Five Great Things about Email Marketing

30 January 2009 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Email marketing

I only decided to write this entry 10 minutes ago, as I was thinking about how much I liked the system here! It is a testament to how great email marketing is that I could blast through a 5 point list in such a short time, I normally dither for much longer over this type of thing…So for what they are worth here are my thoughts.

1 – It is cheaper than traditional direct mail when done properly!

With email marketing you can send information to your whole database with no more expense than your marketing team’s time. That means, there are no printing costs, no postage costs, no hours spent stuffing envelopes…it’s a marketer’s dream!

2 – It is a great way to quickly and regularly update your customers!

This is how it used to be, you were having a sale in-store in May, so in mid-March you approached your graphic designer to design a leaflet promoting the sale. He finished the design at the start of April and you passed it over to your printer who delivered the final product in the second or third week of April. Of course you then had to do the dreaded envelope stuffing and franking to get them out the door in time to ensure your customers got them before the sale started! (I got tired just writing that!)

With the introduction of email marketing to the mix, you already have your email template ready and waiting for you so no designer needed, you don’t have to wait for a printer to do your printing and you most definitley do not have to stuff any envelopes. You still have to write the copy, which yes can be a bit of a pain, but other than that you can do the whole thing one week before your sale starts and you get the same if not a better result for less time invested, less money invested and no nasty paper cuts.

3 – You can track what links interest people most and adapt your campaigns accordingly

The problem with traditional direct mail is that unless someone picks up the phone to call you, you have no idea if they have read your leaflet or what sections captured their interest. With email marketing, providing your system has stats as part of the package you can track what links people clicked on, what ones they did not and even if they passed it on to a friend to have a look too.

4 – It is so easy to tailor your message to specific individuals or customer segments and with no added cost

Yes, digital print enables us to nicely personalise our flyers and brochures to show our customer’s name and maybe the last product they bought or their service plan but its not all that cheap is it? With email marketing you can personalise every paragraph and sentence if you feel the need and it does not cost you a penny more. Experts everywhere are tooting targeted, personalised marketing as the only thing that will save you in these risky times but not everyone has the budget to do it on paper based marketing but perhaps without realising it they do on email!

5 – Your subscriber database is easily managed and updated – without much input from you.
(Providing you are using a good service!)

With a handy sign up form on your website coupled with a nice unsubscribe link in each of your email campaigns there is nothing for you to do. Your email database manages itself…enough said!

1 bad thing about Email Marketing

In the wrong hands it can be very dangerous!!!

Access to such a speedy communication tool has huge benefits but when you send an email with six spelling errors, 3 broken links as well as some unviewable images out to your whole client base just because you can do it quickly, you have just caused massive, potentially irreparable damage to your brand. Therefore I would suggest that before exploring the wonderful world of email marketing, you have suitable controls in place to avoid this kind of disaster.

Data protection

30 January 2009 by Stephen Owen  
Filed under NHS and health

Earlier in January the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced that it had taken action against two NHS trusts after the loss of personal data.  In each case, data had been stored in an unencrypted form on easily-removable, and so easy to lose, pieces of hardware.  Whether or not the hardware and the data it contains are recovered, the effects upon those whose information is lost are serious.  Stories like this attract media attention, and in recent times the media has become more alert to this type of story and the damaging effects of data loss on the people affected.  These effects can obviously be worrying where financial or medical data are involved.

Stories of laptops being mislaid or stolen, and the increasing use of USB storage devices as convenient ways to store and transport data, make data governance an increasingly important issue.  As technology advances, new developments in data transfer and storage encourage and enable new applications which would have been unthinkable in the recent past – the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), with plans for sharing health and other related data country-wide, being just one example of such an ambitious system.  However advances that make data more easily available are a double-edged sword, since accompanying the desire to store and distribute information is the need to control who has access to it, and what they can do with it.

