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Ten things we learned in 2014

December 17, 2014 by Rachel Miller

Ten things we learned in 2014{{}}As 2014 draws to a close, here at Donut HQ we’re getting ready to take a short break. It has certainly been a busy year. Across the five Donut websites we’ve published a wealth of blogs, news, guides and articles – all with one aim, to help small business owners, sole traders and entrepreneurs everywhere.

Our thanks go out to all our brilliant blog writers, our generous expert contributors and our valued sponsors and partners. And we’d also like to say a massive thanks to you all for stopping by on a regular basis, for your comments and feedback and for your support on social media.

We will be bringing you more small business news, views, information and advice in 2015. In the meantime, in case you missed anything, you can catch up on some of the things we have learned this year (below).

Have a great festive break – and check out our guide to work-life balance if you need help switching off! See you in 2015.

Rachel Miller

Editor, Marketing Donut

Ten of the many things we have learned in 2014

Video is king

“Consumers that watch a video of a product are 85% more likely to buy it.”

Five key retail marketing trends in 2014

Website basics are vital

“41% of shoppers abandon an online shopping cart because of hidden charges.”

What makes people buy? Understanding the psychology of the online shopping process

Timing is everything on social media

“Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends and click-through rates are generally highest on weekends and midweek on Wednesdays.”

When's the best time to post on social media?

A badly written email can be fatal

Andy Bounds reveals the cautionary tale of a brilliant proposal that failed at the first post because of a poor covering email.

How a simple covering email can backfire

Small firms are missing a trick with mobile

“SMEs in the UK are missing out on up to £77bn in annual revenues as a result of not having mobile-optimised websites.”

Two ways to optimise your website for mobile

Social media can be dangerous

“Online libel cases have doubled in recent years due to the social media explosion, so don’t think that social media is still a grey area in the eyes of the law — it’s really not.”

Could social media get you or your business into trouble?

Customer service counts

“72% of UK customers would ditch their purchase for a competitor if they didn’t get an email reply within one day.”

How shoddy service can wreck your small business

Why “shouting” on social media doesn’t work

“You wouldn’t train your in-store staff to constantly shout out brand messages — apart from looking unprofessional, it would drive people away. So why do brands do this on social media?”

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?

What Einstein can teach us about social media

“Albert Einstein said: ‘Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts’.”

Why Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about measuring social media

Why page loading times matter

“Google considers over 200 factors when ranking a website and one of those that has become more influential is website and page loading times.”

Is your website keeping pace with Google changes? 

Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut.

Further reading

Ten things you could have learned from the Law Donut in 2014

Ten things you could have learned about business start-ups in 2014

Why these are exciting times for independent retailers

November 26, 2014 by Rachel Miller

Why these are exciting times for independent retailers{{}}Things are changing on our local high streets. Consumers are shopping in a different way and these new habits are bringing exciting new opportunities for independent retailers.

Just last month, a report by the Local Data Company in conjunction with the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) revealed that the number of independents is now at its highest level in four years following a net increase of 432 new stores in the first half of 2014.

There are lots of reasons for this positive news – consumers are keen to support local retailers and the recovery, although unsteady, is certainly helping too.

But the biggest driver seems to be a shift in shopping habits. New data shows that we are increasingly swapping the old weekly food shop at an out-of-town supermarket for more top-up trips made locally. And that is driving footfall to all kinds of shops on our high streets.

A new generation of canny shoppers

The recession has permanently altered the way we shop. We are less keen to drive to out-of-town supermarkets. And we are determind not to waste food as we once did. That means we would often prefer to buy our food locally as and when we need it.

What’s more, when we are visiting a Tesco Metro or a Sainsbury’s Local to get some essentials, we are also increasingly visiting other local stores as well.

But that’s not the whole picture. We’re also lapping up any opportunity to get a bargain. While the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury struggle, discounters such as Aldi and Lidl are flourishing. And of course, we are increasingly shopping online too.

