Animoto update

Animoto have just updated their app to allow you to download a high RES mpeg4 and ISO (DVD) file. It costs $5 but is well worth it.

Resolution is doubled so will play well on a monitor and even scales to plasma or LCD screens.

We are using it to produce slick video which we play on digital photo frames in our office reception areas.

Only grumble is they still add the animoto logo and google checkout or paypal accounts are difficult in corporate environments.

Cool Videos Quickly

Discovered Animoto a while back for creating quick, cool video for presentations, the web etc.

This is a really great tool. All you need to do is upload photos, or select them directly from your flickr account, select some music, or upload your own, and it does the rest.

The amazing bit is that this is a TV like production. None of those static images or simple Ken Burns effects, this produces something that would look the part on the TV!

Have a look at the below for an example.

B&R Enclosures

Latency – A bigger issue than I thought

I have recently completed some tests to see whether a site that our sister company manages has a latency issue and is suffering from being hosted in Europe, rather than here is Australia.

I have to say that when I initially looked at the tests I did think that there would be some effect, having seen delays in the download of some files over the past year or so, however I was not really prepared for the effect that I actually saw.

Firstly to do the test I used Firefox with the web developer toolbar, Firebug installed. Web developer toolbar allows me to switch off caching, so that I could see files as they would be if they were coming to a new user. Firebug includes a “Net” feature that actually let you track when the browser made a request and when it was returned. It also looks at the total time it takes to complete the page.

So the test simply involved setting up a rough duplicate of the home page, hosting that locally, then navigating to both with cache turned off and checking the response time. Note that some of the local files did give errors (which actually resulted in a larger download), these were spacers etc I couldn’t find in the files.

The results….the time to load the page reduced from a massive 36.51 seconds for 300kB, to 14.7 seconds for 350kB when hosted in Australia.

I should also mention that I tested the European hosted page on a high speed connection, and got exactly the same speed. This would seem to indicate that speed on that site is latency limited. My feeling is that this 14.7 seconds for the Australian hosted site is bandwidth dependant (my work struggles at times). I will check this out further and update the posting.

The conclusion: It may seem reasonable to have a large corporate site hosted in a single location worldwide, where content can be tightly controlled. However judging by our tests, the customers user experience will be severely degraded to a point that the site may become unusable.

My advice would be host locally, or if you have to host overseas, check your speeds carefully to ensure you will have returning visitors.

Getting through to a sales team

I have been working in a b2b marketing position for around 8 years now, and the marketing department has gradually expanded from a single person low level job, to a 3 person department. In all that time however we have had one major issue, how to get feedback from our sales team in a cost effective manner.

Firstly I should explain that the industry I work in sells to electrical wholesalers, switchboards builders etc., and our sales team are all from this industry, so they are ex-electricians etc. Most are not very computer literate, to say the least, although they all have company supplied laptops and an always on data connection, allowing them to receive email at any time.

Over the years we have: –

  • Been to all the sales conferences
  • Responded to the usual suggestions (buy more shirts)
  • Send out a monthly newsletter of what marketing is doing
  • Send out emails when something new is available
  • Provide detailed instructions on how to use items, if they are complex
  • Done surveys to increase participation
  • Emphasised in communications that our objective is to reduce work for them
  • Requested feedback on programs we have initiated

However, in all this time we get almost no response from the teams, they don’t hand out calendars etc we give them, they don’t follow up on leads from the website, they continually tell us that they are unaware of things that have been in emails, meetings etc. The reason I mention calendars is because I recently did a talk to a group of local wholesalers we have regular contact with, and asked them how they were going with the competition attached to it. 80% hadn’t even received the calendar (and it’s May) but wanted one when I told them about it. On closer inspection we found boxes of calendars where they keep their literature.

The reason for my post is that for the first time I am going to try an email marketing tool to track what our sales team actually look at in our communications, and therefore make sure that if they aren’t looking at something we can give them a nudge to do it. Is this bad? Has anyone else had any luck approaching their sales teams in other ways?

BTW – It’s also good to vent!

Woolworths Everyday Rewards – a master move

I went into Woolies yesterday to see all the staff dressed in orange shirts and flogging the benefits of their new everyday rewards cards. Essentially these allow you to move your petrol discount off those annoying vouchers pinned to the fridge, that you never remember when you need them, into a card you carry with you.

Sounds like a great convenience for us consumers. When I got home clutching my new card I saw that you had to register your contact details, date of birth etc. to use the card. In actual fact if you check their terms and conditions you actually don’t have to register. This is really not made clear however in their form and their is much emphasis on registration.

So for Woolies what is the advantage of an optional registration system. Well the end result of registering is of coarse that they can track your spending, and target you with offers which are more relevant to you. This is obviously a master marketing move. If they see me buying cat food, for example, they know I own a cat, so could target me with advertising for cat litter, pet insurance etc. The same goes across the board for babies etc. You buy something, they can target you more precisely. 

For customers this can be viewed in a couple of different ways. Firstly it is a privacy nightmare. Do you really want Woolies to know, and potentially be able to use and even sell detailed information about you. Start getting junk mail on something related to pet insurance? Probably Woolies have sold your details to an insurance company! 

The alternative view is that they should target you with ads and offers that relate only to you. This  means that you will get less spam/junk mail that is not relevant to your lifestyle. You may even be able to make some savings based on this. 

My personal opinion….I won’t be registering. I value my privacy a bit more than a few cents or dollars here and there. I would advise you to do the same. 

Is the role of marketing expanding?

The company I work for have had me working in marketing for some time (7 years or so), and we have traditionally marketed to our customers, potential customers, and to our internal clients in a more limited way. However in recent times we are being asked more and to market to the community in general.

This of coarse could be the sign of a growing company, but interesting the reason for our efforts are to recruit worker from local schools around Brisbane.

It seems strange to me, coming from a position where I left school in the 80’s, to have companies trying to recruit, rather than just ‘sticking a job in the paper’.

I guess this is a sign of the times, where skilled workers are very hard to find, and even harder to retain, but my feeling is why go after the school kids, who will always be like that. Why not chase mothers with school age kids? Offering them positions to fit in with dropping off and picking up seems like a sensible way to get and retain good staff.

Is Copy Part of Web Design

I came across this as a discussion point from the boagworld podcast, and thought that it was somethning I could comment on. The reason I think I might be able to add to this debate is that unlike most of the people speaking on it, I work in a marketing department that happens to be geeky enough to design, code and write our own sites. We are therefore creating the complete site including copy.

Okay have said that, as usual there seems to cases for and against arguing that the copy is part of the design. As I see it these are as follows: –

Cases for copy being part of web design

  • The style of the copy should match that of the design. It is no use having a very corporate looking site, and then using informal language in your copy. Equally an eclectic looking site should not be written in a formal style.
  • This is the most important one for me…SEO. Your content needs to be written in such a way that it is both attractive and easy to scan and read, as well as being search engine friendly. Meta descriptions, headings  etc also need to match the content. This is not an easy job, and is certainly not something that you can just re-use content from your brochure, or sales letters and plonk it in. It is also something that in my experience, requires a bit of experience, and enough time to research how to make the most of your heading, what you can and cannot do etc.
  • The copy should also be brief and pointed. Something us marketers sometimes have trouble doing. It should also be largely ‘sales talk’ free. One way to quickly lose a web user is to pitch to them!
  • Keyword research allows the correct search terms to be targeted rather than terms that are used by the company.

Cases against copy being part of web design

  • A big problem is often that the web design company will have no experience in the particular product or service on the website. The only way to get them up to speed on it would be some level of product training, or providing notes or other promotional material that they can base their copy on. However in our experience copywriters only rarely do a good job, and writing in a web style may mean that it looks worse than it actually is. In general us marketing types like to word things certain ways to match our customers requirements, and there is often good reason for that.
  • Use of material. This is also a big one. To be honest I hope this objection is dying out, but many old school marketers don’t want their information re-used or re-purposed in ways that they are not totally aware of.
  • Terminology. This can be an issue if particular language is often used at a company. I run across this frequently at the company I work for. My favourite terms I have managed to cut out in the last few years are ‘double return flat face gutter’ and ‘full length butt hinge’. I’m sure these are important to our designers, but to most of our customer, this means nothing. However in many cases certain terminology might conflict with key word research.

Conclusion

So what would be my conclusion from this? In my opinion the advantages of having copy as part of the web design process far outweigh the disadvantages. A good copy writer should be able to take content given to them and repurpose it so that it hits the correct keywords, is more scannable, and still meets the marketing requirements (if those are made clear to them).

The third point I made up in the againsts, is really a for if you turn it around. Company specific terminology should not be used on a website, more generic terms make things easier to understand and opens up the site to a far wider audience of clients which may not have dealt with you before.

Do I think this will happen quickly? Probably not! Traditional marketing may not quite get the web yet, but try selling your services to companies that do, or alternatively companies that don’t have a large enough marketing team to do it themselves. Once you have a few under your belt, you will probably find that you can get others by reference.

The use of Personas in Marketing

You may be familiar with the use of personas for design. These are the summary of a typical users characteristics in a short page or so, often giving details of their working day, gender, age, what is important to them in their job, who they report to, what they like to do outside of work etc.I have recently had personas developed for the majority of our typical users. To do this we interviewed sales people about what they thought of a person and pretty much took it from there. I am now about to present these to the sales team and try to get their buy in on the project. Basically I would like them to look at personas when requesting literature, and try to give us in marketing an idea of who we should be writing for.My problem will be that the persona will be based around a particular person, or combination of people that the particular salesperson had in his mind eye at the time, and I am sure that will be controversial.At the moment I am wrestling with the problem of should I allow changes? The trouble with changing a persona is that it will tend to dilute it and make it what we think it should be as a group, rather than a particular case which we know to be the case. I will let you know how I go. The presentation is on Friday, so I’ll have to have my arguments together by then! 

Google Analytics New Code

I am just about to implement the new Google Analytics tracking code. One of the features of this is said to be cross domain tracking. This would be useful for us as I run more than 1 website with links between them, but are Google doing a doubleclick on this?

When I say that what I mean is that Doubleclick is notorious for putting a cookie on your system, then tracking you across the many sites they serve ads to. This invades the users privacy but allows them to build up a profile of who you are and what you like.

As Google has just acquired Doubleclick, are they trying the same trick? Wouldn’t allowing it’s users to track across domains, also allow Google to do the same across the many sites where analytics is installed.

I have to say I am a big fan of Analytics and am contantly amazed by the complexity and new features that are brought online, and for free. I am going to continue with the upgrade, but I am a bit worried about it!

Happy Easter

Hope you all have a great Easter. I am going to try to keep my hands off the eggs a bit tomorrow (I am writing this on Saturday night).To give you an update on tad.tw, handing out the cards in the city to commuters really didn’t have a significant effect on my stats. The mobile stuff is so tricky, as you can’t promote it as a traditional site, and there are very few avenues open. The next attack will be via traditional methods too. I am going to look at putting some press release in magazines and the paper, to see what that brings. I have also bought another domain brisbanetraintimes.com, which being international should help the organic page rankings, even though wouldn’t be that great for the user.btw – If you do have a look at tad and see the news and weather. I am also working on a way to get these more up to date. For some reason, even though I am using the same method the news comes through okay, but weather and TV are coming through sporadically or not at all.