One of the most complex parts of designing a large system can be controlling access to the data that it contains.  Most people are familiar with usernames, passwords, PINs and so on, all of which serve to control access to a system, and which are then used by the system to determine what a person can see and do.  In combination with such access controls, the underlying data within a system can be stored in an encrypted form which makes using the data much more difficult even if you can gain access to it through some unauthorised means.

What many (though by no means all) of the data protection stories related in the press have in common is that they concern data being lost OUTSIDE of the system: personal records stored on a USB stick, data downloaded onto a laptop to allow working away from the office, confidential papers left on a train – in these situations the data has already been removed from the system.  Given that access is therefore compromised, it becomes particularly important that such data is protected in some other way – encryption can be used here too.

Encryption is a process by which data is altered through a known process which can be reversed when access to the data is needed.  A secure system will typically use encryption internally to protect sensitive data such as passwords or medical history.  It is possible to encrypt the hard disk drive of a laptop computer, or the contents of a USB memory stick; this would mean that in order to read any data, a password or some similar access control measure would be needed.  Data in an encrypted form is of limited use, and so as long as access to the means of decrypting it is controlled, encrypted data can be considered relatively secure (’relatively’ as it is not impossible to access encrypted data, merely difficult; encryption serves to make unauthorised access to the data infeasibly difficult rather than imposible).

Unfortunately many of the examples of data loss featured in the media become such large stories because data has not been encrypted.  A simple measure, which is accepted as good practice within the industry and promoted strongly by the ICO, but which is not routinely followed.  The recent loss of data from Monster and a variety of losses from government departments serve to emphasise the need for strong access controls, routine encryption of sensitive data, and a greater appreciation of the worth of such data and the dangers involved in its distribution, even within carefully-controlled circumstances.

Designing more inclusive websites

30 January 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

About 10 years ago Professor John Clarkson from the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and Professor Roger Coleman from the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art realised the importance of designing more accessible, usable and desirable products and the value such products bring to the market, and as a result they collaboratively set up 2 Inclusive Design research groups in the UK: one in Cambridge and one in London. Since then, a lot of other UK-based academic and business institutions, including Kent House, recognised the benefit of inclusively-designed products and started they own inclusive design ventures. All these institutions operate from the belief that inclusively-designed products not only minimise the exclusion of less capable users, but they are also easier for everyone else to use.

Inclusive Design Background

Inclusive design is a general approach to designing in which designers ensure that their products and services address the needs of the widest possible audience, irrespective of age or ability. The concept of inclusive design is similar to Universal Design, which is popular in the United States and Japan. However, it is widely accepted in the inclusive design discourse that designing ‘one product for all’ is implausible because people of different ages, capabilities and social and cultural backgrounds prefer different products.

Kent House and Inclusive Design Websites

Kent House believes in the power of inclusive products and services and we have always been stressing the importance of accessible and easy-to-use websites to our clients. In 2006, we conducted an extensive usability study on 303 Primary Care Trust (PCT) websites in the UK and found them to be of poor quality in terms of design, content and effectiveness of communication. As a solution to the problem with PCT websites, we developed the 3C Compliance Model. The results of the study were published in the British Journal of Healthcare Computing & Information Management in February 2007.

Kent House and the University of Cambridge

In the pursuit of even more understanding on inclusive design and the need to further develop guidance on how to design more  accessible and usable products and services, I joined the Inclusive Design research group at the University of Cambridge as a PhD student in October 2007. My work focuses on modelling interaction between product features and human capabilities. I am particularly interested in finding out whether product designers really consider heterogeneous users during their designs, and if so, whether they use any models or frameworks to ensure that their products meet the needs and wants of  users with varied capability. I am also interested in finding out more about the goals and actions of heterogenous users when they interact with daily living products.

Since I have been working with the Inclusive Design group, I have introduced the vision impairment simulator to the Kent House team in order to help our graphic designers understand how declined vision affects the ability to interact with our websites and as way of testing if our websites can be seen by people with reduced capability.

