Go green – it’s good for the planet (and great for your profit)

 admin  03/Dec/18  no responses.

Never have we been more conscious of how our actions affect the everyday environment around us. After two decades of this topic being placed under a blazing spotlight, as a society we know that going green is no longer a good thing to do, but essential if we’re to at least slow the impact on the world we live in.

For you, as a business owner, going green can appear complicated, time-consuming, and dare we say it – expensive. Yet it really needn’t be inconvenient, and taking steps towards eco-enlightenment could and should serve as a booster to your bottom line.

Some stark figures on SMEs and the environment…

SMEs account for 20% of the UK’s C02 emissions, and are responsible for a quarter of all the UK’s waste. They’re also estimated to waste a combined £1 billion worth of energy each and every year.

It’s clear – there’s a lot to be done if the war on waste and commercial consumption is to be won. Scary figures indeed, and if you’re considering going green, you’re not alone – as many as eight out of ten business bosses have set their sights on being more sustainable. Yet many remain overwhelmed by what’s seen as a mammoth task.

You don’t need to aim for going carbon neutral or being powered by renewables and renewables alone. Small, simple changes can revolutionise your hoof print on this planet we all share.

As for your reward for saving the planet?

Consumers and fellow businesses are more eco-minded than ever before. So much so in fact, that going green is actually great for the bottom line. Out in the world of consumers, 95% of people say protecting the environment is important to themthree out of four Millennials are willing to pay more for products from sustainable companies and businesses that embrace environmental responsibility are more profitable – outperforming their competitors.

A case study from across the Atlantic

In Michigan, USA, one body has raised the bar for environmental care in the equestrian world. The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program proactively helps horse farms is driving down their impact on the planet. Here are three key tips from their good green work…

1. Managing manure – formulate a detailed plan documenting how manure is being managed on the farm in an environmentally sustainable way.

2. Dry or turnout lot management– implement practices to ensure there is no runoff from these areas. This could be as easy as planting a vegetative filter strip.

3. Soil testing– A relatively inexpensive task, this should be completed every 3 years, especially if you are interested in growing sufficient forage in pastures for horses to graze.

Fourteen top tips for simple green changes

Simple housekeeping

Stay up-to-date with your energy and water meters, as well as waste disposal bills – and be sure to investigate any spikes in consumption.

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with the newer energy-efficient alternatives.

Drive down your water usage by using a toilet dam – the Hippo toilet dam saves an impressive 3 litres for each and every flush.

Attempt to go as paperless as possible – review your administrative processes, could anything be digitally automated (saving you time and money in the process?).

Review your current suppliers – what are their green policies? Could you improve your own eco-standing by finding new suppliers? Reviewing this alongside your current supplier prices can also serve as a cost-cutting exercise.

Make it official

Create a sustainability statement that lays out the aims of your business in terms of energy and waste saving.

Make sure you’re confident that your business complies with environmental regulations – this general article from Law Donut is a good starting point.

Going local with eco-partnerships

Forge connections with fellow equestrian eco-warrior businesses – and look for opportunities for mutual co-operation with other companies in the area.

Create partnerships between staff and the wider community – are there local green initiatives that you could become involved in?

Plastic, business waste and energy use

Ditch the plastic – in the office, you could offer glass alternatives to plastic bottles and reusable thermos bottles; you could also consider alternatives to plastic wallets and filing systems.

Engage your employees – create a pin board for suggestions for being greener.

Remind everyone to recycle and make the recycling bin easily accessible.

Push for green working – ask your employees to turn off the lights when a room isn’t in use; keep heating to a comfortable level; close doors to reduce energy loss and operate machinery and processes in the most efficient way possible.

Consider rewarding effective environmental performance – this could include bonuses, days out or afternoons off for achieving the businesses’ set green targets

Getting the word out there about your work

Gain great local or industry PR

Working alongside the local community or with fellow equestrian businesses on a green initiative can make for fabulous PR, so be sure to contact local newspapers or industry publications about your good news story.

Keep your customers up-to-date

Track your energy and waste savings in concrete figures – such as the fall in bin bags sent to landfill, the drop in gas used in the past month or the CO2 emissions you’ve cut out of your business processes. Use these figures to update your social followers and newsletter recipients month on month.

Communicate your green approach on all your marketing materials

This includes your website and emails, as well as any brochures, flyers and business cards.

Be positive – and tell a compelling story

The facts, stats and figures in relation to businesses and the environment are nothing short of grim. But your approach to customer communications needn’t be. When you first consider how you’ll tell the world about your efforts to go green, make it positive and talk about your targets. Describe what the future looks like for you, and bear in mind what ethical and environmental concerns are relevant to your target market.

Make it easy for your customers to go green too

If you’re a retailer, wholesaler or sell products in some other form, consider reviewing your products or adding to the line-up – is there a green (or green-er) alternative?66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, so you may find such products prove to be more popular than you imagine.

Donate a portion of your profits to an environmental charity

Create the feel-good factor by telling your customers that you donate a portion of your profits to charity. This simple step can make customers feel as though they themselves are contributing to steps forward for the planet.

Going green is undoubtedly capable of growing your profits, while also having important benefits for the environment that have never been more important than they are today.

Once your green policy is in place, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian can help tell your target market all about your achievements. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected]

 

 

Facebook ads for equestrian feed stores and tack shops

 admin  05/Nov/18  no responses.

As the owner of a tack shop or feed store, you know that competition is rife (after all, who wouldn’t want to earn a living linked to the thing they love?!). With so many other retailers in this industry, you’re up against it, and paid advertising probably already consumes a significant chunk of your marketing budget.

Yet however you currently cut your advertising spend, you may want to have a rethink, and invest in Facebook instead. Here we explain why, how, and what foundations should be in place before launching your first campaign.

The case for investing in Facebook Advertising

Facebook offers THE largest audience of all social sites (with 2.2 billion monthly active users, and counting). Yet despite this mammoth audience, it is the ability to precisely target your audience where Facebook really comes into its own.

In your niche, you need to have the power to hone in on a very small, very precise audience. Facebook meets this need by allowing you to choose who sees your ads by:

  • Age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace, job titles and more
  • Location
  • Interests – such as hobbies, favourite entertainment and more
  • Purchasing behaviours
  • Device usage

You can also target those your business already ‘knows’, such as past website visitors, those who’ve already purchased, as well as those who share the same profile as your existing customers.

Put simply, no other paid advertising medium offers the level of targeting that Facebook does.

Your Facebook business page: Trot before you canter

Launching into an ad campaign without getting your Facebook page right beforehand is like taking to Epsom on a Shetland Pony – completely and totally futile. Before you even so much as look at the Facebook campaign dashboard, make sure that these three elements are right…

1. Set up shop on Facebook

Facebook advertising offers many compelling benefits. But, if we’re honest, it also has its drawbacks, one of which is the hurdle you must leap if you’re to pull your audience away from it, over to your site.

