University Branding Within The Higher Education Sector

Over the last few decades, the formerly cloistered environment of the university has been forced to adapt to a more commercialised world. With an increasing number of institutions competing for student and faculty talent, every potential advantage counts. This is particularly true as the effects of globalisation are felt in the academic sector, with UK universities no longer competing simply with one another, but with higher education institutions from across the world.

Given this context, it might appear obvious that effective, clear and coherent branding is vital for any university wishing to prosper in the modern world. The only way in which an academic institution can attract sufficient research funding to succeed in comparison to its competition, as well as persuading the best students and academics in the field to take advantage of that funding, is to build a reputation which differentiates it from other universities. Rather than relying on chance, those universities with an effective brand can be confident of continued recruitment and funding success.

Despite this, many academics are extremely resistant to the concept of branding. It is often viewed as seeking to reduce a complex institution, built on the interplay of many differing ideologies and viewpoints, into a few trite words. The ‘smoke and mirrors’ of branding, it is argued, cannot possibly encapsulate the multi-layered reality of any academic institution. For many academics, who are understandably not familiar with the theory of branding or its complexities, the concept is only applicable to soft drinks or trainers. An intellectual ‘product’, in their view, cannot be appropriately branded without reducing academic freedom and closing off avenues of thought.

Rejecting branding as a viable approach for the university sector, however, is actually to ignore the history of academic institutions in the Western world, and particularly within the United Kingdom. It is simply not correct to assert that, until recently, universities did not have to worry about branding themselves or appealing to prospective students and faculty members. It is true, of course, that historically there have been less players within the academic marketplace, but this certainly does not mean that competition was not fierce in previous decades. Differentiation of academic institutions has a long and proud history, and is precisely the method by which the primacy of today’s premier universities was established.

Perhaps the best example of branding within the university sector has been the University of Oxford. The name of the institution conjures up images of the dreaming spires, the Bodleian Library, and rowing on the Isis. The association of particular images and values with an institution is precisely what is meant by branding, and the achievement of Oxford over the centuries has been to integrate its name with ideals of academic excellence, independence of thought, and top quality research. Of course, this has not been done simply by adopting a ‘brand’ in the simplest sense of the term. Until recently, there has been no concerted effort to encapsulate the values which Oxford represents into a comprehensive strategy. Nonetheless, the university has long recognised that the best way in which it can promote itself and maintain primacy in the sector is to offer a particular experience, and to associate itself with particular ideals held by its students and academics.

Across the Atlantic, Harvard University has achieved a similar primacy through branding, although its strategy has been more conscious and more overt than Oxford’s. As with many American universities, the design of specific merchandise, the integration of logos into products and the promotion of particular values within all aspects of the university experience has transformed Harvard into a globally recognised brand. As with Oxford and other world renowned university brands, this has had the effect of forming a virtuous circle. The success of Harvard’s brand has allowed it to attract the best academics, students and research funding, which in turn has allowed it to reinforce its reputation for excellence and further promote its brand.

As can be seen, the process of designing and promoting a university’s brand is significantly more complex than that involved with a simple product. It cannot, and should not, simply involve a few focus group meetings which attempt to encapsulate the essence of the university in a pithy phrase. Instead, it needs to be a long-term project, which orientates itself to the wider strategy of the academic institution which it seeks to serve. An excellent recent example is that of Loughborough University. Its brand in the popular consciousness is now firmly established, with the institution being viewed as one of the best sports science universities in the world. The establishment of this brand, given a foundation by strategic decisions over a number of years, has allowed Loughborough to attract substantial funding for its work in this area. In a similar experience to that of Oxford and Harvard, it has created a virtuous circle, in which an established brand helps to increase the institution’s real excellence in an area of research.

It is that virtuous circle which explains the very real importance of an effective branding strategy for any higher education institution which intends to preserve academic freedom and independence of thought in the 21st century. Far from being a threat to high quality research and the traditions of university life, the construction of an effective brand can become a vital part of preserving those things. Universities which make no effort to market themselves will soon find the best students and staff going elsewhere, and will begin to see their funding being reduced as a result. A failure to adequately explain the work going on within an academic institution is not simply a betrayal of the purpose of the work, but also puts at risk its continued existence. Branding does not have to be a simplistic or reductive exercise, but it is absolutely necessary to any university that wishes to remain relevant in the globalised economy. Far from consisting of ‘smoke and mirrors’, effective branding seeks to present a coherent picture of academic research to the wider world.

Email Marketing: Build or Buy an Email List?

Email marketing has become a staple in today’s marketing world, especially with internet-based businesses. It involves personal communication with customers through email. You craft newsletters, articles and sales pitches and send them to targeted recipients through email. This of course requires that you have a mailing list that contains the contact information of potential customers. There are many ways to do this: You can build one yourself or you can buy it from an email list-broker or another company. This article looks at the pros and cons of each to help you determine which way is best for you.

