We’ll be taking a short break from blogging over Christmas and will be back in the New Year, bringing you more news, views and advice to help your business grow in 2012.
And the Donuts continue to grow — we launched Tax Donut in August and our combined Donut Twitter following has reached almost 35,000 followers.
We couldn’t have done it without all of you — it’s your insights, comments, blogs and tweets that make the Donuts such a fantastic resource for small businesses in the UK.
We’d especially like to thank all our experts that have generously shared their knowledge with us. We’d also like to say a big thank you to the small firms that have told us about their experiences.
We are especially fortunate to have a growing band of bloggers who continue to inform and delight us in equal measure. We know you love our blogs too, judging by the number of tweets they attract.
But what do you want to see on Marketing Donut in 2012? Tell us below which areas you’d like us to cover. Do you need more information, guidance or resources to help you with your marketing strategy? Let us know and we’ll try to help.
Have a great Christmas and a fun New Year. We’ll be back on 3 January with more news, articles, blogs, tweets, offers and advice — everything you need to help you run your business better.
Rachel Miller, Marketing Donut Editor
There is a group of professional service firms (PSFs) that grow nine times faster than the average. They are 50 per cent more profitable than the average.
Doing the research for the new Grow Your Service Firm book, it was easy to see that high-performing service firms are the ones that have clients that believe in the business.
High performers have always had a particular profile; they have always been identified as being different from the average.
Frederiksen and Taylor in their book Spiraling Up, point out that the high performers do not spend proportionately the most on marketing and sales because they are already very good at it. They are simply more effective so don’t need to compete by spending the most.
The high performers actually spend (slightly) less than average firms on their sales and marketing activities.
Every firm says pretty much the same boring thing. The high performers, meanwhile, focus on client needs and priorities. They are not preoccupied with their own capabilities and expertise. They are not mesmerised by the reflection of themselves like some Greek myth. They focus their limited budgets on specific target customer groups and use a clear and easy to understand message.
Social commerce is something often discussed as a natural progression of two successful market arenas — social networking and e-commerce. But with the current forays into s-commerce amounting to little more than adding a Like button or setting up a Twitter feed, the evidence suggests that it’s not yet exceeding the sum of its parts.
The idea of social commerce, or s-commerce, is not necessarily a new one. Consumers have been shopping and having conversations for centuries but only recently have these trends become possible digitally, and only recently have retailers and brands begun to take notice. However, current attempts at using social media to generate loyalty and sales have not offered truly social experiences and have too often led to consumers being pushed onto external sites to interact. Shouldn’t retailers do more to keep their customers on their own websites?
The growth and popularity of social networking has shown that, when given the right tools, people like to, and do, interact with each other. However, most retailers are not implementing the tools that could see their brands becoming successfully social and engaging with their consumer base. For example, by making reviews and opinions an integral part of the online shopping experience, consumers could be as social online as they are in real life. That is, they could connect online with shoppers of similar tastes in order to influence and be influenced. Brands must put customers first and content second, and stop directing them to other social networks. If customers have a voice, brands must allow it to be heard.
Some brands worry about intruding on their customers’ privacy when trying to be more social. While it is important to allow customers to opt in or out, many are happy to share their views and help other consumers make purchasing decisions. Once opinions are shared in public, it is up to the brand to decide how to use them. If they can be harnessed to give the customer relevant and timely recommendations or information, the customer is more likely to have a positive experience. Brands can leave it up to the user to decide what they want to share and when, and information they choose to disclose can be used to provide a more useful social experience.
Unfortunately, many businesses are still struggling when it comes to s-commerce, pushing customers to external sites like Facebook, rather than engaging consumers socially on their own site. The result is that consumer interaction with the brand becomes diluted and the brand fails to generate customer loyalty. This could ultimately lead to retailers losing ground in the decision-making real estate that social commerce offers.
If done correctly however, s-commerce can be a profitable way to build brand trust and shopping confidence. S-commerce provides the perfect opportunity for businesses to communicate directly with their customers, person to person, brand to fan.
Read more in our section on social media, which has everything from beginners’ guides to in-depth advice.
Last month, Google launched the first of the brand pages on Google+. Some of the early adopter brands to have pages include Cadburys, H&M, Pepsi and The New York Times to name but a few. And it’s not just big businesses that are building Google+ pages.
One of the key benefits to Google+ is that “circles” gives the user more control; they can decide how they share content and who they share it with. The brand pages will work in the same way facilitating a relationship between fans, advocates and potential customers.
Brands can decide how to interact with their fans. Users can be split into circles that target geographic locations, age groups, gender or a combination of all of these. This will allow for tailored messaging. However, the brand’s connectivity will be more limited than an individual’s page. An individual must add the brand page to a circle, and the brand cannot initiate the link and so this puts the user in control of the relationship.
The pages themselves will allow the brands to share content with certain groups, make content unsharable when necessary, post text, photos, videos and links, there can also be live video hangouts. Maps can be utilised for local businesses. Affiliated companies and people can be acknowledged on the page, and users can interact with them separately.
The impact of social media on SEO has become increasingly important in recent years and it’s apparent that content (be it a product, a status update or anything in between) with a +1 can appear considerably higher in the search results than those without.
Consequently, it is now more important than ever that brands become early adopters and have a useful, comprehensive Google+ page in line with their digital or social media strategy. Google+ won’t replace existing social media platforms — Twitter and Facebook are here to stay — but it’s a further platform to engage consumers and improve SERP visibility.
I was recently listening to an interesting talk by Dave Wieneke where he looked at the way brands need to change how they engage with consumers. One of the nuggets he shared concerned the relative importance of company Facebook page visits against their main website visits.
