5 Ways to Help Your Business Cut Through the Noise
Unless you’re very lucky, or you’ve been clever enough to find or develop a unique product people can’t get anywhere else, chances are that there’s a number of other businesses out there trying to sell the same kind of stuff as you to the same kind of people. In other words, I’m guessing that, like us, you’ve got some competition.
And in an increasingly global market, that competition is probably getting tougher every day.
In any competition, there are always going to be winners, losers and also-rans. Here, I’m going to look at a few ways you can give yourself a better chance of being a winner. That means you need to stand out from the crowd and give your potential customers a good reason to buy from you rather than anyone else.
We all know the standard ways of promoting a business – we can do it cheaper, we can do it better and we can do it faster – but the modern consumer is usually wise to such generally unsubstantiated claims, so you may find you have to think a bit deeper, try a bit harder and be a bit more creative with your marketing strategy.
1 Define your USP
The first and most basic thing you need to do is work out what it is that makes you different from everyone else. In marketing, this is known as your USP, or ‘unique selling proposition’. It’s worth bearing in mind that your USP doesn’t actually have to be unique; if you can legitimately create the perception of uniqueness, that may well be enough.
The article I’ve linked to just above tells the story of the man who coined the term ‘unique selling proposition’, the splendidly monickered Rosser Reeves (who sounds more like an associate of the Krays than a 1950s’ US advertising executive). He successfully marketed a brand of toothpaste as having ‘miracle ingredient GL70’. The fact that ‘miracle ingredient GL70’ was chlorophyll, a breath freshener present in just about every other toothpaste on the market, didn’t matter.
Of course, it’s all very well claiming something, but you need to be able to back it up as well – so Rosser Reeve’s campaign would have been misleading if he’d claimed his toothpaste was the only one with ‘miracle ingredient GL70’.
Every business has some form of USP – the skill comes in identifying it and turning it into something that gives potential customers a good reason to come to your business rather than one of your competitors.
At Davpack, we stand out from our competitors because we don’t just sell cardboard boxes, we’re also box manufacturers. That means we have more direct control over quality and stock management than many of our competitors, which leads in turn to reliable levels of stock availability and order fulfilment. We also have what is probably the biggest in-stock range of boxes available in the UK, giving our customers more choice and a better chance of finding the box that’s the right size for their product with us than with anyone else.
2 Effective content strategy
Many businesses are starting to understand that having a blog on their website is a good idea, but it seems that too many are still not reading the articles telling them that in full. They just read the ‘You should have a blog’ bit and think that’s enough!
You know the sort I mean – barely a post a month appears, and when it does it’s about something nobody else is interested in, like the fact that Paul from Accounts has won the Employee of the Month award for the third time running (which adds a nice personal touch, which is a good thing, but unfortunately in totally the wrong place – see point 5). Or it’s nothing but a stream of plugs for your products. Bad blogs are ten a penny, unfortunately.
Which leads, of course, to the obvious question: ‘What makes a good blog?’
The most important element of a good blog is that it tells your customer what they need to know, not what you want them to know – something that will help them.
It might take a little trial and error to find the right formula. We found that few people were interested in our insights into the history of polythene, our musings on the nature of brown paper packaging or our creative ideas for using bubble wrap in ways that were not intended by the manufacturers. So we had to find a different approach – we had to find something Davpack had expertise in, but which was likely to be more useful to its customers than histories of packaging products.
And what we are good at is running an eCommerce business. Many of our customers run eCommerce businesses as well. So, we thought, ‘Why don’t we share some of the knowledge and experience we’ve gained running an online store. Because if we can help our customers to do better, we’ll all end up winners.’
The result? We’ve got people reading our blog, tweeting it, commenting on it and sharing it on Facebook and Google+.
Creating a blog that interests people takes time, invention and commitment, but the benefits really can be worth the effort.
3 Get social, get mobile
With 2014 just around the corner, it’s about time you turned your attention towards understanding how your customers are behaving online. Staying in touch with the latest trends means knowing where and when they’re browsing, talking to them on their terms and not being too intrusive or pushy when involving yourself in a social environment.
Traditional SEO has taken something of a battering over the last year or two. Partly that’s been down to the way Google keeps changing the way its algorithms operate. It’s also giving more weight to the effects of social media, which on its own should surely be reason enough for any business operating in the digital world to join in the social whirl.
