2013 has been a game-changing year as we’ve seen real signs of economic recovery and the continuing evolution of exciting online opportunities, including multi-channel marketing, crowd-funding and social sharing.
In some ways, it has never been easier to start a new business. But challenges remain, especially as many small business owners now seek to grow their enterprises and take advantage of new opportunities.
Here at Marketing Donut, we are focused on bringing you the latest news, views and advice to help you with everything from day-to-day decision making to long-term strategic planning.
This year our ever-popular blogs have covered the full gamut of marketing issues affecting every small business — from customer service to content marketing. We’d like to say a warm thank you to all our experts and guest contributors that have shared their wisdom and experience so generously.
We’d also like to say a big thank you to you — all the hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners out there — for visiting us throughout 2013 and for sharing our content with the wider world.
Here are some of the highlights from our blogs in 2013:
Sara Drawwater: Lessons from a secret millionaire
Rupert Staines: Nine simple ways to make your hashtags work
Robert Craven: Has your business got 'five-year-old-itis'?
Sharon Tanton: Five ways to miss the content marketing bus
Rachel Miller: Four lessons David Bowie can teach us about marketing
Grant Leboff: Dumb marketing question #1 - does social media work?
Mike Southon: Customer care lessons from a fish and chip business
Andy Bounds: Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds
Sarah Orchard: Just how much is a Facebook Like really worth?
We’re taking a short festive break but we’ll be back with more top tips and valuable resources next year. Happy Christmas and see you in 2014!
The Marketing Donut team
2010 has been a fantastic year for Marketing Donut and we are about to take a seasonal break to recharge our batteries ready for the challenges that 2011 throws at us!
We couldn’t have done it without all of you — your insights, comments, blogs, tweets and advice make Marketing Donut a living, breathing resource for small firms in the UK.
In particular, we’d like to thank the experts that have generously passed on their marketing know-how and the small firms that have shared their experiences with us — Naked Wines, Ling’s Cars, Chase Vodka, A Quarter of and Crazy Fox Golf to name just a few.
Here are a few of our achievements this year:
What does 2011 hold? Well, you can expect fresh Donuts and an even stronger local presence in the next year. And of course, we’ll continue to champion the cause of small-business owners across the UK.
None of this would be possible without your enthusiastic support of our work. The Donut sites are all about you — the owners, managers, employees and supporters of the UK’s small businesses owners — and we appreciate all the kind comments and messages of support you’ve sent us throughout the year.
Have a great Christmas and a fun New Year. We’ll be back on 4January with more news, stories, tweets, offers, competitions and advice — everything you need to help you run your business better.
Editor, Marketing Donut
We all have good years and suffer tough ones, but Christmas comes in all economic conditions. It's like a lifelong census of your approach and attitude, and says much about you as a leader.
In austere times when staff may have been let go, wages frozen or cut, and profits and cash placed under pressure, it can on the surface appear a good idea to avoid the costs of the Christmas bash. Let's face it, many of us do find it a bit cringeworthy to watch Brenda from Accounts Receivable suddenly hyperactive and over friendly on Egg nog (what actually IS egg nog? Does anyone know?).
But the truth is you need your team firing on all cylinders in difficult times. They are your biggest cost and you need more from less if you are to improve your profitability. If you cut Christmas and the water coolers you'll look not only look petty and run the risk of annoying even your best and most loyal people, but you'll panic your entire team into insecurity, which is bad for morale, bad for productivity, and bad for profits. Leaders lift horizons and spirits. Losers wallow in the recent past.
What does it say about you if you won't invest the equivalent of a couple of hours worth of pay in saying "thanks guys"? And not to celebrate the survival of your remaining crew to this point in the most treacherous economic storms known to man because you've lost a few overboard is weak leadership. In tough times you need to lift horizons and stay to task, not wallow in the inevitable imperfections of the journey. Business is a challenge worth doing because you can lose. Celebrate those who have left as if martyrs to the business cause.
There's no sin in a laugh. Think back to the war years when times were really austere and remember that humour helped us come through.
So, don't cut back on Christmas. Don't let tough times of the politics of different religions convince you to reign back. Celebrate - we could all perish in an asteroid collision tomorrow. Count your blessings at this time of year, not your excuses.
Above all never miss an opportunity to say "thanks" and to raise horizons. These two simple traits separate the Gandhis from Gordon Gekkos, Greed is not good. Generosity is great!
Alex Pratt is an entrepreneur and the author of Austerity Business.
Alex has given us a copy of Austerity Business to give away to a lucky Marketing Donut reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us what you're doing to thank your staff this Christmas. We'll put all the commentators' names in a hat and pick one out on Thursday, 23 December to receive the book. Get commenting!
Entries will only be accepted via the Marketing Donut website. You can enter by leaving a comment on this blog post telling us how you're thanking your staff this Christmas. To leave a comment, you will need to sign in or register to set up an account. Registration is completely free. Multiple comments from the same user will only be entered once. Comments will only be published at our discretion and no links will be allowed. Inappropriate or offensive comments will not be published. Comments submitted between Thursday 16th December and Thursday 23rd December 2010 (17:00 GMT) will be entered into a draw and a winner will be picked at random. The winner will be contacted on Thursday 23rd December using the email address they provided when they registered on the Marketing Donut. If the prize is not claimed by Monday 10th January 2011, another winner will be selected. We will post the prize to a UK address in January 2011. The prize is one copy of Alex Pratt's book 'Austerity Business', there is no cash alternative.
