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Face it, you're talking to a person

April 08, 2010 by James Ainsworth

An interesting tweet relating to Hubspot’s findings that those with a Twitter avatar displaying a photo stand to gain ten times as many followers as those without, kicked off a healthy debate which prompted me— the Marketing Donut Twitterer — to question whether I should come out from behind the logo and show my face. If it wasn’t already conflicting enough to know whether ‘I’ am in fact a ‘We’ during commercial tweeting hours, this dilemma hits me. It was almost enough to induce a psychotic episode.

There are valid reasons for presenting the Marketing Donut as a face. It could produce tangible gains in number of Twitter followers and the quality and quantity of interactions. But when you communicate with @MarketingDonut - or any of the Donuts for that matter -  you may not always be talking to the same person. Holiday leave, sickness and just being plain busy can often mean a personnel shuffle when it comes to Twitter. Without blowing the lid on the Twitter Magician’s code here at Donut Towers, we try to maintain the same team member on each Donut account for reasons of continuity and to give each Donut its own distinct personality. But, as the theatre waiver goes, the performance may be subject to last-minute cast changes.

On the whole, it is me  - James Ainsworth - behind the tweets and if you were to DM the Marketing Donut, characters permitting, I would sign off as ‘James’. But I hope you enjoy following the Marketing Donut Twitter account for a plethora of reasons, not least for the content we share but for that little sparkle of personality that comes through every day.

The salient point from the discussion was made by @benparkatbjs, “Surely it depends. If a one-man band, tweeting with your own pic is fine, but if you're a donut, surely donut logo better?” 

In a recent blog post written by Jan Minihane on the topic, she rightly points out that face value is better for individual accounts. But Jan also concludes from further discussion with her Twitter following that corporate accounts with multiple staff should “Use your logo as you are promoting the corporate brand, not an individual. (unless most of the brand value is you, in which case you may want to go with a picture of yourself).”

And what of the deliberate tactic deployed by @web_D, “I have used really small text and oversized logos to encourage people to click and see the full version”?

Should the Marketing Donut — as a publisher of resources for small businesses — be identifiable by the branding that has been created already or -as a mainly one man Twittering band - should I have my world-weary face as the avatar, bedecked with some kind of Marketing Donut insignia or, if you please, a Twibbon?

If you really want to see me on Twitter then you can follow me here but don’t expect such useful small business marketing advice. You have been warned!

Valuable content will help you sell

April 07, 2010 by Sonja Jefferson

In our Internet-driven business world, content is king. The quality of the information you put out across the web will directly affect how successful you are at generating leads and closing business.

But what type of content do you need to provide and what should you write about? Here are some tips and examples:

  1. Adopt the right attitude when thinking about creating content. Produce information that is of real value to your customer base. Your position should be NOT “look how great we are” (as in a traditional brochure) but “look how useful we are – we have the answer to your problems.” Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers.
  2. Pick the right tool. There are many different types of content to choose from: articles, newsletters, webinars, online presentations, audio, video, white papers, case studies, ebooks...the list goes on. Select the tools that your customers are most likely to engage with. A variety of methods often works best.
  3. Informative articles are a great starting point; and the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to get them published and out to your customers is via a business blog. Sign up to Wordpress or Blogger; link the blog to your corporate website and start writing useful, education articles.
  4. Think like a customer. What questions do they ask when selecting products or services in your field? What problems can you help them to solve? Listen carefully to your customers and create helpful content just for them.
  5. Make your website a resource hub. All this valuable content will start to transform your site from a flat, online brochure into a living, breathing resource for your customers. Update your content regularly to keep it fresh and invite your customers to sign up for newly added information.

Valuable content is a win-win for you and your buyers. They learn what they need to help them with their challenge and you demonstrate your expertise and build the trust that leads to sales.

Some valuable content heroes from the small business world:

  • Mel Lester produces a fantastically useful monthly ezine for his architecture and engineering clients: an amalgam of his best blog articles, industry news and trends plus insight from others in the field www.blog-bizedge.biz
  • Heather Townsend – a well respected business coach – sends out fortnightly efficiency tips on a Monday morning as a reminder to get organised and stay on track www.theefficiencycoach.co.uk/blog
  • Bryony Thomas and her company Clear Thought Consulting have created short video tutorials for their B2B clients with tips on all aspects of marketing www.clear-thought.co.uk/10_minute_tips

What would help your customers? What valuable content can you create?

How do you like them apples, eh?

March 30, 2010 by James Ainsworth

As a resident of the West Country, I am accustomed to the fact that cider is a way of life round these ’ere parts. When Blackthorn changed their recipe last year and went for a big relaunch, billboards were defaced, Facebook pages launched and free samples through the local paper were rejected. Believe me, a Bristolian does not reject free cider readily. The resulting public campaign to return to the original recipe won through and the brand conceded defeat.

In Bristol there is a boat that has been converted into a bar that goes by the name of The Apple and sells the juice by the bucket load. There is also a small, tucked-away, gem of a pub in Clifton called The Coronation Tap - or to those more affectionate or slurred of speech, The Corrie Tap. Here they sell a cider known as ‘Exhibition’ and such is its potency they only sell it by the half pint.

Last week’s Budget heaped misery on the West Country, with dear Mr Darling making cider play taxation catch-up. A 10 per cent increase came into effect as of Sunday and in doing so brought cider in line with beer, spirits and wine for relative taxation value. While stories of queues stretching for miles — akin to a petrol price hike — are greatly exaggerated, it is the talk of the town.

Tonight the BBC’s ‘The One Show’ is filming a feature on the popularity of the drink at the fabled Corrie Tap (free samples from 6pm I hear). Will I see you there?

Editor’s round-up: cakes, cash and a wordle

March 26, 2010 by Simon Wicks

It’s been a great week: fun, exciting and we’ve had the best traffic figures ever on the Marketing Donut. The most popular single item of the week was our case study of the online cupcake community, How we got together online to boost our cupcake business.This produced a fantastic response within the world of cupcake makers, who spent the whole week sharing the article and spreading the word about the Marketing Donut. I’d like one of these, thanks guys:

Cupcakes at Liana's Star Bakery

But probably our biggest draw overall this week was our extensive Budget coverage on Wednesday – and this is what made it such a busy and exciting week. I blogged live as the Chancellor read his speech, the team tweeted like crazy and we published a Budget round-up and the reaction from small businesses before the end of the day.

We were really pleased to be the only news organisation to spot the National Minimum Wage increase on Budget day itself. This wasn’t in the Chancellor’s speech, but buried deeply in the Budget Notes where it was spotted by one of our eagle-eyed editors. We called the Treasury, checked it out and slipped it into our coverage minutes before publication. Result.

The Budget also produced my favourite thing on the Marketing Donut this week – our James’s rapid response analysis of the Budget in words and pictures. Take a look; it made me smile.

Post-Budget, it was an early start on Thursday morning for a trip to our Bristol office where I delivered an editorial training and went to the Bristol Twestival in the evening. This fundraising networking event was kind of a who’s who on the Internet in Bristol, which is a real new media hub. It got a bit raucous and raised in the region of £4,000 for Concern Worldwide, who are no doubt very happy indeed. Good stuff.

Now it’s back to earth and the business of providing good marketing information to small businesses. We’ll be updating our favourite things with more books, videos and websites you should be reading, watching and visiting, Plus, we’ll have information on mobile phone apps, advice on closing a sale and tips for making your business stand out from the crowd.

The Budget: Picture this

March 24, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Wordle.net Budget 24 March 2010

Another Budget, another wave of promises of ‘support’ and shiny initiatives. This year, as the Wordle shows, the Chancellor talked a lot about the state of the ‘economy’ and focused his initiatives on ‘business’ rather more than families or public services. This is a Budget about ‘people’, ‘jobs’, ‘recovery’, the ‘country’ at large.

Tax’ looms largest, though, but not because there’s a lot of it. Quite the opposite: the Chancellor was very keen to stress that he wouldn’t be raising taxes - at least not for those of us on low-to-middle incomes. If you’re a banker or a non-domicile, though, you’d better get ready to dip onto your pockets.

Does this mean this a ‘Robin Hood’ Budget?  If it were truly a ‘rob from the rich to fund the poor’ affair, then you might expect the ten per cent duty increase to be on grapes rather than apples. In case you didn’t pick up on it, cider is being ‘redefined’ so that it is subject to the same duty increases as all other alcoholic drinks.

For the small business, the clues are in the words ‘bank, ‘Bank’, banks’, ‘banking’ and ‘credit’. The Chancellor is making an extra £41 billion available as lending to small businesses via Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He has also promised a Small Business Credit Adjudicator whose role will be to decide whether small firms have been unfairly turned down for loans.

After all, it is small business in particular that will ‘fuel’ ‘growth’, ‘increase’ ‘jobs’ and ‘pay’ for the ‘future’. But, as the Wordle shows, they may need quite a lot of ‘help’ to do that.

Be different: Put your customer ahead of profits

March 22, 2010 by Robert Craven

OPINION, OR MAYBE EVEN A FACT!: You must be different from the rest.

FACT: We now live in an ‘experience’ economy

In today’s world, the big budget brands are treated with suspicion.  They now need to prove themselves.  Old World marketing tried to give different personalities to what were essentially similar products.  Think of the weak, wet stuff known as lager in the Eighties.  Nowadays, customers are inclined to think that if a product looks, sounds, smells, feels and performs in roughly the same manner, then it probably is roughly the same.  So, somehow you must create that difference that separates you from all the other similar products.

OPINION, OR MAYBE EVEN A FACT!: Brand preference has always been a function of perception, but now you have to try much harder to create (and maintain) the perceived difference.

The customer’s experience should be made to be unique in tangible, physical ways.  A corollary to this is that if your service is intangible then a powerful way of branding yourself is by creating tangible (and ideally memorable) experiences.

HOW DO I DO THAT THEN?: One way to deliver the difference is through the service experience.

‘Doubting Thomas’ consumers demand tangible differences in your product or service. 

OPINION: In a world where everyone copies each other, it takes a lot to keep your experience different. 

In our novelty culture, it takes even more effort to keep the customer’s experience fresh and surprising.  How is this to be done?

Robert Craven of The Directors' Centre

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