Smarter start for Internet entrepreneurs
Steve Calder turned author for the second time this year - partnering with a new London based consultancy to create a comprehensive website planning guide, designed to help smaller firms to take their businesses online.
Established to "bridge the knowledge gulf that frequently exists between smaller firms and their web developers", SMART WP – in the form of Directors Geoff Owen and Carol Mann – offers a range of training and consultancy services, including workshops, seminars and bespoke onsite courses, to help companies plan, commission and manage their websites.
Geoff explains, "The SMART Start Guide to Website Planning was originally developed to support our clients once they’ve completed their training and returned to their offices – providing them with a practical ‘how to’ manual that they can refer to again and again.
"Such has been its popularity, however, that we’ve now begun offering copies for sale via our own website."
Geoff's co-director Carol continues, "The guide cuts through the jargon that so often prevents SMEs from getting the websites they deserve.
"It provides non-technical readers with the information they'll need to plan their next site; to put that site out to tender; and to commission a suitable developer - constraining the related costs, and maintaining control throughout every stage of the building process."
Since researching and writing the 200 page guide – which is available in print and electronic formats - Steve has gone on to create a series of related articles, white papers and reports to help raise awareness of the importance of thorough website planning, and to position SMART WP as an innovator and thought leader in the field.
Two further books - The SMART Start Guide to Online Marketing and The SMART Start Guide to Ecommerce – are now in the pipeline.back to the top
‘Going digital’ yields record profits
Though recruited to edit a ‘traditional’ (print-based) customer magazine, Steve quickly recognised a number of shortcomings in this leading holiday property company’s digital marketing strategy. And he responded accordingly – first, with a profound redesign of the firm’s website.
Working closely with the in–house studio team, Steve streamlined and simplified the site’s structure and navigation by rewriting the related copy to ensure ‘above the fold’ prominence in the (organic) search engine rankings.
A series of banner and PPC (Pay Per Click) ads plus an affiliate campaign followed to ramp visitor numbers (to in excess of 100,000 ‘uniques’ per month) and accelerate return on the company’s marketing investment.
Next came an interactive version of the company’s customer magazine, a Search Engine Optimised website which harnessed the latest Web 2.0 (social media) technologies – including a forum, blog area, and photo–sharing – to create an interactive investor community.
With Board level support for 'online' at an all-time high, Steve and the team went on to develop:
- new ecommerce enabled websites to support the firm's travel services and villa rental divisions;
- a staff Extranet to facilitate inter–site and inter–departmental communications, and
- a series of monthly enewsletters – to keep existing investors up to date with breaking news, late notice deals, top-up investment offers, and time limited 'member-get-member' incentives.
The integrated programme was rounded off with a series of individualised direct emails to maximise property occupancy, stimulate general travel services sales, and generate new and more profitable leads.
Although the positive feedback from both the management team and the firm’s investors was gratifying, the 19% year–on–year increase in sales provided the best commercial testament to the initiative’s success.
By the time the sales book closed, the company had generated a record £28,356,701 in new investment.back to the top
Messaging ‘makeover’ ramps sales conversions
Quite unlike traditional timeshare holiday schemes, HPB offers its investors an interest in an entire portfolio of properties by means of a unique whole of life insurance bond. Unfortunately, the product's inherent complexity had, historically, necessitated a (minimum) three–stage sales process resulting in an unacceptably high rate of prospect attrition. The fact that the product is tightly regulated by the Financial Services Authority exacerbated the problem, frustrating the in–house writers, and hindering the development of accessible, easy –to –understand benefit–led messages.
Steve's challenge was: to overhaul the firm's existing literature while working within the tightly constrained legal framework to create a series of communications that would:
- raise levels of awareness and understanding;
- generate new and better qualified leads;
- increase audiences at presentations, events and exhibitions;
- enable the field sales team to close more – and more profitable – sales.
Following a series of interviews with key personnel, and working closely with the firm’s legal and compliance director, Steve was able to develop a clear and concise positioning statement for the company. This in turn provided the basis for a range of effective (and legally compliant) collateral including brochures, direct mail packs, fact sheets, and press ads.
By providing more – and more relevant – information at every stage of the selling cycle, that literature transformed the firm’s lead:conversion ratios resulting in a year on year increase of over 30% (and an £8.7m uplift in new investment).back to the top
PPC helps villa rental firm to 'buck the trend'
Facing a severe recession - and with the euro:pound exchange rate at parity - this luxury European villa rental company faced a challenging year. Steve's recommendation: to eschew the firm's 'traditional' – press advertising, direct mail and brochure-based - routes to market in favour of targeted Pay Per Click advertising backed by a series of user-customised landing pages.
To maximise the firm's ROI – whilst adhering to the tightly constrained 'pilot' budget - Steve proposed a 'long tail' approach, employing carefully selected 'niche-oriented' words and phrases to deliver lower volumes of better qualified leads.
Extensive keyword research and an assessment of the company's top-five competitors – by a leading digital marketing agency - subsequently informed a series of Google, Yahoo and MSN ad groups, each based around a specific destination, target audience and/or holiday type (e.g.: beach break, rural escape or activity based vacation).
The objective: to minimise costs per click (which, in such a competitive sector, remain incredibly high) whilst maximising profitable sales conversions.
By proactively managing the client's account – regularly analysing response, adjusting bid amounts and adapting the related ads - Steve and the team were able to return:
- 1,452,738 ad impressions
- resulting in 17,868 clicks
- at a click through rate of 1.23%
- and an average cost per click of £0.71.
- In turn, those leads converted at a rate 11.28%,
- reflecting a cost per conversion (property availability check) of £6.26.
As importantly, thanks to the resulting print, media and postage savings, the firm enjoyed a modest profit increase - despite many of its competitors suffering losses of 40% and even more.back to the top
Building on the success of an existing (also self-scripted) 'long format' presentation – used at Open Days and Exhibitions – Steve set out to create a scaled down promotional video, for use both online and as a premium to boost advertising response for this premier 'timeshare style' holiday company.
Through intelligent editing, using readily available low-cost software, Steve was ultimately able to create 12 versions of the DVD – one for each of the destinations to be showcased - without incurring any additional production costs.
More importantly, in split tests, the use of the DVD in ads and mail shots was proven to ramp response – boosting levels of new investment by over 50%.back to the top
Universally regarded as a model for viral marketing in its truest form, telecoms giant Nokia’s multi award–winning annual all–media adventure game attracted, at its peak, almost 1m mobile phone users from Europe and the Middle East. For three of the four years in which the month–long competition ran, lead agency Euro RSCG relied on Steve for the related English language copy. To reach the multinational target audience of 15–30 year olds, that copy had to be, in the client’s words: ‘Creative, contemporary, and compelling; quick and easy to translate (into multiple languages); inventive, fast–paced, and offering real cross–cultural appeal.’ The campaign utilised an array of online and print media including press advertising, radio and TV, email, SMS/text messaging, and a series of temporary ‘micro’ websites.back to the top
Pre–empting a regulatory review by the Financial Services Authority, Britannic Assurance’s PR team commissioned Steve to research and write ‘Transparency and With Profits: A Clear Guide for Independent Financial Advisers’ to promote Britannic’s voluntary commitment to plain English policyholder communications and to position the company as a leader in the field of transparent with profits investing. In addition to examining the likely consequences of the proposed legislation, the publication – which was distributed principally via trade media such as Money Week and Financial Adviser – provided intermediaries with the information needed to counter recent adverse publicity and close more, and higher value, with profits sales.back to the top
Having for some years worked closely with TNT’s senior management team, Steve was ideally placed to provide design and editorial input to an all–new enewsletter to promote the firm’s nascent online payment facility, GlobalCollect. The resulting publication – which he titled GlobalExchange – derived its content from a variety of sources, including trade partners, product managers and the highly respected Forrester Research Group. Steve’s role each month was to conduct interviews and gather the latest market research to create a lively, engaging text–only publication to draw customers, prospects, and other stakeholders to the GlobalCollect website and keep them coming back for more.back to the top
Published weekly in English, German, and French, Intel’s eBusiness newsletter features case studies, best practice ideas, and practical information and support to help customers get the very best from their IT infrastructures. For over four years, Steve was retained by the company’s new media partner, Euro RSCG, to condense the provided, highly technical source material (principally research reports and white papers) into concise, benefit–centred, and easy–to–translate/localise summaries. Commenting on their long-standing relationship with Steve and his colleagues, the agency’s Intel account director said, "We selected Steve for his technical know–how and willingness to go the extra mile."back to the top
The IBC (International Broadcasting Convention) presented the perfect showcase for CellStack Systems’ all–new Aurora interactive broadcasting product. But there was a problem: extensive testing to ensure Aurora’s full market readiness left the company with only weeks to ‘prime’ a target audience spread across three countries. Steve acted fast, designing and delivering first stage English–language materials – including a fully functional ‘micro’ event website, brochure, sales letters, and two sector–specific media releases – in a single weekend. French and German versions followed just 48 hours later.back to the top
To support leading software vendor Compuware NuMega’s transition from an indirect to a direct distribution model, Steve devised an all–new trade bulletin, the self–titled ‘Testing Times’. The publication, which was produced in three languages, was despatched with a personalised mail pack encouraging prospects from the developer community to subscribe and/or to recommend a friend and claim a novel business gift. Subscription rates topped 17% in some countries. Subsequently, Steve was retained to publish Testing Times on a regular basis.back to the top
To enhance its cross–border employee communications, container shipping company PONL developed Frontline, a quarterly newspaper to be published in English and distributed to over 15,000 staff on four continents. During the first four years of Frontline’s existence, Steve and his ‘virtual team’ were entrusted with every aspect of its production from editorial planning to printing and distribution. Now in its sixth year, the 16–page full colour tabloid – which is widely regarded as a "model for B2E communication" – continues to grow in popularity, attracting readers and contributors from the farthest corners of the globe.back to the top
Bentley Systems had allocated considerable sums to the promotion of its pioneering workflow management and web–based collaboration tools. Though pan–European, the potential market for the product was, however, relatively easy to define and target. Therefore Steve shunned the usual mass media approach favouring instead a highly cost–effective ‘guerrilla marketing’ campaign leveraging the specialist trade press, direct mail, and Internet. As a result, in the words of the client: "Over 500 leads were generated from 3,200 contacts. A very good return due, in no small part, to the printed and electronic collateral that you produced."back to the top
Realising the need to re–energise its dormant dealer accounts, DEC challenged Steve and his Netherlands–based agency colleagues to develop a solution: a way to engage with inactive VARs (Value Added Resellers) through a co–op funded joint promotion.
Steve’s response was to leverage an existing – and extensive – collateral archive to create a series of direct marketing campaigns ‘in a box’. The innovative programme comprised print–ready artwork for ten ready–to–customise direct mail pieces each translated into the relevant language and featuring the latest software bundle–price promotions. A series of supporting marketing micro–sites served to facilitate response, lead tracking, and fulfilment.
Using Steve’s explanatory how–to ‘cookbook’ which contained helpful hints and tips with regard to production, despatch, and follow–up, the targeted VARs were able to quickly, easily, and inexpensively implement their own targeted DEC campaigns to their in–house prospect lists resulting in a quantifiable increase in profitable sales and ‘dealer mindshare’.back to the top
Commissioned by Publicis – for whom he had previously undertaken a series of financial sector projects – Steve was despatched to Frankfurt to work alongside the European Central Bank’s in–house communications committee. His task: to co–develop an integrated campaign to maximise awareness and understanding of the forthcoming Euro currency launch. In all, the ensuing programme comprised a series of posters (for use in stores, airports and elsewhere), press ads (for Time, Newsweek, The Economist and a number of daily newspapers), an informational video (for retailers), a double page feature article, a detailed brochure (introducing the new notes and coins and their various national derivatives), and two educational posters for use in schools.back to the top
In a bid to ‘better engage with DEC’s pan–European reseller channel’, Steve was despatched to Amsterdam. His remit: to recruit, train, and manage a multi–lingual (phone and web–based) support team and develop a secure dealer Extranet environment to bolster the relationship – and streamline communications – between resellers, distributors, and DEC country managers.
Six months in, the team had become the first port of call for all channel partner marketing and related dealer queries, streamlining administration whilst encouraging participation in co–marketing campaigns, ‘bundle’ price promotions, and other initiatives.
The resulting feedback was extremely positive. Some examples…
From Sweden’s Bjorn Fehrm: “It’s really excellent and invaluable to us, as it’s an independent assessment where we are with our channel. With this data we can direct our effort much more effectively.”
From the UK’s Graham Fletcher: “Thank you for your excellent contribution. Although you do not work for me, of course, you are very much part of the team."
And from The Netherlands’ Cees Noteboom: “Unbelievable, in the short period of your attendance [ten weeks], I have received more support than in the past year.”
During his 12-month tenure as DEC Account Director, Steve was tasked to propose a format for a series of dealer-focussed seminars to showcase the combined infrastructure offering of EDS, DEC, and Microsoft. Following some debate, it was agreed that a pilot of his proposed ‘Power of Three’ workshop would run at a conference centre close to the client's premises. Having developed the content and supporting presentation materials, Steve took charge of the related planning, management, and marketing – securing the venue, arranging equipment hire and catering, and defining and delivering a marketing communications programme based around direct mail, outbound telemarketing, and an Internet-centred registration system. The initiative proved a success. Five fully subscribed Power of Three workshops followed and DEC's UK sales manager expressed his delight by increasing his events budget for the subsequent year by 40 percent.back to the top
Realising a need to raise its profile and stimulate interest in its revolutionary products, NetCall retained Steve and a PR specialist associate to collate a raft of information from the public domain to enhance the client's case for coverage. Having secured the interest of the trade press, a series of articles was then despatched for publication. In light of the resulting exposure, NetCall has since been called upon to deliver presentations to a number of trade associations. Steve helped here too, by preparing press kits and other supporting materials.back to the top
As part of a broader remit to ramp this leading holiday company's online profile, Steve set out to create a Search Engine Optimised travel site based around the firm's target demographic: high net worth A, B, C1 professionals aged 40-plus.
Reasoning that the site would not only attract large volumes of qualified traffic but could also quickly become self-funding through affiliate revenues, Steve secured investment for the concept in short order.
Over the following three months, Steve went on to supervise every aspect of the site's construction, promotion and monetisation:
- defining and commissioning all the related functionality and content;
- identifying affiliate advertising opportunities;
- sourcing suitable partners;
- negotiating reader offers and incentives;
- creating banner, PPC, and email marketing campaigns;
- devising a complete blueprint for the site's ongoing management, development, and marketing.
back to the top
Bentley Systems Finansbank Biocair Bisham Abbey Tennis Camp Brilliant Britannic Assurance Bryt Budelpack Cellstack Systems Cernunnos Homes Compuware NuMega Compaq Country-Styles Dell Computer Dunlop–Enerka EDS Unigraphics ESRI EyeLevel FoodWiz GE-Lighting GlobalCollect Healthy Options Holidays Heinz Hilton Hotels HRP Ingram Micro Intel InterXion Juice KLM M&G-Investments Magnus Management Consultants MapInfo MARCHANT Microsoft Morningstar Farms NetCall NetPros Nokia Ocean Team Olley Cork On Demand Technology PETEC P&O Nedlloyd PTC ResMania RoadTrafficAccident.com SCA Hygiene Schouten University Siemens SMARTWP SMS Technologies Sony Ericsson Symantec Taylor-Vinters Solicitors The Data Partnership The European Central Bank TNT Post Group TNT Versio Windesheim Honours College Wunderman YTKO ZAIT Zennitel ZX Solutions 40plus Travel and Leisure
“One word: GREAT!! No changes necessary, perfect!!
