New Facebook Open Graph tags for writers and publishers

You may be familiar with the Author and Publisher tools which Google+ offer to websites, and now Facebook has added some additional tools for publishers, journalists and writers to boost their content on the social network.

The new Open Graph tags were officially revealed yesterday, and are as follows:

  • article:publisher lets a publisher link an article to their own Facebook page. When the article is shared in News Feed, a “like” button is displayed so people can like the publisher page.
  • article:author lets a publisher link an article to the Facebook profile of the author. When the article is shared in News Feed, a “follow” button is displayed so people can follow the author. The author needs to have Follow activated on his or her profile for this button to appear.

They are coded as follows:

<meta property="article:publisher" content="https://www.facebook.com/thewayoftheweb" />

<meta property="article:author" content="https://www.facebook.com/danthornton" />

This means ‘Follow’ and ‘Like’ buttons will appear for those who haven’t already followed the author or liked the Publisher page, when that content crops up in their newsfeed.

The Facebook announcement includes this example:

Example of Facebook Publisher and Author Open Graph tags

So well worth implementing to make the most of your visitors sharing your articles and content on social networks.

Testimonials

I’d just had a new eCommerce store built in WordPress, added loads of great products at really competitive prices but was lacking the traffic and conversion to really see my online business take off.

The Way of the Web was recommended by a friend, they really showed an interest in my business and helped me fulfill its potential with SEO, content and traffic analysis.

It’s an ongoing project and they have been with me every step of the way and long may they continue to do so

John Wakefield

CEO Bargain Biker Brands

www.bargainbikerbrands.co.uk

Top social networks: Guide to images for company pages

Are you setting up social network profiles for your business? Or maintaining social media which already exists? Either way, it’s important to make sure your pages and profiles look their best.

If you’re updating your company logos, re-branding, or simply want to change images to give your page a refresh, then it’s important to ensure you know the right image dimensions, file sizes and positioning for each social network. So we’ve compiled the requirements in once place.

When looking at logo designs, always keep in mind that social media generally requires versions which will work in a rectangular landscape format (Cover images), and also a version which will work as a smaller, square image (Profile images).

 

Facebook  Pages Images:

TWOTWFacebookScreengrab
There are two images to maintain for a Facebook page.

  • Cover Photo: This should be 851 pixels wide x 315 tall. Smaller images must be at least 399 pixels wide and will be stretched to this larger size. Smaller file sizes will help quicker load times, and Facebook recommended a .jpg which is less than 100kb in size.
    They must include no more than 20% text.
  • Profile Picture: This should be at least 180 x 180 pixels square, which will then be displayed at 160 x 160 pixels. Leave space around your image or text to allow for cropping of the image.

Cover photo guidelines state that you should use a unique image to represent your page which can’t be ‘deceptive, misleading, infringe on anyone else’s copyright or be in violation of the Page Terms. You may not encourage people to upload your cover photo to their personal timelines.’

You should also account for your profile image being displayed on top of your cover photo, which is a 160×160 square starting 23 pixels from the left edge.

 

Twitter Profile Images:

TWOTWTwitterScreengrab
A Twitter page requires three images to be complete. Photo and Header Images are located under Account settings. Background images are changed under the Design setting.

  • Photo Image: The photo image appears throughout Twitter. It’s a 73 x 73 pixel square, with larger files able to be uploaded. File size can be up to 2MB in JPG, GIF or PNG formats.
  • Header Image: This appears behind your profile information on your Twitter page. It’s recommended to be 1252 wide x 626 high, and with a maximum file size of 5MB.
  • Background Image: The background image can be up to 2MB in size, with no fixed dimensions as you can choose to Tile your image if desired, although we wouldn’t recommend it! In general, a 1600×1200 .JPG image will be the right dimensions for your Twitter background.

When designing a Background Image, remember that the navigation menus on a Twitter profile will take up significant space beside the Twitter feed. Limit graphics to under 200 pixels from the left-hand edge to ensure they can be seen clearly.

 

Google+ Page Images:

TWOTWGoogle+Screengrab
Two images are needed for the Google+ page for your company:

  • Profile Picture: These have recently been changed to display as a circular profile image, meaning that your 250 x 250 square dimensions now need to account for circular cropping with plenty of space around the focal point of your image.
  • Cover Photo: Cover photos are now displayed in a 16:9 ratio, with a size of 2120 wide x 1192 high to display properly.

