We’re about to take a festive break and recharge our batteries ready for 2013.
Looking back at all the blogs, articles and news stories we’ve published in the past 12 months, it has been a transformative year. We’ve seen social media for business become mainstream, mobile commerce has taken off, crowd-funding has been game-changing — and we survived the Cookie law change!
Throughout the year, we have endeavoured to provide content that entertains and inspires as well as informs — content that can help you run your business better.
And so huge thanks are due to all our experts and blog writers that share their wisdom and experience so generously.
We’d also like to say a big thank you to you — the UK’s hard-working entrepreneurs and small businesses — for visiting us throughout 2012 and for all your comments, posts and tweets.
Here is our pick of the ten best blogs of 2012:
Robert Clay: What Picasso can teach you about pricing
Mike Southon: The perfect elevator pitch
Sharon Tanton: 50 shades of content
Bryony Thomas: Ten signs that you could do with strategy marketing advice
Robert Peters: What good wine can teach you about your small business
Sara Drawwater: Nobody cares about you or your website
Mark Bower: Social media — a cautionary tale
Lisa Turner: Ten ways to spot an egomaniac in your firm
Mark Stiving: Pricing is self-grading
Robert Craven: Ten ways to keep you customers happy (and make money)
Happy Christmas and see you in 2013!
The Marketing Donut team
This year, Google has made significant changes to its search engine algorithm, most notably their “Panda” update which devalues sites with poor quality content.
Poor quality content can be anything from plagiarised or duplicate content to text littered with SEO keywords clearly designed to manipulate the search rankings.
Small businesses which have website content that is not up to scratch will find themselves plummeting down the rankings, losing both vital traffic and potential business. So how do you create content for your website that’s inspiring, compelling and, most importantly, genuinely useful to your customers?
The best place to start is by identifying and researching the behaviours of all of the different types of people that use your services. We’re an airport parking specialist, so we understood that families going on holiday regularly book with us. That’s a good starting point but the trick is to delve deeper.
We looked at what issues families may face when travelling to the airport. For example, they tend to be carrying a lot of luggage plus buggies and their children and, as a result, can take longer to get to the airport than most people. Therefore the start of their holiday is often a stressful time. How could we help them further when they book with us?
Providing a solution
If you’ve identified all of the different types of people that may use your services then the next step is to delve into online forums and social communities relevant to your customers to find the kind of questions that they are asking. These questions can be used to generate ideas for content.
Continuing the families’ example, we looked into various parent forums online and saw that they were asking questions such as “what are the regulations with taking food and drink through security?” So we created in-depth content to answer these questions including a guide to Heathrow security and a family travel guide looking at packing, researching and booking a holiday, getting to the airport and what to do at the airport.
Extending your reach
So you understand your customers and have created content to answer their questions — now you need to consider how you’re going to spread the word far and wide to let more people know that your content actually exists.
Create a detailed seeding plan looking at relevant sites to approach with your content and consider writing and distributing a press release to send out via online newswires to help spread the word.
Time well spent
All of this may seem time consuming, and it is! However, if done properly, your efforts will be well worth it. Off the back of our new and improved content we’ve seen big increases in traffic to our website, better conversion results and increased overall revenue. Content is most certainly king.
Oliver Inwards is e-commerce manager at Purple Parking.
We have lots of great blogs and articles about creating website content to help and inspire you:
We write a lot about the need to talk about your business in a way that’s free from jargon, in language that your clients understand. It’s all about being likable and making connections.
Stories, rich in plot and studded with metaphors, like those you remember from childhood, can help you build even deeper roots into the hearts and minds of your clients.
Writing your business story is a creative exercise. It’s not like any of the other writing you do — very different from blogs or sales proposals — and you need to approach it in a different frame of mind. Fire up your imagination, prepare to be playful, and silence your sensible side for a while.
Five steps to finding your business story
1. Once upon a time
All stories need a beginning. Where did yours start? Describe the world that existed before your business burst into the world. Use metaphors and analogies. Were your clients stumbling around in the dark before your services lit up the path ahead? Were your customers tangled in a mire of misery before your products transformed their lives? You have permission to be silly here — no one’s going to see this draft so write as freely as you can, without inhibition. Go off at tangents. Dig for emotions. Make yourself laugh.
2. Your hero
Your story needs a character, and yours is your client. What are they like? Mild-mannered and meek? Powerful but lost? Embattled under siege? Jot down as many ideas as you can. Don’t censor yourself. Think in archetypes. The knight in shining armour. The soldier on the front line. The earth mother. At this stage it’s perfectly permissible to have a hero who is a cross between Basil Fawlty and Mother Theresa. Go with the flow and keep going.
3. The obstacle
What is standing in your hero’s path? A fire breathing dragon? A bottomless pit? A 3,000-strong braying mob? Describe the hero’s obstacle in a way that captures its emotional power. Bigger obstacles make for better stories. Overcoming one cross wasp isn’t going to grab anyone, but make it a buzzing cloud of killer bees and people will keep listening. (Yes, I know, in reality your client’s problem is just slow running IT or a difficult ex-business partner, but focus on how that obstacle makes your hero feel.)
4. The final battle
The climatic point in any film and the page-turning dash to the resolution of a great book. Describe the final battle. How does your hero slay the monster? How does she solve the giant Rubik’s Cube that’s standing between her and the door to paradise? Which powers does she use? What does that power feel like?
