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Posts for July 2010

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Top six tips to better business blogging

July 30, 2010 by Chris Street

OK, so you’re blogging away, producing content regularly and starting to enjoy the writing process.

Visitor numbers are rising, albeit slowly, and you’re starting to deliver useful content. But something isn’t quite right, something doesn’t add up. There’s still a stilted edge about your blogging, something mechanical and clunky. Want to know what it is?

It’s probably due to my Number One of these quick six tips to better business blogging. If it resonates, you know you’ve got some changing to do. Nothing worse than that niggling internal voice telling you to change what you’re doing. Here goes:

1. Be authentic

Lose the corporate, parental, unemotional writing style. It’s dull, boring and your readers won’t engage. Try dropping your barriers and opening up. Write with passion, authenticity. Listen to yourself.

2. Be confident

There’s nothing worse than a safe, anodyne, sterile blog. Open up, be confident in your knowledge and expertise. Now share it!

3. Be challenging

Do you accept everything you see, read or hear? No? Thought not. So challenge what you see, hear and read out there, too. And highlight your challenging nature in your blog. Ask questions to make your readers stop and think. You can challenge anything.

4. Be humble

Not sure what this means? For me, it means there will always be better, smarter, faster, richer people blogging out there. And I am grateful that they share their mistakes, so I don’t have to make the same ones. Be humble for the wise old coots who exist.

5. Be funny

Nothing worse than a corporate blog which is totally devoid of humour. Boardroom bores. The antidote? Try humour, flex your funny bone, and engage with some witty banter online. Lightness, fun, and frivolity can get powerful messages across very well.

6. Be passionate

Are you passionate about your areas of expertise? Yes? Well, why hide it? Too many business blogs are devoid of passion. With so much competition out there, one of the best ways to stand out is to demonstrate your passion. Get emotional. Fight your corner.

Extra tip: just to keep you on your toes. Final nugget – ignore the critics, cynics and emotional drains in business. They are too many to count.

Wish them well, ask the gods that be for their success and happiness, and send them on their way. Ignore it and focus on the positive elements to your blogging instead.

There will always be a critic in the background. Usually an unhappy one.

Chris Street of Bristol Editor

Dragons' Den digest: Week 3

July 27, 2010 by Cat Arnold

A slight shift from Wednesday to Monday for the remainder of this series of Dragons' Den. It will take more than that to catch us off guard.

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode three.

Quote of the Episode: "If you were to wear glasses you'd look a bit like Theo" Peter Jones

Idea 1
 Tatty Bumpkin - ethical children's brand
Investment sought: £200,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: A confident start but confused the Dragons with so many aspects of the business. She demonstrated one of the classes when Peter Jones questioned what her business is about. An argument broke out when questioned about her brand and she became defensive.
Outcome: No offers
Verdict: Lots of ambition but not a strong enough brand and an unrealistic business model.

Idea 2
Golfers' Mate - a pitch repair multi-tool
Investment sought: £100,000  for 12.5 per cent
Handling: A very shaky start, had to restart the pitch three times. Eventually recovered but was instantly faced with harsh criticism from the Dragons. He gave jokey responses to the Dragons' questions, which didn't impress them.
Outcome: James Caan offer: £100k for 30 per cent share – negotiated to 25 per cent with a proviso that they could buy back 15 per cent when James gets his £100k investment back, retaining a 10 per cent share – accepted
Verdict: Not a great pitch and quite blasé when questioned, however he managed to impress with his confidence in receiving bulk orders from large potential clients, which was enough to seal the deal.

Idea 3
Aquatina - a collapsable drinks bottle that can be re-used
Investment sought: £100,000  for 10 per cent equity
Handling: A very confident pitch but the Dragons found it hard to see the point of the product. Duncan Bannatyne became quite irate and threw the product across the den. As the questioning continued, the Dragons became more hostile, accusing him of 'pulling the wool over their eyes' and misleading them in regards to the point of the product.
Outcome: No offers
The Dragons struggled to see the point of the product and felt it was not a solution to the problem it was designed to solve.

