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Top tips for successful newsletters

March 21, 2011 by Sharon Tanton
  1. Get sign up first. However lovingly worded and beautifully designed, if they didn’t ask for it, it’s spam.
  2. Be brief. People are busy. Even scrolling down too far is too much. One page max.
  3. Grab their attention. Headlines matter. Newsletter 73 isn’t going to get anyone rushing to click, but a great offer just might. Be careful though. We all love a bargain, but too many once in a lifetime sales make you look desperate.
  4. Use your voice. Newsletters need to follow your brand guidelines, in a tone of voice that matches the rest of your communications. So no text speak if you’re a firm of solicitors, and no stiff formality if you plan parties. (Actually, no stiff formality anywhere. Straightforward, honest and warm covers most bases).
  5. Reward. People on your mailing list are your special customers. Make them feel part of an exclusive club and they’ll reward you with loyalty. Money-off deals work, but so does information. Letting your favourite customers in on the news before the rest of the world makes them feel important.
  6. Get the timing right. Once I signed up for a diet newsletter and they mailed me twice a day. Way too much. Once a year, and your customers might have forgotten who you are. (Unless you sell Christmas trees).
  7. Share success. Letting your clients know about your latest award makes them feel happy to be associated with you. It’s an affirmation that they might the right choice in working with you. We all like to be right.


Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Mobile Marketing - Nokia moves the goalposts

March 18, 2011 by

February has seen the announcement of a new deal between Nokia and Microsoft, which will see the Finnish manufacturer adopt Windows Phone as the operating system of choice for its future smartphones.

A lot of people have taken their eye off Nokia recently, preferring to watch Android and the iPhone battle it out for smartphone leadership. In contrast Nokia, the one-time undisputed mobile phone champion, has been in the doldrums, with its Symbian operating system looked increasingly dated, even in its most recent incarnation.

Nokia is still the best-selling mobile brand in the world, though, and the alliance with Microsoft could revive its ailing fortunes. If it does, the implications for mobile marketing are significant.

  • Firstly, for customers wanting free satnav on a smartphone, Google Maps is no longer the only game in town. Access to Nokia’s Ovi Maps is rumoured to be one of the sweeteners that attracted Microsoft to the deal. If your business is not already listed there, now would be a good time to add it.
  • Secondly, the future search engine of choice on Nokia’s phones will not be Google but Bing. Many of us are tempted to overlook Bing in our search marketing in favour of Google, which has over ten times the market share. On the mobile platform battle is not won, however. Smart marketers will hedge their bets by optimising for Bing search as well – and by making sure their company is listed on Bing Local as well as Google Maps.
  • Lastly, looking at mobile advertising, Google is as dominant right now as it is in search, with something like fifteen times the market share of Microsoft (source: IDC). For companies looking to push advertising to either the iPhone or Android platforms, Google’s AdMob leads the pack by a country mile. But with the deal between Microsoft and Nokia, that could be set to change.


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

For more information on mobile commerce, read our guide to mobile marketing.

How to make your product buzz buzz buzz

March 16, 2011 by Robert Craven

How do you know if your product is creating a buzz? While the following list is far from definitive, it suggests key factors that determine the level of buzz about your product/service. It should be most of the following:

  • Exciting – ‘to fall in love with’, ‘to die for’ eg iPhone, iPad
  • Innovative – eg
  • A personal experience – eg books, airlines, cars
  • Complex – eg software, medical procedures
  • Expensive – eg computers, shoes
  • Observable – eg clothes, cars, phones.

Test your buzz

Take your service or one of your products.  Score it on its ‘buzz’ factor.

Is your product exciting?

1%  -  10  -  20  -  30  -  40  -  50  -  60  -  70  -  80  -  90  100%
In your dreams             On a good day                          Got It!

Is it innovative?

Can your product be used or considered as a personal experience?

Is it apparently quite simple and yet complex?

Is it expensive?

Is it observable – is its use relatively conspicuous?

How did you score? 

A few thoughts:

  • Can you think of any area where you could have done better?
  • Can you think of anything that you could do this week, or even today, that could improve any of your scores?
  • What’s holding you back from getting on with these actions?


Robert Craven is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. He runs The Directors' Centre and is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing.


The price is right on social buying sites

March 15, 2011 by Rachel Miller

In today’s cash-strapped times, we are all looking for a bargain. But where does this leave the small business?

There are so many ways that shoppers can find the best price. There are price comparison websites, online voucher sites and even apps that allow you to scan barcodes and compare prices elsewhere.

Price-cutting is rife and big businesses are at it all the time. Some retailers are running almost continuous sales in a bid to bring in more business. Meanwhile, the supermarkets can afford to offer highly competitive prices on loss leaders just to get shoppers into their stores.

These kinds of practices don’t always work for small firms whose margins are already tight enough and who can’t afford to be constantly discounting. But the fact is that many consumers now expect some kind of special offer before they are prepared to open their wallets.

And so the arrival of social buying sites like GroupOn, BuyWithMe, TownHog and LivingSocial could well be very good news for small firms with a local customer base — as well as being good for canny shoppers.

The social buying sites all work slightly differently but essentially they allow businesses to promote a specific offer to subscribers in their local area offering tempting discounts with extra money off when groups of three or four buy together.

Sites like GroupOn send out emails to their subscribers with a daily offer. Subscribers respond, they get a voucher for the product or service and the business gets the revenue after the social buying site has taken its cut. So businesses only pay when they sell something.

Yes, businesses advertising on the sites have to offer a discount. But it’s a targeted offer to an audience of interested subscribers. It’s not constant price-cutting. It’s much more strategic and measureable than that.

But does it work? One upmarket restaurant in Bristol — Bells Diner — sold an impressive 413 meals for two via LivingSocial when it offered a 52 per cent discount on an eight-course meal in November 2010. Now that’s an attractive offer, for sure. But that’s 826 additional customers that have come through the door — and they could well be back for more.


 Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut. 

Why SMEs like Mondays - and Wednesdays

March 14, 2011 by John Keating

The SME market is, of course, huge. With a turnover of over £1350 billion, it’s no wonder many companies engage in direct marketing to this lucrative sector, spending nearly £6 billion in doing so. How much of that £6 billion could be saved, or how much could businesses increase their returns, if they had known how the SME market wants to be communicated with?

Luckily, the latest research from the DMA and partners as part of the ongoing survey, The SME Voice, has provided the answers. OK, let’s cut to the chase.

First and foremost, the notion that social media is more powerful than email marketing is not cut and dried according to this report. Email was found to be the preferred method of contact among SMEs, with usage even showing an increase from 69 per cent to 80 per cent as 2010 progressed. One reason may be the rise in popularity of smartphones that allow email to be accessed on the move.

The research also found that SMEs prefer to receive marketing emails on Monday and Wednesday mornings and not more than once a week. It’s a risk though to stick too rigidly to this mantra as we know that the SME market is never stagnant and marketing communication strategies often have to be updated.

Finally, what should businesses be sending to small firms? It may be tempting to bombard them with trumpet blowing and sales propaganda (zzz) but what they actually prefer is a healthy mix of messages focusing on price and product benefits.

Overall the message here is: don’t just presume your marketing material and messages are best suited to your target market — ask them what they want and that feedback will be vital to improving your direct marketing ROI.

So for email marketing, here are the key findings:

  • Email rules OK. 80 per cent say so.
  • Weekly contact works for email. Calls and direct mail — monthly.
  • SMEs like Mondays — get your message in early in the week


John Keating is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and director at Databroker.

Does DIY market research work?

March 10, 2011 by Eric Brandenburg

With an increasingly competitive marketplace and an unstable economic climate, many established companies are using research to ensure they are meeting their clients’ needs — often in the form of a survey or questionnaire.

Research can now be done very cheaply thanks to free or almost free online survey tools. With marketing budget cuts, managers often take on this task without the help of market research expertise.

But is this wise? Although customer service research can be helpful when establishing the level of satisfaction within the business, it may not be robust enough for other areas — for instance when an established business decides to launch a new product or service. With any new launch, businesses need to canvas the opinions of potential customers as well as existing ones.

There are several reasons why established businesses often neglect to conduct viable market research when launching new products — cost, time restraints, lack of knowledge about the importance of objective research and the belief that existing customers are the most suitable respondents all contribute.

Good quality market research must meet the following criteria:

  • Objective respondents
  • Unbiased answering
  • Expertly-tailored questions
  • Detailed results analysis.

Market research can bring new insight into your company and foster innovation. By approaching respondents that are not your clients you can get new ideas and insight into competitors’ operations — something you may not be able to discover by speaking to your current client base.

Ensuring there is a lucrative potential market for your new products and services has never been so important. 


Eric Brandenburg is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and manager at Marketest.

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