What a year it has been for the Marketing Donut! We have had such a busy time with bringing small businesses the best resources to help them with their marketing that we are having a well earned break over Christmas and into the New Year.
The website and all its resources will be fully available but this will be the last blog post and there will be no Twitter activity from @MarketingDonut until Monday 4 January when we will be back with a renewed vigour and determination to help your small business take on the challenges of 2010.
If your craving for small business donuts is so insatiable, why not gorge yourself on our Facebook Fan page? Start a discussion with fellow small businesses or ask the community a question. If you can’t stomach any more Christmas television or you have lost your Radio Times, head over to the Marketing Donut YouTube channel.
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped make the Marketing Donut all that it is so far, be that our experts, sponsors and you, our readers. We wish you all a restful Christmas period and a Happy New Year.
James, Simon, Rachel and Kasia - the Marketing Donut team.
We had some great ideas from our readers on how to handle the festive yet fictitious PR crisis of Dickens’ most miserable small business owner, Scrooge.
First up, @SimonJTurner suggested the simple use of a social media and search strategy in order to play to his negative strengths, saying he would recommend that Ebeneezer “go down the Social Media route - Portray his 'Bah Humbug' sentiments as ironic & give him a blog for link bait.”
Similarly, @theinsidelineuk reckoned that Scrooge has all the qualities necessary to be the face of a price comparison website. His thrifty, tight-pocketed character is a natural fit with such a venture and @theinsidelineuk even suggested a name and strapline: “Scrooge.com - Saving you money, on everything!”
The wider debate of dealing with a tricky PR case was explored by Chris Hughes, head of PR and communications with Sine Qua Non International Ltd. “The knack to any crisis is to avert it in the first place!" Chris stressed. "Assuming we are past that stage, the business owner should use local media to give staff the feeling that they are an integral cog in the business wheel.”
The Frockery offered some rather creative thoughts on how to deal with Scrooge the small business way - and got in a cunning plug for their business at the same time:
“As one of our best customers, Scrooge is better known to us as Sustaina Bill! Like us, he believes it’s not only frugal, but also fashionable and eco-friendly to go retro, and he carries off that Victorian re-enactor’s costume better than most. Look after the planet and the wallet will look after itself, he reckons – and besides, it’s all positive PR.
“This Christmas, he tells us that, having saved so much money at The Frockery, he is treating his staff to two pints of lager and a packet of crisps (each!) in true Scroogenessabounds style.”
Of course, Scrooge could be seen as a hopeless case. After all, in A Christmas Carol this cruelles, most cold-hearted of individuals was beyond earthly influence and needed a magical intervention to see the error of his ways. Emily Leary, a Marketing Donut expert, wonders whether ANY PR company could handle sucha difficult account:
“My feeling is that no honest PR could rescue Scrooge's reputation," she admits. "Any claims that put a spin on his motives would be dishonest, and, contrary to popular belief, that's not what PR is all about! You could argue that he's just a shrewd businessman and try to pitch him as a savvy entrepreneur, likeable because of sheer success - but without any evidence of redeeming or charitable behaviour in any area of his life, that would be a hard one to sell. He's a pretty two-dimensional baddy until he starts to reflect on his past.”
A post-visitation Scrooge, however, is a different prospect altogether and Emily reckons any PR firm worth its salt should be able to make hay from the inspirational story of a reformed businessman with a new outlook on life. “There's a great 'turning over a new leaf' angle, of course, which, if pitched right, could get national interest given the amount of money he has accumulated and the very human story of young Tim and his family," she explains. "There could also be interest from HR and business, both in Scrooge the man, and in the business case study if Scrooge was able to measure productivity and profit levels before and after his shift to the goodwill approach. A little regular, ongoing charity work in the community, and he could be looking at a reasonably good reputation."
Amen to that. Thanks for all your contributions - and have a prosperous, enjoyable and realaxing Christmas and New Year.
For some, Christmas can be a quiet and relaxing time of year. The other day I spoke to a company that designs letterheads, and whose busiest time of year is in line with the taxman’s. They had their proverbial feet up and were tucking into what I expect wasn’t the first mince pie of the season. For others, Christmas is a hectic time when staff holiday needs to be covered or a rush of trade means there are more orders than there are re-runs of Dad’s Army.
For the smaller business, Christmas can be a busy – and expensive – time of year, especially if you are looking to reward, staff, clients and suppliers for their support and custom through the preceding 12 months. Christmas cheer can be in short supply and financial constraints may mean you have to forego the traditional Christmas party; in no time at all, you could be branded a Scrooge.
Our literary friend Scrooge is now a byword for miserable, tight and cold of heart. But he, too, was running a small business and had to look after the needs of his firm. It’s likely he faced many of the same business challenges as you.
But somewhere along the way, Scrooge messed up one very important aspect of running a business: he neglected his reputation. Whichever way you look at it, every firm trades on its reputation and relies on good PR and word-of-mouth recommendation to grow and prosper. As it turns out, Scrooge redeems himself in A Christmas Carol, but only after a series of unlikely ghostly visitations.
If Scrooge were a real business-owner running a real small business, how would you handle his PR? What course of action would you take to put the positive spin into Scrooge? How would you avert a Scrooge PR crisis? Is a Humbug a hopeless case when it comes to reputation management? We want your ideas, creative, serious or otherwise.
You have until next Tuesday (15 December) to get your submission in and we’ll write it up into a festive blog post. Either share your thoughts in a succinct tweet or we will happily accept anything under 100 words. Please submit your contribution to us by: