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Automation, repetition and laziness make for a healthy blog

July 01, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Here are three steps to making sure your content is seen by an interested audience.

Automation is good

It performs a small but significant task for your carefully crafted text. Sign up to the service and add the RSS feed of your blog to the system. will detect when you have published a new blog post and then seed it into your status updates across a range of social networks. This leaves you more time to get on with all the other jobs you need to do and draws in your interested audience wherever they choose to have a presence.

Repetition is good

Not only is it perfectly acceptable to repeat your status updates, it is encouraged. Your audience will not be on the web all the time. You may have an international audience where time zones come into play. If you publish a blog in the morning it is good practice to update your Twitter status and any others later in the day with a link to your blog post.

Laziness is good

Do not panic if you get ‘Blogger’s Block’. If you do not have any inspiration for writing content do not force yourself to write. Your audience will thank you for the quality control. Regular updates keep a blog alive but writing content for the sake of it will do you no favours.

Why bother blogging?

What shape is your marketing budget?

June 30, 2010 by Bryony Thomas

The questions I most often get asked about marketing budgets are:

  • How much should I spend as a percentage of turnover?
  • Should I benchmark against competitors?
  • How much shall I spend on each discipline (PR, DM, Events, Ads, etc.)?

All totally reasonable questions… but what you should be asking is: what shape should my marketing budget be? Seriously, it is the most important question there is on the budgeting front. So, let me tell you what I mean.

A decent marketing programme is centred on a sales funnel, onto which you’ve mapped the decision making process for your target audience. (see previous posts Making Marketing Pay, and What to Say When).

Chart to show the influence of marketing spend across the sales funnel

Fig1: Chart to show the influence of marketing spend across the sales funnel

From this you can put together a programme of activity that moves a person from awareness to a sale. Each marketing technique has a different level of influence at each stage of this process. You need to determine the level of influence at each stage, then apportion this across the funnel.

There are a few ways to decide the amount of influence each technique has:

  • Workshop with the sales and marketing team to agree the apportionment
  • Surveys or focus groups amongst new customers to get them to assess what they saw at each stage (this can be tricky, as people often post-rationalise decision-making, meaning that emotional triggers are downplayed)
  • A best guess (hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere)
  • A combination of all of the above.

From this exercise you now have a powerful tool for designing programmes and allocating budget. Now analyse your budget in the same way:

  • Split your spend into each technique
  • Apportion this spend as per the influence amount you’ve worked out for that technique (for example, if you worked out that PR has 40% influence at awareness, 10 per cent at interest, etc. your spend on PR should be tabulated to reflect that)
  • You now have an actual shape for your budget

Compare your actual budget shape to the ideal budget shape you’ve established to maintain a free-flowing sales funnel. This allows you assess where you’re spending too much or too little, and to adjust your spend according to the funnel requirements.

Now, if you have a budget cut, or find a pot of cash, you again have a powerful tool to decide how to adjust your spending. The crucial factor here is to maintain the shape. So, rather than cutting a project that happens to be the right level of spend, you can cut evenly across the funnel ensuring that you’re not leaving any gaps.

Bryony Thomas of Clear Thought Consulting

Five things to think about if you’re going to design your own leaflets

June 24, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

You’re probably savvy enough to realise that you need to get the pro’s 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…

1. Work out what’s important (it’s probably not your logo!)
2. Get some decent structure in place
3. Use fonts that enhance your brand (that means no Arial or Verdana!)
4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients
5. 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 and avoid the temptation to use over-used and cliched “clever” images that you have to shoehorn a headline around. Instead, pick images that are in content 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.

Emergency Budget — a little Wordle in your ear

June 22, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Image source: Wordle

We knew it would be painful. We had seen “The first cut is the deepest” trotted out more times than a prize pig. But was it really ever going to be all that bad from a small business perspective?

Yes, VAT will go up to 20 per cent in January and cuts to business support have been outlined. But if you are one of the UK’s small businesses, there are some useful measures in place to ensure that you are part of the growth of the nation.

George Osborne said “Britain is open for business” on more than one occasion and with small business tax being cut to 20 per cent from next April and the employers’ National Insurance threshold increasing to £21 above inflation, there are reasons to be cheerful.

The Wordle above shows that “public” and “spending” featured prominently in the Chancellor’s speech, and that he studiously avoided the word “cuts” - even though he mentioned frequently the “billions” that need to be shaved off the national debt.

Pride of place is occupied by the word “tax”. Obviously, without taxation, the Government wouldn’t get close to recouping the billions that are required to get the economy on an even keel.

“Government”, “people”, “country” and “public” share a near equal billing, which is indicative of the “We are in it together” rhetoric that featured heavily during the election campaign. With such unequivocal fiscal measures taken today, the Government is keen to stress that the burden is to be shared among us all.

Is Your Brand Old Hat?

June 18, 2010 by Ben Dyer

Recently I was lucky enough to spend some time with a voluntary worker for Oxfam. He was a fascinating chap and gave me some really valuable input into how the charity sector works. One of the major challenges Oxfam has faced recently is the perception of it being old fashioned. The brand was seen to represent something the charity didn’t, and this was a major problem.

Oxfam’s solution was to identify ways to appeal to a younger audience and in 2006 it launched OxJam, a UK-wide series of music festivals. Every year local Oxfam branches team up with schools and universities in their area to organise the events, hunt for musicians and discover interesting venues. The results are impressive; not only has the charity used OxJam to raise awareness and money, but it’s also an effective way of recruiting the next generation of supporters.

This got me thinking about brand perception with traditional businesses. Now unless you are led by your demographic SAGA springs to mind being perceived as old fashioned could be a major problem.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding retaining customers and servicing their requirements, however the risk is your business grows old with your existing customers at the expense of the all-important new blood. Honda is another great example. During research in the 90s it discovered the average customer was over 50. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was counter to the Honda marketing strategy.

As business owners, it’s important we understand how our brand is being perceived against the markets we are targeting.

Are you unintentionally growing old?

Ben Dyer is CEO for SellerDeck

I can’t claim that I can solve the Vuvuzela crisis, but…

June 16, 2010 by James Ainsworth

The Vuvuzela can be pretty annoying. It is the noise and talk of the World Cup. The constant barrage of that atonal hum is enough to drive anyone loopy. Just imagine what it is like in the concentrated bowl of a stadium setting, amplified and focused. Everyone broadcasting into the middle with a relentless stream of trying to be louder than the Vuvuzellist next to you may make for a charged atmosphere, but at the end of the day it is all noise and no respite — remind you of anything?

Now picture this. A large number of people all wanting to be heard and throwing out their constant and near identical marketing message — all in one concentrated area or bowl, such as Twitter — just hoping that in a sea of similar noisy messages someone will listen, take interest and give you some money for your product or service. 

I can’t claim that I can solve the Vuvuzela crisis, but I can certainly recommend that we all take a look at our own trumpeting.

  • Consistency of message is very much different to sending out a constant message.
  • Broadcasting is not this year’s model. Today we engage. Why? Because it works, is more involving and the tools we use are geared up for a two-way communication.
  • If everyone makes the same noise then we are all the same. Be different and make your ‘difference’ stand out clearly.
  • If the Vuvuzela had some tonal variation it would be less irritating. How can you make your message have more than one note?

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