stages later on.
  2. Stationery. Create a good set of stationery; you shouldn’t need to change it frequently.
      1. Letterheads: Printed letterheads aren’t common these days so you can usually have an electronic (Microsoft Word usually) letterhead which is incredibly cost effective and is “green” too. Have this set up properly and have all staff use the same template.
      2. Business Cards: Business cards are a strong promotional item and often the first time a prospective client sees your brand. With digital printing’s popularity, you no longer have to print thousands of cards to make it cost effective; you can now do smaller print runs at a reasonable cost. If you have extra budget, consider your paper and print finish. Our own cards have rounded corners and a spot UV print and generally people comment on them (and in so doing, notice our logo/brand more!)
      3. Email. All too often we see a company with a strong presence, yet they forget about their email branding. You’ll see an email come through with flashing emoticons at the base, a special message for the day and the senders name in 16 point Comic Sans. None of this is professional and in keeping with your brand. If in doubt, keep your branding as simple as possible. This is where we find the Rocketseed Mail system distributed by Clikit Media highly effective as it bypasses individual’s setting up their mail format and presents uniform email branding from every user.
  3. Website. Every business needs a website. Gone are the days when sites cost an arm and a leg and you had to pay through your teeth to make changes. A simple, good web presence is relatively affordable and with current technology you should be able to make edits effortlessly on your own. You should use a web professional to create your site as consideration should be taken into your functionality requirements, competitor analysis etc. Have a look at their portfolio and find a company who’s style you like and who’s reputation is strong and avoid gimmicks where they are “free” (based on our experience of companies who have used such sites, they usually get burned and their brand and pocket suffer).
  4. Advertising & Marketing: Print advertising is increasingly costly, it really depends on the kind of business you have. If you are a retail store, then it’s often a good idea to have your specials etc. in a local paper/flyer. Online and digital marketing has become leader in advertising spend, even overtaking traditional media. You can look at Facebook and Google ads (you can set them up by yourself pretty easily, however an idea is to call in a professional to analyze your requirements and set them up though – this helps you to get more out of your investment). With online spend, you set your own budget and it’s usually a quick return so you can measure how much you want to spend based on the response. We love the Rocketseed Mail solution distributed by Clikit Media as it allows every single email to become a marketing message. Think how many emails you send every day – attaching your message to each email turns all communication into a positive marketing experience. And in comparison to print media, it’s a steal.
  5. Social Media. Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Facebook is expected to reach a billion users in the second half of 2012. This will mean that one in very seven people on the globe is using it and nearly 5 million South Africans use it. It’s not hard to set up your social media and if you plan a strategy ahead, for a relatively low time investment, you can interact with your customers and potential customers in a way and scale which has never happened before.  A word of caution – you will need to put time and energy into social media. It’s rewarding and opens new doors, but you will need a committed approach to maintenance.

However you present yourself, if you are consistent, your brand can only be stronger. Stay focused and 2012 will become a year to be reckoned with!

Halo Media
Louise Cunningham has been in the Design and Marketing industry for 16 years and is a Director of Halo Media
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Website: www.halo-media.com
Twitter: twitter/halo_media 
Facebook: facebook.com/halomedia-studio
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