5. The happy ever after
Describe the world after the battle’s been won. How is it better? What does the resolution do to the landscape? Think of the words that best capture the spirit of this new age. Is it calm? Ordered? Peaceful? Joyous? Throw in some analogies — “like the day after the great storm”, “the first rain after drought”, “dawn breaking after a long night of the soul”. Don’t be scared of pushing it — this exercise is all about searching for words and images with the emotional power to resonate with your audience.
And now what?
Read through what you’ve written. Look for threads — ideas and thoughts that can be linked together to form a narrative. Now’s the time to edit hard. Words or images that are too left field can go. They’ve served their purpose. Stick with the ones that feel right to you. Trust your intuition here. What would you feel comfortable saying? (Say them out loud and see which ones come easily and which ones make you stutter.) Which ones would help explain what you do to your dream client?
The power of a good story is it is memorable; easy to tell and retell. It grabs people, burrows deep and stays with them. What’s yours?
How do you talk to your customers? The choices are many — by email, by letter, on the phone, by text, via Twitter, Facebook or any number of social media sites — or even, shock horror — in person.
What works best for you? If you are like one in four British adults, you may avoid picking up the phone at all costs — preferring to text rather than actually speak to someone (Daisy Group survey).
Perhaps you prefer emailing. Or are you one of the 6% of people that have totally lost control of their inboxes? (research by Varonis).
If you like your communication informal and online, you may prefer building relationships on social media sites.
But enough about your needs — the real question is, how do your customers like be approached? Let’s face it. You might be mad about Twitter but if your target market doesn’t tweet, you need to find a way to reach them that works on their terms.
New research by Ofcom could help you to understand your target market a little better, thanks to its investigations into the different communication habits of British people.
It has highlighted five types, from the “always on” to the “detached”. Now this may seem simplistic but if your marketing is totally excluding one or more of these groups, you could be missing out on a lot of business.
What it makes clear is that in a multi-channel world, everyone has their favourite ways to keep in touch — and no business can afford to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
Here are the five groups:
Always on (22% of adults)
Enlightened (19% of adults)
Middle-of-the-road (22% of adults)
Conventional (21% of adults)
Detached (16% of adults)
Isn’t it time you found out more about the communication preferences of your customers?
For many newbies to China, one of the great frustrations is the internet. Most of the old favourites are blocked — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs; even Google searches can be painfully slow.
At first sight, China’s Great Firewall could fool you into believing that China’s internet is a backwater where anything interesting is deemed as a threat by the state-controlled censors. But you couldn’t be further from the truth.
The internet is booming in China and, in many cases, is more influential than in Britain. It is one of the most important and cost-effective marketing channels for cash-tight small businesses targeting China, if you get it right. Here’s why:
1. China’s internet-using population is big
With 513 million internet users, China has a larger online population than the next three top countries combined. And it’s growing fast. China’s internet base is expected to reach 700 million by 2015. Although less than half of China’s population use the web, those online are the consumers with disposable income most likely to buy imported goods and services.
2. Smartphones are everywhere
In China, you can pick up an Android smartphone for less than £50. That has opened up the smartphone market to much of the population. More Chinese people now access the internet from mobiles than PCs.
3. The Chinese use the internet a lot
Those who live in cities have longer commutes and spend more nights in than most British people do. During that time, many are online — for an average of 2.7 hours every day; more than any country except Japan.
4. Chinese people make purchasing decisions based on websites
Online content about your brand and products will have a direct impact on both awareness and intent for Chinese consumers. Ipsos China research found 37.6% of Chinese consumers regularly increase their brand awareness through websites, more than any other medium. 47.5% increased their purchase intent from what they read on websites, whereas newspaper, TV and radio were all less than 32%.
5. Chinese consumers talk about brands online
McKinsey research discovered 91% of online Chinese visited a social media site in the past six months. 53.5% of Brits have. Chinese consumers are less likely to trust state-controlled TV, newspapers and radio, and tend to believe content on social media such as Sina Weibo. 95% of Chinese consumers trust a brand more if they’ve seen it on Weibo.
In conclusion, if you’re investing in the Chinese market, make sure your website and social media are a key part of your strategy.
Key things to remember
Mark Tanner is the founder of China Skinny, a service helping western businesses better understand Chinese consumers.
We were told that Monday 3rd December 2012 was Mega Monday (or Cyber Monday as others call it). Apparently, on this single day, up to £10,000 per second was being spent online.
There are always forecasts like this, and always on the first Monday of December. I’ve never seen a retrospective analysis to determine if it’s true or not, but what I do know is that once Cyber Monday (or mega Monday) has been and gone the focus of Christmas shoppers begins to move away from online and toward physical shop-based retailers.
With two peak shopping weekends to go before Christmas, retailers need to stock up, spruce up, get festive and bring in extra staff.
The next two weekends are likely to have the highest footfall (especially since few online retailers will be guaranteeing delivery by Christmas on orders placed after 15th due to the overload on couriers and postal services) so you need to be ready to make the most of it.
Here are a few top tips:
So, lots of ideas and I am sure you have plenty more too. The key is to make the most of those two big weekends when footfall should be noticeably increased. And make it a very merry, Indie, Christmas!
Clare Rayner is the author of The Retail Champion: 10 steps to retail success.