As a retailer, you can overcome this challenge by setting up a Facebook shop. Adding products is relatively straight forward, and you can choose to direct shoppers to your website, send a message about the product, or purchase right then and there – directly on Facebook.

2. Automate your customer service

Facebook now hands you the power to create common questions that your shoppers ask. By clicking on them, they receive an answer immediately. This can be an exceptional time-saver, and can also help broach last-minute purchase queries, potentially increasing your conversions in the process. Officially, it’s known as a Facebook Messenger Bot. While they’re driven by AI, these bots are known for their human-like responses, and rather than alienating consumers, stats go to show that they actually find them useful…

60 percent of survey respondents say they have used these mechanisms to interact with a business in the past 12 months, with chatbots being regarded as convenient and fast.

3. Activate the review section (and actively encourage your consumers to review your products)

84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as friends, so if your potential buyers have any last-minute doubts, positive reviews can be enough to push them to convert.

You can take proactive steps to building up your review section by simply asking for reviews in purchase confirmations and invoices.

Facebook ads for tack shops and feed stores – Here’s your ‘How To’…

Facebook adverts can promote: posts, photos and albums, videos, events, offers, links to your website and your products.

1. Setting up the basics

First, you’ll need to visit the Facebook Ads Manager to create your ad account.

With that created, visit the ‘Account Settings’ (accessible from the top menu). Here you should fill in your details (business name, address and so on).

At this point you can add another person to manage your campaign. Simply scroll down to the ‘Ad Account Roles’ section, and select ‘Add a Person’. Alongside their name and email address, you’ll need to tell Facebook what level of administrative control they should have.

2. Set up your billing

Click on the ‘Billing’ tab. Here you’ll add your payment method (you can pay by card or PayPal). At this stage, you should start thinking about your maximum spend. Facebook allows you to set either a daily budget, or a lifetime budget (which runs over the entire course of a campaign). To set or change your budget:

1. Go to Ads Manager

2. Hover over the ad set (or campaign) you want to edit

3. Click Edit

4. Change your budget

5. Click Confirm and Close

3. Targeting your audience

In order to make the most of Facebook advertising, you need to make sure that your targeting is on-point. Given that you sell very specific items, you may get the best ROI by targeting shoppers who you know purchase your products.

This can be done in one of two ways. First, you can target the fans of another tack shop or feed store Facebook page.

Second, you could retarget those who’ve already visited your website. Setting up this type of advert is more complex (and it’s officially known as re-targeting). However, as your potential buyer is ‘warm’, retargeting is known to be an effective conversion tactic. Here’s the how to…

1. Go to your Facebook Ads account

2. Click on ☰

3. Under “Assets” find “Product Catalogue” & click “Create a Catalogue”

4. Once you’ve created your catalogue, click “Ad Products” & download the .CSV template

5. Fill out the template & upload it to Facebook

6. Wait for the template to upload, then you’re all set for your first dynamic ad campaign!

You can also use the Facebooks Insights Tool for learning more about who you should be targeting based on what interests your audience have.

4. Decide on the campaign format

There are three core ways of creating your Facebook ad Campaigns. Here’s an overview of each…

Boost post on Facebook Pages: This is the quick and easy option – but it’s also not very effective (and not the best tool for e-Commerce owners).

Power Editor tool: The Power Editor was built for pro marketers. It provides endless campaign features, but can overwhelm the layman. We’d recommend staying away from this, or if you do decide to use it, make sure you undertake plenty of research!

Self-serve Ads Create tool: This is the most streamlined set up tool of all three, guiding you through the process step by step.

Click here to create an ad in the Self-serve Ads Create tool – first, you’ll choose your objective from 15 in total. You’ll want to pick either ‘Send People to Your Website’ or ‘Increase Conversions‘.

You’ll then need to walk through the process, entering details such as your website URL, selecting your audience, setting your targeting (such as additional interests), setting your budget and creating your ad schedule.

5. Design your ads and launch!

Next, you’ll be led through your options as to how your ads appear. You’ll choose whether you want a single image or video, or choose a carrousel ad (which is also known as multi-product ads). Given your business, we would recommend starting out with a multiple product ad.

 

You can create up to 6 ad variations for your campaign from 6 different images – this allows you to see what drives the best results.

You’ll complete your ad by entering the headline, main text and call-to-action buttons.

With all the information added, you’ll see a preview of your ad before launch. This allows you to see the different placements of your advert – such as in desktop feed, mobile news feed and audience network placement, which would place your ads on third party apps and websites (given your work on your Facebook page, it’s best to avoid this option).

Finally, click ‘Review Order’, click ‘Place Order’, and you’re live!

Last minute tips for Facebook Ad budget maximisation

On a tight budget? Spend it wisely, combine Facebook advertising with video, which has been found to secure a Cost Per Click of $0.18 (compared to $0.97 for non-video ads).

As for the best days to spend your budget? That would be Thursdays and Fridays – which Bit.ly found to be the days that received the best engagement (18% better than the remainder of the week, to be precise).

Finally, you need to experiment with your ad format – the text, images and whether you feature products or video. There are no golden rules as to what is most effective for any one business, and small tweaks and trials will help you understand what works with your audience. To get to grips with this type of campaign testing, read our blog: Testing, Testing: Killer Conversions Through Solid A/B Testing.

 Stock up those shelves, if you design and target your Facebook ads right, you’re going to need all the inventory you can get. And if you want a helping professional hand in making the most of Facebook Advertising for your feed shop or tack store, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian is here to help – we understand your marketplace and know just what it takes to make that sale. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected] and we’ll be back in touch.

 

 

Crafting a marketing plan for your tack shop or feed store

 admin  01/Oct/18  no responses.

Tack shop or feed store owner, allow us to ask you a question – do you have any semblance of a plan for your marketing? Or, like almost 50% of SMEs, do you have no plan at all?

If you’re firmly in the latter group, we want to be blunt: you’re undoubtedly wasting time, resources and money on marketing that’s ineffective (and you may also be overlooking other channels that could drive a better ROI). In this article, we’re going to walk you through the making of a marketing plan – from the foundation of basic market analysis, onto deciding upon your marketing goals.

Step one: Understand your customers and the wider market

The three cornerstones of market analysis

Before we dig into the three types of market analysis, it’s worth noting that this really needn’t be an in-depth, month long task. Even the simplest and most cursory of analysis can help you better understand your customers and competitors, and in turn – your target market.

1. Review past sales and business activity

Let’s start with your internal sales data. Take a look at the past 24 months – can you tell how your customers found out about you? What did they buy and which were the most popular products? What proved to be your most profitable products? What is the typical customer – business or consumer? Either way, try to add more to the picture of the typical customer – for businesses, this could be by region or business size, and for consumers, this might be by age, gender or occupation.

Task time: up to an hour.

2. Research your competition

Now it’s time to weigh up the competition. Begin by looking at the websites of your competitors, then explore their social profiles and follow them (continually staying up to date with your competitors’ marketing is mission critical). After 30 minutes research, grab a pen and paper and answer this: what similarities do you have? What differences are there? Aim to gain an idea of strengths and weaknesses with your business, and with your competitors.

Task time: Up to an hour.

3. Poll your customers

Customers can be a rich source of guidance when it comes not just to marketing, but also to the way you do business. They could tell you about the types of feed they want, provide ideas for brands you don’t stock in your tack shop, and shed light on how customers wind up at your door or shopping on your ecommerce store.

Gaining their input needn’t be complex. Simply send out a poll via email to ask them about their experiences. Make it easy to engage, with a five minute online form to be filled out. You could also post a link on your social profiles and encourage responses by offering entry to a prize draw.

Task time: Up to an hour.

Step two: Clarifying (or creating) your USP

What’s your USP?

With a good grasp as to what other feed stores and tack shops are up to and how they’re communicating their offering, it’s time to pin down a value proposition. A well formed USP should differentiate you from the competition, and make the benefit of buying from you, rather than the next store, clear.

Some questions that may help you gain a clearer idea of your USP are:

What problem(s) do you resolve?

Tack shops – you provide the clothes and the equipment that allow people to indulge in their hobby or continue running their own equestrian business. You keep people, horses and perhaps even pets clothed and safe.

Feed stores – you don’t just ‘feed’ horses, your products provide them with a balanced diet, with the right nutrients, to keep them healthy.

How can you make your shop unique?

Your products may not be unique, but your service can be. As a retailer, this will lie somewhere within your delivery, aftercare and advice. You can highlight your business as a source of expert guidance – able to provide advice on the right products, for different problems.

What’s your tagline?

This should summarise your value proposition within 10 words or less.

Step three: Set out your marketing goals

With your market explored and your USP defined, it’s now time to focus on what you want to achieve. First and foremost, one of your marketing goals will almost certainly be driving potential shoppers to your website, where they can purchase online or at least find details as to your products. But is your offering easy to find and use? Can you be found on Google search – especially Google businesses, if you have a bricks and mortar store? If not, you should invest in SEO and PPC.

You’ll also need to ensure that you have a good online reputation before you begin marketing, as 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. If there’s a trail of unhappy past customers to be found over on Trustpilot, all your marketing efforts go to waste for 8 out of 10 buyers.

Whatever the goals you create, you should plan for the long term, creating short, medium and long-term goals (1 month, 6 months and 12 months are good suggested timescales).

Here are the nine marketing goal categories around which you may want to build your plan:

  1. Subscribers
  2. Web traffic
  3. Social media page likes and post interactions
  4. New customers
  5. Prospects
  6. Email marketing campaign opens/clicks
  7. Collaborative partnerships
  8. Media coverage
  9. Blog comments

Step four: Choosing your tools wisely

Here’s a question we’ve been asked time and time again: which marketing channel is most effective for equine SMEs? While the exact answer will differ from business to business, we want to present a super short summary as to what your options are, and what each channel’s main benefit is. This list isn’t exhaustive however, there are plenty more marketing mediums out there to explore.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation should be thought of as a long game – an ongoing strategy that, month by month, improves your ranking in search engines such as Google and Yahoo!

SEO should involve blogging – which can be great for educating your customers about the various products you stock that resolve their issues (such as a certain type of feed for old mares, or the best rain sheets for spring).

Get started with SEO, by reading: link building masterclass: getting started (and getting it right).

Pay Per Click

In direct contrast to SEO, PPC drives traffic to your website instantly. However you have to pay for these leads, and not all of them will convert into a sale. That said, when your PPC strategy is on-point, your targeting is right and your website converts well, it is possible to achieve £2 in return for every £1 invested.

Social

There is SO much to cover for social that we can’t possible even touch on it here. But we DO have a library of blogs that will help you on your way…

Instagram and Pinterest mastery: from zero to hero | Snapchat your way to business growth – The beginner’s guide | Facebook ads for equestrian feed stores and tack shops

Email

Despite mail having a rather terrible reputation as rather useless, email is in fact incredibly effective for ecommerce owners. As the perfect example, sending a series of three abandoned cart email reminders brings in 69% more orders than a single email. And, since GDPR came in, businesses and consumers are even more selective about who they receive news from, so when you DO get an opt in, your recipient should be even more ready to read your message.

PressPoint Pro Tip: we know that for many, the impact of GDPR hit hard. If you’re struggling to rebuild your email list, read this: email marketing in the age of GDPR).

Print

Rather than being dead in the water, print marketing can feel personal, tactile and provide the recipient with something to keep around (which can be encourage by including a coupon within it). It’s also particularly effective with prospects, with research showing that 39% of customers say they try a business for the first time because of direct mail advertising.

An effective, carefully crafted marketing plan can work wonders for the bottom line of your business. But it does take time and effort. If you’d prefer to leave the marketing to the experts, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian can help; from developing your USP, to overhauling your branding, onto creating and executing a cast-iron marketing strategy. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected] and we’ll be back in touch.

 

 

IGTV and you – everything you need to know

 admin  15/Sep/18  no responses.

Never one to shy away from innovation, Instagram has recently announced a brand-new platform. Called IGTV, this desktop and mobile app is set to contend for YouTube’s crown as the social video platform. In this feature, we look at exactly what IGTV is, how it’ll work and tactics for grabbing attention, increasing customer loyalty and driving digital footfall into your online store, website, or product pages.

On the 20th June 2018, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom stepped excitedly onto the stage in San Francisco. Streamed live over Instagram, he had something to say, something that had been cycling through the marketing rumour mills since early June: “We’re announcing our most exciting feature to date: IGTV, a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favourite Instagram creators, like LaurDIY posting her newest project or King Bach sharing his latest comedy skit. While there’s a stand-alone IGTV app, you’ll also be able to watch from within the Instagram app so the entire community of one billion can use it from the very start.”

Before we dig into the details as to how IGTV will work (and how you can make the most of it for your equine brand), let’s take a step back to appreciate what Instagram does and can do for your bottom line.

Instagram – far more than Kardashian pouts and preening

Instagram was set up on a relative shoe-string budget (at least in the world of start-ups). With $500,000 of investor funding, two entrepreneurs had an idea that today, a mere seven years later, has led to a user base of 1 billion users as of June 2018.

This platform has long since shook off its reputation as a medium exclusively for models, the young and the famous. However, if you’re yet to be convinced about the value of Instagram as a business marketing channel, you may want to take a read of these stats:

– “80% of Users Follow a Business on Instagram” – Business Instagram

– “An estimated 71% of businesses use Instagram (almost double the number of businesses (48.8%) that used Instagram in 2016)” – EMarketer

– “65% of top-performing Instagram posts feature products” – Gartner L2

– “60% of users say they’ve used the platform to learn about a product or service” – Gartner L2

IGTV – The details

While going after the same broad target market as YouTube, IGTV is setting itself apart in a few core areas. First, it will be built for how people use their phone – displaying them in full, on a vertical screen. Second, as mentioned, they’ll be no one-minute time limit (as is the case with Instagram) – allowing for up to 60 minutes of video. Third, IGTV will be a simple, separate app (though it will be accessible from a button on the Instagram home screen).

