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Posts for September 2013

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Six ways to make your exhibition stand eco-friendly

September 30, 2013 by Richard Edwards

Six ways to make your exhibition stand eco-friendly/recycle cardboard box{{}}If you’ve ever exhibited at a show you will know they are a fantastic way of connecting face-to-face with a huge and highly targeted audience. You will also know that it can be a big investment and that after the event huge quantities of material are simply thrown away and end up in landfill.

But it is possible for exhibitions to be both economical and eco-friendly. All it requires is a little planning.

1. Reduce and reuse

If you exhibit at least once a year, reusable stand components are a prudent investment. With reusable modular or bespoke components, specifically designed to fit together in a number of ways, you can adapt and change your stand for each event without having to re-order an entirely new stand each time.

This cuts down on the amount you throw away at the end of each exhibition, making your activities more eco-friendly. On the financial side, reusable components mean you can invest your marketing budget safe in the knowledge that with a few tweaks, a different layout, and new graphics you can have a completely fresh stand for very little cost.

2. Plan your design with the future in mind

If you think of your stand as a series of individual modular components, it is easier to design something that can be adapted to each exhibition space. With careful design planning, components can slot together in myriad ways allowing you to keep the overall look and feel of your stand while still achieving something quite spectacular.

As well as cutting down on cost and wastage, planning your stand builds in this way also helps reduce petrol usage and delivery costs. With one stand in the van you can take fewer trips back to your storage location.

3. Cut out the paper (and ink)

Instead of handing out a brochure to every visitor, invite them to scan a QR code that links to an online PDF, or use a tablet or smartphone to send a link straight to their inboxes. Quatreus has developed qbit, a customisable interactive lead capture system that makes it easy to gather contact details and other key information from visitors to your stand.

As well as being more eco-friendly and cutting costs, digital gadgetry at your stand can help draw in a good crowd.

4. Cut your fuel use

Transport (including fuel) is one of the highest costs for exhibitors. Bulky stands in particular, are often more complicated when it comes to both logistics and set up, and therefore they can increase transport costs considerably every time they are used.

The benefit of modern modular frames is that many of them can be flat-packed, taking up a lot less space for delivery and for storage.

If you can also store your stands at a central location then they can be used by all branches of your organisation — saving on space, fuel and duplication of components. So again, eco-friendly also means wallet friendly.

5. Choose your materials wisely

Some materials are much more environmentally friendly than others. For example, choose low energy items, ones made from recycled and/or recyclable material, locally produced items, ones without toxic finishes and so on.

Many stands use lighting to create eye-catching effects but this can use a lot of electricity, instead create a similar effect by using a combination of low-energy lighting and light-dispersing fabrics — this can look stunning and save you money.

6. Ask questions

Ask your suppliers if they have a recycling policy and what happens to their waste; ask if they use eco-friendly materials and if not, can they source them for you?; do they have a carbon offset scheme?; what measures have they taken to reduce their CO2 footprint? If your preferred supplier is not as green as you’d like, tell them that you’d like to stay with them, but you need them to improve. Also, ask the event organisers what they are doing to green their event.

If you want to be an environmentally conscientious company and boost your green credentials, then your exhibition stands are a great place to start. A good design and build supplier can work with you to consider things like materials, logistics and design to ensure the most eco-friendly stand possible, without compromising on impact. And as a bonus, in the events business, eco-friendly can mean cost-efficiency too!

Richard Edwards is director of Quatreus.

How success can breed success if you do these simple things

September 26, 2013 by Andy Bounds

How success can breed success if you do these simple things/success{{}}This is an easy, quick, pleasant way to use your recent successes to trigger lots more of them…

Let’s start with six indisputable facts:

  • You want to have more successes.
  • When you’ve helped someone, they’re grateful.
  • When people are grateful, they’re pre-disposed to helping you.
  • Word-of-mouth is powerful.
  • People are really busy, with lots on their minds.
  • It’s always useful to find the easiest way of achieving something.

Do you agree with all these?

Good, thought so.

Here’s how to use them to help you…

When you finish a piece of work that went well, ask the principle beneficiary three questions:

Question 1: Are you happy with the outcome?

They can only say yes or no. If it’s a yes (which is probably will be, given things went well), move on to Question 2. If it isn’t, find out why and resolve their concern. Then ask Question 1 again.

Question 2: What do you think was the best part about what we achieved?

