purchases are emotional decisions

As a photogrpaher and journalist involved heavily in marketing and PR through use of various media over a number of years  I am used to being both supportive but also constructively critical of retailers and  service providers with whom I have worked closely on marketing projects . Established  companies and start ups are inclined to not be as self critical as perhaps they might and hence an outsider, like myself ,  acting as a consultant,  will be more likely to spot basic flaws in marketing and the on line presence a company already has and offer simple solutions to help make their activities more effective.
DOD EAT DOG we see established names struggle and fold while others quickly adapt, revise and continue to prosper and most of all , with the ease and cheapness of internet access and use, anyone can set up a credible website and market similar  products remotely , undercutting establishe businesses from a bedroom.  Yes there are scam merchants but a lot of these DIY homebased enterprises are run by earnest people who really want to make some income and that means less of the cake for more conventional retailers and suppliers who of course very likely have much higher overheads. What’s more these folks can be quite young and already be very competent users of social networking sites and some even use a combination of such platforms linked to their websites. Life is so competitive now and its vital to keep up with or ahead of the competition and learn from them also but that doesn’t mean having a  website and using social media just for the sake of it. This isn’t about being trendy. it’s about recognising and using new marketing tools as effectively as possible to meet the needs of customers and remain successful.
THANK GOD THEY ARE AMATEURS! Conventional retailers should count their blessings that some emerging “bedroom entrepreneurs” are often very naive because it they get some decent objective advice and actually listen to it they are going to be even more of a threat!  I have personal experience of trying to advise several of these on line wannabes, one actually making foam goal keeping equipment and making very obvious use  of Facebook to try and generate sales. That character had a potentially professional looking rudementary template, = based wesbite but all that latin printer mumbo jumbo you are supposed to replace with your own content was still there on some of the pages.! Moreover the thinly disguised pitches masquerading as Facebook entries were riddled with poor English and spelling mistakes. Furthermore , it was obvious that the product images were taken on a bedroom or living room floor or bed  spread and hardly giving off the correct messages  that here was a pukka business you’d want to trade with or have any faith in the products on the basis of those poor images.
Especially if you are a new name or launching your own brand  even if you are significanlty undercutting your rivals, presentation that looks naff is going to doom you to failure from the outset. Even some startups trying to break into the market, say selling sticks, are making similar errors especially with images , shooting products with amateur equipment in a bid to save on costs  of bringing in a professional who would provide consistent backgrounds, properly exposed photographs etc.  And where they had invested in sponsoring players, they were making use of random DIY photographs, very obviously taken “in house” , with images full of photography’s equivalent of schoolboy errors. One of these errors , if the idea is say to show an association with a particular make of stick with player endorsement , the actual logo or branding of your stick should be clear, sharp and prominent otherwise you are asking potential customers to take your word for it ! Some  retailers will get industry standard images free as image files  grace of their suppliers but where that doesn’t happen, make very sure that anything you do publish looks the part in comparison to the “bigger boys” stuff  and learn from them.

What hidden messages are you giving out?

