Generating leads is one of the most challenging activities a business can face, with managing conversions one of the difficult aspects of this practice.

But despite the digital age, phone calls provide some of the highest quality leads and they play a crucial role in generating online sales and enquires too, as a group of online retailers discovered.

According to a case study recently published by web analytics and call tracking software company, Mediahawk, telephone conversations play a significant role in hastening the path to conversion. Their research into the telephone calls of a group of online retailers revealed that of those who called their online stores “converted much more quickly than those who did not”.

So not only is a telephone number on a website imperative, but the handling of those telephone enquiries also plays a significant role in converting leads to sales, whether they be converted online or offline.

Here are five tips to follow to maximise the efficiency of your sales team.

1. Set clear goals

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The first step in generating leads for your business is to identify clear goals that your call handlers can work towards. These goals may be as simple as ensuring all calls are answered within three rings or, more sales based target such as an X% conversion rate. Communicate these targets to your staff and offer incentives based on what targets they reach or when they exceed company expectations.

For performance measurement, make sure you have the right tools in place. A call centre will benefit from call tracking, which can help you define realistic performance goals by showing which offline and online advert engagements, campaigns, backlinks and web keywords are generating the most phone calls.

2. Prioritize customer calls

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If you are advertising one or more offers, or even businesses, the use of call prioritising is key to making the biggest sales. Identify and prioritise customer contact based on the type so that your most-important inbound calls are dealt with first. A call whisper function can be used to pre-announce the call source, so you can qualify the call and focus on urgent or VIP communications.

3. Manage staff during peak periods

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Get your staffing levels right for the busiest periods of the day, week, month, or year. Monitor your calls by time and date so you can keep track of the peak periods and adjust your staff levels for the future. If adjusting your staff levels is not realistic, you can route calls to queues or mailboxes. When you know what your peak periods are, you can also target your marketing for the quieter spans.

4. Invest in staff training

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Make sure you don’t neglect the customer experience that you offer over the telephone. Staff training is essential if you wish to make the most of potential leads. Use call recordings to assess your current level of service and to personalize training to suit your staff and help build stronger relationships with your customers. Listen to both previous inbound and outbound calls to make sure your team are finding every opportunity to convert leads into sales via the telephone.

It’s also a good idea to share your company call handling best practice and reinforce the behaviour you wish your staff to strive towards; this way any untrained staff to can learn from the rest and, everyone can aim for the same standards.

5. Empower your call handlers

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As a customer, there’s nothing more infuriating than being passed from call-handler to call-handler in the search for an answer to your query. Make sure your staff are cross-trained to answer the most-common cross-departmental issues, this will give your agents the power to make decisions and promptly assist your callers – in turn empowering all members of the team to contribute to the bottom line.

To sum up

It’s important to remember how many inquiries and leads come through traditional channels as well as online mediums. Whilst we have endless amounts of analytics and data for online activities, using call tracking software can help you to implement key operational practices to improve your handling of all telephone leads and ultimately drive more sales.

 

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5 Crucial Call Handling Tips for Increased Sales & Conversions

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The Legality of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is still somewhat of a new concept, even though its roots can be traced back to the 1990′s when retailers created platforms in order to analyze third-party online referrals in order to provide financial commissions for sales. Remember what the online world was like in 1995? While commissionable transactions were nothing new even in the year Clueless first came out, turning such a time tested model into one that fit into a blossoming digital era was a challenge.

First of all, there were no geo boundaries for the US tax nexus to oversee. There were marketing rights found in other countries and as in person transactions faded into the abyss, lawmakers began scrambling to make sense of it all. Now, online (only) retailers are booming but they also need to know what kind of legal issues they may face. So far, no clear legislation has been made to keep up with an ever-changing eCommerce industry, but there are three primary legal concerns retailers and affiliate marketers should consider more closely.

Untangling the tax nexus

Before the internet, sales taxes were pretty easy to levy on companies and were held within state borders. As a manufacturer or retailer, you either made or sold goods in a certain state, and you were taxed accordingly. But with eCommerce, retailers are free to sell to anyone and it’s very tough to require the remittance of taxes to states, cities or counties. At first, that wasn’t a huge issue for local and state governments since eCommerce was such a niche industry but that’s changed.

Now, eCommerce is slated to overtake brick and mortar operations, and the amount of sales taxes being paid simply doesn’t add up. As such, a number of legislators are drafting bills in order to call affiliates a veritable “extension” of a retailers sales team since that would be an easy way to fix the “physical nexus requirements” called for with taxation (and thus boost the revenue of sales tax).

Tackling affiliate disclosure

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created new disclosure of advertising guidelines in 2013 that encompassed social media and blogs in an effort to rope in affiliate marketing. In the guidelines, it’s stated that any blogger or social media guru who gets incentives (monetary or otherwise) for promoting just about anything (service, product or brand) has to make that information public. In other words, if you rely on an affiliate to send traffic your way from SM posts of blogs, you also have to follow these rules. However, critics say the system is skewed since penalties are steeper for retailers than affiliates.