Advantages of buying an email list

  1. It’s quick. Assuming that you have found a well-built email list for your particular purposes, you need not spend any more time determining how to find your targeted customers and convince them to share their contacts with you.
  2. You benefit from experts. Again, presuming that you’ve done your homework on finding good providers, one advantage of buying a list is that you benefit from the expertise of a marketing expert. You don’t need to go through trial and error in order to find out which strategies work best to target your niche customers. Someone more qualified already did it for you.
  3. It is less labour intensive than building your own list.

Risks involved in buying an email list

  1. The biggest risk involves scams. It’s difficult to know whether the list you’re buying is a real one. Considering that email lists can be quite expensive, it’s possible to experience real substantial loss through having someone take advantage of you and sell you rubbish.
  2. You might get a list that is completely irrelevant to your business purposes. Imagine getting the list of a business that sells dating and relationship products when you’re targeting customers in the food industry. A total waste of time and money.
  3. Sometimes you can get a list that targets the right audience, but which has not been updated for quite sometime. You try sending emails to these people only to discover that most of the emails do not work.
  4. Buying a list comes with the risk of associating your business with some bad history. Perhaps the company you’re working with sends too much spam or otherwise mishandles its subscribers and you are unaware of it. You buy the list only to have the account closed soon after and ruin your reputation to your customers.
  5. If you send mail to customers who have not been acquainted with you, they are likely to treat it as spam. This means that your money and efforts will be wasted.

Possible Solutions?

You can avoid these potential problems by:

  1. Paying only for actual subscribers, rather than a whole list. Have an arrangement in which you provide an option to the subscribers of that list to sign up for your own list. Undertake to pay for only those subscribers who end up signing up for your list. This way, whatever you pay will be worth it.
  2. Use reputable companies and list brokers to avoid getting scammed or paying for worthless lists. This in itself requires quite some effort. To save time and effort, use the same companies that are trusted to provide direct mailing lists for your email lists as well.

Advantages of building an email list

  1. If you build your own list, you will be certain that only those customers who are interested in your product will sign up. Your emails will always go to people who already know you and are interested in your product.
  2. There is also no risk of a bad history because you’re building your own list from nothing.
  3. You control all your dealings with your customers and you can be certain about the status of your account and your reputation at any point in time.

Problems involved in building an email list

  1. Clearly, it takes time, effort, technique and expertise to find your targeted audience and to convince them to subscribe to your list.
  2. Lack of marketing expertise poses a real challenge for a person who is completely new to both technology and marketing strategies. It can take too many trials to get it right.
  3. If you decide to hire an expert, it can also be expensive to plan and implement marketing strategies that will get the relevant audience to sign up for your list.

Possible solutions?

  1. You can hire experts to help you create an effective email marketing strategy. The investment may prove well worth it in terms of saving time and effort.
  2. Research quick and effective strategies. There are many resources readily available on the internet. Educate yourself sufficiently before you undertake the project.
  3. Make use of software to make work easier.

Conclusion

If you are more interested in maintaining control of your list and do not mind the slower but safer process of gradually building up your own list, then this may be the option for you. The sense of accomplishment, peace of mind and the community you build, of customers who willingly sign up for your emails will be well worth it. However, if you are interested in a quicker process and prefer to buy a list, be sure to do your homework first. Find reputable companies and list brokers and stick to them for all your business once you find them. They certainly are not easy to come by. As in most marketing strategies, an integrated approach is always best. Both options are effective for their intended purposes if approached with due care and preparation.

Social Media Concerns: How to Manage Dissatisfied Customers

The essence of social media is providing an avenue to connect with customers online. As a business owner, you will have the opportunity to present the features and benefits of the products that you are offering.

Your readers, in turn, will have the chance to review, purchase, or complain. At some point, you will experience a dissatisfied online customer who will complain about bad service or a broken promise.

It is your job to take this opportunity to convert an irate client to a satisfied and returning customer.

Here are some tips to consider:

Step One: Be Aware

You cannot address an issue that you do not know about. Listen to the concerns of your customers by allowing them to leave comments on your website. Keep watch of the activity on your Facebook page. Make sure to keep a regular check on Twitter hash tags or replies related to your business. Read forums and review sites that cater to the nature of your business. Knowing about the negative comments and feedback about your products and services in the soonest possible time will help avert a potentially disastrous outcome.

Step Two: Respond Immediately

Immediate action is required when dealing with customer complaints. The longer you take to make a statement, the harder it becomes to resolve the situation. On occasion, you will need intensive research and background checks before you can provide an acceptable explanation. In such situations, you can simply leave a message explaining the actions you need to take and a turn around time for a response.

Some offensive comments are not worth the response. If the criticism is made out of spite or bigotry, then it may be best to simply delete the post. Your other customers will ignore rude or discriminatory remarks especially if made without basis. Instead, you should focus on working on action items that are within your control.

Step Three: Connect With Your Customer

Avoid canned or scripted responses. Speak like an actual person and try to relate with how your customers must be feeling. Giving them a copy of your terms and conditions will only aggravate the situation. Acknowledge their concern and let them know that you understand what they are going through. Empathise with them and let them know that you will feel the same way if the situation happened to you. Reassure them and tell them that you will do everything in your power to resolve the situation.