Note : Branding is important and how  that is perceived is important in every part of the market place , not just on line. Slightly wandering off my point, here is a company banner I spotted recently, looking in a very sad state. If, for example this is the result of some sponsorship deal that has broken down, why is it still there? From the venue’s point of view it hardly shouts “we’ve pride in our place”  but  also for the company it is a constant fail! Where sponsor deals are active and banners are used like this, company reps make regular courtesy visits as a partners and would automatically check that these sort of things are in good condition and instantly arrange to replace them if they were looking worse for wear. The medium truly is the message !
When making use of social media platforms to make connections with potential customers, simialr care should be taken in what product images are posted. I personally do not think that every image in say a Facebook album needs  be top of the range professionally sourced because a mix of best plus more “homesy” pix can help to personalise a company and increase engagement  with people and customers and make it more likely they will engage with you. A great example I saw recently was  a recruiting company Facebook page. Why it stood out was that I had noticed with very impersonal , repetitive small numbers of purely business based “tweets” and links back to the website. The website was very professionally designed and pristene but somehow very impersonal. Boom, a happy amateur  office snap of “so and so” , and a note of warm congratulations for a colleague whose wife had  recently given birth.  I felt I  could at least now start to identify with the company.
The problem is that potential  customers can Google images , visit competitors websites and will know instantly who has invested and who the “tight wads” are! Does it really matter? Well of course it does- everything you write or show online is designed to promote your product but words and images also convey “hidden”  messages  and you may not like it when someone like me comes along, in a consultancy role, and tells you exactly what sort of perceptions of your business are actually being given out !
This blog entry attempts to share some ideas about  how people make purchases and how on line retailers need now to consider making effective use of social media networking sites Facebook and Twitter in particular ( as the mosty globally populated with active members) and use these to suppliment traditonal product based only  websites.
BACKGROUND -The dot com revolution saw a huge shift in the way products could be  sold with suddenly a global audience of previously unimaginable scale and with almost instant access to a massive customer base. Suddenly retailers rushed to get out websites with on line catalogues and could reap almost istant success if such sites were well designed, enjoyed a decent targeted listing high in Google rankings. But thereafter  and relatively very recently we have also seen an explosion in the way people communicate via social networking media, most prolifically in  terms of sheer numbers Facebook, and more recently Twitter.  With long experience on social sharing platforms, and having a long history of membership of a range of photosharing sites, blogging , very regular use of Facebook and more recently very active on Twitter again I am seeing what I think are serious simple errors of judgement being made by some companies and room for improvement.
TWITS AND TWEETS ! Most recently I got an alert that one of those companies following me welcomed an associate company new to Twitter. The newbie  had managed to put up a profile picture / unique logo ( some foolishly do not and use one of the dull default icons – again giving out of the wrong messages ) plus a brief well thought out profile description of what they were about and a link to the company website. Again, there are  thousands of “bedroom entrepreneurs , (an ecletic mix of  TWITS !)   who just like to self publish, paste in links and quotes and pose as social networking consultants and Tweet gurus but actually have no clients and seemingly any other purpose other  than to be able to say they are “tweetliterate.” Often they have not bothered to produce a profile description and all there is to see about them is the tweet name  “@johndoe “which very much defeats the object of networking because we are being asking to relate to someone who won’t share even basic indformation about who they are and what they are about!
Going back to the sports gear retailer who had so recently started on Twitter,  at least it didn’t , as some I have seen have the single ” @johndoe hasn’t tweeted yet” it did  in fact have a page full of recent tweets or postings but fatally in my view all of them were purely business based links back to their website. And tracking back , I followed one of the links and wasn’t surpised that it was basically a pretty impersonal purely product based website. Twitter to be an effective marketing tool has to be something more than “here’s another link to a page in my catalogue or a deals” of course it is ok , necessary and effective to do that some of the time. but is it enough? you can also over tweet ; the current wisdom is that two tweets spread over the day is most effective .
I am an independent freelance photographer and journalist, set up and maintain this blog, my company website and make prolific use of Twiiter and Facebook because I am naturally outgoing and sociable. I  like people , ( an unsociable photographer is PDQ a bankrupt photographer ) but also I need to advertise my own products and services. I don’t just flood both platforms with ads and pictures. I have built up friends and followers and interact with them on a regular daily basis. I’ll “retweet” things or tweet about things that interest me, excite my repect, things  I feel worthy of encouraging ,  recognising, sharing  endorsing other  people’s sentiments, ideas , projects, personal missions  and crucially interacting both with my peers, people sharing the same business interests but a raft of other people. If you actually care about people and your customers,  what sort of messages are you giving out if your 140 word max tweet  is completely all about you and your product or services and you make no attempt to interact with others?

OBO one of the most successful and most respected brands in the world

Perhaps we are creatures of habit but the way people make choices about what they buy and who they buy from are not as straightforward as at first appears. Price seems to be a huge factor and of course with Google searches and an array of comparison websites, people can, if they want find the very cheapest deals. But taking the example of my local high street, within one hundred yards, there are actually three separate but similar convenience stores. So what influences which one I use? Very probably a stong influence is my relationship with the owners and I tend to almost exclusively use the same one because the experience of shopping with that business is so pleasant.  We know each other well now  and yet it is not necessarily always the cheapest for certain things. The layout, the organisation, the cleanliness of the store also has some impact but say the shop window, in terms of passing trade can, in a split second, result in a  new customer or one that passes by.  The same factors must be in play in the virtual world, and it is possible to enhance the feel of shopping with you, make it more personal. I also think it  helps being pleasant to do business with and that has to be a must on the net too so that image thing is really important.   Brands have an image, a total perception in the market place and if that image has inbuilt credibility and integrity all the better in my view . My take is that purchases are very often emotional not simply pragmatic choices.

Argentine Goalkeeper Belen Succi. A human ad? !!


  1. Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

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