Please thank Steve for his efforts.
Met vriendelijke groet / Kind regards,”
M.M. van Aalderen, Director - Object+ Financial Services BV.
“The first part of the launch is complete. It may interest you to know that over 500 leads were generated from 3,200 contacts. A very good return due, in no small part, to the printed and electronic collateral that you produced. Since a major part of the launch used the Web, your speedy response was essential in maintaining our aggressive timescale.” - Peter Mackinnon, Compaq.
“I found working with you to be a pleasure. You provided excellent work and great turnaround in an efficient and professional manner.” - Phyllis Lucas, QTI
“Great turnaround; efficient and professional; speedy response; aggressive timescale; fresh approach.”
“It is a pleasure to work with you. Because a promise is a promise. I, too, believe in this way of working.” - Patricia Andersen, Dart Design
“We selected Steve for his technical know–how and willingness to go the extra mile” - Intel®.
“If you are looking for an outstanding English copywriter, Steve is your best match. With an insight into various industries, comprehensive knowledge of the nuances in a language and mastering a seamlessly tailored approach towards your target group(s), he can make your company’s literature a winning presentation to your business audience. Trustworthy and long-term dedicated to facilitate a continuously representative business appearance, I am pleased to have Steve as my business partner nowadays, with Targetwise, and will recommend him without any doubt to anyone in need of impact copywriting services.” - Iveta Dimova, Director, TARGETWISE INTERNATIONAL
“Creative, versatile, and obsessed with results -- a real ‘guerrilla’ marketer…”
“It’s really excellent, and invaluable to us, as it’s an independent assessment where we are with our channel. With this data we can direct our effort much more effectively.” - Bjorn Fehrm
“Thank you for your excellent contribution. Although you do not work for me, of course, you are very much part of the team“ - Graham Fletcher
“Unbelievable, in the short period of your attendance [ten weeks] I have received more support than in the past year“ - Cees Noteboom
“Great letter, no changes to make, perfect!!!”
M.M. van Aalderen, Object+ Financial Services BV.
“Steve's services were recommended to me by the Managing Director of an international company. Over the years I have found Steve to be consistently reliable, pro-active and understanding of mine and my companies needs. Contracting Steve to your business will without doubt enable you to move your business forward.” - Paul Day, Associate Director, St Edmundsbury Financial Services
“In today's fast moving world, business and commerce demand ever more creative input. Traditional public relations consultancies which employ staff writers have difficulty keeping their writing skills fresh. This is where we at PRP have found [Steve's] copywriting skills to be of paramount importance. By using your skills for a variety of clients, we can always bring a fresh approach to that client's work, where otherwise the creative flair would begin to dull.” - Roger Morton, PRP Public Relations
From BOND magazine readers…
“The new magazine looks amazing. Very stylish. A wonderful advert for Bond holidays.”
“… very impressive and a joy to read.”
“…a fine magazine. Informative, interesting and well laid out.”
“… a first class magazine. I found the articles interesting and informative and the photographs wonderfully evocative and enticing.”
“I know that the recent magazine is the third of the 'new look' but I have to say that it is getting better and better. The features and layout are more attractive and the whole effect is to give it extra appeal and readability. And it's informative!”
“Quality product that reflects and augments the total HPB experience. I look forward to the next issue.”
“I feel I must just congratulate you on producing such a superb edition. I like the new format … you do seem to have struck the right balance between continuing with the known and familiar and the introduction of fresh and useful innovation.”
“I thought I’d drop you a personal line of congratulation on the new style BOND magazine. When I first saw it I thought, “Here we go, new editor means change for change’s sake”, but having read the magazine, I now see the point. You appear to be taking the magazine to being a more upmarket journal…”
“Congratulations on finding such an excellent new editor for the magazine and eNews. He is doing a fine job – so much more intelligent, user-friendly and, dare I say it, un-patronising.”