Branding

30 January 2009 by Rob Mckechnie  
Filed under News and views

brandBranding is not just about your company logo but it’s also about your business values and every interaction you have with your customers and suppliers. Branding can become an essential part of your business, create and maintain your company reputation and reflect your customers’ experience. It can also help you to maintain employee motivation and increase your sales.

So… do you want your product or service to become a customer’s first choice?

Well… Kent House can help you make this happen by building your brand identity and giving you advice on how to focus on what your customers want and how you can guarantee to deliver it.

If you have any queries regarding our Products and Services, please feel free to contact us at info@kenthouse.com or 0845 638 0700.

Top tips for event management

30 January 2009 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

I was travelling home from the office the other day and heard a conversation on the train from a fellow commuter about running events and how it was something that they’d never done before but had a big event to run later this year.  It got me thinking about what advice I’d offer if someone came to me about running events.  So here are my Top tips for running an event without resorting to mass murder.

Failing to plan means planning to fail

It’s a cliche I know but not planning an event means you’re more than likely to fail.  I’m a planner by nature, I love post-it notes, Visio diagrams and anything that allows me to put things in order.  That might not be your style but running events without some sort of plan will only mean stress for you and others around you and a bad experience for your delegates.

My advice is to start planning an event at least 6 months before you want it to happen.  Nowadays people book their weddings 2 years in advance just to get the date and venue that they want and events need to be thought of almost in the same way.  Work out a system for the different parts of event management that you need to cover and put some sensible deadlines in place so that you can manage things in small chunks rather than trying to do everything at once.  Keep an event file so that everything is in one place, use the logic that if I was off sick could someone cover this event for me just by reading the file.

Contracting

If you’re working for a client (or even if you’re running the event for yourself) for commercial reasons draw up a contract of what you’re going to deliver by when and, how and what the client is going to deliver by when and how.  Equally you need to have contracts in place for all the other parties you are working with, venues, caters etc.

The person commissioning the event from you needs to be part of the process, they’re the ones that know about the message that they are trying to get across and the people that need to be there to speak or present. They’ll know the style of the event that they want to put across and if you don’t have all that in writing even if it’s a short list of bullet points signed and agreed by them you’re starting on the wrong foot.

Budget

Business is ultimately about profit so not setting a budget for the event(s) means you’ve got no idea if you’re going to make a profit or a loss.  It’s easy to spend £1000’s on crisp white table linen when you could spend  £1’s instead on paper table cloths your delegates could write on meaning you save on flipcharts and table cloths and it’s fun for the delegates as well.  More often than not agreeing the budget will need your input because you have the knowledge of how much things are likely to cost.  Agree the budget with the person commissioning the event as part of contracting and allow a 5-10% contingency pot so you’re not likely to overspend.

Work smart

Use other peoples skills to make you look brilliant; as long as it’s within the budget everyone’s happy.

The event industry is huge and your event will be one of the x many millions that will be put on all over the world this year.  As a result of this there are lots of people that have events related skills that you can tap into.

Venues

Why would you spend days even weeks researching venues when you could write a venue search brief and use a venue finder to do the leg work for you?  Venue finders normally get their commission from the venue and cost you nothing, so everyone’s a winner!!  They’ll negotiate rates for you and because they have existing industry contacts they’ll get you better rates than you’ll be able to get yourself.  If you don’t like what they send you ask them to search again, that’s what they are there for!!  My top tip for venue finding is Pineapple Events Wendy and Lauretthe are great to work with and have years of experience in the industry.

Audio Visual

The same logic applies to Audio Visual suppliers, if you’re not an expert don’t try and do it yourself.  Don’t settle for the first quote you get especially if it’s from the AV company recommended by the venue.  Write a brief and email it to half a dozen AV companies and see what comes back but don’t forget that cheapest isn’t always best.  Give the work to the person or company that you feel is going to be able to work with you to deliver your agenda not theirs.

Keeping AV simple is really the best policy; get the kit that you need and have a technician booked to make sure that the kit works on the day, the last thing you need is to have your highly prestigious keynote speaker to stand up and the mic not to work or to have the slides for the wrong speaker ping up on the screen behind them.   My top tip for AV companies is i4Events based in Yorkshire.  i4events are highly experienced and fab to work with,  ask for Mike Farmer and mention me.

Buddy up

Sanity is a valuable thing in our manic world so I strongly suggest buddying up with someone else to manage your events.  I know that’s not always possible due to budget constraints but even if it’s asking a friend or colleague to spend a small amount of time talking things through with you it will make a huge difference.  If you’re putting anything live on the web or sending something off to be professionally printed, another set of eyes could save you time, money and potential embarrassment.

Event management system

Delegate registration can be hugely time consuming if you’re using spreadsheets and databases but can be a lot more friendly for both you and the delegate if you use a web based system like EventManager or EventBooker.  These systems can be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection and they allow delegates to self-manage bookings and cancellations for events that you have listed as being open for booking.

They handle a plethora of email communications that would otherwise need to be individually managed by you including: confirmation, account login, cancellation, reminders and many more.  EventManager can also issue short SMS messages to inform delegates that bookings are confirmed or that something has been updated for the event.

Understanding SEO and other nasty internet marketing acronyms

30 January 2009 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

Before I get started let’s deal with SEO, Search Engine Optimisation. It is easy for those of us in the know to talk about SEO, SEM, PPC, CPC, keywords and so on but are we aware that there is a whole world of people out there (some of them marketers!) who do not talk in acronyms, do not understand them and do not therefore understand us?!
As a marketer, I am always keen to ensure my message is being understood so for my first few blog entries I am going to do a basic jargon buster and SEO breakdown to help people understand the ABCs and 123s of SEO and other internet marketing abbreviations and terms. Of course I’m not going to make you an expert in a few short articles but perhaps in future it will save you from being “acronym-ed out” of high-brow marketing conversations!

The Internet Marketing Jargon Buster

SEO        Search Engine Optimisation

The act of “optimising” your website so that it appears higher in search engine results for your chosen keywords. In its most basic form, this involves working with your website to improve content, architecture, labelling and ease of navigation as well as getting some relevant inbound links to your site. It can also include the length of time your website has been in existence for, your page rank and your hosting provider. Search Engine Optimisation does not occur overnight but can take from 3 to 6 months to see any improvement – but it is well worth the effort!

PPC        Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click advertising is a fantastic way to achieve 1st page Search Engine results overnight. Things I love about PPC include the ability to set a campaign budget, set maximum cost per click values and how trackable it is! Most of the major search engines offer this service from Google’s AdWords to Yahoo!’s Search Marketing to Microsoft’s adCentre.

CPC        Cost Per Click

Cost Per Click is a PPC Advertising term and basically means the amount of money it will cost or does cost you when someone clicks on your advert. With most PPC Advertisers you can set the maximum amount of money you are prepared to spend for a click for each of your keywords (yet another reason I love PPC Advertising!).

SEM        Search Engine Marketing

This term covers both SEO and PPC and deals with any marketing activity involved with improving your position in the Search Engines. It is also worth noting that some people are only referring to PPC Campaigns when they talk about this.

Keywords

I guess I am now as guilty as everyone else, I have used this term several times already and you may not know what I’m talking about – sorry! There must be some words and phrases that you want to be found under when a searcher searches – very simply put, they are your keywords. They may include your business name, your main product and service and some other details about you such as “books – next day delivery”. Before you start optimising your site you need to come up with a list of keywords and then work your optimisation strategy around these words and phrases.

Impressions

Everyday millions of searches are done online, each time someone searches for a keyword you have included in a PPC Campaign and it is shown on the search results page that is an impression – you should not be charged in PPC for impressions just for Clicks. Impressions are also a measurement used by online publishers who sell advertising space on their site for example www.thesundaytimes.com. They will sell advertising space – banners, skyscrapers and buttons – based on the number of impressions your advert will get.