Step Four: Make Things Right

A sincere apology may help appease an irate customer, but fixing the problem is the only way to win them over. Offer to make things right for the customer. Replace the broken product or give a refund for lost deliveries. You can also opt to provide discounts or freebies for future purchases. People make mistakes, but what is important is how we correct those errors.

Step Five: Do Not Get Emotional

As the business owner, you need to be the voice of reason. Customers are expected to complain, but business owners who get into an argument with their clients are seen in a bad light. Even if you know you are right, you need to be patient enough to clearly explain the logistics to the customer. Getting into a fight with them will not resolve the situation.

Step Six: Get Their Involvement

A negative comment is a great opportunity for learning and improvement. If a customer complains about a certain feature, ask him what changes need to be made to improve the product. Make them feel that their input is valuable. If you consider their suggestions, make sure to involve them during product testing or the product launch.

Step Seven: Make Sure the Discussion is Visible

It is tempting to keep the conversation offline, but providing solutions in plain sight will let the world know that you are serious about providing excellent service. You also make other people aware that you are constantly working on improving your products. If you provide a clear solution for a specific issue, there will be no need for other customers to send in similar complaints.

Unhappy customers will always be a part of your business. There will always be something to complain about. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word around so it is essential to change their mind about your company. Use the negative feedback to your advantage and turn a bad situation into a learning opportunity.

Increase Customer Retention in an Economy Defined by Customer Attrition

October 22, 2012 |  by  |  Strategic Brand Management  |  No Comments

Perhaps it simply goes without saying that improving customer retention is critical to succeeding in an economy where customers are always looking for the cheapest available option. Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times. Companies need to save money and sometimes the simplest solution is to award business to the lowest competitive bid. Customer attrition is commonplace in today’s markets, one marked by increased competition, lower demand for finished goods, fewer opportunities and even fewer customers to sell to. Your company doesn’t just need to retain more customers because it’s good for business; you need to retain more customers in order to stay in business.

So, what does it take to improve customer retention in this economy? What must your enterprise focus on so you can position it as the incumbent supplier? First, it’s important to understand that customers need to have a reason to stay with your business. Second, appealing to the lowest common denominator is no guarantee of success. Lowering prices to win business may work once or twice, but eventually you’ll lead your enterprise down the path of engaging in a never-ending price war, one where nobody wins and your company erodes its own gross profit margins. Third, your customers are looking for more than just a vendor. They are looking for a solutions provider, one who will distinguish their offering by bringing more to the table than its competition. Therefore, our plan to increase customer retention will focus on these three aforementioned critical areas. We’ll build customer loyalty, defend price and help your enterprise become a solutions provider.

1. Build Loyalty: Focus on increasing customer loyalty. Give your customers a reason to see your company as their only option. Give them a proposition that clearly distinguishes your company’s value.

2. Defend Price: Ignore the temptation to immediately drop pricing without having a solid reason to. Ultimately, the decision to drop prices should come from a position of power and our plan will help you secure that position with your customer base.

3. Become a Solutions Provider: Granted, this is often much easier said than done. However, every industry is defined by market leaders, ones who raise the bar by providing more than just a product. Our plan will allow your company to become that solutions provider, and it will ensure that your sales team has more time to spend working directly with customers.

What your company must focus on is a strategy that increases customer retention, protects your pricing and gross profit margins, all the while positioning your company as your customers’ most important vendor. Does all this sound impossible? Well, it isn’t. The approach that makes this all a reality is to come up with your own reward program, one that literally compensates your customers for loyalty, forces them to provide you with up-to-the-minute market data, and one that positions your company as the dominant solutions provider in your market.

Building Your Own Loyalty Schedule

The following table outlines how your company can come up with its own customer loyalty schedule. The loyalty schedule is based on the following premise: Your company agrees to provide your customer a discount for each unit they purchase on a monthly basis. In our example, that discount is £0.20 for each unit. Your customer must purchase a minimum monthly amount and continue to make that same monthly purchase for one calendar year in order to secure their discount. The more they purchase each month, the higher their discount. However, that discount is only given to your customer at the end of the year. The benefit of building a loyalty schedule is that it is not a contract and therefore, not binding. If your customer leaves the schedule, they lose their discount, and your enterprise has effectively protected its gross profit margins.

Month

Price

Quantity Purchased (Minimum Amount)

Loyalty Schedule Unit Discount

 Discount on Each Purchase Order

Accrued Discount

Jan

£20.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£5.00

Feb

£20.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£10.00

Mar

£20.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£15.00

Apr

£20.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£20.00

May

£20.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£25.00

June

£19.50

25

£0.20

£5.00

£30.00

July

£19.50

25

£0.20

£5.00

£35.00

Aug

£19.50

25

£0.20

£5.00

£40.00

Sept

£19.50

25

£0.20

£5.00

£45.00

Oct

£19.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£50.00

Nov

£19.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£55.00

Dec

£19.00

25

£0.20

£5.00

£60.00

Looking at the table above, it’s important to understand what happens in the months of June and October. In both months, your customer hears of better pricing in the market. However, rather than just take those offers, your customer immediately reflects upon the loyalty schedule you’ve put in place for them. This is because of the discount they have built within the schedule. If you customer abandons the schedule in June, they will effectively lose out on their £30.00 discount. If they decide to stay within the schedule, but leave in October, then they’ll lose out on the £50.00 discount they’ve built up.  In this case, your customer becomes an active participant in their loyalty schedule.

