- What is telemarketing?
- How to start telemarketing in your business
- Telemarketing planning
- Telemarketing methods for targeting customers
- Advantages and disadvantages of telemarketing
- Targeting consumer audiences using telemarketing
- Measuring the success of your telemarketing campaign
- Telemarketing scams and legal issues
What is telemarketing?Definition of telemarketing and what it can be used for, including the difference between outbound and inbound telemarketing
Telemarketing is when a business sells products or services over the phone. It is also known as telesales. Telemarketing can be used to complete the sales process or to arrange further face-to-face or online sales appointments. It is a type of direct marketing.
You can outsource your telemarketing to an agency or carry it out in-house. There are software options available to manage telemarketing. These can be integrated with your customer relationship management system.
Outbound vs inbound telemarketing
Outbound telemarketing is when a business directly contacts customers and prospective customers by calling them. Inbound telemarketing is when a business receives calls from customers and potential customers to place or orders or get more information. The business usually generates interest by using other marketing channels, such as advertising, to encourage calls.
Uses of telemarketing
There are a number of ways your business can use telemarketing. These include:
- Direct sales - sales people aim to close a sale on the call. This may be effective for relatively low value products and services.
- Appointment booking - the telemarketing team call potential customers to arrange appointments for salespeople. This can be used for high value products, long term contracts and business-to-business sales.
- Lead generation - for business-to-business sales, you can use telemarketing to identify the right contacts within an organisation and build marketing lists.
- Market research - learn more about your customer's needs and how you can meet them.
- Follow-up - get in touch with potential customers who have engaged with your business in other ways - eg at an event or registering online.
- Re-engagement - contact customers that have not ordered in a while and learn what you can do to meet their needs.
How to start telemarketing in your business
An overview of telemarketing and how to get started including finding your target audience, whether you should outsource and the costs of telemarketing
Telemarketing is a form of direct marketing. It involves talking to potential or existing customers on the telephone.
Telemarketing can help you to promote your products or services, build your customer database, generate leads and appointments, stay in touch with existing customers or generate new ones.
Read more about direct marketing.
Planning your telemarketing
When planning your telemarketing campaign, you should:
- Decide if you want to outsource. You'll need to choose whether you will carry out the telemarketing in-house or use the services of a specialised marketing company. See outsourcing.
- Make sure you know who your target audience is. You need to know what your product or service is, who it is aimed at, and who is most likely to purchase it. See define your target market.
- Make sure your marketing lists are reliable and up to date. This will allow you to focus on your target audience, ensure your lists comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR). You must not include people or organisations that have opted out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls. Anyone you contact must have consented to receive that type of communication from you. Read more about privacy and data protection in direct marketing.
- Identify key personnel at target businesses. Speaking to the right person will increase your chances of making a sale.
- Consider how you will pay your telesales staff. You could, for example, provide sales incentives. See the right pay package for your salespeople.
- Have a script in place. Having a simple, professional, and pre-prepared script allows you to sell and respond to queries more effectively. Make sure you explain who you are and what your business does.
- Think about the relative costs. It may be more cost-effective to use an outside marketing business. The initial costs may be outweighed by increased sales.
Automated telemarketing uses interactive voice response (IVR) to effectively process high numbers of telemarketing calls in an inexpensive way.
Outbound IVR telemarketing can be used to generate leads and sales and alert customers to new offers, product or service changes and product recalls. It can also be used to conduct meetings, conference calls or business surveys. You can only make automated marketing calls to people who have specifically consented to it.
Inbound IVR can be used to offer helpdesk services, handle incoming calls or to provide disaster backup in case of emergency.
Since IVR campaigns do not require actual telemarketers, they are often less expensive than traditional telemarketing campaigns. The results are also easy to measure, flexible and can show immediate results. On the other hand, consumers may perceive IVR as less personal and more intrusive.
All automated calls must include your name and a contact address or freephone number. You must also allow your number (or an alternative contact number) to be displayed to the person receiving the call.
The privacy and data protections rules on automated calls are stricter than those for live calls. The person you contact must have specifically consented to receive this type of call from you.
How to determine the target audience for your telemarketing campaign, and how to choose a service provider
If you are planning to use telemarketing for your business, you should determine whether you are operating in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. The skills and expertise required to deal with each group are different.
You can either choose to conduct your own telemarketing campaigns or use a provider that offers B2B or B2C telemarketing services. When operating your own telemarketing operation, you need to be aware of the different characteristics and issues each group poses, and how this may affect your approach.
Considerations when running your own telemarketing operation
B2C companies usually:
- run their business to sell a product
- focus on sales turnovers rather than building customer relationships
- look to get as much value from sales as possible
- have a large target market
- aim to create a brand identity to appeal to customers
- use merchandising and point of purchase activities to increase sales
- use 'emotional buying techniques' to sell to customers - based on status, desire, or price
When dealing with B2B companies, you need to consider that they:
- are usually relationship driven
- aim to generate profits through repeated sales through returning customers
- have a small and focused target market
- create a 'brand identity' by building on personal relationships
- use educational and awareness-building activities
Telemarketing methods for targeting customers
How to contact customers, use an agency, and other activities to improve your business
Once you have decided use telemarketing and have determined your target audience, you need to decide how you will approach your strategy.
Contacting customers directly can be an efficient sales device. This is especially true if you intend to tell existing customers about a new product, or one that is similar to something they have previously purchased from you.
However, before you begin telemarketing, you need to do the following:
- obtain your clean, opted-out list of current customers and their details
- decide if you will do your telemarketing in-house or get an agency to do the work for you
- think about rewarding your existing customers with special offers
Using a telemarketing agency
You should try to ensure that your telemarketing generates new leads, retains your existing customers, and maintains relationships. If your business is struggling to do these things through its telemarketing project, consider hiring a telemarketing service provider.
Before instructing a service provider you should:
- Decide on the services you need. For example, do you just need cold calling, or would you require someone to be contactable at all times?
- Ask for referrals and research into any bidding service providers. Many telemarketing agencies advertise their services but you can also find information about them online.
- Contact the telemarketing service provider directly and gauge their responses to your particular needs.
- Request a proposal - this will help you shortlist the agencies you are considering.
- Visit the agency to observe the office environment and see if the company appears credible.
Planning other telemarketing activities
You can also use inbound calls to sell products or services to your customers. For example, if a customer asks for a particular item that you stock, you can offer to supply them with relevant, accompanying products that they may need. If you intend to use this sales tactic, you should ensure that any telemarketing staff have had previous sales training.
Advantages and disadvantages of telemarketing
The advantages and disadvantages of telemarketing for your business including providing a personal service and legal risks
Telemarketing can be an effective tool for your business and it can be an easy and effective way to increase your profits and promote your product or service. However, it does have some disadvantages that you should also consider.
Benefits of using telemarketing
The main benefit of using telemarketing to promote your business is that it allows you to immediately gauge your customer's level of interest in your product or service. Additionally it allows you to do the following:
- provide a more interactive and personal sale service
- create an immediate rapport with your customers
- explain technical issues more clearly
- generate leads and appointments
- sell from a distance to increase your sales territory
- reach more customers than with in-person sales calls
- sell to both existing and new customers
- achieve results that are measurable
Disadvantages of telemarketing
There can be as many negatives using telemarketing as there are positives. In particular, you need to consider that:
- telemarketing can be resented - particularly when dealing with business-to-consumer customers, and when calls are made in the evenings
- customer lists may not always be clean and opted-in - this leaves you with a potential risk of breaking the law
- customer lists can be very costly
- telemarketing has a negative image that could damage your business' reputation - if carried out poorly
- telemarketing has the potential to replace a sales team and this could lead to negative feelings among employees
- training staff can be time-consuming and costly
- an outside service provider can result in your losing control over your sales processes because the people doing the work aren't your employees
Targeting consumer audiences using telemarketing
How to target the correct audiences when planning telemarketing campaigns
You can ensure that you target the correct group of customers and potential customers for your product or service by obtaining telemarketing lists. These lists need to be 'clean' - ie only contain details of individuals and organisations that have consented to receive sales calls. Any customers who do not wish to receive calls will have joined specialised lists such as a 'do not contact' list.
Even if customers are on preference lists, there are certain ways to target the correct audiences for your products or services. For example, you could consider:
- Contacting people that are new to an area - you can access new telephone numbers before people are registered on 'do-not-call lists'. This audience is often in the market for products and services related to setting up new households.
- Customising your pitch to make it appropriate to your audience - you could consider adjusting your data to target specific demographics like age, location, or profession.
- Developing lists that are based on particular interests. You can run contests or drawings at events - ideal places where you can capture opted-in information.
Measuring the success of your telemarketing campaign
Measuring the various factors of your telemarketing campaigns will show you if it's been successful
To ensure that your telemarketing campaign is effective and efficient, it is important that you evaluate its success at regular intervals. There are a number of methods you can use to measure the results of your campaigns, such as the following:
- comparing it to previous campaigns from the year before that ran within the same time period
- keeping track of calls and orders received and compare these results with the previous year's statistics
- judging the effectiveness of the cold calls by the reactions of customers contacted
- assessing the number of leads generated within a particular time period
- recording the number of meetings that are generated from the leads received
- comparing the cost of the telemarketing against the money made in overall sales
- checking the value of sales in pounds made per hour
You should consider running a test telemarketing campaign to work out how you will assess success or failure, before you begin a more permanent campaign. You can then use this information for any future campaigns you decide to undertake.
You should record any information specific for a campaign, such as:
- the telemarketed product
- the number of calls
- the targeted group of customers
- the address source
Ensure that you also record the costs of the address source, telephone charges and any other relevant costs for each campaign.
Telemarketing scams and legal issues
How you can protect your customers when telemarketing, and telemarketing legalities and scams to be aware of
There are many laws and legal issues that you need to be aware of when dealing with telemarketing, such as unlawful selling.
Telemarketing scams are of concern for customers and can take the form of one of the below:
- fraudulent directory listing services
- promised lottery prizes or loans
- advance fee fraud
- charity fraud
Because of these potential scams, you need to ensure you protect your customers.
Telemarketing is governed by the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999. Under these regulations, you must not call people who have indicated that they do not wish to receive marketing calls. They may indicate this either directly to your business or by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
When you request information from a potential customer, you must tell them who you are, why you are requesting the data and inform them if the information is to be stored for future marketing purposes. If you intend to share the information with a third party, you must request the individual's consent to do so.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) also offers guidance on the best telemarketing practices.
Read more about the direct marketing legal issues and best practice.
Individuals and organisations who do not wish to be contacted by telesales can register with the TPS or the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS).
You must also ensure that your telemarketing campaigns do not create 'silent calls' - where the customer cannot hear the messages - which can sometimes happen through automated call centres.
Businesses must also refrain from using answer machine detection equipment - one cause of the silent call problem - more than once a day, unless a call centre agent is on hand to answer the call.Also on this site
- Email marketing
- What is email marketing?
- Advantages and disadvantages of email marketing
- Email marketing and privacy law
- Email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs
- Segmenting your email marketing lists
- Build your email marketing list
- Email marketing best practice
- Creating engaging content for your email marketing
- Measure performance and improve your email marketing campaigns
- Rules about buying email databases
- Email marketing and data protection
- Five email marketing essentials to make your campaign a success
What is email marketing?Definition of email marketing, its importance for your business, the types of email marketing and options for sending email marketing messages
Email marketing is when an organisation uses email to promote their products or services. It is a form of direct marketing. It can be used to build customer relationships. It is one tool in the online marketing mix, alongside other channels such as social media and pay-per-click advertising.
Importance of email marketing
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to reach your audience. It can have a high conversion rate, encouraging users to take an action on your website, eg make an online purchase. It is quick and simple to use. Large and small businesses across sectors run successful email marketing campaigns.
Email marketing allows you to connect with your audience directly. You don't need to rely on them coming across your ad. You have complete control over the format and content of your messages - unlike social media and other online channels.
Email marketing is measurable. You can use success metrics to compare and optimise campaigns. It is easy to target and personalise email marketing messages.
Types of email marketing
Your business can send different kinds of email communications to promote products or services. This could include:
- Welcome - introduce your business to new customers or users who have registered on your website.
- Newsletters - these could be monthly or weekly.
- Seasonal - suggest products, services and promotions relating to events such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's day.
- New product launches - inform customers about new products and services.
- Special offers - inform your audience about discounts and price promotions.
- Abandoned cart - When a customer adds product to their online shopping cart and does not complete the purchase, you can send them an email reminder. You could automate this through your e-commerce platform.
- Re-engagement - a reminder to a customer who hasn't made a purchase in a while or has cancelled a subscription. You could use Customer relationship management (CRM) software to send these automatically. This could include special discount to entice the customer back.
- Event invitations - boost attendance at events with email marketing. You could link to an online registration page. See organising events in Northern Ireland.
Options for email marketing
While you could send promotional emails from your standard email provider (eg Outlook or Gmail), there are a number of downsides. These services aren't designed to send bulk emails. Most businesses use a specialist email marketing service.
Email marketing services offer a number of benefits:
- Design - email marketing services allow you to create visually appealing, professional designs. They often provide templates and user-friendly design software.
- Personalisation and targeting - you can often integrate the email marketing service with your CRM system. This lets you easily create targeted lists and personalise messages with the customer's name or past purchases.
- Deliverability - email marketing providers design their service to reduce the risk of your email being flagged as spam. This can prevent bounced emails. If you use Outlook or Gmail, your emails may regularly end up in spam folders and your IP address could be permanently blacklisted.
- Evaluation - email marketing services allow you to track bounced emails, open rates, and click-through-rates in your email communications. You can use this information to improve future campaigns.
Advantages and disadvantages of email marketing
Email marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach your audience that can drive results, consider the pros and cons to make it work for your business
Marketing your products or services by email can be a fast, flexible and cost-effective way of reaching new customers and retaining existing customers by encouraging repeat website visits.
Email marketing can allow you to create targeted and personalised messages. This can help you to build meaningful relationships with your customers. It can also improve response rates to your direct marketing campaigns.
However, it is important not to overuse email marketing. Receiving marketing emails can irritate people if it is irrelevant, too frequent or unwanted.
Organisations are required to comply with various data protection legislation, including the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Enforcement action may be taken against any organisations that do not comply with their obligations under PECR and GDPR and substantial fines may be issued and contractual liability may arise.
