Winning in Digital

Finding new customers in today’s world is tougher than ever, new digital tools and platforms need to be mastered to engage with customers on their terms. In this feature Comms Business spoke to some key channel companies to see how they leverage the power of digital to acquire and manage customers.

Mastering the art of ‘digital’ has become necessary for partners and suppliers looking to engage new customers. We are all increasingly spending our time online and as consumers we have never had so much information available to us. Whether it is a purchase for our business or personal lives many of us start the sales journey on the web to conduct research before parting with hard earned cash. Capturing these potential customers via digital channels has never been more relevant for the Channel.

Rohita Kopf, Marketing Manager, Sky Business Comms, commented, “Digital marketing has changed dramatically over the last five years. The importance of an online presence for your business is increasing year on year as more customers use mobile and digital channels to research and begin their buying journey. For today’s marketeers there is a bigger focus on lead and demand generation which is also now used as a key indicator for measuring success.

“Digital channels are preferred for most lead generation activity because if you have the right tracking in place, ROI and success can be tracked across all stages of the customer journey; through conversion rates, engagement rates as well as being able to assess what content and messaging is resonating with your target audience.

Kopf continued, “Sales and marketing teams now work much closer together and should be working towards the same business objectives and KPIs. Lead generation has always been a major topic on the agenda for sales and marketing meetings, but the focus should not be on the number of leads generated but the quality of those leads.”

Paul Richens, Managing Director of Tricca, says “It’s important to keep up with the demands of prospects and manage them through an effective lead generation strategy. Making your strategy work in an increasingly digital world will make the difference between a fat pipeline or skinny rewards.

“Content marketing plays a big role here – in fact, it should be one of the first steps in your lead generation strategy. If you are relatively new to the channel or are a quiet presence currently, then use content generation as a means of establishing yourself as an industry thought leader. Regularly posting blogs, articles and news on topics or pain points that your product or service solves can help you build an audience. The next step up is to create downloadable guides on topics which allow you to demonstrate your own and your businesses capabilities. A good looking and well written guide can have an extended shelf life which can be recycled and used on a continual basis.”

Will Morey, Marketing Director at Pragma said “Over the years, we’ve seen digital channels become one of the biggest sources of lead generation for our business. The fact that we can run highly targeted campaigns, collect information, track behaviour and run nurturing campaigns across a range of digital touchpoints have not only helped us capture good leads, but have also helped us qualify them as well. As a result, digital channels get the same level of prominence as our more traditional lead generation activities.”

Cherie Howlett, Marketing Director of Jola commented “Social channels, like LinkedIn, are great networking tools, especially when integrated into a marketing strategy, bringing effective traditional and digital channels together. We encourage resellers to research the market, identify prospects, attract, engage and measure results. What I like about LinkedIn is the ability to research companies and individuals, to build up a better picture of their business. The richer the information to hand, the more targeted the messaging and the more effective the campaign can become.”

Cherie Howlett, Marketing Director of Jola

What about GDPR?

Paul Richens, MD of Tricca

“Despite GDPR scar mongering, e-mail marketing can be effective but don’t be a spammer and use a compliant subscriber base. Having regular communication with your base is an important digital tool that, when done well, will generate leads. A carefully crafted email marketing strategy that tailors messaging to target specific segments of your customer database can be a very effective. Don’t assume that you have to send every type of message to every type of customer. Be focussed, know your audience and target with specific and even personalised messaging.”

Dealing with bad online reviews

Customer feedback via online reviews can now make or break a business if they aren’t managed properly. Websites like Trustpilot, Google reviews, or any number of social media platforms allow customers to voice their grumbles or even congratulate you on a job well done.

Will Morey commented, “Online reviews are of paramount importance to any business. We go to great pains to build brand reputation, build trust and paint our brands in a positive light. All that effort could go down the drain if you don’t have an effective review management process in place.

“We proactively invite our partners and prospects to review us across online channels. Our customer service team has been given the autonomy to deal with complaints or negative reviews swiftly to restore normalcy as soon as possible. We recognise that while negative reviews could be a result of lapses or miscommunication, how well you deal with them can very well spell the difference between a lost customer and a satisfied one.”

Richens added “Reading reviews are a crucial part of the purchase making decision – so of course online reviews matter. Consumers use reviews left by other consumers as part of their pre-purchase research, and while bad reviews can have serious effects on your sales, over 80% of people say that positive reviews encourage them to buy products. And it’s not just purchases decisions that reviews influence – they can have major implications for your search engine ranking, which means managing your online reviews is crucial for your SEO strategy.

“If you want to manage online reviews of your business, you need to know where they are being written and encourage customers to review your business/products by pointing to these sites on your webpages, or by asking satisfied customers for their feedback. There are plenty of review sites out there (TrustPilot, Google, Facebook) where customers can provide their feedback, but you first need to decide which ones you would like to appear on. This will help you monitor and manage your reviews as you know exactly where to look, and many of these sites have a notification function that alerts you when you have a new review.”

