Fixing your customer’s pain with soft innovation

Soft InnovationFor as long as I can remember ATMs in the Czech Republic have been a constant source of annoyance for anyone who uses them (setting aside the fees they charge) because the ATM’s programming was designed to optimise its use of banknotes.

Withdraw 2000 Czech Koruna (Kc), which is approximately $100/£66, and you’ll be furnished with a crisp 2000kc note. Now go and buy something for 150Kc and you’ll get a fairly understandable ‘Don’t you have anything smaller?’ and sometimes a flat refusal to take your money because it will wipe out their change float. You might ask ‘why not just withdraw 2 x 1000Kc?’ but with a fee per withdrawal why should you?

In a perfect example of soft innovation, finally this spring a couple of banks have taken notice and their ATMs have been updated (with software). Now you can choose the denominations of banknotes when you make a withdrawal. With one simple change they’ve removed a common cause of anxiety and annoyance for their customers.

What pain points can you solve for your customers?

Think about how your customers use the products and services you provide. The pain point doesn’t have to be with what you do but maybe it’s what they do with it next. The immediate things banks might look to fix with ATMs would be making sure they’re always stocked with cash, not out of service, in safe locations, not what people do with the cash once they’ve taken it out. At a travel company I work for we’ve been looking at what we can do to make our guests travels even smoother by providing useful items like US to European plug adapters and various other things in their welcome pack. The great thing about soft innovation is that it’s inexpensive to implement but can have a very significant impact on your customers’ experience.

Stand for Something

You’ve probably read about how your company should ‘bring meaning’ or ‘have a greater purpose’ but often it’s difficult to see how you relate that to your own market or product.

The family-owned Bernard brewery in Humpolec Czech Republic doesn’t seem to have a problem articulating themselves in their issue-based advertising campaigns.

They pick their battles and take aim at issues in their market that trouble them and their customers – people who like good beer.

In the first ad they’re campaigning against beer being sold in PET (plastic) bottles. Whether it truly affects the taste or not is a matter for debate but Bernard’s signature bottle style contrasts with the plastic bottle, implying quality.

In the second the brewery’s mascot, Bernard is dressed as a border guard, protecting the country from the invasion of ‘Eurobeer’ – a poke at the effects of foreign management of Czech breweries by multinational brewery groups.

It’s worth noting that Bernard have built a solid fan base and a reputation for being independently run and outspoken. If your brand doesn’t have that kind of history then your work will be tougher!

Interesting times for Digital Marketers

interestingSome weeks very little changes across the platforms we use to reach our customers and prospects. Those are what I think of as good weeks. The only certainty however is change, and this week has seen a whole heap of changes from Google and Facebook. Here’s a little about each and some links where you can read more in depth analysis.

Google Places becomes Google+ Local

Google are beating the Google+ drum hard, despite the weak engagement numbers, and have given their local business product the Plus treatment with this overhaul of features and functionality. TheNextWeb concentrate on what Google+ Local means for users while Google Local expert Mike Blumenthal covers how the Google+ Local changes affect businesses.

Google kills etailers free traffic source, Google Products/Shopping

After a decade in beta, the trouble-prone (setting and letting it run never worked very well, with the constant data format and required field changes) Google Base/Products/Shopping part of Google is going away. When it worked it could be a reasonable source of traffic, but now Google have laid to waste the comparison shopping sites it was intended to compete with, by way of the Panda updates, they’re free to start raking in the cash by making it a purely pay to play deal. If you want your products to appear in the SERPs like they used to it’s time to crank up the Ad budget.

UK Price Comparison Websites traffic trends since 2009

Facebook finally doing something for their real customers

Facebook, reeling from the reality check of their post-IPO stock slump, have rolled out a couple of long overdue new features for the people who ultimately keep the lights on: their advertisers. Page admins now have some shiny new abilities that will make managing a page just a little bit easier. First up is scheduled posts. Sure you’ve been able to do that before with third party services (and these services remain useful still, particularly ones that allow you to post an RSS feed to Facebook, but now you can schedule a post in the future. Mashable have a little bit of a kvetch about the interface  whilst AllFacebook set out how to use it.

Secondly, something that third party tools weren’t ideally placed to provide – you can now assign different levels of admin roles, all the way from ‘Insight Analyst’ – someone who can’t make or comment on posts (other than as their own personal account) all the way up to Manager, with each subsequent level gaining the ability to comment, add posts and finally the ability to assign admin privileges to others. AllFacebook has the details.

LogoSpotting: Sushi Time

Sushi Time LogoThis Prague sushi joint (though originating in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) has one of my favourite logos of recent years.

