Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Social Brands 100 – #sb100

Some time ago I was informed that Best Buy had been nominated to appear in the Social Brands 100 list for our social media efforts in the UK. This was a great honour as the nominations had been sourced from the public.  I personally feel this is a good endorsement for all the hard work myself and the team have put in to make the impact we have had as a new brand.  Special shout has to go to my Social Media Manager, Graeme Cole who is busy on a well earned sabbatical at the moment touring the southern hemisphere. He is back soon.

To find out a couple of weeks ago that we finished fifth was massive for us.  To beat the likes of ASOS and Zappos is a great feeling.  In addition to being the only player in our sector to feature in the Top 100 is a great achievement.

So why have we been placed so highly? For the official answers and scoring criteria see the #sb100 report here.  From a personal perspective I feel we have tried to cover all the basis within social media.

1 On-site

We have created a core community platform that provides forums for customers and/or general visitors to talk about tech or general tech and entertainment related subjects.  In addition we are very transparent with customer service questions and requests for expertise. We rarely moderate and try to do so on a fair basis.

We also have an active blog base which covers, tech, entertainment and updates from Best Buy. I have personally covered the likes of Gadget Show Live and interviewed Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley.  Other great content includes coverage from the Brits and BAFTA ceremonies.

2 Reviews

Reviews come from both the well known aggregator Reevoo but also our own panel of TechXperts. These guys review the latest kit from Energy Monitors to the latest 3D TV.  The platform is also open for members of the public to upload their own video.

3. Social Platforms

We are active on all the major platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  On each of the platforms we tailor the activity to suit the audience.  However we often run competitions, upload photos from events and provide updates and offers for our base.  Perhaps most importantly we encourage customers to ask questions and if need be, give us feedback, no matter how difficult it may be.  We always try to respond quickly and as thoroughly as we can.  We also do it from a personal perspective rather than as a company.

4. Social Commerce

In addition, as reported in NMA we also have a Facebook store, which allows our fan base to check prices, look at the latest kit all from Facebook.

This is just the start for Best Buy in the UK.  We have driven this growth organically without any advertising or promotion to speak of.  We also have a couple more ideas up our sleeves that could help customers engage with us further so watch this space.

Would love to hear what you think of what we have done so far and of course any ideas for the future.  Also, do you think we deserved the lofty position?

Just a final point, I would personally like to thank anybody that nominated us and thank the guys Headstream and the panel for their views and feedback.  Now we just need to aim for higher next time!

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Affiliate Marketing (for Merchants) – Part 1

Affiliate Marketing (For the Merchant)- Part 1

Long gone are the days when affiliates used to solely be one man in his bedroom, hacking about with some clever code.  In addition most merchants are more savvy to the opportunities affiliates can present when working in partnership.  Gone are the easy pickings of brand bidding and in the main, gone are the days when merchants used to treat affiliates as a second-class channel.

Affiliate Marketing is one of the most established online marketing channels.  Affiliation can provide everything from volume of clicks or UVs, e-Mail address collection and most commonly sales or leads.  Part One of my guide is centred around the more novice internet marketing professional, call it a beginners guide if you like.

Working out the commercials

The main benefit the channel provides merchants is a manageable approach to customers where costs can easily be controlled.  Merchants should know their margins and in turn know how much margin they can afford to give in terms of a commission (commission being the operative word, more later).  If the programme operates on a CPA basis the maths are straightforward.  If my product makes retails at £100 and I make 20% margin, my profit is £20.  I then know that if I want a 4:1 return on my spend my CPA would be set at £5.  Simple.  Remember if you are using an affiliate network you need to account for their over-ride (standard industry practice is 30% of commission.  In this case it would be an additional £1.50 (which already negatively effects your ROI.

Tip 1 – When working out your CPA to hit ROI targets, build in any network over-rides or additional costs to understand a true Net CPA and ROI.

Tip 2 – The networks will hate me for saying this, but the over-ride can normally be negotiated (if you are a merchant of either perceived value or revenue potential).

Choosing a network or going direct?

