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How long should my blog posts be?

October 22, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

When you’re starting out with your blogging, getting into “the groove” can be hard. Just how long should your posts be? And where on earth do you find the time to blog?

I’m a firm believer that you should be blogging two or three times a week, and if you can manage to squeeze one in every day, so much the better. Your writing will be better for it and your readers will thank you. In fact, as long as you can keep focused, the more you write, the better you’ll be. And the better you are, the stronger your following of readers. And that means more business for you. So it really is a win-win.

But to answer my original question, just how long should your blog posts be? Well I recommend that they’re around the 250-300 word mark. This length is easily digestible for your readers, and is pretty quick for you to write. You should be able to produce something of that length in around 30 minutes. And if you can write quickly, you’ll be blogging often.

You don’t need to get too perfectionist about it. I recently read an article that was lambasting people that didn’t spend at least a day refining and sculpting each blog post. I’m sure that it does make for great writing, but the fact is that unless you’re a professional, full-time blogger, none of us have eight hours to spend perfecting, refining and crafting one post, so why even try.

Write from the heart. Start with a plan and stay focused. And if you stick to my recommended word length, you’ll find that you don’t have time to ramble on. Just make one point, and make it well.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

How sponsorship creates a push/pull marketing dynamic

October 21, 2010 by Jackie Fast

Upon opening the many newspapers London provides, you will undoubtedly find at least one article describing how the loss of sponsorship funding is endangering a sports team.

This has created an impression that the sponsorship industry has been dealt a severe blow by the credit crunch. However, while many of these multi-million pound sponsorship deals are drying up, there is a surging interest in B2B sponsorship.

The reason for the surge in sponsorship deals is partly due to a marketing shift in the industry – the push/pull dynamic.

Traditional push media such as TV, billboards, radio, newspapers and magazines offer one-way communication between the brand and the consumer. In the past these have proven effective alone. However, at a time when people are constantly marketed to through more and more channels, traditional push marketing is increasingly falling onto deaf ears.

It is now becoming crucial to engage your audience. Pull marketing is interactive, two-way communication between the brand and the consumer. This is more effective than ever thanks to internet marketing, social media, RSS, blogs, forums and so on.

Of course, combining push and pull marketing is most effective of all. And sponsorship can deliver this.

Aligning your brand with something about which the target audience feels passionate can create goodwill. It is an age-old fact that people tend to favour others who like the same things as they do; this dynamic is no less true when it comes to forming a relationship between brand and audience.  Through sponsorship the target audience can be primed to be receptive to the brand.

In addition, sponsorship can create pull marketing through tangible “touchpoints” for the consumer to interact with your brand. The push marketing creates the awareness and the pull marketing gets the consumer involved.

Social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to engage with each of your consumers on a platform that they are comfortable with. Digital marketing platforms work exceptionally well within a sponsorship programme as your customers are already primed to engage with your brand.

Although sponsorship is not the only way to facilitate this push/pull dynamic, it is certainly one of the easiest which is why we are seeing a surge in these partnerships. If you are relying too much on push media and not achieving the results you are after, it may be time to consider sponsorship as a way to help incorporate this push/pull dynamic with your brand.

 

Jackie Fast is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and managing director of Slingshot, a specialist sponsorship agency.

Marketing spending reviews - the pressures and possibilities

October 18, 2010 by

With the Conservative Party conference over, thoughts turn to the government spending review and how it will affect business and the economy. Whatever the outcome in the long term, in the short term there is little doubt that businesses will continue to approach both expenditure and debt with caution. So what is the likely impact on marketing?

Casualties

The first casualty is likely to be external expenditure. Marketing consultancies will find it hard to win business, and increasing pressure will fall on in-house staff as they are expected to make up the difference. Knowledge of new technologies will be at a premium as more companies look to develop and maintain expertise internally. Only last month, the BBC revealed how in-house SEO had helped it to slash its marketing budget. Marketing staff of small companies will be expected to be jacks of all trades, to reduce reliance on expensive external resource.  

Expect large, costly projects such as re-branding to be postponed. There will be an emphasis on cutting out unnecessary expenditure. Companies will recycle existing advertising campaigns rather than splash out on new ones. It will never have been more important to know which half of your advertising budget is wasted! Spend will continue moving towards online advertising, simply because results can be tracked accurately and unnecessary costs eliminated.

A word of warning, though. Companies that cut back too far on marketing will lose out long-term, yielding ground to more ambitious competitors who continue to invest and seize the opportunity to gain market share. It was ever thus. Marketing theorists cite the example of Cadbury’s, who continued advertising throughout World War II – even when they didn’t actually have any chocolate to sell – and gained dramatically as a result.

Opportunities

Marketers must accept that it’s a season to cut out the dead wood, and probably some green shoots that haven’t yet been fruitful. But it’s also a season of opportunity. Where one company cuts back, there is the chance for another to step in. In advertising it will be a buyer’s market, with bargains available to the shrewd negotiator. Technologies like social media and mobile are still developing rapidly, with whole new territories opening up for businesses willing to invest early.

Pressures there might be, but possibilities there certainly are too, for companies willing to take the risk and step forward into the breach.

 

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.

Be disruptive

October 15, 2010 by Robert Craven

Being disruptive pays. Following the pack does not. At least not for most people.

Starbucks was a disruptor as it changed the habits of a generation (as did FaceBook, Google and so on). But what is new today becomes old tomorrow. Today’s revolutionaries are tomorrow’s Old Guard.