Plus, these guidelines simply haven’t been well received or rampantly adopted. In 2011, there was a ruling that Legacy Learning Systems (a company that offers guitar lessons) was guilty of “deceptive advertising.” This happened when an affiliate pretended to be real students posting false reviews. The company was charged $250,000.

Direct marketing to our neighbors up north

The third legal issue involves the Anti-Spam Legislation in Canada, effective in July 2014. This is considered the most aggressive anti-spam law global (so far). Implied consent comes with a detailed definition in order to protect consumers from any sort of spam. To establish implied consent with an existing business relationship, the consumer must have made a purchase or agreed to a business opportunity, been part of a contract with the business in the past two years, or inquire about an application for a purchase or business opportunity in the last six months.

Maybe Canada has things right with these laws. How they’ll impact US retailers is yet to be seen.

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Knowing What and When to Outsource

Competing in the digital landscape usually means competing on several fronts. You need good design (product or web), solid tech (frontend and backend), strong marketing (acquisition and retention), and the talent to help make it all come together. Indeed, even on the marketing front, you need to find the right balance of SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, and content, to name just a few.

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As the old saying goes, however, Jack of all trades, master of none. No one company can (solely) excel at everything it does, but that’s also why companies tend to outsource at least some of what they do. Of course, knowing exactly what you should outsource and when you should do so is another thing altogether.

Do you delegate it to a team member even though they don’t specialize in it? Or do you hire additional staff to take care of it? Or do you pay a bit more to an agency or consultant because there’s not enough work to justify a full-time hire?

These are all questions worth asking when deciding whether or not to outsource, and like all business decisions, it’s one that should be based on a cost-benefit analysis. Not all costs are easily quantified and entered into a ledger, however, and a proper cost-benefit analysis requires that you factor in some less tangible costs. And when trying to identify and assess some of these hidden, intangible costs of outsourcing, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself.

What’s the Oppotunity Cost?

The first question you should ask is “What would be the opportunity cost?”. In other words, “What’s gonna suffer if you try to take this on internally?”.

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At any given point, you only have so many resources. More often than not, those resources already have goals, mandates, and timelines. And if you take on anything else internally, some of those resources will need to be diverted. So you need to decide whether the relevant resources can justifiably be diverted from whatever else they’re doing.

If it’s just a question of postponing the company newsletter to get up a banner ad that’s actually going to drive sales, then diverting those resources probably makes sense. However, if it’s a question of completely suspending all your ad campaigns while you find a replacement for that media buyer who just quit with no notice, then you’ll want to carefully consider whether saving on agency/consultant fees are really worth the foregone revenues.

Is it Your Core Business?

The next question you’ll want to ask yourself is whether the project or deliverable you’re thinking of outsourcing is part of your core business or not. Even if you’re looking at something that your business regularly needs, it might not be worth managing in-house if it’s not part of your core business. After all, by trying to develop the necessary resources in-house, you can end up getting completely distracted from your actual business, and end up hurting your bottom line in the long-run a lot more than you think.

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For example, many companies require physical office space, and every office needs to be cleaned, right? Well, our office had a rotating cleaning schedule. That is, until we realized that the revenue or growth a team member could generate in the time it took them to tidy up the office far outweighed the cost of hiring something else to do it. So we ended up hiring one of my clients, Montreal Office Maintenance, not only because it made good financial sense, but because we’re in the marketing business, not the property management one.

What’s the Urgency?

The third question you need to consider has to do with how urgent something is. Especially if something is part of your core business, but arises suddenly, you might want to consider outsourcing it.

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I mean, sure, maybe you (or one of your team members) should’ve anticipated the need, or maybe something that no one could’ve predicted popped up. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that it requires immediate attention (and execution), and diverting internal resources to deal with it will only completely disrupt some other part of your business.

As an agency man, I regularly get requests from clients to handle something that’s not part of our normal mandate with them. Simply put, the client ended up with overflow. It may be something we can handle, or we may refer them to someone else, but the point is that it’s something the client knows it can’t stall on and is better off paying a bit more to outsource it than to wait to get it done itself.

Counting More than Just the Beans

On paper, the idea of vertical integration sounds all fine and dandy, but like most things theoretical, it doesn’t always work in practice. Of course, there are cost efficiencies associated with taking things in-house, but there are still a slew of intangible, hard-to-quantify costs associated with them, too.

Just like you’re more likely to rent office space than try to build your own, you’ll want to rely on third-party service providers to support other aspects of your business. So don’t be pig-headed next time outsourcing is an option, and look beyond just the trees to see the big picture. Because even when costs aren’t tangible, the revenue/growth you can generate by being mindful of them are.

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Knowing What and When to Outsource

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What’s New in Mobile Marketing 2014

Summary: Mobile marketing put on an exceptional show in 2013 and experienced a growth of 75%. With marketing gurus predicting that the number of smartphone and tablet users will touch 2 billion in 2014, we are expecting to see some sweeping developments this year too.

These days, more and more people are using their mobile devices for local searches, to look up everything from a soup recipe to directions to a car showroom nearby. With this increase in user base, companies are going to have a lot of scope to push their businesses. Additionally, the advancement in mobile technology is set to change the face of digital marketing.