CTR    Click Through Rate(s)

Leading nicely on from impressions… Click Through Rates take the number of clicks your advert has had and express it as a percentage of the number of impressions your advert has had. CTRs can sometimes look depressingly low but it is very dependant upon what the nature of your business is and also how much competition there is in your area.

These are the basic terms used in internet marketing but I will delve deeper into each topic as 2009 progresses. If you have any questions on SEO or would like me to do an article on any particular marketing subject send me a quick email to yvonne.conway@kenthouse.com and I will be happy to oblige!

Putting PCT websites at the heart of healthcare-information services

30 January 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under NHS and health

Anna Mieczakowski with Kevin Holdridge and Dr Gordon Rugg describe the results of an extensive evaluation of primary-care-trust websites.

Abstract

All primary care trusts (PCTs) in England are required to have an online presence that effectively communicates the NHS agenda to the end users. We assessed the websites of all PCTs using well-established research methods and found them to be of poor quality in terms of design, quality of content and effectiveness of communication. We propose the 3C Compliance Model as a solution to the problem with PCT websites.

NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for ensuring that the right healthcare services are provided for their communities, ensuring these services can be accessed and for identifying the needs and views of their populations.

Websites are an increasingly important tool for PCTs in reaching constituents and in making healthcare information available to them and soliciting their views. Doing this well requires the PCT website to be well designed and structured so that it effectively communicates diverse corporate, clinical, and community-oriented information.

Beyond some information on NHS branding and style guidelines and some out-of-date UK e-government standards, there is no NHS-specific guidance or framework available to PCTs to help them ensure that their websites are fit for purpose. PCTs struggle, therefore, to specify websites well during procurement and have no easy means of measuring the effectiveness of their existing sites.

We carried-out an evidence-based assessment of 303 PCTs’ websites in England. This identified that most of them failed to comply with good practice and could do a much better job of supporting their organisations’ goals. Many were of poor quality in terms of design, quality of content, effectiveness of communication and were rated poorly by users.

Through our study we developed a robust framework to assess the technical effectiveness, quality of patient experience and content and design appropriateness of PCT websites. Our unique framework incorporates national and international standards for compliance, and is based on sound principles and extensive observation of real users’ behaviour and feedback.

Based on the findings of our study, we suggest practical ways in which PCTs can measure and improve the utility and cost effectiveness of their websites and thus make them key tools for the organisation.

Read more

Kent House in 48-Hour Design Challenge

28 January 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

In November 2008, I was asked to take part in the 48-Hour Inclusive Design Challenge in Tokyo. The Challenge was collaboratively organised by the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre, Nikkei Design and Tokyo University, and its theme was disaster related. All participants were divided in 3 design team consisting of, among others, in-house designers from leading Japanese companies, engineering graduates from the University of Cambridge and the University of Tokyo, and a member of the Kent House family. Each team worked with one disabled person and one survivor of the Niigata or Kobe earthquakes and was led by an experienced designer from the UK. The aim of the Challenge was to develop innovative mainstream products, services or environments that would be assistance in disaster and would include the needs of disabled people. The results of the competition were then presented to Design Innovation Forum delegates from industry and academia on November 25 and published in “Nikkei Design” and in “Challenge” published by Helen Hamlyn Centre.

I was a member of the third team (Team C) and our main contribution to the Design Innovation Forum 2008 was the proposition of the ‘Know Your Way’ campaign, which stressed the importance of preparing and establishing a mental image of where the exits in a building are and how to get to them before a disaster strikes. My team created a logo for the campaign, which was represented in Japanese kanji characters and in direct translation it meant that ‘knowledge leads your way out’. We used international signage iconography as the basis of the logo’s design, with the additional depth of meaning in the character itself. Moreover, the fact that the kanji character looked like a person allowed the logo to work across languages. Since one of the crucial actions to take during the times of a disaster is to remain calm, our logo was represented in blue, which signifies calmness in Japanese.