Does Our Loyalty Schedule Address our Three Essential Criteria?

The overall goal was to accomplish the following. First, we wanted to increase customer loyalty. Second we wanted to protect or defend pricing. Third, we wanted to position the company as a solutions provider, one willing to bring new strategies to help the customer reduce their costs. Have we addressed all three criteria? We have. We have increased customer loyalty by giving customers a reason to return for more business. We have protected pricing by putting your company in the position of deciding whether to match the pricing within your market, or hold firm and keep the scheduled discount on your own. Finally, we have positioned your company as a solutions provider by increasing the amount of time your people spend working with customers. This allows your sales team to provide a number of other proactive solutions to help your customers.

Despite the current economic climate, your company can increase customer retention. It’s simply a matter of giving your customer a reason to buy into your company’s value proposition. Ultimately, it includes getting your customer on a loyalty schedule and helping them to build their discount over time. Gradually, that discount will put your company in a position of power, one it can use to decide whether to match lower pricing or hold price as is. Finally, the schedule itself is a proactive solution to reducing your customer’s costs. In addition, it increases the number of times your sales team speaks with customers, allowing your company to build upon its reward schedule with additional solutions.

SEO Techniques: Gaining Backlinks by Blog Commenting

October 15, 2012 |  by  |  Search Engine Optimisation  |  No Comments

There are two major areas of search engine optimisation that websites need to get right in order to stand out and take those top spots in the search results. The first is on-page SEO, which is all about optimising a website to make it as search engine friendly as possible. The second is off-site SEO, which is all about establishing a site’s credibility by building backlinks.

Backlinks are inbound links pointing to a website from other websites. The more backlinks a site has pointing to it, and the higher the quality of those links, the stronger that site’s off-site search engine optimisation will be. That makes gaining backlinks incredibly important to strong SEO. Unfortunately, it can also be tricky to get them, not only in quantity, but just as importantly, in quality.

One way to gain backlinks is through blog commenting. Essentially, the goal is to find relevant blog posts and leave comments including a link. Done correctly, this can be a great method to generate inbound links and boost SEO performance. Done wrong, it can bring heavy penalties from search engines like Google, and destroy a site’s ranking. So how can a website owner ensure that they’re doing it right?

Quantity is important, but not at the expense of quality.

This statement is doubly-true, referring not just to the quality of the links themselves, but also to the quality of the comments and posts used to generate them. The more quality links a site can gain the better the results will be, but just generating backlinks en masse with no concern for where they come from is ineffective at best, and could be detrimental.

When searching out potential blogs to comment on, one important factor is relevance. The more relevant the blog is the better. For instance, commenting on a blog about dog ownership to try to gain a backlink for a site about car maintenance probably isn’t the most effective use of time. The blogs chosen and the comments left need to be relevant to the site being linked to.

It’s also extremely important to make sure the comment is of high quality. The Internet is full of blogs with comment sections packed with auto-generated text and incomprehensible sentences posted solely for the purpose of trying to gain a link. Search engines – specifically Google – aren’t stupid, and they’re cracking down hard on that kind of SEO tactic.

To avoid penalties, blog comments posted for SEO purposes need to be relevant, on-topic, and well written.  Sacrificing any of those traits in favor of quantity or speed is asking for trouble, and could result in seriously detrimental effects to a site’s search engine optimisation efforts.

Don’t waste time commenting on the wrong blogs.

Not all links are created equal. Links come in two varieties, do-follow and no-follow. Do-follow links pass on “link juice”, meaning essentially that they pass on authority from one site to another, and are more valuable for SEO purposes. No-follow links do not pass on any of a site’s authority, and therefore aren’t as beneficial for SEO. No-follow links can still be incredibly valuable, but when it comes to blog commenting, do-follow links are the type to look for.

Not all blogs use do-follow links in their comment sections. In fact, most don’t, as the majority of major blogging platforms automatically set comment links to no-follow in order to help ensure that the comment sections of blogs aren’t abused by people looking for SEO benefits.

Finding relevant do-follow blogs can be a bit of a task, but the time investment pays in the end. There are search engines available specifically for finding blogs with do-follow links, and Google even has a custom search available to target them. These tools make finding relevant blogs with strong SEO value much easier, but it still isn’t something that should be rushed or taken lightly. Again, it comes down to ensuring quality and not just quantity.

Blog commenting can be a fantastic way of boosting a site’s search engine optimisation, and done correctly can be very effective. However, it’s important to never forget that doing it wrong can have disastrous results. The Internet is riddled with spam and garbage posted in the hopes of improving rankings in the search engines, and those search engines have become very wise to the game. As a result, poorly executed or spam-like blog commenting will potentially result in steep penalties.

