Parabottle – An Amazing New Charity

Parabottle – An Amazing New Charity

I’m not going to tell you about a new business idea today, or a piece of online marketing advice, or a way that I’ve setup a process in my business. I’m going to tell you about a really exciting new charity Parabottle, that I’ve been asked to get involved in with the hope that I can raise awareness of their objectives and even better, that some of you reading this will feel you might just be able to help with a small donation or simply telling others about this post – that’s down to you though of course.

Nick Sprague is a very successful business man in Devon (UK). A client of mine for a number of years and more recently has become more of a friend. Nick came to me last year asking if I’d like to be involved in this new charity and when he explained the concept I was hooked – I hope you will be too.

Did you know that when the Haiti disaster struck, despite being as close as 2 hours from Miami, it was incredibly difficult to get aid to the people who needed it straight away. It is my understanding that more people have now died in the time after the earthquake than the actual quake itself!!! A horrific statistic.

It was on hearing this news on the Radio one day that Nick thought to himself there must be something he can do about this. An epic challenge for someone to take on I’m sure you’ll agree.

You may well have come across Shelter Box – A Cornish charity which are doing remarkable things in the world of aid. These boxes can keep whole families alive for a very long time but due to their size and requirement for transport they can’t always get to places of need quickly. This is where Nick’s idea for Parabottle fits in.

Nick drew up plans for a bottle which contains basic provisions for aid (water, foil blanket and matches at the very least). The lid would have a parachute designed into it and within the first 24-48 hrs of a disaster these bottles could be dropped from planes where conventional aid cannot reach.

As you can probably appreciate, getting something like this off the ground is no mean feat! The first challenge was getting it through the charity commission in order to become registered, something in fact the CEO and founder of Shelter Box, Tom Henderson kindly helped Nick with.

This brings us to the here and now. The next step for this fledgling charity is to have the prototype designed and tested by Airborne Systems later this year.

Currently the new charity needs all the help it can get and is looking for people to get behind it and (hopefully) make this Devon’s answer to Cornwall’s amazing Shelter Box. More importantly, to make this a reality and start saving lives.

I’d ask you to do three things for me today if you can spare just 5 minutes:

1). Take a look at the website: http://www.parabottle.org.uk/

2). Make sure your sound is turned up full and watch the amazing video (on the homepage) which sums the concept up better than I probably have in this post.

3). Consider whether you might like to be involved personally (you can donate here: http://www.justgiving.com/parabottle/ or perhaps you’d consider making Parabottle your chosen charity).

If you are interested in getting involved then I know Nick and the team at Parabottle would be keen to hear from you – just email me your details and how you would like to help on alastair@iambanksy.co.uk

We already delighted that PWC got behind the project running a quiz in Bristol in aid of the charity and Michelmores kindly allowed Parabottle to say a few words at their recent business breakfast. A huge thank you to both those companies.

I don’t often use my blog as a platform for this kind of thing but this is something that is very important to me and if I can raise the profile of this new charity to help it off the ground then I think that’s ok in my book. You can expect my usual style post back again soon :)

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

So last week was the Like Minds conference in Exeter, Devon, a bringing together of Like Minded individuals from all over the globe – The topic – Creativity and Curation.

My Online Marketing Agency, Optix Solutions was proud to sponsor the event for the 3rd time running, making us one of the companies to be there in support from the beginning. We also used the platform to launch the results of the Social Media survey we ran earlier in the year. A glossy 26 page booklet with the findings as well as contributions from some of the world’s leading social media minds was presented. More information on the survey and details of how to request a copy can be found here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/social-media-survey-2010/

It contains insights from the likes of Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, Olivier Blanchard, Julian Summerhayes and a foreword was kindly written by Chris Brogan.

Anyway, here are my take-aways and observations from the fantastic two day conference

1). Exeter is a special place and everyone that came to visit it loved it.

2). Despite Like Minds’ move away from social media to other things, it remains in my mind, a social media conference and when the speakers take on social topics, the audience lights up. I hope the team take this on board for future events.

3). Steve Moore of the Big Society can write a well crafted speech in front of a couple of hundred people in less than an hour, just before he goes on stage – he is also extremely funny and tells amazing stories.

4). The new immersive format in the mornings rocked – I got most of the value from these sessions this year.

