last article I discussed some of the reasons why we as marketers
should be using RSS to promote our brands. Now it's time to get down
to the nuts and bolts and explore the Top 20 ways in which we can do
We marketers spend a lot of time, effort and resources researching, writing and designing e-newsletters. This type of regular communication is important, and many of our customers value it. But are we always delivering e-newsletters in the most efficient way? When our customers sign up to receive our e-newsletters by RSS we can totally avoid in-box clutter and be certain that no Spam filter will erroneously block our communication. RSS isn't about to replace email here, but for customers willing to use it, RSS is an ideal complementary distribution channel for e-newsletters.
2. Alerting customers about sales promotions and special offers
How many times have you caught yourself writing an email subject line including "free", "discount" or "special offer", only to catch yourself in time and change it, remembering that these words are red flags to Spam filters-even though you have your customers' permission to mail them? It's a pain, isn't it? And if you are sending information about specials offers and promotions, these are often exactly the words you want to use. If customers have subscribed via RSS, then your messages go straight into their feed readers with no possibility of being rejected. This means you can use the most appropriate wording and give your customers a clear idea of what your offers are, with no fear of your messages being wrongly blocked as Spam.
3. Distributing discount coupons
Customers like to get discounts, particularly when applied to their favourite brands. Signing up to RSS feeds is an ideal way for our customers to ensure they never miss a discount. It works, too. Have a look at www.dealcatcher.com. This is a site that collects details of offers and discounts from all over the Net and alerts subscribers using RSS.
4. Providing valuable third-party syndicated information on our websites
Constantly updating website content can be one of the biggest chores of being online. By incorporating third-party content into our websites via RSS, we can have constantly updated information without the hassle. This can be of real value to site visitors: for example, stock market updates on a corporate site, or currency exchange rates on a travel site. There's a lot of RSS content out there, and it can provide a good draw to keep site visitors coming back.
5. Updating sales agents, distributors and affiliates
When we use third party marketers we need to make sure they are up to date on our product ranges, prices and offers. By requiring our sales agents, distributors and affiliates to sign up for dedicated RSS feeds we can ensure that they always have the latest information, allowing them to represent our brands more effectively and accurately.
6. Delivering targeted content to different interest groups
With multiple feeds we can deliver content specific to our customers' interests. The main news portals are good at this. Have a look at http://www.cnn.com/services/rss/ or http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/help/rss/default.stm, both offer a wealth of different feeds. Other companies are doing it too. One of the best examples I've seen is Foxtons, a real estate company. At http://www.foxtons.co.uk/buy/feeds.html you can sign up for RSS feeds about new property listings. You can choose feeds according to region and price range. You can even choose the format you want content delivered in: text, Podcast (audio) or Vodcast (video). With this degree of customisation, customers can be sure to find out about the properties that are right for them.
7. Delivering press releases to media outlets
I used to think I got a lot of emails. Then I saw a journalist friend's inbox. If your name and contact details are in print or online, a lot of people write to you. With RSS feeds, journalists are able to subscribe to the information they really want without worrying about excessive inbox clutter and those pesky email scams from Nigeria. No wonder so many journalists are now using RSS to gather information. So why not use RSS to send them important press releases?
8. Distributing shareholder information
Investors like to be informed of how their investment is doing. We can use RSS to constantly update shareholders about share prices, milestones, product launches and new contracts. All of which will help keep them happy (providing the news is good!)
9. Syndicating information to other websites
We can use RSS feeds to provide syndicated information to other websites. There are a number of good reasons to do this. Firstly, it is a great way to spread brand awareness. Secondly, links from RSS feeds drive traffic back to our own website. Thirdly-and this is really cool-it can help raise search engine rankings (see my next point for more on this).
10. Improving search engine rankings
Ever wondered how some Blogs get such high search engine rankings so quickly? The answer lies partly in RSS. When someone adds our RSS feed to their website and links back to our site, that's a non-reciprocal link. And non-reciprocal links carry a lot of weight with the major search engines. Get enough of them, and non-reciprocal links can really shift search engine rankings.
11. Announcing job vacancies
Most corporate websites have some variation on an "employment opportunities" section. But how often does the right job appear when a site visitor is looking for it? An RSS feed dedicated to job vacancies allows prospective employees to hear about opportunities as they become available-and receiving applications online can help reduce recruitment costs.
12. Distributing information on product updates
A lot of companies market products that require periodic updates, or for which new add-ons become available. A good example is software patches. With RSS we can let our customers know immediately about new updates and how to get them.
13. Talking to an online community
For many brands, marketers build online communities where owners and enthusiasts can meet and interact, both with each other and with the brand. RSS can offer community members the opportunity to get stay in touch with what's going on. For example, members of a digital photography community can hear about workshops and competitions. This increases the time spent interacting with the brand and helps build loyalty, leading to repeat purchases.
14. Delivering exclusive content to key customers
Encouraging our best customers to be "brand ambassadors" is an accepted marketing practice, and RSS can help. We can use exclusive feeds to deliver content to selected key customers as a way to reward them for their loyalty. Some car brands, for example, hold regular parties for owners. RSS provides an ideal channel for distributing invitations, and is a great way to keep the brand in constant contact with its most loyal customers.
15. Updating a calendar of events
Sometimes customers need to be told about schedule changes. Let's take an example here. Say you attend regular Pilates classes at your gym. If the time of one of the classes changes, you can keep up to date quickly and conveniently by RSS. And if the RSS feed goes to your palmtop, you can even find out about the change on your way to the class. Good for members, and good for the brand.
16. Delivering time-sensitive content to subscribers
Many marketers promote brands that are in some way time-sensitive. Take baby products, for instance. Different products are suitable for different developmental stages. A website with information on baby care could offer RSS feeds providing information and advice at key stages, along with details of products such as infant formula that can be bought at those stages. This will add value to customers and allow for some good targeted marketing.
17. Staying in regular contact with prospects-automatically
We can use RSS to help guide prospects down the path to a sale, without having to write and send individual emails. By sending RSS auto-responders according to a predetermined schedule, we can easily stay in constant touch with prospects that might otherwise be neglected.
18. Delivering regular new content
Not all regular communications are e-newsletters or special offers. Sometimes our customers want regular content simply because it's useful to them. An example here would be a food manufacturer using RSS to deliver regular recipes based on its brands. A useful service to subscribers, and a great way to sell more products.
19. Letting people know about forum updates
I recently had a technical question about Microsoft Word. I couldn't find the answer on Microsoft's website, so I tried posting my question on a number of online forums. I then checked back every day to see if anyone posted a reply. Imagine how much time I could have saved if I'd been able to subscribe to an RSS feed that would notify me when the forum was updated.
20. Subscriptions to Blogs and Podcasts
This is probably the best known use for RSS, so I've deliberately left it until last. As with any regularly updated content, visitors like to be notified about updates to Blogs and Podcasts. And RSS has been the most widely accepted way of doing this for some time now.
One of the great things about our industry is that we are constantly surprised by the lateral thinking and sheer creative verve of our colleagues. Predicting the future is an uncertain business at best. But one thing I'm sure of is that as RSS really takes off over the coming months and years, I'm going to be amazed by the new ways marketers find to use it to promote their brands.
article I touched very briefly on Podcasts. In my next article I'll
take a closer look at Podcasts, what they are, what they can do, and
how we can use them to market our brands.
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