All this has prompted Goldman Sachs to suggest in November that one in five big supermarkets may need to close. It points to “altered shopping habits” as well as competition from the big discount chains and pressures from online retailers.

These are clearly seismic shifts – not just recessionary aftershocks.

Grasping the opportunity

Now’s the time for independent shopkeepers to grasp these new opportunities. It’s about promoting what makes you special and giving customers the kind of friendly, personal service that big names just can’t deliver.

Tell your customers just how much good they are doing by shopping locally. According to Independent Retailer Month, for every £1 spent locally, 50-70p goes back into the local economy. For the same £1 spent out of town or online only 5p trickles back to the local community.

After all, a recent survey by Vend has found that 53% of consumers who choose to shop at small businesses do so to support the local economy and 30% of shoppers choose small businesses to buy one-of-a-kind items.

The convenience of online shopping, however, is undeniable. Independent retailers can also win more business by having an appealing and accessible website where customers can browse, get information, order online and either have goods delivered or click and collect. Judicious use of discounts and deals will also appeal to many shoppers that are counting the pennies.

Support for independent retailers

All over the country there are shop local campaigns offering support and inspiration – Love Hackney Shop Local or Buy Local Norfolk to Totally Locally Durham are just a few examples.

Above all, at this time of year, it’s well worth getting involved with Small Business Saturday. Taking place on 6th December, this grassroots campaign encourages consumers to shop locally and support small businesses in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

You can download support and marketing materials on the Small Business Saturday website. And look out for the Small Business Saturday bus – coming to a town near you in November and December.

Blog by Rachel Miller, editor of Marketing Donut.

There’s more advice for independent retailers in this article:

Are small retailers doomed? The future of the high street

What makes people buy?

October 27, 2014 by Richard Edwards

What makes people buy?{{}}What factors help a customer to buy?

There are a wide variety of things that influence a purchase decision – budget, timing and personal psychology to name a few; but there is one fundamental factor that brings all these influences together – value.

Value is a subjective perception created through a blend of need, price and the belief that one product is better than another. Good value is seen as a high quality solution which meets all of a customer’s needs at a reasonable price.

Here’s how need, price and belief play into a perception of value:

Need

I see a pair of hiking boots on offer and I recognise the brand; but the fact that I don’t go hiking means that I won’t value them highly.

Some marketing works to convince the consumer that they have a need. For example, if I’d read an article explaining how hiking boots improved posture, helped stimulate blood flow and were good for your feet, then by the time I saw the boots I may have developed a “need” for them.

Grooming potential customers this way is an excellent way of enhancing the perceived value for your product or service and can help you break into new markets.

Price

Set your price point as high as you can; this helps to enhance the perceived value of your product.

A big mistake is to slash prices. This can work, particularly when it comes to more exclusive discounts, but offering a huge discount lowers the perceived value of the product. Who is going to pay “full price” for a sofa at DFS when most of the year they are offering 50% off?

Belief in product

The price point will often lead customers to believe one product is better than another. However, people will not be willing to pay a higher price if they do not believe in the product; the two factors work in tandem.

Belief is about your brand, your marketing and their knowledge of the product range. It is what 80% of your marketing budget helps to create. And it is the one area over which you have the most control.

So how do you go about creating this belief in your product or service?

There is no single method, but there is a core concept: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I will understand.”

Tell me

People may forget the specifics but they will be primed to receive your brand, and priming can be important in establishing credibility.

For example, you conduct a PR campaign where you write thought-provoking articles relating to your product or service. In the article you describe the problem (establish a need), drop some hints as to a solution (brand priming) and get it featured in an established trade magazine (credibility).

Show me

Visual memory is more powerful for most people than verbal memory, particularly when “show me” still involves some verbal explanation – “show and tell”. Exhibitions and trade shows are great for this.

Involve me

“Involving” your prospect creates an experience that uses all three types of memory/learning: verbal, visual and kinesthetic (touching and using) to create an almost unbreakable belief in your product. If you are there to tell the prospect the benefits, you can create a need. At the same time you show how the product or service meets those needs visually. Then, the final step, you let the prospect try with the product, get them involved in using it and create an experience.