A great disruptor doesn’t just do more than interrupt; it can change the face of the landscape. This is particular true of the customer experience.

Starbucks changed how and where we socialise, Amazon changed how we shopped…. So while we can quote the big disruptors I think that we can all disrupt, if only on a smaller stage.

You can zig when they zag. Go against the traffic. Challenge the notion of “that’s how we do it around here”.

Depending on your marketplace, think what would happen if you:

  • Charged by “results only”
  • Let customers decide what to pay
  • Only work online or by phone
  • Charged per five minute slots…

I am sure you get where I am coming from.

 

Robert Craven is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing. He runs The Directors' Centre and is described by the Financial Times as "the entrepreneurship guru". Read more here.

Why being a business celebrity is the best way to stand out in your market

October 13, 2010 by Lucy Whittington

Being a Business Celebrity is all about using YOU as the point of difference in your business. Instead of thinking up a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) I’m saying you use what you already have — a PSP (Personality Selling Proposition).

A successful business needs personality and visibility. Having a clear business personality means you will always stand out in a crowd.

The world is changing – people are buying from people and social media has blurred the boundaries of business and personal.

You need to tell and share your story. You need to BE your story. You are your business, and if your business is big enough you need to bring out ALL the personalities in your business and use them.

Once you understand and accept that you are what makes your business, you’re able to be bolder, less afraid to stand out in a crowd and you can create loyal fans.

I’ve set out six steps to being a business celebrity. You can follow these in order (and repeat four and five over and over!) and you’ll have a personality-led marketing plan.

  1. Know your personality, and realise it’s all you need to succeed. Know what is authentic to you and what sets you apart — and believe it!
  2. Find out exactly what makes you unique, what is going to set you apart from the competition. Look at your experience, approach, ideas, hobbies and loves.  Find out who you are and define the unique detail.
  3. Define what your business personality looks and feels like. What does your business personality look and feel like in words, colours, pictures, clothes and media.
  4. Tell everyone about you. Share your story. Convey and communicate your personality – whether you film it, blog it, write it, or present it — make it your way, authentic to who you are.
  5. Plug your personality into your business. This is the heart of the marketing plan. Use your website, online marketing, social media, networking, speaking, PR and more — to turn personality into business results.
  6. Use the power of celebrity to draw people to you. When you’re a celebrity it means you’re not a commodity any more. You aren’t the same as everyone else. YOU bring something different. So you can charge what you choose, work in the way you want to, and with the people you want to. You are known and sought after – that’s the “pull” of a celebrity, not the “push” of a promotional campaign.

If you want to know more about how to use the six steps to being a business celebrity – get the free download with more detail, examples and actions to take for each step here.

Lucy Whittington is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut.

Want to get results? - ditch the jargon

October 11, 2010 by Drayton Bird

I learned what irritates business people most a few weeks ago. It's jargon. In fact a few years ago I read that over 25 per cent of business executives admitted to using jargon they didn't understand in meetings.

No wonder, then, that when it comes to selling technological things, so many messages dissolve into a sort of linguistic swamp.

Here's a good example from an e-mail someone sent me:

At Blah-co we have just developed an email stationery online software package that allows one in house member of staff to deploy all email users with a professionally designed Email stationery template, designed by one of our team of designers to all users and to include their unique contact details, meaning not only will the presentation of their emails improve but equally as important all be consistent throughout your organisation. (whew!)

Because of the way the templates are constructed our solutions avoid all types filtering ensuring your mail always arrives.

Well, I think I understand the beginning and the end and recognise all the words but I'm damned if I know what they mean when put together.

More incomprehensible blather

Here's another series of examples extracted from mailings sent by another firm.

"Are you one of those lucky few who have bedded down IT operations?"

"Would you realise a significant increase in business agility, accelerated decision making, employees pursuing a common agenda and a heightened awareness of your strategy?"

"Miss or ignore priority system availability or leadership messages"

"Adopting a new change driver that communicates change and strategy in a high impact and engaging way"

"Intranets suffer the limitations of pull technology"

"A controlled feedback channel enables you to capture a snapshot of employee morale in real time"

"Cascade this down to your people"

They actually have something great to sell, so we tried to translate their stuff into English.

What that piffle means in English

Every day, you send tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails to people who want or need to hear from you.

Maybe they're your colleagues, your customers, your employees or your prospects: many may actually have asked to hear from you.

Then what happens?

Your "wanted" messages get lost in a sea of Spam. So the poor recipients go through the infuriating task of fishing out what really interests them from all that rubbish.

A **** sends your messages on a different route. One that avoids the traffic jams. It's a desktop alert that jumps onto your screen no matter what you're doing. You can't ignore it; it appears whether you're onscreen or off.

And that's why firms as varied as Sky, Arsenal Football Club. Kelloggs and Warner Brothers use them.

Winston Churchill said, "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."

This is important especially if you're selling a financial or technical product or service. Use a bit of jargon to reassure the anoraks, but put the rest in plain English.

Why things go wrong

Confucius said that if language is used incorrectly, what is said is not what is meant, everything goes to pot and "the people stand about in helpless confusion".

If you wish for a few text-book cases, consider the National Health Service or the police force.

On the other hand, if you actually relish a little chaos, you need the economy bullshit generator. Click here and give it a go. It will add a welcome touch of drivel to your meetings.

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