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In the first of a three part series, Fiona Humberstone explores the concept of a ‘Green business’
When was the last time you stopped and considered how effectively you market your business’s green credentials? Many of us are so busy trying to get from one day to the next and see out the downturn that marketing our companies’ green credentials has slipped waaaaaaay down the agenda. But should it have done?
I’m mid-way through a series of seminars I’ve been asked to run for Gatwick Diamond businesses on Marketing Your Green credentials. And preparing for and running the workshops has been an interesting exercise. I wonder whether I’ve given enough thought to how I market Flourish’s green credentials, and whether it’s something that matters at the moment? Are consumers as concerned about green as they are about price at the moment? Can you leverage value and loyalty from being green?
Do our clients even understand what being green means? On Twitter there was a little confusion when I asked my followers: “How do you market a sustainable business?” The responses were varied, and interesting. It appears that the buzz-word, sustainable, means different things to different people. And many simply weren’t sure what it meant at all!
So, is sustainability about reducing resources, the impact of your business on the environment, is it about sourcing locally, creating a business that will be around in 30 years? Is it about the way you treat your staff? Or is it about being socially responsible: about putting as much back into the local economy as possible and adding value where you can?
The truth is it’s probably all of the above. When I asked my first lot of delegates what sustainability meant to their business, one group came up with the answer “You need to be seen to be being green”. And at a truly cynical level, we can all “greenwash” our companies and pay lip service to the environment, but that’s something that both consumers and journalists will see through very quickly.
As Elizabeth Cairns said, you need to put green at the very heart of your business and communicate that with passion. Which leads me on to asking you the question: Just what shade of green is your business? Are you green to the core? Is the setup of your business focused around reducing the impact of your activities on the environment, sourcing responsibly, treating your staff well and working in the community? Is green at the heart of your business? Or is it on the perimeter? Have you felt as though you “ought to do something” and switched your paper buying from normal to recycled? Neither answer is right or wrong, but how you market your green credentials will very much depend on how much it matters to your business.
I am amazed how little people study in this business. It’s very hard to pick it up as you go along. More to the point, why spend years learning by painful trial and error when you can get guidance over a weekend from someone ten times as smart as you, who spent years finding out what works?
So if you agree that a little learning is better than no learning at all, here are some of the books I have learned from most. They are not all about marketing or advertising. If you learn about nothing but these two subjects your vision will be very narrow, your development as a human being stunted and you’ll have nothing to think about when you get old.
A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. This convinced me that you probably can’t actually know anything, but you can explain even the most complex thoughts clearly if you learn to write well. It also helped me think a little more logically – though not enough.
How To Write A Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab. He was a partner in one of the first specialist mail order agencies. Well-written, practical – with a list of 100 good headlines that I’ve often used as a starting point when looking for ideas. You will find many of them copied or adapted by internet marketers.
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. Almost as amusing as Confessions of an Advertising Man by the same author, but more informative. If you work in this business and haven’t read it, you’re really making things hard for yourself. It reminds me of something important every time I pick it up.
My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan. His approach is no longer in fashion, but few people had more impact not just on business but on the 20th century than the man who built up General Motors.
How To Make Your Advertising Make Money by John Caples. Caples explains better than anyone what works, what doesn’t, and why, because he conducted more tests than anyone. Ogilvy once told me he learned everything he knew from Caples.
The 100 Best Advertisements edited by Julian Watkins. We learn best from example. This is the best selection I know – many described by their creators.
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Judges who should know – like Ogilvy – consider him the most able advertising man ever. In his day that encompassed marketing. This very short book, written in 1924, is near-perfect. You can download it free at www.draytonbirdcommonsense.com.
There are quite a few more books I like, listed at www.draytonbirdcommonsense.com, but that little lot will keep you busy. More to the point, they’ll give you a priceless competitive edge.
Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile.
Tell us about the books that have inspired, informed and entertained you.
The new series of Dragons' Den began last night. As well as tweeting along to the episode, we will provide a Dragons' Den digest each week.
Quote of the Episode: "You win the worst invention ever brought into Dragons’ Den today” Peter Jones
Product: Flowsignals - light up traffic signs
Investment sought: '£50,000 for 10per cent’
Handling: Struggled to make a case for the product and appeared not to have conducted sufficient research into if the product was needed. Muddled.
Outcome: Having invested £24,000 of his own money, Flowsignals walked away with no interest from the Dragons
Verdict: Pitch poor
Product: Pebble Bed Vineyard - own your own vineyard
Investment sought: ‘£60,000 for 20 per cent’
Handling: Nervy start was not a problem. Business plan interogation from Deborah Meaden highlighted a number of flaws in return on investment. Entrepreneur knew his sums but they didn't add up. Duncan saw a way to make it pay.
Outcome: Accepts an offer of £60,000 for 40 per cent from Duncan
Verdict: Pitch perfect
Product: Dhamaka Events/Flex FX Productions - Bollywood dance events
Investment sought: ‘£200,000 for 30 per cent shares’
Handling: An excellent pitch and dance demonstration. Both well rehearsed. Handling of the Dragons was cagey. Not open enough about the business plan and frustrated all Dragons.