Advantages of email marketing
The benefits of email marketing include:
- Cost- effective - the costs of email marketing can be much lower than many other forms of marketing. There are no advertising fees, printing or media space costs.
- Permission-based - your marketing list will be made up of people who have actively chosen to receive email communications from you. Customers who are genuinely interested in your products and/or services are more likely to engage with your business.
- Flexible design - you can send plain text, graphics or attach files - whichever suits your message best. A choice of design options gives you scope to convey your business branding.
- Scalable - email marketing can be used to reach large audiences or smaller targeted lists.
- Personalisation and segmentation - with email marketing you can personalise messages. You can also segment your marketing list, so that your customers receive messages from you that they are interested in - this will help boost their engagement with you.
- Shareable - it's easy for people to forward and share your email content, building your reputation by word-of-mouth or viral marketing. This may help influence new customers to become followers of your brand.
- Conversions and increased sales - if you have a new promotion people can click on links and follow your call-to-action immediately. Email marketing is also effective at every stage of the buying process. For example, you can influence someone to choose your product, nurture the customer relationship post-transaction and also encourage future purchases.
- Measurable - you can evaluate the success of a campaign by using web analytics software. You can easily test different copy, subject lines and designs to see which is most effective. This allows you to optimise future campaigns.
- Benchmark - you can compare your results against others in your industry. There are many free email marketing benchmarking reports available - you will find these by searching online. Benchmarking data can help you to evaluate and prioritise improvement opportunities.
- Test before you send - A/B testing of subject lines, calls-to-action, personalisation, email copy, images or messages ensure your email content is as effective as it can be before you send it.
- Less intrusive - unlike telephone marketing, recipients can read your message at a time that suits them. Customers can also update their preferences if they would like to receive different messages from you or unsubscribe if they feel they no longer want to receive your email communications.
- Environmentally-friendly - email marketing is better for the environment than direct marketing by postal mail because nothing is printed.
- Time-saving - through automation you can trigger emails to be sent to customers based on an action they have performed on your website - eg. send a welcome email when a user signs up to your website, or issue an email offering a discount incentive if user abandons an online shopping cart. Once you have developed a template you can reuse for numerous email campaigns.
- Real-time marketing - through email marketing you can connect with customers in real-time. Using automated triggers, such as website activity, recent purchase or shopping cart abandonment, you can reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right place and with the right offer.
Disadvantages of email marketing
Some of the potential problems of email marketing include:
- Spam - commercial email or 'spam' irritates consumers. If your messages aren't targeted to the right people, the recipient may delete your email or unsubscribe. You need to make sure that your email marketing complies with privacy and data protection rules, and that it is properly targeted at people who want to receive it. The 'click through rate' for untargeted emails is likely to be very low. See email marketing and privacy law.
- Undelivered emails - poorly designed emails may not get delivered. Emails that use certain spam keywords or characters in the subject heading or content of the email, eg £££s, FREE, click here, are likely to be filtered out by email software and internet service providers. If you don't keep your marketing lists up to date, you will find incorrect email addresses mean your messages won't reach the right person.
- Design problems - your email must be designed so that it appears as it should across multiple devices and email providers. You may encounter a trade-off between design and functionality. Some people opt to receive text-only emails, consider how your message will look if this is the case.
- Size issues - files need to be small enough to download quickly. Emails containing many images may take too long to load, frustrating your audience and losing their interest.
- Resources and skills - for a successful email campaign you must ensure that you have the right copy, design and marketing list. If you don't have the time or skills in-house, consider outsourcing some of these elements.
Email marketing and privacy law
How to comply with legal obligations when sending electronic mail, including observing the Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations and opt-ins
If you want to use email to carry out direct marketing, you need to comply with the rules in the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). These rules include specific things you must say in your marketing messages - eg disclosing your identity and providing a valid email address to all recipients - as well as legal responsibilities you have as a marketer.
What is electronic mail and direct marketing?
Under the regulations, electronic mail is any electronic message that consists of text, voice, sound or images - ie email, text, picture, video, voicemail and answer phone messages. Direct marketing is defined as a message that is trying to sell goods or services, or is promoting the values or beliefs of a particular organisation.
You need to consider email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs. You can only carry out marketing by email if the individual you are sending the message to has given you their consent and you follow electronic mail rules contained in PECR and data protection principles under the GDPR.
Sending email marketing to other businesses
Opt-in requirements don't apply to marketing sent to companies or limited-liability partnerships, where you are not targeting a named individual. However, it's not good business sense to continue to send marketing to businesses that don't want you to. You still need to give your identity and provide a valid opt-out address or unsubscribe option in your communications.
Complaints and breaches of privacy regulations
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is responsible for dealing with any complaints and breaches of the regulations. If you breach these rules when you carry out electronic marketing, the ICO will contact you in an attempt to resolve the problem.
If you infringe any of the basic data protection principles you may be subject to administrative fines of up to €20,000,000 or 4 per cent of your businesses' total worldwide annual turnover.
The Data Protection Act
If you send direct marketing messages electronically to individuals whose personal details come from a bought database, you must also comply with the Data Protection Act 2018. In addition, there are also certain rules about buying email databases you need to consider.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in the UK from 25 May 2018. Alongside the Data Protection Act 2018, the GDPR introduced new rules on processing and safeguarding personal data.Also on this site
Email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs
Opt-in and opt-out procedures for email marketing messages, what type of opt-in and opt-outs mean for your business, and how to follow data protection rules
There are two types of procedure that can be used when signing up a new subscriber to receive your email marketing messages - single or double opt-in.
Single opt-in for email marketing
Single opt-in is when a person provides their email address and simply indicates that they would like to receive future emails from your business e.g. when a customer signs up to your email communications.
Double opt-in for email marketing
Double opt-in involves following-up the previous step by also sending the subscriber an email with a confirmation link they must click on to complete their sign up to your email marketing list.
Double opt-in is not a legal requirement, but is often considered best practice - as it eliminates the risk of someone having their email address registered by a third party. Also, instructing a subscriber that they need to respond to your confirmation email should prompt them to retrieve your email - which may have been redirected to a 'junk' folder by their spam filter.
Pre-ticked opt-in boxes are banned under the GDPR. You also cannot rely on silence, inactivity, default settings, or your general terms and conditions, or seek to take advantage of inertia, inattention or default bias in any other way. The best practice is to provide an unticked opt-in box, and invite the person to confirm their agreement by ticking. This is the safest way of demonstrating consent, as it requires an affirmative action and positive choice by the individual to give clear and explicit consent.
Soft opt-in for email marketing
Soft opt-in can apply in certain circumstances as an exception to the consent rule for direct marketing. This applies where:
- you have obtained an individual's email address and details during a previous sale or during negotiations for a previous sale of a product or service to them
- your messages are only marketing your similar products or services
- you have given the individual opportunities to refuse marketing messages when their details are collected and with every future message, and they do not opt out
Unsubscribe or opt-out option
The opt-out or unsubscribe option should allow the individual to take a positive step to refuse or unsubscribe from your marketing by replying directly and easily to your message in order to stop any future marketing. If you use text messages, you could allow an individual to opt out by sending a stop message to a short code number - eg text 'STOP' to 12345. If you use email, include an 'unsubscribe' link in your message.
By law, you must allow individuals to opt out or unsubscribe to receiving email marketing messages from you at any time they wish and in the same manner in which they provided you with their consent. You must comply with any opt-out or unsubscribe requests as quickly as possible.
Organisations must not disguise or conceal their identity in any marketing texts or emails, and must provide a valid contact address for individuals to opt out or unsubscribe (which would mean consent was withdrawn). It is good practice to allow individuals to reply directly to the message and opt out that way, to provide a clear and operational unsubscribe link in emails or at least to provide a freephone number.
[Source: ICO Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations on Direct Marketing P34, point 130]
Segmenting your email marketing lists
How to ensure your marketing emails are sent to carefully targeted recipients by segmenting your lists and tailoring your email message to secure more sales
Email marketing is more successful if it focuses on people you know are interested in what you're offering. Customers who have willingly signed up to your email marketing list are more likely to want to read your email messages. People are easily annoyed when they receive an email that is irrelevant to them and they are likely to delete marketing messages - or spam - from your business without reading them. They could also decide to unsubscribe from all your marketing email communications.
For example, if you're running a special offer on computer hardware, it will be more effective if you promote it only to people responsible for buying IT.
Segmenting your email marketing list
Once you have built up a database with customer details, preferences and interests you can then segment your email marketing list to targeted groups of customers. Segment your customers based on the target markets in your marketing strategy. This makes your messaging more relevant and can increase open and click rates which in turn can lead to increased sales.
Some characteristics you can use to segment your lists include:
- geographic location
- previous buying behaviour
- job title
- job function
- industry they work in
For example, you could segment your email marketing list on postcodes or areas of interest if you are promoting an event in a particular area. You could also segment your contacts into 'persona' groups based on their demographics and send targeted messages about products that may be of particular interest.
However, to process the data in this way you must ensure that you comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), namely that you have a lawful basis for processing the data in this way and have complied with all other data protection compliance requirements.
Read more about how to manage your customer database.Also on this site
Build your email marketing list
How to encourage people to sign up to receive your marketing emails through communicating the benefits, offering exclusive content, discounts and incentives
It is illegal to send unsolicited email messages except in limited circumstances. If customers have consented to receiving information from you in the past, ie opted in or signed up to your email marketing list, you can send them information on other things you think they might be interested in.
However, you must give these people the option to opt out of or unsubscribe from receiving any further messages from you. Read more about email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs.
Using incentives to get email sign ups
People are more likely to sign up to your email marketing list if you give them a useful incentive. For example, you can offer special services or discounts on selected products to customers who sign up for your email updates. It's even more effective when you make offers available exclusively through your email marketing. You can then be more confident that recipients will check for the latest email from your business.
You can also offer things like exclusive online content, eg access to downloads or entry to competitions, in exchange for email sign ups.
Capturing customer data for email marketing
There are a number of ways, both online and offline, how you can capture customer data to be used for your email marketing lists. A common method is to encourage email sign up through your website. It's always worth highlighting the benefits of subscribing to your email service and providing an online form to register.
You should make this process as quick and as easy as possible for the customer by capturing only a small amount of essential data initially eg name and email address. You can then follow this up with an email where a customer can inform you of other preferences or areas of interest. It is also best practice to inform customers what they will receive by email and how often they should expect to receive your emails.
See an example of the sign up form nibusinessinfo.co.uk uses to capture customer data.
Using overlays to encourage customer signups
Website overlays are a type of pop-up that appear on the user's screen. They can be configured to appear after a certain amount of time, once a customer looks at a set number of pages, lands on high value pages or when they exit your website.
Website overlays can be very effective in helping you to capture customer data. They interrupt the customer's web browsing to present a message that you can use to outline benefits to signing up to your mailing list.
Best practice advice for using overlays on your website are:
- Don't annoy the customer - think carefully how you can best use overlays. Don't have them appearing on every page of your website. Ensure the user can easily cancel the overlay and make sure it won't reappear for the same user for a set period of time afterward.
- Highlight the benefits - make it clear and brief in your overlay what you are offering the customer in return for their data, for example, a newsletter, discounts or access to premium content.
- Capture only essential data - capture only the data you need such as an email address and name. You can always build up details of their preferences afterwards.
- Use triggers - consider using different types of overlays that will be triggered depending on the customer's action:
- Entry overlay - once they appear on a certain page
- Timed overlay - once they have been browsing your website for a defined period of time or number of pages
- Scroll overlay - once they have scrolled through a certain point on a page
- Exit intent overlay - once they go to exit your website
- Cross selling - if you sell products or services on your website and a customer is browsing particular ones you can use overlays to cross sell other popular products or services eg customers viewing this product also viewed.
- Create a sense of urgency - you could use overlays to highlight special offers, discounts, product availability or access to premium content. To encourage immediate action from the customer to signup you could highlight in your overlay that a special offer is only available until a specific date.
Collecting data offline
Methods in which you can build your database offline include asking customers for their email address when they are at an event you are running or in-store. For example, some retail businesses capture customer email addresses by offering to email electronic receipts when a purchase is made in store. You can also offer a small discount or free gift as an incentive.
Email can be a very cheap and effective marketing tool if you can get customers and potential customers to request updates from you by email.
Email marketing best practice
How to ensure email deliverability and increase open and click rates by cleaning your lists regularly, using the right subject line and avoiding spam words
Before you begin planning your email marketing campaigns it is worth taking the time to consider your target audience, what your objective is and how you will measure your results. There are a number of important elements that contribute to a successful email marketing campaign.
Cleanse your marketing lists
When it comes to email marketing the quality of your marketing lists is much more important than quantity. To maximise the quality of your email marketing lists it is best practice to cleanse your marketing lists on a regular basis. For example, to ensure that only people that engage with your emails continue to receive them you could look at your list every 12 months and remove those people in your list that haven't opened your emails in the last year. This would also help you comply with the retention principle of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), namely that you retain the individual's personal data for no longer than necessary.
You should take steps to ensure your email message will be accepted by email service providers such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. If you notice problems with your deliverability, check that you are not on a blacklist. You should prompt your customers to add you to their safe senders list or address book within your email message. Your email marketing software provider is responsible for making sure its email technology is up-to date and compliant with today's legal requirements. A responsible email provider will also be able to handle bounce codes, feedback loops and connection optimisation.
To increase deliverability and consistency with branding consider using a sub-domain of your website to send your emails from e.g. if your web domain is johnscafe.com your email sub-domain could be firstname.lastname@example.org. It is advisable to use a from-address alias so the customer immediately recognises who your email is from e.g. John's Café. Avoid 'no reply' prefixes, it is good customer service to monitor the inbox for responses from your email marketing campaigns. .
As part of the regulations on electronic mail marketing you must not disguise or conceal your identity.
Avoid spam words
For each email marketing campaign there should be a process to check the spam score for your email message e.g. you should avoid words and characters like free, cash, £££s or exclamation marks. You should avoid writing in capital letters. Ensure there are no spelling mistakes in your subject lines and the main body of your email messages. A quick search on the internet for 'spam words to avoid in email marketing' should give you an up-to-date list of spam words that it is best practice to avoid in your email communications. Most email marketing software will enable you to scan your email template prior to sending, giving your email a spam rating and flagging spam issues that should be rectified before you send.