So I dug into the original data — 2011 research from Webtrends and Adgregate (PDF) and it tells a very interesting story that I thought was worth summarising.
For many companies now, particularly those with non-transactional sites, visitor figures are in decline, while their Facebook visitors are growing. This prompts important questions of how serious companies are about creating a strategy to engage their audiences through Facebook and whether they are allocating the right level of resources between website management and Facebook — either too much or too little.
It also suggests questions should be asked about the balance of media investments; whether they should be used to route visitors to the website as traditionally, or to Facebook and other social presences.
And this is an issue for small firms as well as bigger businesses. This is the story this research tells:
Looking at the year-on-year change in visits to Fortune 100 sites to 2010, the majority are declining, although of course there are similar levels of growth in others.
In many cases while corporate sites are declining in their level of unique visitors, Facebook visits are increasing. When it comes to non-ecommerce sites, this trend can be seen in many corporates including Boeing and P&G. Others, including PepsiCo, buck the trend. Of course, this study looks at Facebook only. Traditional website audiences are also visiting YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
You’ll know this, but this graphic makes the point forcefully:
In these cases, the dominance of Facebook is likely due to a deliberate strategy to focus investment and marketing resource into Facebook.
This form of analysis is a useful benchmarking analysis to perform for any company sector and for firms of all sizes. You can review your own company’s growth in social media against changes in your traditional website using the many free tools available for benchmarking visitor traffic and social presences.
The results could change the way your business interacts with its customers and they may well shift focus towards social media sites like Facebook.
Celebrities are always looking for ways to keep the cash coming in. They never know when they’ll be between projects and need to buy a helicopter or new mansion or 20-carat diamond. To prepare for these unexpected emergencies, many stars try their hand at running a side business or two. Starting clothing lines, restaurants, and production companies are some of the most common, but other celebrities think outside of the box. Way outside of the box. These 12 big shots got into some industries that don’t exactly fit their famous personalities — or the demands of consumers.
The rapper who brought us "U Can’t Touch This" is now trying to give us a new way to look him up on the internet. His search engine, called WireDoo, is still not ready for a beta release, but Hammer says it has a "deep search" function that will make it better than Google by bringing up topics related to your keywords. Hopefully Hammer has done his research — though if he did, he probably used Google.
Merchandising is a huge racket for bands, but no one takes the business of cashing in on your celebrity as seriously as Gene Simmons. The KISS frontman started off selling the KISS-themed coffin online in 2001 and launched the newest versions of the KISS Kasket early in 2011. They each cost around $5,000 and there isn’t a huge market for them, but some die-hard fans have purchased them and Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell was buried in one.
Some big-time actors buy islands, but Basinger purchased a whole town in 1989. Braselton, Georgia, located about 50 miles north of Atlanta was sold to Basinger by the Braselton family for $20 million, and she hoped to make it into a tourist attraction and bring a film festival there. Sadly, none of her ideas were realized and she ended up selling the town in 1993 and filing for bankruptcy.
While other celebrities are trying to make their clothing lines stand out from the rest, Welch went a completely different direction and created a name for herself in the wig industry. Welch, considered a legendary sex symbol in the sixties and seventies, has dabbled in other beauty products and accessories but her high-quality wigs are what have really put her ahead of the rest.
This actor is most recognized for his role on Melrose Place but in 2006, he made a switch to the business where the real money is: the internet. Shue and a partner created CafeMom, a social networking site for moms to share worries, tips, and stories. Sure, Shue isn’t a mom himself, but he saw an untapped market and by 2009, CafeMom was profitable.
Wilkinson, the former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner and current wife of some NFL player, is sticking to what she knows. The Playboy model became the producer of stripper poles and workout videos to go with them. She calls them "sport poles" but we all know what they’re really used for.
It made sense when Williams started a line of tennis clothing. We understood when she wrote a book about how awesome she is and how you can be awesome, too. But you might be surprised to know she also owns an interior design company. Florida, where the company has its headquarters, was surprised as well, considering Williams didn’t have a license or certification. The company is now licensed and legal and Williams offers a meet-and-greet with each client.
Before he was dressing up salads, Newman was a dreamy actor who won several Golden Globes, an Emmy, and an Oscar. He co-founded the company, Newman’s Own, after he and a friend made salad dressing to give as gifts. Everyone loved the dressing so much, the pair made it into a business and slapped Newman’s face onto the label. The company now makes a variety of food items and all the profit after taxes goes to charities.
When 50 Cent leaves the club each night after celebrating someone’s birthday with Bacardi, he likes to rehydrate with VitaminWater. Since buying a minority stake in the company, Fiddy started appearing in ads for the brand and even helped create his own flavor: Formula 50. It tastes like grape, because you can’t spell "grape" without "rap."
If you were curious what Manson’s drink of choice is, now you know. After discovering the spirit with pal Johnny Depp, Manson now won’t drink any alcohol but absinthe. It was banned in the U.S. until 2007, and Manson decided to jump into the newly opened market. His 66.6% proof beverage is called Mansinthe.
Is there any business that the Donald doesn’t have a hand in? Donald Trump, The Fragrance, launched in 2004, is a product for the man who wants to experience the luxury and success Trump enjoys on a daily basis. The makers of the product say the main scent in the cologne is a secret exotic plant, but it’s probably just businessman sweat and comb-over products. The business mogul also introduced a new scent recently named Success by Trump, but getting anyone to buy these fragrances will be the real success by Trump.
To cash in on the excitement surrounding the 2010 World Cup, Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, teamed up with an international soccer star to sell barbecue grills. These weren’t just any barbecue grills, though — they are shaped and painted like soccer balls.
Carol Vertz writes for the Bootstrapper blog.