By ensuring that backlinks are obtained only from high-quality and relevant websites and blogs, and by ensuring that the comments and posts used to gain those links are of an equally high quality, website owners can avoid search engine penalties and gain the maximum SEO benefits blog commenting has to offer.

Social Media Management – A Task for One Person?

Social media management is a hot topic amongst marketing managers and in general organisations typically have specialised departments dealing with specific tasks and concerns.

Human Resources handle people issues, the IT department handles system concerns, and Legal handles matters of the law. Social media concerns and tools usually fall under the jurisdiction of the Marketing department because they involve promotions and press releases.

Announcements and responses that come from a single source tend to be more streamlined and consistent to the core vision of the company.  But are companies that rely on a single person or department missing out on the full potential of social media?

Having a single person or department dedicated solely to social media functions may have its advantages, but a bigger group of people can certainly produce a more impressive output. You can either have a single person or group do 100% of the social media tasks, or have the majority of your employees spend 5% of their time attending to these tasks. In theory, having dozens or even hundreds of employees representing the company in social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook will result to a wider audience reach.

Here are some of the advantages of having multiple social media outlets:

1. More people create more noise.

Having multiple employees sending out positive Tweets or writing blogs about the company says a lot about employee satisfaction and improves the branding of the company. The message also reaches a wider audience.

2. Employees will keep up with technology and will be adept on using social media tools.

It is essential to train the employees on the proper usage of social media tools for this system to work. They need to know how to properly represent the company, and how to increase the number of followers or subscribers. This training will not only be beneficial for work but is also applicable to personal endeavors.

3. Different employees have different strengths and interests.

They will produce blogs, Tweets, or Facebook updates that relate to them personally but are relevant to the nature of your business. Your company will benefit from this because of the diversity of content that will be available online. You will reach a wider and more diverse market. Interest in your products or services will also increase. Employees can also experiment with these tools and can potentially come up with an innovative approach to promotions.

4. The feedback system will also improve when you have a large number of people checking the web vigilantly.

It is possible to report important updates and news flashes that can affect operations in the soonest possible time. You can also detect customer complaints easily and address them immediately. Generally, about 60 to 80 percent of customer complaints made via social media channels are ignored because of lack of manpower.

This results to customer dissatisfaction and a missed opportunity for improvement.

5. Employees will be empowered. Social media exposure is a huge responsibility. Your employees will feel valued and trusted.

In order for a business model like this to work, it is essential to invest in social media training and corporate awareness. The employees need to be adept with how to utilise the tools to further the interest of the business.

They need to understand that social media will be an essential part of their daily tasks. They also need to realise that they will become the front liners of the business. They will be representing the company and any post that they make will be a reflection of the company’s mission and vision.

Blog Frequency – How Often Should I Blog?

September 24, 2012 |  by  |  Strategic Brand Management  |  1 Comment

When you decide to publish a blog, you first have to determine what your goals are and what type of content you want to publish. You need to focus on a specific niche or subject that you are an expert on. Focus on providing content that is both compelling and informative. Choose topics that are current or provide a fresh perspective on established ideas. Know your target market and understand what will keep them interested. While bearing in mind that in order to gain an increasing number of loyal followers, you need to plan well on how often you should post new entries.

The frequency of blog posting could make or break your site and should be given enough thought.

Why it is a Good Idea to have More Frequent Posts?

The best way to illustrate the need for frequent entries is to compare your website to a newspaper. People subscribe to the daily news, because they expect to read new things every single day. If the paper featured the same articles repeatedly then the readership will obviously decline. Similarly, if you do not update your blog regularly with fresh posts, then there will be no reason for people to visit your site.

Here are some of the main reasons why it will be beneficial for you to increase the frequency of your posts:

1. New Visitors

New posts aid your site in terms of SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. Posting new entries provides a gateway for new readers to find your blog when they use search engines such as Google or Yahoo. Think of it as spreading leaflets or business cards around. The more of these you distribute, the bigger the chances of people finding your business. More site visits can equate to a higher revenue.

2. Retention of Existing Readers

Having great content will not only attract readers to your site, it will also make them want to come back for more. A lot of satisfied online readers are willing to subscribe to your RSS feeds or email distribution list if they find your content interesting enough. Subscriptions provide alerts to readers every time a new post is made to the site. This means a steady source of online traffic and increased revenue for the blogger.

3. Maintain a Strong Online Presence

Your website is only as interesting as your last post. The page loses its appeal if the last entry was made weeks or months ago. Updating your blog on a more frequent basis helps establish your site as an active blog, propelling it to success.

Why it is a Good Idea to have Less Frequent Posts?

While a high majority of bloggers believe that success comes with frequency, a growing number of writers have started to believe that “less is more.” A lot of well-known bloggers have gone away with the habit of posting new articles on a daily basis. They understand that their readers’ behaviours have evolved, and what worked well two years ago does not necessarily apply today.