Creating a complete and immersive experience of your product or service increases recall, generates belief in the product and, in the end, turns prospective customers into brand ambassadors. You aren’t as likely to share the fact that you saw some new product, but you will want to tell people what you just tried out - experiences are made to be shared.

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.

The hidden champions of the business world

October 02, 2014 by Ron Immink

The hidden champions of the business world{{}}What do Baader, McIlhenny, International SOS, Hoganas, Tetra, Bobcat, Gallagher, Seas Getter, Hamamatsu, Arnold and Richter, Petzl, Lantal, Tandberg, WET, De La Rye, Belfor, Ulvac, Gartner and EOS have in common?

They are all companies you have probably never heard of. They have global market shares of over 50% in their sectors and have been around for a long time.

These are the “hidden champions” or “supernichists” according to Hermann Simon, author of Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century: The Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders.

So what can we learn from them?

These businesses have embedded themselves in the value chain of their clients; and they are the undisputed market leaders in their niche. They focus on narrow, small markets and become the best in that market.

Their strategy is to dominate market niches by transforming general markets in which they are a nobody into market niches where they are somebody.

They are mostly family businesses. They are often based in rural communities. They have a long term perspective. They have CEOs that have been there for over 25 years. The CEO is most likely to be the owner. They are customer-focused and they look after their staff extremely well. They invest in training and innovation. They are ambitious but they stick to what they do best. Above all, they deliver superior quality.

They have grown by going global

All of the companies have an international focus. They focus on China, Russia, India. They know that Japan is a source of innovation (“What happens in Tokyo today happens in the rest of the world tomorrow”). All their managers speak at least three languages, and increasingly their people reflect the diversity of their client base.

Selling versus marketing

Approximately 70% of these hidden champions only sell directly and maintain intensive, lasting relationships with their customers and suppliers. They have five times more contact with regular contacts then “normal” businesses.

Innovation is key

They spend double the average spend on R&D. Because they involve staff in vision, values and strategy, innovation is easier. And of course they involve their customers in the innovation process. The main focus is on ongoing improvement versus breakthrough innovations.

Knowledge-based organisation

The typical “hidden champion” is a one-product, one-market company with limited organisational complexity. The top management is very lean and leaders tend to be promoted from within. They have high-performance cultures and are intolerant of shirkers. Shirkers get fired. If you stay, you stay for a long time. The average length of service is 37 years — which allows the organisation to retain knowledge and expertise.

Key lessons

  • Ambitious goals can only be achieved by focusing one’s resources;
  • High performance requires intolerance against shirking;
  • Uniqueness comes from within. It requires depth and a certain reserve toward outsourcing;
  • Globalisation opens up growth opportunities, even for small companies;
  • Innovation is the only effective long-term means of succeeding;
  • Closeness to customer almost automatically creates competitive advantages.

You can do it

The message is simple — you can do it too. Hidden champions teach us that instead of managing only one great thing brilliantly, good management means doing many small things better than the competitors. The sum of many small advantages ultimately leads to success. Genius is not required.

Copyright © 2014 Ron Immink, CEO and co-founder of Small Business Can and Book Buzz — the website devoted to business books.

Marketing - the real winner of the Scottish referendum

September 29, 2014 by James Walters

Scottish referendum{{}}The Scottish Independence vote was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a triumph of democracy and 97% of Scotland’s citizens are now on the electoral roll. This means that there are two real winners from the referendum, the people who organise the jury service (97% of people are now eligible for jury duty) and marketers.

Not only do we have almost all of Scotland’s population’s data available to access on the electoral roll, but we also get to examine a marketing case study like no other.

The key to marketing success: combining the rational with the emotional

The referendum was an example of two very different styles of marketing. The Yes campaign, headed up by Alex Salmond, was all about emotion. The Better Together campaign, headed by Alistair Darling, was all about rational considerations.