5). Did I mention that Optix Solutions released the results of the Social Media Survey 2010 :)

6). Benjamin Ellis is one clever guy and if you want to talk Psychology then he’s your man. Thanks Benjamin

7). Joanne Jacobs predicted in her immersive that by 2012 the web will be viewed by mobiles more than desktop computers, so companies better get their websites mobile friendly. She also said that we’ll see a shift of users to people that currently don’t really use the internet at work (like handymen) – the Internet on their mobiles will become very important for their work

8). Was great to see Jon Akwue back again and even more fantastic that he read the Jeffrey Gitomer book I gave him last time recently and enjoyed it :)

9). Wikis are a great way of sharing social strategy with staff internally, allowing everyone to collaborate and understand what the company is trying to achieve

10). Cofacio is a new Help Engine which is very cool – You can offer help and ask for help and earn points which are used to help good causes. You should signup now

11). Shaa Wasmund has done a lot with her life and not let anything get in her way. She rightly points out that if you don’t try you’ll never know what could be. She’s also incredibly positive – a massive plus in my book

12). James Whatley talked about gaining success in Social Media (and other places) by ‘Displacing the market’ – I.e. trying to do something different to the norm. I love this and will use it often – thanks James :)

12). Robin Wight is a fashion icon (and very clever guy) and I want his shoes!

If you’ve not had the chance to be a part of a Like Minds Conference until now then I wholeheartedly recommend you do your best to get to the next one – you won’t regret it.

Now Your Thoughts

  • What were your highlights – I know the organisers read this blog so it’s a great place to share
  • Have you read the survey – what are your thoughts on the results?

How Influential Are You?

How Influential Are You?

I’m writing today about a project that the Fast Company is running called the Influence project.

The concept of the project is to find the most influential people online. They measure this by giving each person taking part a unique link and asking them to promote it as much as possible. A click on that link is effectively a vote for you. My link is http://fcinf.com/v/c576, it would be awesome if you could click it and support me. You should signup yourself and take part, what have you got to lose? :)

My interest in the project is seeing how social media can, influence, your influence and how we can pull together in tribes to support each other. Go back a few years and think how hard it was to convince others to support you? An email, possibly a link on your website is about as far as you could go. Lets face it, you couldn’t really tell people about a project and hope that they’d remember a link :) Now we have social media platforms and we are busy building relationships on them but how strong are these connections? Are these people willing to support you or are they meaningless numbers, there to flatter our egos? This project allows us to find out.  So here are a few ways that I’ve asked people to help me:

  • I’ve sent the message out on twitter
  • I’ve added it to my facebook
  • I’ve added it to my LinkedIn
  • I’ve commented on other peoples blogs and helped them
  • I’ve just written this blog post to help raise awareness of the project :)

There is a discussion about the project going on over at the Social Media Devon group in LinkedIn so if you’re interested in finding out more then that’s a great place to start. I first found out about the project via a local friend of mine, James Barisic who has written about the project on his blog – socialholic. You can vote for James by the way on this link: http://bit.ly/blzQpw

The Purpose of this Post

Social Media is fantastic for building relationships but people get carried away by the numbers – the number of followers, the number of fans, the number of connections. In my opinion it’s all irrelevant because we’re looking for meaningful relationships, the type that rally around you when you need them, the type that answer your questions when you have them and the type that pass your name onto others when they think you can be of help – this is the true value of social media.

When you’re building your networks, my advice is to build meaningful connections, don’t just follow everyone, don’t get caught up with tools that allow you to build your numbers unnaturally. Concentrate your efforts on engaging with other influencers in your industry, find local people to share experiences with and stick with it. Social media is not an event, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Why not signup for the influence project yourself and see how you get on and if you like my blog and tweets it would be awesome if you could take 10 seconds to vote for me by clicking the following link. :)

http://fcinf.com/v/c576

What’s your take on building numbers on social networks? What makes a person influential in your eyes?

Is your marketing material all about you?

Is your marketing material all about you?

I learnt a valuable lesson about marketing once which fundamentally changed the way I view the composition of marketing material for my businesses. This was the lesson: It’s not about me/my business, it’s about the needs of my prospective clients. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but it’s all to easy to talk about yourself when putting together this material. I challenge you to look at your own material now (yes this minute – go and grab it) with a subjective head on and consider how it would read to someone you want as a client. Have you told them how great you are? Have you told them how much experience you have, how many years you’ve been in business and the fact that you’re one of the best in your area at what you do? Is this the main message? Guess what? Your prospective clients don’t care. They have their own issues, their own challenges and their own needs to satisfy. They don’t care if you’ve got over 50 years combined experience in your market, they probably don’t care if you are the number one company offering XYZ in your area! These maybe useful to know and perhaps you should have these as after thoughts but they shouldn’t be your main message. What you actually need to do is define the audience you’re trying to reach, why they might need to buy what you offer and then heres the clincher – solve their problem for them (or at least tell them that you can solve it somehow).