Here are some of the reasons why it can sometimes be better to spread out your blog posts:

1. Reading Takes Time

Readers love to look for great articles to devour online, but they may not necessarily have the time to go through a lot of articles. They will tend to visit your site a few times a month and only read the last two or three entries. This means that no matter how great a specific post may be, there is a high probability of it being drowned by a sea of other blog entries.

2. Quality Over Quantity

Most of the time, bloggers who aim to provide a good number of regular posts focus more on quantity and neglect quality. They have the tendency to post repetitive topics or ill-researched articles. Posting on a less frequent basis will allow the writer more time to contemplate, research, structure and edit their articles prior to posting.

3. Reader Burnout

No matter how interesting your blog may be, your readers may reach a saturation point. Instead of craving more from you, they will feel that you are posting too much. In a social situation, nobody likes a person who talks a lot. Applied to the blogosphere, readers may get irritated if you get “too noisy”.

How should I Choose the Right Tactic?

With these conflicting schools of thought, it would be tempting to just throw in the towel and choose the more convenient strategy. Both options, after all, have great strengths and advantages. Choosing the best approach can take a lot of strategic thinking, bringing you back to the main objective of your blog and the appeal to your target audience.

As you start your blog, it may be better to have more frequent posts. The objective, after all, is to disseminate information to as many readers as possible. Having more frequent posts combined with an excellent social media strategy will still provide you with the best chance of gaining a mass of followers. Attract new readers, through being more visible within the search engines. Keep existing readers interested, by providing them with fresh and compelling information.

Once you have gained an audience, you should decide on the frequency level that will work best for your target market. If you are operating a blog that provides information on news, current events, or gossip, then it would be best to post as many entries as possible. Sites focusing on advice, instructions, and specialised topics, on the other hand, can survive with having fewer quality posts. Know what your readers want by getting their opinions through polls or your comments section and once this is established, you need to be consistent in terms of delivery.

Big Business – Gaining your Competitors’ Dissatisfied Customers

September 17, 2012 |  by  |  Strategic Brand Management  |  No Comments

Approximately 91% of dissatisfied customers do not wish to do business with the companies that have previously disappointed them. Out of this number, approximately 13% share their negative experiences with at least 20 other people through day-to-day conversations and social media. This makes a competitor’s dissatisfied customers a perfect target for increasing its own customer base.

It is much easier to get the attention of a consumer who is actively looking for alternatives. The need is already established and all it takes is for a new company to provide a better option in order to remediate a previously bad experience. Unhappy customers also act on emotion, they are usually distraught or aggravated and will be quick to switch when they see something better. While also usually being a great source of useful information, dissatisfied consumers provide feedback on what the market wants and values, importantly what your competitors are lacking. This is useful information when deciding how to approach a new marketing strategy, or what products a company should develop in the future.

Where to Look for Customers You Can Convert

An integral part of the ‘finding customers’ that can be converted strategy, is to make it easy for them to locate your company. Dissatisfied customers actively search for better options and alternatives. Businesses should invest in good online communication media, including a website that ranks well on search engines, for instance Google and Yahoo. The site should also be easy to navigate, filled with relevant content and information. Obviously you can also attract people’s attention by investing in more traditional media, such as local television commercials (budget permitting), or interesting print adverts, for instance featured reviews. Once you make your presence known through marketing mediums, your team can communicate the features and benefits of your product to your target market and competitors’ customers.

You should also be aware as regards to when and importantly where people post complaints about your competitors. For instance by checking online forums that cater to your niche market, even perhaps local groups that receive specific complaints related to your industry. This could also take the form of tapping into social media sites, by searching for specific mentions made by disgruntled customers about their personal experiences, when using a product similar to your product or service.

Further, brands could also visit locations of which their target market converges. Find these locations and be involved in events and activities that your target market participates in. Connect with competitors’ dissatisfied customers, in order to provide them with details on how your product can better satisfy their requirements. This is also a great way of getting ideas with regards to what a competitors weaknesses are, also what can be done to further enhance a current marketing approach.

The Art of Converting Customers

Marketing is all about convincing your potential customers that they need what you have to offer. Usually for the most part, it can be difficult to grab the attention of consumers that are bombarded with thousands of marketing communications per day. Dissatisfied customers however are far easier, they are already interested in the product or services that a company has to offer, and already know what they like and dislike.

Here are some steps to follow to successfully gain the loyalty of your competitor’s disgruntled customers:

1. Monitor

Devote some resources to monitoring competitors. This can take the form of checking on public sources such as Facebook, Twitter or blogs to get an idea of what competitors customers are complaining about. Observe how competitors deal with these complaints, to see how they can be improved upon. Use analytics and tools to identify main issues, focusing resources on how to provide better solutions to these problems.

Companies should also watch out for top influencers within their industry. Certain blogs, websites, or social networking sites actively influence a substantial chunk of a target markets’ consumers. These sites may deal with product reviews, customer satisfaction, or industry updates. Creating great relationships with these influencers can potentially provide sound business results, helping to convince customers that a new company can provide better solutions to their needs.