They’ll be no need for users to search for content from the businesses, brands and people they follow on Instagram, as their feed will already reflect who they follow on the main Instagram app. IGTV will also present video suggestions based on what Instagram knows about each user’s interests and preferences.

Users will swipe up to explore – switching between For You, Following, Popular and Continue Watching. Users can also like, comment and send videos to friends in Direct, just like Instagram.

Finally, IGTV will also provide you with the platform to create your own channel which your audience can subscribe to – allowing for links in the description of each video to drive traffic to your website, landing pages and products.

How to get started on IGTV

Step one – Download IGTV

If you’re yet to download the app, you can do so in the App Store and Google Play.

Step two – Log in using your Instagram or Facebook account

Once downloaded, you’ll login to IGTV using either your Instagram or Facebook account. As soon as you’ve logged in, you’ll see that a video immediately begins to play, and immediately after one video finishes, another starts.

Step three – Get to know the IGTV interface

Imagine that the IGTV app is a remote control for flicking through IGTV – all in all, there are seven buttons dedicated to exploring and watching videos:

1. For You: This will present videos IGTV believes you’ll like (working in a similar way to your Instagram feed on the Instagram app)

2. Following: For watching videos of those you follow on Instagram

3. Popular: Watch videos of people you don’t follow (this is comparable to the ‘Explore’ page on Instagram)

4. Continue Watching: Just like Netflix, you’ll find that any videos you’ve not finished watching will appear in the ‘continue watching’ area.

5. The Search Bar: Accessible via the magnifying icon, search allows you to track down your favourite channels or search for content using terms such as “equine news” or “equine business”.

6. Your Profile Photo: Over on the right, you’ll see your profile picture from your main Instagram account. Tapping on it will take you to your channel.

7. The Settings: In the settings, you’ll be able to follow Instagram accounts, link your IGTV channel to your Facebook profile (you can also set your IGTV to automatically post to your Facebook page) and do other tasks, such as reporting an issue or logging out of the app.

Tips, tricks and tactics for tackling IGTV

Make best use of vertical video

First, a basic rule – you need to record with an aspect ratio of 9:16. Let’s keep this simple – recording on your smartphone vertically will handle this for you.

Now for the trickier part – creating content that naturally lends itself and capitalises upon the vertical format.

Keep it short

That’s right, despite IGTV allowing for videos of up to one hour in length, research consistently shows that videos between two and three minutes in length result in the best engagement. That said, there are some instances where long form content is the obvious choice – such as interviews, exhibition reports and in-depth industry analysis.

Make your video content useful and unique

Your videos need to serve up content that is defined by two foundations – it must be unique and it must be useful. These two factors apply whenever you make video content, whatever the platform you’re making it for.

A simple way to create a video content plan is to study your competitors’ blogs and your own blog to understand what content has proven to be the most popular. What has got people talking? What download guides, reports or whitepapers have built your email list most significantly? Look at the amount of social shares, your own website analytics and the level of engagement on social media – indicated by comments, likes and retweets.

Then, with this knowledge in hand, consider how you can transform this content into video – and (of critical importance) think about how presenting this content in video format will bring something fresh to your audience.

IGTV features an insight tool. Use it.

Any type of marketing should involve analysis, and handily enough IGTV hands you an analytics tool for reviewing the effectiveness of your videos.

In order to view your video insights, you’ll need to tap on the three-dot button on any of your videos and select ‘Insights’. Here, you’ll be able to explore key facts and stats, such as how much engagement your video generated and viewer retention rates.

Embrace your brand

You have (or at least should have) a brand – a tone of voice, a visual style and personality. These things should be evident in your video content – reflected in the words you (or someone else) speaks, any branded background behind them, and your overall message.

Ask yourself – what are you hoping to convey? Are you a voice of friendly authority? Do you want to build a community of fellow equine business owners? Answer these questions before you so much as even think about the content you’re going to create, and how it will align with your brand.

IGTV is in extreme infancy – you should continue to look at how others are harnessing this medium and using it to drive results for their business. At PressPoint, we can’t wait to watch how the story of IGTV will play out.

 

If the thought of creating 60 entire minutes of video for IGTV leaves you feeling unimaginative and (frankly) rather intimidated, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian is here to help. We know your marketplace, and we understand your target customer. We can engage, inspire and educate your audience on IGTV – getting there before your competitors have even put together their content plan. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected]

 

 

It’s time ladies and gentlemen, please

 admin  01/Sep/18  no responses.

A leading pub chain of our acquaintance, trialled a new drinks promotion amongst all of its pubs in a single city. The promotion was an instant hit, with one pub tripling its sales over the four-day mid-week promotion.

A few weeks later the pub chain reported its results to the City and invited the leading analysts to breakfast. During the course of the presentations, the CEO announced that this year’s great financial results were only the start, and that they would be rolling out the highly successful trialled promotion across the entire estate of pubs over the next six months with very high expectations. Cue much cheering and a surge in the share price.

What no-one was aware of was that the launch of the drinks promotion in that city coincided with the arrival of tens of thousands of seemingly very thirsty Glasgow Celtic fans into that particular city for a football match. The net effect of that three-day drinking session was to add tens of millions to this company’s share price.

As a result of these shenanigans, we generally take a jaundiced view of announcements to the City, if a group of parched football fans can influence the FTSE in such a way, who knows what’s really behind the success or failure of a listed company.

Not that we’re suggesting that there is anything underhand going on at Pets at Home, where the announcement of increased quarterly sales with retail revenue rising by 6.9% and vet revenue up by 18.4%, immediately sent its share price surging by 10%.

The main reason for our lack of scepticism, is that it very much chimes with what we have been saying in this column for some time, and let’s face it, if something backs up what you’ve been banging on about, you’re much more inclined to believe it!

Pets at Home CEO Peter Pritchard puts its improved results down to a number of initiatives:“great promotions and more lower prices, capitalising on the hot weather with our biggest ever summer and cooling product range, the launch of our easy repeat online delivery service, and an excellent ‘Best Start in Life’ puppy healthplan campaign in vet practices.

“We are also bringing our offer together more effectively with the launch of the VIP puppy club online and on our app, which introduces customers to both sides of our business.”

As we said right here a few months ago, the UK pet ownership model is changing, pet owners are becoming younger and as a result they are shopping in different (younger) ways, they want value, but they want the best for their pet in terms of diet and well-being and they want convenience. Crucially they are prepared to pay for it, when they are satisfied that their purchasing criteria are met.

If you look at where Pets at Home is attributing its revenue growth, it is ticking all those boxes, plus it acknowledges that it needs to up its game in terms of “customer experience”, because it knows that is exactly what this “new” type of customer is looking for.

