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Ace your next presentation - tell a story!

November 23, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Ace your next presentation - tell a story!{{}}

A key skill for marketing professionals is being able to create presentations that stick. Whether you are looking to win more budget internally or to pitch a new client - by harnessing the power of business story-telling, you can stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.

Stories are powerful tools. They change how we think and feel about something, so a well-structured story takes your audience on a journey they'll always remember.

Still, many marketing professionals don't know how to use story-telling in their presentations. There are several key things to remember:


First, do your research. Double check any facts and figures; don't be caught out by claiming something incorrect.


Once you have your information to hand, start assembling it into a story - this is your script. Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as an overarching narrative. Work out any obstacles, find solutions and create a central character. Write these down and don't worry about editing in the beginning.


Take a break from what you've written and go back to it with fresh eyes. Focus on why your idea will appeal to your audience and cut out anything that seems unclear or non-essential. Your watch-words for this process should be clarity, accuracy and efficiency.


What do you want your audience to remember? The bottom line is always the most important thing. Once you've developed succinct and engaging content, you need to distill the take-away message down to one sentence.


Design is essential for making a good first impression. You have limited time: people take just 15 seconds to make an initial judgement. The software you choose can help get you noticed. Everyone knows about Microsoft PowerPoint but there are new alternatives out there that you can also use - Google Slides and Prezi are two of the more popular ones.

Six more key things to remember are:

  • Keep text to a minimum. Think headlines, not paragraphs. Less is more;
  • Highlight the main messages – use bold and font size to emphasis what you want people to focus on and remember;
  • Focus on one thought at a time and stick to one idea per image;
  • Use colour wisely. Use Adobe's color wheel to pick a complimentary colour palette and use it consistently;
  • Use great photography. Invest a small amount of money (£5-£30) in buying images from an image library like istockphoto to make your presentation stand out. But avoid having lots of photos without a purpose;
  • Choose a business-style font that sets the right tone – a sans-serif font for a factual approach, and a serif font to give a more stylish impression.

Remember that the visual impression you give is just as important as developing excellent content, as illustrated in this Prezi.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer Waldron, UK country manager of presentation software company Prezi.

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How to make your customers the heroes on social media

November 16, 2015 by Grant Leboff

Customers the heroes on social mediaI was pretty despondent when I walked through the door of my parents' home. I was 17 years old and had just had my first driving lesson. I thought driving was going to be a breeze; but inevitably I had stalled the car and made the multitude of mistakes most people do the first time they get behind the wheel.

As I passed my Dad on the stairs he asked, "What's wrong?".

"Do you think I will ever be able to learn to drive?" I murmured.

He quickly responded, "Have you seen all the idiots on the road?"

Of course, that was my father's way of saying "yes".

I meet company directors all the time who tell me they don't understand social media. They don't use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and wouldn't know where to start. I always want to use my father's quote, "Have you seen all the idiots on Facebook?"

Facebook is used by 1.3 billion people a month. It is designed to be user friendly. It is not elitist and it's not that difficult. Anyone who gives themselves some time on any of these platforms will quickly master the basics. Moreover, there are a plethora of online articles and videos that can help if you're stuck on a particular task.

Social media state of mind

Social media doesn't go wrong because people don't understand a particular aspect of functionality on LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media doesn't work for businesses and individuals because they don't understand the mindset shift that has to happen to make it work. Social platforms are very different from broadcast media. To put it simply, social media is not a platform; it is a mindset, a way of thinking, a state of mind.

The mind-shift is simple to explain and yet I am often surprised at how difficult people find the change of thinking. Quite simply, broadcast media was about "me". I would talk about my company, what we could offer, the benefits we gave and so on. This worked when the audience had no right of reply. In a world where there was scarcity of choice and information, audiences would allow themselves to be interrupted by messages they would not necessarily be able to access in any other way.

Social media, however, is not broadcast. It is a two-way communication. Audiences don't merely have the right of reply, rather your business is communicating in their channel. Social media platforms are the primary communication tool of choice for a growing number of individuals. Rather than pick up the phone, many individuals will prefer to send a Facebook message. Therefore, when a company communicates on social platforms, it is in its customer's space. This, of course, is what makes the channel so potentially powerful. It is also why it can go badly wrong.

Make your customers the heroes

To make social media work, you have to make your customers the heroes. This normally means allowing your customers to get involved and participate – by encouraging social sharing and feedback.

However, the more you can allow your customers to be involved, the more effective your social media will become. Great examples are Walkers Crisps encouraging customers to come up with a new flavour, JetBlue asking customers to share the story of their flight or Heinz asking its customers which bean they are.

The power of stories

These companies understand the importance of the narrative. Stories are what we tell each other. Stories are how we learn. Whether we obtain the story via word of mouth, books, TV or films, it is stories that have been capturing our imagination since the beginning of time. Before you unleash your communications on the world, ask yourself, "what is your narrative?". What is the story behind what you are doing or the story you are trying to tell? Is it compelling? Could it be improved?