This is an age old debate within the sector.  The majority of merchants use an affiliate agency such as Affiliate Window or Commission Junction.  The benefits of using a network (even if you have an internal affiliate team) are numerous.  The major ones from my experience are the fact that payment to affiliates and expensive programme admin are taken care of.  Affiliates are a networks business and as such the platforms are built to take into account affiliate needs (much cheaper than merchants doing it from scratch).  Finally, the fact that the networks know all the affiliates and should be able to guide you on who to partner with.  They can also do some of the lengthy selling-in and negotiation with both established and up and coming affiliates, that direct merchants may not be aware of.

But what about Amazon?  Yes Amazon are one of the key success stories in terms of going direct.  However their entire model (as a vanilla pureplay) meant that they could set the system up from scratch.  The prices and range are so broad that affiliates fight to work with Amazon, rather than the opposite way round with a majority of merchants.

The main benefit of the Amazon approach is that they know their categories better than any network ever can.  They also know their stock and pricing in real-time rather than relying on a third party to update feeds.  They can speak passionately about promotions and campaigns and the affiliates hear it directly.

Tip 3 – Take the best of both approaches. Use the networks to manage and administer the account but work jointly on relationships with key affiliates

That leads me neatly on to the point I told you to keep an eye out for in the earlier post.

Commission

Affiliates will always want more as this is their bread and butter.  Merchants will inevitably want to pay less as it hits their margins.

My view is that if you treat the outlay as commission you should hit a fair level.  I have always considered my top revenue driving affiliates as a virtual sales force.  They are my sales people out on the road that can get people’s attention and drive them to my virtual shop window.

Like a physical sales force, this virtual salesforce will be motivated by money.  However the virtual sales force may be even more motivated by the commission they can earn.  This isn’t due to greed but related to the fact that the majority of this virtual salesforce has to place their own investment in.  That may be monetary through Google adwords or through effort and opportunity cost through the likes of SEO or social media.

Whilst your virtual sales force will be reactive to the commission structures you put in place and any additional incentives, the majority are also pragmatic enough to realise that you can only reach a certain level, before it becomes impossible for you to maintain.

As with physical sales forces, incentives can prove extremely motivational.  A push to go the extra mile.  Whether that is by taking advantage of a sponsorship property you have and offering tickets.  Inviting affiliates to attend a bespoke event or cold hard cash.  All can influence an affiliate.  However with the more experiential incentives, you shouldn’t necessarily expect a parallel increase in revenue.

Tip 4 – Treat your affiliates as a virtual sales force. Reward them and the commission negotiations are normally easier and fairer all round.

Types of affiliates

As I said in the intro of the post, gone are the days of one man in his bedroom trying to earn a quick buck.  Nowadays, affiliates are some of the brightest online marketers or smartest developers.  You must define your strategy and decide what affiliates you should work with and to what level and on what basis.  Below are a few examples of different types of affiliates

Cashback – this is possibly the biggest area of growth within affiliate marketing.  Sometimes thought of as the pariah within the affiliate community, the growth is in part due to the economic climate.  Essentially, these affiliates pass on all or part of the commission you give them, directly back to the customer.  Sites such as Quidco and TopCashBack fit into this category

Loyalty – the name is slightly misleading in terms of the loyalty is normally with the affiliate and little loyalty will be passed on to the merchant.  Essentially working in the same way as Cashback, except rather than cold hard cash being placed into a customers bank account, points are awarded.  Examples of these are Nectar and Airmiles.

Voucher Codes – if Cashback sites are though of by some affiliates as pariahs, then voucher codes are seen as bandits.  Essentially these sites provide details of all the codes available, people click on a link to reveal the code and generally a cookie is placed on the customer’s PC, meaning that affiliate gets the commission.  Its at this point I feel compelled to say that these views are not my own.  Both Cashback and voucher code sites perform specific roles within a merchants mix.  Whilst I accept some cannibalisation will take place, there are a number of customers that wouldn’t buy without this bargain mechanic.  Examples of this type of affiliate include MyVoucherCodes and VoucherCodes.co.uk

PPC – there are some affiliates that specialise in PPC (sponsored terms in the search engines).  PPC can be a grey area in affiliates and you need to have strict control over who can bid and on what terms.  If you don’t have a PPC agency or any internal expertise, these affiliates can provide great top-up resource to your own PPC activity

Tip 5 – Understand your PPC strategy and place clear T&Cs in your programme on PPC restrictions, such as brand bidding, using your brand name in the URL, direct linking etc

Content – this is potentially where affiliates started out.  People generally with a personally interest, creating great content that they just want people to read.  These sites then realised that they could potentially make money from their sites and started selling advertising.  This could be anything from one person with their site on a topic of personal interest such as making orange food, to more established content sites such as The Sun.  Although blogs are rightly considered social media, I would place them in this section.  Nowadays blogs seem to be more geared towards providing useful content and information as opposed to the web log (diary) approach that was intended.