Elizabeth Sparrow, MD of Blabbermouth Marketing said, “Bad online reviews can and will cost you sales. Review sites should be constantly monitored and all reviews responded to, good or bad. Positive reviews for your company can be driven by simply asking people to leave a review. Create an email template for customer-facing staff to send to customers immediately after they have spoken to them that includes a link to the relevant page of the review site and any instructions.”

Why online reviews matter (Conversion Science)

• 68% of millennials trust online reviews, with positive ones producing an 18% average uplift in sales
• Consumer reviews are more trusted than descriptions that come from other manufacturers, nearly 12 times more.
• 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business which means these decisions being made are made quickly, without much hesitation.
• The top five industries to be affected negatively by online reviews are restaurants, hotels, doctor’s offices, hospitals and hair salons.

Your online ‘shop window’

Creating a website can be as easy or complex as you care to make it. If you spend any time looking at multiple reseller websites it doesn’t take long to find some shocking efforts at creating an online shop window. Why is it so important to have a website which not only looks good but also functions well?

Steve McIntyre, Chief Marketing Officer, Nimans commented, “When people hear of a brand or your company name the first place they will head to is your website. So, it’s imperative you have it right. Around 60% of purchasing decisions are researched online. Web traffic is up over 30% this year at Nimans and we are continuing to develop our online presence, completely revamping our e-commerce platform later this year for example.

“Some of our most successful resellers have a great blend of digital channel as well as traditional telephone sales operations – combining the two. I would say it’s probably lead by digital and confirmed by telephone.”

Tips for social success – Will Morey, Marketing Director, Pragma

Know your audience, we’ve gone beyond profiles and personas to get to really know our partners and prospects. We’ve spoken to them on a more personal level to get a better understanding of everything from their pain-points and business goals through to the publications they read and their hobbies. With this information, we have been able to create content and run campaigns that truly resonate with them.

Set clear goals and KPIs, knowing what needs to be achieved and what success looks like has helped us up our game on social media. We have clearly defined goals for brand building and revenue growth through social channels. We also have a set of pre-agreed KPIs based on previous successes and industry benchmarks to help steer our campaigns in the right direction.

Be picky, while there is a myriad of social channels out there, we focus on the ones that most of our prospects and customers use. Sure, we maintain our presence across a range of social channels, but we put more emphasis on the ones that are more conducive to business.

Adopt a structured approach, our social strategy is complemented with an editorial calendar that helps us keep on top of what’s important.

Flexibility, we know that buyer behaviour changes at a rapid pace and we’ve allowed for a great deal of flexibility so that we can refine our campaigns regularly to remain relevant and fresh.

Richens said, “When was the last time you updated your website? When was the last time you actually used your website? Your website is the backbone of your business and your sales and marketing strategy: 88% of consumers will research product information before they make a purchase online or instore. Your website serves as the home base for this research: customers will visit your website to get a clear idea of your band, and what kind of services or products you offer. All of your digital channels & communications – content, emails, advertising, social media – will also point to your website.”

Sparrow added, “A useful website that customers and prospective customers enjoy using is essential. Pay attention to what customers want and the user experience you are providing, with a constant focus on the actions you want people to take. Too many companies focus on talking about themselves, rather than the solutions they can provide and the problems they can solve, while making it easy for people to contact them.”

Morey said, “We’re glad to say that most partners know the value of a good website. We’ve seen them investing a lot of time, effort and money on their websites. What they also need to be mindful of, is the fact that a great site just isn’t enough, partners need to keep the momentum going with regular content and ensure their website is up to date.

“In addition to a great website and solid content plan, partners need to start using tools to enhance user experience, capture data, track visitor behaviour and encourage repeat visits.”

ED says

There is so much to learn in the sphere of digital marketing most partners are going to need some help in generating the right leads and developing a content strategy which will put them in the hearts and minds of their customers before they make purchasing decisions. The simple fact is, as younger generations move into positions of power within businesses, digital channels will become essential to master for partners looking to survive and thrive.

“If you are relatively new to the channel or are a quiet presence currently, then use content generation as a means of establishing yourself as an industry thought leader.” – Paul Richens, Managing Director, Tricca

“When people hear of a brand or your company name the first place they will head to is your website. So, it’s imperative you have it right. Around 60% of purchasing decisions are researched online.” – Steve McIntyre, Chief Marketing Officer, Nimans

“Social channels, like LinkedIn, are great networking tools, especially when integrated into a marketing strategy, bringing effective traditional and digital channels together.” – Cherie Howlett, Marketing Director, Jola

Stats
80% of people said that positive reviews would encourage them to purchase a product.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine