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Have you got your business voice right?

February 15, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

Here are my top five tips for creating a clear business voice:

Keep it short and sweet

Short sentences are better than long ones. Really, they are. For example, if you’re reading this hoping to discover the reasoning behind my implication that the length of both word and sentence impacts upon the readability of said article, or web page, then by this point you might be becoming a little weary of it, wondering aloud to yourself, maybe quietly, maybe not, when, oh when, will it ever reach a conclusion, and I might say to you, maybe quietly too, or I might shout it, or even sing it as an operatic soprano might, in top C, that it’s not going to.

So, short and sweet is better. Cut sentences down. Be ruthless. Don’t be frightened of full stops, they’re your friends, so use them.

Use simple language

And it’s the same with words. Don’t say “facilitate” when you mean “help”.

I’m not saying limit your vocabulary, English is full of beautiful words, but if there’s a simpler way to say it, then use it. Your aim is to be clear and easily understood. Get potential clients from A to B without losing them on the way in a maze of confusing words and meandering sentences.

Twitter is great for getting you to cut down on the waffle, and it’s good to keep that discipline in mind when writing other copy too.

Create a team

Your voice should reflect your brand. If you’re more than a one-man band use “we” when you’re talking about what you do. We help our customers like this. We is inclusive and engaging, and can put you on a level with your potential client. But… read on…

Look lively

Get some energy into that copy to engage potential clients. A good trick for creating a compelling business voice is to look at the first words in each of your sentences and make sure they’re different. Long lines starting with “we…” are dull; “we do this”, “we do that”, yawn, yawn. Throw in some new ones. Shake it up a bit.

Let your expertise speak for itself

Don’t blind customers with science. Even if what you do is highly technical and specialised, avoid using too much jargon. Potential customers need to see how you solve problems for people like them. Expertise can be a stumbling block if you just dump it in somebody’s path. Take a step back and get some perspective on what you do. Ask your clients what they like about you, and I guarantee it won’t just be your technical know-how. If you’re good, it will be your problem-solving abilities, the fact you keep your promises, the way you use your skills to make their businesses run more smoothly. A powerful business voice communicates these qualities first, and let the expertise speak for itself.


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

Getting rid of the spam in your blog comments

February 14, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Receiving a comment on your blog is wonderful — it reaffirms that someone, somewhere out there is reading your ramblings. And very often it’s the start of a community, all centred around your blog. What’s not to like?

Well, not all comments are good comments. Spammers have become very clever at singling out bloggers, writing complimentary comments and then putting a dodgy web address in the URL field. The trouble is, that because many new bloggers don’t know what to look for, those comments sit there, undermining your credibility and tricking unsuspecting readers into visiting all manner of websites they might not normally frequent!

So how do you spot a spammy comment?

Well I have to say rule number one for me is to install Akismet if you’re on WordPress. That screens out all of my spammy comments and in almost 1,000 legitimate comments, I haven’t had a spammy one. If you’re not sure how, ask your developer to do it for you (we install as standard when we set up a blog).

Secondly, think “do I know this person?” If not, I always trace the link back to their site — purely to be nosey (and also to say thank you!). You’ll soon know whether it’s a site you’re happy for your business to be associated with or not.

Thirdly, click on the links in their comment and be sure you’re happy with them. And that’s it – very simple.

So tell me, do you have problems with spammy comments on your blog? And if so, how do you deal with them?

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


Some only need it. Others really want it.

February 08, 2011 by Derek Williams

Losing weight, giving up smoking, getting a better education, getting a better job.  Some people only need it. Others really want it.

And so it is with customer service. Some organisations really need to give better service. Their customers are telling them so, their employees are telling them so and their profits are probably telling them so. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to give better service.

And then there are those who really want it. Those organisations that recognise the importance of listening to their customers, creating a culture with high levels of employee engagement and building their bottom line and their goodwill.

If you want to experience great service, go to an organisation that wants to serve you, where the people are empowered and encouraged to delight you. Very often these organisations don’t need big budgets for advertising or recruitment or training. I’ve never seen a single advertisement for Pret A Manger yet their service is outstanding and their business has grown rapidly from humble beginnings in 1986.

It starts with leadership, with a vision, the ability to communicate that vision and the strength to look for long term growth rather than short term profits. You can feel the leadership running through the organisation like the word Blackpool in a stick of rock. I feel Julian Richer’s influence at Richer Sounds, John and James Timpson at Timpson shoe bars, Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic and Charles Dunstone at Carphone Warehouse.

You don’t have to be big. You don’t have to be small. But remember that a big business is just a small business that did the right things.

Think lifetime value. When a customer comes in for a USB stick, for instance, think what their lifetime value might be — a computer every two years, plus printers, and cables and inks and paper and servicing and broadband, for them, for their family, for their business. Cock up on the £10 sale and you lose that lifetime value for your lifetime.


Derek Williams is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder and chief executive of The WOW! Awards.

Blog on a domain vs blog on a website

February 07, 2011 by Alison Davey

It’s a question I am often asked — whether it’s better to have a blog that sits within your main marketing website or to have a blog that sits on a separate domain.

As ever, you need to have a plan, look closely at your objectives, your brand and how your customers want to receive useful information from you and interact with you.

If you have a good website, one that enjoys many visits and conversions to leads, then it is feasible to integrate a blog within your main sales website. Keep it between your own goal posts! This is what marketers call reinforcement and endorsement. Potential customers can see other customers commenting on your products and services and your marketing messages are all in one place.

If, on the other hand, you have a website that needs optimising in the search engines, one that remains static or that you wish to leave as your main sales funnel, you could consider a separate blog domain. A separately hosted blog allows you to extend your marketing messaging further and it can enable you to create freer marketing information — such as blogs that are aimed at educating your audience. This option effectively gives you two websites – and you can register a keyword rich URL which can set you apart from your competition!


Alison Davey is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs Real Eyes Marketing, a London-based consultancy that specialises in advising small businesses.

Why keep marketing when you're already busy?

February 02, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

Five good reasons to keep marketing

Many small and medium-sized businesses struggle to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity because energies and resources are diverted to deliver work for paying customers. Indeed, many don’t see the point in spending precious budget, and even more precious time, when they have plenty of work on the go.

As a business owner myself I certainly recognise the dilemma and can understand why marketing can slip to the bottom of the to-do list at times. But, if you want to grow your business, you need to maintain your marketing momentum.

Marketing for growth means marketing consistently. Here are five reasons to maintain a steady level of marketing activity for your growing business.

1. Build a steady and predictable sales pipeline

When new business becomes a rollercoaster, it is exhausting. Many small businesses find themselves in “feast or famine” mode consistent marketing can break this cycle. If you know that the buying process in your business takes six days, six weeks or six months, then you know that you need to be generating those initial enquiries six days, six weeks or six months before you actually do the work or deliver the product. Famine happens when you forget to do your prospecting because you’re too busy feasting.

2. It’s worth repeating yourself

You may have heard talk of changing the education system to reduce the long Summer breaks, because it has been shown that children forget what they’ve learned over the long holidays. The same is true of your market. If you haven’t said anything for a while, you’ll have to forgive people for not immediately recalling who you are and what you do. If, however, you have a programme of regular communications that continually keeps you front of mind, when you do pick up the phone or bump into a potential buyer at an event, you’re one step further on in the conversation because you’ve not had to introduce yourself from scratch.

3. Generate the right kind of work for your business

Yes, there is a right and a wrong kind of work for your business. The right kind is profitable, enjoyable and builds skills and credibility. The wrong kind simply takes up time and barely turns a profit. Being busy does not always equate to being profitable, or fulfilled. By continually presenting your business as the experts in the right kind of work, you’ll get more of it. But, if you all have your heads down simply fulfilling the wrong kind — when will you get a chance to tell people about what you’re really good at?

4. Maintain those marketing muscles

Marketing is made up of many different skills and techniques. If you only pick them up from time to time, you’re likely to need to re-learn what you once knew. What’s more, with digital marketing techniques moving on at a staggering pace, if you look away for more than a few weeks it is likely that some new technique will have passed you by. Regular, consistent marketing activities undertaken throughout your firm will embed the skills so that it becomes second nature. And, when that happens, it’s no longer a chore — it’s just a great habit.

5. If you generate enough demand, you can put your prices up

Scarcity builds demand. Take the recent strikes in France and the impact on the availability of fuel. If people had simply bought the same as usual, there would have been no shortage. But, the sense of shortage prompted them to stock-up. Now, I’m not advocating scaring people into buying your products, but you’d be amazed how much more people seem to want what you have (and are willing to pay) if it seems like it’s in high demand. Taking this on board, it makes sense to keep marketing even when you’re full to capacity.


Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is Chief Clear Thinker at Clear Thought Consulting.


Posted in Marketing strategy | Tagged marketing | 7 comments

Your valuable content tool kit

January 27, 2011 by Sonja Jefferson

Using the right tool for the job is important in any business, and it is no different in the world of content.

Valuable content is an essential part of any marketing strategy. From basics like websites through to business books, a portfolio of good content can become a valuable toolkit for your business.

Not every business will need all the tools, it’s about getting the communications mix right for you and your customers. Understand how your customers like you to communicate with them, and talk to them that way.

Website: Pack it full of value. Make it a hub of useful resources for your clients. The answers should all be there. Needs to engage. Keep it up to date.

Articles: Give away some of your hard-earned knowledge and show thought-leadership. Generate interest and understanding in return. A business blog is a fantastic way to publish and share your articles.

Whitepapers: Positioned somewhere in between a magazine article and an academic paper, this powerful form of content can super-charge your thought-leadership efforts.

Newsletters: Keep in touch. Short, sweet, relevant. Should be regular.

Social media: Join the community. Be seen. Social media offers a good way of showing what you know. Interact and make yourself useful. Twitter and LinkedIn are among the best.

Email marketing: The best campaigns are targeted, responsive and useful. Email can be a clever way of carrying on the conversation with potential buyers.

Case studies: The kings of content. Make sure yours show potential clients exactly how you help people like them.

A business book: If case studies are the kings of content, business books are the Masters of the Universe.  Sure fire way of positioning yourself as an authority in your field. Big commitment to create, with bigger pay-off if you get it right.

What collection of content tools is right for your business?


By Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton

Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, marketing consultant for Valuable Content and also works with Valuable Content associate Sharon Tanton.

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