Once you have the story, then you need to work out how the audience can take a central role in the story. If the audience are the heroes they will want to get involved and share the communication with others. And that is ultimately how your social media will be successful.

Rinse and repeat

I don't mean going "viral", which is one of the most overused marketing terms; I'm talking about "social sharing". It only takes a small percentage of any audience to share your communications in order for you to reach a relevant group of potential new customers in the most credible way. After all, it is not you saying how good you are, but a trusted friend or colleague. Rinse and repeat this process on a weekly or monthly basis and that is a lot of potential reach over the course of a year.

Social media is not about the platform. That is merely the outlet for the communication. Social media is about great narratives where your audience takes the central role. David Bowie famously sang: "we can be heroes, just for one day". If you can make your audience the heroes, then your social media might just work.

Copyright © 2015 Grant LeBoff, expert contributor to Marketing Donut and ceo of the Sticky Marketing Club.

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Revealed: 13 marketing secrets of the most successful small firms

November 12, 2015 by Dee Blick

Marketing secrets{{}}When it comes to marketing, it's tempting to think that successful small businesses know something that you don't; they have discovered that one elusive marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow.

But the truth is there's no such thing as a marketing miracle. Or at least that's my experience having worked with hundreds of small businesses in the past 31 years.

What I've found is that the businesses that get it right with their marketing and as a result that reap the rewards with sales galore, are doing these 13 things consistently:

  1. They know that a fantastic product or service is not enough to build a successful business. And so they put marketing at the heart of their business. They market in good times even when they are super busy; and they market in lean times when they know they have to intensify their efforts to keep sales rolling in.
  2. Even though they are proficient jugglers, they know when it's time to drop the DIY approach and enlist the help of experts. I'm talking about the graphic designers that give their logo and communications real sparkle and flair; the web designers that do likewise for their website; the copywriters for when they're full of ideas but find it challenging to put pen to paper.
  3. They radiate enthusiasm wherever they go and are always ready to do business. They are also natural connectors always looking for ways in which they can collaborate with talented folk that complement their skills. They are generous, referring hot leads and business to others knowing their generosity will come back to them in spades.
  4. They are crystal clear about their offering. Ask them what they do and within a few sentences you've grasped it, so much so that if you're in the market for what they offer you want more. They're big on benefits and they know what their customers need and want.
  5. Although they keep a steady eye on their competitors so they can learn and improve (and avoid complacency) they're not obsessed with them, preferring to blaze their own trail instead.
  6. They make their marketing accountable. They won't shrink from abandoning a marketing activity that's failing to deliver despite their best efforts. And they won't hesitate when it comes to spending money on marketing. They keep close tabs on the responses and never let their marketing drift.
  7. They're always looking for ways in which they can improve their products and services. This ranges from the small tweaks that can be accomplished easily to bigger changes that have to be scheduled and budgeted for. Running parallel to this is their overwhelming desire to continually delight their customers. They build their business around happy customers and never lose the personal touch.
  8. They don't stay in their comfort zone. They take calculated risks, set bold goals and invest in their own personal development. It might be daunting but they do it anyway.
  9. They invest time in their marketing plan before diving into marketing tactics. As a consequence they know who they want to reach and why. They know where they can find their target audiences so they can successfully reach them. They commit to campaigns over time to build trust and break down barriers to a sale. They focus on creating captivating, relevant and attention-grabbing messages wrapped in appealing content.
  10. They understand the value of traditional marketing as well as social media. Unlike many of their competitors, their choice of marketing tools and communications is determined by the preferences of their target audiences - not their own.
  11. They build on their expert status, investing in their skills and broadening their knowledge. They share the fruits of their expertise across marketing platforms, from social media to public speaking.
  12. They have a conscience. They actively seek ways in which they can support special causes and are keen to minimise their impact on the environment.
  13. Their business keeps them awake at night with excitement and sometimes fear. But they're resilient. When times are tough they don't dive under the duvet, they double their efforts, coming back stronger and fitter.

And of course it goes without saying they love what they do.

Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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Four simple ways to improve your presentations

November 03, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Four simple ways to improve your presentations{{}}Do you love giving presentations? I thought not; most people don't.

Here are four simple techniques that boost two key things - your confidence and your chances of success. They are:

  • First impressions
  • Links
  • Involvement
  • Passion

They're easy to remember - the initial letters spell FLIP.

First impressions

How you start sets the tone for everything. Have a great first sentence and your next ones will probably go well. Have a shaky opener and it will impact on the rest.

So, practise your start. A lot. As a simple guide: spend 20% of your preparation time on the first 2% of your presentation.

And don't just practise it in your head. Say it out loud. Go to the venue beforehand and say it there… anything that ensures you're good on the day.

Another important element of your first impression is your title. It's going to be hard to wow a room if your presentation's called "Q2 update". It's much easier if it's called "Three things our competitors can never do".