Effective email subject lines
The subject line will determine the open rate for your email marketing campaign. It is useful to think of the subject line as the shop window trying to encourage the customer to enter the shop. If your subject line is engaging and relevant to your customer they will be encouraged to open your email, try to invoke the customer's curiosity e.g. Exclusive deal inside for you.
Keep your subject lines short i.e. around 50 characters or less. Avoid the temptation to include details of everything that is in your email within your subject line. Subject lines that are too long will be truncated so the recipient won't see all the added detail anyway. It is best practice to highlight content that will pique the interest of the recipient and entice them to open your email. Get to the point by front-loading your subject line with important words that you think will attract the customer's attention.
You could personalise your subject line by including the recipient's name, organisation or details of a previous purchase, but don't overdo it. You can also increase open rates by creating a sense of urgency and offering an incentive e.g. "Your 20% discount on perfume ends midnight tonight". It is a good idea to test your subject line to see what works best for your email campaigns e.g. split testing two different subject lines. Good email marketing software will easily enable you to A/B test two different subject lines on a proportion of your marketing list. The subject line that gets the most opens over a set period of time will be sent to the remainder of your marketing list.
Customer opens can also be encouraged by adding preheader text to your email, something that can often be underused by email marketers. This is the text that appears just below the subject line in the email inbox. It should elaborate on the subject line and not repeat it. Keep your preheader text short so that it displays across different devices and is not cut off - something between 50 and 100 characters is ideal.
Example of subject line and preheader text
John's Café Waffle Wednesdays - Buy 1 Get 1 Free
Treat a friend or family member to a waffle on us when you buy one every Wednesday
Email content - increase clicks
Once a customer has opened your email whether they are compelled to click on your links will be determined by the quality of your message, content in your email and relevance to them. There are a number of factors to consider including design layout, email header, call-to-action and images. Read more about creating engaging content for your email marketing.
Remember that you're legally required to give recipients the opportunity to stop receiving your email marketing messages. You must have an 'unsubscribe' or 'opt-out' option on every email edition you send out.
When should I send my email?
When customers sign up to your email marketing be upfront as to the type and frequency of your email messages so they know what to expect and when. You should aim to send your emails at a time that they are likely to open them. This is unique to all businesses so the only way to work out the best time of day and best day of the week to send your emails is to test, analyse the results and test again eg you could A/B split test your email by sending out on a Monday and a Wednesday and see which generates more engagement - when doing this be sure to send the same email and use the exact same subject line so that you are only testing the effectiveness of the day sent and not the email copy.
Test your emails to get it right
There is no magic bullet for getting email marketing right. The best way to make your email marketing successful is to test and analyse the results and retest. By using A/B testing, you can determine the most effective email subject lines, best design elements, email copy and best time of the day or day of the week to send your email. However make sure you are only testing one element at a time as changing too many factors at once will skew your test results and you will not know which factor or factors made the impact. See measure performance and improve your email marketing campaigns.
Creating engaging content for your email marketing
What to include in your email marketing to increase click through rates including email headers, amount of content, calls-to action, images and text
Once a customer has opened your email whether they are compelled to click on your links will be determined by the quality of your message, content in your email and relevancy to them. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer - understanding your audience will help you generate emails that are more highly tuned to their needs and expectations.
Include a header with your company logo so that a customer can identify who the email is from as soon as they open it. This also adds to brand recognition and consistency. A link from your logo to your website homepage is also advisable. Keep it simple and don't let your header dominate your email template. Be careful not to add too many distractions into the header such as your website navigation. Remember the aim of your email is to get the customer to click on the important message or messages in the main body of your email.
Amount of content
Too many messages in one email will confuse the customer and may lead them to delete your email or unsubscribe. Before constructing your email establish a clear idea of exactly what you want your message to convey to the customer and what you want them to do once they have opened your email eg if you have a number of products or services you want to promote it might be more effective having one email focusing on one specific product/service or a related collection of products/services.
Email template layout
A successful email layout will not only look good, it will also present your content in a way which guides your readers through your message and encourages them onwards to your objective, ie to click a link or links. You need to get the right balance between the email being practical and attractive. Aim to use a layout that makes the content easy to understand, navigate and engage with.
This is the most important aspect of your email and is what you want the customer to do once they have opened your email. Before you construct your email template be clear as to the end goal of your email - do you want the customer to buy something, read an article, book an appointment or view a video? A single call-to-action that aligns with your end goal can be very effective as it is very clear to the recipient what you want them to eg purchase a specific product. Too many calls-to-action in one email will dilute your message, confuse your customer and discourage them from interacting with your message.
You should provide a clear call-to-action in your email by using words that encourage action e.g. buy this product, subscribe to our service, read our review, book an appointment. You could also create a sense of urgency with your call-to-action e.g. emphasising the limit on an offer: money off offer lasts until Tuesday.
Images in your email template
You should use a combination of images and text within your email. The images should complement the text to help you get your message across. Ensure to hyperlink your image and add alt text as some internet service providers (ISPs) block images appearing as a default. This is especially important to remember if you are using images as call-to-action buttons. Optimise the size of your images so that they scale appropriately when opening on a mobile device.
Text in your email template
Think of your email as a teaser aiming to encourage the customer to perform an action such as read more on your website or purchase a product or service - don't try to include everything in your email. It is highly likely that a customer will skim read your email so keep text to a minimum, use headings and include key words which will support this process. Write your email copy as if you are communicating directly to an individual rather than to a large audience. You can do this by replacing words like 'we and our' with 'you and your' eg "Do you ever dream of beach holidays? Get a 20% discount off your next trip".
Social media buttons
In order to align your email marketing with your social media you could include social sharing buttons so customers can post specific content from your email to their social media accounts. Adding recognisable social media icons will invite your customers to spread your message for you. In addition you could highlight on social media that your latest email communication is about to issue a day or two before your email is sent out. This could encourage people to sign up to receive it.
As a legal requirement you must include details of your company name and address. You should include other methods that a customer can contact you such as your email address or phone number. Legally you must also include an unsubscribe link. Most email marketers place these details and the unsubscribe link in the footer.
With more customers accessing email through their mobile than desktop it is imperative you optimise your emails for mobile devices. Emails will render differently depending on device accessed on and internet service provider (ISP) used. Perform an inbox check across different mobile devices and platforms to ensure your design will work. Most email marketing software providers will enable you to view you email template across various email platforms prior to sending.
Consider mobile users when designing your email template by increasing font size and line spacing. Make your call-to-action(s) stand out and easily accessible e.g. the call-to-action button may need to be bigger than those displayed on desktop to compensate for the customer clicking with their finger on a mobile screen. Single column content will work best for mobile as most people are happy to scroll through content but less content to pinch and zoom. Ensure your website is mobile friendly too as a perfect mobile friendly email experience can easily be ruined by inviting customers to click through to a non-responsive website.Also on this site
Measure performance and improve your email marketing campaigns
Analyse the data to monitor the performance of your email marketing campaigns so that you can measure your success and make changes to improve future campaigns
You should monitor the effectiveness of your email marketing to make sure you're getting value from the time and effort you're spending on it. This will help you to improve future email marketing campaigns.
What email data should I monitor?
Most email marketing providers offer data tracking for email marketing campaigns highlighting:
- Email delivery success including details of bounce types whether a soft bounce, which might occur when a customer's email inbox is full, or a hard bounce, which might occur when the customer has closed down an email account. Effective email marketing software will automatically assist with key deliverability issues removing those accounts that no longer exist from your marketing listsand therefore not adversely affecting your credibility.
- Opens - total and unique.
- Open rate - this is the number of people who opened your email divided by the total email delivered. Factors that impact open rate are sender recognition, subject line and when you send your email.
- Clicks - total clicks include multiple clicks by individuals and unique are clicks by a single individual eg if a single user clicks a specific link five times the server will record five total clicks and one unique click. It is insightful to look at total clicks for specific calls-to-action especially where there are multiple links within an email. This will help you determine the most popular links. A heat map can also highlight this.
- Click-through rate - this is the number of unique clicks divided by the total emails delivered. Factors that impact click-through rate include content within your email, relevance of your email to the recipient and the effectiveness of the call to action.
- Click-to-open rate - this is the total of unique clicks divided by emails opened. Click-to-open rate gives a deeper insight into email campaign performance because it looks at post-open interactions in relation to opens rather than the total delivered. This puts the focus of the metric on the performance of the actual email content and removes factors which influenced the recipient to open the email.
- Unsubscribes - keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate. This should be fairly low but if it starts to increase you should ask yourself whether your content is relevant, if your message is confusing or if you are maybe sending emails too frequently. To identify the reasons why customers are unsubscribing you could ask them as part of the unsubscribe process.
This email marketing data will help you identify what works in your email and what doesn't e.g. if your open rates are low then there must be something wrong with your subject line and if your unsubscribes are high then your message might be too general and you should think about the relevancy of message. It also gives you the opportunity to test your email campaigns in order to fine tune your email messages and maximise success. By focusing on the number of clicks for particular content within your email you can determine which type of content is popular with your audience. If you have multiple links within your email campaigns then a heat map can be an effective way to determine the effectiveness of content and positioning of content within the email.
Segmenting your customers
This performance data can also make it easier for you to segment your customers based on their actions in your email. For example a sports store could compile a marketing list of all the customers who clicked on a link to a swimming article in a previous email campaign and send a targeted email on swimming accessories in a follow up email campaign.
Benchmark your email marketing
You can benchmark your email marketing efforts in order to gage how well you are doing in comparison with industry standards. There are reports published by different email marketing providers each year showing average results for opens, clicks and unsubscribes for different sectors. You'll be able to find these with a simple search on the internet.
Prepare to respond to your email campaign
It's important to consider how you're going to handle the response from an email marketing campaign. Does your website have the capacity to cope with a large spike in traffic? Have you got enough capacity to answer the phones and respond to emails if you get a 5 per cent response rate? Will you be able to offer your product or service to recipients within the promised time?
Email marketing may give you valuable contact with new customers, as well as reinforcing your contact with existing ones, so spend some time planning how you will handle the response, to ensure you don't let anyone down.
You can set up your email marketing software to automatically send a customer an email based on an action they have performed on your website or in a previous email. For example you could set up a series of automated welcome emails to go at specific intervals when a user has signed up to your website. Another effective email automation is when a user abandons a shopping cart on your website an automatic email is sent to prompt them to complete the purchase, perhaps even offering a money off incentive to do this. These email automations can take a bit of time and planning at the start but once they are up and running can save you a lot of time and can be effective in increasing web visits and sales.Also on this site
Rules about buying email databasesThe laws relating to marketing databases regarding issues such as opt-ins, opt-outs, obtaining consent, privacy and data protection
If you buy (or rent) a mailing list, you need to check with the supplier what rights you have to use the list for email marketing purposes.
If you are buying or renting a marketing list from a list broker or other third party you must make rigorous checks to satisfy yourself that the third party obtained the personal data fairly and lawfully, that the individuals understood their details would be passed on for marketing purposes, and that they have the necessary consent and compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You may consider undertaking a GDPR audit of the seller of the mailing list to ensure GDPR compliance before purchasing the list. This could take the form of a compliance questionnaire.
If the list includes individuals (as opposed to companies), they must have given their consent to receiving unsolicited emails. You must also ensure that you only send emails that match the consent individuals have given. For example, they may have consented to receive emails on a particular subject.
As with other email marketing, when you send marketing emails you must give individuals the right to unsubscribe or opt out from receiving further emails.
Databases without consent
If you buy a database where the individuals have not given consent, or if you wish to use it for a different purpose, you need to get their consent.
If you make your first contact with the people on the database by telephone or email, you should make sure that you comply with the privacy rules for electronic marketing. If someone doesn't respond to your initial contact, you can't assume that this implies that they consent to your using their personal information for unsolicited marketing, or any other purpose.
Any personal information held on a database should be adequate, relevant, not excessive and should not be kept for longer than is necessary. If you are the new owner of a database, you should decide how much of the information you need to keep, and then delete any that's unnecessary. You should not retain personal information for future use. GDPR requires that you inform the data subjects of your privacy notice information at the latest upon first contact with them.
Online selling rules
When sending sales messages by email, the rules covering distance selling and online trading apply. See consumer contracts.Also on this site
Email marketing and data protection
When you are allowed to provide an individual's personal information to a third party – you must take measures to protect customers’ personal information
Under the Data Protection Act 2018, you must not allow a third party access to personal information kept in your database. However, you can provide personal information to a third party if:
- an individual on the database asks somebody else - eg their solicitor - to obtain personal information on their behalf
- your business outsources the processing of personal information - for example, payroll or customer mailing
- the police need it as part of an investigation
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in the UK on 25 May 2018. Alongside the Data Protection Act 2018, the GDPR introduces new rules on processing and safeguarding personal data.
Outsourcing the processing of personal information
If you outsource certain processes that need access to your database of personal information - eg for email marketing - your business will remain liable for the information and keep full control over its use. In the event of a Data Protection Act 2018 breach, you are liable. See reporting serious breaches of personal data.
Protect customers' personal information
You must take the appropriate measures to protect the personal information you have, whether or not you process it yourself or outsource it. In order to decide what measures are appropriate, you should consider:
- what type of information you have
- what harm or damage could be caused from its misuse
- what technology is available to protect the information
- how much it would cost to ensure an appropriate level of information security
Under the Data Protection Act individuals and organisations that process personal information need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and pay a fee, unless they are exempt.
If you employ another business to process personal information for you, you must obtain evidence from them that they can do so in a secure manner. It is also highly recommended that you regularly check this yourself.
In order to ensure compliance with GDPR and information security, you must have a written contract with them, which:
- sets out the nature, duration, purposes and categories or types of personal data being processed
- ensures they are bound by a duty of confidentiality in relation to the personal information
- ensures they only use and disclose personal information in line with your instructions
- requires them to take appropriate security measures to your standards
- ensures they return or delete all the personal information upon ending the contract
- assists you in your compliance with GDPR in relation to the personal information
If you outsource processes to a business outside the European Economic Area, you will have to take further measures.Also on this site
Five email marketing essentials to make your campaign a success
Key steps to maximise the impact of your email marketing campaigns including crafting the perfect subject line and keeping it relevant, engaging and consistent
Promoting your products or services by email can be a powerful and flexible form of direct marketing. You can tailor your message to specific types of customer and their interests. You can also build customer relationships and acquire new customers through relevant, well targeted emails that interest recipients.