When you start thinking about marketing like this, it requires a different style of thinking, a different outlook on the production of this important material. In my opinion there are far too many companies out there simply ticking a ‘marketing box’. They produce some material saying how great they are, they send it out either electronically or via snail mail and then saying ‘Yeah good job guys, that’s the marketing bit done’. They then wonder why they are not getting results and why the phone is not ringing off the hook. Next time you’re putting together something which is marketing your business, try and think of how it will be viewed in terms of the buyer. If you’re like me then I’m sure that everyday you gets lots of letters, glossy flyers and brochures across your desk – how many of these end up in filing cabinet Z (The bin)? A large proportion I’ll wager? Now think about what made you pull that one thing aside to actually spend some time looking at? I bet it added value for you in some way, or helped towards, or claimed to be able to solve a problem you have? The success in direct mail and e-marketing can be quite low so you need to make sure you make it work for you. It can be expensive after all. If you’re looking for inspiration then I can thoroughly recommend signing upto the Glazer Kennedy Insiders Circle. These guys are legends at preparing marketing material which really works. You can also check them out on their Facebook page or follow Mara Glazer on Twitter. You won’t be dissapointed.

One last tip – Not all of us are or ever will be marketers so when you produce drafts for your next brochure of sales flyer, try sending it out to friends and colleagues who could be potential buyers and ask theem to be as constructive as possible. Be prepared to have it ripped apart and get ready for the critiscm – Don’t get defensive if its not what you want to hear – after all you don’t want to send out something that’s going to get you nowhere do you? The end result will be a more successful campaign and hopefully better conversions into real business.

Most importantantly – Have Fun :)

Intelligence the Key to Taking E-Commerce That Step Further

Intelligence the Key to Taking E-Commerce That Step Further

Sorry for missing yesterday’s post folks. I referenced a mastermind group I’d setup with a few other business owners in Devon in my post earlier this year – well yesterday we descended on Bovey Castle on Dartmoor – a truely inspirational venue, perfect for reflection on business and setting goals for the future. I’m now fully energised again and ready to work at my optimimum level again.

This weeks post was originally written for The Web Squeeze a few weeks ago and has been received really well so I thoughtmy iambanksy readers might like to read it. Enjoy.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the driving force, the buzzword that gets e-commerce specialists excited, and the latest online market figures make it easy to understand just why.

2008 saw a single year increase in online sales of 16% across the market. Since 2000, Internet sales have risen by 3,500% to £42bn and it’s expected that by 2010 this figure will have climbed to a staggering £72bn.

Statistics like these prove that traditional concerns around issues such as security, limited or inaccurate product information and delivery logistics are on the wane and shows just how vital it is to business to put themselves in a position to capitalise to the full.

However, this is also about a seismic shift in consumer habits on the back of an ever more sophisticated online culture. Our confidence in, and dependence on, online technologies, from desktop computers to mobiles and handhelds, is greater than it has ever been before.

Forward thinking businesses are recognizing this and also realising that the disciplines of analysis and adjustment associated with CRO are techniques just as relevant in all areas of measuring the success of a web presence. Each business is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Nothing should be left to assumptions. Don’t assume something is working – measure, analyse and build until you are sure it does.

In a large competitive market, just a fractional increase in market share can represent a significant boost to profits.

The e-commerce ‘boom’ showed how incredibly easy it is to establish an online shop, just as the subsequent bursting of the e-commerce ‘bubble’ demonstrated the harsh realities of creating a success of one.

CRO is more likely to become achievable if a business understands that their online stores have a much greater value than simply being a means of processing direct online sales.

The key to making the very most of your online store is to make it ‘intelligent’. There are an ever increasing number of excellent analytic tools that can provide the sort of data and insights on customer habits and regular reviewing of this allows the online store to tell you its own weaknesses to be corrected and strengths that can be built on as part of ongoing optimisation strategies.

Those who treat an online store simply as a static sales point are missing a huge opportunity to generate fresh sales from new and existing customers.

The journey between an initial visit and a completed sale can yield a great deal of information about your customers, their habits, where they came from, their likes and dislikes and ultimately what their experience of engaging with your business online is like.

A clearly focussed and customer-driven online store is vital in building brand loyalty and staying ahead of the competition. The bottom line is that those who engage in the changing dynamics of selling online will generate more revenue than those who do not.

If analytic data from your online store is going to have any genuine value it must be built on firm foundations, in other words, the fundamental basics of an online store need to be in place.