Price Comparison – another type of affiliate that isn’t normally relevant to all merchants is Price Comparison.  The standard of these types of sites are varied.  Some use bespoke software that allows them to scrape the web for up to date prices and deals.  The others (more akin to traditional price comparison engines) take a feed once a day and produce pricing information.  Networks have developed increasingly sophisticated tools to simplify the process for affiliates to add Price Comparison functionality to their content (the best example being Affiliate Window’s, Shop Window).  There are some broad price comparison engines available through affiliate networks, however the more successful ones for merchants tend to be the more focussed engines such as Whiteboxdeals, a Price Comparison engine specialising in large domestic appliances such as washing machines and ovens.

Social Media – with the low cost of entry of social media and the advances in affiliate technology from networks means a new wave of affiliates are emerging.  These are the ones that have embraced the newer technologies such as Twitter and Facebook.  Whilst all the research indicates that recommendation by a friend, either in person or online, is the most powerful tool, please be aware.  Some people using social media tools are not just making recommendations to their network but creating brand accounts.  This is especially true in Twitter where minimal dev work is needed.  That being said, there are a number of affiliates that have made social media work and come up with creative solutions or use an established network.

Tip 6 – If you consider using Social Media affiliates, ensure your T&Cs are very clear in terms of people using your brand name.  Also, vet applications very carefully.  Some people end up spamming contacts, which reflects badly on the merchant.

OK, so that’s it for Part 1.  In part 2 I get a bit more practical, rather than just an introduction.  I will look at what types of affiliates different sectors/merchants could be best placed using.  I will look at which affiliates and approaches you could use for different stages of a business of product lifecycle and I will also review the methods of building relationships and rapport with affiliates either directly or through the networks.  I may even explore the age-old debate about single Vs multiple network.  If there is anything else you would like me to cover leave me a comment here.

Finally, here is a recap of the tips

Tip 1 – Build in all costs to determine CPA (inc network over-ride)

Tip 2 – Negotiate your network over-ride

Tip 3 – Take a collaborative approach with your network to managing affiliate relationships

Tip 4 – Treat your affiliates as a virtual sales force

Tip 5 – Understand your own PPC strategy and reflect this in your PPC T&Cs

Tip 6 – Have clear T&Cs on affiliate use of Social Media and tightly manage applications

If there is anything else you would like me to cover leave me a comment here.


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Ask.com brings back Jeeves

Ask.com brings back Jeeves

askjeeves_logo

OK, so cast your mind back a number of years.  A day when Google weren’t as dominant a player in the internet space as they are now.  A time when multiple search engines were available.  Yahoo, MSN (or one of its many labels), Excite, Lycos and Ask Jeeves.  It seems odd now talking about anything outside of the “Big 3”, it is almost peculiar to use the term the “Big 3” given Google’s dominance.

It came as a reminder when trawling through industry sites this morning that other search engines do exist (and there used ot be a few of them).  Revolution magazine have highlighted that Ask.com have rebranded for the second time in 18 months.  Now this isn’t some fancy all singing affair with new Web 2.0 images and fancy bits everywhere, no its back to the olden days with our little butler pal Jeeves. 

Revolution outline the move is going back to the initial notion that people will type in questions to search.  Jeeves will now display answers and make recommendations.  In theory this sounds like the perfect solution.  Yet it probably did when AskJeeves was first formed.  However given the way people have adpated their search habits to use Google, their learned behaviour means (in my opinion) they don’t type in many questions anymore. 

I am not saying Ask have made a mistake here.  More people are now using social networks and platforms which means they are adapting their behaviour again and moving towards a different type of English (text and short-terms are common), however search hasn’t moved.  The fact that the Ask model promises to deliver more news, blogs and videos etc could be a good thing for them and people in the social spectrum.  However, if I am looking for a supplier or retailer, I am not sure typing in “Where are Halfords” and then getting some forums is really what I need.  Especially when one of the posts is how useless are Halfords from the AVForums.