2. Improve

No matter how great a company thinks their product is, there is always room for improvement. Use the information gathered from monitoring competitors and work on making products or services better. If potential customers are unhappy with the customer service provided by competitors, attract them by training your front line support staff to provide not just better, but the best quality customer service available.

3. Close the Deal

Approach prospective customers in a positive manner, for example by not insulting competitors. Begin by discussing the most common product or service errors made within the industry and discuss what strategies or improvements that your company has made to avoid the same mistakes. The ideal result being the realisation that your companies product is a better option and it better meets their requirements. Build customer loyalty by emphasising what your company can do better, not simply by bad-mouthing competitors.

4. Deliver

Customers will always find something to complain about, but they can be contented, as long as a company deliver upon what was promised. Set the correct level of expectations by making goals clear from the start, “Under promise and over deliver” so that customers are not repeatedly disappointed.

Conclusion

Customers who have been disgruntled with previous providers, bring with them the potential for establishing a strong and lasting business relationship with a new company, make that company your own. It is important for brands to create a method of identifying where to find unfulfilled customers and how attract them in order for them to try out a better offer, make that your offer.

Process improvement should not be underestimated; companies should always be willing to invest in product upgrades that will meet customers’ expectations and needs. Deliver on what has been promised and only promise what can be delivered. Companies that are able to attract the dissatisfied customers of their competitors, will have a great opportunity to grow their own number of loyal customers, particularity more efficiently in comparison to those who target people who have not yet decided to use a product or service.

Brand Naming – In Search of the Perfect Name with 7 Golden Rules

September 12, 2012 |  by  |  Strategic Brand Management  |  4 Comments

All brand namers and copywriters have their own set of beliefs when creating a brand name. I give you my 7, as Al Ries would say – “violate them at your own risk”.

1. The Perfect Name Is Easy To Read And Spell

“FLICKR is the worst name ever.”

In the era of war between millions of brands trying to grab your attention, mouth to mouth advertising has become effective like never before. When your loyal client’s mouth speaks to your potential client’s ears, make sure your brand name will be spelled right by the latter. Don’t complicate things. If you have a Marketing degree, odds are you already know that branding is all about making it easier for consumers. Just like complicated advertising messages never work, the same is true with complicated names. This rule probably doesn’t apply to companies owned by Yahoo, like Flickr.

2. The Perfect Name Is Readable In One Way Only

[ESPRI:] or [ESPRIT]?

Again, to make it easier, all your consumers should read and say your brand name the same way. There are many company names spelled differently around the globe. Even great brands like Porsche, Nordsee and Esprit can be stated as examples. This usually happens when a language different from English is used. Have in mind that English is the planet Earth’s official language today. This year, Esprit Holdings are closing all their stores in North America, because they have been losing money. I hope this doesn’t happen to Nordsee, being a fan of their fish.

3. The Perfect Name Is Available For Trademark Registration

(SIGH) Those legal details …

This is the final detail of the naming process, yet it can bring you where you started. Today, there are more than 300,000 trademarks, just in the United States. If you are creating a name yourself, make sure you check your favourite names with a lawyer who has experience in intellectual property. If you are outsourcing the naming process, make sure you choose a naming company that does at least a preliminary trademark screening. Anyway, if you have plans to build a business operating in an area larger than your neighbourhood, your name should be trade-markable.

4. The Perfect Name Evokes A Relevant Positive Emotion

“Honey, you’ve bought me a Grundig epilator? Really?”

Some companies forget that a brand name is not just something you can put on every product out there. A brand name carries a certain emotion, an idea. So, it has to be the right idea. Remember that once your brand is built, that idea will become the brand itself. During the naming process, you can ask people from your target group to tell you what your favourite names make them think of. Focus groups would be even better. It’s always fun seeing what associations a name can evoke. These associations should be positive and relevant.

5. The Perfect Name Is Either Suggestive Or Enigmatic

“No, Grandma, I am not a sailor – Shell is an oil company!”

No other option. Suggestive or enigmatic. The suggestive name speaks for its industry, while the enigmatic name needs a speaker. The perfect name is either obvious or mysterious. If you choose to be mysterious, you will have to create a mysterious story behind your brand. There are theories of different types of brand names, for instance, the “trademark distinctiveness” divides names into 5 types: fanciful (coined names with the classic example of Kodak), arbitrary (meaningless context names, two of the greatest being Shell and Apple), suggestive (names like the catchy Dropbox), descriptive (names like the beloved Milka) and generic (common names that cannot be trademarked). If you ask me, I would drop names like Dropbox and Milka in the suggestive box and all the rest – in the enigmatic box. As simple as that.

6. The Perfect Name Stands Out From The Competitors’ Brands

“I want my name to be unique but not weird!”

Competition also plays an important role in brand naming. It is easy to come up with a name that sounds different from the competitors’ brands. The hard job is to develop a brand name that sounds different and better at the same time. This is where naming starts to look like art, as namers have to find the golden balance between the totally obvious and the totally new. Business owners are always after a name that is catchy and unique at the same time. However, just a small part of them have the courage to deviate from the mainstream. Be bold on this one.