1. Subject line: Many people will choose whether to read an email by looking at the subject line in their inbox. Keep your subject line short, ideally no more than 50 characters. Front load with key words and use language that generates a sense of urgency and offers an incentive e.g. 'Women's Swimwear - 20% Discount - Ends Midnight'.
2. Keep it relevant, engaging and consistent: Use email marketing to tell people about things they'll be interested in. You should keep it simple, front load your sentences with key words and consider personalising by including the recipient's name. You could segment your marketing lists based on customer preferences and interests so that they receive emails from you that are relevant to them.
3. Clear call-to-action: Identify from the start what you want the customer to do when they open your email. Maximise the chances of successful conversion by placing your call-to-action in a prominent position and use language that encourages action e.g. book an appointment now
4. Opting out: You're legally required to give recipients the opportunity to stop receiving your newsletter. You must have an 'unsubscribe' option on every edition you send out.
5. Measure your campaigns: It's very important to monitor and measure the performance of your email campaigns to ensure you establish what works and what doesn't in terms of content, subject line, time of issue etc. You should track a number of metrics including open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates.Also on this sitePrimary parent
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Types of search engine
- What is a search engine and how do they work?
- Search engine optimisation: keyword strategy
- Search engine optimisation friendly web design
- Search engine optimisation: links strategy
- Voice search optimisation
- Submitting new websites to search engines
- Search engine optimisation dos and don'ts
- Working with a search engine optimisation agency
- Choosing a search engine optimisation agency: checklist
- Measure your search engine optimisation results
- International search engine optimisation
- Top tips to improve your SEO
Types of search engine
Understand popular and niche search engines and how you can rank well in search engine results
Different types of search engines use different methods to rank websites. Understanding these methods will help you understand the SEO strategies outlined in this guide.
Popular search engines
The three of the most popular search engines are:
- Google - Google assesses the value of a webpage based on the number of backlinks ie links back to your website. Links from pages that are seen as important by Google weigh more heavily and increase the ranking of the linked pages. Google also analyses the relevancy of the content on the page and other factors like mobile-friendliness. The Google ranking algorithm changes constantly. It can be useful to keep up to date with the latest changes.
- Bing - Microsoft's Bing search engine ranks websites based on the webpage content, the number and quality of websites that link to your pages, and the relevance of your website's content to keywords.
- Yahoo! - Yahoo! is now powered by Bing.
Google has the vast majority of the search market share. Bing, Yahoo and others make up a much smaller percentage.
If you are targeting customers in China, keep in mind that Google is blocked by the 'Great Firewall of China'. Baidu is the biggest search engine in China with over 75 per cent of the search market.
These main search engines use 'crawlers' to search the internet. See what is a search engine and how do they work??
For more detailed information on how to best optimise your website for a particular search engine, refer to their webmaster pages. All the leading search engines provide information and tools to help you improve your SEO.
Specialist search engines
There are a number of specialist search engines that allow users to search for specific things like videos, used cars, recipes, flights and hotels. SEO tactics can be used to help your products and services rank well on specialist search engines. Listings on these websites often appear in standard web search results.
Examples of specialist search engines:
- YouTube - digital marketers often describe YouTube as 'the second biggest search engine in the world'. Owned by Google, it allows users to search for video content.
- Amazon - works as a search engine for products. It is often users' first place to research products on the market.
- Skyscanner - allows users to search for flights and compare prices.
- Facebook - primarily a social media channel, Facebook receives over 2 billion searches a day, putting it ahead of Bing. Users can search for people, business, products and services.
Many of these niche search engines are directories. This means they rank content that has been manually added. Some may use crawlers to find specific types of content from the internet. See what is a search engine and how do they work?
What is a search engine and how do they work?
Learn what a search engine is and how the main search engines (such as Google, Yahoo and Bing) work, including how each search engine will analyse your site
Understanding how search engines work can help your business use SEO to reach potential customers.
What is a search engine?
Search engines allow users to search the internet for content using keywords. Although the market is dominated by a few, there are many search engines that people can use. When a user enters a query into a search engine, a search engine results page (SERP) is returned, ranking the found pages in order of their relevance. How this ranking is done differs across search engines.
Search engines often change their algorithms (the programs that rank the results) to improve user experience. They aim to understand how users search and give them the best answer to their query. This means giving priority to the highest quality and most relevant pages.
How do search engines work?
There are three key steps to how most search engines work:
- Crawling - search engines use programs, called spiders, bots or crawlers, to scour the internet. They may do this every few days, so it is possible for content to be out-of-date until they crawl your website again.
- Indexing - the search engine will try to understand and categorise the content on a web page through 'keywords'. Following SEO best practice will help the search engine understand your content so you can rank for the right search queries.
- Ranking - search results are ranked based on a number of factors. These may include keyword density, speed and links. The search engine's aim is to provide the user with the most relevant result.
Although most search engines will provide tips on how to improve your page ranking, the exact algorithms used are well guarded and change frequently to avoid misuse. But by following search engine optimisation (SEO) best practice you can ensure that:
- Search engines can easily crawl your website. You can also prompt them to crawl new content.
- Your content is indexed for the right keywords so it can appear for relevant searches.
- Your content can rank highly on the SERP.
Directory search engines
Some niche search engines operate as directories for specific types of content. This mean that they only show results for content that is manually added. They do not crawl the internet. SEO tactics can still be used to rank highly for relevant queries within these directory search engines. See types of search engine.
Rich media search results
Universal or 'blended' search is how search engines present different content types in the search results to users. As well as the traditional text page results, the SERP will also show rich media content, such as images, videos, maps, articles and shopping pages.
Having several different types of content on your website - for example, an instructional video on how to use your product, or a blog - could impact on your chances of appearing on results pages and how highly you are ranked.
You can use 'structured data' on your website to help search engines understand and display specific types of content. This is a code added to the HTML markup. Using structured data mean that information such as review ratings, images, addresses and phone numbers can appear on the search engine results page.Also on this site
Search engine optimisation: keyword strategy
Keywords are essential to ensure your site will be visible on search engines, a strategic approach will help you make the most of search engine optimisation
Keywords are essential to ensuring that your site will be visible on search engines. Think about the terms that customers will use to search for your website. Consider which keywords and key phrases best describe your products or services.
Keyword strategy should be central to your search marketing, as it is vital to both search engine optimisation and any pay per click advertising you may do.
Choosing keywords is the most important step in building a search engine-friendly site.
As well as generic terms, you should think about the 'long tail' search, ie more niche keywords that are specific to your product or service. Although search volume for these specific terms may be reduced, they are more targeted to your business Long tail keywords can help drive higher value traffic to your website, such as customers who are ready to buy your specific products. For example, if you're selling tropical fish in Northern Ireland, appropriate keywords might be 'tropical aquariums' and 'Belfast' rather than 'fish' and 'Northern Ireland'.
To create a list of potential keywords, you should brainstorm words you think customers would use to search for your site. Make sure you cover all the different services your site offers. For inspiration, you can use free tools such as Google's AdWords Keyword Planner (you must be registered for AdWords, but you do not have to spend any money) or the Moz Keyword Explorer. You can also use any data that you may have from web analytics software to see what keywords your customers are currently using to find your website.
The density of these keywords on your website will also impact on search engine results. Look at your competitor's website and see how they use keywords in their websites. The choice of keywords and the optimal keyword density are difficult to define, although there are tools available that can help you analyse this. Use keywords in your content, page titles, page headings, subheadings and in any metadata that is included in your page code.
Plain English works best
It's important to use real sentences rather than just keywords in your content, and never sacrifice the quality of your page to fit in more keywords. If you are found to be 'keyword stuffing' ie using keywords indiscriminately in an attempt to improve page ranking, search engines will penalise you. See search engine optimisation dos and don'ts.
Keep up to date on how your keywords are performing
In addition to doing the obvious searches on keywords to see where your site comes in the listings, most search engines allow sites to check their status in their indexes. You can use these to monitor your search position to see how changes affect your search rank, and to determine what keywords to add in future.
If you are also using pay per click advertising, you can use this to test and refine your keyword strategy by working out what has and hasn't worked in your advertising campaigns. For more information see pay per click advertising.
Search engines often return results as users type using predictive software - this may affect your keyword strategy. It is important to keep up to date with how search engines are indexing and how any changes to functionality may impact on your search ranking and keyword strategy.Also on this site
Search engine optimisation friendly web design
Learn how to optimise your website design to both work well with search engines and create a good experience for the user through content and accessibility
Some of the best search engine optimisation (SEO) results can be achieved by optimising site design and content to according to the factors used by search engines to index web pages. Good site design makes it easier for search engines to index your site, and increases your chances of a higher ranking in the results pages. Basic SEO techniques include:
- site accessibility
- high quality content
- links to and from other websites
- use of relevant keywords
Make your site accessible
The most important part of making a website search-engine friendly is good design. A well designed website that will get repeat visitors as well as satisfied customers will include:
- well-written, interesting content
- easy-to-navigate pages
- well-designed e-commerce systems
You should consider the technologies to be used and whether they lend themselves to SEO. Although SEO can always be improved, it is harder to do so once the technology is in place and the website has already been built. If you use a content management system, you should make sure it produces SEO-friendly pages.
For more information, see best practice in web design.
More technical considerations include the use of friendly URLs, standards-compliant code and dynamically created XML sitemaps that can be used by search engines to index your website. Ensure that you don't prioritise 'style over substance'. Any features to enhance how your website looks should be balanced with search indexing, accessibility and usability issues.
Have high quality content
Regularly updated, well-written, relevant content will improve your SEO. It also provides a good reason for others to link to your website and for users to return. Blogs are an excellent way of keeping your content fresh and is well received by search engines.
Descriptive page titles and subheadings will contain relevant keywords. This will both help users understand what they are reading and help search engines match your content to related search queries.
Nowadays, mobile devices, such as smart phones, are commonly being used to access search results. Research indicates that now more than half of search traffic comes from mobile devices (Statista, 2017). Search engines will 'qualify' content based on how well it will render on mobile devices. Although your website will be viewable on mobile devices, a more effective mobile presence may require a responsive mobile website. You can check if your site is responsive using Google's mobile-friendly test.
When optimising for mobile, you should think about the nature of 'mobile 'search' and whether location-based keywords should be included in your key phrases. If you design a mobile website you should consider:
Also on this site
- using CSS layouts (style sheets) to support cross platform compatibility
- page layout and information hierarchy given limited screen space
- the types of content that you use, eg the use of rich media will increase download times
- the placement of any navigation and ease of use on mobile devices
- optimising e-commerce functionality for mobile, eg shopping cart
Search engine optimisation: links strategy
Building incoming links to your page is a valuable way to improve your search engine rankings, find out effective tactics to get high quality backlinks
One of the most important factors for determining a website's ranking in search engine results is the number of high quality relevant links from other websites to that site. These are known as backlinks. Google in particular uses backlinks to determine rankings in its PageRank system. Yahoo! and Bing also use it as one of several factors affecting their rankings.
Website owners should be aware of Google's recent updates which impacted the rankings of websites that violated Google's webmaster guidelines. These updates outlawed several widely used 'black hat' SEO techniques which involved artificially increasing the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page.
A successful link-building strategy should be primarily about the quality of incoming links. A back link is most valuable when:
- it comes from a respected site with a high page ranking of its own
- the website is relevant to your own
Link building tactics
You could build back links by:
- Building reciprocal links with partner sites - ie they will include links to you in return for links back to them. Businesses can link to their clients, suppliers and other businesses they work with in the form of recommendations or case studies. For example, a wedding venue business might link to recommended florists, make-up artists and caterers.
- Submitting your site to online directories and resource lists.
- Approaching media sites to cover interesting stories or press releases that link to your site.
- Offering to write guest content for other sites relevant to your subject area. Your contribution can include links back to your own website.
- Link baiting - including attention-catching 'viral' content to encourage social media users and online journalists to talk about your brand and link through to your site.
- Employing an agency to build links for you. It's important to choose the right partner, as it can have a significant effect on your success. If they use manipulative 'black-hat' techniques, it could lead to you being penalised or even de-indexed. For more information, see choosing a search engine optimisation agency.
Ultimately, having high-quality content on your site will encourage others to link to it.
Because of the importance of back links, some try to increase the number of links by any means possible, regardless of whether the linking is relevant. For example, by commenting on irrelevant forums just to post links or by using link-building software. These methods are considered 'black-hat' techniques intended to manipulate rankings and are not best practice and should be avoided.
Some search engines may also penalise your website or even remove it from the listings if too many back links are added in one day. Links from websites considered spam could penalise your website.
You should focus your efforts only on reputable websites who are relevant to your subject area. Links should appear naturally in the content and useful to users.
For more details of manipulation tactics that are frowned upon, see search engine optimisation dos and don'ts.Also on this site
Voice search optimisation
How to optimise your website to answer smartphone and digital assistant voice search queries
The popularity of smartphones and digital assistants means that it is increasingly important to consider voice search as part of your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.
What is voice search?
Speech recognition technology on smartphones and other devices allow users to search by saying terms out loud instead of typing their queries. The most commonly used examples of voice search applications include:
- Siri (developed by Apple)
- Alexa (developed by Amazon)
- Cortana (developed by Windows)
- Google Assistant (developed by Google)
These applications, also known as 'digital assistants', can be used on Smartphones or other digital devices such as smart speakers (eg Echo or Google Home).
Voice search allows users to:
- make search engine queries
- request specific information such as weather forecasts or sports scores
- launch applications
- search for audio and video content
- use voice dialling
How to optimise for voice search
One of the key ways to optimise for voice search is to create content that answers a user's question. This type of content often appears at the top of a search engine results page in the form of a 'featured snippet'. This is a block displaying a summary of an answer to a user's question extracted from a webpage. Digital assistants often use information from rich snippets to respond to voice search queries.
You can create strategic content that aims to answer user queries by:
- ensuring you have an effective keyword strategy
- researching popular queries with online tools
- use a question and answer format when writing content - eg FAQ pages
- answer questions concisely, within one paragraph
- use subheadings, lists and tables
Long-tail keywords are effective for voice search as queries are more conversational. For example a user may type 'dog-friendly cafe in Bangor' but say out loud 'hey [assistant], where near me can I get a good coffee and bring my dog'. Think about how real people talk and ask questions verbally when developing your keyword strategy.
As voice search is often used to find local businesses, make sure your address and contact information is listed prominently online.Also on this site
Submitting new websites to search engines
Learn how to submit your website to a search engine and why this can help your website get found, and why you should avoid automated search engine submissions
When setting up a new website, you will need to let search engines know about it. This allows them to start including it in their search results.