The campaign developed by my team was warmly accepted by the panel of 3 disaster experts and over 300 delegates, and as a result awarded for the “Best Solution” project. So, yet another trophy has been added to the Kent House cabinet of fame.

The participation in the Inclusive Design Challenge was a truly insightful and mind-broadening experience as Kent House has always been in favour of the Inclusive Design philosophy and adopted the user centric approach to the creation of our products and services. It was also a very valuable experience to work directly with Japanese designers and engineers and observe their views, work ethics and decision-making processes.

Event Management using EventManager

20 January 2009 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

From a throw away comment EventManager has gone from an idea on the back of a piece of paper to being an award winning event management system in under 5 years…

Events are one of those things that until you have to run one, sound like a walk in the park. To be an event manager you have to think a certain way, the devil’s in the detail as they say. You’re a project
manager, finance manager, AV tech and front of house all rolled into one but with the added extras
of venues, delegates, exhibitors and speakers to work with and that’s before dietary requirements, bedrooms, workshops, reporting, AV and evaluations……Calling your wedding guests ‘delegates’ throughout the planning of your wedding is a sure fire sign that you’re an event manager by trade and a way to cause ripples with the Bride to be before the big day (trust me I know).

One of the painful parts of event management is delegate registration and management. Get it right and delegates are happy and your event is a roaring success, get it wrong and more often than not the
Chief Exec or MD are the ones that will get the complaints and that’s bad news for everyone. In the past spreadsheets and databases were the way to manage delegates but even that was time intensive and wasn’t systematic.

EventManager has been designed and continues to be designed and influenced by event managers for event managers. One of the lead advisors for the system is Ruth Dowson, Senior Lecturer in Events
Management
at the UK Centre for Events Management at Leeds Metropolitan University and former Head of Events at NHS Connecting for Health:

“…I’ve had a hand in delivering over 300 events in the past few years ranging in size from 30 – 50 to 1,000+ paid place delegate events/conferences for Government Ministers all using EventManager. EventManager covers all the aspects of delegate registration that I need it to, meaning I can get on with my real job as an event manager. I don’t have to spend hours inputting bookings into a spreadsheet or database and then emailing people to confirm that I’ve booked them a place. I load the event including event details, documents, venue information and delegates numbers and EventManager takes care of bookings, cancellations and notifications to me and the delegate. It covers workshop bookings, dietary requirements, accommodation options as well as full reporting options and electronic evaluation post event.

I moved jobs a few years ago and I had to run a 2 day event for 30 people with B&B without event manager and it took me all of my time keeping up with bookings and cancellations that I was tearing my hair out because I couldn’t focus on the things that needed my real attention like the agenda, event content and the arrangements at the venue.

I’ve felt the pain of having a system and then not having one and excuse the pun but the decision is academic, I wouldn’t run an event without EventManager…”

Here’s what one of our current clients has to say about EventManager:

“….The event management system is used widely in SHAs and a number of NHS organisations across England. We think it’s a great system as it removes the administration burden attached with events and workshops, especially when you’re organising a number of large conferences, workshops or training sessions.

It allows people to register directly online and download information about an event, workshop or training session. It enables you to monitor delegates and manage quotas, e.g. maximum numbers you can take, reserve places for people, mark people as team, delegate or speaker so that you can download lists etc. KentHouse will also tailor the system to suit your organisation. Also, because it is web based, people can access it anywhere they have access to the internet….”
Linsey Atkins, Programme Communications Lead – NHS East of England

EventManager has a large client base including key NHS clients of NHS Connecting for Health delivering the National Programme for IT, the National Patient Safety Agency and private sector clients including E Health Media Ltd and Dowson Communications.

If you’d like to take the sting out of delegate registration and find out more about EventManager send me an email and I’ll be happy to help.

Email Marketing

20 January 2009 by Kevin Holdridge  
Filed under headers

Use email to reach people more effectively, to drive traffic to your Web site, and to build relationships

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