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Let’s look at some trends that are expected to make it really big in the field of mobile marketing in 2014.

BigData

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With the phenomenal growth in the number of mobile device users, the need of ‘big data’ in this field is at its peak. Companies will have to shift to big data and analytics to understand customers and their behaviour and engage them at the right time with the right products, services and information.

Big data helps businesses present clear and crisp analysis while also predicting the need of the audience, empowering them to provide customized services. The ability to deliver tailored and real time information to customers will be a game changer in the field of mobile marketing and this will only be possible through the integration of big data.

Geo-Targeting

image 3In the age of smart mobile devices, location based services could be a huge advantage for mobile marketing. Since smartphones are already equipped with GPS, they can be used effectively to deliver area-based information to the end user. The biggest beneficiaries will be local stores, restaurants, and cafes as they will be able to deliver products and services based on the satellite-location of a customer. This will go a long way in making mobile marketing more relevant and less invasive.

Wearable Technology

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Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony Smartwatch – these wearable devices have shown us what the future holds. They’ve provided more avenues for businesses to explore and market their products. By simplifying interactions for the users, they’ve acted as a boon for marketers and helped establish a strong connect with the customers while presenting them with a unique experience.

 Mobile Video


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In the last few years, more and more people have started watching videos on their mobile devices. With the advent of faster wireless networks, superior devices and high speed services like LTE, more and more people are expected to watch videos on their mobile devices. In fact, it’s expected that the number of people viewing videos on mobile devices will equal that of PC users.

This presents a great opportunity for businesses to target their customers through mobile ads. With introduction of videos on social networking giants like Twitter (with Vine) and Instagram, many lucrative avenues in mobile marketing have opened up. Businesses can be counted on to make the most of this opportunity.

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Conclusion

For the past few years we’ve continuously heard about how big the mobile is going to be in different businesses. In 2014 and the years to come, we will again see an enormous advancement in mobile technology and witness its  growing reach among the masses. With businesses trying to outgun each other, this year might prove to be great for customers as well as mobile marketers.

 

 

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What’s New in Mobile Marketing 2014

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In recent years, several small and medium sized local businesses have taken advantage of social media engagement and have created awareness of their business. No matter if it is a small charity supporting communities, or an affiliate coaching business: all enterprises can benefit from highly effective social media campaigns. The below review of the benefits of social engagement over the internet will provide some practical advice for entrepreneurs.

Researching Social Media Trends

Facebook engagement

Anik Singal’s Facebook page with more than 70.000 social media followers

The Socialnumbers social media statistics page lists different Facebook pages by category, location, and topics. This tool is useful for doing the research on what is popular, what people are talking about, and what creates traction. For affiliates, reviewing shopping and retail pages’ ranking can be a useful method of keeping up-to-date on trends, brand campaigns, and companies’ reputation. When using content marketing and SEO for affiliate campaigns, monitoring social media discussions and posts is highly effective. 

Joining Social Media Conversations

Connecting with brands, affiliate managers, industry experts is essential to become a well-informeed and educated online marketer. Some affiliate marketing and online advertising groups are becoming what used to be the Warrior Forum five years ago. Following influential online marketers, such as Anik Singal, with more than 70.000 fans, as well as Mike Dillard, with over ten thousand followers can simplify life. It reduces time to research trends, find out about new regulations, or simply learn from other affiliate marketers. As an affiliate, you also have to be present in popular niche discussions on social media.

Improving Affiliate Campaigns through Social Media

Sharing campaigns, promotions, and blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin is not only beneficial for the main page’s search engine ranking, but also increases the reputation of the marketer. You remember when three years ago you had to hunt for CPA campaigns on network sites, like Maxbounty that could be ran through social media campaigns? The tide has turned, and now almost all merchants are allowing Facebook and Pinterest.

Turning Facebook and Twitter Accounts into Money

No matter which niche you are targeting, and whether you are an affiliate or are directly selling your own products, you need to create a reputation on the marketplace. Simply creating a page that nobody knows about will not generate commissions, though. A detailed social media and reputation campaign needs to be designed, based on the research of trends. You can start by joining popular pages in your niche and contributing to the discussion. Once you have established yourself as an expert, you can create your own page based on what people are interested in. You might choose to promote the page on Facebook or simply invite people through email-marketing and your blog to join.

Automating Your Updates

It is no secret that Google is looking for customer engagement and regular updates to rank websites. Clever marketers, however, are able to reduce the time spent on posting updates and sharing information with potential customers. One of the most popular applications to schedule your Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter posts is Bufferapp. The free version provides you with basic features, and you can add up to ten posts. Your updates on the business page will go out automatically, and once you have set up the system, you can check how many people liked, retweeted, and shared your content.

Social media marketing has created new opportunities for affiliates and merchants alike. It allows people to monitor the market, industry, learn, and engage with their niche. Implement the above steps in your online promotion campaigns and you will see positive results.

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Engaging with Customers Through Social Media

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