This question leads to them talking about what they perceive to be “your best thing”. In other words, why they think you’re a valuable resource.

Question 3: Ask them to do something for you

They’ve now agreed you’re useful, and why. Now ask them one of these questions, depending on what you want:

  • Want to work with/for them again? Ask: How else can I help you?
  • Want them to recommend you to someone else? Ask: Who do you know who would also like to benefit from what we’ve just achieved? or Would you mind calling Mrs X and telling her what we’ve just discussed? I’d love to help her too.
  • Want a written endorsement from them? Say: I’d love to include what you’ve just said in my CV/marketing. Would you mind if I summarised it in an email, and sent it to you, for you to approve?

This works because people reciprocate. Your first two questions focused on how much you’ve helped them. If you like, it helps them feel they “owe” you. And it leads to them considering how they can help you in return.

As always with these things, remember the Doctors’ rule — first, do no harm. Choose when you use this approach. But do use it. After all, you’re simply using a technique that’s based on six indisputable facts…

Action point

Identify your most recent and/or greatest success, and the name(s) of the main beneficiary/ies. Prep your three questions, then go and ask them. Do it right, and you’ll both be glad you did.

Andy Bounds is a 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 here.

Why Lorem Ipsum is bad for the health of your website

September 25, 2013 by Sharon Tanton

Why Lorem Ipsum is bad for the health of your website/Loren Ipsum{{}}If you work in web design you’ll be familiar with Lorem Ipsum. If you don’t, all you need to know is that it’s the placeholder copy that designers use to fill in text boxes on work in progress.

Content people really hate Lorem Ipsum. It says to us:

“The words don’t matter very much. Just fill in this space with any old stuff. No one cares.”

We think that the stories — words and images — are the most important things on your website. You should be designing the site around the content, not leaving the content until the last minute.

The words you use are key, they should never be an afterthought

Content IS web design.

During a meeting last week, we were presented with a website that had been thorough 55 iterations without a real word on the site. Imagine that! 55 attempts to design the web pages without a thought to what needed to be said, or how the site was going to be used.

And it has prompted us to write this. A plea for the end of Lorem Ipsum. Why we all need to say no!

10 ways Lorem Ipsum will kill your web project 

  1. Lorem Ipsum shows you are approaching the project the wrong way round. Always think content first.
  2. It shows a lack of understanding of your audience and the way they want to connect with you.
  3. It’s a sign that you will be missing a trick — designing the site around real content that answers genuine questions is what will get results.
  4. It means you are likely to get a one-dimensional website — if you leave content out of the process until the end the best you can hope for is filler text.
  5. It shows a lack of collaboration between designers and writers — the best projects see copy and design working iteratively, hand in hand. We work brilliantly together so make the most of a productive creative partnership.
  6. It shows you don’t have the central message clear from the start. If you don’t already have the strapline and the story why are you working on the design?
  7. Designing around the words helps refine your thinking. Your website will be all the stronger for it.
  8. You won’t get good value for money out of your copywriters if you drop them into a project at the last minute and ask them to fill in the blanks.
  9. The words on a page and the design of the page are inextricably linked. You can’t do either of them properly in isolation.
  10. Valuable content is everything to a website. If you treat it as an afterthought your web project will fail.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, creative director at Valuable Content and co-author, with Sonja Jefferson, of Valuable Content Marketing.

Connect with your employees to bring wider success

September 23, 2013 by Dave Endsor

Connect with your employees to bring wider success/human resources{{}}In the never-ending quest to retain customers and gain new ones, businesses often forget one particular element of their communications — their employees.

To achieve external success, effective internal communication is vital. Your employees need to connect with your brand values; embrace your vision; deliver your aims; and function as a unit.

Better still, if they are inspired to bring their own career goals in line with your brand, you can be sure they will add value to your business.

Understanding your staff

To bring about this success, you need to understand the wants and needs of your employees and their challenges and opportunities — even their thoughts about you and your business. Research and review, respond and reward — only then will you understand one another. You won't agree with every statement, but knowing their thoughts and responding in the most appropriate manner will enable you to assess those ready for the challenge, and those who aren't.

Take Marks and Spencer. It has aligned its CSR strategy with employee initiatives through “Plan A”, empowering staff to take the lead on store sustainability. And it's working, but a considered internal communications campaign was needed to kick start employee understanding.

Internal comms isn’t just for big business

But it isn't just big business who can use this effectively. SMEs can benefit too. Right from their first day, engage with your staff. Show how you're different and why you're passionate about your business and they will in turn work harder for you.