Alongside the Jesuit-like idea of “give me a puppy before the age of … and they’ll be mine forever”, the company has recognised that the new younger pet owner is inexperienced and will value the support that the Pets at Home team can provide. And of course you have to go in-store to see the Pets at Home vet team. Hence its commitment to improve the in-store experience, and of course it’s no accident that the vet section is usually right at the back of the store.

Pets at Home is doing so much right it’s difficult to see where a smaller retailer might compete, and yet…

It is these very consumers who are shunning the big corporates, who prefer small independent cafes to Starbucks, who buy craft ales and not Fosters, who buy boutique gin and not Gordons. Whilst those Celtic fans weren’t so picky, the new generation is, which is why there is room for optimism for the smaller retailer and manufacturer.

Retailers and manufacturers need to take heed from what Pets at Home is doing and capitalise on it. Right now your core in-store market might still be the Horse and Hound brigade, but could you do more to tempt in this new customer to your independent store, where great service and experienced advice costs nothing? A tightly targeted social media ad campaign could be just the start you need, or even a stroll up the high street, saying hi to all the dog owners, making a fuss of the dog, and (in the name of research) asking where they go to buy their food and accessories, and what they look for.

Email marketing in the age of GDPR

 admin  20/Aug/18  no responses.

GDPR – great news for many consumers, exceptionally bad for businesses the length and breadth of Europe. An article published by Campaign stated GDPR could render 75% of UK marketing data obsolete – so that’s three-quarters of your email list, gone!

These losses could have a very real impact on your business – and some six weeks since GDPR went live, you might already be experiencing falls in sales, enquiries and phone calls. In this feature, we want to provide an emergency GDPR email marketing plan, but first, we must start with the basics.

GDPR – a jargon-free overview

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on the 25th May 2018. Created to provide heightened protection to the privacy of individuals throughout the EU, GDPR now governs how data is collected, stored and used.

In short, GDPR was a reaction to companies abusing data, with the selling of email addresses, sharing of data to unauthorised parties and failure to protect data against hackers. And despite the legislation applying to individuals, it also applies to emails sent to other businesses.

Now, asides from the admin you’ve had to overhaul, you need to face the prospect of re-building cleansed email lists, reworking opt-ins and ensuring that your opt-out is on point. Let’s dive into these now.

The things you HAVE to know about GDPR and email marketing

Excuse us if GDPR explainers have been done to death (and we’re with you if you feel sick and tired of hearing about it). However, GDPR is still misunderstood by many, many businesses. Here are the five things you must understand about GDPR and email marketing – and we’ll try to keep it brief.

Consent means that your email recipient must opt-in (and pre-ticked boxes don’t count)

Recital 32: “Silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity should not constitute consent.”

In order to be GDPR-compliant, your email recipients must actively confirm their consent. This means that they must be the ones to tick the subscribe box on a download or contact form.

Consent requests must be totally separate from other terms and conditions

Article 7 (4): “When assessing whether consent is freely given, utmost account shall be taken of whether… the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary for the performance of that contract.”

In the past, downloadable content has driven the growth of email marketing lists. Now however, GDPR restricts this practice. The section above translates to mean that consent is not freely given if an email is necessary to download content, and consent must be given separately. For example, you can provide a download and present the option to sign up to your email at the same time. However opting-in must be optional – allowing users to download the content without subscribing if they wish.

Make it simple and straightforward for people to withdraw consent – and explain how to do it

Article 7 (3):​ “The data subject shall have the right to withdraw his or her​ consent at any time. (…) It shall be as easy to withdraw as to give consent.​”

Every recipient of your emails must be able to easily remove themselves from your list. Best practices in this respect include:

– Not requiring anything other than their email address on the unsubscribe page

– Not requiring subscribers to log in, in order to unsubscribe

– Not asking subscribers to visit more than one page to submit their request

Keep records of consent – the who, the when, then how

Article 7 (1):​ “Where processing is based on the data subject’s consent, the controller should be able to demonstrate that the data subject has given consent to the processing operation.”

Not only does GDPR require that you gain consent in certain ways, it also requires that you record key details about how you’ve gained each individual’s consent. This means that you need to track:

– Who it was that gave their consent

– What date they gave it to you

– What other details were provided at the time of giving their consent (such as their name, address, job position or date of birth)

Review your consent processes and your existing lists for consent

Recital 171:​ “Where processing is based on consent pursuant to Directive​ 95/46/EC, it is not necessary for the data subject to give his or her consent again if the manner in which the consent has been given is in line with the conditions of this Regulation.”

It’s critical to understand that the rules of GDPR don’t just apply to email signups after the going-live date of GDPR, but also applies to emails prior to the 25th May 2018.

If you collected consent and are sure that you abided by all the GDPR rules when you did so, you won’t need to do anything else. If not however, you’re going to need to:

1. Undertake an audit on all of your email lists

Work through your email lists to identify who would have provided GDPR-compliant consent, and create a detailed record of the who, the when and the how.

2. Create a plan for gaining consent

Where your contacts haven’t provided consent (or where you’re uncertain as to whether they have), you’ll need to send out emails to specifically ask them for consent. If they don’t provide it, you must remove the subscriber in question from your mailing list.

PressPoint pro tip: It’s good practice to send out regular re-permission emails. This isn’t only for GDPR reasons, but to ensure your email lists are clean and your recipients are engaged. Those who stopped reading or needing your emails a long time ago can skew your data – leading to misleading ideas as to what email subject lines and content are working, and which aren’t.

GDPR: The emergency email marketing plan

Many consumers and businesses were overwhelmed with the sheer amount of email re-permission emails, with some becoming completely disengaged. Others will have overlooked them. Still more people would have seen them as a chance to wipe out masses of regular spam email. Whatever the case with your list, if you’re facing an exodus of email subscribers, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are simple steps that you can take to begin to rectify the situation. Here are our top tips for going into disaster recovery mode.

1. Promote, promote, promote

Where is your email sign up featured? The answer should be ‘everywhere!’. From your blog side bars, to a sign-up box on the homepage, onto your social pages, your email newsletters need maximum exposure – now more than ever before.

You also need to push the benefits of signing up. Write a short, sharp sentence as to why your emails are essential reading for your recipient (be sure to keep it brief – ideally 15 words or less). And while you can’t now demand an email in return for your downloadable goods, if your content is seen as valuable, your visitors will naturally want to hear from you more often!

2. Are you blogging yet? If not, now is the time

A blog is the ideal place to demonstrate how your content provides tips, advice and guidance that your readers find useful. Once they’re learned something here, they’re sure to want more of the same.

You can also split your blogs into two parts – one part of which is live online, and the other which is sent via email (but again, remember that they must be able to access this without being signed up to your newsletter).

3. Feeling sociable?

We hope you are, as social media can be your best friend when attempting to rebuild your email subscriber lists. What’s more, it might be that some of your likers and followers aren’t even aware of your email newsletters yet.