Despite the victory for the Better Together campaign, it’s not a clear that they ran the better campaign. The reality is that both campaigns were lacklustre in some ways.

The Yes campaign made a basic marketing mistake. It was all spin and no substance. You might think that’s a bit unfair, but when your campaign is basically the marketing equivalent of trying to re-create the “They cannae take our freedom” speech from Braveheart and you get accused of lying about things, then it’s a sign that on some level you have failed. In the end, their campaign lacked solid foundations and cost them victory.

What can you learn from the Yes campaign?

Emotional appeals aren’t everything. You need facts and figures.

The Better Together campaign was about the rational. Alistair Darling quizzed Alex Salmond about the economy, what currency we would use, what the impact on jobs would be. This is important, of course, but it’s boring. There wasn’t any emotional appeal. It was a total snoozefest. This failure meant that polls started to show leads for the Yes campaign and caused Better Together to panic.

What can you learn from the No campaign?

No matter what YouGov says, quantitative surveys aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Dan Hodges put it best during the referendum when he pointed out that the poll which showed the Yes campaign had its first lead was the result of just 13 people saying they would be voting yes. If you’d asked them on a different day, got them in a different mood, or asked others, the results could have changed drastically and the entire narrative of the campaign would have been very different.

With surveys, you need to back up the data. Look at search trends and combine this with some qualitative analysis from interviews and focus groups to get a much stronger idea of what your results mean.

The turnout for Scotland in the 2010 General Election was almost 64%. For the Independence Referendum it was almost 90%. What’s more, 97% of Scottish citizens registered to vote. In marketing speak, 97% of Scotland entered the sales funnel and 85% of them responded. I’d kill for those sorts of stats.

So, what’s the difference between the referendum and the general election? The referendum was seen as important — it would have a tangible effect on people’s lives.

That’s why you need to find out what matters to your target audience and use it as a hook to solve their pains.

Copyright © 2014 Steve Haynes, SEO and site optimisation consultant for inbound marketing agency, Tomorrow People.

The essential ingredient that marketers overlook

August 21, 2014 by Richard Edwards

Flowers{{}}Business advertising spend in the UK hit a new high of almost £14bn in 2013 and is set to increase to £14.8bn this year. But are businesses getting their money’s worth?

Personally, I doubt it. And the reason is that most businesses will miss out on one essential ingredient: experience.

Experiential marketing helps consumers contextualise the narrative behind your product and service.

Let’s take perfume as an example. Perfumes are, functionally speaking, a mixture of ingredients that produce a pleasant smell.

But people don’t wear perfume for the constituent parts; they buy it for the experience, they buy it in the hopes that they will feel attractive and desirable, and they buy it to give them a sense of confidence.

How is this experience achieved? By creating a holistic experience of the product.

It starts with advertising. Perfume ads usually feature a model sauntering around looking sexy; there is usually a husky voice saying abstract words like “adored” or “eternal”; and there is either lots of colour, for fun adventurous brands (think Joop!), or black and white, for brands that focus on being sexy and powerful (such as CK).

Next comes the in-store experience. The bright lights of each perfume shelf, the imagery displayed nearby — all are designed to continue the experience.

The bottle is also key — it takes the experience from store to home. Some are rough and jagged, others are sleek and curved.

And every time the customer uses the product, they experience that vision.

How does this translate to my business?

You might say: “But my business is in accounting software, not perfume.”

But you can still apply the same thinking. Experiential marketing relies on bringing together five distinct dimensions into one holistic experience:

Feeling. What will it feel like to use your product or service?

Sensing. How do customers physically sense your product?

Thinking. The experience still needs to take into account the rational, logical value of your product or service. How obvious can you make the benefits of your product? Can you illustrate its potential with a demo?

Acting. What behaviours will your product help to facilitate? Changes in behaviour can be highly motivational and empowering, such as Nike’s classic Just do it tagline.

Relating. How does your product or service link the customer to others, or even to a projection of their future self?

As the Chinese proverb goes: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.

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