Outcome: No takers
Verdict: Pitch poor
Product: Worthenshaw's - healthy frozen food desserts
Investment sought:‘£65,000 for 15 per cent equity stake’
Handling: Confident with her research and had done a lot of leg work to get to advanced stages with Tesco. Passionate.
Outcome: £100,000 for 40 per cent from Theo was declined in favour of a joint deal with Duncan and Peter to the tune of £65,000 for 30 per cent
Verdict: Pitch perfect
I read with great interest this week the news that Twitter is getting into the ecommerce space.
In an idea copied from the very popular US-based service Woot, Twitter will be advertising time-sensitive deals via a dedicated account (@earlybird). In a reversal of traditional marketing norms, you will only receive the daily deals by following the account.
Sites offering time sensitive deals, vouchers or private sales clubs have rarely been off the front pages of tech or retail blogs for the past year. It seems almost every day I am reading about a Groupon clone springing up. Even the old man on the digital high street, Amazon, is in the game with their recent acquisition of Woot.
I can see the attraction. As humans we like to feel special, we like the sense of getting a good deal or “beating the man”. Sites like this play as much towards our egos as they do our budgets.
We can learn from this. Why not experiment with your online or traditional marketing or sales processes? Make things personal, spend time researching your customer base and tailor the offering. I love it when I walk into our local fishmongers and they know my name and what I normally buy. I always get offered something special that they know I would like. It may sound gimmicky, but it works.
Technology is enabling us, ironically, to become more personal. Why not give it ago?
As a writer/editor, I have a vested interest in the way people use the written word. With the Donut sites (and our other small business offerings), for example, we editors encourage all of our house writers and external contributors to write in a clear, straightforward way.
Jargon doesn’t help anyone, except the select group of people who speak it. Likewise, unnecessarily long words or complicated phrases are both barriers to clear communication. When you write for a general audience, as we do, you can’t afford to lose them because you’re speaking the wrong language.
Unfortunately, the business world loves a bit of jargon. Why spell things out when you can come up with a smart-sounding phrase that makes you look like you belong to the club? What amazes me is how quickly these things are picked up and how readily people use them without really thinking about what they mean or whether they are even making sense.
Last week , a colleague interviewed a spokesman from a well-known small business body, who suggested that we were experiencing an ‘L-shaped’ recession. I’ve heard about a ‘W-shaped recession’ before, which at least is reasonably self-explanatory – although the alternative phrase, a ‘double-dip’ recession, is a bit clearer.
But an ‘L-shaped’ recession? Does this mean a total economic collapse, followed by a period of zero-growth? Surely not, because the reality is very different. Perhaps this person meant an ‘L-on-its-side, a-bit-like-a-tick’-shaped recession - ie a rapid fall followed by a slow climb back to where we were before. Something like this, I suppose (though with a shallower tail):
To make things even more confusing, he went on to say that instead of a “double-dip” recession, we ought to watch out for the “triple tumble”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always associated tumbling with gymnastics. So I had a vision in mind of a young woman hurling herself across the floor, bouncing and flailing, legs and arms akimbo, before finally coming to rest – miraculously – on her feet.
Are we really saying the economy is like a gymnast? I’m sure we’re not, because what on Earth would happen if the gymnast took to swinging around the parallel bars? Would that be an ‘O-shaped’ recession?
There’s a lesson here. Keep it clear, keep it simple, say what you mean. And if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, just admit it. There’s no shame in that. Let’s face it, nobody has made any reliable predictions about the economy in the last three years, so why do we keep pretending we can?
It was inevitable with a name like ours and the increasing popularity of franchises of a certain chain of donut makers that our website would take some hits from people searching ‘Marketing Donuts’.
I have an interesting tale to share with you all as to how one of these franchises has gone about announcing their arrival in Bristol and marketed their donut products.
Last month I watched the England versus Slovenia match in the centre of Bristol at the Football Fan Park facility. This is essentially a square in the centre of Bristol that has a giant screen and a fenced off arena where football fans can congregate to have their hopes and dreams of national sporting glory dashed once again.
During the second half of the encounter which saw us secure second place in our group and prolong the inevitable demise, there were people walking into the arena with boxes of sugar glazed ring donuts. The more people that came in with donuts, the more people left to seek confectionery
Outside the arena there was a van packed full of trays of donuts and a sizeable but orderly queue of people receiving a free box of donuts. By the time the final whistle had been blown, the crowd inside the arena raced to the exit to join what became a sickening display of greed. The scenes were reminiscent of an aid convey arriving in an earthquake ravaged town. (Responsibility for the welfare of the public on the part of the company was tossed in the air like the final few boxes of donuts as the polite queue fast became a scrum of over one hundred people.)
The cost of this exercise may have been sizeable for the company but the clever part has been the size of reach that they will have achieved. Hand out a single donut and you make one person happy. Hand out a box of twelve and you empower that one very happy person to do the leg work for you in sharing the product and news of the soon-to-be-open new store with others. Seeding the public with samples of donuts has raised awareness of the new addition to Bristol. Word of mouth never tasted so good.
How do you encourage word of mouth with your existing customers?