Registering new sites
You will only need to inform search engines of new sites with newly registered internet domain names. You can do this by filling in search engine forms with the address of the home page for your site.
The webmaster programmes run by some search engines, eg Google's Search Engine, allow you to submit maps of an entire site. This tells the search engine to start using programs called spiders, robots or crawlers, to index your website. See what is a search engine and how do they work?
This can take time - especially if you are including niche engines in addition to the main, more popular, services.
You will probably not need to do this for websites that are already established, because existing links from other sites will have already led search engine crawlers to your site.
Submit sites manually
Where possible you should submit your website manually, rather than use an automated tool. Use of automated submission engines can lead to sites being banned by search engines. Manual submission can take longer but usually only involves completing an online form and is only necessary when registering a new site for the first time.
It can take up to a month for a site to appear in an index after it has been submitted. In practice the quickest way to appear in a search engine index is to be linked to from a site that is already regularly crawled by the major search engines.Also on this site
Search engine optimisation dos and don'ts
Understand the key tactics used to optimise websites and how best to use them and learn about dishonest ‘black hat’ techniques that can get a site banned
Optimising sites for search isn't hard, but doing it well can be a challenge, especially if you're making changes to an existing website, rather than creating a new one. Make sure the search engine optimisation (SEO) tactic you use follow search engine guidelines
White hat SEO tactics are those that search engines recommend. The following steps will help your website become more search engine friendly.
- Picking your target keywords. Use descriptive phrases rather than generic terms. Search engines are more likely to give sites offering 'organic Armagh apples' a higher rank than one offering just 'apples'.
- Keyword Placement. Place keywords on your pages - generally the higher in the page, the better. Put keywords in the page title and introductory paragraphs. Keywords should also be used as part of sentences, but avoid 'keyword stuffing' - the practice of using keywords indiscriminately. For more details, see search engine optimisation: keyword strategy.
- Simplify page layout. Complex layouts don't work well with search engine crawlers. If it's easy for a human to read, it'll be easy for a search engine to work with.
- Attract incoming links. Good quality, relevant content brings in links from other sites. For more details, see search engine optimisation: links strategy.
Activities which attempt to manipulate search engine rankings are known as 'black-hat' techniques. Attempting to use any of these techniques will make a website look bad, and may lead to your website being de-indexed by search engines.
The best way to avoid this is to remember that websites are for visitors rather than for search engines. Things to avoid include:
- websites that automatically redirect visitors to pages
- hidden text on pages
- buying or selling links
- blog comment spam
- bait and switch - allowing content to get a good ranking for particular keyword and then changing it
- pages with nothing but keywords and links to other websites - eg link farms
- content intended only for search engines
- links from websites that replicate content belonging to other sites
Any attempts to trick either users or search engines are considered 'back hat' tactics.
Working with a search engine optimisation agency
Learn how to work with a search engine optimisation (SEO agency), what they may be able to help you with and what to look for in a new SEO contract
You can use a search engine optimisation (SEO) agency to handle all your site's SEO needs. An agency can help you with:
- content for your website
- site architecture advice
- keyword strategy
- integrating your search marketing activities
You will need to work in partnership with whichever agency you employ. Effective SEO requires a deep understanding of the site that is being optimised, including knowledge of the business and the target audience.
Choosing an SEO agency
Ask around before engaging an agency and draw up a shortlist. Get references from previous customers, to help understand how a prospective partner works. A good consultancy should want to know as much about you as you do about them. Engaging a search engine consultancy is like working with any other business service provider, whether it is IT consultants or accountants. You need to ensure that they are right for your business.
Be wary of agencies who make claims like 'guaranteed first page on Google' or number one rankings. There is no way to guarantee rankings because search engine algorithms change constantly. Avoid agencies who use 'black hat' SEO tactics. This can lead to your business being penalised by search engines.
Building a relationship
Make sure that any contract you sign with an agency includes enforceable service level agreements. Engaging an SEO specialist can be expensive, so make sure that your chosen partner will deliver.
You should expect any relationship to be long term, as search engine rankings can change dramatically over time. This may be due to the actions of your competitors, or changes in how search engines index pages. Make sure that you communicate regularly, and that your SEO partner provides you with regular and auditable reports.Also on this site
Choosing a search engine optimisation agency: checklist
Use this checklist to determine whether an SEO agency is a suitable partner for your website, including avoiding unrealistic claims and checking references
Once you have decided to work with a search engine optimisation (SEO) agency, you need to choose one that is appropriate for your business. This is an important decision, as choosing the right or wrong partner can have a significant effect on your business.
The following checklist should help you make this decision:
- Do they claim to guarantee high ranking? Any service offering this is to be avoided. Google and the other search engines change algorithms frequently to prevent SEO agencies from doing this. Search engine rank changes regularly, and a site that was on top today could be further down the page tomorrow.
- Can they outline what work they will be completing for you and what results they expect to achieve? It's important to get an outline before any work commences of what work the agency will actually do and what results they plan on achieving.
- Are they a personal recommendation? Services recommended by friends and colleagues are worth considering, as word-of-mouth recommendations are a valuable source of information. It's also worth looking at recommendations in online forums, along with positive and negative comments about an agency.
- What do others say about the company? Online sentiment can help you evaluate prospective partners. Popular services generate a lot of online comment - as do those that have a negative reputation.
- Do they have references? It's important to hear about an agency from its customers. Customer references are important, especially if an agency is happy for you to contact customers directly. It's also a good idea to check if the agency is part of any professional bodies.
- Is their site optimised? Explore the agency's own site and look to see just how well optimised it is. You should be able to see the site's keywords, then search on them to see how well ranked the agency is. One that doesn't make the rankings is unlikely to be a suitable partner.
- Do they attempt to break search engine rules? It's important to find out if a prospective SEO agency uses unapproved or 'black-hat' techniques to list sites on search engines. Avoid sites that use automated submissions or run their own link farms. Links farms are a group of websites that all link to each other in an attempt to improve their page ranking on search engines.
- Do they get links from real sites? Some agencies run their own sites full of links as a way of delivering the back links search engines look for. These techniques go against search-engine rules and a good agency will provide back links from real, relevant sites.
- Will they work with you on a continuing basis? Site SEO is an ongoing process and any SEO partner should be willing to work with you over a long period, helping to keep your site competitive.
- Are they open? SEO is not a black art - ask how they intend to promote your website and improve your search ranking. If they are unwilling to reveal this information it could be because they are using 'black-hat' techniques which may harm your business.
- How will they communicate results? The agency should be proactive in making recommendations on how you can improve your search ranking by providing you with regular reports and insight. If you are receiving automated reports, with no clear recommendations, then this is not good value for money.
Also on this site
Measure your search engine optimisation results
Learn how to track the results of an SEO campaign, and how to use these results to improve search ranking in future using tools like web analytics and plugins
Search engine optimisation (SEO) should be treated like any marketing campaign and tracking the results is a key part of the process.
Without feedback, it will be unclear what search terms are being used to find your site, or which site elements attract the most traffic. Monitoring your site's traffic will show which aspects of your SEO programme are effective and which need to be changed in order to direct traffic to appropriate areas of your site.
Using web analytics
Web analytics is a key way of monitoring the success of online campaigns. A tracking code is added to each page of your website which collects user data. This can then be analysed with a free tool like Google Analytics which uses these codes to give you access to clear reports about how users are interacting with your site.
You will be able to access data about how many people visit a page, how long they stay on your site, and where they came from. You can also look at the search terms that lead users to your page.
Get reports from SEO partners
If you use an SEO agency, it should provide regular reports showing how their optimisations are working, along with any plans to improve current search engine ranking. It's also important that any reports include output from SEO analysis tools and from the site analytic services run by the major search engines. If your website is maintained externally, ensure you have access to your website statistics, so that you can monitor site performance and generate your own reports.
Use browser tools for quick information
You can quickly see the effects of SEO on your pages using browser tools. Google's Analytics plugin for Chrome can give a quick overview of on-page analytics. Tools like SEO for Firefox and SeoQuake can be used to analyse the search engine rankings of your site and your competitors' sites.
Once you have collected your key metrics over a reasonable period of time (at least six months), you can analyse your site's progress and the effects of any changes you've made. You can also compare your site's performance to your competitors' - helping you to identify areas for future improvement.
International search engine optimisation
Using search engine optimisation to reach audiences in different regions and countries, including language considerations
You can take steps to target customers in different regions and countries through your website. Key international search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques include localising your site content and structure.
You should remember to balance your targeting approach so as not to discriminate against users in particular regions. Within the EU, regulations apply that prevent unjustified 'geo-blocking' practices. If you sell goods and services in the EU, you should familiarise yourself with the rules.
Websites targeting multiple regions and languages
To target international customers that speak different languages, consider offering content tailored to these audiences.
International website structure
There are three main types of global website:
- multi-regional - target users in different countries who speak the same language, eg UK, Australia and Republic of Ireland
- multi-lingual - target users in different countries who speak different languages, eg UK, Spain and France.
- multi-regional and multi-lingual - target users in different countries, some of whom speak the same language and others who don't, eg UK, France and USA.
Think about you how you structure your website to reach these groups. For example, you could have a dedicated site for each country you aim to target, or you could offer language options from a single website.
There are three main options for an international website structure:
- Country code top-level domain names separate countries into different sites through a dedicated code, eg 'website.co.uk', 'mywebsite.es', 'mywebsite.fr'. This option offers an effective method of geo-targeting. You will need to register the country code top-level domain. This is the favoured SEO approach for global websites, but it may be more expensive than the other options.
- Subdomains allow you to add a country-specific subdomain to a generic top-level domain (eg .com, .org). For example, you could have a Spanish language subdomain 'es.mywebsite.com' and a French language subdomain 'fr.mywebsite.com'. This method is easy to set up. The subdomains can act as separate websites.
- Subdirectories offer the simplest method. They are different sections of the same website. They will usually appear as a path in the URL, eg 'mywebsite.com/es' or 'mywebsite.com/fr'.
You should note that .eu domain names and certain EU Member State domain names such as .fr (France) have EEA residency requirements meaning you may not be able to register such domain names if they don’t meet the eligibility requirements. Read more about registering and renewing .eu domain names in the UK after 1 January 2021.
Before deciding on the best approach to target specific countries and languages, remember to look at your web analytics. Consider if the volume of visits and conversions match the effort required to develop a dedicated web presence for that group.
It's important to localise content for different regions and countries. Remember that there can differences between regions that speak the same language. For example, there are different spellings in US English and UK English, eg color and colour.
You should consider localising of the following elements on your multi-regional or multi-lingual website:
- meta description
- headings, text and images
- currency - this is especially important for e-commerce websites
- local office address
- local office phone number (or appropriate dialling codes)
- local time
International keywords research
Keyword research in other languages can be challenging. You could get the help of a native speaker or professional translation service to assist. Remember that a direct translation of a keyword in English may not be the most relevant keyword.
Online keyword research tools can be a useful resource. See search engine optimisation: keyword strategy.
International link building
Links from local sites are important for SEO in each region. Local backlinks will carry more weight than those coming from other countries.
Build links for your international website by engaging with local media and bloggers in each region.Also on this site
Top tips to improve your SEO
Top tips to help ensure your website gets found using search optimisation (SEO) techniques including quality content, meta tags, link building and tracking
Search engine visibility is the key to online success. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practice of enhancing aspects of a website to improve its ranking in search engines.
The higher you rank in a search engine's index, the more visible you will be. If your business has a website, read our top tips to help ensure it gets found:
1. High quality content
Regularly updated, well-written, relevant content will improve your SEO. Remember to write content primarily for users, not search engines. As search engines become more sophisticated, they are able to identify content that is the most useful and relevant to the user. Avoid duplicate content, from both other pages on your own website and on other websites. Your content should contain your target keywords for the page, but beware of 'keyword stuffing'.
Read content marketing.
2. Meta tags
Meta tags summarise what the site is about and have a role in the search rankings. The most important meta tags are the title and description.
The title tag should include the main keyword of your page, your company name and possibly your location. The description tag is what users will read when your page comes up in search listings. It should contain your main keywords and read like a sentence, not a list. Meta keywords are no longer used by most search engines.
3. Build good quality links
One of the most important factors for determining your ranking in search engine results is the number of high quality, relevant links from other websites to your site - otherwise known as back links. The links must be relevant to the content of your site and they must be from reputable websites. Beware of 'black hat' tactics for gaining links - these could result in your website being penalised.
See search engine optimisation: links strategy.
4. Include a sitemap
Sitemaps can be used by search engines to index your website. Having a sitemap means every page of content is therefore easier to find, reducing the number of clicks both web crawlers and users have to make before reaching the required content.
4. Track your results
SEO should be treated like any marketing campaign and tracking the results is a key part of the process. Without feedback, it will be unclear what search terms are being used to find your site, or which site elements attract the most traffic.
Find out more about measure your search engine optimisation results.
5. Paid search marketing
If your website doesn't organically rank well on search engines you can buy your way to the top with paid promotion on Google AdWords or Microsoft Advertising. You write your ad copy, choose your keywords and set a daily budget then your ad is ready to go. You can also target your ads to customers in certain cities or regions.
See pay-per-click and paid search advertising.
It is important to consider mobile in your SEO strategy. Google now labels websites that are optimised for mobile as 'mobile-friendly' within its mobile search results meaning that if yours is not, it can have a negative impact on your ranking on mobile search results and the click-through rate to your website. Check if your site is mobile-friendly.Also on this site
Types of advertisingConsider various types of advertising and choose which is best suited to your marketing goals
Advertising can help your business reach your audience. There are many types. The kind of advertising you choose will depend on who your audience are. You should also consider your budget and marketing goals. Some types of advertising are better for brand awareness while others can help drive sales.
Consider these common types of advertising and which is suitable for your business:
Also on this site
- Print advertising - you can advertise your business in a range of print publications. This could allow to reach a wide audience though a national newspaper or magazine. Print advertising can also be niche - eg local newspapers or trade publications.
- Online advertising - this can include advertising through websites, search engines, social media and video-on-demand. Online advertising can be targeted to very specific audiences. It can persuade your audience to take an immediate action, eg make a purchase. It's easy to measure your return-on-investment.
- TV advertising - this is an expensive option but can have a strong emotional appeal. TV advertising reaches large audiences. It works well for brand awareness campaigns.
- Radio advertising - radio advertising can reach a local or national audience. Local options can be quite affordable.
- Cinema advertising - the key benefit of cinema advertising is that you have a captive audience and can make a big impact. See TV, radio and cinema advertising.
- Outdoor advertising - this can include advertising on billboards and buses. Outdoor advertising is useful for targeting local audiences and for brand awareness.
Business benefits of advertising
The different ways that advertising can raise your profile with customers and how to do it, such as providing contact details and information about products
Advertising can be anything from your shop sign or a website, to an advertisement in a trade magazine or a 30-second radio slot.
- provide basic information such as your contact details and website address
- increase sales by telling potential customers about your product or service
- tell customers about changes to your service, new product launches and improvements
- increase your short-term sales with a one-off message - inform people of a special offer or a benefit of your product
- prompt specific action - get customers to visit your premises or website, or use a discount voucher
- remind existing customers about your business
- change people's attitudes and perceptions of your business
- help to create or develop a distinctive brand for your business to help you stand out from your competitors
- make your business first choice for customers, ahead of your competitors
- generate awareness of your business
- develop a particular market niche or position
Advertising doesn't always need to be about sales and marketing. You can also use it to:
- recruit staff - a recruitment advertisement should also be a chance to promote your business
- source suppliers and contractors - this also helps to position your business as active and expanding
Target your customers
Decide whether your target audience is local or regional, national or international. See define your target market. Remember that a local business might benefit from national advertising. This could help the business expand into new territories.
You can advertise in a wide range of different media. Using a media mix can help to reinforce the message or information you want to communicate.
Before selecting a particular type of media, you should find out:
- their circulation or audience figures
- what the audience penetration, or 'reach', of their product is
Figures can normally be broken down into age groups, average income and other useful indicators. Don't buy advertising space in a certain type of media just because you read, see or hear it yourself. It should always be focused on your potential customers.
Also remember you have a duty to ensure that your advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful.Also on this site
The advantages and disadvantages of press and print advertising, the options and types of publication you can choose to advertise in
Advertising in printed press publications can be an effective way of reaching your audience. You can target particular groups by advertising in specialist, trade and local publications. National and general interest publications can offer a wide reach.
Advantages of print advertising
The benefits to press advertising include:
- local and specialist publications can help you reach a targeted audience
- an engaged audience who may be looking for coupons and deals
- different advertising options to suit your needs and budget
Disadvantages of print advertising
The downsides of advertising on print publications include:
- it can be hard to measure effectiveness, readership figures don't tell you how many people really see your ad, and response rates can be low
- competition - your advertisement will appear alongside many others, and readers could miss it
- dwindling readership rates - print media is becoming less popular in favour of online content
Types of publication
Different publications will reach different audiences. Make sure the publication you choose to advertise in lines up with your marketing strategy. Some example include
- Local and regional newspapers - weekly, evening and morning local papers can help you reach potential customers in a particular geographic area. This includes paid-for and free newspapers.
- National newspapers - you can reach a very wide audience, however this is not a targeted approach.
- Local magazines - many areas have local lifestyle and country magazines. These can be useful for certain types of upmarket consumer advertising.
- Trade publications - there are many trade, technical and professional magazines. These are read by customers, suppliers and businesses in your sector. If your business sells to other businesses, advertisements in these publications can be a powerful way of gaining sales, product enquiries, higher profile, trade partnerships and even potential investors.
Types of print advertising
There are a number of advertising options in print publications. The most common include:
- Lineage - usually only in the classified advertising sections and containing only words. Often the cheapest option.
- Display and semi-display - display advertisements are bigger and more eye-catching. They usually appear on editorial pages or in special supplements, eg motoring, recruitment, property, etc and can use imagery.
- Advertisement features or 'advertorial'- laid out like editorial pages but featuring your business. You pay for them, and you may also be given advertisement space.
- Loose inserts (also known as 'mailers' or 'flyers') you supply that are placed inside the newspaper, ie using the paper's circulation to distribute your flyer.
Ask the advertisement department at the publication for a media pack with readership breakdown and rates for different types of advertisement. The quoted rate is only a starting point - always negotiate to try to pay less.
Negotiate for a better advertising deal
Advertising media companies produce rate cards - information on the rates they charge for advertising. But it is usual to negotiate on the final price, according to the type of campaign you want. Negotiating could get you:
- a price reduction
- a repeat that's free or discounted
- a better position in the publication.
- Mention your budget, but appear undecided about who to spend it with.
- Mention rival media you're considering.
- If you don't need campaigns at specific times, ask media sales teams to alert you when they have one-off deals. This may be when they are seeking to achieve specific monthly or quarterly targets and are willing to consider lower prices.
Remember that most media sales teams will be paid commission, you may find they are persistent. Use their desire to achieve a sale to push their prices down or increase the space you get for your money.
Advertising relies on repetition so prepare to run several campaigns throughout the year. You can get a discount for booking multiple advertisements - a series is generally more likely to be effective than a one-off advertisement anyway. But don't be persuaded to buy more than you need.
Ensure any print advertisement is in the best possible position. Remember that:
- it is widely believed that right-hand pages, especially early right hand pages (those in the early part of the publication), catch the reader's eye the most
- an advertisement selling greenhouses, for example, should be on a page devoted to gardening
- the most effective place for your newspaper advertisement is either page one or three - preferably in the bottom right-hand corner
- if your advertisement has a coupon - for readers to cut out and send in - make sure it is placed at the edge of the page
Remember that the design and content of your advertisement is critical to attracting your target market. This is regardless of its position in the newspaper.Also on this site
Cost-effective ideas for advertising on the internet including advertising through your own website, other websites and through search engines
Advertising on the internet can be cost-effective and gives widel coverage that you may otherwise be unable to afford. You can reach local, national and international audiences. It will also allow you to compete with larger businesses in your industry on a level playing field.
Types of online advertising
There are a range of online advertising options that might suit your business:
- Display advertising - banner ads and other kinds of display advertising allow you to place a visual ad on another website that links to yours. Using a display network service can help you reach targeted audiences through a range of selected websites. See what is display advertising.
- Search engine advertising - pay per click and paid search advertising helps customers searching for your products and services find you. It is highly targeted and can offer a good return on investment.
- Social media advertising - most social networks offer advertising opportunities allowing businesses to reach a targeted audience. Browse social media.
- Video on-demand - online streaming and TV catch up services can offer video advertising opportunities to a targeted, engaged audience.
Your own website
Your own website can be used to advertise your business:
- Ensure you design and position your website carefully for maximum effect. Take time over it, it's important. It can be your shop window, an information provider, a sales person and an order form all in one.
- Consider the user - your potential customer - at every stage. Make it easy for them to find their way around your website, and to order from or contact you. See characteristics of a user-friendly website.
- Keep your website updated and relevant, and check that all pages, images, links, etc open correctly.
- Ensure your website is geared towards increasing sales. Making your site interactive and interesting to browse will help to increase user dwell time and allow you to expand your sales pitch.
- Find out how to exploit search engines, eg Bing or Google. Appearing near the top of a search engine results page can make a big difference.
Using online content to develop relationships with customers is known as content marketing.
How to write an advertisement
The key requirements of a print advertisement - a targeted headline, well-written text and clear design, follow these guidelines to write a quality advert
To create a good print advertisement, you should take the following steps:
- write a well targeted headline
- design your advert clearly
- write compelling advertising text - known as copy
Writing an advertising headline
A compelling headline is vital:
- A good headline should catch the reader's attention and make them want to read on. It might ask a question or inspire curiosity. It may refer to a specific problem, eg a bed manufacturer could ask: "Had another bad night's sleep?" Or it may appear to offer the solution to a problem, eg "Ever wanted to know the secret of a good night's sleep?"
- Don't overplay the actual message - people will feel let down if they read on and their expectations are not fulfilled.
- A headline will encourage people to read on if it offers a clear benefit - such as "never have a bad night's sleep again".
- You could also use the headline to create a fear of missing out in the reader's mind, eg "last few remaining".
Designing a print advert
Use a clear design to convey your message:
- The way an advertisement looks plays a big part in attracting and retaining the reader's interest.
- Avoid small or complicated typefaces that are difficult to read. And don't mix too many typefaces in one advertisement - use one or two at most.
- Don't clutter the layout - keep plenty of white space in the advertisement - avoid the temptation to say too much. If your product or service needs more explaining - refer readers to your website or other easily accessible material.
- Ensure your contact details are clearly positioned.
Writing advertising copy
Use convincing copy to persuade your audience:
- The amount of text you include depends on the purpose and size of the advertisement. Businesses that want to advertise a sale might have a very limited amount of text accompanied by a headline and a picture of some of the items on offer.
- Consider the print quality of the newspaper or magazine - a small advert in a poor quality publication will be hard to read.
- If you're writing a lot of text, it should follow on logically from the headline, build a convincing case and prompt a response from the reader. Back up any claims with facts. Magazine readers generally tend to dwell on the contents for longer than newspaper readers, so tailor the length of your copy accordingly.
- Good copy draws attention to the benefits of the product or service rather than focusing solely on the features.
- All the reader wants to know is "what's in it for me?"
- You should always write your advertisements with the reader/viewer - your potential customer - in mind.
- Tailor your advert to the type of print media and the potential reader's interests and habits. For example, if you sell gardening equipment, you might write a longer advert for a gardening magazine. You can assume that the reader is already interested in the subject and so is more likely to read all the text. Likewise, you might write a shorter advert for a more general newspaper - where the reader's interest may be less easily sustained.
Remember that businesses have a duty to ensure their advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. See comply with advertising standards.Also on this site
TV, radio and cinema advertisingHow radio, TV, and cinema advertising can help you reach your target audience, the costs you may incur and how to make the most from each of these mediums
Advertising through broadcast media and cinema can help you reach a wide audience. The nature of this media can allow you to use an emotional appeal.
If advertising on local or national radio, you'll need to research:
- the market
- the type of audience
- the extent of the coverage
- the cost per listener
Ask the local station for details. You should also check a radio station's audience figures.
Remember that most people listen to the radio for music or comment - often while doing other things. Your advert will rely on repetition to have any effect. Consider sponsoring certain features, such as the weather or travel news, to make your adverts stand out.
Production costs are usually low. Your local station will often produce your commercial for you, although if you have an advertising agency, they should do it.
TV advertising can be costly. There are a large number of Freeview, cable or satellite TV channels, and some may be able to offer low-budget advertising packages. Ask them for a breakdown of their viewing figures and audience profiles before you make a decision. Remember that even with national TV broadcasters you have the option to regionalise your advertising.
Most channels will be able to advise you about how it works and even create adverts for you. However, it is recommended that you seek specialist advice through an advertising agency that is fully aware of current legislation in all the markets that you plan to advertise in. They will have experience in creating strategic campaigns. Production costs of TV advertising can be high. It's important that you get the most from your spend.
TV product placement is paying to have a product or service included or referred to. This provides further promotional opportunities. It also offers a new source of potential revenue for TV service providers and programme makers.
However, there are restrictions and conditions affecting how product placement can be used.
Local cinema advertising offers a captive audience with a long dwell time for your advertisements. Ask the cinema for audience profiles and case studies of satisfied clients, as well as details of whether you can target certain films. You can often advertise in the foyer as well as on screen. It's not a good idea to make a business phone number or web address a crucial part of a cinema commercial. Audience members are unlikely to make a note of it.Also on this site
Outdoor advertisingThe advantages of outdoor advertising such as billboards, posters, buses and ambient to reach your target audience in key locations
'Outdoor advertising' includes every outdoor medium from billboards to buses. Static adverts rely on location for effectiveness, so make sure you go and check the proposed sites before booking the space. For moving adverts, request information about the bus routes on which your adverts will travel. This allows you to assess the likely exposure the advert will get.
If you are using the campaign for increased brand awareness, you may select fewer adverts over a longer period. Short-term offer would require more sites over a shorter period.
The location of most outdoor advertising space means that a large but untargeted audience could potentially see it. Therefore, it will be even more important to use the copy and design of your advertisement to ensure you address your target audience.
The general rule is to keep it simple. Make it clear and don't rely on people noting a phone number or web address, unless it's easily memorable - drivers can't stop and note down details.
There are many types of outdoor advertising sites available including:
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- roadside - from phone kiosks to large billboards and banners
- transport - railways, airports, inside and outside buses, taxis and lorries
- retail - sites at shopping centres and supermarkets, trolleys, posters
- non-traditional and ambient - shop signs, leisure centres, washrooms, tickets, petrol pumps, takeaway lids
Plan an advertising campaign
Maximise the impact of your advertising by getting your message and your timing right, and making sure you reach the right audiences as per your marketing plan
Certain businesses choose to advertise when their target audience is most likely to buy their product or service. Sometimes this can be seasonal. A toy retailer, for example, will focus much of its advertising efforts around the run-up to Christmas. If you're selling to other businesses, you should work out when your customers will have the budget to spend.
Some businesses choose to focus more attention on their quieter times on the basis that the busier times will naturally see an increase in sales. Advertising during quieter times might mean you won't have to work as hard to stand out from other competitors, but there may be fewer customers to target.
Gaining a greater market share during these periods could help during the busier times. As you will have already developed a bigger customer base. It could also improve your cashflow and minimise your reliance on certain trading periods.
The reasons behind a campaign
Many businesses launch advertising campaigns simply to boost sales or increase brand awareness.
You will need to step up your advertising for the launch of a new product.
New businesses will want to consider some form of advertising to let people know they exist. You could consider an introductory offer to give people an incentive to visit or call.
Can you plan the campaign yourself?
You need to think carefully about what you want to achieve. Consider the message you want your audience to take away. Remember - advertising is only effective if you reach your target audience with a message that makes them want to buy or at least find out more.
You may be able to design and produce a straightforward advertisement for printed media yourself - see how to write an advertisement. However, most print advertising organisations have in-house services if you can't do it yourself.
If your advertising needs are more demanding than an occasional, low-priced local advertisement, it may be worth outsourcing to an advertising agency. See work with an advertising agency. This is only suitable if you are prepared to pay the extra cost. It is always advisable to have your adverts professionally designed to ensure maximum impact.Also on this site
Evaluate advertising spendHow to plan and research your advertising to make best use of your advertising budget and evaluate and measure the success of your campaigns
It's important to make the most of your advertising spend. Work out a maximum budget. Identify which options give the best possible return. It could be one or two adverts in a more expensive medium, or several adverts in cheaper outlets.
