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Travel the world and steal some ideas

June 01, 2010 by Drayton Bird

One of my heroes is Murray Raphel, a brilliant, inspiring speaker and a most excellent marketer.

If you see any of his books, buy them. They're all good, practical, down-to-earth stuff bereft of meaningless jargon.

This is hardly surprising because his family ran (and for all I know still runs) a retail business in New Jersey. That's a bit like direct marketing. You know the next day if something has worked.

Murray once said something I have never forgotten: “Search the world and steal the best".

I do this all the time. And I advocate it for two reasons.

  1. I can never have enough ideas, but they are hard to come by. So I belong to the W.A. Mozart School of creativity. Mozart said, "I never tried to be the slightest bit original".
  2. Contrary to what many, maybe most imagine, what works in one country very often works in another.

So wherever I go I look out for ideas I can steal and transfer — particularly America, where customers have the most money and the most highly-paid people trying to take it off them.

I see many examples in all sorts of places. Some have been transferred; some haven't. And I am just amazed at how poorly multi-nationals exploit this potential synergy.

One instructive case was a few years ago when I was running (or at least failing to screw up) the O & M direct Amex account. One of my main objectives was to move good ideas around the world.

We were selling an accident insurance policy with a pack that was doing OK in the UK (sounds like a song title, doesn't it?) and they had another doing as well in the US. Both were typical long-copy sells.

Then I saw some copy in our Singapore agency. A client had the idea of just letting people have the policy for a month at no charge, then they could decide to keep it or stop it.

The mailing looked like crap — and pulled like crazy. (Moral: good ideas matter more than fancy execution).

We tried it in Hong Kong. It worked there. Then in Spain. It worked there too. Then in London — and so on.

It was always hard work getting local markets to accept ideas from elsewhere because of the not-invented-here syndrome, but it made a lot more sense than starting from scratch.

The golden rule to bear in mind was laid down by Confucius: "Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that divide them". 

If there is no cultural reason why something won't work, try it. Don't change it except where absolutely necessary.

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile.

Tips on managing a multi-cultural, de-centralised workforce

May 26, 2010 by Ben Dyer

I currently find myself in the fantastic city of Chennai, India. Sadly it’s a strictly business trip. I’ve flown in for six days to spend time with the SellerDeck team and hire a new team member. Hiring outside the familiar waters of the UK has been a very interesting process. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating, but it’s been a masterclass in managing a distributed team.

So, while it is fresh in my mind here are my top three tips for managing a diverse, dispersed and multi-cultural team:

1. Communication is key

Of course it depends on the roles and responsibilities within your organisation, but having everyone well-versed in a common language is the essential requirement for any team. However it’s also important to remember that you may not be talking to someone in their native dialect. So take care on phrasing, be patient and understanding.

2. Encourage questions

If someone hasn’t understood something you have communicated, it’s easy to put your head in the sand. Some cultures find it embarrassing to ask questions, especially to supervisors. So my tip is to actively encourage queries and questions as much as possible. Also, put yourself into situations where you have to be the one asking the questions - it’s empowering for the others involved.

3. Boots on the ground

Nothing beats getting together. If you are willing to employ people in far-off lands you need to be ready to get on a plane and visit. The Internet has given us hundreds of different ways to communicate, from Skype to Twitter, but nothing compares with talking face-to-face. You learn more about a team and its dynamics over a five-minute coffee break than you would ever do over the phone or by email.

Ben Dyer is CEO for SellerDeck

Coming in August: great IT advice for businesses

May 25, 2010 by John McGarvey

IT Donut logo

I’m pleased to report that the wraps are off: The IT Donut, a new website for small businesses, will be launching the week of 23 August.

The IT Donut will be the fourth in a family of websites. You might already have seen the Marketing, Law and Start-Up Donuts. Its aim will be to demystify every aspect of business technology.

Expect heaps of advice about choosing, using and generally not getting totally frustrated with IT in your business.

I’ve taken on the role of editor (the next few months are looking to be very busy), but thankfully there’s a whole team of great people from BHP Information Solutions working hard on the site too. And because you can’t substitute for first-hand knowledge and experience, we’re on the hunt for experts who know all about IT at the sharp end of business.

You see, when businesses use IT, there’s an ideal world, and there’s what actually happens. The two often differ quite considerably.

The IT Donut isn’t going to live in the plain sailing, smooth running and largely theoretical ideal world. It will acknowledge the situations and challenges businesses face every day with their IT.

Although the team behind the website is packed with experience (I’ve been writing about small businesses and IT for years now), we need people who’ve been there and done it to help us cover every area. These IT experts are the people who’ll really bring the site to life.

So if you know a bit about IT in business, I want to hear from you. You might be an expert in web hosting, networking or accounting software. Or you might be a business that’s experimented with cloud computing, open source software – or gained some other knowledge that you’d like to share.

Whatever your expertise, give me a shout. It’s your chance to be involved in one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – and to get some great PR while you’re at it.

John McGarvey is the editor of the forthcoming IT Donut and is happy to discuss ideas and opportunities with you.

