GDPR: The good, the bad, the ugly and how to be prepared!

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Note: These are just my random thoughts at this hour, ignore the typos and the grammar!

Most of you who are in the marketing profession, are probably running scared of one acronym right now: G.D.P.R!

That is the General Data Protection Regulations that come into force in May 2018.

Note: I am writing the ramblings fromWhat this will be doing is strengthening the data protection offered to consumers, whose data an organisation may be processing.

Now, I am not going to delve into the legislation too much, as it is a vast subject to cover.

What I’d like to very quickly discuss is what the status quo is and how you can prepare to be GDPR compliant.

The greatest impact that these new regulations will have for marketers is that we will not be able to use personal information to market to people without their consent. So that means no direct mail, outbound calling, SMS or email marketing without capturing our customers’ consent first.

For many years, many commercial organisations have been getting away with the ‘soft opt-in’ loophole. That is, if a person has become a customer of our business, we can assume that they have granted us consent to market to them, unless they explicitly have told us not to contact them.

Using this loophole many commercial entities have used email, direct mail and outbound calling to market to existing customers.

Come May 2018, this soft opt-in will no longer exist. We will need to capture our customers’ consent to market to them. The consent will have to be captured at a granular level as well. That means to email them, they will need to have ticked a box; to call them, they would have needed to tick another box, and so on.

Just to make life slightly more difficult, the regulations require us to keep an audit trail or people’s consent – yippee!

For some of the organisations I have worked with, come May 2018, they will not be able to market at all to their customers, as they have not captured consent on any level whatsoever!

Personally, I think these regulations are long overdue. Privacy is a very hot topic, especially amongst the EU technocrats.

So how can you prepare for D-Day?

Well, you can start collecting permission from your customers right now. Send them a simple email linked to a Google form, asking for them to submit their communication preferences.

Email is cheap – practically free!

If your customers are more old school, send them a letter and ask for them to submit their preferences on an online form [located on a special link] or by returning a completed slip to your business.

And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can use digital display advertising targeted to your existing customers, asking them to submit their communication preferences.

Chances are that most people will probably ignore you. However, if you are not a serial spammer, then you should have no problem in obtaining consent from your most loyal customers.

So what will happen if you do not comply with the new regulations?

Well the ICO [Information Commissioners Office] will monitor the level of complaints against your organisation and may end up launching an investigation. This could lead to a fine up up to 20 million euros or 4% of your global turnover!

It doesn’t matter if you are a small operation or not, if you’re in the business of mass marketing, using people’s personal information, you need to get compliant.

The first step in the process is to do a Consent Audit of your current customers and see if you’ve collected any consent, whatsoever. Following on from that, you can formulate an engagement plan on how you will capture the consent of your other customers.

That’s a lot of words I’ve written in 15 minutes! If you get stuck, as always, I am here to assist 🙂

The most important digital metric

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If you are a seasoned digital professional, you probably have a whole array of dashboards that you compile for your clients and bosses.

From the Page Views to the Bounce Rate, the different dimensions of data often appear to be endless, and dare I say, sometimes meaningless!

I mean, what metric is really worth reporting and what can you omit? What digital metrics should feed into a marketing department’s KPIs?

These are questions that we ask ourselves when we take on a new client or embark on a new in-house marketing campaign/

As the old adage goes: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”.

The same goes for our digital metrics – clicks are vanity, revenue is sanity.

Now revenue may not be the primary objective for many websites. This article is not aimed at those working in the public sector or promoting other informational websites.

The people I am talking to, are those who need to bring in a significant volume of revenue through the websites that you manage.

Often you will be running paid marketing campaigns and are not sure how fruitful a campaign is, beyond the initial clicks that you generate.

It is now an established ‘fact’ amongst marketing circles, that the vast majority of your web visitors will not be transacting with you on their first visit.

So what is the key metric for me?

Well it is a metric that I picked up on, when I was running affiliate campaigns at the very beginning of my digital marketing career.

It is such a simple metric, yet very few marketers seem to actually use it as a yardstick.

The magic metric is E-P-C or Earnings Per Click.

In a nutshell, it is the total amount of revenue generated during a marketing campaign, divided by the number of clicks generated.

If my campaign generated 10,000 clicks, which generated $50,000 in revenue, my EPC is $5.

Now, you can use EPC as a metric based on the total number of clicks, or you can chunk it further down by the channel, such as SEO, PPC, Email, etc.

So how does one use this metric?

Well, if you are running an annual sales campaign, you can use it as a like-for-like measurement to see if your website is generating a higher revenue for every visitor.

You may be bringing in the same organic visitors year on year, but have a more premium line of products this year. What you want to really measure is if these premium products will end up generating more money for you.

If that is the case, then the additional profit you make, can be invested in other search engine marketing activities.

If you are running a PPC campaign and you know that every click from that channel generates $2, and you need to generate $20,000 from a campaign. You can make a business case for a budget to buy 10,000 clicks. How much a click costs, will vary from industry to industry.

By now, you should be able to imagine a variety of situations where EPC will be a fruitful metric to use.

From my experience, what clients truly appreciate is talking to someone who has a commercial mindset.

So, on that note, start thinking less like a data geek and more like an entrepreneur!

 

 

 

SEO is dead – LONG LIVE SEO!

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When I first entered the digital marketing arena almost a decade ago, SEO was the buzzword of the time.

It was a relatively simple concept to grasp and quite simple [yet labour intensive] tactic to deploy. Best of all, there was no need to invest in monthly digital advertising!

Businesses could create a website in a day and use what are known as ‘blackhat’ marketers to dominate the front page of Google’s search results to generate customers on autopilot.

The tactic these blackhat marketers used was rather simple – build as many links as you could back to the website you were trying to rank.

At the time Google’s algorithm treated these backlinks as votes and the more votes you had, the more credible you were and Google would reward you with higher rankings in its results.

I’ve known several people who have turned over millions of pounds and dollars simply playing the blackhat SEO game.

Several fraudsters selling magic potions and pills [you can imagine the sorts] had used Google’s platform to con hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people into buying unregulated crap.

Come 2011, when Google thought enough is enough, it’s time to de-list all of these low-quality websites, it introduced the Panda update.

Thousands of online businesses that had been cash cows for years, suffered a collapse in revenue, literally over-night.

The good ol’ days of gaming Google for a quick buck was over.

Google wanted to improve the user experience it was providing its search engine users, which meant that it had to fix its algorithm to display the most relevant results on its first page.

This was a time when Facebook, which was by now the largest social media website in the world, was looking into entering the search engine market.

Over the next few years, Google has tweaked its algorithm even further with the Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates.

The ‘Masters’ of SEO decried that SEO was dead! We had to either start investing in good quality content or venture into paid advertising.

Search engine spamming was surely dead, but could business owners on a tight budget, still use SEO to drive a steady stream of visitors to their websites?

The resounding answer is YES!

However, there is a caveat and that is the process is now a lot slower and SEO is a longer game.

Rarely will you find that you’ve published a new page on your website and it gets ranked into Google’s database over night.

Instead of counting how many backlinks your website has pointing to it, it is measuring the quality of the links.

It is better that you have 10 links from credible websites, than 1,000 links from one-page blogs.

So how can you win the SEO game? Simply invest your time in creating a better user experience for your target audience.

This means fixing up issues on your website, such as the loading time, navigation, page titles – the so-called ‘on page’ elements.

You also need to invest some time in creating quality content both on your website and off your website i.e. on other blogging platforms, videos, etc.

Here’s a couple of things that you should incorporate in your SEO strategy for 2017:

  • Identify websites where you can publish a guest blog
  • Create a content plan for producing more videos for
    publishing on YouTube
  • Get more social – create fan pages on all relevant sites        and link back to the mothership [your website]
  • Contribute to industry/market specific podcasts
  • Put out press releases for any major announcements

All of these tactics will help you to gain good quality backlinks to your website.

The name of the SEO game is still building backlinks, but focus on the quality over the quantity.

On that note – SEO is dead! Long Live SEO!

 

Medium Cross Post – The Only Way Is Digital

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Originally posted on Medium by Abul Hussain:

Having worked with various sized businesses over the last eight years, the greatest opportunity for growth has always been presented on the digital front.

Whilst many baby boomer business owners are struggling to understand the new digital economy, those who are saavy enough to embrace it have been able to thrive.

The dot com bust of the early 2000s may have shaken the belief of some that selling goods and services online was just a temporary fad. However, the evolution of the global digital marketplace should be enough to counter the phobia of the digi-skeptics.

Through websites such as eBay, people are able to sell to the rest of the world, often from the comfort of their own homes.

If you offer a poor service, a negative review on Facebook can be seen by thousands of potential customers in a matter of minutes.

Do I have your attention?

Some of the most valuable companies in the world, such as Google, Amazon and Uber are all possible due to the growth of digital technology and media.

With the growth in digital marketing agencies and the push by the government to create the UK’s own Silicon Valley in the heart of London, small business owners can no longer ignore the elephant in the room:

The best way to grow a business is digital.

So what can businesses do to to surf the digital wave? Well as a first step they can get social.

Build out your social channels in line with who your target audience is. If you’re selling to C Level executives, you probably don’t want to be chasing them on Facebook. A better place would be LinkedIn.

Once you’ve identified your most relevant social channels, build out your social pages and start engaging with the people. Remember, at the top of the buying cycle is the initial conversation.

After getting comfortable with the realm of Social Media, you may wish to explore other paid digital media, such as Google and Bing.

Keep an eye out for future articles on how you can make digital marketing work for you.

Abul Hussain: Responding to allegations of Anti-Semitism

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In September 2010, an allegation was made against me that I had posted anti-Semitic comments on the social networking website, Facebook.

At the time of this incident, I was a member of Respect’s National Council and was the General Secretary of the Tower Hamlets branch.

As a result of this allegation, which was initially made by a blogger, I was expelled from the Respect Party.

The expulsion occurred after a phone call between the party’s top brass [Chair, Secretary and Treasurer], and was within hours of the blog piece being published.

Sadly, the charges were never put to me for comment, before this ad-hoc disciplinary committee decided to expel me.

Essentially, I was tried by the ‘media’ and executed by the party that I had loyally served for two years, without being asked to say anything in my defence.

After the party decided to expel me via a press release [that is how I found out!], a handful of mainstream media outlets decided to pick up on the story.

The chain of events was totally bizarre and incredulous.

Usually in such circumstances, a credible political party would suspend a member pending a full investigation.

Up until now, I have been advised not to publicly respond to any of these allegations.

However, the original allegations and their recent repetition four years on, have warranted a formal and public response from myself.

Firstly, the comments that have been attributed to myself, were not made by me.

I accept that the Facebook account used was mine and the childish comments that were posted around 3am, were the result of a phenomenon that is colloquially known as a frape.

A friend had gained access to my autosaved login credentials – through me using their device to check my Facebook some hours earlier – and decided to post some silly ‘statuses’ on Facebook.

Their motivation for such actions was simply boredom. Do bear in mind that I was 22 around that time and my friend was younger than me.

On one of the statuses, the word Jew was used multiple times to describe my supposed selfish and money-hungry behaviour.

Growing up in the Eastend of London, the word ‘Jew’ was and still is very loosely used by many working class communities in a derogatory manner.

I fully accept that the use of such words were and are crude and stupid.

However, the intent behind their use by my friend [pretending to be me] was not anti-Semitic, nor designed to incite any hatred or violence towards the Jewish community.

Naturally, I appealed against my expulsion from the Respect Party and was readmitted and reinstated to my roles, a few months later – I have the documents for anybody who wishes to review them.

Now, the real question is this… why was I targeted?

The answer to that is simple. I was active in local politics and had stood in the council elections in May 2010.

I was also one of the community organisers working to elect the independent mayoral candidate, Lutfur Rahman, who had falsely and viciously been smeared as a sympathiser of Islamic extremists.

By targeting and character assassinating myself, certain members of the right-wing press wanted to further tarnish the reputation of Mr Rahman.

There is a strong contingent in the mainstream media that does not like articulate British Muslims engaging in public life and is hellbent on destroying them.

I believe I have been a victim of such gutter journalism, which seeks to divide communities and incite anti-Muslim sentiment.

I have spent countless hours working on interfaith initiatives that aim to foster unity amongst different faith groups, including working with the Jewish community. I also have many friends who are ethnically Jewish.

Having been a victim of racism in my childhood, I abhor and condemn all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

I hope this statement will finally lay to bed these allegations, which have significantly tarnished my reputation amongst my peers.

 

All Is Fair in Love, War & Marketing!

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For decades we have seen a kind of Omerta followed by the advertising departments of large corporations.

They never directly & openly targeted their rivals in advertising campaigns.

It was a breach of an unspoken protocol for a company to openly fire shots at its rivals.

When Sir Richard Branson smashed a Coca Cola billboard on Fifth Avenue in 1998, it sent shock waves across the marketing world.