You can produce an estimate of how much it costs to reach each potential customer. For example:
- an advertisement costs £2,000
- you expect to reach 20,000 people
- 50 per cent of whom are potential customers
- it is costs 20 pence to get your message to each potential customer
You can measure the success of your advertising campaign by the number of responses you receive. Make sure you have the right resources to handle the increase in enquiries.
You should determine the expected response level and check you have enough resources to meet it.
It may not be a good idea to plan a campaign at popular staff holiday times. If you can't avoid this, consider temporary cover to deal with responses.
You may need a system to ensure leads aren't missed. For example, you could design a standard enquiry form to be used by people fielding calls.
Monitoring an advertising campaign
Each time you take an enquiry or make a sale, ask how the customer heard of you. This reveals whether any individual strand of your advertising or other marketing activities is particularly effective. Check to see if there are any patterns in enquiries relating to when and where you display your advertisements.
If you include vouchers in print advertisements, use a different code for each publication they appear in. This allows you to pinpoint where incoming vouchers have come from.
You might find some advertisements generate many enquiries but no actual sales. These cost most because they take up staff time without generating revenue. If this occurs, check whether your staff need additional sales training or if your adverts need amending.
It's also worth looking at the kind of sales each advertisement generates and whether they have a good profit margin.
You should bear in mind that some advertisements may have delayed results. One person may order the next day, another might wait a few weeks or even months. Comsumers don't purchase more expensive products very often, and so you should use your advertising to keep your brand at the front of people's minds for future reference. Advertising aimed at increasing brand awareness is always harder to measure because it does not transfer directly into sales.Also on this site
- Develop a digital marketing plan
- Advantages and disadvantages of digital marketing
- How to create customer personas
- Developing your digital marketing plan
- Building digital relationships with your customers
- Digital marketing plan template
- Digital marketing plan - executive summary
- Digital marketing plan - situation analysis
- Digital marketing plan - objectives
- Digital marketing plan - tactics
- Digital marketing plan - budget
- Legal considerations in digital marketing
- Digital marketing planning: five top tips
Advantages and disadvantages of digital marketingUnderstand the benefits and downsides of digital marketing over traditional marketing methods including global reach, lower costs, measurable results and high competition
Digital marketing benefits businesses of all sizes by giving access to the mass market at an affordable price. Unlike TV or print advertising, it allows truly personalised marketing. Digital marketing also comes with a number of challenges you should be aware of.
Advantages of digital marketing
The main advantage of digital marketing is that a targeted audience can be reached in a cost-effective and measurable way. Other digital marketing advantages include increasing brand loyalty and driving online sales.
The benefits of digital marketing include:
- Global reach - a website allows you to find new markets and trade globally for only a small investment.
- Lower cost - a properly planned and well targeted digital marketing campaign can reach the right customers at a much lower cost than traditional marketing methods.
- Trackable, measurable results - measuring your online marketing with web analytics and other online metric tools makes it easier to establish how effective your campaign has been. You can obtain detailed information about how customers use your website or respond to your advertising.
- Personalisation - if your customer database is linked to your website, then whenever someone visits the site, you can greet them with targeted offers. The more they buy from you, the more you can refine your customer profile and market effectively to them.
- Openness - by getting involved with social media and managing it carefully, you can build customer loyalty and create a reputation for being easy to engage with.
- Social currency - digital marketing lets you create engaging campaigns using content marketing tactics. This content (images, videos, articles) can gain social currency - being passed from user to user and becoming viral.
- Improved conversion rates - if you have a website, then your customers are only ever a few clicks away from making a purchase. Unlike other media which require people to get up and make a phone call, or go to a shop, digital marketing can be seamless and immediate.
Together, all of these aspects of digital marketing have the potential to add up to more sales.
Disadvantages of digital marketing
Some of the downsides and challenges of digital marketing you should be aware of include:
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- Skills and training - You will need to ensure that your staff have the right knowledge and expertise to carry out digital marketing with success. Tools, platforms and trends change rapidly and it's vital that you keep up-to-date.
- Time consuming - tasks such as optimising online advertising campaigns and creating marketing content can take up a lot of time. It's important to measure your results to ensure a return-on-investment.
- High competition - while you can reach a global audience with digital marketing, you are also up against global competition. It can be a challenge to stand out against competitors and to grab attention among the many messages aimed at consumers online.
- Complaints and feedback - any negative feedback or criticism of your brand is can be visible to your audience through social media and review websites. Carrying out effective customer service online can be challenging. Negative comments or failure to respond effectively can damage your brand reputation.
- Security and privacy issues - there are a number of legal considerations around collecting and using customer data for digital marketing purposes. Take care to comply with the rules regarding privacy and data protection.
How to create customer personasCreating an online customer persona can help you target your marketing messages to the right audience as part of your digital campaign
A customer persona is a profile based on an analysis and research of actual customers. It can help you to define the key traits and personal motivations of your target audience to help focus your marketing communications.
Creating a persona for an online customer can help you decide what digital marketing channels and techniques to use based on their preferences. Defining your target market should be a key part of your overall marketing strategy.
What are the benefits of online personas?
Creating customer personas for an online marketing campaign can help you to:
- understand customer needs, wants and interests
- learn which products or services to promote to your target audience
- decide which digital channels to adopt (eg social media, e-newsletters etc
- create highly targeted, personalised content and messaging
- map out your customer buying journey and add value at every step
- design your emails and newsletters
- determine your tone of voice and strategy on your social media channels
With the rise of social media, customers are now also influencers. User-generated content such as online reviews and social media posts can persuade (or dissuade) new customers to try your product or service. This makes knowing your customer and putting them first even more important.
Avoid targeting those you do not want as a customer by creating 'negative personas' to exclude. For example, customer groups that are not profitable. See target your most profitable customers.
Use market research to create personas
Market research can help you to get a clear picture of your buyer persona, who they are and what problem you can solve for them.
This could include:
- Using social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to conduct polls and surveys.
- Send email surveys to your marketing database.
- Meet your customers for face-to-face interviews to find out their specific needs and wants. This is known as qualitative research. See the difference between quantitative and qualitative research.
- Research your competition to see what they do, how they interact with their customers and vice versa. See understand your competitors.
Use online analytics to understand personas
Analytics and insights can help you understand how your customers behave and interact with your online channels. This includes:
- the page on which they land on your website
- how they got to your website
- how long they spend on your site
- what they look at on your website
- what they are searching for
- what language they use on social media channels - eg hashtags, emojis
- what social media topics are they interested in - eg design, environment
This information can give insights into their needs, interests and behaviours. You can use this to inform and drive how you interact with them.
Create an online buyer persona
With the data you gather through market research and online analytics, you can define your target market. This involves considering factors such as demographics, lifestyle and attitudes. You can then decide how best to reach specific customer personas.
Our customer persona template outlines how to lay out key elements of a customer persona, including information such where they get information from, traits, frustrations and motivations. Download our sample customer persona template (DOC, 24KB).Also on this site
Developing your digital marketing plan
Key steps to take when developing your digital marketing plan including identifying your target audience, understanding your competitors and setting objectives
It is important to recognise that planning for digital marketing does not mean starting from scratch. Any online communication must be in line with the overall marketing goals and current marketing efforts of your business.
The stages of digital marketing planning
The main components of a digital marketing plan will typically include the following stages:
- Identify your target audience - if you identify multiple targets, rank them in order of importance so that you can allocate resources accordingly. Profile each target group and understand their needs and expectations. This type of customer segmentation will help you choose the right tactics for your plan.
- Understand your competitors - profile your competitors and the market in which you operate. What types of online marketing do your competitors use and how well do they perform? This type of benchmarking will help you understand the environment in which you are operating.
- Set your objectives - possible objectives could include raising awareness of your brand, improving sales or online registrations and improving customer retention. The objectives and strategy that you choose depend on your business needs.
- Plan your tactics - once you have a top-level strategy including your overall objectives, you need to identify the tactics that you want to use. The plan can also cover any other non-internet marketing activities that are being undertaken. Think about how you will measure your success - build in feedback mechanisms and regular reviews to enable you to assess the performance of your digital marketing activities and identify areas for improvement.
- Agree a budget - careful budget planning allows you to prevent costs spiralling out of control. Identify the returns you expect to make from your investment in digital marketing activities and compare these with the costs in order to develop a cost/benefit analysis.
What to include in a written plan
When you write up a document detailing your digital marketing plan - include these important elements:
Also on this site
- digital marketing plan - executive summary
- digital marketing plan - situation analysis
- digital marketing plan - objectives and strategy
- digital marketing plan - tactics
- digital marketing plan - budget
Building digital relationships with your customers
Techniques that can be used to forge successful business relationships including providing engaging content, answering FAQs and asking for registrations
A website provides an ongoing point of contact with customers and can be a useful way of collecting information for digital marketing purposes and for building successful relationships with them.
Provide engaging content
Make the information that you provide about you and your business as engaging as possible. Think about what you can add to your website that will benefit your customers and add value, eg online discoun codes.
Blogs and social media can be another way of providing more engaging content for your customers encouraging them to come back. Consider creating content that your users will find entertaining, interesting or useful. For example, a food provider could publish recipes that use their products.
See content marketing.
Answering frequently asked questions
Answering the frequently asked questions customers ask on your website and social media demonstrates you're ready to help and may reduce the number of phone queries.
Provide an email facility for queries and customer feedback - but ensure someone checks them regularly. Respond to queries promptly and let people know their comments are appreciated.
Asking visitors to register
Many businesses ask visitors to their site to register. This can be useful for gathering statistics and email addresses for direct mailings.
But asking people to register straight away may put them off. Most people will not sign up unless there is an incentive for doing so, such as a special offer or access to further information that is not available to non-subscribers. Ask for the minimum details possible. There are some legal considerations if you intend to collect personal data.
Customer relationship management
Many businesses invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve their customer services. The CRM system brings information like customer data, sales patterns, marketing data and future trends together with the aim of identifying new sales opportunities, delivering improved customer service, or offering personalised services and deals. If your website uses a content management system it may be possible to integrate it with your CRM - to provide more targeted marketing to your customers online.
A CRM system is also a very effective way of handling customer complaints. A well-managed CRM system can have a tremendous effect on your reputation if managed well.Also on this site
Digital marketing plan templateDownloadable template to help you write a written document that outlines your digital plan, from executive summary and situation analysis to tactics and budget
When planning your digital marketing, having a written plan in place can help keep you on track. Use our downloadable template to create your digital marketing plan.
Remember that your digital marketing plan should be in line with your current marketing plan and business plan. Your digital efforts should contribute to the overall aims of your organisation.
For guidance on completing each section of the plan, see:Also on this site
Digital marketing plan - executive summary
How to write your executive summary - the summary of key issues you will need to include in your digital marketing plan including, objectives and tactics
The executive summary of your digital marketing plan should provide a short synopsis of your entire digital marketing strategy. It should include highlights from each section of the rest of the document.
The role of the executive summary is to provide enough detail to interest busy senior executives and encourage them to buy in to the digital marketing plan and how it can benefit the business.
It should be concise - ideally a page in length - easy to understand, and interesting without using hype. It's advisable to write this section of your plan after you have completed the rest.
The summary should outline the following:
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- your business environment
- the key issues that have emerged from your situation analysis
- the key objectives of your digital marketing plan
- the strategies and tactics to be used
- the projected outcomes and expected return on investment
Digital marketing plan - situation analysis
Describe the environment in which your business operates and carry out a SWOT analysis to highlight your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
The situation analysis section of your digital marketing plan needs to describe the context in which your digital marketing will take place. It should include an analysis of your business' internal (micro) and external (macro) environments.
Internal factors include your:
- market, and any trends in this
- current online presence
External factors could be:
- social - how changing consumer attitudes could affect your approach
- legal - ie complying with digital marketing laws, such as data protection
- environmental - eg making sure your approach is ethical and sustainable
- political - how local or national government could impact on your plan
- technological - how advances in technology could affect your marketplace
Once you have considered each of these, you should carry out a digital-specific analysis showing your business' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Where possible you should use qualitative and quantitative data to support your analysis, as well as images, charts and graphs to illustrate your findings.Also on this site
Digital marketing plan - objectives
How to outline what you want to achieve from your digital marketing, and how you intend to do this using SMART goals
When defining your digital marketing objectives, you should think about how they will align with your overall business' goals and your key performance indicators. See measure performance and set targets.
You should also consider what the return on your investment will be. This is likely to be financial, but could also include, for example:
- an improved conversion rate
- greater brand awareness
- an increase in visits to your website
- a greater market share
Examples of digital marketing objectives
The objectives you decide on for your digital marketing need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).
Some examples of SMART digital marketing objectives are:
- Achieve 200 'contact us' conversions via organic search traffic by the end of the financial year
- Reduce bounce rate from pay-per-click traffic to below 50 per cent across all ads by December
- Increase average order value of website sales to £35 per customer by the end of the quarter.
The customer journey
Your plan needs to look at the whole customer journey:
- awareness - how a customer will become aware of your brand
- acquisition - why they will then want to visit your website
- conversion - how easily will they be able to make a purchase or register once on your site
Set SMART objective to improve performance at every stage of the customer journey.
Measuring digital marketing objectives
At this stage, you should consider how you will track and measure how well you have met the targets set in your objectives. You can define the further in the tactics section of your plan.Also on this site
Digital marketing plan - tactics
How to describe how you are going to achieve your goals through various digital marketing channels and how you will measure and quantify success
The tactics section of your digital marketing plan will describe how you will implement your strategy, and defines the channels and tools that you will use. It should define what you hope to achieve by using each tactic and how this relates to your main objectives. It should include how you will measure your performance.
Planning your digital marketing tactics
Your tactics should include:
- Digital marketing channels - a summary of your digital marketing mix - what channels will you use?
- Justification - the reasons why you have chosen each channel and details of implementation.
- Customer segementation - the customer segmentation that you will use and how each channel will be targeted.
- Performance measurement - a summary of the metrics that you will use to measure performance for each channel, including key performance indicators.