I am keen to keep an eye on the developments at Ask (Jeeves) and see if their latest efforts can take advantage of the current social media wave.  It would be great to have a serious challenger to Google.  This isn’t a criticism of Google as they are still the most relevant of all the large search engines, its just as an advertiser it would be good to have a credible alternative.

Either way, good to see you back Mr Jeeves.  Just a shame when I type in “Who is Richard Clark?” – a picture of Dick Clark appears.


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Is Online Display Advertising Dead?

Does Online Display Advertising Work?
Online display advertising regularly commands a high degree of concentration from online advertising professionals. It attracts a high proportion of many online advertising professionals time and in certain sectors, commands a high proportion of online advertising budgets.
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, online is sometimes a victim of its own success. Because you can track almost anything, almost everything has to be completely accountable with no room for doubt or vagueness. Whilst this is powerful to help prove effectiveness, it is perhaps not the most effective way to manage integrated campaigns. After all, how long have advertisers spent millions on press and/or outdoor campaigns without being able to track effectiveness with any conviction.   For clarity, I am not saying these traditional channels don’t work, these can be effective but they need to be measured.
With the recession hanging over nearly the entire global economy, advertisers are evaluating all spend. If you are concentrating on purely ROI and not reach or frequency of message, online display often loses out.  There is often the argument that display is used to drive awareness or brand consideration, however how many advertisers actually measure this?  The other argument is that a different type of audience clicks on display ads, compared to other channels such as search or price comparisons. The latter is true, however as a recent study by Starcom, Tacoda and comScore illustrates that isn’t always a good thing.
The trio identified a group of individuals that they labelled “Natural Born Clickers”. Whilst this was a study in the US, it is more than likely similar here in the UK.
The study illustrates that these “Natural Born Clickers” represent c.6% of the online population. Disproportionally they account for 50% of all display ad clicks. This statistic alone illustrates that there is a small (yet not insignificant) proportion of the audience that skew display campaign results, this generally negates CTR and CPC as metrics. These audiences skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with a low to medium combined income. Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Whilst this audience also spends significantly more time online than the average user they are also more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career sites.
The study obviously highlights that CTR (Click Through Rate) and CPC are not valid measurements for display advertising.  Whilst CPM is much maligned, because the impression does not necessarily mean the ad was seen, it is potentially more valid than CPC as a buying metric. In terms of brand building through display, if you are to buy on a CPM or CPC, I would suggest that you need to measure the impact on brand, awareness, consideration or actual shortlisting of your brand (dependent on your objectives).  If your primary focus is on sales at an efficient ROI, in most cases you should aim for CPA. This isn’t black and white as on a number of  occasions CPM can be more efficient than any other metric.  However, you should test different metrics on different channels.  To minimise risk, CPA is the best option.
Above all, remember anything is possible.  Don’t just think of display as banners or skyscrapers (although don’t ignore them).  Contextual, interactive ads are possible.  Sites like Facebook allow users to select or deselect the ads they show.  A site like MyDeco make the advertiser central to its contents and champions the advertiser.  You also have to be aware of some of the more interactive (intrusive) formats.  These often have high CTR, at times these are driven up by accidental clickers, sometimes trying to click off or close.  Cookies are often stored and your results are skewed to these formats if a sale is made on that PC.  I have always steered away from Pop-unders, subsites etc for this very reason.

MyDeco Example
The best lesson you can learn from this is, think differently.  Challenge your agency or the media partners you work with.  Above all, ensure you effectively de-dupe across all channels.  CPA can be fraught with issues on both post-impression and post-click sales, if you don’t de-dupe.  You won’t be able to evaluate if incremental sales were achieved as a consequence of your campaign.
Remember, I am not saying online display is dead.  To the contrary, just be careful with your metrics.  Ensure your tracking is robust and be think imaginatively with your placements and how you utilise the online opportunities.  Don’t just be another ME TOO.


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When Virtual Becomes Reality

t-mobile flashmob-dance-tv adWhen Virtual Becomes Reality

FlashMobs were once the buzz of those in the know.  Mobile and online communities creating a mass gathering, normally just for the sake of it. This has now been given mainstream status by the recent T-Mobile ads.

 

Nowadays with the rise of social media the distance between virtual and reality are becoming ever more blurred. People have for years used social media (chats, blogs and forums) to arrange meetings with others with similar interests.