Using analytics for conversion optimisation is about fine-tuning and development, and you can’t fine-tune or develop a model that does not work in the first place.

Begin at the beginning, even if you have a well-established website, or sites, already. Make sure that usability is and remains at the heart of it. A small adjustment that enhances your customers experience of using the site may pay big dividends. Again, we go back to the mantra – measure, analyse and build.

Product information pages and purchasing forms must load quickly and be easily navigated. Forms and payment fields should be clearly titled and constructed and display essential information on the likes of shipping and billing in a prominent, logical, and easy to follow way.

There should be as many secured payment options as possible and plenty of calls to action. There is no point in having fantastically engaging sales pages if the customer can’t find the ‘checkout’ or ‘add to basket’ buttons.

If the online store satisfies these basic requirements then the data it yields can give you genuine insight into your customer‘s journey though your online store. From it you can act on two distinct fronts; optimising conversion and increasing sales through some seriously targeted marketing.

The essence of conversion optimisation is no great mystery. The point is to guide as many people as possible all the way to clicking the ‘place order’ button as smoothly as possible, at the same time ensuring that by the end of the process your brand and products have been enhanced in the customers’ eyes.

If they have arrived via a search engine, knowing the key phrases they used to get to you is invaluable in building effective Search Engine optimisation strategies and content. If they have followed a link from elsewhere – supplier database, social network, customer’s website etc… – you should know exactly where and how.

There is no better test of the robustness of your sales process than looking at customer abandonment. Latest data capturing techniques can model the journeys of all those who visit your site and show you exactly at what point during that journey they jump ship.

Armed with this information you can revisit this part of the site, take some independent soundings as to why it isn’t working (sometimes you are too close to the whole thing to see what might be obvious to an outsider) and tweak as necessary until the results improve. Every obstacle removed smoothes the path to higher sales.

The data your online store can provide is also invaluable when it comes to joining up and targeting marketing campaigns and strategies.

A proven way of retaining existing customers is ‘right touch’ marketing – complementing online advertising by introducing new products or services to specific customers who have bought or registered an interest in related items. Think along the lines of Amazon’s highly success ‘Customers who bought this also bought these’.

Going a step further, you can also introduce VIP shopping for regular retail and wholesale customers, an excellent means of increasing sales while imbuing a sense of exclusivity in the brand.

New product or service launches can be targeted at an audience who have already demonstrated interest in a particular area of your business. All this information can be provided by your online store if you make use of the ever growing number of analytic tools that make it an intelligence gatherer and provider rather than simply a processor of credit card details.

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If you enjoyed this article you may well be interested in a fantastic article our head of development at Optix Solutions wrote on the use of voucher codes in ecommerce.

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

2009 saw an explosion in the social media world here in the UK. Yes, some early adopters were on a lot earlier than that but the majority of people that were still ahead of the curve, found their feet last year. Personally I found it very easy to get involved in everything going on and each new piece of technology, so much so that sometimes I think many of us (myself included) forgot about the masses of businesses out there looking in, on the social media world and wondering what it could do for them. A lot of these businesses were/are major sceptics and see social media as something only young people or ‘geeks’ take part in. I’ve decided to take stock in 2010 and remind myself of what I’m good at; coaching small, medium and large businesses on how to get the best out of these tools in their everyday business lives. I’m looking forward to talking to everyone from taxi companies in our local town to large nationals about social media and how they can use it to gain exposure and extra business.

I was asked to speak at a Best Of (Exeter) networking event about this topic last night. The audience ranged from people who didn’t know what Twitter was, to advocates of social media and its use in business. I decided to take them on a journey of tips which it made sense to share with you today. If you know SME’s that are aiming to get into social media then please pass on this post….I make no bones about this being basic, but let’s not get caught up in ourselves – the huge majority of people out there still need help from the very beginning.

What follows are Banksy’s 8 top tips for social media success:

1.  Learn about the subject – Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away – it won’t, social media is not a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about marketing and will become part of the main marketing mix for many businesses this year. Find yourself a local course to go on in order to learn the difference between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re reading this in Exeter then my good friend Dave Thomas at Bluegrass IT runs an excellent social media course which will get you upto speed.
Once you’ve done a course…..

2.  Create a strategy – Don’t just fall into the trap of setting up a Twitter account/Facebook page and hoping for the best – It’s important to create a strategy that outlines what your goals are, who your audience is and how you’re going to measure results – only then start using the sites we all hear so much about. Oh and by the way strategy creation and implementation are something Optix can help you with (shameless plug J)
OK, so you’ve gone on a course and put together your strategy now…..