 

Youtube Channel image sizes:

TWOTWYoutubeScreengrab
As another Google property, the new ‘One Channel’ designs for Youtube are similar in some ways to Google+. Again, there are two images required:

  • Profile Picture: Currently still a square image, so we use a 240 x 240 square which then displays at smaller sizes.
  • Channel Art: A single 2560 x 1440 pixel image which can be optimised to display properly on different devices with a safe 1546×423 central area which works across platforms, a wide area for tablets, larger desktop displays, and the full image on TVs. A template is available to download from Youtube’s help page.

Notice that on your page, the Profile Picture will sit in the top left of your Channel Art.

 

LinkedIn Company Page Images:

TWOTWLinkedInScreengrab

LinkedIn requires 3 images for a company page.

  • Image: 2MB PNG, JPG or GIF, which must be 646×220 pixels or larger.
  • Standard Logo: Max 2MB PNG, JPG or GIF which will be re-sized to 100×60 pixels.
  • Square Logo: Max 2MB PNG, JPG or GIF which will be re-sized to 50×50 pixels.

Don’t forget to click Publish after adding your Image, or it won’t be saved.

 

Flickr Profile Image Requirements:

FlickrCoverImage

Photo sharing site Flickr has unveiled a new design effective from May 21, 2013, which now includes a Cover Photo on the profile page for every user.

The selection of photos for both Cover Photos and Avatars are both limited to either new uploads or Recent Photos.

  • Cover Photo: There’s no official size guidelines, but looking at how the page displays above, the Cover Photos is approximately 1349 pixels wide by 235 pixels high. The Flickr navigation menu stretches 45 pixels down across the top of the image, with the username, avatar image, and other information stretching up 120 pixels from the bottom.
  • Profile Photo: 300 x 300 pixels square

 

 

General profile tips:

There are numerous other social networks which we could have also included, ranging from Pinterest and Instagram to Reddit and Stumbleupon. Most simply require a square profile image, but let us know if you’d like to see any additions to our list above.

We’ll keep this page updated with the latest changes, so it might be worth bookmarking us, or following us on one of the above social networking sites to make sure you’re up with the latest designs.

Why your business must own its content

Businesses can hire office space from as little as an hour of time, can lease hardware or make use of cloud computing solutions, and can compete on a relatively level playing field online with just a cheap hosting account. But conversely, it’s never been more important to own the central location where you’re creating and publishing your content.

There’s a timely reminder of the terms and conditions for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook by Luke Brynley-Jones, which highlights the extensive agreements you make when signing up to a social network for yourself or for your business. For example you grant LinkedIn the rights to distribute and commercialise:

any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you…”

At the same time, those companies are also looking to attract more users from search and other social networks in exactly the same ways as you are. Check out this insightful post by John Battelle – Portrait of Twitter as a young media company. And consider the widely reported launch of Facebook’s Graph Search. Or how Google is unifying everything around the Google+ backbone – business pages, local map listings etc.

 

Leverage external sites, but own yours:

We actively advocate the use of social networks, and assist companies in making the most of those opportunities. But quite often we’re asked why a client should bother running a blog, website or their own community?

Not only are there risks in relying on a third party to always be available (See the current uncertainty over the future for Posterous for a good example), but in a time where content and content marketing are becoming ever more important to business, do you want to be allowing a variety of services the opportunity to distribute, commercialise and benefit from your content?

There are benefits in allowing people to access, use, and re-use your content – this blog, for example, is licensed under Creative Commons, but that was our choice to make, and not pushed onto us by any terms and conditions. It also comes with the restriction that any distribution has to be accompanied by attribution, and is non-commercial. That attribution means that sharing will help this site benefit in terms of inbound links and search engine optimisation.

In terms of business assets, you need to own your content, and the benefits that will come from it . It’s more important than a nice office for attracting customers, and changing your perspective will encourage you to devote the time and effort required for high quality articles which will help you rise above the coming content marketing deluge.

And if you’re struggling with how to start tackling that challenge, we can help break down the website set-up, content and social media strategy, and the tactical implementation, for you – or even supply high quality articles which are prepared in conjunction with you, to ensure they’re exactly how you want to portray your business, and exactly what your customers want or need to read.