Idea 4
FGH security - Manned security company
Investment sought:
£75,000 for 10 per cent
An excellent pitch, very knowledgeable and instantly likeable. They presented an excellent business proposition which was attractive to all of the dragons. James Caan made an offer within minutes and was soon followed by the others. Deborah Meaden said she was finding it hard to think of reasons not to invest.
Joint offer – Peter Jones 50k for 10 per cent and Theo Phaphitis 50k for 10 per cent with 5 per cent of the equity given back to FGH when the investment is repaid. Offer accepted
A highly professional pitch which offered the Dragons an extremely attractive business proposition.

What did you think of the episode?

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Our take on networking

July 26, 2010 by Sian Lenegan

Networking is a great and powerful way to meet people, get your name and business cards out there and even win some new business. We've done our fair share of networking now, and quite successfully, but it's always surprising that some business people out there make a few mistakes that are a huge turn off.

Here are top tips, dos and don'ts from your team at ahp design:

  • Do you have an elevator pitch prepared? Is it exciting and interesting or do people start looking around the room for their next target? I'm not saying it has to be the world's best motivational speech, but show your passion, know what you are talking about, know your business and read people's signals. If they start to wander, ask an open ended question - people love talking about themselves.
  • A footnote on the elevator pitch - don't take a hard sell approach. Networking is about building relationships. The hard sell will inevitably put people off you right away (huge personal bug bear).
  • Set yourself a goal or work rate. Yeah, the free nibbles and drinks are great but what's the point if you don't come away with meaningful connections?
  • Make sure you have business cards to hand and also make sure that they are quality!
  • Be polite. No one minds if you join their little conversation if you're polite. Read the signals: are they standing in a closed circuit excluding everyone else from joining in? If not, then a "Hello, may I join you?" will go a long way.
  • Please please please refrain from garlic the night before and brush your teeth. Yes it's common sense but you'd be surprised!
  • Be positive and get off your soap box. Do not take networking as an opportunity to air your gripes about the world, the economy and the government. We get enough of that all day, every day, thank you very much.
  • Ready for the kicker... follow up. If you've had a great conversation with some one, follow it up with a phone call, email or whatever feels right. Add your new connections on LinkedIn and Twitter to reinforce your acquaintance.
  • Above all of this, be yourself.

Now go and find yourselves some networking events to attend, go to as many as you can until you find ones that you enjoy and are worthwhile, and then stick with it. It's not a quick win but it will help your business.

Have fun...

Seven top tips to integrate email with social media

July 22, 2010 by Tink Taylor

Social media is the latest buzzword in the marketing industry. But social media does not work well in isolation. By integrating your social media activity with your email marketing, you can improve the effectiveness and results from both disciplines, bringing outstanding bottom-line results.

Unfortunately many marketers just aren’t taking this on board. In fact, our recent Hitting the Mark study found that only 17 per cent of email marketers from the UK’s top retailers included social media sharing links in their emails.

Here are my seven top tips to better integrate email and social media marketing:

1. Include ‘share on social network’ links in your email messages – chances are your email recipients will have many like-minded friends on social networks that could also be potential customers. Encourage them to share your email content with their friends by including ‘sharing’ links in your email newsletters.

2. Encourage social media ‘followers’ and ‘fans’ to sign-up to your email newsletters – the reverse is also true: you probably have lots of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook that would be interested in receiving your email newsletters. Have you asked them? If not, why not!

3. Use blog posts as content for email newsletters – by using your blog posts in your email newsletters, you not only have a great source of wonderful content, you also raise the profile of your blog and encourage your recipients to check it out!

4. Add social network ‘subscribe’ buttons to your email messages – if recipients like the content in your newsletter, then they are likely to be potentially interested in following you on social networks too, so make it easy for them.

5. Ask for social media details during sign-up – you ask for a range of contact information when recipients sign-up to receive information from you. So why not ask for their social network details as well? And if they give them to you, make sure you follow them and add them to your CRM database.

6. Use metrics from email campaigns to identify most popular social networks – your email platform should be able to give you a range of metrics, allowing you to see which of your recipients added your content to which social networks. This will give you very valuable information relating to the social networks that are the most popular, helping you to focus future activity.

7. Ask for feedback – stuck for content for your next newsletter or just keen to get some reaction to your latest email? Why not ask your community on social media? Get them more involved and make them feel part of the process.

Have you tried any of these? Are there other tactics you find work well? Let us know in the comments.