So simple (4 vector objects) yet conveying so much. The red sun from the Japanese flag, a plate, chopsticks, a cross section of a maki roll and the hands of a clock. Perfect.

Now I need to find out what came first, the name or the logo.

The truth about Android vs iOS numbers

Are Google’s Android team leaning on their Analytics colleagues to present their numbers in the best possible light?

or: “Hey Google Analytics, play fair with your Mobile Operating System numbers!”

Google have been shouting about their impressive Android activation numbers for several quarters now (less so since the latest iPhone and iPad I notice). Yet they still need to lean on the Analytics team to present the Android numbers in the best possible light?

Notice how the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are all regarded as separate ‘Operating Systems’ yet all the myriad devices that run Android (tablets, phones, media players, TVs and whatever else) are all included in that Android number.

And they’re still behind!

Android as a combined entity is still behind the iPhone on its own. What are you afraid of GOOG?

So what are all these Android users doing with their phones?

(Because let’s face it, nobody’s buying the tablets.) What they’re doing with them is exactly the same as what people did when buying feature phones: they took home the shiniest phone the salesperson in the mobile phone operator’s retail store or telesales department would give them for free. Then they’re using them for playing games and sending texts and making phone calls. The things they’re not doing with them: buying apps, buying music or browsing the web. These recent numbers from Adwords alternative Chitika bear that out.

Image credit: Robert Nelson via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Should I mobile optimise my website?

Google are really pushing mobile these days (no surprise as Android’s at least the third most popular mobile platform, based on the numbers across all my clients’ Google Analytics accounts, behind iPad and iPhone). So much so that they’ve teamed up with a third party to mobile-optimise your website. But do you need to?

Local business? Stop reading now and go make your site mobile friendly

If you’re a local business, one that people actually look up on their phone when they’re on their way to or want to call to make a reservation or check the menu/price list (I’m looking at you Flash-obsessed restaurant websites) then you absolutely need to have a mobile optimised website, regardless of the percentage of your visitors who are on mobile because they are the hottest prospects you’ve got – they’re headed your way and they just want help finding you.

For everyone else: it depends

Overestimating Mobile

The new interface of Google Analytics has a prominent new option – MOBILE – in the Audience section. There’s just one problem. The iPad, and myriad other copycat tablets, are all included in mobile. They might run ‘mobile’ operating systems but they’re not really that mobile. Most people use them at home, on the couch. Most websites, as long as they don’t make exclusive use of Flash or really bad javascript, will work fine on them and forcing a ‘mobile experience’ that’s optimised for a phone screen is often worse than serving up the full website. Why does this matter? Because when Google include tablets in the numbers for mobile, you’re getting incorrect info. The ‘tablets’ proportion of those mobile visits, across tens of thousands of visits across several of my clients, averages around 60%. That’s how much ‘mobile’ is being overstated by. Beware of numbers touting the huge increases in people ‘shopping on mobile’ – the majority are shopping on tablets, not phones, and as long as the desktop site works fine (no Flash, no rollover-dependent interface elements) there’s no pressing need to change.

So I can just sit tight?

Well no. You need to keep a close eye on the ‘real mobile’ segment and make sure that you’re not serving up an inaccessible website to any devices; phone, tablet or regular computer. Mobile, as a percentage of your audience, is creeping up, whoever you are. If you’ve got an ecommerce site, bear in mind that even if people don’t place orders via a web browser on their phone, they’re checking your prices. You owe it to all your users to serve up appropriate, optimised pages.

Image credit: Original image by Riggzy used under a Creative Commons Remix Licence

2 years with Advanced Web Ranking

Over the space of the two years I’ve been using Advanced Web Ranking it has become an essential part of my digital marketing toolset.

Do rankings really matter?

In this ‘new reality’ of Google Search Plus Your World, personalised and localised results, you’d think that tracking rankings for your keyword phrases wasn’t all that important. To some extent, yes, your search engine position for any particular phrase isn’t static like it used to be – there are lots of variables that come into play. On the other hand there’s been backlash recently about personalised search results and this is something that the engines can’t really ignore.

Yes they do

The reason rankings still matter and why tracking them is important is that:

  1. Not every query is personalised
  2. Not every user is logged in when they search
  3. Tracking rankings can help early diagnosis of other problems

Why use software to do it?

There are a variety of ways to track your rankings – online (subscription based web services, through to the new Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools sharing features) as well as desktop software like Advanced Web Ranking, so why go this route?

