2015 seems to have flown by; we've certainly been busy here at Donut HQ covering small business news, publishing expert blogs and adding to our ever-expanding library of marketing resources for small business owners.
We know you've been busy too - when you run your own business it can feel as if there are never enough hours in the day. So if you are pushed for time but you want to read the best marketing advice and inspiration for small firms, check out our pick of the top ten blogs of 2016 (below).
We're planning lots more content in 2016, including a raft of new articles on ecommerce coming in the spring. So do come back in 2016 for more news, views and advice.
In the meantime, we'd like to thank all of you for supporting Marketing Donut - it's your insights, comments, blogs and tweets that make the Donuts such a fantastic resource for UK small businesses. We'd especially like to thank all our experts and bloggers that have generously shared their knowledge with us.
And, of course, thanks to you all for visiting, reading our content and sharing it. If there's anything you'd like to see in the future, please let us know.
We'll be back on 4 January with more news, articles, blogs, tweets, offers and advice - everything you need to help you run your business better.
Have a great Christmas and a fun new year!
The Marketing Donut team
Mike Southon: How to grow your business when you've hit a brick wall
Emma Pauw: Mastering the art of social listening
Shweta Jhajharia: How to qualify leads in just ten minutes
Eric Moeller: 18 ways to talk to your customers on social media
Ashley Carr: How to get journalists on side
Grant Leboff: How to make your customers the heroes on social media
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
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
When you run the website that never sleeps (officially, following our election shenanigans last week), you become very aware of things that aren’t working as well as they should and other things you’re not doing that you should be. We have long lists of both that never seem to get shorter, no matter how much work we do.
This week, though, we can claim two or three small victories in our battle to stem the tide of stuff that should be better.
First up, James has built a small business events calendar where you can submit your events and find out what else is going on. An events calendar is something every small business website should have, and now we’ve got one. Barring illness, accident and volcanic eruption, it’ll go live next Wednesday.
You’ll have to be a registered user to access the calendar - as with all of our tools. We put some of our goodies behind registration for a couple of reasons: for you, it reinforces the sense that by signing up to the Marketing Donut, you’re joining a community; by registering, you can leave comments, access tools and receive our monthly newsletter, MyDonut.
For us, your registration means we have people to send our newsletter to, we can keep you informed of what we’re up to and we can conduct surveys that enable us to tailor our offering to your needs. It’s basic marketing and it works for everyone, we hope.
Our registration and sign-in processes haven’t been great, however. So we’ve improved them. This is the new registration page, with its simpler form, and you can now also sign in from any page using the ‘Sign-in’ button at the top of the screen. Basically, it’s a lot less hassle to access all our special stuff.
But we haven’t stopped there: we’ve also tweaked the MyDonut newsletter, as those of you who received the latest issue yesterday will have noticed. We’ve made a few small design changes so it’s easier to scan content; the big change, though, has been shifting the main articles away from the Donut websites and onto dedicated newsletter pages.
It’s one of those things we ummed and ahhed about. Surely we want to drive as much traffic as we can to the Donut websites? Well, yes, but we have a greater obligation to think of your experience as readers. Having dedicated pages makes it much easier for you to navigate the newsletter content. We’ve still got plenty of links to the Donut sites, but the whole thing feels more coherent now.
The new format also means we can offer you exclusive content and offers. This means I can now answer the question “Why should I sign up to your newsletter?” with much more confidence. You should sign up because it’s a) really good; and b) has information you can’t get anywhere else. Sounds good to me. By the way, this month’s issue is the best yet, in my opinion (though you won’t know that unless you’re signed up).
So, I guess this is a blog about two things - making things better and building a sense of community, and I find that the two are inseparably linked. Whenever I meet you, I’m always taken aback by your enthusiasm for what we do, but at the back of my mind there’s always that feeling that we could be doing it better.
Speaking of meeting you…
Meet the Donuts!
If you happen to be going to the Business Startup exhibition at the ExCel Centre in London next Thursday and Friday (20 and 21 May), then please come to our stand and say hello. Who knows, you may even get a doughnut.
Tickets to the event are free and you can order them online or by calling 0117 930 4927. See you there?
On Tuesday, 30 June at 0930 GMT, this will be the day that Marketing Donut, more pertinently @marketingdonut, will make use of the power of Twitter in all its real-time networking glory. We’ve decided to host a “conversation conference” on Twitter so that small businesses, entrepreneurs, marketing experts and anyone who wants to be a part of this online event can chat about all things marketing. There will be a concentrated burst of activity between 0930 GMT and 1100 GMT. To get things going, we will be discussing topics and articles from the Marketing Donut. There will also be opportunities for small businesses to raise their issues or queries with our marketing experts. We also want to connect small businesses with fellow small businesses. It will be a simple conversation about your marketing activities in an online forum full of those who want to help you. This is not an exclusive invitation only event; we welcome the insight of anyone with a Twitter account. There are a number of ways to get involved:
Tweet comments about something you have seen on Marketing Donut Ask a marketing related question. You could be the one person who starts off a great debate or pose that marketing question you always wanted to ask. Engage in a one-on-one conversation. It could be with one of our experts, a fellow entrepreneur, or a complete stranger. You could Retweet a tweet that appears as part of the flow of ideas that you find useful, funny or of interest to your followers.
Following the event Following the event is easy too, it may be that you don’t want to jump right in and that monitoring the event is all you want to take from the online conversation conference. If you use desktop Twitter applications, such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic, it is possible to set up search windows which will feed the whole flow of the conversations in real-time. Simply search for the hashtag topic of “#mydonut” This will be a great opportunity to get involved with small businesses and marketing experts alike. Look out for #mydonut come Tuesday 30th June and be a part of what is hoped to be a fun and worthwhile Twitter event hosted by Marketing Donut. Join in, use the #mydonut Hashtag, and let’s have some fun!
Recently I have become utterly obsessive about ecommerce and business site design. This began after I spent a few hours reviewing a friend’s Pay Per Click (PPC) invoice. Apart from rivalling the deficit of a national bank his campaign was providing little success. Delving a little deeper, his problem turned out not to be traffic, rather his site has all the basics wrong. While there are many techniques for running lean and successful PPC campaigns I want to take a step back to look at these fundamentals. It’s easy to spend a bucket load of cash on PPC (trust me, I have done it). However, the very first objective for any site owner should be to create a site that achieves its aims. Using ecommerce as an example, this is about converting browsers into buyers. If you can get the principles right, driving traffic should be a secondary and relatively easy objective. Anyone that’s played the popular 90’s computer game Lemmings will know that leaving these suicidal creatures to meander as they please will result in disaster, usually of the dead Lemming kind. The problem isn’t the lack of Lemmings -- there are enough for everyone -- the problem is the route you have devised for them generally ends up in the spiky pit of doom. Business websites sites have the same tendency, but we just call it ‘goal conversion’. Ask yourself, what are the goals of your site? They could be anything from a sale, contact form submission, lead creation or a click somewhere. These goals are the foundations of your site -- the routes for the Lemmings -- and anything else is secondary. Once you have identified these goals you need to optimise for them. It’s an essential and often painful process, but one where you need to be ruthless. Anything detracting from a goal conversion needs stripping away without mercy. Conversely, the message for any areas that need strengthening, is fix them now! It’s only when you are happy that your site meets its goals that spending on PPC makes sense. Just press that button and let the Lemmings jump!