I once helped a consultant write a proposal for a big project. It was worth a lot of money to him. It would have been his biggest contract.
The proposal we wrote was really good. But he didn’t win the work.
When he asked why not, they said they were so underwhelmed by his covering email, that they didn’t feel they could trust him with such an important project.
Their exact words were: “If you don’t take care of little things like emails when you know we’re watching, how can we trust you to take care of big things when you don’t think we are?”
I asked him to send me the email in question. It said…
How utterly dreadful. And what a waste.
We’d created this wonderful proposal. If the customer had just read it, the consultant would have had an outstanding chance of winning the business. But all our effort was ruined by the first thing they saw.
So, what about your covering emails? How good are they? Do you put much time into making them brilliant? Do you put any?
The good news: there are many ways to craft a good one. Here’s one that works very well…
Title: John, here’s the email you requested about [insert topic]
As [promised/requested], I attach the [communication] about [topic].
You’ll see it contains some critical points. In particular:
As agreed, I’ll ring you at [time] on [date] to discuss how we should proceed. If you want to discuss before then, please buzz my mobile — [number].
Let’s face it, it doesn’t take long to write an email like this. It only takes a few minutes. But if you don’t get it right, you might find you’ve wasted all the hours you’ve spent on your proposal.
Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently I decided to run some of the articles I had previously sent to prospective employers through a plagiarism checker. As a professional writer, I take copyright law extremely seriously.
Unfortunately, I found that one of the companies had published one of the pieces that I had sent to them with my application. Although I was pleased they enjoyed the article, I was annoyed that they had flouted copyright law by not seeking my permission. I contacted them and it was quickly taken down.
In theory, everything online is covered by copyright law. This blog on Law Donut has more detail. However, the fact is that millions of people are flouting this legislation.
According to 2012 research by Ofcom, almost 50% of internet users cannot accurately say whether they have downloaded, shared or streamed copyrighted content. And many of the respondents admitted to knowingly copying material because it was convenient or free to do so.
If you regularly publish articles, images or videos online, you will probably have these stolen at some stage. Often, these incidents are misunderstandings, as many people don’t understand that material in the public domain is not always for public use.
Social media has made it incredibly easy for videos and images to be reproduced quickly. Take Pinterest. Much as I love this network, most of the images on it are arguably copyright violations. As Pinterest says itself, its pins are “for good stuff you find anywhere around the web.”
If you are concerned about people grabbing your images or using screen grabbing tools to access them, you can protect yourself in the following ways:
Copyright © 2014 Tom Chapman, a content specialist working on behalf of Foyles bookstore.
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 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.
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.
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.
While the key sales period for a seasonal brand might only span three months of the year, optimising your site, securing advertising and mitigating bounce rate begins long before your customers start shopping.
With the first inklings of Christmas hype only a few weeks away, it’s not too late to implement the following suggestions and increase traffic during your key sales period.
While your customers don’t want to hear about Christmas in June, advertising slots, opportunities for collaborative competitions and potential brand advocates are already primed for the festive period.
Determine your key sales period in Google Analytics and schedule coverage, advertisements and promotions which straddle these dates and overlap by a few weeks either side — it’s surprising how many people will buy a Christmas tree in the January sales.
Custom landing pages are valuable for both organic search and increasing the relevancy of your pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Optimise your landing page by including keywords and phrases in the title and include popular search terms within your website copy. Once your page is optimised, ensure that users have a pleasant shopping experience by making the purchasing process as simple as possible.
Allow users to sort results and provide an intuitive search function if budget permits. Highlighting your delivery terms (i.e. free delivery/next day delivery) also appeals to shoppers in a rush.
User-testing of your landing pages, your mobile site and your checkout process should be carried out before your sales period really kicks in. If you don’t have the budget for conversion rate optimisation, consider asking your own team to process test orders and highlight anything that could put customers off.
As of 2nd September, Product Listing Ads (PLA) on Google have been replaced by Shopping Campaigns. Google Shopping Campaigns allow you to bulk edit product groups and they offer access to your inventory and product feed information in Adwords.
While Shopping Campaigns are designed to respond to past complexities associated with PLA campaigns, users should familiarise themselves with the new features before increasing their PPC spend.
Brands often make the mistake of posting only when it suits them (i.e. 9-5) and they forget that the majority of their target audience will be active on social media during evenings and weekends. Once you know when your fans are interacting, you can schedule your posts accordingly.
Copyright © 2014 Victoria Browne, copywriter and social campaigns manager, Fluid Creativity.
We’ve all been there — politely sitting through a number of conference presentations mentally compiling shopping lists or daydreaming about the summer holidays instead of actually listening. The topic sounded interesting, and the content is undoubtedly useful, but the presentation itself is making it increasingly hard to keep your eyes open.
So as a presenter, how do you avoid sending your audience to sleep? I have analysed hundreds of presentations and I think there are five key presentation “sins” you need to avoid:
You are doing the talking — that’s what the audience should focus on, not the text on the slides. If you add lots of text then you are effectively giving your audience a choice: listen to me or read the slide.
Two or three key pieces of information per slide should be your maximum. Also try to put the most important points at the top of the slide — they will be most remembered and are more visible to people sitting at the back.
The great thing about presentations is that you can include pictures, sounds, and video to support your speech. However, lots of mixed styles, tacky clipart, pointless animations and incongruous sounds can actually detract from what you are saying, rather than support it.
Keeping your media consistent will add a level of professionalism to your presentation as well as keeping your audience focused.
The best presentations give audience an overview of what you will be talking about and tell them the order in which you will cover each point. Steve Jobs, arguably one of the best presenters of our time, said that you should only ever focus on the three most important pieces of information the audience needs to know:
Keep this “rule of three” in mind when you are preparing your presentation and it will keep you focused and your audience engaged.
The truly magical thing about anything live, whether it be a presentation, a comedy show or a concert, is the uniqueness of the experience. But this is only true if you speak naturally, letting your personality shine through. If you simply parrot a rehearsed speech then you may as well have pre-recorded it.
You must know your topic inside out so you can respond to questions naturally and without panicking. It also allows you to speak with your own style, and ultimately, that is what makes a great presentation great.
There seems to be an assumption that a presentation should contain no silence. However, silence can actually enhance what you are saying. By taking pauses, the audience can stop and think about what you have just said, taking in the content on the slide and absorbing the message. As the experts say: “Pause ‘till it hurts”.
I am not suggesting that presentations are easy — far from it. But by focusing more on what you will say and how you will say it than what your slides will look like, you will end up with a presentation that is interesting, engaging and memorable.
The quickest way to send an audience to sleep is simply to dig out your old PowerPoint template file and update it with tons of new text, a smattering of stock imagery and then talking over it.
My key piece of advice? Ditch the PowerPoint altogether.
Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.