3.  Download tools to help you manage your accounts – Possibly the number one question I get is – How do you have time to do this all? Well it’s about being clever with your time. There are numerous tools available to savvy social media users – one of the best being Tweetdeck – This allows me to post to Twitter/Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time. There is an iPhone app which allows me to post on the train, in the car waiting for meetings and sometimes even walking along :) It really doesn’t take that much time from your day, don’t use that as an excuse!

Right, you’ve got your tools downloaded and ready to go – now you need to build a following/fans…

4.  Network Locally – Setup local searches on Tweetdeck for the town you live in – I’ve met more people in the last year through social media than through any other method. Exeter (my town) has a vibrant community of 500+ members. If you start to follow people tweeting about your town and talking to these guys and adding value to them, just watch your number of followers and fans rise (don’t get too caught up in the numbers game – its far more about quality than quantity)

Now you’ve got a following – what can you do with it? Here is one tip…

5.  Use it for Research – People get caught up in the sales side of social media a lot – ‘Is it bringing in business?’ Well one of the main benefits in my opinion is the power of research. I needed a Hotel Booking System last year and tweeted about this to my following – within a few minutes I had 4 or 5 good quality recommendations for companies to use and people to speak to. Go back to the olden days (2008 and before :)) and I would have asked a search engine, got a lot of results I didn’t know anything about and hoped for the best. A change in the way we search is coming….

6.  A specific tip for LinkedIn – You can use LinkedIn to find people (This breaks down the barrier of the gatekeeper) It tells you if anyone in your network knows this person and gives you a way of asking to be introduced via your contact. The more savvy sales people among you will see this as a fantastic resource. I was reading about a local company that had gained investment the other day and as an entrepreneurial type, I figured that had potential for Optix – Invest means a change of website/online strategy I hoped. I typed the company name into LinkedIn and BAM – MD/FD/MarketingD profiles and one of them knew someone I knew! I asked for the connection and we are now speaking….that all took me about 5 mins by the way. Would you rather be cold calling or being clever with social media tools?

7.  Monitor – Even if you’re not convinced social media is for you, it’s happening out there – I monitor my name/my business name/my staff and terms including the services we provide. It may produce opportunities for me or at least tell me where I’m being discussed in a conversation and if I need to be involved.

8.  Create a staff policy – If your staff are out there on the Social Media platforms you need a policy to help them understand how you expect them to engage with others and how they can help your business. A cohesive team effort by staff on social networks such as Twitter works wonders and helps re-enforce your brand. At Optix we have about 6 of our staff all working together to promote each other and the business on the networks, we link to this from our company team page here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/team-optix/

So that concluded my own tips but hey, this is social media so I wanted to do a little experiment to show the group that people were out there and ready to help. So last week I tweeted the following:

“Hi All, I’m running a talk on Social Media for SME’s this week and have had the idea of crowd sourcing  some advice. If you could give one tip for a company looking to get into Social Media, what would it be.”

All the post’s below show people from as far away as America taking their time to help me with this talk in Exeter – This was social media at work:

  • If small business: start with a commitment to listen and seek understanding above all else. No crass self-promotion. – Trey Pennington – Greenville in the states
  • Manage your time on it explicitly. It can be addictive! :)Martin Howitt (DCC)
  • Be yourself, communicate back and embrace – Matt Young – Heart FM
  • Social Media doesn’t exist in isolation. Make sure it’s consistent (tone / message) with your other communications – Jon Alder – Alder and Alder
  • Research & appreciate the difference between each SM channel b4 you jump in, consider your strategy for each. Be yourself. – Sarah Knight – Sarah West Recruitment
  • Do your research: Can SM help you to achieve your business objectives, is your audience using it, and if so, where are they – Gemma Went – Red Cube Marketing
  • Strategy & policies are very important. Be authentic. Ask your customers what THEY want from you :)Kristen Sousa – Optix Solutions
  • Don’t just imitate – lift restrictions for *your* audience, without overestimating participation levels – Scott Gould – Aaron & Gould
  • Keep it real and have a believable personality, it’s ‘social’ media at the end of the day, not just about business. – Mark Cotton – SW Head of Big Lottery Fund
  • My advice – understand how/why others use it, but do what feels right for you – Patrick Smith – Joshua PR

Although basic advice for many of you reading this I’m hoping to bring social media to the masses in 2010. If you’re someone looking for help in this area then please contact Optix to see what they can do for you – see you on Twitter :)