A tweet or status update can provide a quick boost to your newsletter list. This could simply say… “Our monthly #newsletter is heading out today – inside will be top secret equine industry news. Stay tuned!”.

4. Show them what they’re missing

Uploading a select number of your past newsletters to your website can remove the guesswork when subscribing – showing potential recipients what’s to come when they entrust their email to you.

PressPoint pro tip: Consider including exclusive offers, promotions and little-known, but important, news in your emails to create a sense of FOMO (which stands for ‘fear of missing out’).

 

If you need expert help to overcome the impact of GDPR on your email list, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian is here to help – we understand your marketplace and know just what it takes to repair a GDPR damaged marketing strategy. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected].

 

 

Flash Bang Wallop – what a picture, what a photograph!

 admin  01/Aug/18  no responses.

Need a guaranteed ROI – read on.

How many of the general public know that the beach/rolling countryside/urban environments they can see peeping through the window of that beautifully styled room designed to sell you a sofa, is in fact a well-lit drop-down sheet chosen from amongst the hundreds of window backgrounds the photography studio has in its storeroom?

Or indeed, how many realise that the particular beautifully proportioned room with not so much as a crumb or pet hair in sight, selling the dream of that sofa, has in fact just two walls, which are made from wood batons and has been shot in studio the size of a hangar, near Milton Keynes?

Photography for marketing has always been the very definition of smoke and mirrors, but with good reason. The plain truth is that images sell things.

We’re not just talking about the high-end mega-budget photography which sells the dream that our own living room will be magically transformed into a facsimile of the highly stylised room in the advertisement, if only we bought that sofa.

When you visit a certain High Street pub-restaurant chain, you will notice that there are images of certain dishes on the menu. This particular High Street pub-restaurant chain has realised that the meals featured in those images sell at twice the rate of other dishes on the menu.

No surprise then, that the meals that are now photographed and included in glorious technicolour are the meals which yield the highest gross margin.

One particular marketing trick from a few years ago, still makes us chuckle. In the windows of a particular fast-food outlet, you would see giant window posters promoting a particular offer or meal deal, the poster would show a scrumptious image of a perfectly prepared food item. But when you went inside there was no more point of sale for those dishes.

Once they had enticed you into the outlet, the job was done. You were then reliant on your own memory of the meal deal, keeping it in your mind through the queuing process and then being able to articulate it, when faced with the pressure of the till staff taking your order, knowing that there was a lengthy queue behind you, looking daggers at the back of your head.

The second reason was that the meal that was photographed so beautifully, was actually impossible to replicate by the hard-pressed kitchen staff, faced with a three-minute meal prep target. If you ate in the outlet, there was nothing visible to compare your limp looking dish with and if you took it away – well you were long-gone!

The digital smartphone revolution has made us all photographers and videographers, but it hasn’t made us good photographers and videographers – it has simply given us very powerful tools we can use or misuse to our heart’s content.

The latest smartphones have extraordinary photographic capabilities, the leading manufacturers understand that the camera spec is fundamental when customers are considering their new smartphone.

The bonus for business owners or marketers is that these products are eminently suitable for a range of photography shots. As an agency, you would expect us to be advocating the use of professional photography, but this is not the case. There is undoubtedly a time and a place for professional photography – when the subject matter demands it.

However, for other images, such as the humble pack-shot, shooting it yourself can be a viable option. But, it is really worth taking the time to set up the shot and shoot it correctly – there are countless on-line resources which can help you learn how this can be done. They will also teach you where your limits are and when it’s a good time to call in a professional photographer to get the results you need.

The quality and/or resolution of the images submitted to this very magazine by people who really should know better, is a constant thorn in its side. FYI – a blurry 50kb image shot on a wooden desk, with a keyboard poking in the corner, will not look great in print.

The story of the High Street pub-restaurant chain above, is a reminder to us all that there’s gold in them-there images. If appetising images of food can be used to sell high margin items at a faster rate, then why can’t the same be true in an on-line shop, e-newsletter or print catalogue for equestrian products?

And the magical marketing ROI? Well there are two. Firstly, learn where the HDR setting is on your smartphone and second? Buy a tripod for your smartphone and a few large pieces of white card, it will be the best fifty quid you’ll spend all year – trust us.

 

 

How to tell a brand story that sells

 admin  15/Jul/18  no responses.

Authenticity, humanisation, the new art of storytelling – beyond these buzzwords and far past this marketing talk, the saying that people buy from people first still holds firmly true.

But let’s be honest – do your prospective customers see you as a faceless corporate entity, or do they feel a brand that they can connect with? If it’s the former, you may want to consider re-writing your brand story. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin.

Common brand stories – finding your fable

Despite there being a limited number of brand story themes, they don’t lose their authenticity as long as they’re done well. Take the classic rags to riches story – the one of a business person who built their company from the ground up and ultimately made a success of their struggles. If this sounds similar to your backstory, let people know.

Then, there’s the hero’s tale – a story of adventure, jumping over obstacles, facing challenges and overcoming adversity. Taking centre stage in this brand story is not always who, or what, you’d expect. Whilst it could focus on the CEO, it can also be about the company or a product which has undergone significant changes to emerge as a better, bolder version of itself.

The hero’s tale is somewhat similar to branding that tells a story about overcoming a monster. In this tale, the founder, company or product begins as the underdog to some seemingly unsurmountable force. The happy ending comes when they are victorious against the baddie – think early Macintosh versus PC, or American Express’s so-called ‘Small Business Saturday’ versus Black Friday.

Other brand stories focus on the customer – on true stories as to how they’ve experienced a transformation with the product or service in question. Similarly, other brands publicise stories about the people in their team, and how the unique company culture influences them in their roles.

There are also ways of shaping a brand story around heritage (most commonly used by family brands) or sustainability (which shows how a brand is making positive moves for the environment and/or their community).

The three science-backed cornerstones of exceptional storytelling

Create empathy and you’ll be remembered

Empathy is an incredibly underused technique in marketing, yet when done well the results can be especially powerful. We can thank a small collection of brain neurons for this. Known as mirror neurons, they’re responsible for us being able to feel another person’s, or indeed company’s, pleasure or pain. The best example of empathy in action may be in the emotional Christmas adverts – think lonely man on the moon from the John Lewis; Paddington Bear from M&S or Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ campaign.

What we can learn from these is that your target market is biologically programmed to connect with emotional stories – so make it a tear-jerker or a smile-maker – make them care, and their loyalty and business could be yours for the taking.

Stimulate the release of oxytocin for co-operation

Oxytocin is a neurochemical, and in the simplest sense it signals to our body that all is safe to approach others – this biological process used to be critical for the survival of our Neanderthal ancestors.

Interestingly character-focused brand stories, when done well, result in oxytocin synthesis. In turn, this increases how prepared the viewer is to help others. Research from the Harvard Business Review has found that a brand story must capture and sustain attention and introduce some form of tension – enough for the audience to share the feelings of the character.