The big challenge for social media attribution

Tracking the effect of social media can be a challenge, particularly in regards to attributing conversion rates and sales in areas such as eCommerce. A study just released by Adobe puts social as the source of 2% of traffic to U.S retailers, in comparison to 40% coming directly, and 34% from search.

That’s probably accurate in terms of direct traffic sources to those websites, but it’s not the whole picture. And I have a particular example to illustrate it.

The Passage of Time

 

Time – an enemy of attribution?

Back in 2004, a film named Fröken Sverige was released, starring Alexandra Dahlströhm. It was the same year Facebook launched for Harvard students, the year after the arrival of Myspace, and two years before Twitter arrived. It was also the first film to star Dahlströhm since her debut in 1998, in a great Lukas Moodyson film.

In March, 2007, I joined Twitter.

During the next two years, I met a lot of great people online, and followed up by meeting a fair number of them in person. One of the people I started following and occasionally chatting with was @Sizemore, who is best described by his About page as writing for TV and film.

He’s a great example of someone who I would have never probably met if not for social media, and whose tastes  are generally not too far from my own – and when they are, there’s normally still things of interest in there.

So I noticed when he praised Fröken Sverige in 2009.

And added it to my Amazon wish list, plus bookmarked it as a film to buy. But at the time, it was pretty expensive. It was also impossible to find on streaming services, and I even checked whether it could be found on any sharing sites.

Now more than 3 years later, I happened to be going through old lists and decided to see whether it was available for a more reasonable amount. A secondhand copy was on offer at a decent price, and a few days later it arrived – it’s now sat next to my laptop to encourage me to finish work so I can finally watch it!

So that film took 9 years to arrive in my house, 3+ years after a personal recommendation from a website, and probably 4+ years after I happened to start following Sizemore on Twitter.

Finally obtained. 8 years after release and 3 since @sizemore  recommended it

There’s no cookie or tracking software which can account for that. And yet, that purchase would not have happened if I hadn’t signed up to Twitter and spent time actively using it.

Can the gap be closed?

Is there any way to close that knowledge gap for a retailer, without either largely removing the privacy of a consumer by tracking and cross-referencing everything they’ve ever seen (Which could be a potential end goal for Google and Facebook)? This particular example stuck in my mind, but the same process is happening much more often and is going uncredited by me, let alone analytics software.

Or should we accept that some circumstances are just unknown, and online word-of-mouth is at least more visible than the offline equivalent?

With current technology, I’d suggest that the trending growth of social media traffic and attributable conversions is an indicator of how it’s really changing, but that it underestimates the impact by a considerable degree. It’s easier for clients who have traffic-based businesses, such as media companies – they just need people to visit their site, which is an instantaneous decision.

It’s also why I always recommend combining a variety of traffic sources, and making allowances for how accurately each can be traced.

But I wonder if any conversion rate specialists have other answers? We’ll be posting a follow up on Wednesday with some answers to this challenge.

The 3 big marketing fallacies for 2013

The start of each year is always accompanied by a rush from everyone to make their predictions for the next 12 months. While I’ve obviously got my own thoughts on the subject, I thought I’d do something different. My good friend Jonathan MacDonald has used Fallacies as a theme of sorts for a few years now, so in the creative spirit, I’m adopting the idea with the 3 big marketing fallacies which all businesses need to overcome.

Having worked with a huge range of brands and clients over the years, there are certain issues and concerns which I know will increase in regularity over the next 12 months. So identifying and tackling them now as part of your strategy for 2013 will be key in having a successful year with less problems.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 1: Content Quantity not quality:

The recognition of how content has become increasingly important, and the rise of content marketing is a good thing for various reasons. Content has always been vital to the success of a business since the rise of print and broadcast media, and the internet has only increased this need.

But almost inevitably I predict companies will invest in large amounts of content, either internally, or from external suppliers who are able to churn out copy, images and audio at bargain prices. And 12 months later will look at the time, effort and cost with little resulting success.

The reason is simple. More content has already been published online than previously in the history of human existence. None of us are short of things to watch, read, play or hear. Most of us will have returned from Christmas with a backlog of emails, RSS feeds, and podcasts, having finally caught up over the holidays on the Tivo’d and DVR’d films and TV shows which we’d been meaning to watch for weeks and months. And now every brand is going to be pumping out an endless stream of content marketing to add to the noise level.