Even more important, however, is the simple fact that more people are spending their time on social media, and that when they’re there, they are more than willing to engage positively with canny marketers who use their brands in the right way. In other words, use social media wisely and you don’t just gain worthwhile extra traffic to your site, you can also gain yourself some incredibly loyal customers.
The other important trend is that mobile technology, in the form of tablets and smartphones, is now pushing the traditional desktop pc into the shadows. On 2 December 2013, the BBC reported that global sales of pc’s would drop by more than 10% over the course of the year. A good part of that is down to the popularity of the more convenient browsing mobiles offer.
Ensuring your online presence has been fully optimised for mobile platforms is therefore essential – yet, surprisingly, very few are putting in the required effort, even top end fashion brands which should surely be more tapped into their customers browsing habits. Being ahead of the game in this area could be a really good way of stealing a march on your rivals and impressing customers with your mastery of modern technology!
And in case you’re in any doubt about the growing benefits of being switched on to social and mobile, only this week it has been reported that average referral traffic from Facebook mobile grew 253% in the 12 months up to September this year.
4 Manage your reputation
Good word-of-mouth has always been a great way of gaining new customers and, let’s face it, if someone you trust recommends, for example, a good plumber or car mechanic, you’ll be far more likely to go to them than someone plucked at random from the Yellow Pages or a Google search.
In the digital age, you don’t need to actually know someone who can recommend (or otherwise) a business or service provider, because there is now a plethora of review sites where customers can – and do! – share their experiences and opinions of a company with anyone in the world who cares to look. Managing your reputation, therefore, can be absolutely key to your success, while getting it wrong can do untold damage.
At Davpack, we ask our customers to leave a review on Trustpilot and, at the time of writing, so far over 1320 have done so, giving us an officially ‘Excellent’ rating of 9.6 out of 10. We love getting those positive reviews, but you know, it’s the negative ones we get (and every business gets complaints – we’re none of us perfect!) that we care most about.
Going back to pre-digital times, a company would very rarely know if a customer was grumbling about them to friends and acquaintances, which meant there was very little you could do about it. All it meant was that those who listened would take their business elsewhere.
Get a negative review online, however, and if you play it right, you can turn that negative into a positive. So what’s the best way to handle a bad review?
Well, definitely not like geek site Kleargear, who tried to fine a customer $3500 for leaving a negative review on ripoffreport.com!
There’s a number of things you can do, nicely rounded up for you on Search Engine Land here.
It’s important to remember when dealing with a negative review that you should never take the criticism personally. Most of the time, it’s simply a frustrated person, who just wants a problem solved, letting off steam. Having said that, occasionally you do get customers who don’t want to listen to anything you may have to say – but that’s part and parcel of being in business, and is always a risk when you go down this route.
5 Don’t forget the personal touch
It’s very easy when operating a business online to become a faceless enterprise. Being able to shop, do your banking, arrange your insurance and even look for a new house from the comfort of your own living room and at a time of your own choosing is undoubtedly extremely convenient, but people still like to know that a real person is behind the whole operation.
Firstly – and most important – you need to make sure that there’s a phone number clearly visible on your site, so that customers can quickly get in touch with you when they need to. Perhaps a delivery hasn’t been made or an item ordered in error and an urgent replacement is required. Having someone to talk to who can provide reassurance that the problem will be sorted is far better than firing off an email, or filling in an online form and…waiting…and waiting…and waiting.
Another way to show your business has a personality is through what you say on your site. Try to write your copy in a way that it reflects you as a person and engages the interest of the person reading it.
We’ve already talked about the importance of having a presence on social media sites, and that really is a place for you to express yourself and interact with your customers. Make sure you respond positively to any questions or comments and never forget the fact that every tweet and post should be made with a clear head and in a calm manner.
One way we personalise our business is with our order correspondence. We show the customer who has dealt with their order, for that personal feel. Many even praise individual members of staff when they leave a Trustpilot review. Such an approach provides reassurance for the customer that someone at Davpack has taken responsibility for their order and helps establish a level of confidence and trust in us as a business.
What do you think are the best tactics an online enterprise can adopt to stand out from the crowd? We’d love to hear your success stories, so please leave a comment below!