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Are you making these common networking mistakes?

October 09, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Are you making these common networking mistakes?{{}}Is your networking bringing you a steady stream of new business? If not, it could be because you are making a few fundamental mistakes.

Pitching to sell

Businesses spend a lot of time creating a sales pitch that is compelling and interesting so that a prospect will buy. All too often though, business people make the mistake of using the same pitch when networking. You’re not selling to your network; you’re teaching your network how to sell on your behalf. Don’t pitch your product; pitch your pitch.

Being vague about your target market

Understand who benefits the most from your products and services and then learn to describe them clearly and succinctly. Seek to help a new contact recognise potential prospects from within their circle. The more specific you can be about your target audience, the more likely they are to think of someone they know that might need your products or services. Explain how you could serve those people well and encourage contacts to talk about you at the next available opportunity.

Neglecting to tell a story

People often talk about having a unique selling proposition but in reality most products and services are not dramatically dissimilar or genuinely unique. So it’s important to highlight why a customer should choose you over your competitors. In general, that comes from who you are and the approach you take.

Creating a story that highlights your strengths means you will be remembered. Raw facts are not remembered, stories are – stories that people can relate to and empathise with and stories that show how you have helped others. That’s what will get your contacts talking about you.

Failing to stand out from the crowd

It’s also important to position your business within the marketplace. For example, your target market may be different or the subtleties of your service may differ from competitors. Those differences help your target market to choose you. Tell that story and you and your business will be more memorable as a result.

In conclusion

Remember, your network is not your market.  

When you’re networking you’re not selling – you’re teaching your network how to sell for you, you’re teaching your network what makes you stand out and you’re teaching your network who is best-suited to your products and services.

Ideally you are helping them to identify one or two people for whom a referral would be sensible. At the same time, when you network you should be seeking similar information from your network. You get out of your network what you put in. If you want others to share their knowledge and refer their contacts to you, it's reasonable to assume that they are looking for the same kindness from you too.

© William Buist, ceo of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club.

How a simple covering email can backfire

October 08, 2014 by Andy Bounds

How a simple covering email can backfire{{}}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?”

Ouch.

I asked him to send me the email in question. It said…

Title: FYI

See attached

Cheers,
NAME

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]

John,

As [promised/requested], I attach the [communication] about [topic].

You’ll see it contains some critical points. In particular:

  • [highlight 1]
  • [highlight 2]
  • [highlight 3]

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].

Best,
 Andy

You’ll notice:

  1. The title is compelling. This ensures he opens the email.
  2. It starts with “As promised”. This reminds him that he’s already verbally engaged with you, and that you’ve written the document he requested. (An important note: if you haven’t had this chat beforehand, it’s less likely that your communication will impress. After all, when you know what he wants, you’re more likely to write something he wants. But when you don’t…).
  3. Briefly mentioning 2-3 highlights means he’s more likely to open the document, to read the detail.
  4. There’s a clear call to action — “I’m calling you on X. But call me if you prefer”. Again, note that this has been verbally agreed beforehand.
  5. By providing your direct contact details, you’re empowering him to increase the pace if he wants to.
  6. The email’s short, but it contains enough information to persuade him to open the attachment. You don’t need to re-write half your document. But neither can you write only “see attached”.

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.

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.

How do you protect your online content from sticky fingers?

October 01, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How do you protect your online content from sticky fingers?{{}}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.

So how can you protect your intellectual property online?

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.

Protecting articles online

  • Copyscape makes it simple for writers to keep track of their work. Just copy and paste the URL of your article into the box and Copyscape does the rest. Although it only lists the top ten results in the free version, I have used this to catch people in the past.
  • Talkwalker allows you to set up alerts for companies or phrases and will notify you when someone has mentioned your work online.
  • You can also use Google to find examples of plagiarism. Simply copy and paste a chunk of text from one of your articles and search for it online.
  • You can also use analytics tools to check out referral data. For example, if an unusual amount of traffic is coming from an unexpected source, they might have used your article. Although this might not be the case, it’s always worth a look.

Protecting your images and videos

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:

  • Uploading an image with a watermark can dissuade individuals from using it. This clearly shows who the owner is as well as their contact details.
  • Another option is to only upload low-quality versions. People can use a cropping tool to cut out a watermark, so using low quality images can be an extra deterrent.
  • Use Google to do a reverse image search and uncover your pictures being used elsewhere. Simply drag the item into the search box and Google will find copies located on other pages.

Copyright © 2014 Tom Chapman, a content specialist working on behalf of Foyles bookstore.

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.

Christmas is coming - are you ready?

September 29, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Christmas is coming — are you ready?{{}}

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.

Secure your brand advocates early

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.

Create specific landing pages

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.

Upgrade to a Google Shopping Campaign

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.

Find your fans on social media

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.

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