Although it’s certainly possible that many businesses could increase the amount of published content, the priority should be to first develop an effective content strategy and improve the quality of what is already being produced. One amazing piece of content will be far more effective in building a brand and converting readers to customers than five pieces of generic filler material.

It’s why we focus on how content most effectively fits with a business, and on the most effective strategy as a starting point, and it’s also why we provide quality outsourced content to clients. Our work needs to be the best for us to be a sustainable business – reselling the cheapest writers we can find around the internet will soon lead to disappointment for all involved.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 2: We need more Facebook/Twitter/etc

This could have been published at any time in the last 5 years, but still holds true. It’s particularly important for those businesses still entering digital marketing, or those who don’t look at the attribution model for sales/enquiries in enough detail.

The most important website to optimise for digital marketing and sales is your own. It’s the only location where you have complete control over look, feel, layout and content, and can create the ultimate site for your business. It’s also a place which can be backed up effectively, and can be easily publicised and advertised without relying on a third party brand.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t include the right social media outlets in your digital marketing. As someone who provides social media marketing and consultancy, I firmly believe that the relevant third party platforms are essential for a modern business. But they should be part of the ‘hub and spoke’ model which has often been discussed – your website at the centre, and third party platforms operating as the spokes to reach people in the locations they currently enjoy.

If all your traffic comes from any single source – search, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc – then you’re completely at the mercy of that platform and any changes they make. Whether it’s Facebook reducing the reach of Page updates, Twitter falling out with Instagram, or the acquisition of Posterous, you’ll have built your business on ground which can be shakey or indeed disappear completely if the service closes.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 3: It’s all too much

With search, social, newsletters, analytics and more to manage, it’s no surprise that digital marketing can become somewhat overwhelming. Marketing has always had a variety of demands and inputs, but the rapid changes enabled by the internet can mean that everything starts to pile up very quickly.

The result is that small businesses feel that they can’t compete, and large businesses quickly end up making mistakes due to a confused sprawling mess of accounts and responsibilities.

Hence why the strategy and planning is so important to effective digital marketing. A small company with limited resource has a great opportunity to compete on a comparatively level playing field compared to the costs of a national TV advertising campaign, for example, but needs to be laser-focused to use those resources most effectively. Meanwhile a larger business needs just as much clarity in order to co-ordinate a larger range of initiatives. And both need to plan for their efforts to constantly evolve even throughout the space of just 12 months as platforms and priorities change.

A good strategy should enable you to focus on the key areas of your digital marketing, with time and resource built-in for experimentation, evolution and learning to give you a good platform for this year, and for the future.

The three skillsets of highly effective marketers

Marketing has evolved rapidly in the last few years to try to keep up with the digital world. One sign of this has been recent calls for a change from Chief Marketing Officer roles to becoming Chief Marketing Technologists.

On the whole that’s a good thing – the role of technology in marketing has changed massively, whether it’s in product/service creation, communication or delivery. But there’s a traditional marketing skill which might get overlooked in an over-reliance on technology and data.

These three pillars are part of all great marketing work and people, at both a strategic and tactical level, and underpin everything TheWayoftheWeb are working on. And they’re essential regardless of personal specialisation, cutting across direct marketing, SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing to name but a few. Those silos will continue to merge until all you really want will be highly effective marketers – or, if you need a job title, a ‘Creative Marketing Technologist’

 

Creativity:

Creativity is an essential part of marketing, and will only rise in importance due to the global competition for attention and the increase in social signals in areas such as search optimisation.

Although far too many people wrongly see marketing as an advertising function, it should be integral in creating any product or service, and this is where creativity can pay huge dividends in producing something which is sharable and spreadable. It’s where research and behaviour data can go from numbers to a tangible advantage by being used creatively and produce something which markets itself to some extent.

Canon 550d - Pencil Colour

This isn’t a new idea – creativity has been a part of great marketing for a long time, but it’s often overlooked. Particularly when a large part of the creative process is general outsourced to designers and creatives in other departments, or at agencies. But without an awareness of how to create something, how can anyone in marketing be in a position to judge the good from the crap?