Find a way to drive home the pain of the problem

What problem do you solve? What pain do your customers face that your product or service removes? Fully understanding the way your customer experiences pain is key to building a story and ultimately creating a pleasure that is experienced when it’s resolution.

The beginning, middle and end of a brand story written for business growth

First things first – pin down what you stand for

Your brand story is about more than an advert or the copy on a page. It combines facts, feelings and interpretations, and should communicate the following:

– Who you are – How did your company come to be? What is your vision, mission, values and culture?

– What you provide/produce – The service or product needs to be subtly obvious wherever you tell your brand story, no matter the content type.

– Who you serve – The people you help (remembering to drive home their pain points)

– Why you do what you do – The bigger picture – going beyond your product or service to detail how you benefit your customer.

– Where you are headed – The ways in which you’re evolving to always improve your product/service.

With these elements nailed down, it’s now time to understand your (very specific) audience

Who are your audience? The entirety of your target market, or a select type of customer? Designing a story around a well understood persona is key to ensuring you craft a brand story that resonates, and that cleverly interweaves the target audience’s pain points into the fabric of the brand fable.

Grab a notepad and jot down the past, present and future of your company

Your brand story begins with your founder and the original purpose of the business. Make it detailed and follow a blow by blow account of how the business grew. Add to the mix amusing, heart-warming or tense anecdotes, stats, facts and a CEO testimony. Then weigh up how this beginning led to, and influenced, the present day, as well as the goals of the future.

Put blood, sweat and tears into a statement of existence

Now it’s time to create your brand statement – a short, snappy sentence or two as to what matters to customers and what the deeper purpose of the business is. It should answer the questions: “Why are we here?” and “How are we making the world a better place?”. Consider these examples…

– Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

– American Express: “We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.”

– Warby Parker: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”

– InvisionApp: “Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.”

– Honest Tea: “… to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”

PressPoint Pro Tip

Get creative, brainstorm with your colleagues and commit to it. If you’re struggling, come back with fresh eyes, or survey others for their opinion.

Develop your story around this now very refined brand story statement

Print your long brand saga out and pin it up next to your statement. The task now is to create an A4 page to summarise your story – telling a true narrative of your brand, in a condensed format.

PressPoint Pro Tip

Perhaps the most important element of a great brand story is purpose. Remember those neuroscience tricks we were speaking of? They all revolve around emotional connections, and in order for your brand story to work, it must have an authentic purpose, if your audience is to engage.

Make sure your brand story touches every element of your company

The best brand stories are readable through every marketing material and contact with your company – from your logo, to you blog content, to the interactions with your workforce. This means keeping your branding consistent – the colours, the values held by company and workers alike, to the tone of voice that’s shared by both the about page, and CEO.

You want to motivate, engage and persuade, and a powerful brand story can achieve all three, resulting in tangible pence and pounds on the bottom line. Yet creating an effective brand story that resonates is a tough business. If you’d prefer to move onto Happily Ever After, rather than struggling with your Once Upon a Time, you know where we are. We can help pen a brand story that sells. Call our team on 01953 851513, or send a message over and we’ll be right back in touch – [email protected].

 

Who’d be a retailer in 2018?

 admin  01/Jul/18  no responses.

“This town, is coming like a ghost town” – The Specials, 1981. For most of us, the first big retail casualty of the internet age was Woolworths, way back in January 2009.

In many ways, the failure of Woolworths softened the public up for all future retail failures. The announcement of the closure was a seismic shock at the time, but the writing had been on the wall for some time. In many ways, whilst we shed a nostalgic tear for its demise, in reality it felt kinder to shoot it rather than have the one-time giant of High Street linger on, slowly decaying further before our eyes. Although 30,000 employees thought very differently at the time.

Our shock at announcements from once mighty retailers will never be as great as the shock we felt when the Woollies announcement was made. When BHS went in 2016, it didn’t seem as bad somehow, maybe because we thought there were baddies to blame for its collapse, but the relentless fall of the retail dominoes went on and with each one we cared less.

2018 though, feels like the worst yet. According to the Centre for Retail Research; from January to May 2018, 1,415 High Street shops have closed at a cost of 15,236 jobs. Those figures for the whole of 2017 were 1,383 shops closed and 12,225 jobs lost. The 2018 figures don’t even include the fallout from the recent House of Fraser announcement.

The speed that well-loved retail brands have become irrelevant and surplus to our shopping needs is quite shocking. 2018 has already seen the demise of Toys R Us, Maplins, Wine Rack, Poundworld and closer to home even Countrywide Farmers. Plus, there have been large-scale store closure announcements from both M&S and House of Fraser.

This is all happening with the continuing success of Amazon casting a very long shadow – Amazon recently reported a 25% growth in on-line sales. Amazon carries such a threat for retailers, that the merest whisper of Amazon’s launch into grocery sales in the UK, has led to multi-billion pound consolidations, seeing Tesco merging with Booker and Asda and Sainsbury’s getting very serious about a merger too.

So how ironic then, that a retailer of the stature of M&S sets out on a strategic mission to achieve 30% of its sales on-line, at a time when Amazon is trialling Amazon Go in the US – its first venture into bricks and mortar Amazon stores. What is fascinating is that Amazon is bringing the learning from its online success to its physical stores. It is attempting to recreate the convenience of its online store in a retail environment. There are no tills or checkouts, customers log into Amazon on their smartphone app when they enter, select the products they want to buy and then leave with their products – the departure of the shopper from the outlet then triggers the payment. And Amazon being Amazon, it captures all the data during your visit, which is then used to suggest additional complimentary purchases to the shopper. Neat!

Whilst all of this might seem a long way away from any equestrian retail outlet, in the same way that the technology from top-end cars eventually finds its way into the Ford Fiesta, the technology and strategies of successful retailers will ultimately shape the requirements of everyone’s customers. What customers are able to see and do in one store, be it online or on the high street, they will want to do everywhere.

Time for some stats…

In 2021, one retail sale out of every four will be made online and half of those online sales will be on a mobile device, so one in every eight retail sales will be on a mobile device by 2021, that is an astonishing figure. And could prove to be a very worrying one for many small retailers.

If your online shopping offering isn’t mobile responsive or even mobile friendly, you’re going to be pretty much dead in the water. We are constantly astonished when we are looking around at how many websites aren’t set up for mobiles, or how many of their sites’ owners are seemingly oblivious to the pressing need to update the site.

The reasons for the final demise of the dinosaurs is subject of much debate, whereas there is very little debate over the demise of dinosaurs in the retail world – their customers deserted them because there were more attractive places to shop. The sad truth is that extinction is a very real possibility unless you’re prepared to embrace the digital retail revolution.

 

 

Getting talkative to gain business traction

 admin  01/Jun/18  no responses.

Comment marketing has got a bit of a bad reputation. At best many imagine it to be ineffective, and at worst, some think that it’s about spamming and nothing more. This bad reputation is far from new. In fact, this tarred brush dates back in the bad old days of SEO, when black hat techniques such as forum spamming and automated blog commenting were prevalent.

