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Editor’s round-up: A touch of nostalgia and a cause for celebration

April 09, 2010 by Simon Wicks

When I was growing up in the 1980s there were few things I enjoyed more than a trip to the corner shop and those delicious words: “A quarter of lemon bonbons please.”

If I was feeling flush I might add: “Oh, and could I have four Blackjacks and a Fruit Salad, too, please?”

I have a very sweet tooth and miss being able to order sweets by the quarter pound. A sealed 125g packet just isn’t the same, is it? So I was delighted when I encountered an old-fashioned sweet shop in Broadstairs a few years ago. I was even more delighted when our Rachel emailed me our latest case study.

A Quarter Of is a fantastic business. What a great idea - to source and sell the treats of our youth to a web-savvy customer base. Brilliant. I love the Internet. Even better, owner Michael Parker has created a forum for people my age to list all the things they remember from the 1980s. You know you’re a child of the 80s when…  In my case, the answer would be ‘when you were able to smoke on the top deck of the bus, in your school uniform’. But I’m not sure they’d put that up in this day and age…

This week we’ve also sent out the latest issue of the MyDonut e-newsletter. The profile of Ola Laniyan-Amoako on our sister website the Start Up Donut was very well-received and even prompted several requests from other business owners who would like to be profiled. Which saves me some work!

In addition to the newsletter (you can sign up for it here), we’re thinking about launching a weekly small business news headlines service for MyDonut subscribers. This would mean news headlines straight to your inbox, every Friday. We'd love to know what you thik about the idea. You can sign up for MyDonut here, by the way.

So what’s next? Two things: General Election coverage and our first birthday. With the Election, we’ve decided to stick to what we do best, which is provide useful advice and information for small businesses. We may be choosing a new government, but you’ve still got a business to run, right?

That’s not to say we’ll be ignoring the Election - quite the opposite. But we’ll be trying not to just regurgitate the kind of material you can get everywhere else. We prefer to keep the focus on you - your business, your concerns - in the weeks leading up to 6 May. By the way, if you’d like to contribute to our election diary, please email me and let me know.

We’re also getting ready to celebrate our first birthday. Unbelievably, 20 April will mark a full year since we launched the Donut websites (starting with this one). It’s been fascinating, fruitful and definitely fatiguing at times. But it’s also fantastic to edit a website like this. So, on 20 April, we’ll be marking our birthday with - a donut. Well, what do you expect?? We’ll also have blogs, articles and maybe one or two other surprises. Then it’s onwards and upwards for the Marketing Donut - the site that never rests.*

Have a good weekend,

Simon

* Except during the evenings and at weekends.

 

Valuable content will help you sell

April 07, 2010 by Sonja Jefferson

In our Internet-driven business world, content is king. The quality of the information you put out across the web will directly affect how successful you are at generating leads and closing business.

But what type of content do you need to provide and what should you write about? Here are some tips and examples:

  1. Adopt the right attitude when thinking about creating content. Produce information that is of real value to your customer base. Your position should be NOT “look how great we are” (as in a traditional brochure) but “look how useful we are – we have the answer to your problems.” Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers.
  2. Pick the right tool. There are many different types of content to choose from: articles, newsletters, webinars, online presentations, audio, video, white papers, case studies, ebooks...the list goes on. Select the tools that your customers are most likely to engage with. A variety of methods often works best.
  3. Informative articles are a great starting point; and the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to get them published and out to your customers is via a business blog. Sign up to Wordpress or Blogger; link the blog to your corporate website and start writing useful, education articles.
  4. Think like a customer. What questions do they ask when selecting products or services in your field? What problems can you help them to solve? Listen carefully to your customers and create helpful content just for them.
  5. Make your website a resource hub. All this valuable content will start to transform your site from a flat, online brochure into a living, breathing resource for your customers. Update your content regularly to keep it fresh and invite your customers to sign up for newly added information.

Valuable content is a win-win for you and your buyers. They learn what they need to help them with their challenge and you demonstrate your expertise and build the trust that leads to sales.

Some valuable content heroes from the small business world:

  • Mel Lester produces a fantastically useful monthly ezine for his architecture and engineering clients: an amalgam of his best blog articles, industry news and trends plus insight from others in the field www.blog-bizedge.biz
  • Heather Townsend – a well respected business coach – sends out fortnightly efficiency tips on a Monday morning as a reminder to get organised and stay on track www.theefficiencycoach.co.uk/blog
  • Bryony Thomas and her company Clear Thought Consulting have created short video tutorials for their B2B clients with tips on all aspects of marketing www.clear-thought.co.uk/10_minute_tips

What would help your customers? What valuable content can you create?

How do you like them apples, eh?

March 30, 2010 by James Ainsworth

As a resident of the West Country, I am accustomed to the fact that cider is a way of life round these ’ere parts. When Blackthorn changed their recipe last year and went for a big relaunch, billboards were defaced, Facebook pages launched and free samples through the local paper were rejected. Believe me, a Bristolian does not reject free cider readily. The resulting public campaign to return to the original recipe won through and the brand conceded defeat.

In Bristol there is a boat that has been converted into a bar that goes by the name of The Apple and sells the juice by the bucket load. There is also a small, tucked-away, gem of a pub in Clifton called The Coronation Tap - or to those more affectionate or slurred of speech, The Corrie Tap. Here they sell a cider known as ‘Exhibition’ and such is its potency they only sell it by the half pint.