Personally my creative history is in the written word, having produced thousands of articles for national publications, websites and even 1300+ posts here over the years. It’s something that’s as much a part of what I do as eating and sleeping, and continuing to work as a journalist and writer means I’m in a reasonable position to judge the quality of marketing texts.

But that’s why I’m constantly trying to improve my understanding of visual creativity by reading the best design blogs and websites (e.g. 37Signals), reading great books on design (e.g Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2nd Edition)
), and studying what photographers, artists and designers do when I get the chance to work directly with them.

Reading

The need to voraciously read as much as possible, from the adverts on the London Underground to a range of blogs, books, and random Wikipedia articles, and accumulating the skills to be able to be creative, and judge creativity, should become a habit for anyone in marketing.

It’s why many marketers I know have a website in their spare time. Or run a sideline business. Or paint, indulge in photography, or in one case, run a local radio show, for example.

If you’re stumped on how to become more creative, then a good place to start would be A User Guide to the Creative MindDave Birss not only provides a great and concise read packed with ways to kickstart creativity and keep it going, but is also great at recommending further books and sources if you want to dive deeper. I’ve read it several times now – whenever I need a prompt to get my mind going again (Disclosure – Dave very kindly sent me a free copy via a Twitter competition if I remember correctly).

Other alternatives include the awesome Flickr page for ‘Interestingness in the last 7 days‘, or Stumbleupon.

 

Marketing:

Really all three pillars fall under marketing, but seeing as I’ve separated out Creativity, and will tackle [spoiler alert] Technology in a minute, Marketing in this case is really the part that aligns research, data and consumer demand, and turns it into something actually meaningful.

In an era of ‘big data’, and computers able to process and produce spreadsheets longer than the Bayeux Tapestry, it’s important to know what, how, and why you’re researching and measuring certain areas and to be able to make sure they’re the right ones to focus on and set as KPIs for example.

Numbers

It’s where you use that data to produce the ever expanding 7Ps of marketing; Product, Price, Promotion, Place, Process, Physical evidence and People – and it means that the creativity is being directed in the right place, not in an area which makes no difference to consumers or businesses.

In terms of measurement, the dull-sounding but invaluable Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik focuses on clarifying and setting the right metrics for most of the early chapters, and I highly recommend it and Kaushik’s blog, Occam’s Razor. It’s also why I’m extremely pleased to work alongside web analyst and business optimisation genius Tim Stewart on a number of projects.

It’s also where knowledge and insight into maintaining customer relationships comes into effect, regardless of the technology being used. It’s much cheaper to keep an existing customer than attract a new one, and to use another well-worn truism, around 20% of your customers will generate around 80% of your revenue. So beyond identifying them, how do you encourage them to remain your customers?

 

Technology:

Tech is last on the list for a good reason. Although disruptive technology can hugely affect industries, on a day-to-day level, it’s about knowing what products and services exist to enable the marketing and creativity to flourish for a business. What methods are available for crowdsourcing and crowdfunding? How can you not only publish online but effectively marketing that across a myriad of social networks and communities, knowing which ones are relevant?

"Technology" -- A gift that keeps on giving

Do you know how to do at least basic research on opportunities by keyword volume and trending topics, or which networks are gaining popularity at a given time? Can you spot if an agency pitch is being based on relevant data and research, or some irrelevant numbers from a previous presentation which are actually meaningless to your customers?

And do you know how your analytics and reporting tools are setup and what they should be highlighting to you?

I’m not suggesting you should devote your life to learning to hand code a website or build your own 3D printer, but you should be comfortable with analytics, social media monitoring tools, RSS, open source, cloud computing and storage, basic HTML, and most importantly – if you were the only person left at your firm after the apocalypse, would you be able to publish something on your website to tell the world you’re still here?

If you’ve never touched the company website or the CMS that runs it, then you need to change that as soon as possible – grab someone this week to take you through the process.

 

Strategic generalist or tactical specialist?

Developing a decent standard across all three areas is a big challenge and one that takes a lot of time and effort. At a tactical level you’ll probably end up focusing on particular areas, and that’s fine, whether that’s SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, Product Development or whether else is your main passion.

But as with anything, it’s the knowledge outside your main area which you combine to make something really special – and you need to cover all areas over time.

If you’re a technical SEO expert, then consider more sources on creativity and consumer behaviour/psychology – it’ll provide amazing ways to improve your keyword research or solve site issues.