Doing all this will take about 10-15 minutes. Not a lot when you think about the huge impact it will have on your audience.

Links between slides

Good links between slides give your presentation flow and pace. But most presenters don't consider how to link slides together. Often, they use the next slide to prompt them. But if you can see the slide, so can your audience. So they know what you're about to say.

It is well worth scripting how you'll go from one slide to the next. Then say it before you click on the next slide.

Here's an example: slide 8 discusses finances; slide 9 covers messages. So, after covering slide 8's content but while that slide is still showing, you'd say: "So, as you can see, the finances are strong. Let's now see how we'll achieve these numbers, through better messaging."

And then you'd click to bring up slide 9.

Again, it doesn't take long to script your links. So it's minimal work for a great return.


Audiences prefer to be involved in some way - it's much better for them than just sitting, watching and listening for hours. So get them involved. Options include:

  • Ask them to write something down;
  • Give them a quick exercise to do with their neighbour;
  • Do a quick quiz;
  • Show them something funny, so they're involved by laughing;
  • Ask questions.


Audiences like presenters who show passion. And they switch off from those who don't have it. So find your passion. And make sure it comes out in your presentation. You should feel passionate about at least one of these:

  • Your content;
  • The afters - why you/the audience/others will be better off afterwards;
  • Your job;
  • Your company

So try using FLIP next time you're presenting. As long as each of the FLIPs are there, you've a great chance of impressing your audience.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged presentation(s), PowerPoint | 0 comments

Content marketing: ten steps to success

October 29, 2015 by Sonja Jefferson

Content marketing: ten steps to success{{}}When it comes to content marketing, do you have a plan? One that you stick to? Or is your approach to content creation somewhat haphazard? If it is, you could be missing out. You might be getting by, but your content habits could be a lot healthier - and more effective - as a result.

The latest research by the Content Marketing Institute here in the UK suggests that whilst 85% of respondents use content marketing only 42% say they are using it effectively. But 71% of those who do have a content strategy report that they are effective.

A content strategy is your recipe for content marketing success but many people have no idea how to create one. Here's our ten-step guide to help you cook up a sizzling content strategy.

  1. Be clear about your goals. What is the difference that you want content marketing to make to your business? The clearer your focus, the more targeted your efforts will be.
  2. Understand your own business. Before you drill down into your customers' needs, do a bit of naval gazing and look inside your company. This will help you to position your content firmly in your area of expertise. Otherwise, you could end up creating content that meets your customers' needs (and they will have many) but that will never win you any business.
  3. Know your customers. What you write about should be driven by who you are talking to and what they care about and value. You'll know some stuff about your customers of course, but to create content that really hits the spot you'll need to go deeper. Ask your customers directly; call them; spend some time interviewing them. What they say could well surprise you.
  4. Find the story behind the content. The most valuable content of all communicates a strong story - not just a story of what a business does, or how it does it, but why the business exists, its purpose in the world – beyond financial targets.
  5. Set out your content vision. Now we get to the heart of your valuable content strategy process. What is the conversation you want to own with your content? Think big here. As a business, what are you better equipped than anyone else to help people with? Find that sweet spot then set out an inspiring vision for your content marketing around it.
  6. Make a commitment and plan. Aim to build up a bank of high quality content that you can distribute effectively throughout the year. But remember, consistency and quality are always more important than volume. Create an achievable schedule - something you can stick to.
  7. Prepare your platform and pick your tools. Make sure your website platform can support you in making your strategy work. Think about the content creation and distribution tools you need to support your strategy.
  8. Organise. To make your content strategy work you'll need a team, a budget and an efficient process. But who will be involved? What roles do you need in place to make the process work? Think about how you will manage and control what you do.
  9. Measure what matters. Work out how you will assess whether your new strategy is working. You've already done the thinking about your objectives and goals so refer back to them. Create a set of meaningful measures that are aligned to your ambitions as a business.
  10. Make it so. The power of any good strategy is in its implementation. Understand what content, tools and resources you already have at your disposal. Conduct a content audit and gap analysis. The place to begin is a detailed look at your current content. Does it meet the needs of your new content strategy?

There's no doubt about it, marketers who take time to plan their content strategy are more effective than those who don't. If you want to drive real competitive advantage do the hard thinking and write your content strategy down.

Copyright © 2015 Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and content marketing consultant at Valuable Content. Sonja is co-author, with Sharon Tanton, of Valuable Content Marketing.

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Sugru's Linda Muck

October 19, 2015 by Chloë Thomas

Sugru is a business I've admired for some time - it's a great product, but it's not that easy to explain without having a go. So I've always found their marketing and the way they position themselves very interesting.

Then I met Linda at an event and discovered that the more techy-side of their marketing was equally interesting. When I started my podcast I knew I wanted to feature Linda early-on.

In the podcast we cover many eCommerce topics, including:

  • Online advertising
  • Black Friday
  • Their Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign
  • International expansion

and much more.

I hope you enjoy listening as much I enjoyed recording it.

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