But here’s the interesting thing – the strength of comment marketing lies in these misunderstandings, as your fellow equine businesses are likely making these very presumptions about what can be a really powerful marketing medium. With this secret tool in your marketing arsenal, you could be making business leaps and bounds, whilst your competitors haven’t even navigated the first hurdle.

Comment marketing 101 – how it can help your business

Comment marketing involves leaving your thoughts, input and insight on other websites in (unsurprisingly) the comment section. This could be a business forum, a fellow equine trader’s blog, on social media or on a community page. Great comments on relevant posts lead to website visits, which lead to links in a future post, and can link back to more website visits.

So, that’s organic website traffic driven directly to your website. Yet there’s something of potentially far more value that can be derived from comment marketing – industry authority. By leaving insightful, helpful comments on the blogs of other equine businesses or voices in your industry, your expertise is demonstrated to other readers and, perhaps most importantly, the blog owner. When done regularly, conversations and debates can be struck up. When done right, this can then lead to connections and partnerships – others may promote your blog, mention your business to others (in person and online) and even purchase your services/products themselves.

Key question: How can I leave a comment and a link, without being rude?

The online world is defined by its very own set of rules and guidelines when it comes to etiquette. Given the epidemic that is spam, it’s then unsurprising that some blog and website owners take exception to every single comment left that includes a link. Here’s our suggestion for an email if you wish to avoid offence…

“Hi there,

I wanted to ensure that your blog accepts links in the comments, however I wanted to point to [EXPLAIN HOW YOUR COMMENT AND LINK ARE RELEVANT TO THE BLOG].

Editor – please do feel free to remove if links are not appropriate.”

Or (even better), you could post the following as a comment…

“This is super helpful, and I’ve actually been replicating something similar on our site. If you visit our blog, you can see how we’ve actioned this – the link is available via my LinkedIn profile.”

In the second instance, you also gain the opportunity of showcasing other pieces of content, information and media, as well as offering a point of contact should the website visitor wish to contact you there and then.

Where next?

Equine websites worth a look for comment marketing:

  • Horse & Hound – horseandhound.co.uk/forums or facebook.com/horseandhound/
  • BETA – facebook.com/betaequestrian/

Comment marketing for social growth

We’ve got great news, unlike many other industries, the equine world is relatively small, and creating a strong voice via social is far easier and faster a process than in industries that market to the masses.

PressPoint Pro Tip

For some businesses, going on a message drive can provide for a follower growth spurt. For many, these can be driven by leaving comments on publicly open page walls. Something as simple as the following can leave an imprint for other eager networkers to click upon…

“Hi there, we’re big fans of your Facebook page… [INSERT VALUABLE COMMENT RELATING TO RECENT CONTENT ON THE PAGE]. I’m leaving my Facebook page profile link here – we are [CATCHY, ONE LINE COMPANY INTRO].”

What makes a comment effective?

Solid quality comments (the kind that others engage with, and that drive traffic to your social profiles and website), must tick off the following six pointers if it’s to be an online asset, not a liability:

1. It’s on-topic

Leaving comments purely to talk about your business? That’s spam and goes against the grain of what comment marketing is truly about. Not only must your comment be on-topic, but it should also add something to the conversation – an original point of view, a link leading to complimentary content, or thoughts that take the debate further.

2. It is mindful of the author, as well as other commenters

Sparking a healthy debate or providing an opinion that is different to the author’s is absolutely OK. What’s not OK is going on the attack or being dismissive of the points that the author has made. Here’s what just such a comment may look like (note the opening compliment – flattery will get you everywhere, when comment marketing):

“Hi there, great post, [AUTHOR NAME]. I think you make some interesting points, but points number two and five I disagree with, here’s why. This is my experience… OR I have this data OR I conducted research.

I’d love to share this information, go check it out here – [INSERT LINK].”

3. It delivers something of unique value

Forget common knowledge. Don’t regurgitate the comments of others who’ve left their thoughts. Typically speaking, if you can’t add some totally original input, move on to another blog or forum where you can provide value.

4. It’s always, always transparent

Be honest about why you’re commenting, and what you can add to the author’s piece. A comment such as the one following puts it all up front and protects your integrity (it’s also especially important if you’re posting from a personal rather than a business account):

“Hello there, full disclosure, I work for [COMPANY NAME] and I wrote this piece, but I think it’s both relevant and helpful enough to introduce it here. So, with your permission, hopefully I’m linking to it. Editor, do please feel free to remove this link if it’s not appropriate.”

5. It follows proper English – grammar and all

This final pointer should be obvious, but we’ll include it anyway as it’s simply so important. You must proof your posts and ensure that your spelling, grammar and syntax is correct – that means taking the time to double check your comment before clicking ‘post’.

Post and hope, or comment and strategize?

It’s easy to dismiss comment marketing as ineffective or old hat, not least because of the reasons we covered at the start. Hopefully we’ve made the case clear for setting aside time for this marketing tactic. And if you are going to invest in comment marketing, it makes sense that you’ll approach it strategically. If you’re serious about making this work for you, here’s the 1-2-3 for putting together a strategy…

1. Work out what you’re trying to achieve

What are your trying to achieve? Sure, you ultimately want more business, but what will lead to this – a boost in SEO? Developing your industry authority? Growing your social follower count? Deciding on what you’re trying to achieve in the form of a measurable goal is the first step you’ll need to work out.

2. Decide on metrics that will measure your success

With a concrete goal in focus, you now need metrics – what does success look like? 100 extra website visits a month? 10 more followers per week? One invitation to guest blog every 14 days?

3. Put together a list of blogs, communities and forums to interact with

In this blog, we’ve tried to provide some generic equine websites that could be the right place to comment, but we don’t know your exact niche – you may be an equine wholesaler, or a stable owner – and as such they’ll likely be websites out there that are more tightly tied to what you do. Ideally your list should number ten in total.

4. Do your research – it’ll pay off

Get to know your top ten websites and bloggers. Get to grips with what they write about, their impassioned thoughts on certain topics, the way they interact with commenters. This basic research takes minimal time and can yield maximum results. It’ll also help you understand the type of content that their audience (who are your prospects) are engaging and interacting with – providing for the most reach for your comments.

5. Sign up to new content alerts

Fresh content is critical to your commenting – spending time posting to blogs that are years old not only means that there may only be limited traffic, it’s also possible that the author no longer watches out for comments as they previously did. Signing up for email alerts, or creating an RSS, can help you jump onto content that’s in the moment and attracting attention.

Make no mistake – comment marketing is powerful and influential, when done right. But what if you’re not feeling too talkative, when it comes to comment marketing? Or finding it tough to squeeze any sort of marketing effort into your daily, weekly or even monthly schedule? Our team always have plenty to say. Perhaps we should chat? Call our team on 01953 851513 or send a message over and we’ll be right back in touch – [email protected]