If you’re in social media, then dig into analytics and technology, look at direct marketing or how ‘traditional’ marketing takes place in the real world. Spending an hour observing how shoppers browse a department store can lead to great insights into how social herds move (You could also look at Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, which is a great read).

And if you’re scared of technology – dive in. Plenty of senior marketing people have avoided creating a social network profile thus far or going near their own company website, but you can use a fake name and learn how to install an anonymous WordPress blog and get cracking.

You can buy a domain and hosting for less than the price of almost any big conference, and if you devote a handful of hours each week to it you’ll learn far more, too. You can run your own analytics to test and learn, create a Facebook page for it, and use Mailchimp to create a free email newsletter – in the space of an afternoon.

 

Get learning, hacking and testing:

With more material on the internet than was published in the hundreds of years preceding it, there’s no excuse to not improve your skills and become an effective Creative Marketing Technologist (the more English versions of ‘Creative Marketing Technology Manager or Head of Creative Marketing Technology don’t sound as cool I’m afraid!)

If you’re developing those skills, or already have them, and you’re interested in potential freelance or full-time work, then get in touch, as you’re the sort of person we’d like to work with.  And if you get stuck, I should also mention we also offer training!

How does your business handle ‘off-menu’ requests?

To celebrate a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, I took my son and ex-girlfriend on a trip down to Woburn Safari Park on Sunday, and on the way back we decided to eat at our nearest OK Diner.

It’s a pretty regular thing for my son and I. He’d quite happily live on hot dogs every day, I’m a fan of burgers (Particularly their bacon and guacamole burger), and he seems to have inherited my love of 50’s American style and music. Plus, the kids menu comes with crayons and pictures to colour in, which gives the two of us something to do!

Bear crossing at Woburn Safari Park

One reason why we spent so long at the Safari Park. It appears bears assume right-of-way!

 

But I left feeling a bit disappointed in myself. You see, as part of the kids meal, you get the choice of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream, but when my son first got offered a choice of flavours, he picked mint.

And until now, the waiting staff have happily accommodated him, which has made it feel a bit more special. This time though, the waitress enforced the menu options, so he settled on chocolate instead.

Part of me says that’s fine – it’s a clear menu option after all. But part of me wondered why I just accepted it – I could have either asked for a favour or even offered a pound or two to see if they’d have upgraded the ice cream. It’s not the English way to go ‘off-menu’, but it would have kept the special feeling that I and my four-year-old had after getting a ‘special’ ice cream.

I’m sure we’ll be eating there again soon – great milkshakes and burgers are a necessity in life – but it started me wondering whether my son will now automatically go for a menu choice or stick to his guns next time, and how all sorts of businesses react to special requests.

 

How does your business handle ‘off-menu’ requests?

Every business involves a lot of consideration for what can be offered, what is profitable enough, and how that can be presented in the marketplace. Often it’s more about ruling out possibilities to maintain some focus and direction, and to be able to market a clear message.

But in every case there will always be customers who want to tweak what you do. Maybe they want a different colour or size, or maybe they want an additional service bundled into your offering. And as time goes by, clients may have a wider range of needs that they’d like to come from one provider, or that they hadn’t considered previously.

Strange things on the menu here

So how do you deal with them?

I don’t believe any business can try and please all the people, all the time. Some requests are going to be completely uneconomical to fulfill.

But I think you have a couple of choices.

  • Where it incurs little or no downside, accommodate the request. An off-menu scoop of ice cream might eat very slightly into the profit margin on a particular meal, but the cost would be marginal, particularly compared to the lifetime value of 2-3 people regularly buying full meals.
  • Where it incurs a prohibitive downside, explain the reasons for denying the request, and if possible recommend alternative solutions. That may mean exposing some of the challenges you face as a business, and even suggesting someone goes to a competitor company, but in the long run you’ll find that good, honest reasons and recommendations would gain you more than just saying no.

There are several companies who have achieved oft-quoted success with that customer service approach, such as Zappos, who train their reps to recommend competitor websites if they don’t have what a customer wants. And 10 years after founding in 1999, it was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. CEO Tony Hsieh published a book about company culture and process called ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose‘.

And there are plenty of restaurants and bars around the world which have off-menu choices known to a select few (until they become widely-shared on the internet).