Cloud based services – pros and cons

Web based subscription services (cloud based) sound great in principle – no need to remember to run software on your computer (AWR has a scheduler, so that’s not such a big deal) and no large up-front cost. However you’re then tied into paying a monthly fee to access your reports and data. Stop paying? No more access.

Google Analytics new Webmaster Tools ranking data integration

Aside from the obvious fact that this only shows you how you rank on Google (and not any local search engines that are important to you), the data is widely held to be unreliable and doesn’t necessarily track your choice of keywords. There’s also no way to group keywords in order to focus more on how you rank for your most important terms. Google effectively decides what they are for you. You also have to use Google Analytics to get this information.

Advanced Web Ranking’s strengths

Track the evolution of sites keyword rankings over timeBy running software on your own computer you get several advantages:

Control over when ranking checks are performed

You get to decide when the checks are done, manually or to a schedule you define.

The data is yours to keep forever

With Google data it’s never certain how long it will be kept for. With a web-based subscription service, you stop paying and you lose access.

Single up-front cost to buy for 1 year, reasonably priced maintenance plan

You have a one-off cost up-front with a year’s search engine updates included (new search engines added and updates to search engine profiles to ensure that the rank checking software gathers results correctly) and extensions to the maintenance plan are inexpensive compared to monthly subscription services. If you’re out of the maintenance plan the software carries on working (so you can look at your data) and will still run ranking checks, but should search engine specs change, you’ll need to buy a renewal. Renewals are more expensive than extensions but at least you’re not left needing to buy a whole new full license.

Track results on many more search engines

With 2,000 search engines already included, and requests taken to add others, you can see how your site is doing on many more search engines offered by web-based options.

Unlimited websites

This is a huge deal if you have more than a couple of websites you’re responsible for tracking. Whereas subscription based services often give you tracking for up to 3 sites, there’s usually a heftier price to be paid when you go beyond that.

Be in more than one place at once

With customisable location settings for your Google queries, you can see how you’re doing from different locations very easily. There’s also built-in proxy support so you can both increase the throughput of your rank-checking queries as well as ensure that the results you’re getting are valid for the audience a site is targeting, not just your location.

Go get it

Advanced Web Ranking starts from just $99 for the standard version – enough for a small business to track their own sites and the top-end Server version, which comes with an company-wide license to run the software and connect to a shared database, great for SEO and marketing agencies, is just $599.

Genius juxtaposition or just dumb luck?

In a commercial break on a Czech Music TV channel I saw these two ads (KFC ad is the original Czech one, Centrum ad is a similar US version).

Did the cholesterol pills ad buyer just get lucky? Does the ad controller at the station have a sense of humour? I guess we’ll never know.

The takeaway (no pun intended) here is that our ads and messaging don’t exist in a vacuum. It can complement, riff off of, parody or rub up against any other messaging. Bear that in mind when you’re placing ads.

Keeping abreast of comments on your Facebook Page

Ever since Facebook opened up every Facebook Page to comments (and not just from people who like the page) keeping tabs on your Page’s comments can be a tricky thing to do.

There are how-to guides online that suggest you can get alerts directly from Facebook when someone posts on your Page. The interface to do that seems to have been dropped in one of Facebook’s many re-imaginings of how we should be able to administer our pages.

Why would you want to?

Customers now expect companies to treat Facebook (and Twitter) like the telephone. It rings, you answer, simple right? Except posting on a company’s Facebook Page is more like driving up to their head office and yelling at them in the hope that someone will hear you. Aside from that, you don’t want any graffiti on your Facebook Page!

What does Facebook provide?

Facebook provide summaries of your Page’s activity every week, or you can get notifications as an RSS Feed. You could subscribe to that in a reader, and manually monitor that, or send it through a service that emails you any time there’s something new, but that tends to a paid-for option with most services (such as Feed My Inbox) with the free version only providing once daily summaries.

There must be a better way?

There’s a Facebook app called PageNotifier. I tried it and it didn’t work as I wanted and aesthetically it’s not too pleasing (fussy aren’t I?) and I’d rather keep the number of apps on my Facebook account to a minimum, not least because of how much information they require you to disclose. Next I found a few third party services but the ‘as soon as it happens’ option was again not part of the free offering. Finally, thanks to a post by Social Media expert and author, Mari Smith, I was turned on to Hyper Alerts, easily the best Facebook Page Notifications service. It looks great and works perfectly – set it to as soon as possible and literally within seconds of a new post or comment on your Page, you get an email. The best part, it’s free, at least for now.

Here’s a screenshot:

Hyper Alerts screenshot