This article originally appeared at the dotDigital Blog


Dragons' Den digest: Week 2

July 22, 2010 by Anna Mullinder

After the exciting start to the new series last week, we are back once again with a bite size round-up of episode two.

Quote of the Episode: "Love the knickers" Theo Paphitis

Idea 1
Subeo ― submarine
Investment sought: £1.45m for 45 per cent equity
Handling: Confident delivery of pitch, a positive start. Dragons were fascinated by the product and enjoyed testing it out. Duncan Bannatyne tested them on their figures. Financial row between the Dragons while pitchers looked on bemused.
Outcome: With a sale price of £595,000 and such a high risk, the Dragons didn't invest.
Verdict: Interesting product but huge financial risk.

Idea 2
Vintage Patisserie
Investment sought: £100,000 for 30 per cent
Handling: Confident delivery, knew her pitch. Brought dancers and sample cakes, knickers and chocolates. Dragons questioned her premises costs and she struggled to remember her figures. Made a heartfelt plea at the end of the questioning. Very passionate.
Outcome: Deborah Meaden offer: £50,000 for 20 per cent, Theo Paphitis offer: £50,000 for 20 per cent ― accepted.
Verdict: Lots of passion and personality but needed to know her figures inside out.

Idea 3
EDH Washing Line ― Motor powered washing line
Investment sought: £80,000 for 25 per cent
Handling: Honest, down to earth, not a traditional sales pitch. He explained both the good and bad points of the product and was honest about the high parts costs. Dragons liked him personally.
Outcome: No offers.
Verdict: Nice natural down to earth pitch but the Dragons thought the price was too high. Peter Jones liked the idea but told him to speak to washing line manufacturers instead.

Idea 4
Shopbox Systems Ltd ― innovative storage system for storing groceries
Investment sought: £250,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: Self-assured pitch in which they explained the product well. Spent almost £1m already. They upset Theo Paphitis after he questioned whether a child could get locked inside. Mentioned that they had other parties interested but wouldn't disclose the details.
Outcome: No offers.
Verdict: They had spent lots of money already and didn't seem to need the investment as they had other offers in the pipeline. Peter Jones said they had made the pitch quite unattractive.

What did you think of the episode?

Related articles:

So, exactly how do you market your green credentials?

July 21, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

In the first of a three part series, Fiona Humberstone explores the concept of a ‘Green business’

When was the last time you stopped and considered how effectively you market your business’s green credentials? Many of us are so busy trying to get from one day to the next and see out the downturn that marketing our companies’ green credentials has slipped waaaaaaay down the agenda. But should it have done?

I’m mid-way through a series of seminars I’ve been asked to run for Gatwick Diamond businesses on Marketing Your Green credentials. And preparing for and running the workshops has been an interesting exercise. I wonder whether I’ve given enough thought to how I market Flourish’s green credentials, and whether it’s something that matters at the moment? Are consumers as concerned about green as they are about price at the moment? Can you leverage value and loyalty from being green?

Do our clients even understand what being green means? On Twitter there was a little confusion when I asked my followers: “How do you market a sustainable business?” The responses were varied, and interesting. It appears that the buzz-word, sustainable, means different things to different people. And many simply weren’t sure what it meant at all!

So, is sustainability about reducing resources, the impact of your business on the environment, is it about sourcing locally, creating a business that will be around in 30 years? Is it about the way you treat your staff? Or is it about being socially responsible: about putting as much back into the local economy as possible and adding value where you can?

The truth is it’s probably all of the above. When I asked my first lot of delegates what sustainability meant to their business, one group came up with the answer “You need to be seen to be being green”. And at a truly cynical level, we can all “greenwash” our companies and pay lip service to the environment, but that’s something that both consumers and journalists will see through very quickly.

As Elizabeth Cairns said, you need to put green at the very heart of your business and communicate that with passion. Which leads me on to asking you the question: Just what shade of green is your business? Are you green to the core? Is the setup of your business focused around reducing the impact of your activities on the environment, sourcing responsibly, treating your staff well and working in the community? Is green at the heart of your business? Or is it on the perimeter? Have you felt as though you “ought to do something” and switched your paper buying from normal to recycled? Neither answer is right or wrong, but how you market your green credentials will very much depend on how much it matters to your business.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

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