Crafting the email

May 21, 2010 by Karen Purves

Emails are the lifeblood of your communications.

  • You want people to read your material and respond.
  • You want people to feel good about seeing an email from you in their inbox.
  • You want to give your readers a reason to open your email.

That is all your email has to do.

It doesn’t have to close the deal. It doesn’t have to take the payment. Leave that for your website to do.

Then your reader has the option whether to click on the link and take it further or just consume the information you have provided.

To test the sort of content that is right for you, call a couple of prospects or clients and give them the information you want to send in an email. If you find your hands going clammy at the thought, then perhaps your message is not right at this time.

People will buy when they are ready to do so. There is nothing you can do to get them to buy quicker or differently to the way they will do so. It is your job to understand how your prospects buy and map your communications accordingly. A couple of things will happen – less of your emails will be found in the spam box and the number of sales will increase.

This blog post by Karen Purves originally appeared at HaveMoreClients.com

Five easy ways to avoid collateral damage and win more business

May 19, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

You’re probably savvy enough to realise that you need to get the pros involved when it comes to creating your logo and website. But what about everything else? The reports, invoices, proposals and posters that you create yourself? Are they sending out the right signals, or do they chirrup “cheap! cheap!”.

The good news is that you can make some simple changes to the way you design your own collateral in house that will make a big difference to how people perceive your business. Get it right and you’ll build more confidence and win more business. And you don’t need a graphic design degree or an expensive piece of software to do it. Here’s how…

  • Work out what’s important (it’s probably not your logo!)
  • Get some decent structure in place
  • Use fonts that enhance your brand (that means no Arial or Verdana!)
  • Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients
  • Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice.

1. Work out what’s important

With the exception of your business stationery, your company logo and name shouldn’t take centre stage – so move the logo away from the top! Think about what message your clients will respond best to and make sure that’s what stands out.  Secondly, think about what you’re asking people to do. Your call to action also needs to be clear.

2. Get a decent structure in place.

Don’t send your text from one side of the screen to the other! Use columns and grids to add structure and clarity. And remember, odd numbers are good – threes, fives, sevens. Feel free to “break the grid” and use text across two columns.

3. Use fonts that enhance your brand

Fonts are often overlooked, even by some graphic designers, but nothing will scream amateur more than a dodgy stock photograph coupled with Verdana! The point is that fonts subconsciously create moods and send your clients signals about your business. Ask your designer to advise you on what fonts will work best with your brand and use them for all printed material. Emailing something? Consider creating a PDF if it’s important.

4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients

Colour psychology is a powerful thing. Using the right colours will have a big impact on how your clients and colleagues perceive your business. And it’s not just about the colours you use – think also about the tones and how they all fit together. Ask your designer to recommend you a colour palette and make sure you use it!

5. Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice

Images can make or break your design. Try to avoid the temptation to use over-used and clichéd “clever” images that you have to shoehorn a headline around. Instead, pick images that are relevant to what you do and are also visually pleasing.

And finally… let’s not get things out of perspective. I’m not suggesting for one moment that these simple tricks can replace your fabulous graphic designer. But I’m a realist – I know you’re always going to need to design something in house – so why not learn how to make it look a cracker!

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

Would you like a sample, sir?

May 18, 2010 by James Ainsworth

On Saturday I went to the inaugural Bath Coffee festival. By Sunday morning I was still so wired from indulging in the free samples that I found myself thinking about writing a blog for the Marketing Donut. On a Sunday. So here we are: inspired by my experiences at the caffeine-based foodie-fest, these are my tips for getting the most out of an important aspect of exhibition marketing — samples.

  • Make it clear whether your samples are free or require a nominal donation to charity.
  • Make your samples a true sample — miniature versions of the product are perfect and if people like it they will look to buy the full product.
  • The best stands at the coffee festival gave small shot-sized samples of their product. Some stands were offering full-sized coffees and fared less well.
  • Stick out like a sore thumb — from my own buyer behaviour and looking at the tweets of attendees, I could tell that a lot of tea was bought at the coffee festival. There were just two tea exhibitors present, their alternative choice proving a winning formula.
  • A free sample does not guarantee a sale; but you can seal the deal with a coupon on the packaging or accompanying marketing collateral.
  • Make your product available to buy at the event and use an event only offer. One stall was selling their coffee in packs of three for £5. Standard retail price per pack is approximately £2.70.
  • Ask visitors to try a sample and complete a form for a prize draw in order to capture customer data. Stick to the data protection rules!
  • Think about what others might offer and whether your offering has extra appeal. Attendees are likely to walk away from an event with bags of literature, samples and, er, bags of bags. Don’t allow your sample or accompanying literature to be the uninteresting one that is first in the bin.
  • Make sure people know you are there and appeal to their senses — I was sold hook, line and sinker by the gentleman casually walking around the arena with a tray of freshly-baked goods which he deliberately carried at nose level. Just you try and resist it!

If you like this sample of content about exhibitions, why not try our full range of content on exhibitions and events.

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