Even McDonalds and other fast food outlets have ‘off-menu’ choices, although I can’t vouch for them being available in the UK. Or edible.

But the key isn’t having special items, or allowing special requests. The key is empowering the people who run your business at every level to be able to handle those decisions effectively.

  • Empower every person in your business to be able to handle any off-menu request. Your customers benefit from being special. Your employees and colleagues benefit from being trusted to make those decisions. And your business benefits massively in the age of digital recommendations and the amplified word-of-mouth.

Global culture is changing dramatically, and everyone is becoming more accustomed to being able to customise any purchase to be exactly what they desire. If you’re not looking at ways to incorporate that customer need into your business, you risk losing them to someone which will.

And considering the theme of this post, here’s a cool hot rod picture from Flickr.

Hot Rod

Tweaking marketing when products are delivered

I’ve been meaning to share some practical examples of how marketing should work as an integral part of all areas of a business. Too often people perceive marketing as a cousin of advertising, whereas it should span from initial product or service design and build through to customer use and interaction.

One great example, particularly for anyone selling products online, is what happens when your customer gets a package delivered to their door. Yesterday I happened to receive my first order from the awesome Last Exit to Nowhere, who specialise in T-shirts ‘inspired’ by cool films. Firstly the ordering experience was easy and their website is pretty well designed to display their range and go through the ordering process.

T Shirt order from Last Exit to Nowhere

My lovely new T-Shirts and everything else included in the packaging

It’s a pretty good package. The outer envelope features their logo, and in addition to the ordered shirts, there are two free Last Exit stickers, a form for sorting any returns, and a fold-out pamphlet I can hand to someone to hint at what presents might be well received.

So this definitely isn’t a criticism, or an example of bad practice, but as with anything, there’s always room for improvement, so I figured it’s worth sharing some suggestions.

First up – the logo and strapline on the outer packaging does mention that the company sells ‘T-shirts and other apparel inspired by killer films’. Whilst I trust 99.99% of all postal and courier staff, I do wonder whether someone might be tempted by that to possibly misplace the contents en route.

Inside is a clear plastic bag containing the shirts, stickers and pamphlet. Having seen the cool outer package, there’s more scope with the inner bag for branding, or for some cool imagery etc. It’s the unwrapping that’s fun, not the postage, and the more it feels like a celebration during that process, the more I’ll be rushing to make another purchase to feel that same excitement again.

The stickers are definitely a good touch – for a low cost in printing and shipping there’s a decent chance the customer will share the brand name with others. The only tweak here is that there’s no need for a quote praising the store, even when it’s from a film director. If I’m plastering my laptop, fridge or anything else with a cool quote or a brand name, I want to be the one who gets to be cool and explain to my friends what it is – too much explanation means I don’t get that pleasure.

The pamphlet is alright – it mentions the ‘Picture of the Month’ competition to win more shirts, social media links and an email address for ideas and suggestions. Plus a phone number so I can get those people who don’t shop online to still buy me something. About the only slight flaw is that the selection was taken as correct of January 2012 – it’s now August 2012, and I know from my own shopping that the range is pretty much identical, so updating that information every quarter would help make it feel a lot more up-to-date.

 

Good job Last Exit people:

Just to reiterate – Last Exit to Nowhere do a pretty good job of making receiving your order a pleasant experience, and I wrote this to highlight how even a good experience can still be tweaked and improved.

Having yet to actually model my new clothing, I’m pretty confident I’ll be taking a look on a regular basis as I try and purge my wardrobe of old and crap shirts, and I’ve already picked out 2 or 3 for a future order.

How to justify Marketing, User Experience and Psychology in 30 minutes

Rather than justifying the role of marketing, and particularly psychology in business success myself, here’s a great video of Rory Sutherland at a Google Zeitgeist event last year.

 

In an era of data analysis and ‘social media scientists’, it helps to remind me why an absolute reliance on data and numbers makes me feel rather uneasy. There’s a belief that somewhere in the numbers is the one ultimate answer that will guarantee business success.

It also underlines the mistake that many companies make in seeing marketing and the customer experience as a low value add-on to the intrinsic value of the product or service they are selling – and how they can compound that mistake by always sacrificing those areas first when looking to cut costs.

It’s why I’d rather think of myself as an aspiring digital marketing psychologist than a scientist.