This PR stunt was initiated for the launch of Virgin Cola in the United States. Branson knew it was going to be an uphill, David vs Goliath battle, to take on Coca Cola.

So he couldn’t just run a national ad showing happy Americans drinking his brand of cola and expect sales to come pouring in.

Unfortunately, the drink never really took off in the States… or anywhere else for that matter!

Branson’s stunt was an audacious affront to an established household name, by someone who was regarded as a maverick entrepreneur.

In the digital age, things are changing.

What was great PR 10 years ago, will be regarded as a cheap gimmick now.

PR stunts are not enough to engage with a technologically advanced audience.

Attention spans are decreasing, as more and more marketing messages are thrown at people every day.

To really ingrain a message to their audience, brands have had to become more aggressive.

Mass marketing is being replaced by “precise interest” marketing.

The Omerta has been torn up and multi-billion dollar companies are now “wrestling” each other to attract new customers.

So here are two ads that I’ve come across in the last two weeks, where one brands misfortune has been cherished by their competitors.

Round 1: Paypal vs Apple

For over a decade, Paypal has been the global leader in online payments processing.

Surely, an established brand shouldn’t feel threatened by a new comer, especially when the competing service isn’t fully trading?

Well when the new comer is Apple, nothing can be taken for granted.

Apple has over many years built an ecosystem of “i” products, which are used by millions of fanatical users all over the world.

Although it’s still speculation, Apple Pay can have a severe impact on Paypal’s position as the world’s favorite payment processor.

Therefore, it is understandable when Paypal took out a full page ad against Apple two weeks ago.

Some of you maybe aware that there was recently a hack into Apple’s iCloud service, where nude pictures were stolen from celebrity’s accounts.

The following day Paypal put this ad in all major US publications:

 

paypal-ad (2)

Round 2: Samsung vs Apple

Apple and Samsung have been battling it out in US Patent Courts for many years over patent infringement issues. Their relationship is almost as acrimonious as that of Coca Cola and Pepsi.

For those of you who have kept up with the new iPhone 6 launch. You will be aware that many users have reported that the iPhone 6 Plus seems to bend, when it’s confined in tight pockets.

You may have seen images like this one floating around social networks:

Users are raging against the Apple machine with the hashtag #bendgate

Samsung was not going to let this opportunity pass!

Here’s what Samsung’s marketing team have launched today:

So what lessons can Small Businesses take away from this post?

Well there’s quite a few:

  • Get SocialYour users are more social than you can imagine. You are being discussed with their connections across various Social Networks.

    For you to really benefit from their feedback, you need to be aware of it. Find yourself on Facebook and other Web 2.0 pages, and start taking charge of negative feedback.

    Better still, create and own the Web 2.0 pages where your users can come and leave feedback.

  • Plan to DominateYour audience is being harassed by smart marketers every day. You need to get more aggressive in how you reach your market.

    Do SEO, do PPC, do Social PPC, do Remarketing – do whatever it takes to get in front of your market, more often than your competitors are.

    As the sales guru Grant Cardone would say: “Don’t Compete – DOMINATE!”

  • Have No Fear!So your competitors suck? Great, let their customers know!

    However, you need to be an iron fist in a velvet glove. Your audience should not perceive your negative marketing as an unjust attack on your competitor. Nor should they perceive it as an act of desperation.

    So be witty in your material and laugh all the way to the bank…at their expense! 😉

Add your thoughts below.

Blogging Once A Week!

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I’ve got a confession to make. I haven’t blogged in about 1 1/2 years!

I suppose I have been rather lazy and too focused on making other people rich 🙂

Well in 2015, things are going to change. The focus is going to come back on resurrecting my personal brand, in alignment with my personal goals.

2015 is going to be a big year!

It will start off with me blogging once a week about what I’ve been up to, marketing chit chat and some social banter.

No I haven’t joined the Empower Network and been told to blog once a day! lol

In all seriousness, the top players in their industry maintain a blog. Look at Tim Ferris for example. I can’t wait for new blog posts from him!

So the engagement begins here.

I’ve re-done my fancy website to something a lot more minimalist. This should keep readers focused on my words, rather than 100 shiny things on the screen.

I will be planning a proper posting schedule for this blog – yes I’m taking it this seriously!

The end goal is for me to be posting two or three times a week.

Keep an eye out amigos and…

 

 

Less Is More!

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Ok I’ve just redesigned by website for the nth time!

My goal here is to become more simplistic, as I think that is the way forward. The Internet is getting more and more cluttered!

More people are getting distracted and switching off. That’s why I’m going back to the basics. So let me know what you think of the new look!

Zero to £87m ($134m) in 9 Years Online – Part 1

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You may have heard of MoneySavingExpert.com [MSE], especially if you are in the UK.

The website was founded in 2003 by a fellow LSE Alumni, Martin Lewis.

It is simply an online hub with great advice on saving money. Not too complicated, just pure advice on credit card rates to daily deals, etc. The site also has a forum attached, where members discuss how to save money on various purchases.

Who would have thought that after only 9 short years online, such a site would sell for an astonishing £87m ($134m USD), especially when they do not sell a single product or service themselves!

Confused? Well I wouldn’t blame you, if you were.

This is a business model that very few are familiar with. It’s a model that I started out my business in and it’s an easy model to get started with.

It’s called Affiliate Marketing. In a nutshell, you are a PROMOTER of someone else’s products/services.

It’s a great business model because you don’t need to do the Market Research, Product  Development, Product Testing, Customer Service, etc.

All you’re doing is helping to Market the product/service, either online or offline.

In Money Saving Expert’s case, they were promoting MoneySupermarket.com.

Money Supermarket is an online price comparison website i.e. if you want the cheapest car insurance quote, then you would go there to find the cheapest insurer.

Every time a Bargain Hunter went through to Money Supermarket, after reading an article on Money Saving Expert and bought a policy, MSE got a commission from Money Supermarket.

By the time of the sale, Money Supermarket was paying £16m annually to Money Saving Expert in referral commissions. I suppose from that perspective it made sense to acquire MSE and to plug the outflow of £16m annually.

“Great news for Martin, but how do I benefit Abul”, do I hear you say?

Well there are hundreds of established companies Worldwide, who would not be as successful as they are, had it not been for their promoters [or affiliates if you like].

From Ebay to Argos, they all have thousands of affiliates. The affiliates simply send online visitors to those websites and if those visitors buy, then the affiliate gets a % cut of the sale value.

You earn them £100 and they give you anything from £3 to £75, depending on the company.

In short this is what Martin did:

  • He was a journalist and had a passion about saving money.
  • He built an online community of like-minded individuals.
  • Once he had a large enough following, he promoted some money saving services to his followers.
  • If the followers bought, then great he made some money. If they didn’t buy, then great as well. He still kept on writing QUALITY CONTENT on his website that kept his followers coming back for more.
  • Martin established himself as an AUTHORITY in the field of ‘money saving’ and was interviewed on TV and Magazines. This meant more coverage for his website.
  • Over time, he had 12 million people in the UK visiting his website on a monthly basis.

Using my Create -> Convert -> Retain analysis:

Martin CREATED followers, CONVERTED them to use Money Supermarket and RETAINED those followers by providing regular in-demand content.

Sounds simple enough!

Maybe you don’t want 12 million visitors, or to write daily articles for the website, or get interviewed by the media and maybe you don’t consider yourself an ‘Expert’ in any field.

Could you still make money from this online business model?

Yes! Absolutely!

You don’t need to be an expert in any subject, as long as you have access to expertise – from a person, a book, etc.

Some people build niche websites with quality content, get website visitors from Google and make an income by promoting other people’s products/services.

A niche is simply a specialist segment within a larger market. For example, Acne Cures is the market and Home Made Natural Acne Cures is a niche within the Acne Cures market.

Martin’s niche is ‘money savers’.

Here’s a few more examples:

  • How To Get 6 Packs is the Market – Get 6 Packs Without Exercise is the Niche.
  • Golf clubs is the Market – Golf clubs for left handed players is the Niche.
  • Hypnosis is the Market – Stage Hypnosis [stuff you see on TV] is the Niche.

You see the more you can segment a market down, the quicker you can become an AUTHORITY and build a loyal following.

It took Martin Lewis a couple of years to be the “Money Saving Expert”. If he was just focused on being the “Credit Card Savings Expert”, I’m sure he would have achieved that niche status quicker.

In Part 2 of this Article, we will look at how you can take this simple business model and create an additional stream of online income.

The majority of my affiliate income is set & forget – I set up the system once and it earns me commissions on autopilot.

I’m not talking about building a £87 million business, but rather something that can make potentially make $8700+/month.