 

 

At present social networking is used to generate mass awareness, awareness within niche areas or to generate attendance at events.

 But the world of virtual and reality are colliding and the masses are joining forces to meet with fellow followers, whilst at the same time raising money for charities. What am I talking about?  Twestival is a perfect example of this.

Twestival saw Twitter users, followers, Tweeters create events all over the world in over 200 towns and cities, raising over $250,000 for water projects in Ethopia. This isn’t isolated, who can forget the infamous Facebook waterfight. Two things make Twestival stand out from my point of view, the fact that Twitter has only recently hit the mainstream and that given the current economic climate it was all done for charity.

 facebook waterfight

 

Examples of brands identifying this phenomena early and making it work to their advantage are Innocent (and the innocent village fete which uses Flickr and Blogs) and Nike utilising actual products (Nike+) and creating a massive buzz around a sports event. Not only did Nike create a one of buzz, it has successfully maintained a passionate and engaged community. There is a real connection between the concept, the events, exercise and the Nike brand. Members of that community are very likely to be strong advocates of the Nike+ product.

To my mind, very few organisations have really struck a chord with their target audience in social media. However those that find a winning concept will not only create immense brand awareness. Their strategies should also engender loyalty and in turn sales.

Maybe its an old fashioned marketing theory. But if you give people something that they want or need and create a buzz from more than just one medium – you should just get a winning formula.

You can keep up to date with Twestival updates by following on Twitter


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Top 10 Worse Jobs in the World

There are times when we all feel the pressure in our jobs.  There are probably times when you have heard people say, “I hate my Job”, or “I probably have the worse job in the world”.  If you are reading this blog you probably dont find yourself in a job within the top 10.

I found a great article when I was looking around LinkedIn.  Whilst it may be somewhat subjective (I can’t see a strong quantitative base for the list), I find it quite amusing, especially as I know people that have been in more than one of the jobs in the top 10.

So what is your worse job?

I had the misfortune of working in a sports shop as a teenager.  I loved sports and thought it would be a good outlet during the summer holidays.  The job itself was OK.  I got on well with most the customers, enjoyed talking to them and actually sold a good level of product in my 2 days there.  Unfortunately the manager/owner was a bit of a Richard Branson wannabee, but was just a little too much like Gordon Ramsey.  Not being one to tolerate that attitude, I left after the 2nd day.

Sausage stuffer?

OK, so sausage stuffer isn’t on the lift, but what is?  (Before you say anything, I think they left one out, maybe that was the writers real job)

Dishwasher, Slimline Workers, Barnyard Masturbator, Medical Waste Biohazard Cooker, Sewage Treatment Worker, Poultry Kill Room Attendant, Hazmat Diver, Hospital Laundry and Meat Plant Carcass Splitters.

For me a couple of surprises.  However radiation/toxic waste and dealing with animal carcasses as expected are up there.

Anyway, here is the Top 10(9) List of the World’s Most Horrible Jobs

 


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Free Online Promotion

Free Lunch?

OK, so not everybody is an SEO genius, able to generate copious amounts of free website traffic.  What other options are there?  The beauty of “Web 2.0” is that most of the concepts are still trying to find their commercial purpose. A a consequence the majority still offer free possibilities for any business. If you are clever and have something decent to offer you can also find your message or promotion spreading exponentially.

1.Facebook offers real opportunities to get your message out there, via your personal profile, a company page and/or groups
2. Twitter – its one of the most talked about sites at the moment and you can easily send your message to thousands
3. MySpace, if you’re related to music, this is still the place to put your messages – millions still look at MySpace
4. YouTube – depending on the concept, good video with a viral element will gain great mass coverage and quickly
5. Classifieds – places like GumTree and even eBay are great place to put your message out there
6. Directories and search engines – these are critical to your success
7. Guerilla – use tactics on forums, chatrooms to get your message out, but make sure they are relevant or you will be hounded out and lose any credibility
8. Produce blogs and articles, some good resources have already been listed in terms of areas to place and feed content.
9. Yahoo! Answers. Become a knowledge partner, great source if your area is interesting and has a number of questions
10. Do some real PR and contact online publications or journalists. You really need to sell yourself – I don’t think Press Releases are enough, you need to make contact with the key figures.

These are just ten ideas, however there are endless opportunities and if you want to put even just a small amount behind it, you can really make it take off.