As your business grows and expands, encourage your team to develop with it. Identify particular individual strengths and grant them the autonomy manage this, with the aim to make that crucial difference.

All this cannot be achieved without first understanding the people who work for you. A considered approach to internal communications will energise employees to succeed. Your business is only as strong as your weakest link — make sure it isn't your employees.

Ask them. Involve them. Inspire them.

Dave Endsor is an account manager at Origination.

A seasonal reminder - why it's not too soon to plan your ecommerce Christmas

September 19, 2013 by Chloë Thomas

A seasonal reminder - why it's not too soon to plan your ecommerce Christmas/calendar displaying christmas{{}}It may seem a long way away, but if you run an ecommerce business then you should already be planning your marketing campaigns for a really successful Christmas season.

Planning for Christmas has the advantage of a defined end date — you should know the last date you can take orders and still get them delivered. So that’s the first thing you need to work out — when is your last order date for Christmas?

Once you’ve got your end date, you can start planning in the relevant promotions and create a plan.

Plan your stories

The strongest marketing plans are those that are built on strong stories. Stories are the subjects and themes that hold together a set of activities over a number of weeks and across your marketing channels.

What should your stories for Christmas be? And just saying “Christmas” for three months is copping out. Here’s some ideas get you started: 

  • Last order dates
  • Stock up on stocking fillers
  • Christmas cards
  • Last minute gifts
  • Personalised gifts (usually with an earlier last order date)
  • Order early discount weekend

None of those is particularly creative, but building on your brand and events around Christmas can give you some great stories. From 1st October to Christmas Day you should aim to have four to six different stories.

Schedule your story-telling

Once you’ve got your stories, pencil them into your calendar. Next, start filling in the big marketing activities. The big ones are those that get seen by lots of people; your emails, what’s on the homepage, social media competitions, blogs, videos and other content.

While you’re working out the content of these emails and blogs, you’ll probably find you want to jig around some of the stories because you’ve got more ideas under some than others — that’s fine, that’s why we’re planning all this now, so you have time to make those changes.

Mini-marketing

The next part is to fill in the mini-marketing activity, those areas that don’t require a whole blog post or a whole email to be created but which are no less essential to a successful season. These include: remarketing, pay per click advertising and social media posts. You need to note when key changes need to be made, such as when ad text needs to be rewritten and the important things you should be tweeting about.

If you get your Christmas marketing plan together now, it’s going to make your season both more successful and easier to manage. But, don’t forget a good marketing plan is flexible — so monitor the results and if you need to change it, change it.

Chloe Thomas is an eCommerce expert and the author of eCommerce Masterplan.

Posted in Internet marketing | Tagged ecommerce | 0 comments

Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds using the 'find' function

September 18, 2013 by Andy Bounds

Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds using the 'find' function/computer key F Find{{}}A company recently asked me to review one of their proposals.

I quickly realised they had made the common mistake of talking too much about themselves and their proposition, and too little about its impact on the beneficiary.

So, I used the “find” function in word, and discovered that their 22-page document contained:

  • Their company name 149 times (the customer’s name appeared 5)
  • “we” 78 times; but “you” 11
  • “our” 51: “your” 7

Not customer-focused… in what was supposed to be a customer-focused document.

It took me under 20 seconds to find this out. Their response: “We’re devastated. We had no idea. We’ll never write like this again.”

And they haven’t.

How many techniques are there that can change you forever and in only 20 seconds?

What you can “find”

Here are examples of what you can search for using “find”:

  • The word “you” and the beneficiary’s name. These should appear more times than “we”/your name. It’s worth checking every document for this — your proposals, brochures, website and so on.
  • “And” and “but”. People often use these words to join two short sentences into one long one. But long sentences are harder for people to read quickly.
  • Words that you know you use a lot.

Quick improvements

If your searches uncover things you don’t like, the solutions are straight-forward:

  • Change the focus from “We do X” to “You want to achieve Y. We can help by doing X”.
  • Replace “and/but” with a full stop.
  • Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.

This is one of those tips that you might feel you don’t need. But my customer didn’t think they needed it either. And since it only takes 20 seconds to do, it’s worth trying. You never know what you’ll find.

Action point

Choose a document that is complete/near completion. Search for the words that will show you what you need to know about your content. Make the changes you need to transform its impact.

Andy Bounds is a 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 here.

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