Types of digital marketing tactic
There are a number of digital marketing channels and tactics you can consider:
- email marketing - an effective and low cost option to reach your audience
- search engine optimisation (SEO) - increase your organic search traffic
- content marketing - think strategically about your approach to online content
- pay-per-click and paid search advertising - a measurable form of online advertising
- social media - offers highly targeted advertising options
- set up a small business website - a good website is key to securing online conversions
- create an online shop - consider your options for selling online
- selling through online marketplaces - some businesses sell through other websites as well as their own to reach new audiences
Digital marketing tactics to achieve objectives
Presenting your tactics in a table will help make your summary easier to read. It may also be useful to group tactics by goal:
- awareness activities aim to increase awareness of your brand or message
- acquisition tactics focus on gaining more customers
- conversion tactics seek to increase online sales or registrations
If you are employing an agency to carry out specific parts of your digital marketing, they should feed into this section.
Digital marketing plan - budget
How to break down what you intend to spend on your digital marketing and the likely return on investment
The final section of your digital marketing plan will outline your budget for achieving your objectives. This is best presented as a single spreadsheet, providing specific detail on:
- what you plan to spend overall
- how this will be broken down across tactics over a fixed period
- any financial key performance indicators or milestones that need to be met
- potential return on investment across channels
- a summary of projected benefits - which can be used in the executive summary
The summary of projected benefits should include estimates of how much traffic will come from each tactic and the number of prospects that will likely go on to convert. Try to back up your estimates with figures wherever possible. This will help justify the mix of tactics you have chosen.
You should also include an analysis of projected sales, across tactics, and the profit that each will generate. This will help you quantify the net profit from your overall digital marketing plan.Also on this site
Legal considerations in digital marketing
Make sure your digital marketing activities comply with regulations such as the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations
There are a number of laws that relate specifically to digital marketing. You need to keep abreast of changes in this area to ensure that you are complying with the various rules.
Email and SMS marketing rules
There are rules covering marketing emails and SMS messages to individuals.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations introduced an opt-in consent procedure for commercial emails - which means you can only target people who have agreed to be contacted.
The rules only apply to new customers. You can continue marketing to existing customers provided they can opt-out of future messages and the marketing messages cover similar products and services.
You must also clearly mark your emails with your contact details and include a valid return email address.
Your website and social media
All websites should carry your company's registered address and company (or charity) registration number. Consider including usage terms and conditions and a disclaimer for your website:
You should be aware of legal implications and best practice when using social media.
Cookies are text files that are stored on a user's computer when they visit a website that uses them. Thereafter, the cookie sends information back to the website and can be used to monitor browsing preferences of users, eg types of goods searched for, pages visited and length of dwell time on each page.
Digital marketing planning: five top tipsTop tips for planning digital marketing campaigns, including building customer personas, setting SMART objectives and measuring and optimising your campaigns for success
Digital marketing can have huge potential for businesses of all sizes. To make the most of it, it's important to think strategically and plan carefully. Follow these tips for planning your digital marketing:
1) Build relationships - by building digital relationships with your customers you can encourage brand loyalty and increase your profits. Consider content marketing tactics as part of your digital marketing campaign. Use a customer relationship management system to improve targeting and customer service.
2) Use customer personas - by understanding your customers you can choose the right channels to reach them with highly targeted, personalised marketing communications. See how to create customer personas.
3) Set SMART objectives - make sure that the objectives of your digital marketing campaign are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. For example, you could aim to secure 25 event registrations through your website per month.
4) Choose the right tactics - there are a wide range of digital marketing tactics you can use, such as email marketing and social media. Consider your audience and your objectives to decide which tactics will be the most effective.
5) Measure and optimise - use web analytics to determine how successful your tactics are. Adjust your campaigns and track the results to make improvements. See measuring your online marketing.
A written plan is the best way to keep your digital marketing efforts on track. Use our downloadable template to create your digital marketing plan.Also on this site
- Consumer contracts
- Types of consumer contract
- Providing consumers with contract information
- Off-premises consumer contracts
- Right to cancel consumer contracts
- Exemptions from the right to cancel consumer contracts
- Consumer contracts delivery and risk
- Consumer contracts additional charges
- Exemptions from consumer contracts rules
Types of consumer contract
Definitions of consumer contract types to allow traders to understand their obligations including distance, off premises, sales, service and digital contracts
Consumer contract rules vary depending on the type of contract. In today's competitive marketplaces, businesses may be involved in several types of transaction eg a trader selling goods from a high street shop and also from a website. Understanding the definitions of the contracts you make will help you to follow the correct rules.
Consumer contracts are divided into three main types:
- distance contracts - such as telephone, mail order and online sales, where the trader and consumer are not physically together - this refers to an organised means of distance selling, not just a one off
- off-premises contracts - contracts concluded away from business premises and where both trader and consumer are present eg when visiting someone's home
- on-premises contract - sales on your business premises, including a trader's permanent premises as well as temporary premises (such as a market stall) where you usually operate
The content of contracts is also divided into three main types:
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- sales contracts - including contracts for the sale of goods and also for the supply of goods and services together eg a film on a DVD, supplying software on a disc, and the supply and fitting of a patio
- service contracts - contracts that are for services only eg the services of a personal trainer or lawyer - supply of gas and electricity by utility suppliers will also be covered by this definition, whereas gas and electricity will be classed as goods when sold in limited amounts eg batteries and gas in containers
- digital content - the supply of data eg music and software downloads or streamed films
Providing consumers with contract informationProving the right information to consumers when making a contract including a description, your address, price, additional charges and other details
You need to provide certain information to a consumer before entering into a contract. This must be on a 'durable' medium, such as a letter, CD/DVD, email, text or by personal account on a website.
In general, the following pieces of information need to be provided:
- the main characteristics of the goods or services
- your identity including address and contact details
- the total price of the goods or services inclusive of taxes (or how the price is calculated)
- any additional delivery charges, or advice that charges may be payable
- any arrangements for payment, delivery, performance, and the time by which you will deliver the goods or perform the service
- details of any complaint handling policy
- in the case of a sales contract, a reminder that (as the trader) you are under a legal duty to supply goods under the contract
- the existence and the conditions of any after-sales services and commercial guarantees
- details of any duration of the contract, or conditions for terminating the contract if it will be automatically renewed
- details of functionality if you are supplying digital content
- compatibility details for digital content with hardware and software
These rules apply to on-premises sales. However, for low cost day-to-day transactions where the consumer is very familiar with the goods or service on-premises traders are exempt from many of the information requirements. For example - buying a newspaper, a cup of coffee or groceries. Information such as price and main characteristics must still be given.
Extra information needs to be provided before a contract is made with a consumer buying goods off-premises. This includes online, by mail order, by telephone or a similar distance sales. See off-premises consumer contracts.Also on this site
Off-premises consumer contractsProving the right information to consumers when making a contract when you are selling away from your premises, eg online, telephone or doorstep sales
You must provide consumers with certain information before entering a contract. See providing consumers with contract information for the information that must be provided for all transactions.
Additional information needs to be provided before a contract is made with a consumer buying goods off-premises, online, by mail order, by telephone or a similar distance sale:
- if you're acting on behalf of another trader, their address and name
- where the consumer can address any complaints (if different from addresses already provided)
- for an ongoing contract or subscription, the total costs per billing period, or the total monthly costs for fixed rate contracts
- any required communications costs above basic call rates - see consumer contracts additional charges
- where a right to cancel exists, the conditions, time limit and process for cancelling (if a right to cancel applies)
- the consumer will have to bear the cost of returning the goods in case of cancellation and, for distance contracts, the return costs if the goods cannot normally be returned by post (if this applies)
- if the consumer exercises the right to cancel after an express request to start the supply of a service within the cancellation period, they may be liable to pay you reasonable costs
- details of where there is no right to cancel, or how the consumer may lose the right to cancel
- the existence and the conditions of any after-sale customer assistance, after-sales services and commercial guarantees
- if you work under a code of conduct, and how to obtain a copy
- any minimum duration of the consumer's obligations under the contract
- any conditions of deposits or other financial guarantees to be paid or provided
- details of any out-of-court complaint and process for redress mechanisms and how the consumer can use it
Where a right to cancel exists, you must give the consumer the model cancellation form (this should be in format provided by the Consumer Contracts Regulations). It is a criminal offence to not provide the consumer with their cancellation rights (where they exist).
If you do not tell the consumer about delivery charges or costs of returning items before entering the contract - they are not liable to pay the charges.
If you are trading online, you need to make absolutely clear where there is an obligation for a consumer to pay. This can be through a clearly labelled 'pay now' button at the correct stage in the ordering process.Also on this site
Right to cancel consumer contracts
The rights consumers have to cancel off-premises and distance contracts under the consumer contracts regulations within the 14 day cooling off period
Consumers who decide that they do not wish to proceed with an off-premises or distance contract have two main rights. They can:
- withdraw their offer if it has not been accepted by you - this is an open-ended right, which will end when the contract is made, after which they can move to their right to cancel if appropriate
- cancel a contract - within a specified period of time consumers have the right to pull out of a contract, providing the contract is not one where there is no right to cancel
For more information on the differences between on-premises, off-premises and distance contracts, see types of consumer contract.
Consumers who enter into (or offer to enter into) off-premises or distance contracts will have 14 calendar days in which to change their minds. They do not have to give you a reason for doing so. You must provide them with the cancellation form, but they do not have to use it as long as they make clear that they are cancelling.
The 14 days for cancellation starts the day after the consumer recieves the goods. In the case of service contracts, it starts when you enter into the contract with the consumer.
The consumer should generally return any goods within 14 days, unless you have offered to collect them. You should refund the consumer within 14 days of receiving the goods back or receiving proof they have been sent back. In the case of services, you should refund them within 14 days of the consumer informing you of the cancellation. This must be a full refund. You cannot charge a cancellation fee.
Collection of cancelled goods
Provided the consumer is aware before they commit to the contract that returns will be at their expense, you may charge for a collection service. However, the consumer doesn't have to pay for return if:
- the goods were left with them when you made the contract
- the goods can't be returned by post
In this case, they should make the goods available for collection instead.
For more information on responsibilities when goods are in delivery, see consumer contracts delivery and risk.
Limiting cancellation rights
If the consumer cancels after entering a contact, you may claim money for goods already used, or r services already delivered, so long as:
- before the contact, you made the consumer aware of they must pay for services or products used
- you had express consent to begin the services in the cancellation period
There are exemptions from the right to cancel consumer conttracts.Also on this site
Exemptions from the right to cancel consumer contractsWhen consumers do not have a right to cancel during a 14 day cooling-off period – eg bespoke or perishable goods
Consumers who enter into (or offer to enter into) off-premises or distance contracts will normally have 14 calendar days in which to change their minds. However, a number of online and off-premises contracts do not have cancellation rights. These include:
- 'investment' type products such as vintage wines, where the price in the financial market may vary (utilities such as supply of gas are not covered by this exception)
- bespoke and customised goods
- goods which will deteriorate or expire rapidly
- newspapers and magazines (but not subscriptions)
- contracts concluded at public auction
- goods received sealed for health protection or hygiene reasons once unsealed
- sealed audio, video and software products once unsealed
- goods once they have been inseparably mixed after delivery
- contracts where the consumer has contacted the trader to effect urgent household repairs
- contracts for accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental, catering or services related to leisure activities, if the contract states a specific time period
- services which have been fully completed within the cancellation period (provided the consumer requested this and acknowledged that they would lose their right to cancel once fully completed)
- medicinal products or services that are either dispensed or are available free under an NHS appointment
- contracts for passenger transport services such as bus, rail or flight tickets
For more information on exemptions see exemptions from consumer contracts rules.
Also on this site
Consumer contracts delivery and riskYour responsibilities when delivering goods to consumers and how risk is determined and when customers have a right to treat a contract as ended
It is your responsibility as a trader to deliver goods that you have sold to a consumer, unless you have agreed otherwise.
Consumers can treat a contract as ended, and request a full refund, if:
- you refuse to deliver the goods
- you don't deliver within the agreed time and it's clear from circumstances, or from what the consumer tells you, that delivery by the agreed time was essential
- the consumer specified an appropriate delivery period, which you failed to meet
If you fail to deliver part of a contract of a variety of goods on time, a consumer can decide to cancel that part, or return the goods which have already been delivered. You must reimburse the consumer without delay for cancelled or returned goods.
Goods remain your responsibility until they have been delivered to the consumer. If your carrier fails to deliver the goods, or they deliver to the wrong address, you are responsible for them - not the consumer.
However, if the consumer agrees to use their own delivery carrier, you cease to be responsible once that carrier has received the goods.Also on this site
Consumer contracts additional chargesConsumer contract rules to protect consumers from automatically paying for additional services and goods, and costly telephone helpline charges
Consumer contract rules are designed to protect consumers from paying for additional charges when buying goods or services.
No additional charges as default option
Your business might offer additional items linked to a main contract, such as:
- insurance with a contract for a holiday
- gift-wrapping when buying goods as a present
You should always ask consumers for their consent to such additional charges. You must not present these charges as the default option. For example, online consumers should not have to untick a box to remove an additional option which requires further payment.
Consumers do not have to pay for additional payments which they have not actively consented to. Consumers have the right to request a refund for any payments in this situation.
Telephone helpline charges
If you have a telephone helpline for consumers to contact you about a contract that they have entered into with you, you can't charge more than a basic call rate for this service.
This means you can only charge normal geographic or mobile call rates. If a consumer is charged more than the basic rate, they are entitled to claim any overcharge back from you.
You should check carefully with your telephone provider whether your phone line costs consumers more than basic rates.Also on this site
Exemptions from consumer contracts rules
Types of consumer contracts which are exempted from the new consumer contracts regulations including gambling, construction, property and package travel
The new consumer contracts regulations do not cover all types of contracts which businesses make with consumers.
Contracts which are exempt from consumer contracts regulations include:
- gambling (as covered by the Gambling Act 2005)
- construction and sale of property (including building new properties)
- residential letting contracts
- package travel contracts
- timeshare contracts
- regular delivery supply eg milkmen
- purchases from vending machines
- single telecom connections eg payphones and café internet connection
- financial services (but not add-on services - see consumer contracts additional charges)
Some other types of contract are only partly covered by the consumer contracts regulations.
Passenger transport contracts are exempt from cancellation rights and from most of the information requirements. Items dispensed on prescription are exempt from the information and cancellation rules. For more information see providing consumers with contract information and right to cancel consumer contracts.
Low value off-premises contracts (a value of less than £42) are exempt from the information and cancellation rules, but are subject to those on additional payments and charges and delivery and risk. For more information see consumer contracts additional charges and consumer contracts delivery and risk.Also on this site