Last week’s Budget heaped misery on the West Country, with dear Mr Darling making cider play taxation catch-up. A 10 per cent increase came into effect as of Sunday and in doing so brought cider in line with beer, spirits and wine for relative taxation value. While stories of queues stretching for miles — akin to a petrol price hike — are greatly exaggerated, it is the talk of the town.

Tonight the BBC’s ‘The One Show’ is filming a feature on the popularity of the drink at the fabled Corrie Tap (free samples from 6pm I hear). Will I see you there?

Editor’s round-up: cakes, cash and a wordle

March 26, 2010 by Simon Wicks

It’s been a great week: fun, exciting and we’ve had the best traffic figures ever on the Marketing Donut. The most popular single item of the week was our case study of the online cupcake community, How we got together online to boost our cupcake business.This produced a fantastic response within the world of cupcake makers, who spent the whole week sharing the article and spreading the word about the Marketing Donut. I’d like one of these, thanks guys:

Cupcakes at Liana's Star Bakery

But probably our biggest draw overall this week was our extensive Budget coverage on Wednesday – and this is what made it such a busy and exciting week. I blogged live as the Chancellor read his speech, the team tweeted like crazy and we published a Budget round-up and the reaction from small businesses before the end of the day.

We were really pleased to be the only news organisation to spot the National Minimum Wage increase on Budget day itself. This wasn’t in the Chancellor’s speech, but buried deeply in the Budget Notes where it was spotted by one of our eagle-eyed editors. We called the Treasury, checked it out and slipped it into our coverage minutes before publication. Result.

The Budget also produced my favourite thing on the Marketing Donut this week – our James’s rapid response analysis of the Budget in words and pictures. Take a look; it made me smile.

Post-Budget, it was an early start on Thursday morning for a trip to our Bristol office where I delivered an editorial training and went to the Bristol Twestival in the evening. This fundraising networking event was kind of a who’s who on the Internet in Bristol, which is a real new media hub. It got a bit raucous and raised in the region of £4,000 for Concern Worldwide, who are no doubt very happy indeed. Good stuff.

Now it’s back to earth and the business of providing good marketing information to small businesses. We’ll be updating our favourite things with more books, videos and websites you should be reading, watching and visiting, Plus, we’ll have information on mobile phone apps, advice on closing a sale and tips for making your business stand out from the crowd.

The Budget: Picture this

March 24, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Wordle.net Budget 24 March 2010

Another Budget, another wave of promises of ‘support’ and shiny initiatives. This year, as the Wordle shows, the Chancellor talked a lot about the state of the ‘economy’ and focused his initiatives on ‘business’ rather more than families or public services. This is a Budget about ‘people’, ‘jobs’, ‘recovery’, the ‘country’ at large.

Tax’ looms largest, though, but not because there’s a lot of it. Quite the opposite: the Chancellor was very keen to stress that he wouldn’t be raising taxes - at least not for those of us on low-to-middle incomes. If you’re a banker or a non-domicile, though, you’d better get ready to dip onto your pockets.

Does this mean this a ‘Robin Hood’ Budget?  If it were truly a ‘rob from the rich to fund the poor’ affair, then you might expect the ten per cent duty increase to be on grapes rather than apples. In case you didn’t pick up on it, cider is being ‘redefined’ so that it is subject to the same duty increases as all other alcoholic drinks.

For the small business, the clues are in the words ‘bank, ‘Bank’, banks’, ‘banking’ and ‘credit’. The Chancellor is making an extra £41 billion available as lending to small businesses via Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He has also promised a Small Business Credit Adjudicator whose role will be to decide whether small firms have been unfairly turned down for loans.

After all, it is small business in particular that will ‘fuel’ ‘growth’, ‘increase’ ‘jobs’ and ‘pay’ for the ‘future’. But, as the Wordle shows, they may need quite a lot of ‘help’ to do that.

Five tips for a successful product launch

March 08, 2010 by Ben Dyer

I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about product launches. My employer, SellerDeck, is a few weeks away from rolling out a major update to one of its ecommerce software products. While we have the advantage of an existing user base, many of the fundamentals for launching are the same whether it is an existing product or something completely new.

1. Understand the Unique Value Proposition

If your product is sat on the launch pad I would hope by this stage you know what it is that makes your offering different from the rest. The importance of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) cannot be understated; it’s the lifeblood of any product launch. Review, discuss and research until you are totally convinced you have got it right; you only get one launch window.

2. Talk to prospective customers

Get out there and talk to the very people you want to sell your product to. Discuss your plans for the product, both now and in the future. Get their feedback; it could be you missed something.

3. How are you going to sell and market?

Choosing where to market your product can be difficult. Make informed decisions based on research. It might even be a good idea to run several small pilot schemes to see where you get the most success. However prepare to be ruthless if you’re not seeing the results. It’s easier to make decisions before you have spent the entire budget on something that’s not working.

4. Make yourself heard

Find out who the influential people are in your space and hustle, annoy and pester them. That is until you get a chance to demonstrate why your product is the best. Nothing is better than a personal recommendation regardless of the product or service. Go to events, chat to people and network, network, network!

5.  Bring the whole team on the journey

A successful product launch requires commitment and understanding throughout your organisation.

When President Kennedy visited NASA in 1961 he came across a cleaner, and asked him what his job was. The cleaner replied “My Job is to put a man on the moon, Sir”. Now that probably is the greatest launch of all time.

Ben Dyer of SellerDeck

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