7. The Perfect Name Jumps Out

“A name for a business jump!”

Now, this is where naming goes from art to magic. Even if you follow all the directions above, there is still a risk you may end up with a name that nobody would love. “Somehow, it just didn’t strike me as a great name”, they would say. The truth is names are subjective. This is what makes naming so exciting. You have to feel that THIS is the right name for you. People get personal with names. The process of naming your business is pretty much the same as the process of naming your child. You just know if it is the right one when you say it. Hence, don’t forget to say the names out loud when you make that choice.

Conclusion

Brand naming can be fun and it can also be exhausting. For naming companies, it is an exhausting fun. The good news is that naming is crucial for your business success yet it is not that expensive to outsource. And maybe you are a born namer – make a try with these 7 rules in mind. It is fun the first few days, I promise.

How Do Universities Use Social Media?

Social media is often criticised as being a source of distraction in an educational environment. Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter keep students from paying attention in lectures or engaging in productive seminar activities. These sites are often used to communicate with friends and are rarely associated with learning. Innovative educational institutions however, have begun to appreciate the value that social media can bring to education. These sites, after all, are the best channels to reach out to students and grab their immediate attention. Realistically, a Facebook post would have a bigger chance of being read, compared to words written on internal intranets; students respond better to methodologies that are more relevant to modern life.

Here are some ways through which social media can be used by universities:

Social Media as a Tool for Lectures

Believe it or not, social media is a great way for lectures to improve on their discipline. It is an excellent way to research trends and topics that can be used for lecture plans and seminar activities. Social media sites are overflowing with fresh ideas and trends that can easily be used and applied to lectures and discussions, for example in a marketing lecture it would be appropriate to have the latest marketing practice to back-up theory. The Internet also has a wealth of information in the form of educational blogs and websites. Teachers can also use these sites to connect with colleagues from other locations.

Social media is incredibly effective, in terms of reaching out to students. Teachers can use sites like Twitter to send out blasts about topics and activities that will be discussed in future sessions. Course assignments, unit outlines and assessments can also be made available online. Lecturers can even post information, trivia, or snippets that are related to the courses they are teaching. All it takes is the creation of an account that students can follow or subscribe to.

Some universities have already gone as far as creating their own social media platforms. These platforms allow teachers to upload assignments, lecture materials, and learning paraphernalia with ease and sophistication. They can also freely communicate with their students to update them on topics that have not been covered during class. Customised learning sites are also highly preferable because of the level of security that they offer the students. Filters for unacceptable words and language can be set up, and access to mature sites may be blocked. These sites can even be set up in such a way that teachers and students can access their files anywhere online connectivity is available.

Social Media Benefits for Parents

Social media can be an effective tool to reach out and communicate with parents. Universities in the United States often sponsor extra-curricular events and activities that promote student development. Posting these events online is a great way of informing and inviting parents to provide support and encouragement. Sites like Twitter and Facebook may be used as “broadcast accounts” to disseminate information. These sites are easy to maintain, easy to use, and free of charge.

Parent feedback is also a critical aspect of education. Parents need an avenue wherein they can express their opinions regarding certain policies or decisions. It can also be great to hear constructive criticism or recognition for outstanding activities and events. Not all parents may have the time to write formally and it is often more convenient for them to express their sentiments via transparent, online posts.

Student Participation via Social Media

Students are more receptive with teaching approaches that involve technology or mobile devices. They are more interested in using learning tools that come in the form of mobile phone applications or games. Universities can capitalise on this type of technology by using social media tools.

The Facebook Groups service is an example of an online tool that can be used for education. Professors can serve as administrators for the page and require their students to join as members. Here they can communicate and assign tasks, exchange files, participate in polls, or watch educational videos. Notification settings can be made in such a way that members are made aware every time a new post is made. An added incentive for the students would be the fact that they will have access to their colleagues’ Facebook accounts, obviously if their privacy settings allow and once they are approved as friends. Pinterest is also gaining ground in terms of popularity. With this service, students get to share web links or photos that are relevant to certain topics and subjects.

Social media can aid long distance learning. With simple uploads and profile modifications, learners from across the globe will have access to reading materials and videos without being physically present in school. This is perfect for students who are revising at home, or for external individuals to the universities looking for high quality learning materials. The iTunes University application, for example, provides a wide range of lectures and online courses from some of the best universities in the world. Communication between schools located in different parts of the world is also made easier through social media, for instance Universities that have a main campus and a location in London. International students also have an easier time keeping in touch with friends and family, while still gaining the full learning experience from their University.

Conclusion

Social media tools are easy to incorporate into existing curricula because most of the students already have existing online accounts. It does not take long for students and faculty members to learn how to use services and requires few resources and little training time when compared to other communication media. Some educational institutions may continue to resist this kind of development because of the possibility of abuse. However, this concern can easily be addressed by providing students and faculty members a strict list of guidelines that they need to follow at all times.